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The phrase “immortal soul” is never found in the Bible. Is this belief actually based on Scripture, or Greek philosophy?

The online Encyclopedia Britannica, under the topic of “Soul – religion and philosophy” says, “The early Hebrews apparently had a concept of the soul but did not separate it from the body, although later Jewish writers developed the idea of the soul further. Biblical references to the soul are related to the concept of breath and establish no distinction between the ethereal soul and the corporeal body. Christian concepts of a body-soul dichotomy originated with the ancient Greeks and were introduced into Christian theology at an early date by St. Gregory of Nyssa and by St. Augustine.” (our emphasis)

Did Greek mythology creep into Christian theology?

A Soul Equation

How does the Bible describe a “soul”? When God creates Adam in Genesis 2:7, the Bible says, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (KJV) See the equation? A body formed from dust + the breath of life = a living soul. Adam wasn’t given an immortal soul; he became a living soul! (See also 1 Corinthians 15:45)

Animals are Souls

If you look up the word for “soul” in Genesis 2:7, you will find it is the Hebrew word “nephesh” which means “a breathing creature”. In the KJV the word ‘nephesh’ is translated into the English words, ‘appetite, beast, body, breath, creature, dead, desire, fish, ghost, life, man, person, soul, thing…etc.’ Looking at all the occurrences of the Hebrew word “nephesh”, you’ll find it is used over 600 times! Not only is man a “living soul” (dust + breath of life) – so are the animals! In the first few chapters of Genesis, the same word “nephesh” is used of all living creatures, whether animal, fish or bird. (Animal – Genesis 1: 24; Fish – Genesis 1:20; Bird –  Genesis 1:30) So, everything that breathes – animals, fish, birds and people are all described as ‘living souls’.

The Bible Project has a very helpful 4 minute YouTube presentation on ‘nephesh’. To view, click here on NEPHESH.

Sometimes a Soul can be Dead!

While most of the time the word ‘nephesh’ refers to a living creature, person, or just ‘life’ – there are occasions when it refers to a dead ‘person or creature’. For instance:

Numbers 9:10 “Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If any man of you or of your posterity shall be unclean by reason of a dead body <nephesh>, or be in a journey afar off, yet he shall keep the passover unto the LORD.”

Joshua 11:11 “And they smote all the souls <nephesh>, that were therein with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them: there was not any left to breathe: and he burnt Hazor with fire.”

Psalm 16:9-10 “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul <nephesh> in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. (This is speaking of Jesus! See Acts 2:31)

Psalm 22:29 “All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul <nephesh>.”

Ezekiel 18:4 “Behold, all souls <nephesh> are mine; as the soul <nephesh> of the father, so also the soul <nephesh> of the son is mine: the soul <nephesh> that sinneth, it shall die.”

So souls can be killed by the sword, they can be dead, they can be left in hell (Hebrew – ‘sheol’, translated ‘‘grave, pit, hell’), they can sin and die, and no one is able to keep their own soul alive. The KJV is one of the few versions that translates ‘nephesh’ as ‘soul’ in four of the passages above. In most modern versions of Joshua 11:11, Psalm 16:9-10 and 22:29, the words  me, person, himself, themselves,’ etc. have been used by the translators for ‘nephesh’, rather than ‘soul’. These are all legitimate translations, and do give the sense better in these passages, but may obscure the significance of the fact that a ‘soul’ <nephesh> is not immortal. 

As you can see, the Old Testament does not teach the concept of an immortal soul. As we discussed in a previous blog, the expressed hope in the Old Testament involved resurrection to eternal life (Job 14:14-15; 19:25-27; Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:1-3; Acts 2:29,24) and paradise on Earth. The faithful of old did not expect to receive immortality until they were resurrected at the last day.

A Departing Soul?

In the Old Testament, however, there is a passage that seems to give credence to the idea of an ‘immortal soul’. In speaking of Rachel’s death, the KJV says, “And it came to pass, as her soul <nephesh> was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin.” (Genesis 35:18) On the first read, this sounds like an immortal soul departing from a dying body. However, had the KJV translators chosen to use one of the other English words frequently translated for ‘nephesh’, the meaning would be clearer. For example, the NIV translates this passage, “As she breathed her last – for she was dying…”

God’s Spirit

We see the soul ‘equation’ reversed at death when a person or creature breathes their last, and the breath of life, that is, God’s ‘spirit’, leaves the body, the body returns to dust and the soul ceases to exist. In speaking of this fading time of life, Ecclesiastes 12:7, says, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”

You may ask, What is the spirit of God? Is this an immortal part of human existence? In our next blog we will briefly consider the word ‘spirit’ in both the Old and New Testament, and see if there is any link to immortality.

After looking at ‘spirit’, we will consider the word ‘soul’ in the New Testament? Is there any evidence of a belief in an immortal soul taught by Jesus or his disciples? Investigate for yourself now with our Discovery Lesson on What is a soul?

This mortal life doesn’t last long. Some are content with 70 plus years, but most of us want to live as long as possible. Billions are spent on vitamins and supplements to slow the ageing process. If someone came up with a proven way to extend youthful life for even 100 EXTRA YEARS everyone would want to buy the cure. Imagine! People would give up their life savings, sell their home, volunteer years of their time, whatever the price, if it meant extending life for 100 more years!

But consider what God has offered… and it’s MORE than just 100 extra years:

“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life …” (Daniel 12:2)

“…to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life” (Romans 2:7)

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

God is offering ETERNAL Life!!

Our Heavenly Father is offering Eternal Life. God has proven He has the power to give this gift as shown by His resurrection of Jesus Christ – the “FIRST to rise from the dead” (Acts 26:23). Paul says he lived “in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began,” (Titus 1:1-2). Shouldn’t everyone be lining up for this GIFT?

So WHEN Does God Plan to Give us Eternal Life?

After Lazarus died, Jesus comforted his sister Martha with the hope, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:21-26)

Jesus told the Jews:

“Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:21, 24-29. See also Matthew 25:31-32, 45-46; John 6:51,54)

Jesus promised to give us eternal life when he raises the dead, on the ‘last day’ (John 6:44). Jesus Christ was the FIRSTBORN from the dead (Revelation 1:5; 3:14; Colossians 1:18) – the first to rise and be given immortality. What God did for his Son, He promises to do for us. (Philippians 3:10, 20-21)

Will EVERYONE Receive Eternal life?

Immortality is a gift from God (Romans 6:23). When Adam and Eve sinned, God said, “Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden…  he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:22-24)

Barred From the Tree of Life

God barred access to ‘living forever’ after our first parents chose to disobey His clear and simple command. However, the true way and door to living forever has been given to us through the faithful obedience of Jesus Christ.

“For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man [ADAM], much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:15-17; John 14:6; 10:1-9)

If we don’t choose to repent and seek forgiveness in Christ, we won’t have hope of receiving eternal life. “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.(1 John 3:15) And in Ephesians, Paul speaks about our lives before we find Christ, saying, “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

The same message is given in the Psalms, “Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell forever. For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever.” (Psalm 37:1, 9-11, 22, 27-29, 34-38)

What is Immortality Like?

There is only one man who has been raised and given immortal life, so far. If we want to know what immortality is all about, Jesus Christ is our model. He was on earth in his immortal state for 40 days. Jesus ate (Luke 24:42-43), he talked, he walked, (Luke 24:15-19) he had a physical body that could be touched, but yet he was able to appear or disappear instantly (Luke 24:31), seemingly without the need for doors (John 20:26-28). He told his disciples that he wasn’t a spirit, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (Luke 24:39; John 20:26-29)

Notice that Jesus doesn’t say ‘flesh and blood’, which is often a description of mortal humans (Hebrews 2:14; 1 Corinthians 15:50; see Leviticus 17:11) . In his crucifixion, Jesus gave his mortal body and his blood (his life) for us (Luke 22:19-20; John 6:48-58). Being made immortal his body is now energized by God’s Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:42-49); it is a ‘spiritual body’. Jesus ascended up to heaven to be with his Father, (Luke 24:51) where he was given all power sitting at God’s right hand (Matthew 28:18). Now, 2000 years later, he is still actively working in the lives of believers to make us ready for the day of his return! (Revelation 2&3)

No Pain, Sorrow, Crying or Death!

We are told that when we are made immortal, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) Immortality means no more pain, sorrow, crying or death!

Equal to Angels

Jesus told us clearly that when we are made immortal we will be like the angels. ““The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” (Luke 20:34-36) Angels were often mistaken for men (Genesis 18; 19:1-5; Joshua 5:13-15), can eat (Genesis 18), had tangible bodies that can be wrestled and touched (Genesis 32:24-32; Genesis 19; Daniel 10), can possibly fly (Daniel 9:20-21), can appear and disappear instantly, are not restrained by locked doors (Acts 12:6-11) and occasionally glow with light (Judges 13; Luke 24:4-5).

As we have considered in previous blogs, the Bible Hope in the Old and New Testament is for resurrection. Immortality is a gift to be granted when Jesus raises us from the dead, but not everyone receives this gift. Just as Jesus’ flesh ‘rested in hope’ and didn’t ‘see corruption’, so our mortal bodies must PUT ON immortality.

What is a “Soul”?

However, there is a very popular, dearly cherished, Christian belief which states that every human being possesses an ‘immortal soul’. When did this teaching become part of Christianity? What does the word ‘soul’ mean in the Bible and how is it used? Does the phrase ‘immortal soul’ ever occur in the Bible? These are the questions we will answer in our next blog. If you’d like to investigate on your own, try our new Discovery Lesson on “What is a Soul?”

Since Jesus was the first to rise from the dead’ (Acts 26), and he will ‘transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body’ (Phil. 3) – it only makes sense to investigate what happened to Jesus’ earthly body? Was it left behind in the tomb to rot and decay? Was Jesus given immortality at his resurrection, or did he already possess an undying spirit before he was crucified? Does it matter? And is the promise of resurrection crucial to the hope of living forever?

Did Jesus’ Body Rot and Decay?

When Mary came to wrap Jesus’ body with spices – the tomb was empty! The body was gone! (John 20) The linen cloths that had bound his body were lying by themselves – Jesus’ body had been unwrapped. While the disciples were perplexed that they could not find his body, the angels explained, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. (Luke 24:5-6 ESV)

Later, the guards were bribed to say that the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body away as they slept. (Matthew 28:11-15) However, Peter clearly lays out the truth of the matter in Acts 2.

Referring to an Old Testament prophecy given to David, Peter says, “… this Jesus… God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him, ‘my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption...’ Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” (Acts 2:22-32 – Quote from Psalm 16:9-10)

“My Flesh Also will Dwell in Hope”

Psalm 16:9-10, the passage quoted above, is a ‘Messianic’ prophecy. After his resurrection, Jesus explained to his disciples that everything about him was clearly prophesied “in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms.” (Luke 24:25-27, 44-46) God had clearly foretold in the Old Testament what would happen to Jesus’ body. As Peter points out, the Psalm says, “my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption...”

The only part of us that can decay is our mortal body – our ‘flesh’. Jesus’ ‘flesh’ was going to rest in hope – hope of what? Hope of being made alive again! He would not see ‘corruption’. This word ‘corruption’ in Strong’s Concordance has the meaning to ‘decay’. Strong’s personal definition is ‘to rot thoroughly’! Only a mortal body can rot. Jesus’ mortal body did not! If you want to investigate this topic more thoroughly – click here for our Discovery Lesson on Resurrection

“Did not see Corruption”

The Apostle Paul made a similar argument in Acts 13, saying, “And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm,“‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’ And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ Therefore he says also in another Psalm, “‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’ For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption.”

The Apostle Paul clearly points out that this Psalm couldn’t be talking about David; they all knew that David ‘fell asleep’ and ‘saw corruption’. But Jesus, did ‘not see corruption’. His mortal body was brought back to life! He is the ‘firstborn from the dead.’ (Colossians 1:18)

The Lineage of Jesus Christ

Why is it important that Jesus’ mortal body be raised? It is very important in order to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies of Jesus. Truly Jesus was conceived miraculously by God’s Holy Spirit power causing an egg in Mary’s womb to become a child without a man’s involvement, (Luke 1:34-35) and was therefore God’s Son. Yet Jesus’ human lineage was also the subject of several Old Testament prophecies and New Testament commentary. For example, the promise to David, “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.” (2 Samuel 7:12-14)

Gabriel’s Message

The promise made to David was reiterated in Gabriel’s message to Mary, “And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:30-33)

The New Testament genealogy of Jesus Christ goes through David, Abraham and Adam and Eve – significant individuals who were promised a son that would redeem mankind and bring God’s blessings to the earth. (Luke 3; Genesis 3:15; 12:1-2; 22:15-18; 2 Samuel 7:12-14)

“Descended From David”

After Jesus Christ has gone to heaven, Paul still makes mention of Jesus’ earthly lineage:

“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel,” (2 Timothy 2:8) and, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,” (Romans 1:1-3) The earthly lineage of Jesus Christ is very important as it fulfilled personal promises God made to the forefathers.

“This Mortal Body Must Put on Immortality”

From the passages in Acts we see very clearly that Jesus’ mortal body was raised from the dead before corruption set in (as it would on the 4th day) and that he was GIVEN immortality.  We find no promises in the Bible that our mortal bodies will avoid corruption! However, we are told by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:53, that “this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.” Our bodies will be raised and then we are given immortality – if God is pleased to give us this incredible gift. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

Perished??

In our investigation of the original Gospel hope, we found that resurrection was the consistent hope of Old and New Testament believers. So much so, that the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, that if Jesus hadn’t risen from the dead, then “Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” 

PERISHED? A true statement, if all the Old Testament believers are in their graves, ‘fast asleep’ awaiting the hope of resurrection. A very confusing statement if those Old Testament believers never really died and are happily enjoying paradise now.

A Greek Fable

Our next blog will consider a Greek fable that crept into early Christianity after Jesus ascended to heaven and is now such an established and cherished belief that few realize it can be easily shown to be false. Some would say, “A false hope is better than no hope at all” – but is it? And if we hold onto a false hope, what other aspects of the true Gospel message will become distorted? God Willing, we will look into this matter primarily from Scripture but also with reference to the historical development of this teaching.

What happens after death? Is there hope we will live again? Or do we never really die – just change forms? Is resurrection even important? Paul says,  if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” (1 Corinthians 15:17-18) As much as Jesus’ crucifixion was the sacrifice required for forgiveness – the resurrection of Jesus was also essential for salvation!

Expressed Hope of Believers

In looking at the expressed hope of believers in both Old and New Testaments, resurrection is consistently what was expected and earnestly desired. Job said, “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another…” (Job 19:25-27)

In speaking about her dead brother, Martha said, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” (John 11:24) This was the only hope she expressed!

The FIRST to Rise

But what exactly is resurrection? Paul says that Jesus was the first to rise from the dead, (Acts 26:23) yet several resurrections took place in the Old and New Testaments. In what way was Jesus the FIRST? Is Jesus’ resurrection anything like the resurrection God has promised for us? Does being the FIRST imply that similar resurrections would follow?

In other passages, Jesus is spoken of as being the ‘firstborn from the dead’ and ‘the beginning of God’s creation’ – this seems to imply more to follow. (Rev. 1:5, 3:14, Colossians 1:18) In Romans chapter six we read, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his...  We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.”

Will Never Die Again

Notice that Paul says in Romans 6 that Jesus ‘will never die again’ – in other words he has been given the eternal life God has promised to believers, “to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;” (Romans 2:7 and 6:23)  In all the other resurrections that took place in the Old and New Testaments, people were only resurrected to live and then die again. Jesus Christ was the first to be resurrected to eternal life!

Resurrected like Jesus?

Do we have hope of being resurrected like Jesus was? This was certainly the hope that the Apostle Paul clung to and shared with the Philippians.

“… that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead... But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body,” (Philippians 3:10, 20-21)

A Spiritual Body

Paul’s hope was to have his mortal body become like Jesus’ glorious body! In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul writes extensively on the hope of resurrection, explaining the supernatural changes that must take place so that we can life forever.

“ Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:49, 52-53)

We all have lived in the natural body, created out of dust, like our great-great-great ancestor Adam, and just like Jesus Christ 2000 years ago. Through Jesus we have hope of becoming transformed, like he was, into an undying body sustained by God’s spirit power.

What Happened to Jesus’ Earthly Body?

Some would believe that a part of us never dies, that immortality is something we all possess from conception. This belief makes resurrection rather redundant, which leads many Christians to question why it’s even necessary. Since we are told Jesus is the firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1:18), it is helpful to investigate whether a part of him lived on and departed from his body, or whether his earthly body was brought back to life. The Scriptures are very clear on this exciting topic! Our Discovery Lesson on Resurrection gives a wealth of Bible passages to consider and some interesting word studies to aid our investigation.

Our next blog will be “What Happened to Jesus’ Earthly Body?”

Is the New Testament hope consistent with what was promised in the Old Testament? Did Jesus and his disciples refer to the Kingdom? Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Promises? A Paradise Earth? Resurrection? An Inheritance? Or did they preach something new and different?

What did Jesus preach?

The Kingdom

Beginning in the Gospel of Matthew, we find that Jesus preaches extensively about “the kingdom of heaven”. In Mark, Luke and John, Jesus and his disciples likewise preach “the gospel of the kingdom of God.” In their preaching campaigns they encourage people to repent and prepare, for the kingdom is near, and they discuss who will enter the kingdom. (Matthew 4:17, 18:3; Mark 1:14-15; 16:15-16; Luke 4:43; 16:16)

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

Jesus speaks about many coming to sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 8:11)

Promises

The Angel Gabriel reminded Mary of the promises made to David, saying, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:31-33 ESV)

Paradise

On the cross, Jesus promised the thief beside him, “you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) The Greek word for ‘paradise’ means ‘a park, an Eden’. Jesus spoke of the ‘regeneration’ when his disciples would judge the 12 tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28) He also cautions against swearing by the city Jerusalem, “for it is the city of the great King.” (Matthew 5:35) In John 14:2-3, Jesus promises his disciples that, “in my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” Some take this as a promise that paradise will be in actual heaven, but notice Jesus says, “I will come again and will take you to myself.”  Does this refer to coming to earth to reign forever? or coming to earth and returning to heaven with the faithful? This is a topic for another blog.

Parables about the Kingdom

Jesus also tells parables beginning with the words “the kingdom of heaven is like…” involving good seed, leaven, treasure, fish, talents, a wedding feast, foolish and wise virgins, and an absent bridegroom and master who will return. (Matthew 13:24, 31, 33, 44, 45; 18:23; 22:2; 25:1, 14)

His Death and Resurrection

An explanation of Jesus’ death, resurrection and glorification was given but not fully understood until after Jesus is risen. (Luke 18:33; John 12:31-35) Then Jesus tells two of his followers, “…These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”… he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:25-26 and 44-48)

Restoration of the Kingdom to Israel?

It is also interesting to note that during the 40 days before Jesus ascended to heaven, he spoke to his disciples about “the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3) The disciples became so excited that they asked Jesus, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) Jesus didn’t rebuke them for thinking the kingdom would be restored to Israel, but only cautioned that the timing of this event was known only to his Father. Just as we have seen from many Old Testament prophecies, the Kingdom of God is linked in a special way to the land of Israel, even though the kingdom will eventually include the whole earth. (Dan.2:44)

What did the Apostles Preach in Acts?

After Jesus ascended to heaven in the record of Acts, the angels promised the disciples, “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”(Acts 1:11) Jesus’ disciples went forward with the full Gospel message, and Holy Spirit gifts, preaching, “the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ.” (Acts 8:12).  For a summary list of the Gospel message as taught in Acts, click here – The Gospel in Acts

The message preached in Acts includes a coming Kingdom, the Name of Jesus, repentance, belief, baptism, and forgiveness of sins. (Acts 2:37-41; 8:37; 16:30-33) It was what the Apostle Paul taught, “from morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.” (Acts 28:23)

Forgiveness of Sins and The Name of Jesus

Repentance was commanded in the Gospel accounts, but forgiveness of sins is a new emphasis in Acts, now that Jesus has given his life for all of mankind. (Acts 2:23,37; 3:13-19; 5:30-31; 7:52-53; 13:38-39; 17:30-32; 26:18-20)

The Name of Jesus Christ is also a new emphasis, “for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

Coming Kingdom

Just like in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the need to prepare for a coming kingdom is stressed, including the resurrection and judgement, and the elevation of Jesus to be the Prince and Saviour. (Acts 2:16-20; 3:20-21;  Acts 1:11; 3:20-21; 10: 42; Acts 17:30-31; 24:24-25; Acts 3:13; 4:11, 5:30-21)

Old Testament Hope

Tying in with the Old Testament hope of the promises, reference is made to the “Hope of Israel”, the promises to Abraham and an ‘inheritance’.  (Acts 2:39; 3:25-26; 7:1-5; 13:22-23; 26:6-8; 28:20; Acts 20:32; 26:18) Paul says, “it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.” (Acts 28:20)

Old Testament Proof

Many times in Acts, the Old Testament is referred to as proof that Jesus Christ fulfilled the prophecies of a suffering Messiah, who had to die and be raised to life. (Acts 2:24-33; 32-37; 8:26-35; 13:27-30, 32-37; 17:2-3; 31-32; 26:22-23; 18:28) The essence of the Gospel message is not new – it is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies!

Emphasis on Resurrection

Throughout Acts, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is a crucial aspect of the Gospel message. The Jews and Gentiles could easily believe Jesus had been crucified… but what good was a dead Messiah? Was he really alive again? By demonstrating the healing power of the Name of Jesus, and referring to relevant Old Testament prophecy, the disciples endeavoured to prove that the Messiah was indeed alive again, actively involved on earth, and seated in heaven on the right hand of God.

Consistent Message

As you can see from this consideration, the message of both Testaments are perfectly consistent. The New Testament adds details and emphasis but doesn’t change the essential hope held by those in the Old. Paul says, “I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.” (Acts 26:22-23)

The First to Rise From the Dead?

It’s intriguing to consider that Jesus was the ‘FIRST to rise from the dead’. Other human beings were miraculously resurrected in the Old and New Testaments – what was special about Jesus’ resurrection? In what way is he considered the ‘first’? Will others follow? In our next few blogs we will delve into the subject of resurrection, looking first – at THE FIRST to rise from the dead!