Anastasis: Foundations by Dr. Abidan Shah

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ANASTASIS – FOUNDATIONS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  On the night of July 16-17, 1918, Tsar Nicholas of Russia, his wife Alexandra, and their five children were shot and bayoneted to death by the Bolsheviks, the Marxist faction founded by Lenin. Then, their bodies were mutilated and buried to prevent them from being identified. A few years after their deaths, several imposters came forward claiming to be one of the Romanov children who supposedly escaped. The most popular one was of the daughter named “Anastasia.” I’m sure you have heard or seen movies about her. One reason her character became so popular was because of the name: Anastasia in Greek means “of the resurrection.” People were fascinated by the idea that she had escaped and resurrected in history, not necessarily a real resurrection. For the next three weekends, I will be preaching a series of messages titled “Anastasis,” focusing on the doctrine of the resurrection, especially of Jesus Christ. Main point: Contrary to what is often thought, Resurrection is a cardinal doctrine of the Old Testament. Even though the words are not used, the concept was intricately woven into the lives of God’s people. All their disappointments, failures, sorrows, and doubts were ultimately hinged on the promise of the life to come, and Jesus was the key to that promise.

Acts 24      14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. 15 I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.

Context: The words we just read were spoken by the apostle Paul at his defense before the Roman governor Felix. The Jewish people had accused him of blasphemy and causing trouble. Paul’s defense was very interesting. He said (my paraphrase): “I’m not sure why they are so upset with me since they believe exactly as I do. As a people, we worship the same God of our fathers, and we believe all the things that are written in the Law and the Prophets (this point is very important). We both have hope in God that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.” Few verses down, he said again in Acts 24      20 Or else let those who are here themselves say if they found any wrongdoing in me while I stood before the council, 21 unless it is for this one statement which I cried out, standing among them, “Concerning the resurrection of the dead I am being judged by you this day.’ ” Later, when he was brought by the governor Festus before King Agrippa and his wife, listen again to what he emphasized. Acts 26       6 “And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. 7 To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. 8 Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?” Do you get the point? Paul was truly shocked that his people they were angry with him when they had been together waiting for the same hope – resurrection from the dead. Earlier, Paul had made this point when he was tried before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. Acts 23:6 But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!” The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, but the Pharisees did.

The same thing happened with Jesus when the Sadducees tried to trick him with questions about the resurrection. Listen to Jesus’ response: Matthew 22       29 Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. 31 But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 32 “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ ? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” Here, Jesus was quoting from Exodus 3:6.

Some of you may know or maybe this is the first time you are hearing this but there is a view in biblical academia that the doctrine of the resurrection became popular after the Jewish people went into exile to Babylon. Here they came across Persian religions like Zoroastrianism which had a long tradition of the resurrection of the dead. Later, they were also influenced by the Greek idea of going to the domain of the dead. According to this way of thinking, the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), the original Hebrews (Moses and the people of Israel), or the people of Israel (David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the prophets) saw the afterlife “as a dull, dreary existence, lacking any of those pleasures which make this present life enjoyable and fulfilling” (T. Desmond Alexander).

Question: Is this really true? Listen to Paul again in 1 Corinthians 15       16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

Application: Is this life all there is to it for you? What do you believe about the life beyond the grave? Are you like some of the lost who claim that this life is it?

To begin with, death is not natural. It is punitive. It came as a punishment. Let’s go to the source, the origin. Genesis 2       15 Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” You can live forever, or you can cut short your life. Genesis 3        2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, “You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” 4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The Enemy lies to her about the reality of death. We only focus on their loss of innocence, but much more happened when God pronounced judgment on them, especially Adam. Genesis 3       17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat of it’: ‘Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. 19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; For dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” Death is a punishment.

Later, this was codified in how dead bodies were handled. Numbers 19       11 He who touches the dead body of anyone shall be unclean seven days. 12 He shall purify himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; then he will be clean. But if he does not purify himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not be clean. 13 Whoever touches the body of anyone who has died, and does not purify himself, defiles the tabernacle of the LORD. That person shall be cut off from Israel. He shall be unclean, because the water of purification was not sprinkled on him; his uncleanness is still on him. This even applied to the carcasses of dead animals.

Next, resurrection was promised right from the beginning. Genesis 3       22 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—23 therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. In other words, God did not want Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of life and be locked in that state forever. They had to live out their remaining years and then die. They had to die so that one day they could live again without the possibility of falling into sin again. This would be achieved by the seed of the promise, the skull crusher, the Son of God. 1 John 3: 8b “…For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”

God’s people carried this hope of the resurrection. Although I can show several passages that have the principle of resurrection in them (Enoch, Flood, Barrenness), I’m going to only go to a couple direct ones:

Abraham and Isaac: Genesis 22        1 Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. 5 And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.” What does that mean? Either come back alive or dead? Could it be that he was expecting a resurrection after death? Hebrews 11       17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” 19 concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.

Jacob and Joseph: Genesis 37        34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put sackcloth on his waist, and mourned for his son many days. 35 And all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and he said, “For I shall go down into the grave to my son in mourning.” Thus his father wept for him. Later, when Jacob blessed Judah, listen to what he said in Genesis 49:9 “Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; and as a lion, who shall rouse him?” Genesis 49:29 Then he charged them and said to them: “I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite.” Genesis 50:24 And Joseph said to his brethren, “I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” 25 Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.”

Invitation: All their disappointments, failures, sorrows, and doubts were ultimately hinged on the promise of the life to come. How about you? Are you saved?

Romans 5:17 “For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)”

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