John 5:24-29| Two Resurrections? #10 The Holy Spirit and Resurrection
In our previous installment in this series we examined how Ezekiel 37, one of the key prophetic sources of John 5:24-29 foretold the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as the means by which Israel would be raised from the dead. We also demonstrated that the “death” in view was covenantal death, loss of fellowship, not biological death.
What cannot be missed is the relationship between the promise of the Holy Spirit and resurrection. In Israel of Jesus’ day, there was a long held understanding that YHVH had withdrawn the inspired, prophetic office from Israel, due to her sin, but that in the last days, before the Day of the Lord, He would restore that prophetic office, deliver the New Covenant, establish the Messianic Temple and the everlasting kingdom.
Josephus (Contra Apion 1, 41) said of the time of Artexerxes who followed Xerxes, that the prophetic office had ceased (Citation in Jesus and the Heritage of Israel, David Moessner, Trinity Press International, Harrisburg, Penn, 1999)161). According to the book of Maccabees it was said that the prophetic office had ceased (1 Mac. 4:46; 9:27; 14:41).
David Aune, (Prophecy in Early Christianity, Eerdmans, 1983)103, says the Rabbis believed that “when the last prophets died,–(Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi)–the Holy Spirit ceased in Israel.” Aune does say that many Rabbis believed the Spirit was present in Israel, but, that there were no inspired prophets like the earlier ones.
George Eldon Ladd, (A Theology of the New Testament, Eerdmans , 1974,)343, concurred in the idea that Israel had a sense that the Holy Spirit had departed after Malachi.
Citations like this could be multiplied many times over, but these will suffice. But, significantly, the Old Testament foretold that while YHVH had withdrawn His Holy Spirit, in the last days, He would once again restore the Spirit and do the following:
The Last Days, Resurrection Work of the Holy Spirit
In the Old Covenant prophecies, we find the following ideas that would be accomplished through the last days work of the Holy Spirit:
He would build the Messianic Temple (Ezekiel 37 / Hosea 3).
He would bring in the New Covenant (Ezekiel 37).
He would purify a new priesthood (Hosea 3:4-5).
He would restore the “Ephod”– which was the instrument of divine revelation to and through the priesthood under the Old Covenant (Hosea 3:4-5).
He would establish the King in righteousness (Isaiah 32:1f) with the resultant peace and holiness.
He would bring salvation (Joel 2:28-32).
He would raise Israel, all twelve tribes, out of the graves, in that promised New Covenant world (Ezekiel 37).
It is more than evident from these facts that any attempt to interpret John 5:24-29 divorced from the doctrine of the last days, resurrection work of the Holy Spirit is totally misguided. There would be no resurrection apart from that last days work of the Spirit.
John the Baptizer, as Elijah, and the Last Days Work of the Holy Spirit
Significantly, when we speak of the resurrection work of the Holy Spirit, we must in fact look to John the Baptizer. I suggest that it is critical to understand the role of John, as Elijah in order to understand the resurrection doctrine of Jesus, because John, as Elijah, was the herald and sign of the Great Day of the Lord- the time of the resurrection.
As Hagner says: “John symbolizes the breaking of centuries of prophetic silence recognized by the Jews themselves (cf. Macc 4:46; 9:27; 14:41). Here then is a new thing: a voice from God out of the silence, self-authenticating by its power and message, as well as by its unusual mediator. Prophecy appears again in the midst of Israel, the people of God” (Donald Hagner, Word Biblical Commentary on Matthew, Vol. 33, (Dallas, Word Publishers, 1993)49.
As Elijah, the Baptizer meant that the last days had arrived. It meant the Holy Spirit– and the prophetic office– was being restored. And, this meant that the time for the resurrection had arrived. This is recognized, at least on one level, by the scholars, who then want to extrapolate that resurrection work into the far distant future, in violation of the temporal delimitations of the NT epistles. Beale recognized the eschatological significance of the outpouring of the Spirit, but of course, he ignores the imminence of the end that is so clearly expressed on the pages of the NT.
Beale says, “The purpose of this chapter (chapter 17 in his book, dkp) is to study the divine Spirit, not in all of His various roles, but, rather with a focus on his eschatological function, especially in the NT, particularly with respect to the giving of resurrection life. In line with the argument of the book and the core of the proposed NT storyline so far, we will see again that the Spirit is best understood as a key agent in bringing about the in-breaking eschatological new creation and kingdom.” (Greg Beale, A New Testament Theology, Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2011)559.
I would suggest that to acknowledge the eschatological work of the Holy Spirit– the resurrection work of the Spirit– in Acts demands that we see the consummation of the eschatological work of the Spirit as truly imminent in the first century. This has profound implications for our understanding of John 5:24-29. We will take note of this in the next installment, so stay tuned.