Covenant Eschatology has always advocated that resurrection was a process that began at the Cross/resurrection of Christ and culminated at his Parousia in 70 C.E. at the resurrection of the dead. In The Cross and the Parousia, Max King explains this process:
... THE CLEAR IMPLICATION IN THE MESSAGE OF CHRIST’S RESURRECTION WAS THE IMMINENCY OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD. IN CHRIST’S RESURRECTION THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF HISTORY (THE OLD AEON OF SIN AND DEATH) HAD COME. THE CONSUMMATION OF THE AGE, WHICH WAS ASSOCIATED WITH THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD AND "THE AGE TO COME," NOW (THROUGH THE CHRIST-EVENT) WAS IN THE PROCESS OF REALIZATION. THE CONCEPT OF “FIRST FRUITS” IMPLIES AN IMMINENCY OF THE HARVEST.
Thus, a major result of Christ’s second coming from the standpoint of eschatology is the completion of the resurrection process - the harvest initiated by the firstfruits.
If we observe Jesus closely after his death on the Cross, we may see a pattern of resurrection that was carefully laid out for the benefit of the first century body of Christ.
Today, when we discuss the resurrection of Christ, it is always in the context of his bodily resurrection from the tomb. However, this grave resurrection was not the end of Christ’s resurrection process.
Acts 1:9 describes the second resurrection of Christ: And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. His ascension into heaven was the end of the process of resurrection for Jesus Christ.
After Jesus emerged from the tomb, he appeared in a body that was seen by the disciple Thomas (John 20:26-27) as having the scars of the crucifixion in his hands and side. Jesus displayed this body that bore the afflictions of the Cross for 40 days (Acts 1:3). It was in this body that he was raised into the heavens.
This “body of Christ” was defined by Jesus at his last Passover meal before his crucifixion. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them saying. This is my body, which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me (Luke 22:19).
In Matt. 26:26 and Mark 14:22, his disciples were invited to eat of his body. Jesus identified the bread at this Passover meal as the unleavened bread that commemorated the Exodus from Egypt. In Deut. 16:3, the unleavened bread is called the “Bread of Affliction” because it identified with the sufferings incurred during the Israelites slavery in Egypt.
It was in this body of affliction that was marked by his sufferings under the Old Covenant legal system that Jesus rose from the tomb on the “morrow after the Sabbath” (Lev. 23:11) as a first fruit offering to God. Compare Lev. 23:10-11 describing the wave offering of the first of the new grain harvest.
Jesus taught and witnessed to his disciples for 40 days in this unleavened, first fruit body and then was raised into the clouds. This process is noted in Eph. 1:20 “….which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.”
This time between his resurrection from the tomb until his ascension may have been the pattern for the first-century church/body of Christ.
First Century Body of Christ
Paul, the apostle, uses all the elements of Christ’s interim body between the Cross and the Ascension to describe the first-century church. He identifies the church as the body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23). They are identified as firstfruits (Rom. 8:23) and also as unleavened (1 Cor. 5:7).
The church is closely associated with Christ’s sufferings both by Paul individually (Col. 1:24) and the body corporately (Phil. 3:10). They were instructed to eat and drink of him until his coming (1 Cor. 11:23-26).
The body of Christ was made up of individual members (1 Cor. 12:27) during the 40-year building process that culminated at the Parousia of Christ in 70 C.E. with the resurrection of the “rest of the dead” (Rev. 20:5) or the final harvest. They were waiting for the redemption of the entire body (Rom. 8:23). During the transition period, they were being placed “in Him” (e.g. Eph. 2:6, 13).
During the 40-year interim period, the first-century church was associated individually with Christ’s death and resurrection from the tomb (Rom.6:3-4), and also with his ascension into heaven (Eph. 2:6). However, it was not until their corporate body, in the image of Christ, was raised into the heavens that the end of the age would come (1 Cor. 15:20-24).
If the time between Christ’s resurrection from the tomb and his ascension into heaven was typology for the first-century church’s resurrection, then their process was complete when they were identified corporately with his ascension in the clouds in 70 C.E. (1 Thess. 1:14-17).
Questions remain for those of us who are researching what doctrines come forward after the Parousia of Christ:
· IS THE BODY OF CHRIST AN ON-GOING ENTITY OR DID IT FULFILL ITS PURPOSE BY COMPLETING THE RESURRECTION PROCESS?
· IF THE PROCESS OF BEING “IN CHRIST” CONTINUES TODAY, IS IT A FIRSTFRUIT CONCEPT?
By presuming that the resurrection process of the church is yet unfinished, are we denying the completed work of Jesus Christ, inagurated at the Cross and consummated through the the destruction of the Jewish temple (Luke 21: 20-22)?
 Max R. King: The Cross and the Parousia, (Writing and Research Ministry/ Parkman Road Church of Christ - Warren, Ohio) pg. 383, http://www.presence.tv/cms/books4.shtml
JoAnne Gerety is a research-associate of the Council on Transmillennialism™ and lives in South New Jersey. Join in us our Forum to discuss her article. Click the link below.