Milton S. Terry, D.D.
Professor of Christian Doctrine in Garrett Biblical Institute
ã1907 By, Eaton & Mains.
THE CONSTITUTION AND POSSIBILITIES OF MAN
THE REGENERATION AND ETERNAL LIFE OF MAN
The Doctrine of the Resurrection.
1. A Doctrine Variously Apprehended. The biblical doctrine of immortality and eternal life cannot be fully presented without a careful study of those scriptures which speak of the “resurrection of the dead.” The fact or reality of resurrection, in some sense, is conceded to be a positive doctrine of the Scriptures, and Paul’s argument, in 1st Cor. 15:1-19, makes this doctrine fundamental to Christian faith and hope. But centuries of experience, observation, and controversy, since Paul wrote, have shown that a great doctrine may be generally and even universally accepted, while the modes of conceiving and stating it may vary to extremes which are quite irreconcilable. It may also be found upon careful investigation that the different biblical writers who deal with this subject are not in exact accord with one another.
2. Vaguely Expressed in Old Testament. It is not strange that the idea of a complete restoration of the dead body should become associated with the doctrine of a future life. But the idea seems to arise in the later elaborations of the doctrine, and in attempts to answer the question, “In what form and manner do the dead ones live hereafter?” Thus in the Zoroastrian doctrines of the future we find in the older portions of the Avesta only a general affirmation of the renovation of all things, but in the later literature the resurrection of the body is shown to be as credible a thought as the creation, of any bodily form at the first. In like manner the Hebrew scriptures contain no very certain indications of this doctrine before the time of the Babylonian exile, and all that is found is of a vague and general character, and usually expressed in the poetic and apocalyptic style.
(1) Psalm 17:15. As an example of vagueness and uncertainty in a text often cited in proof of bodily resurrection we may note the different interpretations of Psalm 17:15. The common version is most familiar: “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” On this Adam Clarke thus comments: “I do not think that he refers to the resurrection of the body, but to the resurrection of the soul in this life; to the regaining of the image which Adam lost.” The Anglo-American revisers carry the idea of beholding God, given in the first member of the parallelism, into the second member thus: “I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with beholding thy form.” But the Polychrome Bible renders it, “I shall be refreshed at thine awaking, with a vision of thee.” This follows the Septuagint and the Vulgate, which read, “I shall be satisfied when thy glory appears.” Thus the awaking is understood of the awaking of Jehovah, not of the psalmist. The writer of the psalm is one in great trouble because of “deadly enemies that compass him about” (ver. 9), and he calls on Jehovah to arise and deliver him from Their power (ver. 13), confident that when God’s glorious form appears, he himself will behold it and be satisfied. All these are possible explanations of the text, and show that the thought intended is too uncertain for the passage to be of any value as a proof-text of the doctrine of resurrection.
(2) Language of Other Poets and Prophets. In Dent. 32:39, we read: “I put to death and make alive again.” Similarly the parallelism in 1st Sam. 2:6:
Jehovah puts to death and makes alive;
He brings down to Sheol, and he brings up.
A similar thought is also expressed in Isaiah 25:8: “He hath swallowed up death forever; and Jehovah will wipe away tears from off all faces.” But such a statement determines nothing as to a resurrection of bodies from the grave, neither can we make the language of Hos. 13:14, mean more than a recognition of Jehovah’s absolute power over death and the whole realm of the dead:
I will ransom them from the power of Sheol;
I will redeem them from death.
O death, where are thy plagues?
O Sheol, where is thy destruction?
Nevertheless, it is not difficult to recognize in this language some idea of resurrection from death. The earliest readers of these poets and prophets might easily have supposed that the mighty God, who has all power over the realms of the dead, and who is himself the author of life, could rescue his people from the bands of Sheol and restore them to a life more glorious than they had known before. Certain it is that the readers of a later time have thought the words appropriate to the doctrine of a personal resurrection from the dead, and Paul so cites them in his discussion of the doctrine (1st Cor. 15:54, 55).
(3) Hosea 6:1-3. The following language from Hosea 6:1-3, has been variously understood and applied:
Come and let us return unto Jehovah;
For he hath torn, and he will heal us;
He hath smitten, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us:
On the third day he will raise us up,
And we shall live before him.
And let us know, let us follow on to know Jehovah;
His going forth is sure as the morning:
And he shall come unto us as the rain,
As the latter rain that watereth the earth.
Whether we understand these words as the language of smitten Israel exhorting one another to turn to Jehovah, or the utterances of the prophet himself appealing to the fallen people of Israel and urging them to return to their God, the idea of a resurrection attaches to the words revive us, and raise us up. But the entire context shows that the persons addressed are not physically dead, and therefore there can be no thought here of a resurrection of dead bodies, or of a calling back departed souls to life in the flesh. The other metaphorical allusions employed in the passage indicate a spiritual and national quickening, a restoration to God’s favor, a healing of that which had been torn (comp. 5:14), a binding up of that which had been smitten by divine judgments, and a refreshing such as the morning brings and such as comes with the welcome rain. So the metaphor of resurrection is to be spiritually taken, and cannot be cited to prove that this prophet or the Israelites of his time believed in the doctrine of a resurrection of the body.
(4) Isaiah 26:19. The concept of a physical resurrection is much more definitely expressed in Isaiah 26:19. The entire context (vers. 12-21) must be studied in order to grasp the author’s range of thought. He represents the people of Jehovah as having been under the rule of other lords; in their distress they call upon him, writhe as in labor-pains, and confess their helplessness to save their land or multiply their nation. The prophet impersonates the penitent and prayerful people, and referring to the lords who had oppressed them, he says (ver. 14): “The dead ones shall not live; the shades shall not rise up; therefore didst thou visit and destroy them, and cause all memory of them to perish.” Then, after telling how Jehovah had multiplied the nation that kept pouring out prayers even while he was chastening them, he breaks out in the following poetic strain:
Thy dead shall live; my body—they shall rise;
Awake and sing, O dwellers in the dust;
For the dew of lights is thy dew, and the earth shall cast forth her shades.
These dead ones who shall live are the deceased ones of Jehovah’s people and nation; they are conceived as one body, the collective Israel, of which the prophet considers himself a part and calls it “my body.” Each individual of this collective body is destined to live again, and he uses the plural “they shall rise.” The divine power which shall bring them forth is called “the dew of lights”; not earthly dew which quickens perishable vegetation, but the dew of heavenly luminaries, which starts forth into life the spirits of the dead, “the shades.” So enrapturing is the thought that the prophet breaks out with emotion, and calls upon the dwellers of the dust to awake and sing for joy. But this highly wrought poetic scripture cannot be legitimately construed to support the doctrine of a universal physical resurrection. Jehovah’s dead ones live again, but the shades of the lords who oppressed Israel shall not live nor rise (ver. 14). This statement is as positive as that in Job 14:10-12:
The strong man dies and is laid low;
Yea, man breathes out his life, and where is he?
As waters go off from the sea,
And the river wastes and dries away:
So man lieth down and shall not rise;
Till the heavens be no more they shall not awake,
Nor shall they be roused up from their sleep.
No future resurrection is compatible with these assertions, and the language in Isaiah is equally explicit touching the dead oppressors of Israel. But the dead body (___, carcass) of God’s people shall live and rise again; the dwellers in the dust may awake and sing for joy. All this may be understood literally or figuratively. If taken in the strict literal sense, we have the positive assertion that there is no future resurrection for the enemies of Jehovah and his people. They are utterly destroyed and their memory is made to perish. But the dead among God’s people shall live again, and their dead bodies shall be raised up out of the dust of the earth. If taken figuratively, we have a poetic prophecy of the certain destruction of Israel’s enemies, and the salvation of the people of Jehovah. The oppressors shall cease; they shall perish and be known no more. But Jehovah’s chosen nation is an imperishable body. Though they fall, “they shall rise again.” In exile and oppression, and vainly writhing in labor pains to bring forth children, they are assured that Jehovah will increase the nation in his own supernatural way. He will multiply the people and even enlarge the borders of their land (ver. 15), and his marvelous work will be like a resurrection of the dead. Israel, thus divinely rescued from oppression and exile, will be like a prodigal reclaimed, of whom the joyful father says: “This son was dead, and is alive again; be was lost, and is found.” Thus interpreted, the imagery of a physical resurrection is employed to denote a national restoration.
(5) Ezekiel 37:1-14. The figurative interpretation of Isaiah 26:19, is strengthened by comparison with Ezekiel 37:1-14, where the same imagery is carried out in much greater detail to portray the restoration of the exiled house of Israel to their own land. The prophet had a vision of an open valley full of dry bones, and the whole process of resurrection to life is pictured before us. There was a noise, and an earthquake, and the. bones came together, and then sinews and flesh and skin covered the bones, and finally breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceeding great army. Here certainly we have the unmistakable details of a resurrection of bodies to life again. But the entire vision is a symbolical picture, and not to be literally understood. The true interpretation is recorded by the prophet as a part of the visional revelation. “These bones are the whole house of Israel.” They represent the people of God in their Babylonian captivity, crying out as from the misery of a living death: “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.” But the Lord Jehovah says to them: “Behold, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, O my people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. And I will put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I will place you in your own land.” Thus the spiritual quickening of the people, who regarded themselves as ruined, dead, and buried, and their restoration to their own fatherland, are the things symbolized by the vision of the resurrection of dry bones. Whether Ezekiel believed in a future resurrection of all the dead, or in the literal resurrection of the bodies of any of those who were dead and buried, is a question which this scripture does not answer. No true prophet of Israel, however, could well doubt the power of God to raise up out of their graves whomsoever he would, but we must not affirm as a fact, or a positive doctrine, what is simply assumed as a possibility.
(6) Daniel 12:2, 3. Another Old Testament passage bearing on the doctrine of the resurrection is Daniel 12:2, 3: “Many from the sleeping ones of earth-dust shall awake, these to life eternal, and those to reproaches and contempt eternal. And they that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the expanse, and they that turn many to righteousness like the stars for ever and ever.” What is specially notable in this passage is a resurrection both to eternal life and to eternal contempt (___, abhorrence). It is mentioned among the things which are to come to pass at the time when the Jewish “people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.” It seems to occur in connection with “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time.” This time of unparalleled distress is apparently the same as that which is mentioned in 9:26, 27, of this same book. It follows the overthrow of the impious enemy of the people of God, and the apocalyptic seer is assured that no member of the true Israel shall finally perish. Those enrolled in the book of life shall find glorious “deliverance” (ver. 1), and the wise and useful who turn many to righteousness shall enjoy various degrees of heavenly reward. But the resurrection referred to is not general or universal. Not all of those who sleep in the earth-dust shall awake, but "many of them" shall, and of these many, some awake to life eternal, and some to reproaches and contempt eternal. Such a vague and mystic apocalyptic picture cannot be made to serve any definite dogmatic purpose in the exposition of the doctrine of the resurrection. It gives an ideal of future calamity for the enemies of God and of future triumph and blessedness for the righteous. It affirms an awakening of many of those who sleep in the dust, and so far it accords with Isaiah 26:19; but it differs very noticeably from Isaiah 26:14, in affirming the resurrection of some to eternal reproach and contempt. The writer is probably not referring to a resurrection of the wicked generally, but to apostate Israelites, like those mentioned in 11:30, 32, who are destined to be an eternal abhorrence. He does not say that all the dead shall rise; he does not even say that all the people of Israel will awake from the dust of the earth. The words contain no answer to the question how the dead are raised up, and with what sort of a body they return to life. The awaking from the dust may be only an apocalyptic figure designed to indicate some special restoration in Israel in which eternal destinies of opposite character are recognized. The passage stands alone in the Old Testament, having no real parallel in affirming a partial resurrection, and indicating a resurrection of some to a condition of perpetual abhorrence.
(7) Variety of Later Jewish Opinions. These Old Testament scriptures furnished a sufficient basis for subsequent elaborations of the doctrine of the resurrection. How far this doctrine may have been derived or developed from the contact of the Jewish people with men of other religions we may not with any certainty affirm. The doctrine was held by the disciples of Zoroaster and formed a part of the Mazdean faith, as is shown from portions of the Avesta. The apocryphal and pseudepigraphical books of the later Judaism indicate the various speculations of their time. The Alexandrian writers seem to have discarded the idea of a physical resurrection and to have adhered rather to the doctrine of a spiritual immortality and eternal life. But the resurrection of the body was quite generally believed, and some of the Jewish books affirm a restoration of the body without change of form. Some teach a resurrection of all the dead, while others declare that the righteous only will be raised. The Sadducees held that the human soul dies with the body and knows no other life. The Essenes believed in the immortality of souls, and the Pharisees, who constituted the majority of the Palestinian Jews, maintained both the immortality of the soul, and the resurrection of the body (comp. Acts 23:8). But even among the Pharisees themselves there seem to have been some differences of opinion, some believing in the resurrection of the righteous only, while others “looked for a resurrection both of the just and unjust” (Acts 24:15). The Alexandrian Jews seem, however, to have imbibed the Greek philosophy so far as to accept the notion that matter is essentially evil; they, accordingly, would naturally discard the doctrine of a restoration of the flesh. Such remarkable variety of Jewish opinion, prevalent at the beginning of the Christian era, is a fact to be carefully observed, and should admonish us against assuming, without specific evidence, that our Lord or any of his apostles accepted or endorsed any one of these current opinions.
3. The Fuller Teaching in the New Testament. The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead finds a fullness of treatment in the New Testament which is in notable contrast with the vagueness of allusions in the Old. The apostles of our Lord, and all who were familiar with the religious opinions current in their time, must have come in contact more or less close with the different views on this subject which appear in the later Jewish literature just referred to. The Greeks who lived at the centers of philosophical thought and culture were disposed to treat the doctrine with indifference, and even with contempt (Acts 17:32), and Paul found among the Corinthians some who said, “There is no resurrection of the dead” (1st Cor. 15:12). It is now impossible to tell precisely what was the error of Hymenaeus and Philetus, for the only indication left us is that they affirmed the resurrection, or “a resurrection,” to be already past (2nd Tim. 2:18). The statement is too vague to afford us any certain information of the meaning they put upon the word resurrection (_______).
4. No Help from Etymology of Greek Words. The Greek word employed in the New Testament to express resurrection of the dead is ______, which means a rising up, and implies some manner of exaltation of the dead. They rise or stand up again in some new form and power. But we obtain no particular assistance in determining the nature of the resurrection by means of the etymology of this word or of any other. Two Greek words appear in the New Testament in connection with this subject, the verbs ____ and ______, and their derivatives, ______ and _______. Both these words convey the idea of rising up, but the former is often used in the sense of arousing one from sleep; when it is used in connection with the awaking and raising one from the dead, ______ sheds no light upon the manner of the awaking and the raising of the sleeper. In Acts 3:15; 4:10; 5:30, it is said that God raised up Jesus from the dead, and the same word appears in the gospels in a number of passages where the resurrection of the Lord is mentioned. The verb _____ is employed by Paul throughout the fifteenth chapter of first Corinthians and also in his other epistles to denote the rising from the dead. But the same word is also often found in many passages where there is no reference to the idea of resurrection. It is used four times in Matt. 2 (vers. 13, 14, 20, 21) in reference to Joseph arising and taking the infant Jesus into Egypt and out of Egypt. In Matt. 8:15, it is said that Simon Peter’s wife’s mother arose from her couch, and ministered to those about her, and in verses 25 and 26 of the same chapter the word is used to describe the awaking of Jesus out of sleep and of his arising and rebuking the winds and the sea. Jesus himself said to the three disciples, when they beheld his transfiguration and were prostrate through fear: "Arise and be not afraid” (Matt. 17:7). This general sense appears again and again from the common usage of the verb in the gospels and the Acts. The noun ______ occurs only once in the New Testament (Matt. 27:53), and in this case refers to the resurrection of Jesus. An examination of the verb ______ and the noun _______ results in disclosing the fact that the verb is oftener used in the more general sense of any rising or standing up, while the noun is always found in connection with the resurrection from the dead. But while in New Testament usage the nouns ______ and ________ always refer to the resurrection, and the corresponding verbs are often employed in the same sense, though quite as often in a more general way, in no case does any one of these words assist us in understanding the mode or the nature of the resurrection of the dead. They indicate a fact, or a general idea, but they cannot be made to serve the interest of any special theory of the resurrection. In like manner, it should be added, the references to a resurrection of the dead in the Old Testament speak of living again, standing up, and awaking out of sleep, but the words used determine nothing of themselves as to the new mode of life and the nature of the new body which is to die no more.
5. The Teaching of Jesus Christ. In our study of the New Testament doctrine of the resurrection we shall first of all inquire into the teaching of Jesus Christ, and examine in detail the fact and significance of his own resurrection and ascension, the mystery of his forty days’ sojourn after the day of his resurrection, the fact of his raising others from the dead, and his teaching on the subject as recorded in the gospels. The fact of the resurrection of Jesus is primary and fundamental to the New Testament revelation of our Lord. No statements of his are better authenticated than his repeated assurances to his disciples that he must suffer death at Jerusalem, and rise again on the third day (Matt. 16:21; 20:19; 27:63; Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34; Luke 9:22; 18:33). No fact of the New Testament is better attested than that Jesus fulfilled his own predictions, died on the cross, was buried, and rose again on the third day. And this fact, or series of facts, cannot be properly separated from a study of our Lord’s doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.
(1) Significance of Christ’s own Resurrection. The significance of this fact cannot be well overestimated in its bearing on the doctrine, nor should we fail to note the prominence it had in the first preaching of the apostles (comp. Acts 2:24, 32, 33; 3:15; 4:10; 10:40; 13:30; 17:31; 1st Cor. 15:12-17). This universal and uniform testimony of the disciples and the early Church is at once a proof and illustration of Jesus’ saying in John 10:18: “I have power (______, right, authority) to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again.” Such sayings and the fact of his resurrection entitle him to be called the “Prince of life” (Acts 3:15), and the “Author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:9). The Son of God has life in himself, and raises up and makes alive whom he will (John 5:21).
(2) Significance of the Ascension. Another fact that stands in very significant relation to, the resurrection of Jesus, though less fully attested, is that forty days after his resurrection Jesus “was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19). The record in Luke 24:51, is that while Jesus was blessing his disciples “he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven.” The last statement is wanting in a few ancient manuscripts, but in Acts 1:1-11, the ascension is made a matter of ample record and more minute detail. It is repeatedly assumed or referred to in the apostolic preaching and in the epistles (Acts 2:33; 7:55; Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20; 4:8-10; Col. 3:1; 1st Pet. 3:22; Heb. 1:3; 4:14; 7:26; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; Rev. 3:21. Comp. John 6:62; 20:17). The resurrection and ascension are looked upon as essential parts in the one great fact of the glorification of the Son of God, so that the resurrection apart from the ascension was not an end or complete consummation in itself, but required the exaltation to the right hand of God to perfect the glorification.
(3) Rationale of the Forty Days. The rationale of the forty days’ sojourn of the Lord is given in Acts 1:3, as affording him opportunity to show himself to his disciples, and furnish them indubitable evidences (____) of his having truly risen from the dead. In Acts 10:40, 41, Peter says: “God raised him up the third day, and gave him to be made manifest, not to all the people, but unto witnesses that were chosen before by God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.” His different appearances to individuals and to assembled groups of the disciples are recorded in the four gospels and briefly referred to in 1st Cor. 15:5-8. The discrepancies apparent in the several accounts are not of the nature of any irreconcilable contradictions, but are rather incidental evidences of the reality of the great fact which they all witness. We may not be able to harmonize the accounts satisfactorily, or to explain the exact order of events, but the obvious independence of the different narratives, and their agreement in the main, afford a surer proof of their fidelity to fact than would a set of narratives so uniform as to suggest artifice and collusion.
(4) Forty Days in the Flesh. During the forty days Jesus retained the fleshly body which after his resurrection still showed the print of the nails in his hands and of the spear in his side (John 20:27). When the disciples were terrified and affrighted at his presence in the midst of them, and imagined that they beheld a spirit, or an apparition, as when once they saw him walking on the sea (Matt. 14:26), he went to pains to convince them of their error, and to prove to them that he had flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). He called upon them to handle him, and he called for food and ate it in their presence. Peter affirms in Acts 10:41, that the disciples “ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” In view of these unmistakable evidences that he arose with the same body of flesh and bones that was put in the tomb, we cannot accept the notion widely current that Jesus arose with a new and glorified body. There were reasons why Jesus should retain for the forty days before his ascension the identical body that was buried. Thus could he best furnish indisputable proofs of the reality of his resurrection, and the records show that such physical evidence was demanded by the unbelief of his own disciples. His sudden vanishing from sight at Emmaus (Luke 24:31.) is no proof that he possessed a different kind of body, for he had repeatedly done much the same thing before his crucifixion (Luke 4:30; John 8:59; 10:39; 12:36). His coming into the room among the disciples “when the doors were shut for fear of the Jews” (John 20:19, 26) is no convincing evidence that his body was no longer fleshly. As well might we argue that his walking on the sea of Galilee is proof that he had not at that time his natural body. It is not said either that he entered the room or that he vanished miraculously. That is an unwarranted inference of expositors. But if he did enter the room miraculously, such fact would not prove that his body had undergone essential change of nature since the time he walked on the sea, for he was certainly as capable of the miraculous after his resurrection as before.
(5) Not Glorified During the Forty Days. According to the records, then, Jesus arose with the same fleshly body which was laid in Joseph’s tomb. This resuscitated body he retained for forty days that he might convince his disciples of the reality of his resurrection, and might the more naturally fulfill his teaching “concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). His own manifestation of himself to men in the flesh must needs be, after this resurrection as before, by means of actual incarnation. There is not the least intimation in any of the records that he showed himself during the forty days in a supernatural glory. Before his death he took three of his disciples up into a mountain, “and was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his garments became white as the light” (Matt. 17:2). “His garments became glistering, exceeding white; so as no fuller on earth can whiten them” (Mark 9:3). “The fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became white and dazzling” (Luke 9:29). But no such glory distinguished the form of the risen Jesus. If only the transfiguration and the strange walking on the sea had occurred during the forty days after the resurrection, how would they have been put forward as proofs of “his new glorified body”! The appearance of the angel that rolled away the stone and addressed the women at the tomb “was as lightning, and his raiment white as snow” (Matt. 28:3). According to Mark (16:5) the women “saw a young man sitting on the right side, arrayed in a white robe; and they were amazed.” Luke says that “two men stood by them in dazzling apparel” (24:4). But nothing of this supernatural character is said to have appeared in the countenance or apparel of the risen Christ. He avoided any display that would tend to terrify his disciples, and he assured them that his resuscitated body was the natural body of flesh and bones, and retained the marks of its recent wounds.
(6) Glorified at the Ascension. We conclude that the Lord Jesus was perfected in the glory of his resurrection when he was “received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.” Not until after the “cloud received him out of the sight” of his earthly followers (Acts 1:9), was he “received up into glory” (1st Tim. 3:16). His subsequent appearance unto Saul (1st Cor. 15:8) was after this glorification, and necessarily unlike his appearances on earth during the forty days. It was accompanied by “a light from heaven above the brightness of the sun” (Acts 26:13), and Saul was blinded by “the glory of that light” (22:11). Such a revelation of the ascended Lord was everyway befitting, and Ananias might well speak of it to Saul as a “seeing of the Righteous One, and hearing a voice from his mouth” (22:14; comp. 9:17). The resurrection, ascension, and heavenly glorification of Christ are thus to be taken together in order to apprehend his personal exhibition and example of resurrection, and an unspeakable significance must needs be recognized in these transcendent facts. For it is thus that “our Saviour Jesus Christ has abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2nd Tim. 1:10).
(7) Jesus’ Raising Others from the Dead. The fact that Jesus, during his earthly ministry, raised a number of persons from the dead, has also its bearing on the doctrine of the resurrection. But such raising of the dead was only one among many signs of his heavenly mission: “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good tidings preached unto them” (Matt. 11:5). The wisdom and power that can restore sight to the blind are equally competent to raise the dead to life. The three notable examples of such resurrection are the daughter of Jairus (Mark 5:22-24, 35-43; Matt. 9:18, 19, 23-25; Luke 8:41, 42, 49-56), the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-16), and Lazarus (John 11:1-44). These examples verify the saying of Jesus recorded in John 5:21: “As the Father raises the dead and makes them alive, even so the Son makes alive whom he will.” They also give force to such sayings as John 6:40: “This is the will of my Father, that every one that beholdeth the Son and believeth on him, should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” It is unspeakably significant that he, who raised others from the dead, and who himself laid down his own life and then took it again, affirms so positively: “The hour cometh in which all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth” (John 5:28). All this will appear the more clearly as we study the teaching of Jesus concerning the resurrection.
(8) Jesus’ Teaching in the Synoptic Gospels. In Luke 14:14, Jesus speaks of a divine recompense to be made “in the resurrection of the just”; but aside from what this form of expression suggests, the only teaching of our Lord, found in the synoptic gospels, and bearing on the nature of the resurrection, is what he said in answer to the question of the Sadducees, and which appears with a few verbal differences in all these gospels (Mark 12:18-27; Matt. 22:23-33; Luke 20:27-38). It seems somewhat strange that he should have said so little on a subject of so much interest and importance; but we are told, in Mark 9:10, that when Jesus spoke to some of the disciples about his own rising again from the dead, they “questioned among themselves what the rising again from the dead should mean.” They were not in a condition of mind to understand how their Lord and Messiah was to die and afterwards to rise again, though on the current doctrine of the resurrection they all probably shared the more common belief of the Pharisees. In the reply which Jesus made to the Sadducees, who sought to puzzle him with the supposable case of seven brethren, who, according to the levirate law of Deut. 25:5-10, were all married to one and the same wife, but who could not all have her in the resurrection, we observe a number of statements which indicate a deeper and more spiritual apprehension of the resurrection than seems to have been held among the Pharisees in general. From the several synoptic records we may learn: (1) The position of Jesus is clearly one of opposition to the doctrine of the Sadducees. He maintains that the dead are raised and live unto God, and he thereby condemns the Sadducean opinion that the soul and body perish alike at death. (2) He boldly charges the Sadducees with ignorance of the Scriptures and of the power of God. He shows that they were superficial readers of the book of Moses, and discerned not the depth of meaning and the suggestiveness of the language recorded therein. A defective knowledge of the power of God hindered their spiritual insight, and naturally led to disbelief of angels and spirits. (3) He condemned their crass notion of a physical or bodily resurrection, which was evinced in the question of the Sadducees. They obviously assumed that in the resurrection the same fleshly body, with all its adaptations to the conditions of human life on earth, must needs be perpetuated without change. (4) He positively declares that in the resurrection-life these human relationships do not exist. “They neither marry, nor are given in marriage,” and therefore do not beget offspring, nor continue the family relationships of this world. “They are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” (5) He teaches, further, that the risen saints are like the angels of God in heaven. They become spiritual beings in a loftier manner than the physical conditions of this mortal life permit. Mortality is so swallowed up of life that they “cannot die any more, for they are equal unto the angels.” (6) His citation and exposition of Exod. 3:6, shows his conception of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as living and immortal. The words, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” could not, in his way of reading the Scriptures, allow us to suppose that those patriarchs were not at that very moment alive. “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” Any other inference would be a great error in understanding the Scriptures. (7) The gospel of Luke contains a few statements not found in Matthew and Mark. His language concerning the matter of marriage is as follows: “The sons of this world (age) marry, and are given in marriage: but they that are accounted worthy to attain to that world (age) and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage.” He also adds the words, “Neither can they die any more,” “They are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection,,” and “all live unto him.” These statements show that only the resurrection of the just is here contemplated, and nothing in any of these gospels appears to favor the doctrine of the resurrection of all men, good and bad. Not all men, but only those who are accounted worthy, attain the resurrection from the dead. What becomes of the unworthy is a question not here entertained. (8) It is obvious to the unbiased interpreter that there is nothing in all this teaching of Jesus which either affirms or implies a resurrection of the flesh. On the contrary, the risen ones are like the angels of God. They are incorruptible and immortal. They are deathless, and so inherit the eternal life of the world to come, of which we read in Luke 18:30. What sort of bodies the angels of God in heaven possess is nowhere revealed to us. (9) The citation and comment on Exod. 3:6, would seem to be without cogency in an argument touching the resurrection if the patriarchs named were not already risen and living unto God at the time of Moses. There is no intimation that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are merely living in Sheol (Hades), waiting for a future resurrection. Some men have imported this idea into their expositions, but Jesus utters no word that clearly warrants such a thought. (10) From all these considerations it is obvious that, according to Jesus, the resurrection of the dead is no restoration of fleshly bodies, but an exaltation and glorification of the living spirit of man. The true sons of God in their resurrection become not mere resuscitated human beings, with bodily natures adapted to the marriage relations of earth, but are equal unto the angels and become possessed of spiritual powers like them. That Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had attained that age and world of life is implied in the argument of Jesus, who, in all this scripture, utters no word about the simultaneous resurrection of all the dead at any one future time. If at death, or soon after, the spiritual nature of man is exalted and glorified into heavenly life, and becomes a living spirit like the angels of God, incapable of dying any more, then the language and teaching of Jesus in reply to the Sadducees is intelligible, cogent, luminous, and full of force and comfort for the righteous.
(9) Jesus’ Teaching in John’s Gospel. In the gospel of John we find one passage that affirms without qualification the future resurrection both of the just and of the unjust: “The hour cometh in which all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice and shall come forth; they that have done good unto, the resurrection of life; and they that have practiced evil unto the resurrection of judgment” (5:28, 29). This corresponds with Dan. 12:2, in declaring a resurrection of the two classes, the good and the evil; but it differs from Daniel in making the resurrection universal—“all who are in the tombs”—not merely “many from among them that sleep in the dust.” This notable difference between the two texts must be fairly recognized: one teaches a partial, the other a universal resurrection of the dead. And this fact shows that the different biblical writers entertained distinct and divergent conceptions of the resurrection, or contemplated the subject from different points of view. In John’s gospel, in the immediate context of the passage just quoted, Jesus makes three distinct statements about resurrection. In verse 24 he says: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life.” This language describes the spiritual experience of one who is awakened by the truth of God, quickened into newness of life by the Spirit, raised, so to speak, out of his deathlike bondage to sin, and made a partaker of the “eternal life” which is a present possession of Christian believers. But that which immediately follows in verse 25 adds another and distinct conception: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live.” Here we observe that specific mention is made of an hour both present and yet coming, when “the dead (______) shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and shall live.” This “hearing the voice” is not identical with “hearing my word, and believing him that sent me” in verse 24. This latter is hearing and accepting the message of salvation brought by Christ; but hearing his voice (conip. ver. 28 and 11:43) is hearing the life-giving summons which calls one forth out of the domain of death and of the tomb, as in the case of Lazarus. We accordingly understand our Lord to refer in verse 25 to those instances of resurrection of the dead which occurred in his own time, such as the raising of Jairus’ daughter, the son of the widow of Nain, and Lazarus. These examples belonged to that period which was well spoken of as “the hour that cometh and now is” (comp. 4:23). But in verse 28 Jesus affirms the resurrection of “all that are in the tombs,” and he speaks of it as occurring at “an hour that is coming” (_______). The phrase all that are in the tombs may be regarded as clearly connoting the idea of a resurrection of bodies from the grave; and yet a rigid literal interpretation may be seen to be inconsistent with the thought that all the dead are referred to. For the dead are not all in the tombs (______); thousands were never buried, and other thousands are in the depths of the sea. And if the strict literal meaning of the word tombs cannot be insisted on, the phrase may be best understood as comprehending all the dead, and equivalent to “all that have passed out of this mortal life and are in the domain of death,” and all who shall in their own times thus pass away. In John 6:39, 40, 44, 50, 51, 54, 58, Jesus speaks repeatedly of giving eternal life to them that believe on him; he declares they shall not die, but live forever; and he says again and again that he “will raise them up at the last day.” But there is nothing in any of these passages to determine the nature of the resurrection, save that it obviously involves eternal life and glory. In the lips of Jesus the phrase at the last day may or may not have designated the same thought that it conveyed to the minds of others. In the lips of Martha (11:23), “the resurrection of the last day” probably meant a future simultaneous resurrection of all the dead, or at least of all the righteous dead; for that was a current belief among many of the Jewish people of that time. But it was not the habit of our Lord to correct or antagonize all the erroneous opinions of the common people, and when at times he did assume the delicate task, he sought to suggest a deeper and richer significance for current phrases. In John 11:25, 26, we have a remarkable series of statements addressed to Martha, which show that with him the resurrection meant something quite different from what she had supposed. “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die.” This, in its connection with Martha’s words, is equivalent to saying: “Think not of a far-off time of general resurrection. The power to raise the dead and to make them live again is here in me. What I can do ‘at the last day’ I can also do at the present hour. I am the resurrection in this deep sense, that ‘whosoever believes in me and lives in me shall never die.’” So far as these words correct the thoughts of Martha and others of like opinion, they suggest that the power of the resurrection is in Christ, and is an abiding, ever-present power. Accordingly, in his deeper thought, “the last day” would mean the day of ultimate glorification; not necessarily one particular day or hour in which all believers are to be simultaneously glorified. Every individual believer must come personally to his own last day.
(10) Jesus Absolutely Assures Immortality, but Offers no Theories. The passages we have now examined include all that our gospels have to say of the teaching of Jesus concerning the resurrection. One may naturally wish to have learned more than this from the Great Teacher. We cannot construct from his words a convincing argument for the resurrection of the fleshly body that returns to dust. Nor can we prove from his teaching that all the dead are to be raised simultaneously. But the things he does declare in his teaching about the resurrection, his raising up of Lazarus and others from death, and his own resurrection and ascension into heaven, taken altogether, are as absolute assurances of immortality and eternal life for the obedient children of God as we may expect in this life to receive. The manner of the resurrection is left in much uncertainty; the mode and conditions of immortality are not made manifest to us; but the truth of the doctrine is placed beyond all reasonable doubt or controversy.
6. Doctrine of the Apocalypse of John. In passing now to examine what the other New Testament books have to say about the resurrection of the dead, we turn first to a passage in the Apocalypse of John (20:4-15) which contains some things noticeably parallel with John 5:28, 29. There are two classes of the dead portrayed after the manner of apocalyptic symbolism, one of which is pronounced “blessed and holy,” and the other is brought before “a great white throne” for judgment. The blessed ones are “the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as worshipped not the beast, neither his image, and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” They are said to “have part in the first resurrection,” and over them “the second death has no power.” They represent the glorified martyrs and those who kept themselves pure from all manner of idolatry. They are the same souls that in 6:9-11, cry from the altar, and are given each a white robe; they belong to the same class as the two witnesses who were killed, but afterward went up to heaven in a cloud (11:3-12). In this blessed and holy resurrection they have fulfilled in them the promise of 3:21: “He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in his throne.” This first resurrection is a living and reigning with Christ a thousand years. “The rest of the dead,” according to the vision, belonged to a different class, and they came forth unto a resurrection of judgment. “The sea gave up the dead that were in it; and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged every man according to their works.” We may note that nothing is here said of the dust of the earth giving up its dead, but “death and Hades” are put in the same category with “the sea.” And nothing is said in any part of the vision of a resurrection of fleshly bodies. No mention is made of a second resurrection, but “the second death, the lake of fire,” appears to be set in contrast with “the first resurrection.” This apocalyptic vision accords in a general way and in its fundamental teaching with the sublime portrayal of judgment found in Matt. 25:31-46, in which the King, who acts also as Judge, welcomes the blessed ones of his Father to a joint inheritance in the kingdom of glory, but sends the accursed ones away into eternal punishment. Both of these passages of Scripture are obviously symbolic representations of most important truths, but they afford us no solid ground for inferences touching the nature of the resurrection of the dead. They are concerned with questions of eternal destiny rather than with modes of existence in the future.
7. Paul’s Doctrine of the Resurrection. We find in the writings of Paul our fullest New Testament elaboration of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, and in one chapter he discusses the particular question, “How are the dead raised up, and with what manner of body do they come?” But it is noteworthy that he did not answer this question in so clear a way as to prevent expositors, from his time until now, differing most remarkably in their attempts to interpret his meaning. Such differences among expositors, however, should not excuse us from an honest endeavor to ascertain what the apostle meant to teach. Diversity of opinion on a great subject, so far from detracting from the importance of the subject itself, is rather a strong witness to the deep fundamental character of that which is involved in the discussion.
(1) Acts 24:15. According to Acts 24:15, Paul declared before Felix his belief “that there shall be a resurrection both of the just and unjust”; but apart from this one statement we find nothing in his addresses or his epistles which recognizes the doctrine of a resurrection of the unjust. This is a noteworthy fact, and yet it does not follow that he made little of the doctrine, or ever discarded it. We can prove nothing from his silence on that point, though it would seem that the scope of his various epistles afforded as much occasion to speak of the resurrection of the unjust as of the just. Perhaps, however, in Paul’s way of thinking, as in the Johannine Apocalypse, the resurrection of the unjust was conceived rather as a future coming unto judgment. The idea of resurrection was comprehended or presupposed in that “manifestation before the judgment seat of Christ,” when “each one” and “all” “receive the things done in the body, whether good or evil” (2nd Cor. 5:10).
(2) 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18. The epistles to the Thessalonians are believed to be the earliest of Paul’s writings, and in one passage of the first epistle (4:13-18) the apostle speaks with great assurance. about the resurrection of “them that are fallen asleep in Jesus,” whom he also calls “the dead in Christ.” He would fain comfort his Thessalonian brethren by assuring them that those who fall asleep do not perish, but really precede the living in the presence of the Lord. “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with him…. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” This is usually understood as implying an expectation on the part of the apostle that he and his Thessalonian brethren would most of them live to see the descent of the Lord Jesus from heaven, but before they should be “caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air,” the dead in Christ were to be raised from their graves; then those thus raised would together with the living be caught up into the heavens. This snatching away of the living along with those risen from the dead involves the idea of a sudden translation without seeing death, and is parallel with what is written in 1st Cor. 15:51, 52: “Behold, I tell you a mystery: we all shall not 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.” The translation of Enoch (comp. Heb. 11:5) and of Elijah, and the ascension of Jesus in the clouds (comp. Acts 1:9, 11) may have furnished the imagery of this rapture of living saints.
When these several statements are subjected to critical analysis, and we question the import and inferences which a number of the words and phrases suggest, we are left in no little uncertainty as to the exact meaning of the apostle. The one positive assurance, very full of comfort and unmistakable in its main thought, is that both the saints who had fallen asleep in Jesus, and those who were at the time alive and waiting for the coming of the Lord, were all of them together to be ultimately caught up to be forever with the Lord in the heavens. But if Paul expected that he himself and most of his contemporaries would be alive at the coming of the Lord, it would seem, unless the mortality of the Christians of that generation were exceptional, that “the dead in Christ” would constitute but a small minority of those who were to be glorified at his coming. Then when it is said that “God will bring them that are fallen asleep in Jesus with him,” one naturally asks from whence will he bring them? If he leads or brings them along with him, must they not be already “with the Lord”? Nothing is intimated of a bringing them from Hades, or from some receptacle of souls where Christ himself is not. We cannot well understand the apostle to assume the unconscious sleep of the soul in the grave. But if we suppose that he brings the disembodied souls out of Hades to be restored again to their former bodies, the resurrection of the bodies follows upon the Lord’s descent from heaven, and precedes the change and rapture of the living saints. The dead in Christ thus rise first and anticipate the living by a few moments (or hours?). Such a brief precedence of their brethren in the flesh would seem to be no remarkable advantage, and we fail to see how such a thought could be of any special comfort to the bereaved Thessalonians. The Lord’s descent from heaven, the shout, the archangel’s voice, and the trump of God, are part and parcel of the imagery of Jewish apocalyptics, and will be discussed in connection with the doctrine of the coming of Christ and his kingdom. We are concerned with this passage now only so far as it helps us to understand Paul’s doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. Nothing is here said as to the nature of the body in the resurrection. The dead in Christ rise and are caught up to meet the Lord on high, and abide forever with him. Eliminated from the apocalyptic imagery in which it is cast, the one great fundamental lesson, full of comfort for all readers, is the assurance of eternal fellowship with Christ in the heavens. This is the blessed hope of the living saints and the glorious fruition of “them that are fallen asleep in Jesus.” This is in substance no other than the inheritance in eternal life in conscious, living fellowship with God, already expounded in foregoing pages.
(3) The Fifteenth Chapter of First Corinthians, By far the most thorough and elaborate discussion of the resurrection to be found in the New Testament is that of the fifteenth chapter of first Corinthians, but that which deals directly with the nature of the resurrection-body is confined mainly to the last part of the chapter (vers. 35-58). The entire passage, however, demands our most careful study. It may be arranged in six paragraphs, expressive of so many distinct considerations in the apostle’s argument.
Verses 1-11. The fact of Christ’s actual resurrection from the dead is first of all emphatically affirmed and confirmed by reference to numerous witnesses to whom he appeared. Of the six appearances of Christ here mentioned only two or three correspond clearly with those narrated in the gospels. No allusion is made to the testimony of the women who were first to see him, nor to that of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus; but it is notable that Paul ranks his own vision of Christ in the same category with those of Peter and James (comp. 1st Cor. 9:1). But his sight of the Lord Jesus, on his way to Damascus (Acts 9:3-9, 17), was certainly quite different in character from any of those recorded in the gospels, for it was a vision of the glorified Christ. It occurred at midday, and in the midst of “a light from heaven above the brightness of the sun.” (Acts 26:13). It was therefore more like that which Stephen beheld when “he looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55). But to Paul this sight of the risen and glorified Lord was as real as any fact of his life, and was entitled to as much credit as the testimony of Cephas or of James. The vision, moreover, contemplated the risen Christ as having entered into his heavenly glory, and not, as during the forty days, lingering a while with flesh and bones to give tangible proofs to disheartened and faithless disciples that he was actually risen. In this respect his exceptional vision of the ascended Christ had a special relevancy to this argument for a glorious resurrection of the dead in Christ.
Verses 12-19. In view of these irrefutable witnesses the apostle argues in his next paragraph that denial of the resurrection of the dead must needs involve denial of an authenticated fact, and with it a repudiation of the Christian faith, the apostolic ministry, the forgiveness of sins, and all hope of a future life.
Verses 20-28. He then proceeds to teach that the resurrection of the dead is the triumphal consummation of the divine order of the kingdom of God and of Christ. Death is the last great foe to be annihilated. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” This statement, when compared with that of Rom. 5:17-19, appears to make the resurrection as universal a fact as human sinfulness, but there is no mention in the entire chapter of a resurrection of the ungodly. It may be, however, that the apostle counted these among the “enemies” who are to be ultimately “put under his feet” (ver. 25), and he felt the incongruity of speaking of them as being made alive in Christ. The most remarkable teaching in this paragraph is that which affirms distinctive orders (______, ranks, classes, companies, or divisions, as of an army) in the resurrection. Christ himself is called the first fruits (_______). Next in order after him are “those who are the Christ’s at his coming.” How large this company may be, and just what persons may have been included or excluded by the designation _______________, those of the Christ in his coming, is left for the reader to infer. For without any explanation he proceeds: “Afterwards (____, not ______. then) the end, when he shall have abolished all rule and all authority and power.” This end is obviously the goal or consummation of the reign of Christ when he shall have “put all things in subjection under his feet,” and shall have abolished death. If we should understand the coming (________) of Christ to be a continuous process, going on during the entire period in which he is putting all things in subjection unto himself, it would naturally follow that the resurrection of those who are Christ’s is also to be understood as a process continuing to the end of his reign.
Verses 29-34. The fourth paragraph corresponds to the second in again showing what serious and deplorable consequences must follow a denial of the resurrection of the dead. Baptism for the dead, and exposure to constant peril of death, signify nothing for the Christian confessor “if the dead are not raised at all.” It ought not to be overlooked, however, that both these paragraphs touching the absurd consequences of denying the resurrection of the dead are without force against the doctrine of a happy future life without the body. That is, if one deny the resurrection of the flesh, but maintain a purely spiritual and eternal life to come, these protests of the apostle would be obviously without point.
Verses 35-49. The apostle next takes up the question. “How are the dead raised, and with what manner of body do they come?” These two interrogative sentences are not identical in meaning, but seem rather to present two closely related queries: (1) How is it possible for the dead to arise? and (2) With what kind of a body do they arise? But the two questions are not answered separately. The answer to the first is essentially involved in that of the second and is seen in the wisdom and power of God which govern the whole visible creation. We have been already admonished (vers. 23-28) that the resurrection itself is a part of the preestablished order of the kingdom of God, and now this thought is expanded so as to show that it is in conspicuous analogy with other arrangements in the world of nature, in which God gives to every kind of seed, and to each one of the particular seeds, a body of its own. The man, therefore, who blindly puts the double question is _____, one who lacks intelligence and reason. For (1) the sowing and quickening of all kinds of seeds shows that throughout the vegetable world life is perpetuated through death. The bare grain of wheat that is sown is not made alive except it die, and the particular grain that is sown is not the body that shall be, “but God giveth it a body even as it pleased him.” And it has pleased God to ordain that each individual seed shall produce its own kind and not another. The grain of wheat is made to produce a new body of wheat, not of some other kind of grain. But the new body that is made alive is not the dust of the old body quickened into a new life, but a God-given body, the particular substance of which is not defined (vers. 36-38). And so far as this applies to the question in hand, we are left to infer that the body of the resurrection is not constituted out of the dust of the old body of flesh, but is a perpetuation of the personal life that was in the body of flesh in a new body of its own, supplied according to a divine order of things in the kingdom of God. But the analogy of the grain is not carried out by the apostle in further detail, for he (2) passes on to call attention to the fact that “all flesh is not the same flesh.” Here in this earthly life the flesh of men and beasts and birds and fishes is noticeably different. Who, then, shall presume to limit the possibilities of change in the organic forms of life? He goes on to, say (3) that “there are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial.” Just what bodies in the heaven and upon the earth (_______ and ________) are here intended is not altogether clear. In view of the fact that sun, moon, and stars are separately mentioned in the next verse, and since masses of inorganic matter could hardly be called bodies in the sense which the apostle’s argument requires, it seems that allusion is made to such bodies as properly belong to the heavenly regions. Since no specification is made, we need not insist that the allusion is to bodies of the angels; and yet the saying of Jesus that “in the resurrection they are as angels in heaven” (Matt. 22:30) goes far to persuade us that angelic natures are intended. These might be naturally put in contrast with such bodies as properly belong to the earth, the fleshly bodies of men and of beasts. Thus it is pleasing to God to provide appropriate bodies for all living creatures upon earth. And each has a glory of its own: “The glory of the celestial is one, and that of the terrestrial is another.” Whereupon it is added, without a connective particle, as a further illustration and suggestion: “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory” (ver. 41). These facts are simple matters of observation, and show the diversities that it pleases God to incorporate in his entire creation. And so this whole paragraph (vers. 35-49), like that of verses 20-28, indicates an obvious divine order of the world and of all things in it. For evidence of this we have only to look at great suggestive facts. Throughout the rest of this paragraph (vers. 42-49) the apostle applies his suggestive analogies to the resurrection of the dead. First we have a series of contrasts between the body as it is sown and as it is raised (42-44), and then the wonderful differences are shown to correspond to the earthly and the heavenly as represented in the first Adam and the last (45-49). There is no subject formally expressed in verses 42 and 43: “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 as if we should say: “There is a sowing in corruption; there is a raising up in incorruption”; but there is scarcely room to doubt that _____, the body, is the subject to be understood in all these sentences, and this is confirmed by verse 44, which declares that “it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.” A more important question arises over the meaning of sowing the body. Does the foregoing figure of sowing the grain (vers. 36, 37) so essentially involve the sense of burying it in the earth that we must in analogous consistency of thought understand the sowing of the body as the interment of the lifeless corpse in the grave? Perhaps the somewhat similar saying of Jesus in John 12:24, has helped to strengthen this idea: “Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit.” But The point and purpose of these words in John are quite different from that which the apostle has especially in view, and nothing is said about sowing the grain of wheat. The placing of a seed in the ground is planting, not sowing; the sowing is one thing, and the covering of the seed with the soil on which it falls is another. That the apostle is not referring, in verses 42-44, to the burial of the body in the earth is evident from the following considerations: (1) The word ______, sow, does not mean to bury anything in the ground, but designates rather the act and process of scattering the naked grain. The use of this word in 1st Cor. 9:11; Gal. 6:7, 8; James 3:18, and in many other passages, suggests no thought of burying a lifeless body in the earth. Had the writer intended to express the idea of burial, there is no reason why he should not have used the word ______, which always means to inter a corpse (e.g., Matt. 8:21; Luke 16:22; Acts 2:29), and is so employed in verse 4 of this same chapter in reference to the burial of Christ. (2) The qualifying phrases, in corruption, in dishonor, and in weakness are not appropriate for describing the lifeless body that is put in the grave. Although in our modern usage “corruption, earth, and worms” are terms commonly associated with the grave, the word for corruption in this text has no such connotation in the New Testament, but denotes rather the natural condition of humanity during the present life, together with the destructive effects which sin carries with it into the entire human organism. So in Gal. 6:8: “He that soweth unto his own flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption.” This _____ which is reaped out of the flesh (_______) is not the corruption of the sepulcher, but a moral and spiritual destruction, the opposite of “eternal life” which those reap who sow unto the Spirit. So also in Rom. 8:21, the creation groans and travails in expectation of deliverance “from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.” Here the corruption is surely not the decay which follows the burial of a corpse, but a conscious condition in which one groans in pain. In 2nd Pet. 2:19, we read that those who are given to the lusts of the flesh “are themselves slaves of corruption”; and in 1:4, we are told of the possibility of “becoming partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world by lust.” From this common usage of the word it appears that by sowing in corruption the apostle does not mean the interment of the dead body in the grave, but rather the decaying process through which it is constantly passing from the cradle to the grave. And this is precisely what be says in 2nd Cor. 4:16: “Though our outward man is passing through a process of corruption (______), yet our inward man is renewed day by day.” Hence we interpret the words it is sown in corruption as meaning that the human body, conceived as the outward organism of the living soul, is, by reason of its mortal nature, constantly subject to corruption and decay. But for the continual renewal which it receives in the order of God it would quickly fall into ruin. And, so far as the imagery of verses 36-38 here applies, we may add that this body will not be quickened into immortal vigor and incorruption “except it die.” After the final ruin reached at death it is raised in incorruption, in glory, and in power, and God gives each one a body of his own as it pleases him. The other phrases, in dishonor, and in weakness, are still less appropriate to a dead body than in corruption. Many corpses have, indeed, been shamefully treated by barbarous enemies, and in that sense may be said to have been “sown in dishonor”; but it is only by farfetched and irrelevant fancies that the body is thought of as buried in dishonor. On the contrary, it is the universal practice of mankind to honor their dead in the burial. It is a sad but faithful comment on these words of Paul that men sin against their own bodies more in life than in death. Multitudes of those of corrupt minds defile the body and treat it with all manner of dishonor and infamy in the lusts of the flesh, but they will have the defunct corpse most honorably embalmed and interred in a costly mausoleum. Furthermore, to speak of a dead body as being buried in weakness seems little else than a stupid misuse of words. The weakness and infirmities of the flesh during the present life are conspicuous facts of experience, but who that appreciates intelligible speech would ever write about the weakness of a corpse! (3) The defunct corpse which is deposited in the grave cannot be properly called a psychical body (________, ver. 44). A psychical body must incorporate a living soul. “The first man Adam,” whom the apostle immediately (ver. 45) cites for illustration, did not “become a living soul” until God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Gen. 2:7). A dead body may, perhaps, be called a ________, but not a ________. The natural, psychical, or soulish body is an outward and visible organ of the human soul, fitted to the conditions of this earthly life, and it is here put in contrast with the spiritual body (________) which is the heavenly organ of the spirit, adapted to the conditions of heavenly life. In the following verses (48 and 49) it should be observed that the words psychical and spiritual interchange with earthy and heavenly. (4) It appears, furthermore, that the scope of the apostle’s argument in this passage involves a contrast between the manner and conditions of our earthy life in the body and those of the heavenly life of incorruption, and glory, and power. It is not a contrast of the lifeless corpse as it appears the hour it is put in the grave and the same identical body as it appears resuscitated and brought up out of the dust in a moment of time. The analogy of the dying seed (ver. 36) does not fit this last conception; for it is sown in its full life and vigor, and dies after it has fallen to the soil, and only an invisible germ sprouts forth into new life, while the old body remains in the earth and is not made alive again at all. But in this argument the conditions of human life on earth are put in striking contrast with the conditions of spiritual and heavenly life after the resurrection. We accordingly understand the series of contrasts stated in verses 42-44 as designed to enhance the unspeakable glory of man’s spiritual organism after the resurrection by declaring its remarkable difference from the corrupt, dishonored and infirm conditions of his mortal life on earth. For, having thus stated his striking contrasts, he proceeds (vers. 45-49) to show that these differences between the earthly and the heavenly state correspond to the opposite natures of the Adam and the Christ. This form of illustration was suggested by the contrast between a psychical body and a spiritual one. “The first man Adam,” according to Gen. 2:7, “became a living soul” (____), but according to Paul’s gospel and the highest New Testament teaching, Christ, “the last Adam, is a life-giving spirit” (______). And this arrangement follows a divine order, “first, the psychical; afterwards the spiritual.” The sowing occurs in the first state; the fruitage and glory in the second. “The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven.” The outcome of this part of the discussion is that, in the divine order, man’s destiny is to become something far beyond a mere living soul. Everything that is earthy must have its adaptations to earthly environment, and while man continues his life in the flesh on earth, he must needs be earthy, and be sown, as we have seen, in corruption, in dishonor, and in weakness. But, in the resurrection, the earthy is to be superseded by the heavenly in incorruption, in glory, and in power. Whereupon, the apostle concludes this paragraph with the exhortation: “As we have borne the image of the earthy, let us also bear the image of the heavenly.” And so, in answer to “With what manner of body do they come?” (ver. 35) we are told that we are to exchange the psychical and earthy for the image of the heavenly.
Verses 50‑58. It remains for the apostle to add a number of concluding observations, although with them he adds nothing in substance to his doctrine of resurrection. It follows as a logical consequence from the foregoing discussion, and is now formally stated as a positive conclusion “that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” The psychical body, therefore, cannot partake of the spiritual and heavenly “inheritance of the saints in light,” neither is it possible for the earthy to retain its earthy conditions, and bear the image of the heavenly. There must, accordingly, be a change from the earthy state of corruption to the heavenly state of incorruption. But at this point the apostle recalls the thought of remaining alive in the flesh unto the coming of the Lord, and being “caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air,” as he had written the Thessalonians, and now he writes the Corinthians this similar form of doctrine: “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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” Here, as in first Thessalonians, we naturally infer from the language employed that the apostle expected to remain alive unto the coming of the Lord, and he assumes that many of his Corinthian brethren would also thus remain. Some would doubtless fall asleep before that grand event of the Lord’s descent from heaven, but not all. In Thessalonians be says nothing about the change which the living must undergo in order to inherit the incorruptible kingdom, but simply affirms that they “shall be caught up in the clouds unto a meeting of the Lord in the air”; but here, in writing to the Corinthians, having declared “that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” it behooves him to show that, even in the event of a translation into heaven without falling asleep in death, there must be a change from the corruptible to the incorruptible. For without such change the earthy could not “bear the image of the heavenly.” Hence the conclusion announced in verse 53: “This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” This accords with his previous argument and confirms it; from all of which it is to be understood that the body of the resurrection, the one which is adapted to the heavenly kingdom, is not and cannot be a body of flesh and blood. It must be changed so as to be incorruptible and immortal. The image of the earthy must be exchanged for the image of the heavenly. So enrapturing is the thought of such heavenly glorification that the apostle closes his discussion with exclamations of victory and thanksgiving, and an exhortation to steadfastness in the faith and work of the Lord (vers. 55-58).
(4) Second Corinthians 4:16–5:10. Another important expression of Pauline doctrine on the resurrection and the heavenly life is found in 2nd Cor. 4:16-5:10. The first statement in this passage affirms that a process of decay and a process of renewal are going on simultaneously every day. The one process is virtually identical with the sowing in corruption, and the other with the raising up in incorruption, which is asserted in 1st Cor. 15:42. In verse 14 preceding Paul has said “that he who raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also with Jesus, and shall present us with you.” Hence the idea of resurrection and glorification in the presence of Christ is in the apostle’s mind, and with it he associates the thought of being made perfect through sufferings (comp. Heb. 2:10, and 2nd Tim. 2:8-12). In accordance with the order of God, and the provision for continual renewal to counteract the process of decay, he declares that our temporary afflictions do in an abundant manner bring about for us “an eternal weight of glory.” The contrast is so great that he speaks of the affliction as a “momentary lightness,” and the glory as an “eternal weight”; and then, by way of further explanation, he adds, “while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” This looking at (_____, contemplating, turning attention to, fixing the mind’s eye on) the things which may not be seen with the natural eye (______) is noticeably relevant and suggestive. The unseen and eternal things are more real and substantial than those which appear to fleshly eyes, and we need not doubt or wonder when it is thus plainly intimated that the resurrection body must needs be invisible to mortal gaze. In immediate connection with this reference to the unseen and eternal it is written: “For we know that if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens.” The earthly house is here obviously a designation of the human body, called “our outward man” in 4:16, above, which is subject to decay and dissolution. But upon the event of its dissolution, “we have a building from God, a house not made with hands.” This building is not heaven itself, but the new body which God gives in place of the earthly, temporary, visible tabernacle of the fleshly body, which is dissolved and put off in death (comp. 2nd Pet. 1:13, 14). This appears also from the following verse: “For verily in this (earthly house) we groan, longing to be clothed upon with our habitation which is from heaven.” This building from God, not made with hands, accords with the figure of the grain in 1st Cor. 15:36-38, and here as there it might be said, “The house which is dissolved is not the building that shall be, but God gives it a new habitation even as it pleases him.” The word tabernacle (____, tent) is applied to the earthly house, but the heavenly structure is called a building (______) and a habitation (_______), words that denote permanent abode. This house, moreover, is said to be “eternal, in the heavens” and “from heaven,” and so it belongs to the category of “the things which are not seen and are eternal.” In connection with the word habitation the apostle introduces another but similar figure of “being clothed upon” and “being clothed” (_______, and _______; comp. 1st Cor. 15:53, 54). He seems to have no liking for the doctrine of a separate disembodied condition of the soul, nor does he entertain the Greek conception of a naked, wandering ghost, flitting here and there without shelter or clothing. “We are longing” he says, “to be clothed upon with our habitation which is from heaven; if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For indeed we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened; not for that we would be unclothed, but that we would be clothed upon, that what is mortal may be swallowed up of life.” Here there is no conception of an intermediate state of possible long continuance between death and the resurrection, The apostle seems to have had in mind the being “changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” even as he wrote in 1st Cor. 15:52. His longing for the clothing of the heavenly habitation is acknowledged in verse 2, and in verse 4 he expresses his antipathy to being unclothed, and his wish rather to remain alive and to be so clothed upon by his heavenly vesture “that the mortal (______, that which is liable to death) may be swallowed up of life.” But at the time of this writing Paul appears to have felt, as Peter in 2nd Pet. 1:14, that “the putting off of his tabernacle was coming swiftly on,” and hence his language in verses 6-8: “Being always of good courage, and knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord (for we walk by faith, not by sight); we are of good courage, I say, and are willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord.” The doctrine and sentiment of this confession are in complete harmony with Phil. 1:20-24, which may well be cited here as both parallel and explanatory: “Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain…. I am in a strait betwixt the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ; for it is far better.” According to this faith one need have no fear of death and dissolution of the body. For if the earthy tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God; it is not made with hands; it is in the heavens and from heaven; and it may therefore become our actual possession (_____, ver. 1) immediately after the dissolution of the earthly and the mortal. So by dissolution of the mortal and reception of the immortal, whether through death or by a sudden translation, “death is swallowed up in victory.” The writer of these scriptures evidently does not expect to “be found naked” at any time. He expects even in the event of death to be clothed upon by an invisible, eternal vesture from God, and so he continually walks by faith and not by sight. He makes it his aim, as a matter of honorable ambition, “whether at home or absent, to be well-pleasing unto the Lord” (ver. 9). In such a state of life and action one experiences the inner working of God himself, and has “the earnest of the Spirit” (ver. 5) which is a conscious foretaste of the heavenly inheritance (comp. Eph. 1:14). As a motive for such honorable ambition to be always well-pleasing to Christ, the apostle concludes this passage with the solemn statement: “For we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” In these words we may discern an implied reference to a resurrection as well as a judgment of the unjust (comp. Acts 24:15); but, if so, it did not accord with the scope of the epistle to enlarge on that particular subject, or to show how it might be adjusted to the doctrine of the resurrection as elsewhere explained to the Corinthians.
(5) In Romans and Philippians. We find nothing elsewhere in this apostle’s writings to supply other or additional information touching the resurrection of the dead. Such teaching as that of Rom. 6:5-14, simply affirms the “newness of life” and holy fellowship which the believer enjoys in Christ. It involves death unto sin and life unto God, so that when sin is not allowed to reign in the mortal body, and the members are presented as instruments of righteousness, one is, so to speak, “as alive from the dead.” So again in Rom. 8:11: “If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, he that raised Christ Jesus from the dead shall quicken also your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” This quickening we observe is of “mortal bodies” (______), that is, bodies liable to death, not dead bodies, or lifeless corpses. The process by which these mortal bodies are to be made alive is not stated. The time is equally indefinite. It may be by the sudden rapture, referred to in 1st Cor. 15:51, 52, at the coming of the Lord; or it may be immediately after the dissolution of the earthly house, as expressed in 2nd Cor. 5:1. In Phil. 3:10, 11, Paul speaks of his ambition and longing to know Christ, “and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed to his death, if by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead.” The exact concept which is here to be formed of “the resurrection from the dead” is not altogether clear. The reference seems to be to some particular order or class of the dead, like “those of the Christ, at his coming” (1st Cor. 15:23). In verses 20 and 21 of the same chapter it is also written: “Our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, according to the working whereby he is able to subject all things unto himself.” This also accords with the teaching of 1st Cor. 15:53. The corruptible, dishonorable, and weak Mortal must put on incorruption. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, and hence this mortal body must be changed and fashioned after “the image of the heavenly.”
(6) In Colossians, Ephesians, and Second Timothy. In Col. 3:1‑4, we have a beautiful expression of Pauline doctrine, and one that seems to have been of special comfort and inspiration to the apostle in his last years: “If then ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth. For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory.” Here the confidence of union with Christ has begotten the faith and experience of “eternal life,” which knows no death (comp, John 11:26), and no separation from Christ, but abides in joyous expectation of a manifestation with him in glory at no distant day. The same inspiring thought is set forth in Eph. 1:20, and 2:6, where “the Father of glory” is said to have raised up Jesus Christ from the dead, “and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenlies,” and has also “quickened us together with Christ, and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus.” This living fellowship with Christ and God is in great part, as we have previously shown, a present possession. The Christian believer has already “passed out of death into life” (John 5:24), and his body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in him (1st Cor. 6:19), but immediately upon his putting off the fleshly tabernacle he receives his building from God, eternal, in the heavens. Accordingly Paul, in prospect of martyrdom, said: “I am already being offered, and the time of my departure is come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but also to all them that have loved his appearing" (2nd Tim. 4:6-8). That day of the Lord’s “appearing” was evidently for him in the near future, at the time of his departure from his earthly life. At that day he expected to receive the crown from the heavenly righteous Judge and Lord. The glorified Christ, reigning and judging “at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” and enthroned in the glory of his Father which he had before the world was, is doubtless capable of “appearing” to every one of his saints at the time of their departure, somewhat, perhaps, as he did to Stephen at the time of his martyrdom. Thus he comes again and receives them unto himself (John 14:3), and unto each one will he give, in his own time and manner, his spiritual body as it shall please him. And so, each in his own order, and time, shall we all “be clothed upon with our habitation which is from heaven.”
8. Various Types of Biblical Doctrine. One result of our examination of what the different biblical writers say about the resurrection of the dead is that their statements, taken as a whole, are not altogether uniform or harmonious. Different types of doctrine appear in the canonical as well as in the apocryphal books. But in the main the various types of doctrine are not so divergent as to be pronounced inconsistent with each other. The Old Testament references are so few and vague that we cannot put them forward as conclusive on any one phase of the subject. The New Testament teaching is very much fuller, but neither Christ nor his apostles have told us all we desire to know about the nature and the conditions of those who attain to the resurrection from the dead. From what is written we may reasonably infer that the change from mortal to immortal modes of life is such that no revelation and no language can clearly impart to the human mind the actual realities. We should not, therefore, think it strange that differences of conception and statement, characteristic of individual modes of thought, appear among the different writers on a theme like this. The teaching of Jesus was suggestive and corrective rather than formal and discursive. He nullified the objections of the Sadducees by exposing their false notions of the resurrection life, but he offered no revelation on the subject beyond a few remarkable statements, partly negative, partly suggestive, but notably adapted to correct the current belief in a literal restoration of the fleshly body.
9. No Basis for Many Prevalent Theories. In a careful study of all that is written in the Scriptures touching the resurrection we are not able to find evidence sufficient to warrant most of the fancies and theories which have widely prevailed. That the body of the resurrection is to be a reconstruction of the same particles of matter which are buried in the grave is a dogma which has no support in the teaching of Christ or of his apostles. That it is constructed out of some indestructible germ, that belongs to the body and is buried with it, has been elaborately argued from Paul’s figure of the grain (in 1st Cor. 15:36-38), and from certain speculations of Jewish rabbis. But the conjecture is entitled to no serious consideration, for Paul’s allusion to the grain that is sown is not of a nature to give endorsement to the peculiar rabbinical fancy, and his entire argument throughout that chapter is conspicuously different from the style and the thought of the Jewish schools of that time. The apostle, moreover, positively denies that flesh and blood can inherit the kingdom of God, and his concept of a new, spiritual, and heavenly organism is totally incompatible with the idea of a material body developed out of an infinitesimal germ. Some Writers have enlarged upon the supposable impossibilities of restoring the bodies of the innumerable dead. They have cited the fact of one human body going to form some part of another, as when devoured by cannibals. The different members of one and the same body have in some cases been scattered far apart, and separated by intervening oceans. Some have argued that all the dust of the earth would be insufficient to reconstruct the material bodies of all men who have lived and died, and others have alleged that, if all who have ever lived were to stand up at one time, there would not be room enough on the entire surface of the earth to place them. These crass conceptions and the supposed impossibilities are all irrelevant and futile, and they have grown out of the notion of a resuscitation of the mortal body of flesh and blood. That several Old Testament writers entertained some idea of a future resurrection of the physical body, and cast their utterances in the forms of popular expression, may be true. But so far as they have done so, their utterances do not prove the truth of any particular dogma or theory. Incidental allusions are not proofs. Nearly all the issues of controversy on this subject have arisen over attempts to dogmatize on questions which the Scriptures have left undetermined.
10. The Main Idea is a New Organism. So far as the concept of the resurrection of the dead differs from that of the “immortality of the soul,” it seems to consist mainly, according to the Scriptures, in some new and more enduring organism of the conscious personal life. It is the projection of that life, in the order of God, and with all that constitutes its spiritual nature and character, into the unseen and eternal future. This change from a condition of corruption to one of incorruption is conceived as a restitution of the individual who dies and is buried. He does not perish in the dust, but rises up in a new and imperishable body such as it pleases God to give to every one. A few very explicit declarations of Scripture affirm a resurrection both of the just and the unjust. The wicked awake to shame and contempt, and come forth to a resurrection of judgment, which is of the nature of a second death. But the righteous are clothed in light as with a garment. They shine as the stars forever, and like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. They put off the earthly tabernacle, but immediately receive from God their new house, not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens.
11. All the Dead Not Raised Simultaneously. It has been common with theologians to speak of “the general resurrection of the last day” as if all the dead were to be simultaneously raised up out of their graves at some future day or moment of time. But our study of the Scriptures has failed to find sufficient warrant for this dogma. On the contrary, we find numerous intimations that the resurrection of different persons and orders occurs at different periods of time, and indeed may be a process ever going on, although we know not how. The incidental use of such a phrase as at the last day cannot determine such a question, for every individual may and must in a very obvious sense have his own last day, whether it be simultaneous with that of others or not. The statement of John 5:28, 29, is not equivalent to saying that all who are in the tombs shall come forth at one and the same instant, for the context shows, as we have seen, that such a thought is not in the mind of the speaker, but rather a succession of resurrections. And when Paul writes that “as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive,” he does not say that they shall all be made alive at once. As well might one insist that when Jesus says, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me,” he means that all this drawing unto himself is the matter of an hour or a day. The language of Dan. 12:2, clearly conveys, as we have seen, the idea of a partial resurrection. So too, in 1st Cor. 15:20-26, Paul speaks of different orders and successive periods of the resurrection. The language of Phil. 3:10, 11, seems also to imply a partial and special resurrection from among the dead, for why should the apostle have such longing and struggle “to attain unto the resurrection from the dead” if all the dead are necessarily and as a matter of course to be raised up in one general resurrection of the last day? The same comment may be made on the language of Jesus in Luke 20:35, “they who are accounted worthy to attain the resurrection from the dead,” for if all the dead are to be raised up in one general resurrection, what is the sense of being counted worthy of obtaining a part in the inevitable? It may be that in passages like the last two cited the reference is to the “resurrection of the just” (Luke 4:14). We may conceive the righteous and the wicked as two great companies, and that Paul was anxious to obtain a part in the resurrection of the righteous, and that Jesus also means the resurrection of the just when he speaks of being worthy to attain unto it. But even if we allow this interpretation of the language in Luke and Philippians, it will not fit the doctrine of successive orders and times as stated in 1st Cor. 15:23. But if we suppose that the just and the unjust form the two classes to whom allusion is made, it is nowhere affirmed that all the individuals of either of these two classes are raised up simultaneously. What we have been accustomed to think of as a single and instantaneous event may be in the wisdom and power of God a continuous process, or it may have various times and seasons “which the Father hath set within his own authority.” We deem it highly important for the expositor of this class of Scriptures to refrain from positive assertions where the sacred writers are not unquestionably clear. On these mysterious questions of the time and manner of resurrection we see at best but “in a mirror, darkly.” We know only in a very small part, and we can at most explain only in part.
12. The Subject Belongs to the Unseen. It is worthy of special remark that in Paul’s teaching in 2nd Cor. 5:1-8, the new organ of the spirit, the building or habitation which we have in the heavens in place of the dissolved tabernacle of the flesh, is not a natural product out of the elements of the earthly house, but is from God and from heaven. How and from what he fashions it, we are not told. The most obvious import of the apostle’s words is that, upon the dissolution of the mortal frame, God immediately clothes the spirit with a bodily organism, invisible as the spirit itself, immortal, eternal, glorious. How much of the mortal body is utilized for the immortal we cannot know. As the eternal things are declared in this context to be invisible, we ought not to err in assuming that the substance of the heavenly body is of a nature to be seen by mortal eyes, or touched by fleshly hands. There are millions of living creatures about us in this world which even the microscope reveals but imperfectly; much less can they be discerned by the naked eye. In the realm of the unseen and eternal mysteries of spiritual life there are many things which we must accept by faith and not by sight. John writes that it is not yet manifest what we shall be, but if he shall be manifested, we shall be like him and see him as he is. When the Lord was transfigured before the three disciples “his face shone as the sun, and his garments became white as the light.” We may well regard that transfiguration as an ideal of the image of the heavenly which those who are risen in Christ shall ultimately bear. For aught that anyone can prove to the contrary, the resurrection of the dead may be a process that is continually going on, like all the other gracious work of the salvation of Jesus Christ. The great comprehensive announcement of our Lord, “If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto myself” (John 12:32), is quite analogous with the statement of Paul, “As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1st Cor. 15:22). But neither of these general statements implies that the drawing unto Christ and the making alive of all men are to be accomplished at one last period or point of time. The mighty work is better conceived as going on during the whole time that the enthroned and reigning Christ is putting all his enemies under his feet (1st Cor. 15:25). The new life of God, which is implanted by spiritual regeneration, develops day by day into eternal life, and whenever its mortal tabernacle is dissolved, the living soul receives its new building from God which is fashioned after the image of the heavenly and eternal. But on all these mysteries of the invisible world we must be content not to know all that we may very much desire to ascertain.
13. Summary of the Biblical Teaching. Recapitulating now, we may briefly sum up the results of the foregoing discussion in the following statements:
1. Jewish and Christian interpreters have read into certain poetical passages of the Old Testament a crass conception of a resurrection of fleshly bodies, and these notions have taken on various materialistic forms in popular thought. It is natural for the popular imagination to clothe all concepts of a future life in materialistic forms.
2.There was no uniformity of opinion on this subject among the Jewish people. Some of the Jews denied the resurrection altogether, and rejected the doctrine of angels and spirits. Those who affirmed the doctrine of a future resurrection differed among themselves as to its nature and extent: some believing in the resurrection both of the just and unjust, others only of the just.
3. The teaching of Jesus in the synoptic gospels does not favor any theory of the resurrection of the natural body. In his reply to the Sadducees he declared that in the resurrection they are not fleshly but spiritual beings like the angels in heaven.
4. In the fourth gospel Jesus affirms in one passage the resurrection of “all that are in the tombs,” both the good and the evil; but in the same connection he outlines three kinds of resurrection, and in other parts of this gospel teaches that they who partake of his life and spirit shall never taste of death.
5. The Apocalypse accords with the fourth gospel in presenting the idea of a “first resurrection” and a “second death,” but the doctrinal content is uncertain by reason of its setting in a composition so mystical and visional that interpreters differ widely among themselves as to its meaning.
6. Paul is much more explicit and detailed in his treatment of the subject, and his teaching involves the following propositions: (1) The resurrection of the dead is a fundamental article of the Christian faith. (2) It is conceived as in some sense a quickening of the mortal body and making it alive with immortal vigor. This thought attaches especially to the mystery of a sudden change which those experience who remain alive unto the coming of the Lord from heaven. (3) The apostle gives no place for the doctrine of an intermediate state of long duration between death and the resurrection. The heavenly body is given immediately after the dissolution of the earthly house, and is as truly an organism as is the earthly body. (4) The body of the resurrection is not the body that is sown during the earthly existence; it is not a body of flesh and blood, but is to exist in striking contrast to the corruptible, dishonored, and weak conditions of this mortal life, and to abide in incorruption, glory, and power. (5) The dead are not all raised simultaneously, but each in his own order and in his own time. (6) Since flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, the mortal body must be put off by death, or by some transmutation and transfiguration, and be so changed as to be adapted to the conditions of heavenly life with our glorified Lord. There must be a new spiritual organism for each risen and glorified human personality.
Compare Yasna 30:9; Vendidad 18:51, and the more elaborate argument of the Bundahish 30.
These lines are repeated in Tobit 13:2:—“He leads down to Hades, and he leads up again.” Also in a slightly changed and enlarged form in the Wisdom of Solomon, 16:13: “Thou hast authority over life and death, and thou leadest down to the gates of Hades and leadest up again,”
Many of the older expositors, however, insisted that verse 2 contains an express prediction of the resurrection of Jesus on the third day. Some displayed a disposition of bitter hostility towards those who could find no such specific prediction. Such facts admonish us that not only have predictions of Christ been discovered in Old Testament texts where no sound exegesis finds them, but also that ideas of a physical resurrection have been evolved out of poetic metaphors, which, when first used by the biblical writer, were not at all designed to inculcate such a dogma, nor to affirm it as a fact.
Some understand ____, lights, here as in 2nd Kings 4:39, to signify herbs; but this interpretation seems to miss the true and deeper thought of the prophet. “The prophet means to say,” says Cheyne, “Thy dew, O Jehovah, is so full of the light of life that it even draws forth the shades from the dark womb of the under-world.”—Commentary on Isaiah, in loco.
It is not properly a similitude that Ezekiel uses in this vision, if from the certain fact of a general future resurrection he would fortify Israel in the belief and expectation of their own political resuscitation; but it is this resuscitation itself exhibited now in vision, that they might be prepared to look for it afterwards in reality. The mere circumstance of such a resurrection-scene being thus employed by the prophet, for such a specific purpose, could not of itself prove the doctrine of a future general resurrection of the dead, no more than his employing the machinery of cherubim and wheels of peculiar structure in his opening vision is a proof of the actual existence of such objects, either in the past or the future, in heaven or on earth. In both cases alike, what was exhibited in the vision was a representation in symbol of something corresponding that might be expected in the transactions of life, and the events of providence; but whether that symbol might have any separate and substantial existence of its own was not determined by such an employment of it, and in fact was quite immaterial as regarded the end in view.—Fairbairn, Exposition of Ezekiel, in loco.
How all this accords with the bitter persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes is shown in my Biblical Apocalypties, pp. 190-194, 199, 205-207, 210-212.
No writer who wishes to make himself understood would employ the word many if he intended all. “Many from the sleeping ones” cannot mean all the sleeping ones. The expression the many, __ _____, in Romans 5:15, is not parallel, and cannot be cited to prove that ____ in Daniel 12:2, may have the sense of all mankind. In Paul’s epistle the word is qualified and limited by the article, and serves a special purpose in a hypothetical argument.
Yasht 19:11, 12, 89, 90.
Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9; 5:16.
Apocalypse of Baruch 1, 2; Judith 16:17; Sibylline Oracles 4:181.
Fourth Ezra 7:32. Test. 12 Patriarchs, Benj., 10.
Book of Enoch 51:1, 2; 62:15,16; 91:10; 92:3.
Josephus, Antiquities 18, 1:4. Cornp. Acts 23:8.
Josephus, Antiquities 18, 1:5.
See Josephus, Antiquities 18, 1:3; Wars 2, 8:14. In the last named passage it is said, as a belief of the Pharisees, “that all souls are incorruptible, but the souls of good men are only removed into other bodies; but the souls of bad men are subject to eternal punishment.” The fourth book of the Sibylline Oracles belongs probably to the latter part of the first century, and expresses, in lines 181 and. 182, a widely accepted Jewish opinion of that time, namely, that God will again raise up and fashion anew “the bones and ashes of men as they were before.” How this belief passed over into patristic doctrine may be seen in Tertullian’s treatise, De Resurrections Carnis, and in Augustine’s De Civitate Dei, where it is maintained (22:19) that the hair and the nails shall be restored, inasmuch as Jesus said, “Not a hair of your head shall perish” (Luke 21:18).
Hort calls it “a Western non-interpolation. The text was evidently inserted from an assumption that a separation from the disciples at the close of a gospel must be the Ascension. The Ascension apparently did not lie within the proper scope of the gospels, as seen in their genuine texts: its true place was at the head of the Acts of the apostles, as the preparation for the day of Pentecost, and thus the beginning of the history of the Church.”—New Testament in Original Greek; Appendix, Notes on Selected Readings, p. 73.
The language of Luke 24:31,”he vanished out of their sight,” favors the idea of an intangible and ghost-like appearance of Jesus, as if his entire showing himself to the two disciples up to that point had been only Docetic or apparitional. But how he ________________, became invisible from them, is not told any more definitely than how he ______, was hidden, or hid himself, and went out of the temple unseen by those who took up stones against him, according to John 8:59. Imagination easily reads into such statements some things which the words do not clearly warrant.
The word ________ always means a sepulcher, or tomb, constructed for respectful interment of the dead, and for a memorial of them.
It is well in this connection to observe also a similar word of Jesus to the crucified malefactor, who prayed “Lord remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom.” Jesus replied: “Veril'y I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42, 43). The supplicant thought of a distant time, a future kingdom; but Jesus emphasizes the words to-day: not at a remote period, but this very day thou shalt be with me in a blessed Paradise.
For a fuller exposition of Rev. 20, see my Biblical Apocalyptics, pp. 450-459.
“The whole connection requires,” says Meyer, “that _____ should be bodies as actual organs of life, not inorganic things and materials.” He also observes that to explain “heavenly bodies” as meaning sun, moon and stars would be to attribute to the apostle a modern and nonbiblical use of words.—Exegetical Handbook, in loco.
______ bears the general idea of ruin, destruction, failure to attain certain possibilities, and so applies commonly to moral corruption; but _______ is the proper word to denote bodily corruption, and should have been employed here by Paul if he had intended to designate sepulchral decomposition. Comp. Acts 2:27, 31; 13:34-37.
Thus Whitby: “It seems probable that the word sown doth not relate to the body’s being lain in the earth, but rather to its production in the world; for when it is interred, it is no more an animal body, but a body void of life. The apostle doth indeed (verses, 36, 37) speak of seed sown in the earth, but than he speaks of it as still alive, and having its seminal virtue, or animal spirit in it, and dying afterwards; whereas our bodies first die, and than are cast into the earth.”—Commentary on the New Testament, in loco. London, 1744.Similarly Calvin, Neander, Hengstenberg, Heinrici, T. C. Edwards, Beyschlag, Charles, Schmiedel.
The subjunctive reading, _______, seems to be the best attested.
See 1st Thess. 4:15-17, and our comments above on pp. 231-233.
The dogma of “the Intermediate State,” an outgrowth in part of the rabbinical theories of “the underworld,” has no valid foundation in the Scriptures, finds not a word of support in the teaching of Jesus, and furnishes the logical basis of the Romish doctrine of purgatory and also of various doctrines of a future probation of souls that made a failure of this present life. It depends for all the support it has upon a foregone conclusion touching the nature of the body of the resurrection and the time of its being raised up. Assuming that a long period must elapse between death and the resurrection of the identical fleshly body that is put into the grave, it speculates on the vague possibilities of such a “disembodied state.” But from beginning to end it is wholly speculative and imaginary.
According to Godet, “the resurrection from the dead is very evidently, in this place, not the resurrection of the dead in general. What is referred to is a special privilege granted only to the faithful who shall be accounted worthy.” Commentary on Luke, in loco.
[ Table of Contents ]