Foundations of the Hope – Part 1

Introduction

Have you ever had a question about something in the Bible record that was nagging you as to why it was there? While we cannot know the reason for everything, of course we can and should if at all possible research the Bible to see if other parts throw light upon our particular question.

The following article is the result of my personal investigation into one such nagging question. The results were so encouraging and faith strengthening that I had to document it, so as to be able to share the results with others who love God and his promises.

From my youth (a long time ago now!) I always wondered why there was a record in the scriptures of a man who was resurrected after being thrown into Elisha’s burial place, and when his body touched the bones of Elisha, he came to life and stood up. May be you have wondered about this very same thing? Did you pass on to something else? Or wonder? Or research?

Paul wrote to Timothy that ‘all scripture is inspired and beneficial’. This means that this brief account of a resurrection had some purpose in being recorded. Reasonably we could conclude that the picture is larger than what appears on the surface, as from experience so many Bible students have realized this is so often the case.

So this journey proved to be. Following the principle outlined in Proverbs 2:1-6 “as for hid treasures you keep searching for it [wisdom]” I decided to go searching for ‘hid treasures’. Initially I went through the Bible and put the resurrections in order of occurrence as a base from which to start and then went from there. The results reinforced my faith that “God is love”.  Some months after completing my research on each of the resurrections, I decided to look at the appearances of Jesus after his resurrection. Yet again the results were fascinating, so these findings were included. The results proved to me beyond doubt that the treasures are indeed there waiting to be found by each one of us.

It is my sincerest wish that you, the reader will find the results as fascinating, encouraging and faith building as I personally did. There are so many highlights. To whet your appetite, For instance, what enabled a widowed woman to reclaim her land from a King who did what was bad in Jehovah’s eyes?

Therefore to get the most benefit from the article you are strongly encouraged to as a minimum, read all the highlighted scriptures. Of course, it goes without saying that it is also highly recommended to make time to read the surrounding context as well. In doing so let Gods word build up your faith ‘the assured expectation of what is hoped for” in the resurrection to come.

Finally it is my sincere hope that you too will feel a heartfelt echoing of Paul’s words recorded in Romans 16:27 “to God, wise alone, be the glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.”

In this first article we will look at the following:

  • The importance of the Resurrection Hope to our faith under the heading: The Resurrection Hope – A foundation stone to our faith. Why?
  • The emergence of the Resurrection Hope in the Scriptures, starting with the first three resurrections recorded, under the heading: Early Foundations of the Hope.

The Resurrection Hope – A foundation stone to our faith. Why?

“I have hope toward God, which these men also entertain, that there is going to be a resurrection.” – ACTS 24:15.[1]

So spoke Paul to Governor Felix.  Should you have this same hope?  How important is this hope?  The following short article aims to help answer these questions.

Without question the hope of the resurrection is the most vital part of our faith and keeping this hope strong should be of the utmost importance to us.  Most essential to our hope is faith and belief that Jesus Christ was resurrected. Writing to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul wrote with conviction at 1 Corinthians 15:13-14: “13 If, indeed, there is no resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ been raised up. 14 But if Christ has not been raised up, our preaching is certainly in vain, and our faith is in vain. “.[2]  Putting it quite succinctly, if we have doubts in the resurrection hope and in particular that Jesus was resurrected, we doubt the whole basis of our hope. We cannot serve Jehovah in a whole-souled manner if we have doubts about this central teaching of his word.

The full context of this passage goes further and we do well to meditate upon it as we read.

(1 Corinthians 15:12-23) . . .Now if Christ is being preached that he has been raised up from the dead, how is it some among YOU say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If, indeed, there is no resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ been raised up. 14 But if Christ has not been raised up, our preaching is certainly in vain, and our faith is in vain. 15 Moreover, we are also found false witnesses of God, because we have borne witness against God that he raised up the Christ, but whom he did not raise up if the dead are really not to be raised up. 16 For if the dead are not to be raised up, neither has Christ been raised up. 17 Further, if Christ has not been raised up, YOUR faith is useless; YOU are yet in YOUR sins. 18 In fact, also, those who fell asleep [in death] in union with Christ perished. 19 If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied. 20 However, now Christ has been raised up from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep [in death]. 21 For since death is through a man, resurrection of the dead is also through a man. 22 For just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each one in his own rank: Christ the first fruits, afterward those who belong to the Christ during his presence.

Notice how Paul emphasizes the key points:

  1. v13 If No Resurrection of Dead         – Jesus was not Resurrected.
  2. v14a If Jesus not resurrected             – Your Preaching is in vain.
  3. v14b If Jesus not resurrected             – Your Faith is in vain.
  4. v15 If Jesus not resurrected             – You are Testifying as a false Witness against God (saying he resurrected Jesus when he did not. In ancient Israel this warranted the death penalty.)
  5. v17 If Jesus not resurrected             – There is no ransom sacrifice.
  6. v17 If Jesus not resurrected             – There is no release possible from our sinful condition.
  7. v18 If Jesus not resurrected             – Those who died as faithful Christian martyrs died for nothing.

These verses, giving repetitive emphasis of the implications of having confidence in Jesus’ resurrection, require serious thought being given to their import and show how vital this Bible teaching is to our whole faith.

But all these issues are irrelevant as verse 20 states, because with certainty “Christ has been raised from the dead”.  Jesus also stated to Martha in John 11:25, 26 “I am the resurrection and the life.  He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies will come to life”. It is therefore vital that we review our conviction in this central Bible teaching and see how Jehovah ensured that we could be confident that such a future resurrection will take place.

Let us review what Jehovah lovingly recorded in his word the Bible to build up our faith in the resurrection and give us confidence that we will see this wonderful time.

Let us examine the biblical records of resurrections more closely and see what we can learn. Have you, like me have wondered why Jehovah had recorded the resurrection of a dead man thrown into Elisha’s burial place. Why were only seemingly few resurrections recorded?

Before continuing to read the next article why not take time to write down all the resurrections you can think of from memory and the book of the bible they are recorded in if possible. Take some time to think about it to ensure you think you have them all. Then put your list in chronological order.

Early Foundations of the Hope

Learning from the Three Resurrections by Elijah and Elisha

These three resurrections came at a time of great turmoil and apostasy in Israel during the reign of King Ahab.

1st. The Son of the Widow of Zarapheth (1 Kings 17:19-24)

The first resurrection was during the reign of Ahab in the midst of a 3 year famine sent by Jehovah.

Ahab had expanded false worship in Samaria and done more to offend Jehovah than all the previous kings of Israel. True worshippers of Jehovah were being persecuted, many prophets were in hiding. Jehovah had sent Elijah outside of Israel to nearby Sidon to be sustained by the widow of Zarapheth who had faith in Jehovah. A year or so into this stay during which time Jehovah miraculously sustained them with a jar of flour and a small jar of oil, the widow’s son sickened and died. Now the widow had no heir and no help for her in her old age.

Elijah took this sad problem to Jehovah in prayer. The account says “Finally Jehovah listened to Elijah’s voice, so that the soul of the child came back within him and he came to life.” Yes, Jehovah had answered Elijah’s prayer and restored the boy to life. As Elijah brought her son now living again to her she exclaimed “Now, indeed, I do know that you are a man of God and that Jehovah’s word in your mouth is true.”  (Read 1 Kings 17:1,9,17,20-23, 18:1,2)

As news of this resurrection spread through Israel think how it sustained that minority of 7,000 Israelites who had not bent their knee to Baal to continue not to do so. (1 Kings 19:18).  A year or so later Elijah destroyed the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel in doing so proving in dramatic fashion that Jehovah was the true God. He then brought the 3 year drought and famine to an end and relief to true worshippers of Jehovah. This resurrection and the events that followed it showed that Jehovah was still backing his prophet and was showing interest in his people who truly loved Jehovah such as Obadiah.

2nd. The Son of the Shunamite Woman (2 Kings 4:25-37)

For the second resurrection we move on about 16 years into the reign of Jehoram son of Ahab who was as wicked as his father Ahab.

Elisha had now taken Elijah’s mantle, a prominent woman (a wife of a son of the prophets) was childless and her husband was old.  Elisha prophesies that she will have a son, which occurs a year later.  After growing up for a few years tragedy strikes and the young son suddenly takes ill with pains in his head and within hours he dies upon his mother’s knees. The women travels herself to Elisha at Mount Carmel from Shunem. This is some 31 miles Shunem being south of Nazareth and east of Meggido. As she says to Elisha, no doubt weeping and in tears “Did I ask for a son through my lord? Did I not say, ‘You must not lead me to a false hope’” Elisha discerns what has happened and goes with her. Elisha prays to Jehovah and Jehovah answers his pray and the boy comes to life.  (Read 2 Kings 4:25-37).

It was a loving provision from Jehovah as a reward for the woman’s faithfulness and that of her now dead husband to ensure the continuation of their family line. They had been providing hospitality to Elisha to the extent of extending their home so Elisha had a room of his own to stay. It potentially would have been at personal risk to themselves as Jehoram was no lover of Jehovah’s prophets.

After this resurrection there followed a 7 year famine decreed by Jehovah and announced by Elisha.  Interestingly this resurrection became well known and as a result there was also a witness given to King Jehoram about this resurrection. It was now the 11th year of King Jehoram the son of Ahab, but he was having Gehazi, Elisha’s attendant relate what things Elisha had done. As he was relating the resurrection of the Shunamite woman’s son in she comes before the king to ask for her land back. After confirming the story, Jehoram commands that she be restored all her property. This ensured the woman and her son had their house and land returned after returning from living as an alien residence because of the famine. (Read 2 Kings 8:1-6)

Once again a witness was given to those opposed to Jehovah and a faithful woman was rewarded.[3]

3rd. The Dead Man and Elisha’s Bones (2 Kings 13:21)

The third resurrection occurred approximately 60 years later in about the 6th-7th year of the reign of Jehoash of Israel shortly after the death of Elisha. Jehoash was another king of Israel who did what was bad in Jehovah’s eyes. (Read 2 Kings 13:20, 21).

An Israelite man was being buried when they were disturbed by a Moabite raiding party, so he was thrown into Elisha’s burial place and on the corpse touching the bones of Elisha, the man came to life immediately. This showed to those that witnessed this that the power for resurrection came from Jehovah whom Elisha had faithfully represented, rather than from Elisha himself. It also gave a powerful sign to those faithful Israelites that Jehovah had not abandoned Israel despite their waywardness.

In total the prophets of Jehovah resurrected 3 people thereby giving strong testimony that resurrection back to life was possible on the last day. (John 11:24).

So far we have seen there were 3 resurrections by prophets of Jehovah.

The scene was set. Resurrection from the dead was possible, but when would more than one or two have the opportunity of being resurrected? Around 900 years, a long period of time passed before the next resurrection occurred. This period would run until Jesus began his ministry on earth in 29 C.E.

To be continued ……

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[1] (NWT) New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures – Reference Edition 1984

[2] All scripture quotations are from the NWT 1984 edition unless otherwise noted.

[3] See also Antiquities of the Jews, Book IX Chapter 4 (p646 pdf version) which has the following interesting account about which links Obadiah with the Shunamite woman (1 Kings18:7,13 with 2 Ki 4:1-8) and if true gives additional weight to why Elisha was authorised to perform this resurrection.

“For they say that the widow of Obadiah Ahab’s steward, came to him, and said, that he was not ignorant how her husband had preserved the prophets that were to be slain by Jezebel, the wife of Ahab; for she said that he hid a hundred of them, and had borrowed money for their maintenance, and that, after her husband’s death, she and her children were carried away to be made slaves by the creditors; and she desired of him to have mercy upon her on account of what her husband did, and afford her some assistance. And when he asked her what she had in the house, she said, “Nothing but a very small quantity of oil in a cruse” [a utensil, bottle or pitcher] So the prophet bid her go away, and borrow a great many empty vessels of her neighbours, and when she had shut her chamber door, to pour the oil into them all; for that God would fill them full. And when the woman had done what she was commanded to do, and bade her children bring every one of the vessels, and all were filled, and not one left empty, she came to the prophet, and told him that they were all full; upon which he advised her to go away, and sell the oil, and pay the creditors what was owing them, for that there would be some surplus of the price of the oil, which she might make use of for the maintenance of her children. And thus did Elisha discharge the woman’s debts, and free her from the vexation of her creditors.”