Matthew 27:52-53, A Physical Resurrection?

And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. 

//I don’t want to talk about Matthew … I really want to talk about Ezekiel. Particularly, dem dry bones. Ezekiel had a vision where he watched a valley of bones assemble itself into a great, living army. The vision concludes with this promise from God:

Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves.

Scholars of Ezekiel, however, know that this promise is presented as a parable of God restoring His nation of Israel. It’s not about dead people coming to life again, it’s about going home from captivity in Babylon. Ezekiel makes this quite clear; it’s impossible that any ancient reader of scripture could misunderstand this, and think Ezekiel was writing about real graves being opened.

However, in the years after Ezekiel prophesied, many Jews did appear to believe in a physical resurrection. The book of Revelation promises just such a physical resurrection, and as I’ve pointed out, Revelation is essentially a rewrite and reinterpretation of Ezekiel. Another Johannine writing that draws heavily upon Ezekiel—John’s Gospel—tells of a coming hour when all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth. Today’s verse in Matthew describes such a resurrection, which surely was meant to symbolically indicate that the new age had begun.

Question: Could these New Testament writers, who surely knew precisely what Ezekiel meant, have also meant their “resurrection” from the grave to be in a non-literal manner?

Ezekiel 18:20, Who Is Guilty?

The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son.

Ezekiel is a favorite of few Bible readers. It certainly wasn’t mine; imagine my surprise when, researching for my book about Revelation, I discovered Revelation to be an update and rewrite of Ezekiel.

Just as we, today, routinely update and rewrite Revelation to match the beliefs of today’s Christians, so did Revelation update and rewrite Ezekiel. Our eschatological beliefs differ from John’s Revelation as severely as John’s differ from Ezekiel’s. And now, in this verse, we see how radically Ezekiel has rewritten the scriptures of his day. We read in exodus:

for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

So, which is it? Does God punish the offspring of the sinner, or is “the one who sins the one who will die?” Clearly, we prefer Ezekiel’s understanding.

What will tomorrow’s Christians believe about God’s punishment? If Christianity is going to continue evolving on its humanitarian journey, then it’s up to us to continue to grow in our understanding of God.

Matthew 10:28, Fear Not Those Who Kill the Body

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

What do you think about this verse? Kill the soul?? Most people are taught in church that the soul is eternal, and even ungodly men live forever … albeit in hell instead of heaven.

Actually, controversy raged in the early church about the unsaved. Are they tortured forever in the fire (Jude) or merely killed by it? (2 Peter, which appears to be a rewrite and update of Jude). Paul taught that the godly would live forever while the ungodly die; the end. “The wages of sin is death.” This would be known centuries later as the “annihilation theory.”

Revelation appears to agree with Matthew that the fires of “hell” are temporary. (Don’t get me started on the differences between Sheol, the Hebrew dwelling place of the dead, and Hades, the Greek place of punishment for naughty fellas, and how the two merged into the Christian concept of hell.) The beast, the false prophet, and the dragon all appear to be tortured eternally in Revelation, but not any of the rest of humanity. (this is the position I argue for in my book, Revelation: The Way it Happened.)

What do you think?