According to the book of Hebrews, the resurrection of the dead was considered to be one of the “elementary principles of Christ”, and was a foundational doctrine among First Century believers.
“Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.” (Hebrews 6:1-3)
The writer of Hebrews seems to indicate that these things are so basic and fundamental that he did not see the need in “laying again the foundation”. Unfortunately, it seems that the doctrine of “the resurrection of the dead” is no longer a fundamental teaching among believers. Today, popular teachings about eternal life center around heaven, rather than the hope we have in the resurrection.
Nearly all Christians are aware of the resurrection of Yeshua, but they have little or no knowledge about their own resurrection. In fact, a great number of preachers and teachers have no understanding whatsoever about the resurrection of the dead, which is why they are incapable of teaching their congregations this elementary principle of Christ.
The more I study the resurrection, the more I am convinced of its importance to the Gospel message. In fact, I firmly believe that without the resurrection we have no Gospel.
“For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” (1 Corinthians 15:16-17)
Anyone who preaches the Gospel without speaking of the resurrection of the dead is preaching an empty gospel, and according to Paul, their “faith is futile”.
The resurrection should be one of the very first things we learn when we begin following Yeshua, that is why the Bible says it is an “elementary principle”. By definition, elementary principles pertain to first things, these are the simple things that you learn first before moving on to more difficult subjects. It is the starting point and foundation for building your understanding of other subjects.
It was also considered a fundamental doctrine among the Jewish people, who had understood it for centuries prior. A fact that can easily be extrapolated from the dialogue between Yeshua and Martha concerning the death of Lazarus, when she makes a matter-of-fact statement about the “resurrection at the last day”.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to Him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’” (John 11:23)
Martha apparently had no idea that Yeshua was about to raise her brother from the dead, and it seems that she simply thought He was trying to comfort her, by reminding her of the resurrection at the end of the age. This was obviously not new information to her, as she seemed very familiar with the concept. However, she was in for a surprise when Yeshua called Lazarus up from the grave, and she witnessed firsthand the power He has over death itself.
We know from other passages in the Bible that there were mixed views about the resurrection. The Pharisees, who represented the orthodox view, held to the belief in the resurrection of the dead, but the Sadducees were in opposition to it.
“For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection–and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both.” (Acts 23:8)
The controversy between Pharisees and Sadducees over the resurrection of the dead is a topic that repeats several times throughout the Gospels and Acts, and it is one of the things we know for sure that Yeshua and His disciples agreed with the Pharisees about.
I think it is time for us to make “the resurrection of the dead” a foundational teaching once again, so we can UNLEARN the lies we have inherited.