Resurrection and New Creation

On Monday I shared some thoughts about resurrection: it signals Jesus’ enthronement.

That would mean, within the narrative in which Jesus came proclaiming the kingdom of God, that Jesus had been enthroned as king over this kingdom.

Jesus’ message of the coming kingdom was an eschatological message that found its resonance within a first-century Jewish apocalyptic worldview. God was going to act decisively in history to vindicate God’s people, punish the bad guys, and fulfill all the promises God had made to Israel.

With the great assize comes new creation. Heaven and earth remade as an eternal home for God’s people.

Judgment resolves with an affirmation of the created world and humanity’s place upon it. People remade. Given new bodies. Restored to what Adam and Eve should have been: God’s faithful caretakers.

The resurrection of Jesus was viewed as categorically different from the resuscitation of Lazarus or Jairus’ daughter. They would die again.

Jesus’ resurrection was entrance into the dawning reality of new creation.

The way Paul works it out, Jesus is the man through whom resurrection comes. He is the second and last Adam (1 Corinthians 15).

Jesus, in other words, is the first resurrected human who determines the fate of the other humans who are joined to him.

A couple of times, Paul echoes the Gen 1 language of “image bearing” in order to describe our relationship to the resurrected Jesus: God predestined us to become conformed to the image of his son (Rom 8:28). As we have borne the image of the earthly (Adam), so too will we bear the image of the heavenly (Adam; i.e., Jesus) (1 Cor 15:49).

New creation dawns with the creation of a new humanity. Resurrection means that the first of our own humankind has become what the rest of us are destined to be.

This is the source of my gravest concerns about Bart Ehrman’s proposal for “how Jesus became God.” He looks at the resurrection, and the things New Testament writers say about it, and develops his argument that the resurrection leads to reflections on Jesus as divine.

But I, for one, am loathe to concede the connotations of resurrection to Jesus’ divinity. Historically, this is problematic. What it means to be raised from the dead is precisely to be a human who is given back a body (cf. 2 Macc 7). It also means, often, that the new creation has begun by God remaking humanity.

Theologically, pairing resurrection and divinity is problematic as well. In short, the problem is this: if Jesus was raised from the dead as an indication of his divinity, then those of us who are not divine have not hope.

Resurrection is simultaneously the judgment on and affirmation of our humanity. It is judgment, because it demonstrates that we must be changed. It is affirmation because it is a restoration of our bodily existence as the reconciled ones on God’s new earth.

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