Monday, 13 September 2010

An empty objection to an empty tomb

It is the mantra of the liberal theologian: "Paul never mentioned an empty tomb" - sigh, how can people get away with saying such things?  It reinforces something that I often see, that intelligent people can say very foolish things, especially when it comes to the realm of the spiritual.  Let's see if Paul leaves any room for a body in the tomb.

The first thing to point out is that, to the Jewish mind, resurrection could be nothing other than physical and bodily.  That's why they preserved the bones of the deceased, in anticipation of the resurrection.  In 1Corinthians 15, Paul deals extensively with the subject of the resurrection.  Notice what he says in verses 3 and 4: he says Christ died and was buried, was that physical?  Was His death and burial bodily?  Obviously yes.  Well, does it not seem to follow naturally then that when it refers to Him rising again it too is referencing a physical, bodily resurrection?  I mean in all honesty, is it not twisting the text to see anything else in it?  The bodily resurrection answers to His death and burial - in whatever sense He died and was buried, in that sense He rose again.  The burial is an essential piece of evidence for two of Christianity's foundational doctrines - Christ's death and resurrection.  The burial proved the reality of His death - with the care that was taken to bury Him, any sign of life would have been quickly and easily detected.  But also, the burial gave evidence to His resurrection because people could go to the tomb and see He wasn't there.  In addition, Paul says that the resurrection was not believed just because the body couldn't be found in the tomb, but because they actually saw the risen Christ.

Furthermore, why mention the third day in 1Corinthians 15 v 4?  Is it not because that was the day that the tomb was empty?  If the tomb was not empty, then what is the significance of the third day?  It makes no sense to say He rose spiritually on the third day, especially in light of the fact that the Bible teaches that the soul survives death, and the Lord Himself said He would be in Paradise on the day He died (Luke 23 v 43), so if Paul was speaking of spiritual resurrection then it would have happened on the day Christ died!  Paul also believed in conscious existence between death and resurrection (Phillipians 1 v 21-24; 2Corinthians 5 v 8; 12 v 1-4), and he quotes Luke as Scripture (1Timothy 5 v 18), and Luke also records the Lord teaching the consciousness of the soul after death (Luke 16 v 19-31), as well as the empty tomb and the bodily resurrection (Luke 24).  So believing in the conscious existence of the soul after death forces us to see that the resurrection can only refer to the body, and in calling Luke's writings Scripture we see the apostle identifying himself with the clear teaching of the bodily resurrection of Christ.

Again, think of the Christian ordinance of baptism, total immersion in water, followed (thankfully) by emersion from the water.  What is this ordinance intended to convey?  Paul leaves us in no doubt (Romans 6 v 3-5) - it shows the believer's identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection - what was buried came up again from the grave.

Finally for now, Luke records Paul's preaching in the book of Acts, and in chapter 13 v 29-37 we see how Paul makes clear that the Lord rose bodily, because he speaks about how David was buried and saw corruption, but the Lord saw no corruption - in what sense did He not see corruption?  Paul tells us, because God raised Him from the dead.

"He is not here, but is risen."  A dead Saviour is no Saviour at all.  A living Saviour is a Saviour for all - for you.