Month 1:16 (Aviv 16), Week 3:1 (Rishon/Pesach), Year:Day 5940:16 AM|
2Exodus 3/40, Yovel - Year 50/50
Gregorian Calendar: Saturday 23 April 2016
Yom haBikkurim 2016
3. Do You Believe in the Resurrection?
Continued from Part 2
The Communist and the Russian Priest
"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26, NIV)
Anglican Bishop N.T.Wright recounts the following story:
Russia Still Believes in the Resurrection
"The communist lecturer paused before summing up. His large audience listened fearfully. 'Therefore,' he said, 'there is no God; Jesus Christ never existed; there is no such thing as a Holy Spirit. The Church is an oppressive institution, and anyway it's out of date. The future belongs to the State; and the State is in the hands of the [Communist] Party'.
"He was about to sit down when an old priest near the front stood up. 'May I say two words?' he asked. (It's three in English, but he was of course speaking Russian). The lecturer, disdainfully, gave him permission. He turned, looked over the crowd, and shouted: 'Christ is risen!' Back came the roar of the people: 'He is risen indeed!' They had been saying it every Easter for a thousand years; why should they stop now?
"They weren't just whistling in the dark. The gospel message of Easter is the complete answer to tyranny" .
When communism imposed itself by bloody revolution on the people of Russia in 1917, it came up against a thousand years of Orthodox Faith. By the time the Soviet Union collapsed a little over 70 years later, only one-third of the population dared to publically proclaim that they were Christian. Today that confession has doubled to be in excess of two-thirds. 66 percent of the Russian people believe in the Resurrection. For all of its false traditions like 'Easter', Russia has at least held on to the central core of the Christian faith: belief in the physical resurrection of the Saviour of Mankind, which is the core doctrine of the Besorah (Gospel).
One Orthodox Bishop puts it this way:
A Faith Without Resurrection is No Faith
"Christ (Messiah) rises from the dead, and by His rising He delivers us from anxiety and terror; the victory of the Cross is confirmed, love is openly shown to be stronger than hatred, and life to be stronger than death. God (Elohim) Himself has died and risen from the dead, and so there is no more death: even death is filled with God (Elohim). Because Christ (Messiah) is risen, we need no longer be afraid of any dark or evil force in the universe. As we proclaim each year at the Paschal midnight service, in words attributed to St.John Chrysostom:
'Let none fear death,
for the death of the Saviour has set us free.
Christ is risen and the demons have fallen.
Christ is risen and the angels rejoice'" 
The apostle Paul stated most emphatically:
What Happened in the Tomb?
"And if Messiah has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your emunah (faith)" (1 Cor.15:14, NIV).
Liberals these days, especially in the West, would have you believe that resurrection is no more than Yah'shua's (Jesus') 'spirit' living on in His followers today, but no more. If Yah'shua (Jesus) did not conquer death by physically dying and then physically rising from the dead, then we have no salvation and no tiqveh (hope). All true Christians and Messianics believe that Yah'shua's (Jesus') human body was reunited to his physical body to become immortal, incapable of dying again. He did not put on a show, as the Jehovah's Witnesses teach, pretending to be physical though in reality being spiritual, and 'Jehovah' did not dissolve the body in the tomb away to deceive the disciples. The tomb in which He was incarcerated and sealed after His death on Calvary was empty because His body was both revived and immortalised, His Spirit becoming inseparably connected to it after a three day absence visiting the world of spirits. The biggest and most important division in Christianity today is between those who believe in the physical resurrection and those who do not. Those who do not believe have no tiqveh (hope) and no salvation because they have nothing on which to base their emunah (faith) after this life is over.
The Cornerstone of Our Faith
As the first talmidim (disciples) were "witnesses of these things" (Lk.24:48) so we, in our turn, who were not physically present at the resurrection or the post-resurrection appearances to the talmidim (disciples) before His ascension into Heaven, are witnesses of the reliability of the testimony of these first witnesses. That is why knowing, by a revelation of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) to our minds and hearts and the very plain and abundant evidence of science and history, that the Bible is inspired and historical, is one of the two cornerstones of our emunah (faith). The other is that Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) is Elohim (God). This is why Satan's chief attacks are almost always against the authenticity of the Davar Elohim (Word of God) and the Deity of Messiah, itself testimony that these things are exceedingly important, otherwise he would not bother, would he?
Why Yahweh is Today Blessing Russia
The risen Messiah has, in the Great Commission at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, sent us out into the world to share with others this great simacha (joy) of the Resurrection. Our witness is not only incomplete without it but, I suggest, quite useless. Are we surprised to find Yahweh today blessing Mother Russia and the Eastern Orthodox Church, in spite of its many false traditions, when it stands firm on the doctrine of the physical resurrection of Messiah when everywhere in Western Christianity, save in a few places which no doubt would be regarded by the politically correct as 'extremist', it is being denied, having been undermined by decades of liberal theology? A person who believes in, and declares, "Christ is risen!" with all his heart and strength, and is filled with the simcha (joy) of it, confirmed by ahavah (love) in his heart and deeds, is he not sealed up to Messiah, however ignorant he may be of Torah and of the nuances of doctrine?
Body and Spirit Were Destined Always to be Together
We know, for life down here on earth, that our body and spirit are interdependent. You neglect one or the other to your disadvantage - your physical you neglect to your detriment while on earth, and your spirit to your detriment in eternity. By the testimony and fact of the resurrection of our Messiah we learn something else too: that Yahweh never intended the two to be permanently apart in eternity either. Their separation at death - when the body returns to the dust and the spirit goes to Paradise or Prison - is only to be temporary for they are not supposed to be apart. They were not built to be separate. Like husband and wife, they cannot be without one another for ever. So it is unnatural and contrary to the Divine Plan for them to be separated for any great length of time.
Physical Resurrection is Spiritual
How different is this thought to that of most of other religious belief which views the body as a hindrance. yes, it actually view separation of the spirit from the body to be a freedom and such a doctrine has badly infilitrated modern Christianity. Yes, of course, to be free to pain, sickness and death is a 'freedom' but it is not the full freedom that Elohim (God) has ordained. Full freedom, perfect liberty and complete simcha (joy) can only come to pass when they are permanently and inseparably reunited in resurrection! The Besorah or Good News of Yah'shua's (Jesus') resurrection is that we shall be resurrected too! It is as resurrected beings that we shall appear before the Master Yah'shua (Jesus) our Messiah. And a physically resurrected body is a truly "spiritual" body (1 Cor.15:44), meaning that it lacks the impurity and coarseness of the fallen state.
Only One Permanent Universal State
It may surprise some of you to learn that the resurrection world is the only permanent one. The spirit world is not the highest state of being, as the other religions teach, but like our fallen physical universe, impermanent too. The resurrection world has "no end" (Lk.1:33, NKJV) because resurrection life is endless life. It is inconceivable to my mind that Yahweh would cut off and extinguish one part of His creation leaving only an ethereal part, one, incidentally, demons are restricted to. Yahweh purifies and cleanses all that He creates, making it whole. What has become fractured and divided, He heals. Even the wicked, we are told, are resurrected along with the righteous. Why do you suppose Elohim (God) would go to the trouble of restoring physicality to the spirits of the wicked if their final and eternal destiny is one of endless punishment as taught by Protestantism and Catholicism?
Why the Resurrection of the Wicked Too?
Judgment is not, of course, good news for the wicked, because sentencing and punishment follows. But why impart to the wicked a fruit of the atonement which is given as a supreme reward for those who are saved? What is the purpose in that if judgment does not, at some point, come to an end for them and they may enjoy eternity albeit in a lesser state of glory than that given to the righteous? Here, I have to say, the Eastern Orthodox are more on the right track than the bulk of the Western Church:
Understanding the Bigger Picture
"How can a God (Elohim) of love accept that even a single one of the creatures whom He has made should remain for ever in hell? There is a mystery here which, from our standpoint in this present life, we cannot hope to fathom. The best we can do is to hold in balance two truths, contrasting but not contradictory. First, God (Elohim) has given free will to man, and so to all eternity it lies in man's power to reject God (Elohim). Secondly, love signifies compassion, involvement; and so, if there are any who remain eternally in hell, in some sense God (Elohim) is also there with them. It is written in the Psalms, 'If I go down to hell, thou art there also' (Ps.139:7); and St.Isaac the Syrian says, 'It is wrong to imagine that sinners in hell are cut off from the love of God (Elohim).' Divine love is everywhere, and rejects no one. But we on our side are free to reject divine love: we cannot, however, do so without inflicting pain upon ourselves, and the more final our rejection the more bitter our suffering." 
Now this conclusion may not be correct in every detail, and I can already picture in my mind the response of a Calvinist. My point in citing this exegesis is that there are many ways of viewing the 'bigger picture' because the information we have been given in Scripture is not detailed enough for us to go to any great length in painting the precise nature of eternity. The only thing we know for sure is that eternity is all resurrection - for everybody - and that it is far, far better that we opt for righteousness and salvation than to listen to Satan, reject the Saviour and continue experiencing pain of mind and heart beyond mortality. For me, at any rate, one earth life of trial and tribulation is quite enough so why should I choose a sequel after the same pattern?
Resurrection and Baptism
Yom haBikkurim, which we have assembled to celebrate today, is all about the Resurrection of Messiah and the future hope of the qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones). It commemorates the time historically when the children of Israel crossed Yam Suf, the Sea of Reeds or 'Red Sea', to escape their captivity in Egypt, in a kind of corporate or national baptism denoting separation (1 Cor.10:2). Sin, in the form of the oppressing Pharaoh and his chariot-born army, is represented as being violently 'washed off' the Body of Israel, thereby releasing it from its bondage, in the same way that the Passover Blood of the Lamb washes away our sins too. So there are many symbols or pictures in this spiritual composition where an historical event comes to represent salvation in Messiah and the hope of the resurrection to come and is represented also in the physical ordinance of baptism by full immersion. It's why we are commanded to be baptised for in it we enact the drama of our own salvation as well as the pricess of deliverance from sin and the future arising in resurrection.
Differences Between Mortal and Resurrected Matter
Remember also that the matter with which we shall be resurrected into immortal beings is not exactly the same as the matter of this fallen world. Our resurrected bodies will share in the substance and glory of the body of Messiah manifested at the Transfiguration and Resurrection. That said, though the matter will not be precisely the same, it will sufficiently resemble the matter of our body down here so as to make us recognisable to one another as well as to allow us to enjoy similar pleasure-bringing sensations, remembering that there is no pain or sickness in a resurrected body, nor any possibility of injury. It will not need the kind of food we eat down here on earth to maintain it even though it will be 'eating' and 'drinking' purer substances.
Testimony of Irenaeus
Salvation In and Salvation With
"Neither the structure nor the substance of creation is destroyed [in the resurrection]. It is only the 'outward form of this world' (1 Cor.7:31) that passes away - that is to say, the conditions produced by the fall. And when this 'outward form' has passed away, man will be renewed and will flourish in a prime of life that is incorruptible, so that it is no longer possible for him to grow old any more. There will be 'a new heaven and a new earth' (Rev.21:1); and in this new heaven and new earth (which likewise will join together as one) man shall abide, for ever new and forever conversing with God (Elohim)." 
So it would be true to say that man is not saved from his body but in it. He is not saved, as the gnostic religions teach, from the material world but with it.
Resurrection is a Many-Spleandoured Thing
"Because man is microcosm and mediator of the creation, his own salvation involves also the reconciliation and transfiguration of the whole animate and inanimate creation around him - its deliverance 'from the bondage of corruption' and entry 'into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Elohim)' (Rom.8:21). In the 'new earth' of the Age to come there is surely a place not only for man but for the animals: in and through man they will share in immortality, and so will rocks, trees and plants, fire and water." 
Finally, it is important for us to realise that in this endless resurrection world perfection is not uniform but diversified. Furthermore, perfection is not static but dynamic. In other words, there will be inexhaustible variety. Just look at this world and what do we observe? We see that holiness is never monotonous but always different. And if this is true here, will it not be even more true in the resurrection sphere? Just as there is variety of personality in all its complexity in this sphere, so there will be variety in personality and life in the eternal world with infinite possibilities for growth and fulfilment. And I fully believe that the uniqueness of our personhood will likely remain a secret between Elohim (God) and myself, with perhaps only spouses approaching a comparable understanding such as they enjoy down here. Every resurrected soul will remain distinctly him- or herself but without the defilement of the flesh distorting both our personal experience of it in ourselves and in others.
There Will Always Be More to Learn
In Yahweh's eternal resurrection Kingdom each soul will have his special place and labour, resting in that which he has perfected in mortality. In that sphere we will movre forever onwards, reaping or harvesting the spiritual blessings we have sown down here in mortality. I have to agree with Gregory of Nyssa who believed that even in heaven perfection is growth, that nothing there is static. I believe that this growth will be limitless. We shall there, as here, go forward "from glory to glory" (2 Cor.3:18) and the vehicle of that is the resurrection of our Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) because no such eternal perfecting is possible as mere disembodied spirits. As Irenaeus said:
Resurrection Life is Available Now
"God (Elohim) will always have have something more to teach man, and man will always have something more to learn from God (Elohim)".
The resurrection life, which will be applied to us in every sphere of life in eternity, including and especially the physical, is nevertheless available, in part, to us today too, quickening our spirits and strengthening our weak, mortal bodies. This is the immediate benefit of the Master's resurrection. It's not just a future hope we are speaking of, but a very real and present one too. The resurrected Messiah is alive and available to be met by any soul humble and willing enough to come to Him on His terms. This divine, supernatural encounter causes an invisible yet very real Divine Birthing and Regeneration to take place in the spirit and heart of man. Everyone can enjoy that now for the first time or as a divine renewal. We are either here at this assembly to be renewed or to be born again for the first time. This is part of the promise and blessing of Yom haBikkurim because the third Ruach, the Ruach haShleshi, is present in a very real way on this day as an act of Sovereign Grace from the Father to those who will honour this day, this set-apart time, and this priceless gift of Yahweh.
Preparing to Have Your Eyes Opened
Brethren and sisters, the best is yet to come, but don't - in joyfully anticipating the future tiqveh (hope) - neglect to ask for the resurrection gifts that your Father in Heaven wants you to enjoy today and throughout your mortal life. Whether for the first time or whether wider, Yahweh wants to open your eyes so that you may know Him (Lk.24:31). We gather at Yom haBikkurim - on Resurrection Day - to acquaint ourselves more perfectly with the Master of the Resurrection, the one day in the year when we may know, more or less, what to expect. For as Oswald Chambers testified:
Surprised by Yahweh
"Yah'shua (Jesus) rarely comes when we expect Him; He appears where we least expect Him, and always in the most illogical connections. The only way a worker can keep true to Elohim (God) is by being ready for the Master's surprise visits."
He surprised the travelers on the road to Emmaus. He surprised the talmidim (disciples) when He first appeared to them in the upper room, and then to thousands of others who were alive in Paul's day to be questioned. And today people are surprised when Yahweh meets with them in the pages of Scripture and through the testimonies of preachers, breaking through into their mundane worlds and turning their lives upside down and inside out into a new and vibrant reality. More surprises are on their way, more encounters, more resurrection infillings for those who continue to trust and obey. His supply is inexhaustible and always sufficient for the moment, for the day, for the occasion, even if we hunger for more!
Weekly Recapitulating the Resurrection
Every day is a decision day. Every day we either decide for the Resurrected One or for the mortal, perishing self. And today is a reminder especially to celebrate Yom haBikkurim, if not every day, then at least on the third day of every week, the third day after each Sabbath, for each day of the week is a kind of recapitulation of the seven annual festivals. We need reminding more than once a year because we so easily and quickly drift away on account of the gravity and pull of the flesh!
CHRIST IS RISEN! This we proclaim from the hilltops for it is the great tiqveh (hope) of our emunah (faith). Amen.
Continued in Part 4
 N.T.Wright, Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship (SPCK, London: 1994), p.42
 Bishop Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way (Mowbray, London: 1979), p.111
 Ibid., pp.181-182
 Ibid., p.183
 Ibid., p.183
 N.T.Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God - Volume 2 (SPCK, London: 1996)
 N.T.Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (SPCK, London: 2003)
 Sir Norman Anderson, Jesus Christ: The Witness of History (Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, UK: 1985