The Resurrection of the dead
Chapter Nineteen—And I look for the resurrection of the dead. And the life of the age to come. Amen.
At last we have arrived at the crucial subject of resurrection.
The Goal of Human Life
What is the goal of the human being? Saint Clement of Alexandria and Origen, his great pupil, divided Christians into two types: the somatics, the "fleshly", and the pneumatics, the "spiritual." The classification still holds today, though it may sound a bit snobbish.
The fleshly say that the goal of the human being is to live forever in a perfect human body in a happy realm like the Elysian Fields of the ancient Greeks and Romans (who forced this concept, along with that of everlasting damnation, into Christianity after the "conversion" of Constantine). There, they say, Jesus will be seen seated upon a throne and be praised by "The saved" through endless ages.
The spiritual, on the other hand, say that our goal is to transcend the human condition altogether, rise to the Paradise level, evolve from there to the angelic state, and keep on evolving until we are united with God, becoming light in God's Light, passing beyond all name and form and living God's own life—to be god with God. We and God shall be ONE forever without possibility of separation or falling away.1
The Great Gulf
There shall always be a great gulf between those for whom God is an object to be perceived with "spiritualized" senses (but who never do so perceive) and the mystics who directly and subjectively perceive God within their spirits as part of their own life.
Christ came to deliver us from the world. He said that He had overcome the world,2 and thereby was enabling us to reascend to Paradise where He would Himself receive us.3 This is the true Gospel of Christ. The goal is spiritual, not material. Indeed it cannot be otherwise, however much we might desire a material embodiment, for the Scriptures clearly state: "All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll."4 "The heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up."5 Saint Peter goes on to exhort us to shape our lives according to an acute awareness of the divinely- ordained dissolution of the entire creation.6 Everything will be melted down into the vast, original cosmic soup. Any other teaching is simply not Christian.
Saint Gregory Of Nyssa
When the wording of the Creed was finalized, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, one of the greatest mystics of the Church, almost single-handedly settled what it would be. The original Nicene Creed said nothing at all about any kind of "resurrection." Fortunately, through the influence of Saint Gregory, the expression "resurrection of the body," which had been put into earlier professions of faith by the fleshly-minded, was changed to: "I look for the resurrection of the dead."
But what exactly does it mean to be "dead"? The Lord Jesus said: "This is eternal life: to know"—not to go to heaven and play on harps forever, but to know God. In other words, "life" is knowing, it is being conscious. To be dead, on the other hand, is to be unconscious. And the life which Christ came to bestow on us is the consciousness of God which comes from our perfect union with Him, in which we are no longer two but one. Until then we are dead, whether on the earth or in the invisible worlds. And our bodies are tombs in which our spirits lie asleep, awaiting the glory of spiritual resurrection.
The "Christianity" of the flesh cannot impart the life of the spirit and awaken in us the direct consciousness of spirit in union with Spirit, so it promises us our body, instead. It tells us that the body is to be resurrected to live forever, mistaking resuscitation for resurrection.
The Greek term translated "resurrection" is anastasis, which literally means "standing up" in the sense of rising up. This particular term was used by the New Testament authors because of the question in Ecclesiastes 3:21: "Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward?" That is, when the body dies it falls to earth and becomes one with the earth, whereas the spirit, if unhampered, rises upward to subtler worlds, usually to prepare for further earthly incarnations.
It is stated in the Gospels that the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, but that the Pharisees did. This is not referring to a future condition of the body but to the question of the immortality of the spirit. The Sadducees taught that physical death terminated the existence of the individual person—nothing remained to live on. The Pharisees, however, taught that when the body "died" the spirit arose, "stood up," out of the body and went before God for judgment. And that is all it meant. Only in latter times did the fleshly ones come up with the idea that we will all rise out of the grave in our bodies at the end of time and be physical beings for eternity—for ever and ever throughout the ages.
At the time the wording of the Creed was settled, the fleshly believed in the resurrection of the body and the spiritual believed in resurrection from the body. They are not the same!
The "standing up of the dead," the rising of the dead, is the breaking of the bonds of time and space, becoming freed from the prison of ego and alive to our true nature as spirit and to our eternal relationship to Christ. For Christianity is not a religion only, it is a state of consciousness. As Saint Paul says: "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light."7
This is Saint Paul's concept of the resurrection. When he talks elsewhere about the trumpet sounding and the dead rising,8 he is speaking of mystical experiences. So also are the descriptions in the book of Revelation of "things which must shortly come to pass."9 This very phrase shows that the Evangelist was not speaking of long-range world prophecies, although many exoterics with their "prophecy charts" try to prove that virtually none of Revelation has been fulfilled after nearly two thousand years, but that it is all going to come about in the future as political predictions—not even dealing with religion. The totally humanistic, material, and political nature of their interpretations reflect their fleshly consciousness—a consciousness at variance with that of Saint John. The Bible must be read with the eyes of the spirit, not with the eyes of the flesh.
We also have descriptions given by the Lord Jesus about the "coming" of the Son of Man in glory when the Apostles asked: "What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?"10 The Greek term translated "World" is actually "Age"—aeon. Aeon has a double meaning: a great span of time and a level of creation. This is referred to in the Creed by "The life of the age to come." Here aeon means a realm of existence. According to original Christian cosmology, God has emanated many aeons in which intelligent beings dwell according to their state of evolution. Referring to this the Lord said: "In my Father's house are many mansions." Metaphysicians speak of the "earth plane," the "Astral plane," etc., which is also correct.
Therefore the disciples were asking about when their sojourn in this aeon would come to an end and they would rise (resurrect) to Paradise from which Adam fell, leaving material bondage behind forever.11 They wanted to know what the signs were which indicated their attainment of the great freedom from earthly birth and death. The answer the Lord gives them is, like that of Revelation, a symbolic description of the transmutation of the human to the divine. It has absolutely nothing to do with the history or the future of the world. This is made clear by His statement: "Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." All those who heard His words have certainly died, so we can only conclude that Jesus was either wrong or that He was not making a prediction of an external coming to an external world. (There is a theory that Saint John the beloved Apostle never died and is still on the earth somewhere, but he himself denied this.12)
The only sensible conclusion is that the Lord was speaking mystically. This is further reinforced by His saying: "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled."13 He confirmed that He was not speaking of an external "coming" when He said: "Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not."14 Yet such nonsense is being spoken today, and the fleshly flock to hear it and chew their nails worrying over "The Antichrist" and "The Beast" instead of working out their salvation.
The "Coming" Of Christ
"Coming" is a translation of the word parousia, which really means "presence." There are two "presences" of Jesus Christ. The first Presence is external in the form of His physical, incarnate presence in the world, two thousand years ago, and His second Presence is His appearing in the depths of the individual spirit when He becomes one with it. The entire purpose of His first Presence was/is to accomplish this second Presence within us. And this is what it is to be "resurrected unto life." For this reason it is essential to understand that being alive is the condition of being "god with God," and to be anything else is to be dead. Thus, St. Paul refers to those who are striving to attain true resurrection as "All them that love his appearing."15 The truly wise seek after union with God with a loving heart, yearning to live in and unto God alone. That is salvation, the goal of all conscious beings.
The resurrection of the dead is the enlightenment of the spirit and its consequent freedom from the bondage of death and sin—which are conditions, not acts. The sensory and intellectual experiences which we consider "life" are actually the barrier, the painted curtain between us and real life. But we can arise from this like the Prodigal Son and go back to the Father through the processes which Christ and the Apostles gave us. This is particularly true of meditation, for when we silence the senses, mind, and intellect—not by controlling them, but by transcending them and going beyond them— we will discover Christ and His Father already present within us.16 When we go beyond the false "knowing" of the mind we can enter into the real knowing of the spirit. Then we can say: "I found Him Whom my soul loveth."17
Resurrection of the dead is deification (theosis), attaining to divinity. By this we do not mean that we become the Lord Himself, the Source of life, but rather that we are reestablished in our original status as parts or "rays" of His divine life. This is of course a great mystery—the same as that of the Incarnation. It is totally inconceivable as to how we can be a part of God Who is a perfectly unitary Being without parts (through existing in Trinity!). Yet it is so according to the Scriptures and the witness of two millennia of saints. That we are meant to be "gods with God," the Lord Jesus made clear to His adversaries—who objected to His affirmation of His own deification—when He quoted: "I have said, Ye are gods."18
The Lord wept at the tomb of Lazarus19 because He was Adam, the Father of the human race in this creation cycle, who by his transgression had brought death to Lazarus and us all.20 Therefore He wept over the entire human race which He had plunged into death. Beholding the results of His own disobedience, grief overwhelmed Him. Not for Him was the false comfort of: "Well, it must be the will of God." He knew that indeed it was not the will of God but His own disobedient will that had brought death into the world. It was an awesome realization, terrible to His spirit.
A Significant Word
It is significant that the Creed does not say: "I believe in the resurrection of the dead," but: "I look for" it. It is not enough to believe the propositions of the Creed. We must reach forward to the practical realization and demonstration of them in our own lives.21 "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus," 22 said Saint Paul. To look for the resurrection of the dead is to desire and strive for our resurrection in—and into—Christ. Such a resurrection is a restoration back into Paradise, as He told the Apostles: "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."23 And He promised the thief: "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise."24 It is a resurrection unto life, free forever from birth and death and the bonds of limited physical embodiment, which was but a stage in the process of our return to God.
This is possible only through Christ, Who assured His disciples: "I have overcome the world."25 That is, He had conquered the power of the world which had bound human beings perpetually to the cycle of recurrent birth and death. Just as a planet keeps its moons circling around it through the pull of its gravitation, so the earth kept the spirits of all beings trapped in its orbit, subject to constant return through the law of "sowing and reaping," 26 which is called midah keneged midah ("measure for measure") in Judaism and karma by the Hindus and Buddhists.
Christ broke the bonds of "death," of continual imprisonment in human embodiment, and gave us the power to do the same. He did not do it for us, but instead stated: "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out."27 That is, if we receive Him into the depths of our being He shall empower us to break the spiritual gravity of earth and earthly consciousness so that we shall no longer "go out" from before the face of God through reincarnation. Even clearer: "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne." We, too, must in our own flesh conquer "The body of sin"28 which is ignorance and evil. This cannot be done on our own, of course, but must be done through Christ— specifically through the inner life imparted and sustained by meditation. But if we shall so do, then we shall sit with Him in His throne.
The Throne Of Christ
In oriental countries kings did not sit on gilded chairs as in the West, but sat cross-legged on thrones that were shallow, topless boxes of gold or silver with cushions and ornate backs. Usually they were quite large and could accommodate more than one person. If a king wished to strongly affirm the succession to the throne he would have his heir sit with him in the throne as he conducted state business. This is why the original Greek says: "In My throne." And the throne of Christ is His Divinity, His own status and being as the Only-begotten of the Father.
We shall literally participate in the omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence of Jesus Christ. We, too, shall be Christs, as our name "Christian" implies. And "Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father;...that God may be all in all."29 That is, we shall transcend even the state of Christhood and pass into the state of Godhood, a state of ineffable non-duality in which God will be ALL, and "In all" of us, as well. There shall be perfect union, eternal unity, without annihilation of our existence. In one sense, there shall be God alone, and in another sense, "so shall we ever be with the Lord."30
Certainly this state is not to be confused with the concept of "unity" set forth in contemporary monistic philosophy wherein the individual ceases to exist at all, but undergoes a total merging and cessation of individuality, the individuality having supposedly never been anything more than an illusion. In Christian mysticism we say that the experience of separation from God is an illusion,31 but our existence as individual consciousnesses within the Bosom of the Father has been from eternity in a way that can only be recognized as a mystery to our earthbound understandings. But in eternity, back in our Source, we shall know as we are known,32 with the totality of knowledge and being.
We can see from all this that the ultimate meaning of "The resurrection from the dead" is our reascension to Divinity. And it is possible even in this life. "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation."33
The Final Phrase
The final phrase of the Creed is: "And the life of the age to come." We have already discussed the correct meaning of aeon, which is translated "Age," as a realm of existence. And we have already seen that in the Creed the term "life" means consciousness, the essential state of being. When we resurrect from the dead, when our consciousness is awakened by being illumined by Christ, we are enabled to arise from the earthly aeon into the aeon of Paradise, whose true life is that of conscious consciousness—that is, full self- awareness of ourselves as individual, immortal, spiritual entities.
But there is a higher level, "The Aeon of aeons," from Which all aeons have emanated and Which is God Himself. We also call this state of being "Eternity," which is not time without end, but rather is the actual Being of God. This is the Aeon Whose Life we must aspire toward, even after regaining Paradise. In the seventeenth chapter of Saint John, the Lord Jesus reveals the possibility of this higher, divine life when He says: "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God."
Eternal life, "The life of the age to come," is not an introverted consciousness confined to awareness of our individual existence as a seemingly separate entity from God—which is a delusion—but it is awareness of God, within Whom we have our being.34 More: it is intimate knowing of God in the Biblical sense of thorough knowledge through total union with Him.
We shall not just know ourselves, we shall know God as the Self of our self through active, conscious participation in the infinite Life of the Divine. As the wave lives in the ocean and has no existence apart from the ocean, so shall we be. Now the wave can neither say: "I am different from the ocean, separate and independent, another entity altogether," nor can it say: "I am myself the ocean," in the sense of the totality. But it can indeed say: "I am a part of the ocean from which I draw my existence, and with which I am essentially and irrevocably one."
The great non-dual philosopher of India, Adi Shankaracharya, wrote in one of his hymns: "O Lord, though in essence there is no difference between us, I cannot say that Thou belongest to me. Rather, I belong to Thee. For the wave cannot say: 'I am the ocean.' But the ocean can say: 'I am the wave.'" In this way God can say: "There is none else beside Me," 35 and yet not deny our existence which is encompassed by His Existence. Such a truth can only be a mystery until we ascend to that state where we shall know as we are known. In the depths of our own beings we shall behold God Who beholds us in the depths of His Being. We shall be at the heart of God, and God shall be at the heart of us in unending vision. "My beloved is mine, and I am his."36 Or, even more correctly: "My beloved is me, and I am Him."
A Greater Goal
Though the Lord Jesus did indeed open Paradise to us, He has prepared an even higher place for us—His throne of divinity which we have already discussed. Our final resting place at the end of our pilgrimage of traversing all the levels of Being and Consciousness (aeons) that exist, shall be in the Bosom of the Father—nothing less. For He told the Apostles: "Where I am, there ye may be also."37 He did not say: "Where I shall be," but "Where I am." And where was that? In the Bosom of the Father from eternity.38 Having ascended back to the Divine Origin, making Himself "The firstfruits of them that slept," 39 the "firstborn from the dead," 40 He returned to awaken us, to resurrect us into His own Life which was also ours by nature through divine grace.
The Christian Gnosis looks not to the fleeting, illusory life of this world, "for the fashion of this world passeth away."41 Actually, the word translated "fashion" here is schema, which in this context means its English derivative "scene"—as in a play. A literal translation of the verse is: "For the scene of this world is passing by," in the sense that a scene in a play is at every moment "going on," evaporating into the ether, having no abiding substance. For this reason the Christian watches and waits for the Master's appearing, keeping his lamp trimmed and burning, possessing his soul in patience.42
Just as we cannot enter the ocean at whim and walk around on the ocean floor breathing water, so we cannot enter into "The life of the age to come" without preparation. While yet in this world we must accustom ourselves to the ways of Paradise and Eternity. Even in this life, we must be transmuted through our continuous practice of meditation. Although we utilize some external means, that transmutation must be a fundamentally interior process, for "The kingdom of God is within."43 So also, then, must be "The life of the age to come."
Through meditation, especially, we learn to live both in this world of time-space and in eternity, which transcends time and space. This was the purpose of the Incarnation. In Christ Jesus time and eternity were fused, and we become assumed unto Him and begin to live as He lived, eventually becoming exactly What He was. Do we remain ourselves, then? In truth, there is no other way to be ourselves than this. This is why the Lord Jesus said that only if we would "lose" our life would we be able to"find"It.44 For outside of God we have no life.
The Last Word
We always conclude a recitation of the Creed with "Amen," a Hebrew term meaning both "This is true" and "so be it." By using this word in its first meaning we seal the Creed with our declaration that it is indeed true for us, that our repetition has not been mindless rote.
But the second meaning opens a new vista for us. Since everything stated in the Creed is an established fact, rather than a hope or speculation of the future, why would we say: "so be it," as though it were something yet to be fulfilled? Here, too, we have a dual meaning. First, we express our aspiration that one day it may be so to us, that we shall truly know all the propositions of the Creed as true through our own direct spiritual experience. The second meaning is more profound, expressing the hope that the propositions of the Creed may be realized and manifested within us, the microcosm, as they are within the universal macrocosm. Let us briefly consider the Creedal statements in this context.
The Interior Creed
By reciting the Creed with full intent I affirm my aspiration that one day I shall fully know both who and what this "I" is which has been called to "Believe." That is, may I come to full self-knowledge in the "one God" Whom I shall know as the "maker" of all within me, both "of heaven and earth, and of all things" which comprise my being, both the "visible and invisible."
May this awakening come through my perfect communion with the "one Lord, Jesus Christ" Who effects my union with "The Only-begotten Son of God," just as He Himself is one with the Only-begotten, revealing to me that we were both "Begotten of the Father before all ages," and are therefore His alone, eternal and immortal. That I myself, as is He, am "light from Light, true God from true God." I, too, am part of the Father's transcendent Being, and therefore "Begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father." And, reflecting the power of the Father, there is no other force but my own will "By whom all things were made" in my unfolding life.
Since I am now trapped in the illusion of human existence, the forgotten knowledge of my own self as the Light of the World, the Christ of God, must be "Born again"45 in me "By the Holy Spirit" to effect my salvation. Not without struggle, without "crucifixion," suffering, and "Burial" can this be done. But, when the process is completed I shall in truth "rise again and ascend into heaven," taking my rightful place on the divine "right hand" from which I shall indeed, with Christ Jesus, be revealed from the heaven of illumined consciousness, purifying myself as He is pure through my empowerment "to judge the living and the dead" within my own being. Having done so, I shall enter into the "kingdom" which shall have "no end."
All this transmutation shall take place through the divine alchemy of "The Holy Spirit, the Lady and Giver of Life," Who, by me in my inmost being, "together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified," so that She "Who spoke by the prophets" may live and speak in me, as the Lord Jesus promised.46 Through Her I am made a living stone47 in the "one holy, catholic and apostolic Church," and enabled to be one, no longer at variance with myself and God, holy in my thought, will, and life, and catholic (kata holos), containing the whole of the divine life as my own.
Thereby I am enabled to attain the "one baptism for the remission of sins" which is an unreserved plunging (baptizo) into the boundless ocean of God's Light so that, dead forever unto ignorance and its product, sin,48 I may rise unto "The resurrection of the dead" and be established forever in God Who is Himself the Spirit of my spirit "And the life of the age to come."
And now our esoteric consideration of the Creed is ended. As the Apostles have counseled us in their Constitutions: "Meditate on these things, brethren, and the Lord be with you upon earth and in the kingdom of His Father, Who both sent Him and hath delivered us by Him from the bondage of corruption into His glorious liberty, and hath promised life to those who through Him have believed in the God of the whole world. Amen."
The Resurrection of the dead - by Swami Nirmalananda Giri
1)"Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." (I John 3:9)
2) John 16:33; Revelation 3:21
3) John 14:3
4) Isaiah 34:4
5) II Peter 3:10
6)"Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness." (II Peter 3:11)
7) Ephesians 5:14
8) I Corinthians 15:52; I Thessalonians 4:16
9) Revelation 1:1
10) Matthew 24:3
11) Robe of Light considers these matters in detail.
12)"Peter seeing him [Saint John] saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" (John 21:21-23)
13) Matthew 24:34
14) Matthew 24:23
15) II Timothy 4:8
16)"Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." (John 14:23)
17) Song of Solomon 3:4
18) Psalm 82:6,7
19) John 11:35
20) See Robe of Light.
21) Matthew 11:12; I Timothy 6:12,19
22) Philippians 3:14
23) John 14:2,3
24) Luke 23:43
25) John 16:33
26) Galatians 6:7
27) Revelation 3:12
28) Romans 6:6
29) I Corinthians 15:24,28
30) I Thessalonians 4:17
31)"Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee." (Psalm 139:7-12)
32)"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (I Corinthians 13:12)
33) II Corinthians 6:2
34)"God...giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;...and hath determined...that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring." (Acts 17:24- 28)
35) Isaiah 47:8,10
36) Song of Solomon 2:16
37) John 14:3
38)"No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." (John 1:18)
39) I Corinthians 15:20
40) Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5
41) I Corinthians 7:31
42) Luke 21:19
43) Luke 17:21
44) Luke 17:33
45) John 3:3. Another meaning is: "Born from above."
46)"Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." (John 14:17)
47)"Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." (I Peter 2:5)
48)"How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" (Romans 6:2)
Disclaimer: Our material may be copied, printed and distributed by referring to this site. This site also contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the education and research provisions of "fair use" in an effort to advance freedom of inquiry for a better understanding of religious, spiritual and inter-faith issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than "fair use" you must request permission from the copyright owner.