The Lord is changing my thinking again and it’s even more startling, exciting, and mind-expanding than the first time. Years ago at summer camp, the guest speaker had preached on eschatology to us squirmy, mosquito-bitten, sunburnt campers. Of course, the word ‘eschatology’ was lost on a bunch of kids. Toward the end of the week, a time was set aside for a Q&A session. The movie A Thief in the Night had recently come out, so many of the questions dealt with the Rapture. (The movie can be watched online at lionandlambministry.com.) Someone asked something like this, “Do you think the Rapture will happen in the morning, like in the movie, or at midnight?” The guest speaker, who spoke calmly and solemnly, (that’s not a euphemistic way to say boring, because his measured, authoritative manner had my full attention) replied, “Yes.” At first we didn’t understand. He continued, “It will happen at morning where it’s morning and it will happen at midnight where it’s midnight.” We still didn’t get it. At this point, I don’t recall his further explanation, but I very distinctly remember my thought process. I had been thinking incorrectly! The coming Rapture was not a made-for-movie event; it would be a real-time, in every time zone occurrence. It seemed so simple, so logical, so previously lost on me. That realization set me repeatedly asking myself throughout my life, what else have I gotten wrong? In some regards, I think of it like having cold water splashed in my face, but my Lord gently, persistently, lovingly leads me along, teaching me what I can handle, when I need it.
I’d love to tell you all the special ways He has taught me what little I know—the precious promises He has given to comfort and soothe me, the assurances He has given as anchor holds. I’d love to take you along my path of Him changing my thinking about time and its creation, the Oneness plurality of God, the beautiful intertwining of picture-lesson themes repeated throughout the Bible, the seemingly contradictory descriptions of Christ, the music and dance of New Testament complimenting Old Testament, Gentile complimenting Jew, wife complimenting husband. My God is big, and out of the box, and not at all a safe lion, but good beyond my understanding. Every believer has a path and I’d love to hear your story as much as I’d love to tell you mine. How many ways are there to the Father? Only one. How many ways are there to Jesus? The number of how many believers there are.
He has recently changed my thinking again. It’s been right there in front of me all along and I didn’t understand. I love patterns in the Bible, but they can be lost from view unless one looks for them like a treasure hunt. As it has happened so often, I had these thoughts skirting around the edges of my mind, until I formed them into a specific question. Sometimes I think the Holy Spirit has to ready me for months or even years, positioning me just right, before He gives me a swift kick in the pants to get me moving. So how many resurrections have there been and what can be learned from them?
The first resurrection recorded in the Bible is in I Kings 17, the son of the widow of Zarephath, a Sidonite, who was raised through the ministry of Elijah. Starting at verse 17 (NIV), Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?” “Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. Then he cried out to the LORD, “O LORD my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, let this boy’s life return to him!” The LORD heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!” Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth.” Underlined emphasis is added.
The second resurrection recorded in the Bible is in II Kings 4, the son of the Shunammite woman, who was raised through the ministry of Elisha. Starting at verse 16, “About this time next year,” Elisha said, “you will hold a son in your arms.” “No, my lord,” she objected. “Don’t mislead your servant, O man of God!” But the woman became pregnant, and the next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her. The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with the reapers. “My head! My head!” he said to his father. His father told a servant, “Carry him to his mother.” After the servant had lifted him up and carried him to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon, and then he died. She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out. She called her husband and said, “Please send me one of the servants and a donkey so I can go to the man of God quickly and return.” “Why go to him today?” he asked. “It’s not the New Moon or the Sabbath.” “It’s all right,” she said. She saddled the donkey and said to her servant, “Lead on; don’t slow down for me unless I tell you.” So she set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel. When he saw her in the distance, the man of God said to his servant Gehazi, “Look! There’s the Shunammite! Run to meet her and ask her, ‘Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is your child all right?'” “Everything is all right,” she said. When she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feet. Gehazi came over to push her away, but the man of God said, “Leave her alone! She is in bitter distress, but the LORD has hidden it from me and has not told me why.” “Did I ask you for a son, my lord?” she said. “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?” Elisha said to Gehazi, “Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand and run. If you meet anyone, do not greet him, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy’s face.” But the child’s mother said, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So he got up and followed her. Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the boy’s face, but there was no sound or response. So Gehazi went back to meet Elisha and told him, “The boy has not awakened.” When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD. Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the boy’s body grew warm. Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out upon him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes. Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite.” And he did. When she came, he said, “Take your son.” She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out.
The third resurrection recorded in the Bible is in II Kings 13, the man whose body was thrown into Elisha’s grave when the Moabite raiders invaded. Starting at verse 20, Elisha died and was buried. Now Moabite raiders used to enter the country every spring. Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet. This also fulfilled Elisha’s request for a double portion inheritance of Elijah’s spirit, II Kings 2:9. Thus, there were three resurrections recorded in the Old Testament.
The fourth resurrection recorded in the Bible is in Luke 7, the son of the widow of Nain, whom Jesus raised. Starting at verse 11, Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country. The people logically concluded that Jesus was a great prophet, connecting Him with Elijah and Elisha.
The fifth resurrection recorded in the Bible is in Luke 8 and in Mark 5, the twelve year old daughter of Jairus, whom Jesus raised. Starting at Luke 8:41, Then a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying. Continuing down to verse 49, While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher any more.” Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.” They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened. Mark 5:42 records Mr. & Mrs. Jairus’ response as completely astonished or in the Greek ἐξίστημι ἔκστασις μέγας ἐξίστημι, existēmi ekstasis megas existēmi, or “thrown into great ecstasy”. By the way, the name Jairus means ‘whom God enlightens.’
The sixth resurrection recorded in the Bible is in John 11, Lazarus, whom Jesus raised. Starting in verse 11, After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Skipping to verse 17, On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Continuing on to verse 38, Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. And finishing up in verse 53 with the reaction of the Pharisees, So from that day on they plotted to take his life.
The seventh resurrection recorded in the Bible is Jesus’. I encourage you to read the historical accounts of Jesus’ resurrection found in Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20. Look for the reactions of the different witnesses: fearing, shaking, telling, filling with joy, running to tell, clasping, worshipping, devising a plan, doubting, trembling, fleeing, stubbornly refusing to believe, wondering, remembering, discussing, thinking they saw a ghost, praising God. This is only a partial list.
The eighth resurrection recorded in the Bible is in Matthew 27:52-54, The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” Currently, this is the only documented multiple resurrection. The number involved is quantitated as ‘many.’
The ninth resurrection recorded in the Bible is in Acts 9, Tabitha, also known as Dorcas, who was raised through the ministry of Peter. Starting at verse 36, In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!” Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them. Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. I wonder, if Tabitha were writing the account instead of Luke, would she add her own commentary, ‘And poor Tabitha, though thrilled to be so well-loved by the people of Joppa, went back to work, doing good and helping the poor, and had to wait—again—for her well-deserved rest.’
The tenth resurrection recorded in the Bible is in Acts 20, Eutychus, who was raised through the ministry of Paul, after dying by the ministry of Paul. Sorry, had to throw that in. Starting at verse 7, Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted. By the way, the name Eutychus means ‘fortunate.’
Now that all ten accounts have been initially examined, the patterns—similarities and differences can be compared.
*By reading the text or the surrounding text, one will notice seven of the ten incidences occurred in the spring:
-reapers in Israel would be out working to harvest barley in the early spring or
wheat in the late spring,
-the Moabite raiders attacked in the spring,
-the disciples were criticized for picking and eating heads of grain which would
be ripe in the spring while going through the grainfields on a Sabbath,
-four of them occurred around the time of Jewish spring festivals.
The other three may have occurred in the springtime, but the text does not specifically give an indication of the season.
*Four resurrections took place around events involved in a funeral or burial:
-the funeral of the man thrown into Elisha’s grave,
-the funeral of the son of the widow of Nain,
-the post-burial days of mourning for Lazarus,
-after the body of Tabitha had been washed for burial.
*Five resurrections occurred after the person died from sickness:
-the son of the widow of Zarephath,
-the son of the Shunammite woman,
*The people resurrected are significant, too:
-a young Jewish girl,
-a young man,
-a beloved friend and brother,
-a woman who was a disciple known for her deeds,
-a young man who had been sound asleep.
*Four accounts mention the resurrected person being given food to eat:
-Lazarus in John 12:2,
-Paul breaking bread after returning to the third-story room with Eutychus,
-and at least three occasions where Jesus ate.
*Eight accounts record how the person was touched after resurrection:
-the son of the widow of Zarephath was picked up, carried, and then given to his
-the son of the Shunammite woman was taken by his mother and then they went
-the son of the widow of Nain was given back to his mother,
-Jesus took Jairus’ daughter by the hand,
-Lazarus was released from his grave clothes,
-Jesus was not only touched, but examined,
-Peter took Tabitha by the hand,
-Paul fell on and hugged Eutychus.
*Six of them clearly held unique positions in their families:
-the only child of a widow,
-the only child who was a specially-given son,
-the only son of a widow,
-an only daughter,
-probably the only male relative of two sisters,
-and, of course, Jesus Himself, the One and Only beloved Son of the Father.
The others may have held unique positions, too, but the text does not specifically give an indication. I would argue that the many holy people of Matthew 27:52 hold a unique position in prophetic fulfillment, as I understand them to be the firstfruits from the dead from which Christ was raised in I Corinthians 15:20 and the firstfruits, the second in turn who were made alive, after Christ and before those who belong to him when he comes, in I Corinthians 15:23. The punctuation is rather confusing, but there was no punctuation in the Greek alphabet until at least the 2nd century, well after the original autographs.
*And finally, and almost so obvious it can be overlooked—each resurrection was witnessed:
—the exact moment of resurrection for the widow of Zarephath’s son was witnessed by Elijah (unless he had his eyes closed while he prayed) and then verified by the widowed mother;
—the exact moment of resurrection for the son of the Shunammite woman was witnessed by Elisha, with Elisha having direct physical contact with the boy when the resurrection occurred, and then it was verified by the mother, and at least seven years later testified to by Gehazi to the king, and then by the mother and son themselves, who ‘coincidentally’ arrived just at that exact moment;
—although, this is the only resurrection where no reaction of the witnesses is recorded, the resurrection of the man whose body touched Elisha’s bones was at least witnessed by the Israelites who were in the process of burying him and possibly by the Moabite raiders;
—the exact moment of resurrection for the widow of Nain’s son was witnessed by Jesus’ disciples, the large crowd of people arriving in Nain with Jesus, the large crowd of people from the town attending the funeral, the coffin bearers, and the widowed mother;
—the exact moment of resurrection for Jairus’ daughter was witnessed by Peter, John, and James, and the girl’s parents, while it would seem reasonable to assume the former wailers and mourners, turned mockers, eventually realized she was no longer dead;
—the resurrection of Lazarus, at least his exit from his grave after four days of decomposition, was witnessed by his two sisters, the many Jews who had come to mourn, and the disciples who had come with Jesus;
—the resurrected Jesus appeared to the women, the two on the road to Emmaus, those in the upper room, again to those in the upper room including Thomas who had previously doubted, to those beside the Sea of Galilee, and according to I Corinthians 15:5-8, He appeared to Peter, to the Twelve, to more than five hundred brothers at the same time, to James, to all the apostles, and finally to Paul, and Acts 10:40-41 gives further information that the resurrected Jesus was openly shown to the witnesses chosen by God, but not to all people at that time, which is juxtaposed against the every eye shall see him of Revelation 1:7 and the every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess of Isaiah 45:23, Romans 14:11, and Philippians 2:10;
—the many resurrected holy people went into the holy city and appeared to many people, causing the centurion and the guards to conclude that Jesus Christ was the Son of God;
—the exact moment of Tabitha’s resurrection was witnessed by Peter (who did not have his eyes closed), and immediately evidenced to the believers and the widows, and became known all over Joppa;
—the exact moment of Eutychus’ resurrection was witness by Paul, who apparently had direct physical contact with the young man when the resurrection occurred, and witnessed by the people in the room, including the writer Luke, and those who picked up the young man.
*In a closing observation, these witnessed resurrections also had responses, and therefore a time for these responses to occur:
-the widow of Zarephath knew the truth,
-the Shunammite woman worshipped,
-the people of Nain were filled with awe and praised God, then spread the news,
-the parents were completely astonished,
-many of the witnesses in Bethany put their faith in Jesus, while some others told
the Pharisees, who plotted to kill Jesus,
-the variety of reactions to the resurrection of Jesus has been previously
-the Roman centurion and guards were terrified and exclaimed their conclusion
-many people of Joppa believed,
-the people of Troas were comforted.
Thus, in this partial list of comparisons and by examining the pattern set by past resurrections, one can anticipate a continuation in the set pattern for future resurrections. The Bible is its own best commentary.
The most recent change in my thinking focuses on the coming resurrection of I Thessalonians 4:16-18 and I Corinthians 15, specifically verses 51 and 52. I’ve had these passages memorized for decades, but my thinking is changing about them. Although I appreciate the movie A Thief in the Night and I saw how people were affected and challenged by it to examine their need for a savior, I think the movie erroneously combines I Thessalonians 4 and I Corinthians 15. Yes, both passages refer to a future resurrection, but I believe they deal with different aspects of events occurring during that same time.
After the letter to the Galatians, I Thessalonians, believed to be the second epistle written by Paul, states in chapter 4, verses 16-18 (KJV), For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Looking at the resurrection phrase ‘the dead in Christ shall rise’, the Greek word ἀνίστημι, anistēmi, translated ‘shall rise’ means to raise up, to raise up from laying down, to raise up from the dead, to cause to appear, to bring forward, to stand up, to arise, to appear, to stand forth, as well as simply meaning to raise up in action or from sleep. The word is repeatedly used in connection with the resurrection of Jesus Christ, as in Matthew 17:9, Matthew 20:19, Mark 8:31, Mark 9:9-10, 31, Mark 10:34, Mark 16:9, Luke 18:33, Luke 24:7,46, John 20:9, Acts 2:24, 32, Acts 3:26, Acts 10:41; Acts 13:33, 34, Acts 17:3, 31, Romans 14:9, I Thessalonians 4:14. The word is used to describe other resurrections in Matthew 12:41, Mark 5:42, Mark 12:23,25, Luke 8:55, Luke 9:8,19, Luke 11:32, Luke 16:31, John 6:39, 40, 44, 54, John 11:23, 24, Acts 9:40, Ephesians 5:14. It would be reasonable to expect the events involved with the resurrection prophesied in I Thessalonians 4 to follow the well-established pattern of the previous resurrections: perhaps in the spring; perhaps at a funeral; perhaps in a sickroom; neither age, gender, nor ethnic background would exclude one—the only prerequisite given is ‘dead in Christ’, which truly gives the believer an unique position in the family of God; the resurrected may be touched and given food; and, it can be expected that there will be witnesses to the resurrection.
The next phrase in the passage begins with the word ἔπειτα, epeita, translated ‘then’ in the KJV and NASB, and ‘after that’ in NIV. This word appears sixteen times in the New Testament: nine times in the KJV as ‘then’, four times as ‘after that’, and three times as ‘afterward(s)’. Used twice in I Corinthians 15:6-7, the word indicates a passage of time in the events after the resurrection of Jesus Christ and before His ascension. As used in I Corinthians 15:23, it indicates a passage of time between resurrections. Paul uses it in I Corinthians 15:36 to indicate a proper order between the natural body coming before the supernatural or resurrected body. I have changed my thinking and now believe the word also indicates a passage of an unknown length of time between I Thessalonians 4:16 and 4:17. In the interpretation I have been previously taught, as in the movie A Thief in the Night, the time involved is ‘a twinkling of an eye’ as found in I Corinthians 15, even though no specific length of time for ‘then’ or ‘after that’ or ‘afterwards’ is given in the I Thessalonians passage. For Jesus, the ‘then’ time between His resurrection and ascension was forty days, Acts 1:3. If the length of time of ‘then’ between the dead in Christ rising and when those who are alive and remain are caught up is so fast it is an instantaneous disappearance, it would eliminate any possibility of the resurrected people to be given food and eat it, to be touched or examined, and—most importantly—to be verified by witnesses as alive from the dead.
An examination of I Corinthians 15:51-52 (KJV), Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed, shows what happens ‘in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye’ is that ‘we will all be changed’. The change from our mortal body to our immortal body will happen in ἄτομος, atomos, a unit for time so fast it cannot be cut in two or divided; it is indivisible. Neither the I Thessalonians 4 passage nor the I Corinthians 15 passage says anything about the speed of our ascension to meet the Lord in the air. The pattern in the Old Testament for ascensions is Enoch in Genesis 5:24, who walked with God and was not, for God took him, and Elijah in II Kings 2:11-12, who was visibly taken up in a whirlwind, and in the New Testament ascension of Jesus in Acts 1:9. No specific information is given on the mechanics of Enoch’s ascension, but both the ascension of Elijah and of Jesus were visible, witnessed events. Even the word ἁρπάζω, harpazō, translated as ‘caught up’ in I Thessalonians 4, as Philip ‘caught away’ in Acts 8:39, and as a man (believed to be Paul referring to himself) ‘caught up’ in II Corinthians 12:2-4, indicates specially taken by force, and not necessarily by speed. The word is also used in Matthew 11:12, Matthew 13:19, John 6:15, John 10:12, John 10:28-29, and Acts 23:10, clearly denoting force.
I’ve been thinking along these lines only since May 2, so there is still a lot to work through. I have many other observations I would like to have time to share (for example, what the Lord has taught me about Psalm 12 and Song of Solomon 2:8-13), but I’m tuckered out now and will save those for another day. Thanks for reading (or skimming) through this. Maranatha. by Nena Oa.