From Death to Life

Ezekiel 37 presents the return from exile as a resurrection, a transition from death to life.

This only makes sense because Adam was warned that, if he ate from the forbidden tree, he would die that same day. The same day they ate of it, Adam and Eve were driven from the Sanctuary and the Land. Exile is death. Return from exile is resurrection. It is all geographical and spatial.

But if we think about Ezekiel 37 some more we realize that it must be chronological as well. Most Jews never returned to live in the Promised Land. They prayed for it and supported the rebuilding the Temple but much of the foreign population in the empire stayed that way and grew there. They were supposed to. The “missionary” journeys of Paul recorded in Acts would never have been possible otherwise. This was the greatest covenantal arrangement before Jesus came. David and Solomon never sponsored the construction of synagogues in Corinth, or Antioch, or Rome. That happened during the age of Empires. Judaism became an international religion.

So, for most Jews, learning of the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy of resurrection marked a new period in history more than a new location in the world.

They were all dead in Babylon or Susa or elsewhere. And then they learned the glorious news that they had been raised from the dead. The temple was rebuilt. The sacrifices were re-established. The age of new life had begun.

In many cases, they had to believe this by faith because their circumstances probably did not instantly change. They were still “exiles” dealing with their problems in the world. Many had received blessings in their foreign homes and did not see a dramatic improvement in them after hearing of the rebuilt Temple.  But, according to the Word of God, they were no longer “dead” in exile, but “alive” in a new Temple administration. Hopefully they were encouraged. Hopefully some who had slid into compromise with local gods repented and returned to devotion to the God who had fulfilled his promises. Hopefully they became better witnesses to convert the pagans around them to the true God.

So it should not surprise us that Paul describes the death and resurrection and ascension of Jesus as our own resurrection. Paul is not describing personal conversion from unbelief in Ephesians 2.1-7, but the meaning of the resurrection of Jesus. It was a world revolution in history.

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