By Louis J. Sharp
This is a question that has been fraught with controversy over the years, even among members of the body of Christ. Is it because the Bible has nothing to say on the subject? To the contrary, the Bible has much to say in reference to the question. The careful Bible student is fully persuaded that there will be a bodily resurrection. Jesus said: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn. 6:44). The word, “resurrection,” signifies a “restoration to life.” The effects of death are reversed.
Man is a twofold being; body and spirit or soul. Our Lord warned: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). Paul informs “. . . but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16). What part of man is mortal? The answer is simple. It is the body that dies. James informs: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (Jas. 2:26). This is the Bible definition of death, i.e., the separation of body and spirit. Only that which has died is susceptible to the resurrection.
The mass resurrection narrated in Ezekiel 37:1-10 is a prophecy of the revival of the Jewish nation following their captivity in Babylon. Even so, the truth behind the prophecy is indisputable. The bones and sinews and flesh and spirits of those who once lived are returned to life. It is a lucid example of a bodily resurrection. Other Old Testament passages speak to the same thought. “Thou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the dept of the earth” (Psa. 71:20). “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead” (Isa. 26:19). We believe the testimony of the Scriptures.
Jesus Christ also acknowledges the same. In John 5:28-29, we read: “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” Either we believe him or reject him, which? John, the revelator, says: “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it” (Rev. 20:13). Now, whether this is symbolic or prophetic, the import is the same. The physical body of man, lost at sea and buried therein, will be resurrected.
What does Paul teach in 1 Corinthians 15? He asks two distinct questions: (1) How are the dead raised? (2) With what manner of body do they come? Paul answers both questions. The first question deals with whatever mystery there is connected with the resurrection. No doubt, you have wondered just how God is going to accomplish this! Much to our disappointment, Paul does not tell us how God proposes to raise the dead. He used the “seed” illustration, demonstrating the dead will live again, just as God causes life to spring from a seed. How does seed produce life? I know not except that it is God’s immutable law. We plant the seed, and properly nurtured, it will grow. God will see to that, whether we understand the process or not. And this is the point that Paul makes. “But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body” (15:38).
Paul begins to answer the second question at verse 42. “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. “We submit that until and unless there be a physical resurrection, there can be no resurrection, for the definition of the word is to “cause to rise,” “to make to stand.”
Remember, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (15:26). “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immorality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 0 death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (15:54-57). It is the physical body that is buried and is to be raised. In this way, death will be destroyed.
And we shall be fashioned anew. “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil. 3:20-21). Yes, our God is able! Our trust is in him!
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 20, p. 617
October 15, 1992