Some month’s back a young man came into our area to preach. During his sojourn among us, he preached one evening on the resurrection at the coming of Christ. He declared at this occurrence the bodies of men will be raised. When the preaching was over three preachers and two other brethren approached him asserting he had taught error (I understand one preacher later recanted). Upon hearing of this encounter, I deem it necessary to say a few things about Bible teaching on the subject of the resurrection.
DENYING THE RESURRECTION IS NOT NEW
The resurrection of the body was regarded as ridiculous by Pagans. In reaction to Paul’s great sermon on Mars Hill it is said, “when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked” (Acts 17:32). In addition, some in the church contended that the resurrection was already past causing some of the faithful to fall away from the faith. Paul identified these false teachers by declaring, “Shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrown the faith of some. (II Tim 2:16-18) It is well to note that denying the resurrection was (and is,) profane and vain babblings. It does all of us well to leave babbling to the brook.
The Corinthians converted to Christ (under the preaching of the Apostle Paul) had difficulty with the resurrection due to their Pagan background. They apparently believed that the body of Christ was resurrected, but failed to grasp the truth of the bodily resurrection of the faithful to Him. Fortunately, Paul dealt with the subject in a lengthy way writing what is the longest chapter in any of the epistles, First Corinthians fifteen. The chapter logically divides itself into the following points.
(1) Christ is preached that He rose from the dead, verses 1-11.
(2) If there is no resurrection from the dead, then Christ is not risen, verses 12-19.
(3) But, Christ has been raised, and the dead will likewise be raised, verses 20-34.
(4) The Question and Answer: “just how will the dead be raised?” Verses 35-50.
(5) Through a resurrection, death is swallowed up in victory, verses 51-58.
Paul with this irresistible logic proved the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead by the power of God and from this premise the bodily resurrection from the dead of all men. To deny one is to deny the other and to deny either is to deny all. It is beyond me, why anyone would wish to deny the resurrection of the body, as it is undoubtedly one of the most thrilling and important truths revealed in Scripture. But, as some deny it, shall we allow Paul to answer in his strong language.
Christ Is Preached That He Rose From The Dead
The resurrection of Jesus is based upon: 1st, an appeal to the Scripture. These, although misunderstood by the Jews who failed to search them thoroughly, (Jn. 5:39), teach that the Messiah was to come and die to remove the scarlet sins of men and raise up to intercede for all (I Cor 15:1-4). 2nd, there is the testimony of a multitude of eyewitnesses of Christ’s resurrection. Many of these were still living at the time of his writing (verses 5-11). The empty tomb is proof His body was raised. 3rd, he discussed the absurdity of the opposing view (verses 12-34).
If There Be No Resurrection From The Dead, Then Christ Is Not Risen
“Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead.” (V. 12) Paul points out the inconsistency of the Corinthians. On the one hand, they contended the body of Christ had been raised. On the other hand, they contended the bodies of men will not be raised. Sounds like some of my brethren today. They want the resurrection of Jesus, yet, deny that our bodies will be raised. Notice further, “But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen.” (V. 13)
Paul then reasons further with them from a negative viewpoint. If they insisted that there is no bodily resurrection then certain things would truthfully follow (verses 12-19).
(1) “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” Under Paul’s voice, they had been converted to Christ. They believed Christ was raised up by the preaching they heard and the faith they placed in the empty tomb.
(2) “Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God.” If Christ is not raised up, then Paul and all the Apostles are liars—they testified falsely.
(3) “For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised.” These words cannot be taken out of the Bible. Those contending that the body will not be raised must accept the doctrine of demons that Christ has not been raised up.
(4) If the foregoing is true, “your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” Think about that! If our bodies will not be raised, Christ has not been raised thus; we are sinners—never forgiven.
(5) “Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.” The faithful are faithful for what reason? People claiming to be Jehovah Witnesses’ have not contrived a doctrine more horrifying than that. From the first century Christians down to those we have wept over when they left us, are perished. Away with such a thought! When we place a blossom on the tomb of those we have loved, we are affirming that the tomb in which that body lies will someday blossom as the flowers.
(6) “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” If there is no resurrection then our hope is here and here alone. Why do we then serve the Lord? Why work to further His cause? (V. 58)
There is no denying the fact—Jesus’ body was raised up from the dead. The Apostles and others preached it as the means of salvation. Billions have believed their report and entertained the blessed hope of His coming again to claim us by removing the pangs of death and raising our bodies by loosing the powers of the tomb.
But, Christ Has Been Raised, And The Dead Will Likewise Be Raised
“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.” Paul describes the resurrection of Christ’s body as the “fruitfruits” which is a direct reference to the firstfruit of the harvest, a pledge of the harvest that was to follow (Lev. 23:10). Christ’s resurrection was the early fruit of the eventual harvest of all mankind—a universal resurrection of the dead.
How did the Corinthians understand “the dead will likewise be raised?” They would equate their own resurrection with the resurrection of Christ. When Christ was raised and appeared unto His disciples some did not believe it, even to one of His own chosen ones that was not present when Jesus showed Himself the first time unto the others. The disbeliever demanded proof, said he, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Some days later, Jesus appeared unto them all. At that time He said to the unbeliever, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.” (Jn. 20:25, 27) That is what people of the first century understood by a resurrection—the body—the recognizable body freed from the grave.
Further, when Jesus came to the home of Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus who had died, He told Martha that Lazarus would rise. Note her response, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Mary was called and He asked her to remove the stone covering the cave where they had laid him. She resisted doing it saying, “by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.” (Jn. 11: 24, 39) Mary and Martha knew a resurrection meant the body would be raised. And, so it was, Lazarus body as was Jesus’ body raised.
Again we are informed, “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” (Mt. 27:52-53). The body of these saints was raised and so shall ours be.
The Question And Answer: Just How Will The Dead Be Raised?
Human nature comes out in the Corinthians. When humans do not understand something the first thought and expression is to deny it. They reasoned that the body would go back to the dust from which it came, therefore there is no way that it can be raised. We must be careful lest we imagine difficulties or even impossibilities (which we cannot solve) that quickly disappear where God’s power is concerned. To get the point before them, Paul brings up something they accept but could not understand or explain. “But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not the body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.” (I Cor. 15:35-38) As people living close to the soil, they planted their grain. It was out of sight and would cease to exist (as far as they were concerned). The seed, which was planted, decomposes and then springs forth to a new life, the seed was quickened. The body that came from the seed was recognizable. If we accept the theory that denies the resurrection of our present bodies, then all the grain that is placed in the ground remains there and the sower reaps other grain from some other place bearing no direct relationship to that which was planted. That makes the entire argument of the Apostle futile.
The etymology of the word resurrection should count for something. It is derived from the Latin surgere meaning, “to rise.” Before it is the prefix re meaning “ again.” The term then is “to rise again.” Therefore, to be resurrected is to be “raised up again.” If the body in no sense comes forth, as some imply, how can there be a resurrection? If that which comes out of the grave is no part of, and sustains no relationship to the body that was buried, then its coming forth is not a resurrection at all, it is a recreation.
Through A Resurrection, Death Is Swallowed Up In Victory
“Behold, I shew you a great mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (I Cor. 15:51-53) When the body is raised then it shall be changed, as will all who are still living will be changed. At this time the last enemy (death) will no longer have power over man, it shall be destroyed by the resurrection. The body is no longer dead.
The war is over and the victory is won. “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (I Cor 15:54-55) Death came to the body—resurrection destroys its power. The grave contained the body—resurrection robbed the grave of that which was held.
Paul showed the Corinthians a great mystery (plan or scheme) devised by God. A valuable lesson that many need to learn in our time.