Resurrection, Part 4

The Bible, in a number of places, describes a time when “the completion of all things (relative to the former age) would end.  These “things” would wrap up at Yeshua’s return with judgment and reward and this would produce what is called, “the end.”

The end of what?  The end of that former age under the Law and the Prophets.  It would be a time when hell and Satan would be overcome, an age when the world has been reconciled to God, and age when God would write His laws upon the minds and hearts of people, and it is the anticipated end most Christians are looking forward in the future.  Because of the timing of the Apostolic Record, its contents and promises, I suggest that the end of that age that brought the Good News is over and that we are currently, spiritually, in what the Jews called “the age to come,” enjoying what we call, “the Great News.” 

Everything about His spiritual Kingdom introduced by His victory is unlike the Old Jerusalem (which was founded in material expressions) is spiritually based and directed from on high.  Those of faith are members of a Kingdom that is eternal, that never ends (as promised by Isaiah), and where the victory over everything (except the human will) has been won.   This is Great News.  But note – there would be, there couldn’t be, any Great News if we first did not have the establishment of the Good News first.  So, as Paul explained in our former Blog part 2, the Good News was that 

Christ died for the sin of the world

That he was buried

And that He rose again on the third day

And these things were all according to scripture which was written and given to “them/then.”  Paul adds the following in reference to His rising on the third day (which is the general topic of this important chapter of Corinthians) and first speaks of Christ and then others who witnessed His resurrection, adding,

5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. 8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. 

Let’s go back to verse five where Paul, speaking of the Resurrected Lord, says:

“And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve.” 

Of course, we know that Cephas refers to Peter and Paul takes the time to appeal to the resurrection of Christ as a fact to be proved, like all other facts, by competent and credible witnesses.   While people today must accept this witness on faith and not on fact, we can say (if the passages are reflecting fact) that a principle is established – and I am not talking about the resurrection of Christ!  Instead, I am suggesting that,

“credible faith is based on credible, verifiable (at some point in its history) witnesses surrounding the event and it is not given to us in a vacuum.”

God does not typically ask us to believe things that are not verifiable by some sort of material validation in the past or even present.  I do not call these “proofs” but evidences as we walk by faith (evidences) not sight,” (proofs).   In the case of the Resurrection of Christ, therefore, which again is what is in question here, or at least resurrection itself is in question, there were witnesses – a lot of them, in that day, as Paul makes clear.  I am well aware that to believers today who are reading this, we do have to receive information that is far less substantiated in our lives than it was in theirs.  They saw the miracles, they witnessed the resurrection.  They participated in His promised return.  But looking at the record that has been handed down, we can at least say that there, 

  • is a historical Nation of Israel, 
  • that they were genetically extant at the time, with a legitimate material history (both religious and secular) and that there are more historical records to support all of this than there are for the writings of Ancient Greek scholarship or mythology.

Remember, Paul was writing a letter to believers then, and this letter was time-stamped in that age as it related to their evidences for Yeshua rising from the grave after three days.  In that place and time, when this letter was penned, Paul points out that the flesh and blood witnesses of Yeshua resurrection began with a man named Peter.

For those who claim “collusion and conspiracy” as a means to establish a false religion that was concocted by the Flavian Dynasty, I would suggest that this theory fails to explain why historically we have actual people (like Peter) who have been authenticated as existing, who suffered, even gave their very lives, for the witness that He rose from the grave.  This is just using Peter as an example of a witness – as the first witness – and I have not even mentioned the others.  What is super intriguing to me is that Peter was not the first to witness the risen Lord!  Did you know that?  Paul does not say he was, all he does is mention Peter first in his (respective) list of witnesses.

Remember, there were problems with women speaking in church at Corinth and it could be that Paul did not want to add any fuel to that fire by noting that the first actual witness of Yeshua’s resurrection was Mary Magdalene.  Before we move forward, I am of the opinion (when I read scripture) that many things we come across are not accidental.  I see God as the Master Artist, the Master Creator, and the best creators and artists make use of everything in their creations – and I simply do not see God as an exception.  Instead, I see Him as the rule.  So, while here in our text Paul does not mention Mary witnessing the risen Lord first, there is some important stuff happening that ought to be recognized.  This important stuff begins with a quick read, actually, a remarkable read, from John 20 where we find a mate with Genesis 3.  Let’s read the honor restored to women in and through the death and resurrection of Christ in  John 20 where it says,

“The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early . . .” 

Now, who was Mary Magdalene?  She was a woman who Yeshua healed casting out seven devils, wasn’t she?  How did Mary Magdalene get possessed of those devils?  In other words, who made it possible that Mary could be possessed of Devils?  It was another woman, wasn’t it?  Her name was Eve – who we read about in Genesis 3.

So . . . 

On the first day of the Week came Mary Magdalene . . . when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. 

(Mary Magdalene came to a place where the dead a laid – where the dead were laid – “death” =  a result of the first woman, right?)

2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Yeshua loved (John), and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. 3 Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. 4 So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. 5 And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. 6 Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, 7 And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. 8 Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. 9 For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.

Now that the men have done all their running around let’s get back to the connection to Eve and Mary Magdalene.

11 But Mary . . . (BUT MARY!)  But Mary stood without at the sepulcher weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulcher, (I suggest Eve did a lot of weeping too, being deceived, but I seriously wonder about Adam as we hear nothing from him again in the Tanahk! But we do hear from Eve.  Anyway . . .)

12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Yeshua had lain.

(After Adam and Eve sinned, God posted the cherubim with the flaming sword east of Paradise to keep mankind.  On Easter morning, two angels appeared in the garden, not to banish mankind from God’s presence but to invite Mary to behold the risen Messiah).

13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. 14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Yeshua standing, and knew not that it was Yeshua. 15 Yeshua saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.

In the Genesis and John 20 account we discover two gardens and two gardeners, don’t we? Adam and Eve are banished from the first garden (to die), but Mary, the one once demon possessed, was welcomed into the Garden where the second Adam overcame death.

In Genesis we have the Garden of Eden and here we have the Garden owned by Joseph of Arimathea – and in Genesis Adam was told to tend to the garden and here in John 20 Mary assigned the title of gardener to the Lord, the Second Adam, who welcomed her in and now tends His church.  

16 Yeshua saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

As a result of the Fall, women were subservient to their husbands, they ostensibly became their masters by the curse.  In Christ, a woman is emancipated from this subservience in and through Christ, her true master, and learns to love and respect her husband through Him – if she chooses to have one.

17 Yeshua saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

In the Garden of Eden God told Adam and Eve “to go,” (meaning to leave).  Here, the second Adam gives the first commission or direction to a human being and it was to Mary, the second Eve representation, as He told her to go . . . to my brethren and say unto them that I ascent to my Father and YOUR Father and to my GOD and YOUR God.

18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

Isn’t it funny that we would take Paul’s directives to the Church in that day and age – because of history and culture – and demand that women not teach when the very first person Yeshua met was a woman, and He sent her  . . . to teach the Apostles!  There is just so much to be seen in the context of scripture.  And I would suggest that in these two narratives we see God’s great plan of redemption as Yeshua unravels the curse of the Fall brought about at Adam and Eve in Eden through the death and resurrection of the Second Adam and his type of Eve, Mary Magdalene. 

And where the results of Genesis 3 is pain, slavery to sin, demon possession, alienation from the presence of God and death these events in John introduce healing, acceptance, deliverance and full restoration of fellowship with God through His Son.  Both narratives are changed by women.  Two women, who by construction and nature, give birth.  The first woman, begot death and alienation.  The second took the victory and represented to others as life, healing and acceptance into the very presence of God. Additionally, we might say that through the resurrection of Christ, woman got the voice back lost in the Fall as Mary Magdalene was appointed to go and tell men. 

Ostensibly, she was commissioned by Christ to go and preach the Good News – that He has risen.  Now, the emancipation did not occur quickly or universally – still hasn’t – but in the age of the Great News this ought to be the case – as exemplified by the interaction by the Risen Lord and Savior and Mary Magdalene.

So, Paul mentions first that Peter was a witness to His resurrection.  Then he adds,

After mentioning Peter, Paul adds, even though the apostles were only eleven at this time, that He was seen by “the twelve,” (though Judas was not one of them).  Perhaps he was testifying of Mathias being the twelfth – can’t really tell.  Yeshua appeared to the apostles at one time (which we read about in John 20) once in the absence of Thomas and then when Thomas was present.  Paul is probably referring to the latter occasion, when all the surviving apostles were present.

If you wonder about his appearance when the Apostles were on the sea of Tiberias, there were only seven people there (in total) with two in question as to whether they were disciples or Apostles.  Paul then continues and says

6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

At this point Paul opens up the flood gates and tells us that more than five hundred saw Him in His resurrected form.  A location is not given – which in and of itself is interesting – but the naming of a specific locale was avoided.  However, said there is a circumstance hinted at in Matthew 28:10 where we read that Yeshua says to the women who were at the sepulchre, 

“Go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.” 

Then we read in Matthew 28:16 

“The eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Yeshua had appointed them.” 

Because Yeshua had spent most of his public life in Galilee and he had made most of his disciples there, it seems possible and proper that those disciples who would have heard of his death would have also heard of his resurrection and were on high alert to see him themselves.  Knowing human nature, and the lack of a prohibition to share the fact that He had risen, it seems to me that the 500 were comprised of Galileans who were informed by the eleven that He had overcome the grave.

What we do learn is that of all the places Yeshua preached, one of them – it seems – bearing 500 souls, proves that he had a following at the time of his death – which would have greatly contributed to the Good News going out to the entire world (or area) as Paul admits that it had when he was alive.

In referencing these 500, Paul in this epistles adds:

“with the greater part remaining unto this present.”

Which means to “those people then” that the greater part of those witnesses were “still alive,” which were lots of other living witnesses and could still be appealed to by THAT audience that they saw him.

There in Corinth some were denying the resurrection and right there, while they were still alive, Paul gave them conclusive evidence that his resurrection was a reality as there were close to 500 who were first hand witnesses of it, some of whom were still alive for them to question.   I tend to think that the location of these witnesses is not revealed by the Apostles so that a throng of people was prevented from coming to hear their witness because that could have put them in jeopardy with the enemies of the cross, whether Jew or Roman.

As to the number 500, it could be actual or representative – can’t tell – but the round number causes me to wonder and so I therefore assume it was rounded off.  The point is, if the testimony of five hundred failed to prove his resurrection, no number of witnesses could.   

Regarding these witnesses Paul adds that “some are fallen asleep,” meaning that they had died physical deaths.  This phrase has caused some so suggest that at physical death humans enter into something called soul sleep – which I reject as the product of Man.  Paul adds, 

7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

Interestingly, this appearance was not recorded by the writers of the New Testament but is mentioned in the Apocryphal book called, The Gospel of the Hebrews, which is dubious in nature but it does not mean this information is incorrect.  Yeshua was on earth for forty days after his resurrection, and Paul has mentioned the most prominent appearances as a means to substantiate his resurrection.  This James, most early Christian leaders suggest, was James the Less, the brother or cousin of the Lord Yeshua. 

According to Acts 12 the other James was dead when this epistle was written. This James in question, who was the author of the epistle that bears his name, was stationed in Jerusalem and when Paul went there, after his return from Arabia, he met with him (according to Galatians 1:19) causing Paul to comment in that place, 

“But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.”

To me it is highly probable that Paul would have told James the vision which he had of Yeshua on his way to Damascus and that James also would have told Paul the fact that he had seen him after he rose too.   This may be the reason why Paul here mentions the fact, because he had it from the lips of James himself.   Paul adds, “Then of all the apostles.” 

I do not think this was by the Sea of Galilee because only seven people are mentioned then, so perhaps there as a final meeting of all of the apostles before he ascended or perhaps there were numerous meetings with all of them spread out over the forty days.

Then Paul adds His final witness to the resurrected Lord (that He includes at least) saying at verse 8: 

8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. 

I think Paul is saying, “out of all the times mentioned,” or “at the end of all the times mention,”He, “last of all, was seen of me,” and adds, “as of one born out of due time.”

We have noted that the requirements of Apostleship of the Lord were that they had to have been called by Him, trained by Him, witnesses to His resurrection, and to have witnessed of this resurrection to their detriment – even the cost of their very lives. All the Apostles meet these requirements with Paul – though not original – telling us that there is no question as to whether he was a witness to his resurrection.

This passage proves that the apostle Paul saw the same Lord Yeshua, the same body which had been seen by the others, or else his personal assertion that he was risen from the dead would be baseless.   Where Paul adds, “as of one born out of due time.”  It is a word not used anywhere else in the Apostolic Record and interestingly, it means “an abortion” or “one born prematurely.” We might be tempted to think that Paul is implying that there was something not good about his witness of the resurrected Lord, by adding this, but I don’t think so.  The following verse help us understand that what Paul meant was that he was not worthy or that he was unfit to be called to the service of Christ and therefore unworthy to see the resurrected Lord.  In other words, “he was as worthy to be an apostle as an aborted baby was worthy to be called a child.”  Bottom line, Paul is claiming an untimely birth here relative to His service for the King – it’s a phrase of great humility.  And then he adds:

9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

Speaking of himself relative to the Church/Bride, Paul says in Galatians1:13 

“For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:”

In Ephesians 3:8, Paul writes, “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;”

And in Philippians 3:5-6, Paul writes

Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

In 1st Timothy 1:13, Paul wrote, speaking of himself and said, 

“Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.”

So again, here he says,

9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

But then he adds at verse 10-11

10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11 Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.

In these verses have such insight and wisdom to the two-lane highway that exists between God and Man.  In his flesh, Paul humbly admits to not being a worthy soul to represent the Good News – and goes so far to say that he was like an aborted child in the presence of a gang of living children.  That’s a pretty graphic self-description.

But having admitted this he then writes a line that is applicable to us all, saying,

“But by the grace of God I am what I am . . .”

Which seems to have Paul making it clear that while he was personally like an aborted fetus (in comparison to the other apostles), by the favor or mercy of God show to him through the shed blood of His Son, Paul “was what he was,” which seems to imply that even as an aborted fetus by comparison, God in His grace and mercy was using him.

Having established this, he says:

“and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

In the two-lane highway relationship between God and Man, there is an offer from God and there is a reception from Man.  God offers strength, humans accept it from Him.  God offers insights, Humans receive it – or not.  In all of it, God is doing the planning, supplying the building materials, choosing the locations and approach, and human beings are choosing to walk where he commands, build where he directs, and allow Him and His will to be accomplished through them by faith.  All by faith.   It is something that God teaches us as we learn to walk with Him.  It does not come naturally to our flesh, nor does it come easily as we are prone to taking control of things as a means to get “it all done.”  But we notice that Paul gives us a literary “back and forth” to assist us in realizing that we are in partnership with God – or at least, he certainly was.  So, he begins and says by comparison that he as an abortion, but they adds, “but by God’s grace I am what I am.” Then he says,

“and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain;” 

How so?  He adds,

“but I labored more abundantly than they all:”

But he also points out,

“yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

All of this is Paul’s way of explaining that in his life – like in all of our lives – whatever is good is from God, but every individual must receive what He offersl.  And that while we will accomplish things for and by Him – in Paul’s case, he unabashedly says that he labored more than they all – he adds the offsetting remark:

“But not I but the grace of God with was in me.”

It is intriguing that Paul first likens himself to a still born or aborted fetus by comparison to the other apostles, but when the Grace of God filled him (that dead fetus) he went to work like a banshee, “laboring more than all of the other apostles” who were not as dead to the spirit as Himself – but then he steps back and reminds us that all the labors were the result of “the grace of God” in him.

May this view be the case with each of us; that no matter what our former state, when God quickens us with His grace, we too, like Paul, rise to new life in and through the Grace of God who forgave us all things, we too labor by allowing God to work in and through us.   Paul concludes this blog-time with,

11 Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.

Therefore, whether it was I (Paul) or they (the other apostles) we have all preached, and as a result you, reader at Corinth, have believed.  We are now better prepared to enter in  more deeply to the topic at hand – the resurrection of the dead.

Shawn McCraney
Shawn McCraney
Articles: 108

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