Cyclical and Linear
The Problem the Corinthians
had with Resurrection
The Corinthians did not doubt the resurrection of Christ. They doubted their resurrection. And the reason they doubted their resurrection is because they were Greeks, and the Greek religion was a derivative of Hinduism.
Basic Worldviews in History
There are two basic worldviews: The view that history is cyclical and the view that history is linear. The two mother religions of the world represent these two views. The cyclical worldview is represented by Hinduism, and from Hinduism springs all the other similar religions, like Daoism, Shintoism, and Buddhism. These are all a derivative of, by product of Hinduism. The idea that history is linear comes from Judaism, and Judaism spawned (beliefs) like Christianity and Islam, and of course from those the various sects within them.
Hinduism is born out of reason, in that if you analyze the
world, you come to the conclusion that everything is cyclical, because
you've got winter, spring, summer, fall, winter, spring, summer, fall.
The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, rises in the east,
sets in the west. As Solomon
notes in Ecclesiastes 1, "Water comes from the ocean and forms the
clouds, the clouds drop the water in the mountains, the mountains gather
the water into the rivers, and the rivers flow back into the ocean"
... and Solomon says, "The oceans never fall."
So round and round and round it goes.
So therefore it was very natural for men to assume that a man is
born, he lives, he dies, he's reborn, he lives he dies, he's reborn in
what is called reincarnation or the transmigration of the soul.
In this worldview, therefore, the material body, the house of the
real you, is considered to be evil. It's
So you read, for example, the philosophy of Plato, who
believed in the transmigration of the soul.
He talks about the fact that the body is his prison.
He longs to be free from it. The
body is a source of perpetual opposition.
He can never get his body to perform the way he wants it to, His
mind is willing but his body is not.
Besides that the body gets sick.
Not only that but the body grows old, and starts to decay and fall
apart. And so the older he
gets the more imprisoned he feels. So in Greek philosophy, as in Hindu religion, the body is not
good, the body is bad.
Now, this thinking permeated Judaism in that as they became
exposed to the Hellenistic world, they tried to adapt themselves to that
world. And so the two
principal parties in Judaism that argued with each other over this were
the Sadducees, which were willing to accommodate ... and they simply said,
what we've got to do is learn from Hinduism, or the Greek philosophy, and
adapt ourselves to it. So as
you read in the gospels you find that the Sadducees denied the
resurrection. As a matter of
fact, Paul, when he defends himself towards the end of his life, pits the
Sadducees against the Pharisees in order to divert attention from himself.
So he stands before (the high priest Ananias) and says, "I am
here because I believe in the resurrection of the dead, not like these
guys believe." (Acts
23:6) And so then there's
this big argument between those guys as to which one is right, and Paul
kind of gets off the hook, so to speak.
So this tension in Judaism existed.
The Christian View of the
But in Christianity, the resurrection plays a very, very important role, because of the following reasons. (1) God created the body, and therefore the body is good. (2) Man sinned in the body, and therefore if the solution to his problem is to be complete, it's got to be both body and soul. And finally, as Paul argues in this chapter, (3) To say that there is no resurrection is to deny the existence of the resurrection, and therefore the resurrection of Christ. So he says to the Corinthians, "Though you believe in the resurrection of Christ but deny the resurrection itself, that is an untenable position." So Paul is arguing that Christ is now living in a human body ... now, today, and that Christ is a life giving Spirit. These are opposite but mutually dependent ideas around which the chapter flows. These two ideas form the essence of the argument Paul makes in the chapter.
So, Christianity differs from Hinduism in that not only is
history linear, rather than cyclical, the body is good, because it's the
creation of God. And though
there's not a lot of evidence of the resurrection of the body in the Old
Testament, if you hunt for it you can find it, like as we've talked before
Enoch, Elijah, and then of course the statement by Daniel in Daniel
12:(2), where there is the resurrection.
Reincarnation and Nirvana
Basically Hinduism is Monism ... there's no distinction between God and matter. Matter is God, God is matter ... you are God. But the transmigration of the soul coming back again was, again from the Hindu point of view, was to finally get it right. And once you get it right, you enter into Nirvana, which is a state of nothingness. You lose your identity and cease to exist ... you blend into the oneness of God.
Let me ask you then, what is the difference between the
resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of Lazarus?
Lazarus had to die again. And
parenthetically, I think that from a human perspective, Lazarus probably
thought to himself, "That's a dirty deal.
That's terrible. I go
through the process of dying, get that behind me, then here I've got to go
through it again."
Definition of Resurrection
Let's talk about the word "resurrection" for just a moment. What does the word mean? From death to life? Paul says in Ephesians chapter 2, "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins." When did you die in your trespasses and sins? When you are born, ... so you were born dead, and that because of the imputed sin of Adam. So there are only three people that have ever existed on the face of the earth, as far as we can tell, that were born spiritually alive, and they are Adam and Eve and Christ. Everybody else was born dead. So let's go back to resurrection.
What does resurrection mean? The word "re" in the English language
means "again." You
rework it, you rewrite it, you redo it.
And so the resurrection is "to bring to life again." So when a man is born of the Spirit, the Bible never says
that he's resurrected, because he never was alive in the first place.
So Paul doesn't say, "You who were dead in trespasses and sins
has God resurrected." He says, "God gave you life." To resurrect you would imply that you had life before.
So it is the resurrection of the body, not the resurrection of the
soul that we are talking about in this material.
When you were born of the Spirit at your conversion, you were made
alive, and you'll never be more alive spiritually than you are right now.
"This is eternal life they that might know Thee, the only true
God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." (John 17:3).
Eternal life began at conversion.
So the only thing that you have left is the dying of the body.
For the non-Christian, when he dies in his body, he will never be
made alive spiritually.
The Definition of Death
Death is separation. Physical death is the separation of the soul and the body. For example, in the United States, when the newspaper reports an accident, if Mr. Jones is thrown from the car and lands out on the field, and is alive, the newspaper says, "Mr. Jones was found fifty feet from the automobile." But if he's dead, the newspaper says, "The body was found fifty feet from the automobile." So, even the pagan acknowledges that though the body is lying there on the field, Mr. Jones is no longer present. So physical death is the separating of you from your body. Spiritual death is the separating of you from God.
Three imputations in the Bible
And as we studied from the book of Romans, we discovered that God declaring us spiritually dead, that is, alienated from him, was an act of His grace, so the imputed sin of Adam, which meant that you were born dead, was as much an act of God's grace, as the imputing of your sin to Jesus Christ, and his righteousness to you. Those are the three aspects of imputation, Biblically. There are three imputations in the Bible, the imputation of Adam's sin to the human race, the imputation of our sins to Jesus Christ, and the imputation of Christ's righteousness to us. All three are expressions of God's grace. Now Hindu philosophy says that a man in his soul or spirit existed before his birth.
of Progression from Birth to the Resurrected Body
In Christianity your soul or your spirit comes into existence at the time of your birth. There is no preexistence. So in that sense, Jesus was different from everybody else. There never was a time when Jesus was not. But there was a time when you were not. But, there never will be a time when you will cease to exist. The resurrection of the body guarantees that. We've established that the non-Christian is already dead in his soul or spirit, and if we deny the resurrection, then when he dies bodily, that's the end of it, you have annihilation. And if you have annihilation, then you don't have accountability. And if you don't have accountability, then you do not have truth. Because the force of law is in accountability. Now this is all backdrop to understand the reason why this is so critical in the apostle's mind, as he presents this material (1 Corinthians 15).
Walt Henrichsen, from a Bible study on 1 Corinthians in March 2002