“For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” (1 Corinthians 15:16-17). These are powerful words given to us by the Holy Spirit, inspiring Paul, as he writes to warn Christians against giving into the false doctrine that there is no bodily resurrection of the dead. Unfortunately, the resurrection continued to be misunderstood by many over the centuries and even today, people throughout the world (and the brotherhood) have different ideas about the subject. Many of the ancients thought the idea of a person rising from the dead was mythical at the most. Of course, atheists have denied this concept, but even some Jews (Sadducees) denied the resurrection (Matthew 22:23). It is an important subject found throughout Scripture and worthy of much study. Indeed, if we deny the resurrection, we are claiming Jesus never rose bodily from the dead, and where does that leave us? Without hope! (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)
The resurrection was not a foreign concept to believers during the first century. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, He spoke about His own resurrection as well as the general resurrection; and He even miraculously raised some individuals from the dead. In John 11, after Jesus tells Martha her brother will rise again, she replies, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:24). In another situation, Jesus responds to the questioning Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection. He states, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29). This remark and the previous one made by Martha, makes us wonder what the Old Testament says about the subject. Where did those in the first century get their information about the resurrection in the Scriptures? Although the Old Testament does not address the resurrection as much as the New Testament, it needs to be studied by the diligent Bible student. Jesus quotes Exodus 3:15 in His response to the Sadducees – look at what He states in Matthew 22:32. God is the “I am” not the “I was”. Speaking to Moses, He says Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are still living. According to Jesus, this speaks of the resurrection - but how? It seems that Jesus is saying Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are still living awaiting the resurrection of their physical bodies (which we will see is taught in the Scriptures). Other Old Testament passages referring to a resurrection are Job 19:25-27, Psalm 17:15, Isaiah 25:8, 26:19, Daniel 12:2, and Hosea 13:14. Two of these passages are referenced in 1 Corinthians 15:54, 55. Paul concludes his section on the resurrection by stating “the corruptible will put on incorruption; this mortal will put on immortality at the last trumpet when the dead are raised” (1 Corinthians 15:52-53). When this happens “death is swallowed up in victory” (Isaiah 25:8) and will have lost its sting (Hosea 13:14). The context of these passages is 1) pointing to the Messianic age (that is, the Christian age, in which Christ fulfilled the prophecies concerning Himself, including overcoming death for mankind’s salvation, Isaiah 25:6-12), and 2) Israel’s imminent judgment for their idolatry wherein God (Israel’s forgiving Husband) pleads for them to be restored to their relationship with Him, promising to “redeem them from death” and “love them freely” (Hosea 13:12-14:9). Everything said about the resurrection in the Old Testament may not be fully understood (this author certainly makes no claim) but with the aid of the New Testament, we can better understand the resurrection due to “the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10).
What is the importance of Jesus’ resurrection? The greatest miracle Jesus performed was raising Himself from the dead, thus proving He is the Christ, Deity in the flesh (John 2:19-22). The significance of Christ’s resurrection is foundational to Christianity. No one points this out more than the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. He records that Jesus was seen by more than five hundred people, most of whom were still alive and Paul’s readers could talk to them to see if what he wrote was true. Indeed, Jesus’ resurrection was not done in secret with only a few faithful witnessing it. This was a major event in Jerusalem, where others who had died arose and even walked through the city (Matthew 27:52-53). If our Lord had not actually risen from the grave, He would be a liar, since He predicted His resurrection on multiple occasions (Matthew 20:17-19, Mark 9:30-32). And He would be no different than other so-called prophets who walked this earth and were able to develop a following. These false prophets’ bodies are still lying in the graves, but our Lord is alive, sitting at the right hand of God, mediating for His children (Acts 2:29-36; Romans 8:34). He is our living Prophet, Priest, and King (Hebrews 1:1-3; Revelation 1:5-8). If Jesus had not done what He came to do, fulfilling all righteous and ascending into heaven, we would still be in our sins, never able to break free of the bondage of sin. It is horrific to imagine what the world would be like. The fact is, Jesus did rise from the dead, and because of that we have assurance that “He will judge the world in righteousness” one day. We have victory in Him as obedient members of His body, and we know our “labor is not in vain in the Lord” (Acts 17:31; 1 Corinthians 15:57-58).
Christ’s resurrection has spiritual and physical implications for believers. Our baptism is symbolic of Jesus’ resurrection and our own future, bodily resurrection. Romans 6:3 states that we are baptized into Jesus’ death. As sinners we must repent of our sins (die to the old man), be immersed in water (burial), thus becoming a new person (arising to walk in righteousness, Romans 6:1-8). Baptism is how we come into contact with Jesus’ blood, which is the ultimate cleansing agent (and not the water per se, 1 Peter 3:21; Revelation 1:5; Titus 2:5). When we come to God in faith and obey His Word, we show Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection in our act of obedience, thus being in God’s favor (grace). The Lord adds us to His body – the church of Christ (Acts 2:41, 47). When we are set apart spiritually, we have a future hope that awaits – the resurrection of our physical body on the last day. Again, 1 Corinthians 15 gives information on this bodily resurrection. God is going to change our corruptible body into an incorruptible one (1 Corinthians 15:50-54). Our bodies will be changed into a glorious one likened to Jesus’ resurrected body (Philippians 3:21; 1 John 3:2). Other details concerning the resurrection include: our glorified bodies will not see corruption (Luke 20:36); earthly marriage will be no more (Matthew 22:30); it is the “living hope” Christians have now (1 Peter 1:3); and it is part of the believer’s reward (Luke14:14). Do the Scriptures tell us how this will be done? Should we question the likelihood of physical human bodies rising from the dead or claim that it has already occurred in only a spiritual sense? If we do, we question God’s ability, becomes as foolish as some in the first century, may even “overthrow the faith of some” (1 Corinthians 15:35-38; Acts 17:32; 2 Timothy 2:18). May it never be!
This article is by no means a detailed study of every resurrection passage throughout the Scriptures (may we endeavor to study all of God’s Word). Its purpose is to bring out some facts concerning this topic and encourage us to not simply believe what others teach but go to the Word and see what God teaches. As Christians, the resurrection is foundational to the gospel. We as godly ladies must study and teach the truth because we may (probably will) be judged by the world concerning Jesus’ resurrection as Paul was (Acts 23:6; 24:21). We must challenge ourselves, however, to move on from the foundations – Paul calls the resurrection of the dead “elementary” (Hebrews 6:1-3). As diligent Bible students applying His Word in our lives and sharing our hope with lost souls we will surely “attain a better resurrection” (Philippians 3:11; Hebrews 11:35).
The Gospel of Christ
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