John 5:24-29| Two Resurrections? #6
It is absolutely critical to all futurist paradigms that they be able to prove that in John 5:24-29 Jesus discussed two different resurrections, of two different natures, at two different times. If it is admitted for even one moment that he was discussing one resurrection at the climax of the “hour that now is” all futurist eschatologies fall by the way. Be sure to go back and read the previous installments in this series. #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
We must, no matter what else, honor the fact that whatever the nature and timing of the resurrection Jesus was discussing in John 5:24-29, it was foretold in the Old Covenant prophecies of Israel. Jesus came to honor and to fulfill Torah (Matthew 5:17-18). Paul reminds us that Jesus was made a servant to the circumcision in order to confirm the promises made to the fathers, i.e. the Old Covenant promises made to Old Covenant Israel (Romans 15:8).
What this means is that whatever our concept of the nature of the resurrection promised in John 5:24-29, and no matter what we think about when it would be, we must be able to find that kind of resurrection in the Old Covenant promises made to Old Covenant Israel. So, let’s take a look at the prophecy of John 5:28-29 and see if we can determine what Old Covenant prophecies served as the source for that resurrection prophecy.
John 5:24-29 and Its Prophetic Background and Source
The answer is to be found in two texts: Ezekiel 37 and Daniel 12:2. Let’s take a look at Ezekiel 37 first:
Ezekiel 37 is, of course, a major Messianic prophecy, and foretold the resurrection and the restoration of Israel. It is the vision of the Valley of Dry Bones. Read verses 11-14:
“Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,” says the Lord.’”
Notice a couple of things:
Israel was in Babylonian captivity.
YHVH was speaking about– and to– living human beings.
But, he said that those living human beings were in the grave! They were dead! To miss this Hebraic way of thinking is to doom ourselves to a mis-understanding of the text. YHVH was not talking to dead human corpses. He was talking to living people, alienated from Him due to their sin, sent off into captivity, and thus, considered “dead.”
I think Watts, commenting on Isaiah 27:13, expresses it well: “The exiles in Assyria and Egypt are said to have been perishing. But they will be gathered by God to come and worship him on his holy mountain in Jerusalem (v. 13). Separation form the temple is equivalent to death. Being allowed to participate again in Jerusalem is like coming back to life.” (John Watts, Word Biblical Commentary, Isaiah, Vol 24, (Waco, Tx. Word Publishers, 1985)344).
So, in Hebraic thought, alienation from YHVH, from the Land, from the Temple, was to be dead. Restoration to the Land, the Temple and YHVH was resurrection. A hermeneutic that ignores this Hebraic way of thinking is misguided.
So, Ezekiel posits Israel (specifically Judah) as in the graves. But, YHVH said He would pour out His Spirit, raise them from the dead, and restore them to Himself. That restoration is then depicted in the following verses in the prediction of the restoration of all the twelve tribes, Messiah on the throne, the New Covenant and the Messianic Temple. In other words, the prophecy of the resurrection of Israel is depicted in the prophecy of the restoration of Israel under Messiah, under the New Covenant, when the Messianic Tabernacle / Temple would be established. These are not two totally separate and distinct prophecies of different events, to be fulfilled at different times. What does that mean?
John 5:24-29, Ezekiel 37 and Fulfillment in Christ!
Well, for starters, we would take note that both the Amillennialists and Postmillennialists affirm that this anticipated restoration of Israel, under Messiah and the New Covenant, with the establishment of the Messianic Temple– is now fulfilled, in Christ and his church. But, this is problematic for both paradigms. Here is why.
John 5:28-29 is the anticipation of the fulfillment of Ezekiel 37:10-27– the resurrection of Israel from her graves, when Messiah would reign on the throne of David.
The restoration of Israel in Ezekiel 37 would be when Messiah would reign on the throne of David, in the New Covenant world, and when the Messianic Temple would be established.
But, Jesus, as Messiah, rules and reigns on the throne of David, through the New Covenant, and the Messianic Temple has been established.
Therefore, the resurrection of Ezekiel 37:10f – the raising of Israel out of the graves– is fulfilled in Christ and his church.
But of course, if this is true, it leads us– inexorably– to this:
The resurrection of Ezekiel 37:10f – the raising of Israel out of the graves– is fulfilled in Christ and his church.
But, the resurrection of Ezekiel 37 is the resurrection of John 5:28-29.
Therefore, the resurrection of John 5:24-29 is fulfilled in Christ and his church.
This is confirmed by a closer look at the means by which the resurrection of Ezekiel 37 would be accomplished, and we will examine that in our next installment on John 5:24-29.
For more on the resurrection- as the hope of Israel- and its impact on our understanding of John 5:24-29, see my book, Seventy Weeks Are Determined…For the Resurrection.