Identification in Resurrection

By Lloyd Ellefson

Most Christians think that a time will come when the physical body will be raised up, and they call this the first resurrection. There are several reasons why I don't think the physical body will be resurrected. God said that the body is destined to return to dust, and Paul said that mortality cannot put on immortality. Since we now have a new body, i.e., the body of Christ, we no longer need the old body - not even in a resurrected form.

The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is of tremendous significance to us, especially because of our identification with Him in His death and resurrection! Today we are going to look into our identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection! The things He experienced, we experience spiritually in our identification with Him. These things do not happen to us historically, nor do they happen to everyone at the same time. They have to be appropriated individually. Through the grace of God, we enter in by faith!

If we have died with Him, we will also be raised with Him. But to do so we must go through the same processing Jesus did. We have to repent from having been under the law just like He did; we have to be baptized into death and buried in water and be raised out of death into life, just like He was; the heavens have to be opened to us and we need to hear the Father say that we are His beloved sons, just like He did. Jesus experienced this while He was on earth in His physical body.

In Rev. 20:6 it says, "Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years." This passage does not directly say there is a second resurrection, but the words "first resurrection" imply that there must be a second. And the "second death" implies that there is a "first death". Resurrection can only take place after a death has occurred.

"Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire." (Rev. 20:14) This is not meant to be taken literally. The book of Revelation has to do with Christ and the things that are fulfilled in Him and in those who are in Him. These are spiritual realities that the natural man cannot comprehend - nor will he ever understand them! He can know about them intellectually, but he won't know them. Only those who can hear the Spirit will understand!

"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life." (John 5:24) Those who hear Christ's word, are in life - and judgment is for those who are dead. Hearing His word is for now - it doesn't say those who have heard or those who will hear. Christ's words are spirit and are life, so the natural man is unable to hear them. (1 Cor. 2:14) Hearing His words brings life!

The dead are those who are dead in their trespasses and sins; this death has nothing to do with the physical body. Everyone born into the world is dead in his sins, because in Adam all die. The natural man lives in this death, but the spiritual man lives in life, for in Christ all are made alive! Christ is the spiritual Word that comes to us. He did not die as a substitute for us, but because He was identifying with us. He did not die instead of man, but with him and for him. He did not die to save us from the penalty of sin, but from sin itself! He did not die that we might not die, but to deliver us out of a death in which we were already involved!

"Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live." (v.25) The dead are those who are dead in trespasses and sins; they are dead in Adam as they do their daily work. How can the dead hear Christ's voice, since they are dead? They can't, that is why they first have to be awakened out of their sleep of death. That is why Paul writes, "Awake, sleeper!" (Eph. 5:14) They hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

This is wonderful news! Life is for now while we are in this world! If we hear the voice of the Son of God, we pass from death to life. The physical body is not involved in this passing from death to life. This takes place in the unseen, in the spirit.

"For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself." (v.26) Jesus said that He lived by the Father; He lived by the life of the Father! Notice that the life the Father has given to the Son is also given to us. When we receive His life we become partakers of the divine nature. God's nature can never be separated from Himself.

"And He gave Him" (Christ Jesus) "authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man." (v.27) The Father has given all judgment to the Son. (v.22) So the voice of the Son of God brings life, and life brings judgment on everything that is in the death realm! His voice brings truth, and truth brings judgment on lies and deception. I'm sure we have all experienced the judgment we feel when we are corrected. Jesus experienced rejection when He told the Israelites the truth about God; they received it as judgment on their thinking, so they killed Him. The Corinthian church also felt judged when Paul corrected them. So he asked them, "Am I become your enemy because I tell you the truth?" Trying to avoid or reject truth never works to our benefit!

"Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment." (vv.28-29) All judgment has already been given to the Son. This judgment takes place continually. Everything Christ does is always in the now. But we are still in a time frame, so in our experience it happens to different people at different times.

Two classes of people are mentioned in this passage. All hear the voice of the Son of God, but the reception varies. Those who are hearing the voice have passed from death to life. Those on whom the Word of God has no effect, remain in death, and so will be judged. Many Christians do not know the difference between knowing and hearing. They know about Christ and God, but they have not heard His voice. They have read about the Spirit, but they have not heard the voice of the Holy Spirit in their spirit.

In John 11 Jesus received the news that Lazarus was sick. Two days later Jesus said to His disciples, "`Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.' The disciples then said to Him, `Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.'" (vv.11-12) Jesus equated death with sleep. Even as in sleep a person is unconscious of his surroundings, so in death a person is unconscious of God.

When they arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had already been in the grave for four days. An interesting conversation took place between Martha and Jesus upon His arrival. "Martha then said to Jesus, `Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give you.' Jesus said to her, `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; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?'" (vv.21-26)

Very gently Jesus dismissed and negated the popular myth that the resurrection was in the last day, by saying, "I am the resurrection." Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. He was the resurrection when He spoke to Martha, He is the resurrection today, and He will always be the resurrection!

How does this knowledge affect our thinking? Since He is the resurrection, it cannot be a historical event. Neither can it have anything to do with physical happenings - so it is not the restoration of physical bodies. Christ is spiritual, so resurrection has to be spiritual; it is the spiritual passing from death to life. To receive resurrection we have to be put into Christ! Therefore we cannot receive resurrection apart from Him, for it cannot be separated from Himself.

Resurrection takes place while we are still on planet earth. In Adam all die. Jesus said, "Let the dead bury their dead." Those who are dead in Adam are dead in their trespasses and sins while they are living in the flesh. They are estranged from God; though their bodies are functioning normally, the mind of the flesh is death. So we know that this death is not in the seen realm, but in the unseen spiritual world. This unseen death realm feels like home to those who are living in it, for they have not experienced anything else. Those who are born of the Spirit enter into a new spiritual realm of light, and it becomes home to them - just as it was home for Jesus.

In Acts 26:23 we read "that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles." This light is the light of understanding. Jesus was the first to rise from among the dead. There are about 17 places in the New Testament where, if correctly translated, it says "among the dead." However, most translators have left out the word AMONG.

Jesus was resurrected from among the dead. His baptism was the first demonstration of this. For 30 years He had lived under the law. At the Jordan He received John's baptism of repentance; He was burying the natural man - that sense of self (the ego) that is in the flesh and in the death realm.

Romans 6 tells us that we have been buried with Christ Jesus through baptism. So we know that water is a place of burial. Our old self was crucified with Him; we are buried with Him in baptism, and raised from the dead so that we might walk in the newness of life - just like He did. Our old self is our ego - the sense of being that is rooted in the ME! In baptism we demonstrate our identification with the things Jesus did - we express our faith in the knowledge that the old self - the ego sense of being that is in our old soul - is dead, and we are ready to bury it. This is called repentance.

It is interesting to note that Jesus received the anointing of the Spirit when He came out of the Jordan River - not before His baptism or during His baptism, but after He had been baptized. This tells us that baptism not only symbolizes death and burial, but also resurrection!

Paul explains this in Col. 2:12, "Having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead." Notice the identification - we have been buried with Him and raised up with Him! It also says this in Rom. 6. Our burial and our rising or our resurrection happens in our baptism.

Ephesians tells us that there is only one baptism. This baptism is the burial of the spiritual death that the natural man is in. To come out of that death we have to be resurrected into life. Since Jesus is the resurrection, He didn't need resurrection. But He lived His life on earth, then died on the cross and appeared again to demonstrate spiritual realities, for they are unseen. Spiritual realities are permanent. Jesus Christ's body was temporal. We will see later that some of the things He did were simply a demonstration or manifestation to humanity of things that can only be seen in the Spirit.

There is a faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. (Jude 3) We are to live according to the faith of Jesus. Paul said, "...and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God..." (Gal. 2:20) We can't acquire this kind of faith; it has to come by hearing the word of God - by hearing the word God speaks to us. That is how we get faith. Faith is the evidence of things we don't see. This faith cannot be seen by people, but it will become evident.

In a sense Jesus identified with the human nature which is dead in Adam, because He went to be baptized as the last Adam. This was death to the old Adam because he was buried, and the new man who was raised up got the anointing. Peter confirms this in Acts 2 when, in His Spirit-filled message, he preached repentance and baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus to receive the remission of sins! This makes us new creatures! Then we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit - the anointing!

This is the way it happened to Jesus, and He is the way! After He was baptized, the Spirit came upon Him in the form of a dove. Although this happened to Jesus in His spirit, it was presented visually, so humanity would know that this had happened. After being anointed with the Spirit, the heavens were opened to Him, and He heard God say, "You are My beloved Son." Since this sequence was experienced by Jesus Christ - and He is our example - it must also be our way of entering into spiritual things. Just as He entered in through death and resurrection, so do we!

Resurrection cannot take place without a death having occurred. The death Jesus experienced was a death to sin. (Rom. 6:10) That is why He never sinned. He identified with humanity, but He Himself never sinned. In order to live in resurrection, we too have to experience the same death to sin. We are to identify with Him. We identify with His death, burial and resurrection - we died together with Him, we were buried together with Him, we were raised together with Him, and we are appearing together with Him!

"When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions." (Col. 2:13) He has made us alive together with Him! God has done this for all humanity! God wants us to receive this by faith and hear what He is saying spiritually. We have to surrender our own ideas, and identify with the work of Christ. We know that we have passed from death to life because we have heard the voice of the Son.

Our first identification is with the old man - with our sins and transgressions. Since we have been made a new creation, that is no longer our identification, for we know that he who has been born of God does not sin. This is a very important truth. Now that we are new creatures, we recognize that we have passed from an old sense of understanding into a new one. We are no longer dead in Adam. That death was buried in baptism. God wants us to know that we are no longer living in Adam's death; we have been raised up into a new man, and this new man has received the anointing of the Spirit! Going through baptism without receiving a spiritual realization of this, will not bring us into life!

"Having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." (v.14) The law is always giving us rules and legislating punishments if we don't follow them. But it does not provide us with help, for we do not have the ability to follow the rules. Our recognition of our complete inability to keep the whole law, and our subsequent submission to God, is equated with burial. Then God brings us into resurrection and into the anointing together with Jesus Christ! Christ did none of these things as a separate entity; He did everything as a corporate man - as the Son of Man, and in reliance upon the Father. That is why He is our identification! We have been joined to Him by receiving His Spirit. Through this identification we have the accomplishment of all these things in us! He is our identity NOW!

In Eph. 2:6 it says, "And raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Notice that this takes place in Christ, i.e., in the faith and realization that is in His Spirit! This realization is no longer in death, but in life! As new creatures in Christ, we have become a new image. Because the Son is alive in us, He is also being formed in us; He reproduces Himself in us.

Furthermore, in Eph. 4:24 it says, "And put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth." Our new self is not in the likeness of creation - like Adam's was. It is in the likeness of our Creator; it is created in righteousness and true holiness!

Let's continue with our identification. In Matthew 22 Jesus was talking to the Sadducees - a sect that did not believe in the resurrection. The Sadducees and Pharisees were not a part of the priesthood, and were not anointed to any office. They set themselves up as watchdogs for the priesthood, and thought their religiosity was an example for the commoners to follow. The Sadducees disappeared shortly after the death of Jesus, and the Pharisees disappeared around 70 A.D., or a little later. However, watchdogs are still prevalent in the church today.

In reply to the Sadducees' question about whose wife this woman would be in the resurrection, Jesus said, "You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven." (vv.29-30) In the resurrection there is no male nor female, because in Christ they are one. Male and female are one in Christ; they are the same - there is no difference. That is why they do not marry. Christ is the seed which has the ability to both promise and perform.

In the resurrection we are as angels of God in heaven. Just imagine, when we have been raised together with Him, we are heavenly messengers! We are spiritual messengers! The word EVANGELISM has the word ANGEL incorporated within it. Angels are messengers. Jesus Christ is the great messenger!

"But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: `I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living." (v.31) So Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are already resurrected. Now if you are still in Adam, dead in trespasses and sins, living in the darkness of the natural man and the mind of the flesh, what kind of a God do you have? You have a god of your own imagination; you have a god that is formulated by your desires, your understanding of the Old Testament, by the sermons you have heard, etc. This is your god.

In John 5 Jesus denounced that thinking. He said, "...You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form. You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life...You do not have the love of God in yourselves..." (vv.37-40;42) If they had believed Moses, they would have also believed Jesus, for Moses wrote of Him. (v.46)

"Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?" (1 Cor. 15:12) This is a general resurrection. "But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised...For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised." (vv.13,16) These verses refer to the true realization that God is the One who raises the dead. Verse 18 goes on to say, "Then, those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished." If they cannot be raised up, they perish.

It is interesting to note that the Old Testament saints have already been resurrected. God is a God of the living! He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, so we know that they have already been resurrected and are living in God. On the Mount of Transfiguration we see that Moses and Elijah have also been raised from the dead, for they are there with Jesus! The disciples could only know that through revelation, for they had not seen them before - they hadn't even seen a photo of them! This knowledge had to be revealed to them!

Everything real and spiritual that happened from Adam to the time that Jesus appeared, whether through Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, etc., is summed up in Christ! This was symbolized when Jesus was baptized. A careful study shows that almost all of them were present in the Spirit at His baptism. He became the fulfillment of all the law and the prophets!

"But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming." (vv.20-23) (It should read PRESENCE - not coming)

"Everyone in his own order." Christ is the first fruits of all those who are born of the same incorruptible seed of Christ - they all come from the same seed! "Everyone in his own order" means that those who are in the order of Adam die, and those who are in the order of Christ are made alive. In his own order does not refer to certain groups coming in at certain times. For example, it doesn't mean that a billion Chinese will come in at a certain time, then a billion people from India and Europe, etc.

Let's see what happened when Jesus was on the cross in Matt. 27:50-53, "And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many." This was not a historical demonstration of what happened when Jesus was resurrected, but of who He was as a corporate man. It demonstrated that in the resurrection of Jesus, many bodies, including those of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Elijah, and Moses, came out of the graves. This illustrates our identification with Christ. When Christ Jesus was raised from the dead, many other people were also raised!

We must remember that on the cross, God provided an innocent, enlightened, guiltless Son of God as an offering to man that he might receive Him and become like Him! This is God's purpose for man! However humanity rejected God's provision, and looked for an opportunity to kill Him! They finally took this man Jesus, who only exhibited the love of God and the innocence of a lamb, and put Him on a cross and crucified Him. He was given into the hands of wicked men that we might receive the Spirit of God! God gave His only begotten Son as an offering so that we can receive His Life! This is a demonstration of God's marvellous grace!

Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. People did not have the power to take it from Him. In John 10:17-18 Jesus said, "For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father." Here, as in a number of other instances, the Greek word PSUCHE has been wrongly translated as life; the correct translation is SOUL. It should read that Christ laid down His soul.

Since Jesus lived by the Father, He let the Father have complete control of His soul. The authority to lay down His soul and to take it up again was given Him by the Father! It is important for us to understand that we live by Christ's soul! He gives us His sense of being! Just as Jesus was born of the Father and lived by that sense of being, so we live by His! When God gave Jesus the authority to lay down His soul, He also gave Him the authority to take it up again! There is a great truth here! Living in the power of God's word brings life into that which has been laid down for Him! God raised Him from the dead with that same word that He was living in!

We now have the same Spirit who was in Christ Jesus. He is our guarantee, our assurance that we have passed from death to life even now at this present time. Therefore the grave holds no terror for us. We now have within us the same Spirit that was in Jesus Christ! If our physical life passes away, we know that we will not experience terror or darkness. Physical death has no power over those who are in the body of Christ. Christ's soul has gone through death and into life! So once we are put into His body, we are in Him who has triumphed over death! The Holy Spirit has made us alive in God, and death loses its power in life. Jesus demonstrated this for the purpose of taking away the fear of death from all of us.

I suppose I should say something about the body, because many persuasively teach that the body is going to be resurrected. The scriptures do not really teach that resurrection and the body are bound together. Redemption has to do with the body; resurrection has to do with the spirit. When we are made new creatures in Christ Jesus, we become part of the body of Christ. The body of Christ was there before we were put into it, and it will be there after we have been put into it!

Peter said, "We have been born again." We have been born anew by the word of God which is incorruptible. That word is the same seed that produced Christ; and Christ produced that seed in us. In other words, if we are born of God, we are new creatures in Christ Jesus. We have a new body, a new soul and a new spirit. Our new body is the body of Christ.

1 Cor. 15:38 says, "But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own." And the seed, which is Christ, receives all the inheritance. This seed has born in us the Son of God, the Christ. So we have a new body, which is the body of Christ, and we ARE the body of Christ. We don't need another body. If this tabernacle is dissolved, "we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens!" (2 Cor. 5:1)

This is hard for many to believe because they cannot see it! Let's remember that Paul said, "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Faith is the substance of the things that are hoped for.

I believe that the scriptures conclusively testify to the fact that in the resurrection Jesus Christ was not raised alone. When we understand our identification with Christ, we will have confidence and faith that we have passed from death to life, that we have been raised together with Him, and that we are new creatures in the body of Christ! This gives us a new sense of being! As we hear the voice of the Spirit, we will grow in understanding to see who and what we are! We will see the fulfillment of God's purpose for us in Christ Jesus.

May the Lord bless you! Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding. Amen.

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