While defending his teaching as a prisoner bound for Rome, the apostle Paul asked King Herod Agrippa II, “Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:8).
We could well ask the same question of the intelligentsia in our modern, secular age. Disbelief in the Bible is rife among our intellectual and media establishment. Few either know or understand what God’s plan is for humanity and how the resurrection fits into His overall purpose.
When talking to Agrippa, it’s clear from the context that Paul had the resurrection of Jesus Christ foremost in mind. Especially during the Church’s early period, preaching Christ’s resurrection was a crucial part of the apostles’ message. One of the reasons another apostle had to be chosen to replace Judas Iscariot was that “one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection” (Acts 1:22, emphasis added throughout). Notice that “with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 4:33).
Having personally seen and talked with the resurrected Christ (1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:8; Acts 22:6-10), Paul carried on, enthusiastically confirming the fact of Jesus’ resurrection. He further told Agrippa, “To this day I stand, witnessingboth to small and great . . . that the Christ [the Messiah] would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead” (Acts 26:22-23).
Note that the unmistakable implication from this passage is that others would follow.
The resurrection of God’s firstfruits
God uses the analogy of Israel’s agricultural harvests to illustrate important aspects of His plan of salvation—the “harvesting” of mankind, in a sense, in which the resurrection of the dead plays a major role. Aspects of this plan are pictured by specific annual festivals and Holy Days, which in turn represent harvest times in ancient Israel . (To understand more fully the links between the harvests, Holy Days and the plan of God, download or request our free booklet God’s Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind. )
“Firstfruits” is a term used to denote the first part of the harvest. This part was considered holy. As God’s people, truly converted Christians are considered firstfruits of God’s spiritual harvest (James 1:18).
Jesus is the first of the firstfruits—the most holy part. “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep[in death]” (1 Corinthians 15:20). The apostle Paul explained that Jesus is “the firstborn over all creation,” “the firstborn from the dead” and “the firstborn among many brethren” (Colossians 1:15, 18; Romans 8:29). Clearly others would follow in due time.
The Bible is speaking here of a resurrection to everlasting life as a spirit being— not simply a temporary restoration to life in a physical body. In several places in the Bible individuals were restored to physical life prior to the resurrection of Jesus. But they all died again.