M. Jeff Brannon, The Hope of Life After Death: A Biblical Theology of Resurrection

Brannon, M. Jeff. The Hope of Life After Death: A Biblical Theology of Resurrection. ESBT; IVP Academic, 2023. xii+185 pp. Pb. $24.00   Link to IVP Academic  

Brannon is a professor of biblical studies and chair of the biblical studies at Belhaven University. His Ph.D. dissertation (written under Larry Hurtado) was published as The Heavenlies in Ephesians: A Lexical, Exegetical, and Conceptual Analysis (LNTS; Bloomsbury, 2011). The Hope of Life after Death develops some of those insights by examining the idea of resurrection throughout the canon of scripture.


Brannon begins by observing that the resurrection gets less attention than the atonement. Most studies on the resurrection are apologetic or historical in nature. In addition, most focus on only parts of Scripture, primarily the Pauline letters. But resurrection is an essential and central doctrine throughout the canon. Brannon argues that the hope of the resurrection is inextricably linked with the biblical theology themes of creation and redemption. Resurrection is, therefore, not a peripheral doctrine but an indispensable element of God’s plan of redemption. Moreover, Christian hope in bodily resurrection distinguishes Christianity from other religions and worldviews. Other than Judaism and Christianity, bodily resurrection is not found in other religions. In the Bible, death is the enemy of God and humanity, and in the end, death will be defeated.

In treating the Old Testament, he argues that God created humans to live, but the fall introduces death. Beginning with this observation, Brannon tracks an unfolding promise in the Pentateuch and historical books that God will “crush the head of the serpent.” There is not much in the historical books, so he moves on to the poetry books, including Job 19:25-27, the Psalms, Isaiah 25:6-8, the Servant Songs, and Ezekiel’s Valley of the Dry Bones. He finishes Daniel 12:1-3 (the only passage usually cited as implying resurrection in the Old Testament).

The trouble with many of these examples is separating national resurrection from personal bodily resurrection. He admits that “at face value, it does not seem reasonable Ezekiel has in mind a future bodily resurrection” (86, note 17). Nevertheless, he sees Ezekiel’s vision as a national and spiritual resurrection metaphor. Brannon does this by connecting the Dry Bones vision to Ezekiel 36-37 and then connecting that passage to new creation language. For Brannon, new creation includes the physical resurrection (82). All kingdom language fulfills the “crushing of the head.”

There is a methodological flaw built into biblical theology studies like the ESBT. In this case, by limiting the study to the biblical canon, Brannon misses the development of Jewish eschatological resurrection through the Intertestamental period. There is a great deal of development of resurrection theology between Daniel 12:1-3 and the New Testament. He is clearly aware of this data since he cites N. T. Wright’s Resurrection of the Son of God extensively. Still, the constraints of the series prevent any examination of Apocrypha and pseudepigrapha in this study.

After surveying the Old Testament data, chapters 6-7 move into Jesus’s life, ministry, and death. Following N. T. Wright, Brannon argues that the resurrection is a vindication of the son of God and proof that Jesus was, in fact, the Messiah. Using Pauline language, Jesus’s resurrection demonstrates that he is the second Adam (Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22). The ascension is the enthronement of Jesus as the Messiah when he begins his rule from God’s throne (Psalm 2).

Chapter 8 discusses the church as the resurrected people of God, already participating in an eschatological life. Yet that life is still yet to be consummated even though the new age of the Spirit has already begun.  Chapter 9 develops the “not-yet” aspect of the resurrection. Reading Revelation 20 as an amillennialist (149 note 4), Brannon sees this chapter as a picture of believers in the intermediate state. The final resurrection is a bodily resurrection to the eternal state (the new creation). As a fulfillment of Genesis 1:28, believers live in the new creation in real, spiritual bodies. Jesus’s body is the pattern: he had a real body, spiritual and incorruptible.

Here is a completely non-academic observation about Brannon’s book. He uses song quotes at the beginning of his chapters, starting with Buddy and Julie Miller in the introduction, and even Steve Winwood makes an appearance. I am not sure you will ever read this, Jeff, but you have great taste in music!

Conclusion: The Hope of Life After Death is an excellent introduction to the doctrine of bodily resurrection. The book is written with the layperson in mind. There is minimal technical language, and Brannon always keeps the application of resurrection theology in mind.


Other reviewed commentaries in Essentials of Biblical Theology series:


NB: Thanks to IVP Academic for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.




One thought on “M. Jeff Brannon, The Hope of Life After Death: A Biblical Theology of Resurrection

Leave a Reply