Resurrection in Hebrews
Back on April 20th, Easter Sunday, I continued my series in the book of Hebrews. We looked at Hebrews 2:14-18. One question that I had to address was whether or not the author of this letter explicitly mentions the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Continue reading . . .
Back on April 20th, Easter Sunday, I continued my series in the book of Hebrews. We looked at Hebrews 2:14-18. One question that I had to address was whether or not the author of this letter explicitly mentions the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Those who were present that Sunday morning may have noticed that the author of Hebrews says nothing explicit about the bodily resurrection of Jesus in this particular text. For that matter, he hasn’t said anything explicit about the resurrection since the start of the epistle back in chapter one and verse one.
But that’s only partly true, and the key is in my use of the word “explicit”. The fact is, our author has either implicitly assumed or directly alluded to the resurrection on several occasions. In fact, nothing of what he has said about Jesus up through the end of chapter two makes any sense at all unless one takes for granted that Jesus was raised from the dead.
For example, in Hebrews 1:3 we are told that “after making purification for sins,” a reference to the sacrificial death of Jesus, “he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” But if he wasn’t raised from the dead he could hardly have been exalted by God the Father and could hardly have sat down at the right hand of God. His body would still be rotting away in a Palestinian tomb.
Also, Psalm 2:7, quoted in Hebrews 1:5, refers directly to the resurrection of Jesus. There God declared: “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.” In Acts 13:33 and other passages this OT text is set forth as a prophecy of the bodily resurrection and exaltation of Jesus. Then once more in Hebrews 1:6 our author mentions the time when God the Father will “bring” the Son yet again “into the world,” a statement many believe refers to the Second Coming of Christ at the end of history. But if he is still dead and his flesh and bones have long since decayed in a musty middle-eastern tomb, there is no Savior who can come into this world to consummate God’s purposes.
And if Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead how can our author say of him in Hebrews 1:8, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever”? And if Jesus is dead, never more to rise, how can our author say in Hebrews 1:10-11 that, whereas the natural creation “wears out like a garment” and “perishes” the incarnate Son of God “remains” and is ever “the same”? How can our author say at the end of Hebrews 1:12 that his “years will have no end” if in fact he only lived 33 of them and then died, never to live again?
If that were not enough to convince you that the author of Hebrews had a robust and passionate conviction about the bodily resurrection of Jesus, how could he say in Hebrews 2:9 that this very Jesus is now “crowned with glory and honor” and is the one in whom the destiny of mankind as ruler over all of creation is ultimately fulfilled? And if Jesus is still dead and decaying in a distant grave our author is seriously deluded when he says in Hebrews 2:18 that this very Jesus “is able to help those who are being tempted.” I suppose there are a lot of things a lifeless corpse might do for me, but help me when I’m being tempted isn’t one of them! Then again, I can’t think of anything a lifeless corpse could do for anyone!
Of course, our author does quite explicitly mention the resurrection of Jesus in Hebrews 13:20-21. There he prays:
“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
So there can be no doubt about our author’s convictions concerning the resurrection of Jesus. If it did not occur, he would agree with Paul: “then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” and “we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:14, 19).