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Month 2:16, Week 3:1 (Rishon/Pesach), Year:Day 5939:045 AM
2Exodus 1/40
Gregorian Calendar: Wednesday 14 May 2014
Late Yom haBikkurim 2014
Uniqueness of the Resurrection

    Continued from Part 2 (Late Pesach Season 2014)


    Chag sameach Yom haBikkurim (Day of Firstfruits) for those celebrating a late Passover Season this second month of the biblical Creation Calendar!

    The Importance of the Resurrection

    It seemed appropriate, since this is what Yom haBikkurim (Firstfruits) actually points to, that I should use the time alotted to you today to speak of the resurrection. We should remember also that the most startling characteristic of early Christian preaching was its strong emphasis of the resurrection, the physical and permanent rising of Messiah from the dead and in an immortal state.

    Resurrection and Pagan Counterparts

    The very first preachers were so sure that Yah'shua (Jesus) had risen that they were equally sure that true believers would in due course rise also. This fact alone set them apart from all all the other teachers of the ancient world, both religious and secular, and it set us apart too, or ought to. Yes, there were mythological tales of resurrections elsewhere in the religious literature of the time but none of them is remotely like that of our Master. They are for the most part mythological tales connected with the change of the seasons and the annual miracle of spring. In stark contrast, the four Gospels tell of an actual, historical individual, whose life was well documented, who truly died but overcame death by rising again. And if it is true that Messiah's resurrection bears no resemblance to anything in paganism then it is also true that the attitude of believers to their own resurrection, the corollary of their Master's, is radically different from anything in the heathen world too. Nothing is more characteristic of even the best thought of the day than its hopelessness in the face of death. Clearly the resurrection is of the very first importance to the Christian and Messianic emunah (faith) and why it must absolutely be given prominence in our discoursing and conversation at the two Yom haBikkurim's that Yahweh has appointed to us.

    We Stand or Fall on the Resurrection

    Because the resurrection is such a controversial claim, we must of necessity be controversial ourselves, and unapologetically so. Attempts to reduce, dilute, diminish or deny the physical resurrection, so common amongst liberals and others claiming to be of the same emunah (faith) as ourselves, must not only be vigorously resisted but as vigorously opposed and condemned when especially these deniers claim the same Name for their salvation as we do. They have their excuses, for whatever reasons, with which to justify their faithlessness and their own empty religion. For Christianity stands or falls with the physical resurrection. We cannot therefore move on or pass Yom haBikkurim by without making our personal and public stand. We cannot claim to be authentic believers without confessing it fearlessly. And to do that we must stand opposed to both Greek and Jewish ideas about the resurrection.

    Greek Ideas About Resurrection

    What do I mean by that? The Greeks, for one, though of the body as a hindrance to true chayim (life) and they looked for the time when the 'soul', as they termed it, would be free from its shackles. They conceived of life after death in terms of immortality of this non-physical 'soul', but they firmly rejected all ideas of a physical resurrection. This is made no more apparent than in the mockery of Paul in Acts 17:32.

    Jewish Ideas About the Resurrection

    The Jews, on the other hand, were firmly persuaded of the values of the body, and thought these would not be lost. They thus looked for the body to be raised. But in contradistinction to the New Covenant teachings, they thought it would be exactly the same body [1]. The first belivers, by contrast, thought of the body being raised but also transformed so as to be a suitable vehicle for the very different life of the age to come:

      "So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, 'The first man Adam became a living being.' The last Adam became a life-giving ruach (spirit). However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Master from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.

      "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of Elohim (God); nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed -- in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory'" (1 Cor.15:41-54, NKJV).

    Judaism's 'Resurrection' is False

    The Christian or Messianic idea of resurrection is thus distinctive even from that of the Jews and the religion of the Talmudists which is Judaism today.

    Many Witnesses of the Resurrection

    I don't propose today - because there isn't time - to look at all the actual evidence for the resurrection, other than to say that the witnesses were large in number, with as many as 500 present when the resurrected Master stood before them and spoke on one occasion. There are many good books on the subject that the serious student ought to consult to both deepen his emunah (faith) and to strengthen his own witness [2].

    The Amazing Transformation of the First Believers

    What I would like to do today is to briefly look at the transformation of the talmidim (story) in all this. They had been beaten and dispirited men at the crucifixion, but after the their resurrection experience they were suddenly ready to go to prison and even to die for the sake of Yah'shua (Jesus) shortly afterwards. And believers have been doing the same for the last 2,000 years.

    A Celebration of Life

    Why this change? Men do not run such risks and in such numbers over so long a period of time unless they are very sure of themselves, particularly the first-hand witnesses. The talmidim (disciples) were completely convinced. And I should perhaps add that their certainty is reflected in their worship. They were Judahites, and Judahites have a tenacity in clinging to their religious customs. Yet these men began to observe the Sabbath Day or Master's Day ('Lord's' day in orthodox Christian parlance) in a new spirit, weekly celebrating the Master's Supper in addition to the annual Pesach (Passover) meal that had looked forward to the Paschal Lamb and what He would accomplish on the Cross for our sins and salvation in addition to His physical resurrection at Yom haBikkurim during the same Passover Season. These frequent celebrations was not a commemoration of a dead Messiah, but a thankful remembrance of the blessings conveyed by a living and triumphant Master! Their other sacrament, immersion or baptism, was a reminder that believers were buried with Messiah and raised with Him:

    Significant For Us Too

    The resurrection had significance to all those first believers and should have exactly the same for us today too.

    The Future Resurrection of Believers

    Not only did Yah'shua (Jesus) rise at Yom haBikkurim on the third day if the Passover Season (Aviv 16), but one day all men and women will rise too. Yah'shua (Jesus) refuted the scepticism of the Sadducees on this point with an interesting argument from Scripture (Mt.22:31-32) - and you will remember the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection at all, unlike the Pharisees who did. The Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) teaches clearly that the resurrection of Messiah carries with it the resurrection of believers. Yah'shua (Jesus) said:

      "I am the resurrection and the chayim (life). He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die" (John 11:25-26, NKJV).

    All Shall Rise

    Several time He spoke of raising believers at the last day (Jn.6:39-40,44,54) which caused the Sadducees no small amount of grief (Ac.4:2). Paul tells us:

      "For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Messiah all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Messiah the bikkurim (firstfruits), afterward those who are Messiah's at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to Elohim (God) the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death" (1 Cor.15:21-26, NKJV).

      "For if we believe that Yah'shua (Jesus) died and rose again, even so Elohim (God) will bring with Him those who sleep in Yah'shua (Jesus)" (1 Thess.4:14, NKJV).

    No Isolated Phenomenon

    Likewise Peter says that Yahweh "has begotten us again to a living tiqvah (hope) through the resurrection of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away" (1 Peter 1:3-4, NKJV). So it is perfectly clear that the writers of the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) did not think of Messiah's resurrection as an isolated phenomenon. It was a great divine act, and one fraught with consequence for men. Because Yahweh raised Messiah He set His seal on the atoning work wrought on the cross. He demonstrated His divine power in the face of sin and death, and at the same time His will to save men. Thus the resurrection of believers follows immediately from that of their Saviour. So characteristic of them is resurrection that Yah'shua (Jesus) could speak of them as "sons of the resurrection" (Luke 20:36, NKJV).

    Two Kinds of Resurrection

    This does not mean that all who rise will rise to blessing. Yah'shua (Jesus) speaks of "the resurrection of chayim (life)" but also of "the resurrection of damnation (judgment)" (Jn.5:29). The plain teaching of the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) is that all will rise, but that those who have rejected Messiah will find the resurrection a serious and terrible matter indeed. For believers the fact that their resurrection is connected with that of the Saviour transforms the situation. In the light of His atoning work for them they face the resurrection with calmness and simcha (joy).

    Complete Transformation

    There is simply no comparision between this mortal body, described by Paul as a "lowly (vile - KJV) body" that will be transformed to be like "His glorious body" (Phil.3:21, NKJV) for as John tells us, "we shall be like Him" (1 Jn.2:2, NKJV). This is no thaumaturgy - it is complete transformation. And though it certainly resembles our physical body, at least in outward appearance, it is also different, as is evidenced by the fact that the resurrected Yah'shua (Jesus) was sometimes recognised immediately (Mt.29:9; Jn.20:19ff.) and sometimes not at all (Lk.24:16; Jn.21).

    No Evangelism Possible Without the Resurrection

    Evidently the resurrection is of monumental importance to everyone. It is of cardinal importance and must therefore be given prominence in preaching, evangelising and witnessing in general:

      "And if Messiah is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your emunah (faith) is also empty ... And if Messiah is not risen, your emunah (faith) is futile; you are still in your sins!" (1 Cor.15:14,17, NKJV).

    Good News

    The point is that Christianity is a besorah or gospel, it is good news about how Yahweh sent His Son to be our Deliverer and Saviour. But if Messiah did not really rise, then we have no assurance that our salvation has been accomplished. The reality of the resurrection of Messiah is thus of deep significance. The resurrection of believers is also important. Paul's view is that if the dead do not rise we might as well adopt the motto, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!" (1 Cor.15:32, NKJV). Believers are not men and women for whom this life is all. Our tiqvah (hope) lies elsewhere (1 Cor.15:19). Our tiqvah (hope) gives us perspective and makes for depth in living.

    Experience the Resurrection Power Now

    But there is more to it than that. Paul speaks of His desire to know Messiah "and the power of His resurrection" (Phil.3:10) as something to be experienced and lived now, and he exhorts the Colossians:

      "If then you were raised with Messiah, seek those things which are above, where Messiah is, sitting at the right hand of Elohim (God). Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Messiah in Elohim (God). When Messiah who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry" (Col.3:1-5, NKJV).

    An Ongoing Thing

    He has already reminded them that they were buried with Messiah in baptism, and in the same sacrament were raised with Him (Col.2:12). In other words, the apostle sees the same power that brought Messiah back from the dead as operative within those who are Messiah's. The resurrection is an ongoing thing.


    This, then, is what we are here to remember each Yom haBikkurim. The resurrection is integral to, and pre-eminent in, our emunah (faith), and any preaching or witnessing is defective and useless without it. The resurrection is what makes everything else possible. Praise Yah! Amen.

    Continued in Part 4


    [1] See, for example, the Apoc.Baruch 1:2
    [2] One of my favourites by Sir Norman Anderson, Jesus Christ: The Witness of History (Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England: 1985), former Professor of Oriental Laws and Director of the Institude of Advanced Legal Studies in the University of London, is one of my favourites and high on the list of my recommended books to be studied. The reader will find this most throrough and compelling from a legal point-of-view

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