Why does the apostle, Paul, in his defense in Acts 26, starting mid-verse 22 thru 23, refer to Old Testament prophesies saying, "I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring this message of light to his own people and to the gentiles." My question: Why does Paul call Jesus the first to rise from the dead? I ask because Jesus raised others, like Lazarus, from the dead before his own death and resurrection.
Acts 26:22 - 23
ESV - 22 To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: 23 That the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.
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I don't know whether there is any distinction drawn with respect to the Greek words used to express the resurrection of Christ from other individuals whom the Bible records as having been raised from the dead. However, the main difference from a theological perspective (in my opinion) would be that everyone other than Christ who was dead but was brought back to life would die a "natural" death again at some point in the future. Jesus was unique in that, with His resurrection, he became alive eternally, and is no longer subject to dying again (just as will be the case with Christians when they are resurrected at the close of the age when Christ returns in glory). Paul (who saw the risen, ascended, and glorified Christ) made this explicitly clear in Romans 6:9-10. And that justifies the unique sense in which Paul calls Christ "the firstborn from the dead"
The gospels record that Jesus raised three people who had died physical deaths back to life. 1. Jairus' daughter - Mark 9 2. Widow of Nain's son - Luke 7 3. Lazarus, Jesus' friend - John 11 All three had been dead for different amounts of time. Jesus didn't resurrect them, He supernaturally resuscitated them restoring them back to physical life. They would later die again physically. Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection (1 Cor 15:20,23 - Rev 1:5). His mutilated dead body was changed into a glorified living body. He will never die again.
The scriptures record many people coming to life again. The Bible records several accounts of resurrection. Every time a person is raised from the dead, it is a stupendous miracle, showing that the God who is Himself the Source of Life has the ability to give life to whom He will—even after death. The following instances are recorded of people being raised from the dead in the Bible: Three in the Old Testament alone. 1 Kings 17 :17-24 2 Kings 4 :18-37 2 Kings 13; 20-21 Matthew 27 :52-53 Over 500 saints in Jerusalem raised to life to be eyewitnesses of Jesus Christ's Resurrection. Acts 9 : 36-43 Acts 20: 7-12 The resurrection of Jesus is different from the Bible’s other resurrections in a very notable way: Jesus’ resurrection is the first “permanent” resurrection; all the other resurrections in the Bible were “temporary” in that those raised to life were simply returned to their families to continue an earthly existence until they eventually died again. Jesus rose, nevermore to die. So Paul is not incorrect as ascribing Jesus's Resurrection as being the first inasmuch as it is the only permanent one. A true Resurrection will result in an Ascension. Which is the believer's reward.
Jesus was the first to rise from the dead without any help or intervention from another human being. All others coming back from the dead did so through the intercession of Christ or a prophet.
There are two differences in the resurrection of Jesus and resurrections of people before Jesus: 1) He was resurrected with his body 2) He resurrected never to die again. If we judge by taking both differences together at one time then Jesus indeed was the first to rise from dead. 1) People who have a doubt that Moses and Elijah also were resurrected before Jesus... The answer is: Moses did not resurrect with his body and Elijah didn't even die. 2) People who have a doubt about Lazarus or the son of widow for whom Elijah prayed... Yes they were all raised from dead but died again. So we see that Jesus' resurrection was unique and it was the first in that way.. I hope this helps... May God be glorified
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