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What is the Significance of the Resurrection? Dr. Mitchell Chase

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Dr. Arnold interviews Dr. Mitchell Chase on the subject of the resurrection.

Topics of conversation include

  • How Christians should view death
  • How death and resurrection fit into the storyline of Scripture
  • How the resurrection of Lazarus is different from the final resurrection that Christians anticipate
  • Why the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus is important
  • Thoughts on how our future bodies will reflect our earthly bodies
  • Further resources on the topic of resurrection

Dr. Mitchell Chase serves as the preaching pastor at Kosmosdale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He is an adjunct professor at Boyce College and the author of several books, including Behold Our Sovereign God (Lucid Books, 2012), Hope for All the Earth: Understanding the Story of the Old Testament (10Publishing, 2022), and Resurrection Hope and the Death of Death (Crossway, 2022).

 


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Intro (00:00):

Welcome to Faith Seeking Understanding, a podcast from Phoenix Seminary—helping Christians grow in their understanding of the faith, hosted by Dr. Brian Arnold, president of Phoenix Seminary.

 

Brian Arnold (00:16):

When I was pastoring in Kentucky, I did a number of funerals. And my favorite part—if I can say such a thing—was the graveside. It’s that moment of final goodbye on earth. And I would always say the same thing—”Today, we are planting Miss Betty into the ground as a seed, believing that one day Jesus will return, and the seed of this body will sprout forth in resurrection; what is sown perishable will be raised imperishable.” Believer, our hope is that since Jesus died and rose again, we too will die and rise again into eternal life. Too many Christians focus on what we call the intermediate state, which is that temporary period of disembodiment. But that’s not our final hope. As one theologian says, we need to focus on life after life after death—the final state, when we will be reunited to our bodies for eternity. Here to help us understand the significance of the resurrection today, is Dr. Mitchell Chase. Dr. Chase is the preaching pastor of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and also teaches at Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky. In addition to preaching and teaching, Dr. Chase has written Behold Our Sovereign God, Hope for All the Earth: Understanding the Story of the Old Testament, and most recently, Resurrection Hope and the Death of Death, which is releasing on October 25th this year as part of Crossway’s Short Studies in Biblical Theology series. Dr. Chase, welcome to the podcast.

 

Mitchell Chase (01:36):

Dr. Arnold, it is great to be with you. Thank you for having me.

 

Brian Arnold (01:38):

So we always ask our guests one big question, today that question is—what is the significance of the resurrection? So that’s going to be our focus. And it’s hard to talk about the significance of resurrection without first establishing the reality of death. So help us think through the reality of death from a kind of biblical and theological standpoint.

 

Mitchell Chase (01:57):

You’re right that this question is foundational, and we get not far into the Bible before we are confronted with a world that has been affected by corruption and curse and sin. And we find that the forces of death are at work long before a heartbeat stops or lungs stop breathing. We find the forces of death at work with threats of illness and disaster and assault. Things that psalmists and prophets and characters in the Scripture are delivered from and call out to the Lord for deliverance from. And they see these deliverances, or vindications, as signs of deliverance from death itself. As if God has snatched them from the mouth of Sheol. So we should think of death as not exclusively a biological reality. It includes that. It is more. We want to think about death as the forces of death at work in the world in more than a biological sense. And that opens up a whole way of understanding resurrection hope that is more than biological.

 

Brian Arnold (03:02):

Well, I like how you even mentioned death as the disruptor. So what do you mean specifically by that? And then maybe even talk about why death is inevitable. I mean, it was not meant to be. We’re living in a world in which it’s not the way it was supposed to be from the very beginning of the story.

 

Mitchell Chase (03:21):

That’s right. If you look at Adam and Eve’s initial state, they are embodied people, embodied image bearers in Eden, and they are dwelling with an embodied life that God had created for them at the start. Which means death is now taking things to a place where we are separated from the body. And I’m calling death a disruptor because we were made for embodied life. And that means death itself is a problem, and even what Paul calls an enemy, which must be subdued and overcome by his own divine power. So we truly are not in a place where it is as it was meant to be, nor are we in a place where it is what it will be. Death is this intermediate and temporal reality that we are facing. And we are all like Adam, facing death as the inevitable end to our earthly lives, because we live in a fallen world and bodies wearing down and outwardly wasting away. And so due to the disobedience of Adam, and the flooding of sin and death in the world, we ourselves experience that life under the sun—the inevitability of death.

 

Brian Arnold (04:38):

So I love how you’ve started at the beginning of the story, where three pages in death enters into the world. And now we’re getting the story of salvation from Genesis 3:15, this great first gospel passage of the seed of the woman defeating the serpent. And then this begins to play out through the rest of the book. And one of the things I’ve always appreciated about you and your work, is you’re very good at thinking through things in what we call biblical theology, that is, seeing the storyline play out from the beginning to the end. So I was wondering if maybe you could just walk us through, with this hope of resurrection, from the beginning of the story to the end of the story.

 

Mitchell Chase (05:16):

Right. So embodied life is what we were made for. And if death is a disruptor, then what God is doing in resurrecting the body, is he is ensuring that the end of our story will be what the garden’s trajectory was aiming at all along. And oftentimes resurrection hope is considered with different prophets and psalmists, and not initially thought of in light of the Torah and our created state in Adam. And I do think the created state in Adam is a great place to start, because the tree of life holds out for us an embodied immortality, which Adam is denied with his exile from Eden. And you belong with him. And because Adam and Eve are exiled from Eden, all of us live outside of Eden.

 

Brian Arnold (06:03):

Which is a grace, if I may just interject. That as soon as they have sinned and eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God in his grace keeps them from the tree of life.

 

Mitchell Chase (06:13):

That is right, that is right. And I think that is a point that needs to be appreciated by Bible readers. God also preserves their physical life for many years—as they are fruitful and multiply, have children, other image bearers then, from generation to generation. And you highlighted Genesis 3:15, which is that hope for a seed from Eve’s line that would overcome the serpent. And if, through the temptation of the serpent and the sin of our first parents, that we have seen sin and death enter the world, then the hope that builds across the storyline of Scripture is that the coming deliverer would not only bring victory over the serpent, but he would bring a reversal and overcome the various consequences of sin that have entered the world. Now that includes death. And there are signs and glimpses along the way through the Old Testament, that the Lord is able to deal with death.

 

Mitchell Chase (07:08):

It’s that inevitable human problem. And none of us are strong enough to evade it. You don’t get far until you reach Genesis five in the storyline of Scripture, when Enoch is taken from death. And even Noah and his family are preserved from judgment in the ark, while many others will die. So while the threat of death seems to be, perhaps inevitable, from time to time to sinners, God will demonstrate that he has the power to overcome what seems to be that unsubduable reality for sinners. And even Abraham, in Genesis 22, believed that God was going to keep his promise—that through Isaac, the offspring would come. And so when Abraham is told to sacrifice Isaac, he does so, telling his men at the bottom of the mountain that, “I and the boy will go, worship, and come back to you.” And Hebrews 11 gives us insight into Abraham’s mind, that the plural Hebrew verbs would already suggest Abraham believed that the death of Isaac was not the end of Isaac. These early biblical characters demonstrate a confidence in the power of God to overcome death. And so Genesis really sets that trajectory. Other prophets and psalmists build on this, the New Testament gets very explicit with this, but certainly building on those Old Testament hopes. We should appreciate that in the first book of the Bible we’re confronted with a covenant-keeping God who is faithful to his promises, and he has power to subdue what we cannot in our own strength.

 

Brian Arnold (08:38):

And I think you’ve already kind of put to rest the—if I can just say—nonsense out there. People say the resurrection is not in the Old Testament, it was maybe a Second Temple idea that came up, that you see play out in the New Testament. But like you said, Genesis 22—Abraham believed that God could raise Isaac from the dead. Or you think about the Psalmist, one of our favorite Psalms, Psalm 23, that he will be in the Lord’s house forever and ever. This eternal life anticipation that David has in the Psalms, like you said, the prophets bear this out. And our final hope as believers is his resurrection life, which Paul looks back at Jesus and says—because he rose from the dead as first fruits of resurrection hope, we can have that hope. And that is what we can anticipate as followers of Christ. In fact, that is kind of the pinnacle of our hope, and our belief as we all face the prospect of death—that we will not stay in the grave forever.

 

Mitchell Chase (09:31):

Amen.

 

Brian Arnold (09:32):

So let’s talk about some resurrection, maybe specifically. You know, one of the stories we get in the New Testament is in John 11, where we get that great line where Jesus says, “I’m the resurrection and the life.” And it’s when he raises Lazarus from the dead. So Lazarus has been in the tomb for four days, he’s brought back. A lot of people probably think, how cool would that be? I think that’d be awful. That poor sap had to die twice in his life. But maybe walk us through what makes the raising of Lazarus different than the resurrection hope that we anticipate.

 

Mitchell Chase (10:03):

Well, what stood out to me, even as you were framing this question, is how you spoke of Lazarus dying twice. And that’s an important distinction from what we celebrate in Jesus’s own third day deliverance. These figures like Lazarus, or the young boy Jesus raises, or the young girl Jesus raises—these are all examples of people being restored to physical life. That they don’t experience an embodied immortality. Only Jesus himself is the firstfruits of what the tree of life anticipated in Genesis two. Jesus is that dawning of new creation in a glorified, embodied, immortal state. And because he is the pattern for all the believers in him, we will be raised to reflect that same embodied glory. But the Lazarus resurrection—it is Lazarus coming back to life, but Lazarus, of course, would die again. He would not be the firstfruits of resurrection. Not only do you see Jesus raising Lazarus, a young boy, a young girl—these seem to be reminders that even in the Old Testament, miracles were performed of bringing people to life in the ministries of Elijah and Elisha. Jesus is making a claim, however, that those prophets did not make in 1 Kings and in 2 Kings. Jesus says in John 11, “I am the resurrection and the life.” And that kind of claim is staggering. To claim to be the one who overcomes death to bring the firstfruits of new creation. These are reasons why Jesus is our everlasting hope, because these claims are true. And he can say them with a straight face.

 

Brian Arnold (11:39):

So I want you to then unpack for us why the resurrection matters. Why did Jesus have to be physically raised from the dead? There’s a great story I heard, that when Carl F. H. Henry—who, for those who don’t know, was founder of Christianity Today, one of the evangelical kind of intellectual elites of the mid 20th century—met Karl Barth, who by many accounts would’ve been the most significant theologian of the 20th century, Carl F. H. Henry asked him, “If we were there on Easter morning, would we have physically seen Jesus risen from the dead?” And I don’t even remember the end of the story. But it doesn’t matter, because for a lot of people coming out of some of the Protestant traditions of the early 20th century, they would’ve said, “Well, Jesus rose again in our hearts, you know. The significance of the resurrection isn’t that Jesus bodily rose from the grave, but just that there’s a spiritual raising from the grave.” But as historic orthodox Christians have always understood—that does not help us. We need a Jesus who walks out of the grave in his body. Why is that?

 

Mitchell Chase (12:41):

The answer to this question is built on a theology of the world. It starts in Genesis one. And the Genesis one account speaks of God’s proclamation of goodness over what he has made. The material world that the Lord has made is good. The invisible and visible realities that are under the authority of God in all the known world—these are things in which God’s glory is manifested. And sin and death will not, in the end, prevail over what God has declared good. Because God created the heavens and the earth, the end of Revelation tells us that a new heaven and a new earth are coming. And that’s because what God has made is good. We also find in Genesis two that we are embodied image bearers. Adam and Eve are not spirits who one day receive a body because God says, “I’ll tell you what will make your spiritual existence even better—what if we added a material or bodily element?”

 

Mitchell Chase (13:34):

Instead, Adam and Eve come to life as embodied image bearers. And the disruptor, which is death, is not going to prevail over God’s good design in creation. The reason resurrection of the dead matters, then, is because our hope is that we will experience all that God had created us to be and to enjoy, which is that embodied state in Genesis two forward. It’s just that Adam and Eve were mortal. And the resurrection of the dead will ensure an embodied immortality, like our Lord Jesus. He’s come to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found. That’s what we sing at Christmastime. We sing Joy to the World. And the good news of the triumph of Jesus, is that the resurrecting power of Christ will overcome the effects of the curse and sin. That includes our physical death.

 

Brian Arnold (14:23):

And that’s an important word, I think today, for people who just want to be kind of released from the body. There’s almost like a new Gnosticism coming around. I mentioned funerals when I was pastoring in Western Kentucky. And I remember being in attendance at one of the funerals. And the preacher—I actually started a document after this, no joke, called “Funeral Heresies” to start cataloging all these things I’m hearing, like “heaven gained another angel today,” or “somebody got their wings”—the one that he had said at that moment was, you know, “So and so is like Elvis—she has left the building; this is not her anymore. This thing in the box is not her.” And I thought—no, that’s absolutely her. And one day she’s going to be reunited to that body, and it’s going to be transformed by the glorious power of Christ. And she’s going to be inhabiting that. We were made as psychosomatic beings, like you said. To even be created in the way we were, is body and soul united together. And God’s going to restore that at the end of the story. And we’re going to partake of the tree of life, that you mentioned before, forever.

 

Mitchell Chase (15:25):

Amen.

 

Brian Arnold (15:26):

And that is Christian hope.

 

Mitchell Chase (15:28):

It is our Christian hope. And I think that what you observed about those funeral settings is something that you see often in the ethos of the believers who not only want to go to heaven, and they long for the glories that are there, they can sometimes diminish the value of the body, as if it is just keeping them from enjoying what all God has for them. The resurrection hope is something that’s meant to stir us for the reality of life beyond the intermediate state. Yes, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. But Paul, who said those words in 2 Corinthians five—he longed for the eternal dwelling that God would give at the resurrection of the dead. It was a greater glory. It outweighed all the light and momentary troubles he faced.

 

Brian Arnold (16:15):

That’s right. Yep. And I’m happy you brought that verse up, because I’m sure some people were thinking about that. Absolutely there’s an intermediate state, but it’s not the final state. And I think a lot of Christians have no conception beyond floating around in heaven with the popular imagination of what that even looks like in the intermediate state. And can I just say this—God doesn’t even allow us into the curiosity in his Word. You think about a guy like Lazarus. Today, if Lazarus was alive and that happened, I think we’d be asking him to write a 90 Minutes in Heaven kind of book, or Heaven is For Real kind of book. We have such a curiosity, where God has not, in his wisdom, wanted to give us insight into that. But it’s the…he’s given us enough to know there’s going to be an intermediate state, there’s going to be a final state, and that we ought to live in light of eternity, given those realities.

 

Brian Arnold (17:06):

Let me give you kind of a bonus, off-the-wall question, if I may, because it’s something that I’ve been asked from time to time. When Jesus rose from the dead, he has these holes in his hands. He’s got a scar in his side that Thomas can touch and behold. And so I’ve been asked the question—suppose you get eaten by a great white shark. When you are raised from the dead, will you have the bite marks all over your body? Or even, you know, if you live to be a hundred and you’re resurrected, are you in your hundred-year-old body? Or if you die at three and you’re resurrected, you know? What kind of answers can we give to that in pastoral ministry?

 

Mitchell Chase (17:51):

Yeah, I do think in this area—and you may feel this instinct as well, Dr. Arnold—we’re delving into the area of speculation, where Scripture doesn’t give us the kinds of details that we wish we would’ve had. I’m reminded of 1 Corinthians 15, where Paul speaks quite profoundly, and for lengths of verses, about the resurrection of the body. And he ensures that it will be glorious, that it will reflect the man of heaven, and not the man of dust, Adam. And that in reflecting the body of Christ, it will be fitting and immortal and everlasting and imperishable. And yet there are these remaining questions, right? About what will we look like in terms of age and maturity? Personally, I’m not confident the Bible will give us enough information to answer that particular question, because Jesus was raised as a man, and was born as a man and then raised as a man.

 

Mitchell Chase (18:43):

I’m confident that we will be raised as men and as women to reflect our reality here in the fallen world. But in terms of our appearance, we can trust that it will be glorious, everlasting, pleasing, and fitting in every way. It is curious, when you point to those marks in Jesus’ hands that were present after his resurrection. And throughout church history, people have reflected on this, right? And they have suggested things that I find plausible, perhaps this is something unique to the body of Christ that will be an eternal testimony of his redeeming grace. And, in fact, is therefore a mark of something good and worth celebrating, and would be different from, let’s say, you know, the harmful and terrible acts of suffering that our own bodies can face in this world. I wouldn’t want someone who is facing a terrible shark attack event, or a terrible car wreck, and thinks about the state of their body and then imagine that—okay, my body in the new creation is going to reflect these in some way. I would want to be careful using the wound…the scars of Christ to make pronouncements about that. Instead, I think we can trust that whatever effects suffering and pain have caused to our bodies, that the greater glory that is to come will not only make up for those, but will surpass them in an embodied way that we have to take by faith. And even for the time being, have some unanswered questions.

 

Brian Arnold (20:07):

And I think I would go the same line that you’re thinking—is there’s something unique about the wounds of Christ, purchasing redemption for those who will be with him in glory forever that is very different. And then locating all these questions in the character of God. If he is good, and he has our good in his mind, whatever he does we will also see as good and glorious and beneficial for us.

 

Mitchell Chase (20:29):

Absolutely.

 

Brian Arnold (20:29):

So we need not even worry about those things. And let me even make another comment and get your thoughts on this, that seems to be right to me. And that is—in the Garden of Eden, we are there naked, and in heaven we’re clothed. And it’s the reminder, just like the wounds of Christ that we will see on his body, uniquely given to him as a testimony of our redemption, that our clothes represent the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. That we are not there on our own accord, but have been clothed instead with righteousness. Have you encountered that argument? What do you think about that?

 

Mitchell Chase (21:02):

I do think there’s merit to that. Greg Beale, in his book A New Testament Biblical Theology, reflects on the lack of clothing in Genesis two, and then references to putting on, or having counted to us, the righteousness of Christ as garments. You see this in Revelation four and five. These are people whose lives and garments have been washed through the suffering and martyrdom, as they have come through and emerged with victory and overcoming faith. There seems to be a trajectory there that I think Beale has hit on. Now, there may still be some remaining questions, but at the same time, the Bible does seem to speak in a way of our physical state in Genesis two that doesn’t include clothing, and then something where we are clothed with garments in Revelation chapter five. But I would just refer readers to Greg Beale’s thinking there in reflection, he’s thought a lot about that subject.

 

Brian Arnold (21:57):

Yeah. I think he’s a very helpful guide on those areas. Well, I want to commend again for our listeners that they pick up your book. We’ve been giving a sneak peek into it—Resurrection Hope and the Death of Death, that comes out later this year. What’s another resource or two on this topic that might be helpful for our listeners?

 

Mitchell Chase (22:15):

Well, there is a magisterial work that N.T. Wright wrote many years ago, called The Resurrection of the Son of God. It’s a very academic-leaning book, but for those readers and listeners to the podcast that would like a very thorough treatment of resurrection hope, I would love for you to get a hold of The Resurrection of the Son of God. There are wonderful books, even in the recent years, I’ve enjoyed. There is a book by Kelly Kapic called Embodied Hope, and it is tremendous. Sam Allberry has a new book called What God Has to Say About Our Bodies, which addresses these very realities too. So those are a few resources your listeners I bet would find very helpful.

 

Brian Arnold (22:54):

Yeah, that’s great. I’ve read Wright’s book and it is magisterial, and I’ll have to check out the other ones myself. So thank you for those recommendations. I’m going to give you the last word today. And I want to hear you just give some encouragement to believers on why the resurrection matters for their daily lives.

 

Mitchell Chase (23:11):

Well, friends, the resurrection is something that the Old and New Testaments speak with one voice about as a hope we will have as sinners. And under the sun, Ecclesiastes is a book that reminds us—life is toilsome. There are mundane elements to our existence, and there is great suffering that people face. We all know this to be true. Not only from time to time in our own lives, and even for seasons of our lives, we know this certainly in the lives of others. And we need perspective, and we need hope. Hope helps us to persevere. Hope helps us to put one foot in front of the other, things that we’re living for and looking to. The glory of the resurrection hope that believers have, that we will be raised from the dead, that God will wipe away all of our tears, and that there will be no more pain or death as Revelation 21 says, these realities are a kind of future hope that has entered into the believer’s heart, even now, by the Spirit.

 

Mitchell Chase (24:08):

We’ve been brought to life inwardly. Inwardly being renewed, day by day. So that though we outwardly waste away, we can continue trusting in the Lord, continue counting all things as gain in Christ, and trusting that even if our lives meet the end earlier than we would’ve imagined, in this earthly life, that the greater glory that is in store is a gift and grace of God that we will forever enjoy. We are created for embodied, immortal life. And God will grant that to us. That will help us look forward in life, persevering, trusting, counting on God, looking to him with faith. We walk by faith and not by sight. But one day our faith will be sight. And one day our hope will be fulfilled. And we will live forever in the way we have been created and raised to be, with our God who dwells with us.

 

Brian Arnold (25:02):

Well, amen. Thank you so much for that wonderful exhortation. Dr. Chase, thanks so much for joining us today on the podcast.

 

Mitchell Chase (25:08):

Thank you, Dr. Arnold.

 

Outro (25:09):

Thank you for listening to Faith Seeking Understanding. It means so much to us that this content is helping you grow in your understanding of the faith. I want to take a moment to tell you about our new online learning experience at Phoenix Seminary. Over the last year, we’ve been creating what we believe to be the highest quality of online courses for ministry training. If you’re called to train for a lifetime of faithful service, but can’t join us on campus, I’d like you to invite you to join us online. Take courses featuring some of the guests you’ve heard on Faith Seeking Understanding, including Wayne Grudem, Mike Thigpen, Steve Duby, myself, and more. Learn more about Phoenix seminary online, and even access the entire online lecture content for my church history course at ps.edu/online.

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