Todays readings.. Ezra 3&4, Hosea 6, Acts 23&24
Today we read of Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem and the drama that followed with an attempt by factions of the Jewish leaders to kill him. But the Jewish leadership was not united and Paul caused a dispute among them by crying out, when brought before their council, “It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” [Acts 23 v.6]
This statement caused friction between the Sadducees and the Pharisees, the former did not believe in the resurrection and we recall how Jesus confronted them on this issue (see Matthew 22 v.23-33). Taken to Caesarea because some were plotting to kill him, Paul before Felix the governor, makes the same point in his defence when his accusers come there, “let these men themselves say what wrong doing they found when I stood before the council, other than this one thing that I cried out …‘It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial’ ”. [Ch.24 v.20,21]
This very same hope is a sensitive one in most churches today, it is rarely talked about. Why? Church history shows that as Christianity spread in the early centuries and especially when it became the official religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th Century when the masses were obliged or even forced to convert; but they still held on to the pagan belief of having a soul or spirit that continued to exist after death – and the church adapted that into its teaching.
Paul had declared, when Christ comes “there will be a resurrection of the just and unjust” [24 v.15] and wrote that “we all must appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” [2 Cor. 5 v.10].
The church teaching that developed about going to heaven or some place of torment at death is impossible to reconcile with what Paul, Jesus and all the apostles taught. The Pagan teaching means judgement take place at death! But this is a “different gospel” to what Paul taught (see Galatians 1 v.6-9), let us believe and live a life that reflects our belief and embrace “the hope of the resurrection.”