The idea of resurrection begins in God’s justice, goodness, love, desire for creation to thrive, and desire for relationship. That’s a mouthful (and will make your brain hurt), Basically the Bible says God will not allow the injustice, destruction, and death caused by humanity to be the last word in this creation. Jews (and Christians after them) understood various passages in the prophets and Psalms to be reflecting the idea that God would restore the world to its intended state (i.e. Psalm 49 Isaiah 26:19 Ezekiel 37, Daniel 12:2). None of these passages on their own teach a full concept of resurrection. What the ancient Israelites saw was that God desperately wanted(s) the world to live according to its potential and that simply was not happening. There was also a promise related to them through various prophets that God would fix the injustice, and this came to be known as The Day of the LORD. A time when God would judge humanity and push the restart button on creation. Notice this is not simply life after death this is a restarting of the world. And those who are righteous will be raised from death to participate in this new creation.
Those whom God counts as righteous, that is those who have a right relationship with God and other humans, will be raised from the dead, restored to life, and given the task of governing the new creation (see Daniel 12). Resurrection is not simply an afterlife, it is the hope or promise that God wants creation to work a certain way and that humanity is offered the chance to participate. And because this new creation (including the people) is part of God’s life, as opposed to this world marred by death (through humanity’s refusal to participate with God), that creation will be bursting with life.
The Jewish (Christian) idea of a person is that a person is a unified whole of body and spirit. This is different from how many in the modern world understand humanity, an embodied soul. For most the “soul” or essential part of a person lives on after the body dies, and we go to some disembodied afterlife. (sadly, this is preached in many churches also). However, the Jewish concept is that the physical and non-physical elements are both essential to the person (meaning a body and soul unite to form a person). This means for the person to be restored to life God must furnish the person a body.
So the Jews believed that
- God created the world to be good, just, and a reflection of God.
- Humanity was created to govern this creation.
- A human is the whole person body unified with spirit.
- Humanity wrecked creation through selfishness, sin, and disobedience.
- God desires to restore creation to its right state.
- Because God desires to restore creation God will restore creation.
- This restoration is called The day of the LORD and will happen at the close of history as we know it.
- God desires to have humans govern the new creation as they were supposed to govern this creation.
- To do this God will reunite the spirits of the righteous dead with new bodies so they can govern the world.
- This process is called resurrection.
- Christians diverge here and say that Jesus has already been raised to this resurrection as a leader to prepare for the final day of resurrection.
Or listen to “The Day of the LORD” episodes from the Bible Project podcast
Or watch the Bible Project theme videos on “The Day of the LORD” and “Heaven and Earth”