He Is Risen, Indeed!
The apostle Paul believed in the resurrection, not because he was a Christian, but because he was a Jew. Faith in the reality of revival from the dead was part of his training in the Hebrew Scriptures, and it still holds a place in Jewish liturgy today.
Paul may have learned about resurrection from his mentor and teacher, Rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 5:34; 22:3). The Jewish Talmud teaches that when people asked Rabbi Gamaliel, “Whence do we know that the Holy One, blessed be He, will resurrect the dead?” Gamaliel replied, “From the Torah, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa [Writings].”1
Some of the most powerful Scriptures we have concerning the resurrection were written by Paul, a Jewish Pharisee who, after having an encounter with the risen Savior on the Damascus road (9:1–6), gave his life to serve Christ. He wrote the following:
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to 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. 15:20–26).
The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, 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 [Jesus] became a life-giving spirit (vv. 42–45).
Jesus would have used the Hebrew Scriptures to teach the truth concerning the resurrection when He walked with His disciples on the Emmaus road after He arose from the grave: “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Lk. 24:27).
He did the same with the 11 disciples in Jerusalem: “Then He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me’” (v. 44).
Perhaps He cited a verse from the song of Moses: “Now see that I, even I, am He, and there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; nor is there any who can deliver from My hand” (Dt. 32:39). Perhaps He reminded them of the prophecy concerning His resurrection: “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption” (Ps. 16:10).
The Jewish prayer known as the Amidah praises God many times for resurrecting the dead:
You are mighty forever, my L-rd; You resurrect the dead; You are powerful to save. . . . He sustains the living with loving kindness, resurrects the dead with great mercy, supports the falling, heals the sick, releases the bound, and fulfills His trust to those who sleep in the dust. Who is like You, mighty One! And who can be compared to You, King, who brings death and restores life, and causes deliverance to spring forth!2
On Sunday, April 12, Christians the world over will celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Paul called Jesus the “firstfruits,” meaning those of us who have placed our faith in Him alone for the forgiveness of sin also will be resurrected to eternal life.
He is our hope, for He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (Jn. 11:25). “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End” (Rev. 21:6). “I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star” (22:16).
As Psalm 2 says, “Kiss the Son. . . . Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him” (v. 12).
- Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 90b, come-and-hear.com (tinyurl.com/yyqlpen7).
- “Translation of the Weekday Amidah,” Chabad.org (tinyurl.com/CHABADamidah).