I recently received a question in the mail from Ernie in St Louis, MO. He asked, “If Moses was raised before Christ, doesn’t this conflict with the concept that Jesus is the first fruits of those who are have fallen asleep? In other words, how could Moses have been resurrected before Jesus Christ?”
The answer to that question is the operative word “if,” because in truth it was Jesus not Moses who was the only person in history to have received a glorified, resurrected body. Others like Lazarus in John 11 was resuscitated and then died again. Only Jesus Christ was resurrected immortal, imperishable and incorruptible.
Moses—like all those who died during the Old Testament era—experienced the presence of the Lord in Abraham’s bosom or in paradise, but still awaits the bodily resurrection, which will occur at the second appearing of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel accounts of the transfiguration of Christ, we see appearances of Moses and Elijah, but there is no reason to think that they had yet received permanent resurrected bodies.
In fact, the object of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is to demonstrate that He is the Lord of Glory, and the transfiguration reveals to the disciples something of the pre-incarnate glory of Jesus Christ, and then to anticipate His coming exaltation. The disciples were called not to marvel at a resurrected Moses but rather to come to grips with the greater reality in the presence of Jesus Christ that the soon to be crucified Messiah was going to be vindicated in resurrection and ascension in glory.
This why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23; “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ the first fruits; then when he comes, those who belong to Him.” Paul is of course echoing what Christ had already said in John 5:28-29, “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear this voice and come out––those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”
We can take this question and relate it to ourselves because when we die, we are going to be absent from the body and present with the Lord. Then we will await a time in which Jesus returns and then our soul will return to our body and our body will be resurrected immortal, imperishable and incorruptible. So Christ is the first fruits and then we too will have what we long for: a new paradise, no longer will the earth groan in travail, it will be liberated from decay, and no longer will we groan in our mortal bodies because then they will be immortal bodies.
In the meantime, Abraham, Moses, everyone who died in the Old Testament, my father who died in 1997 and all those who die prior to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ will await the glorious transformation of their mortal bodies, and we have the first fruits in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior and because He lives, we know we too will live.