Our Basis Of Doctrine: Part 13 - The Resurrection of the Body
This is an ongoing series of blog posts in which we provide a brief overview of our church’s Basis of Doctrine as set out in the Church Constitution, by defining, explaining and proving from Scripture the various doctrines expressed. This is not meant to be an exhaustive study, so there is much that won’t be stated or defended. Click here to view our Basis of Doctrine.
The resurrection of the body.
Resurrection - to bring back to life
First Corinthians 15 is the definitive chapter on the subject of resurrection. There Paul severely rebukes anyone who would doubt or question it: “But someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?’” To which Paul responds, “You foolish person!” (1 Corinthians 15:35–36). That is one of the most caustic retorts in all the Pauline writings. But in Paul’s estimation, this doctrine is fundamental. To deny an actual, physical resurrection is to embrace something other than genuine Christianity: “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:16–17).
God made human beings body and soul together. He “formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7). We consist of an inner self and an outer self (2 Corinthians 4:16). Therefore our ultimate perfection demands that both body and soul be renewed. Even the creation of a new heaven and earth demands that we have bodies—a physical earth calls for its inhabitants to have physical bodies. An honest approach to Scripture does not permit these realities to be simply spiritualized or allegorized. Eternal life as a mere state of mind would defeat the whole point of many of the promises of Scripture.
Death results in the separation of the body and the soul. Our bodies go to the grave and our spirits go to the Lord. The separation continues until the resurrection: “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28–29). Right now the souls of believers who have died are in heaven. Someday their bodies will be resurrected and joined to their spirits, and they will enjoy the eternal perfection of body and soul.
Similarly, the bodies of unbelievers who have died are in the grave, and their souls are in hell. There will also be a day when the bodies of the ungodly will be raised from the graves and joined to their spirits. They will then stand, body and soul, before the judgment throne of God and will be cast bodily into the lake of fire (cf. Revelation 20:11–15).
Christians need not dread that judgment. There is no possibility of condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). We eagerly await the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23). “For in this [body] we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling” (2 Corinthians 5:2). Precisely what does this mean? Does it imply that we will receive all-new bodies? Will they be anything like our current bodies? Will we look anything like we do now?
First of all, note that our resurrection bodies are our earthly bodies, only glorified. The bodies we receive in the resurrection will have the same qualities as the glorified resurrection body of Christ. “We know that when He appears we shall be like Him“ (1 John 3:2).
Christ’s resurrection body was the same body as before, not a whole new one. After He arose, the tomb was empty. The body itself was resurrected—the very same body, but in a glorified state. The wounds from His crucifixion were still visible (John 20:27). He could be touched and handled—He was not merely an apparition or a phantom (Luke 24:39). He looked human in every regard. He conversed a long time with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and they never once questioned His humanity (Luke 24:13–18). He ate real, earthly food with His friends on another occasion (Luke 24:42–43).
Yet His body also had otherworldly properties. He could pass through solid walls (John 20:19). He could appear in different forms so His identity was not immediately obvious (Mark 16:12). He could suddenly appear out of nowhere (Luke 24:36). And He could ascend directly into heaven in bodily form, with no adverse effect as He went through the atmosphere (Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9)
Our bodies will be exactly like that. They will be real, physical, genuinely human bodies—the very same bodies we have while on this earth—yet wholly perfected and glorified. Second Corinthians 5:1 calls the resurrection body “a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
First Thessalonians 4 describes how the earthly bodies of believers are reunited with their spirits. At the trumpet of God, “the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17).
Paul speaks of this same reality in 1 Corinthians 15:51–52, where he says,
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
Believers who are dead will be united with their perfected bodies; then those who are still alive will be caught up and instantly “changed.” So every Christian still living on the earth when Christ comes will be instantly perfected. And both the living and the dead will have their old bodies made new, glorified.
and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.”
But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.
other than this one thing that I cried out while standing among them: ‘It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day.’”
And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.
(1 Corinthians 6:14)
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.
(1 Corinthians 15:12-13)
knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.
(2 Corinthians 4:14)
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling,
(2 Corinthians 5:1-2)
who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
(1 Thessalonians 4:13-16)
The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.
(2 Timothy 2:11-13)
who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.
(2 Timothy 2:18)
Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.