The Future Resurrection of the Body: Part V
II. Resurrection as the Redemption of Jesus
For much too long Christian soteriology has tended to focus exclusively on the salvific nature of Christ's death and the benefits that can be applied to the believer from this death. The part the resurrection might play in soteriology is often not considered or simply missed altogether. When the resurrection is taken into account in aspects of soteriology it is often with the view of sealing the efficacy of the salvation moment found in Jesus' death on the cross. There are a few who have witnessed this problem and have sought to correct it such as Richard Gaffin that I quoted from in the previous post. Unfortunately, with the limitations of this series of posts this is not a discussion that I can really enter into at this time. Resurrection as a proper soteriological concept is something I intend to pursue in a full length study in the future. But there is one aspect of resurrection as soteriological that bears directly on our discussion, namely, that the resurrection functions as the redemption or salvation of Jesus.
This may seem a bit strange to speak of Jesus' redemption since (no doubt due to the exclusive focus on the death of Christ as the salvation moment in redemptive history) Christians are used to speaking about the redemption and salvation that Jesus brings. Perhaps it is best to quote Gaffin again first:
"His (Jesus) death is the wages of the sin he became (cf. Rom. 6:23), and the state of death he endured for a time is the nadir of his exposure to the wrath of the Father...It is, then, not only meaningful but necessary to speak of the resurrection as the redemption of Christ. The resurrection is nothing if not his delieverance from the power and curse of death which was in force until the moment of being raised...The resurrection is the salvation of Jesus as the Last Adam..." (Gaffin, Resurrection and Redemption, p. 116)
To understand this one needs to recall the importance of Paul's Adamic Christology. (Unfortunately much Christian theology has tended to focus on Logos or Incarnational Christology and to place Adamic Christology in a subordinate position. But that is also a discussion for another time.) There are several passages of scripture that posit an understanding of Jesus as Last Adam (most notably Rom. 5:12-21 and 1 Cor 15: 20-22). Not only did Jesus in his death identify with Adam but it was his resurrection from the dead which actually cemented Jesus' role as Last Adam.
Why? Precisely because it is the resurrection and not the death of Jesus which reverses and undoes the death brought into the world by the First Adam. No matter how sacrifical the death of Jesus may have been so long as the body remained in the tomb, death would have remained victorious and triumphant. The death that the first Adam introduced into the world would not have been undone. And so if Jesus had never been raised, he could never have been declared to be the Last Adam. But Paul believes that Christ has been raised and so can declare "for as by a man death came into the world, so as by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive."(1 Cor 15:21-22)
What then does this have to do with the resurrection as Jesus' own redemption? Well, not only did the First Adam bring death into the world but he also felt the sting of death. In other words the effects of Adam's disobedience did not extend to only those whom he represented, but applied to himself as well. The First Adam died. He was essentially the pattern of death for humanity but it was a pattern that first had to be applied to himself.
Likewise, Jesus as Second Adam forms a pattern for those whom he represents, namely, the "in Christ" group. But Jesus' pattern is that of salvation and of life. However, just as the First Adam had to first undergo the effects of the consequences of his actions so did Jesus since he was acting in an Adamic role. However, unlike the First Adam whose disobedience brought him death, the Last Adam's obedience brought him life and this by his resurrection from the dead. If Jesus was to constitute a new Adamic paradigm, namely, one of salvation, then he first had to be redeemed. And it was this that the resurrection accomplished. Jesus' redemption forms the pattern for ours. Unfortunately, this is something that is not emphasized in soteriological studies. Gaffin rightly condemns this:
"A soteriology structured so that it moves directly from the death of Christ to the application to others of the benefits purchased by that death, substantially short-circuits Pauls own point of view. For him the accomplishment of redemption is only first definitively realized in the application to Christ himself at the resurrection of the benefits purchased by his own obedience unto death." (Ibid, 117).
Next time I want to take the insights from this post and the previous one and combine them to draw some conclusions as to why we can hope for our own, future bodily resurrection from the dead.