The Resurrection of the Dead

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69. When and how will the dead be resurrected?

When Christ returns to judge the world, he will raise the bodies of dead believers and unbelievers, and transform the bodies of all to suit their eternal destiny.

Lecture notes:
When Christ returns to the world…
The resurrection of the dead will be simultaneous with the 2nd coming of Christ, the final judgment, and the end of the world. Premillennial dispensationalists say that the resurrection of the saints will be 1000 years before the wicked. However, the Bible teaches that the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked is contemporaneous (Dan. 12:2; Jn. 5:28,29; 6:40; Acts 24:15; Rev. 20:13-15). In Jn. 5:21-20 Jesus combines the resurrection with the judgment of all including the wicked.
…He will raise…
Old Testament teaching:

  • Jesus saw that it was implied in Ex. 3:6 (Matt. 22:29-32)
  • OT believers had a hope of resurrection (Jn. 11:23-24; Acts 24:15)
  • Hebrews intimates that even the patriarchs looked forward to the resurrection of the dead (Heb. 11:10, 13-16, 19)
  • It’s implied in passages that speak of a deliverance from Sheol (Ps. 49:15; 73:24, 25; Prov. 23:14).
  • It is expressed in Job 19:25-27.
  • It is clearly taught in Isa. 26:19 and Dan. 12:2.
  • It is probably implied in Ezek. 37:1-14.

New Testament teaching:

  • Clearer and fuller than OT because it brings the climax of God’s revelation on this point in the resurrection of Christ;
  • Jesus argues the resurrection of the dead from the OT (Matt.22:23-33);
  • Teaches it very clearly in Jn. 5:25-29; 6:39, 40, 44, 54; 11:24, 25; 14:3; 17:24; Rom.8:11;
  • Most important passage is 1Cor. 15.
  • Other important passages are 1Thess. 4:13-16; 2Cor. 5:1-10; and Rev. 20:13.

He (the Resurrector) = Triune God

  • God raises the dead with no person specified (Matt. 22:29-30; 2 Cor. 1:9)
  • The work of resurrection is ascribed more particularly to the Son (Jn. 5:21, 25, 28, 29; 6:38-40, 44, 54; 1 Thess. 4:16)
  • Indirectly it is also designated as a work of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:11)

…the bodies of dead believers and unbelievers…
It will be a physical, a bodily resurrection of all dead wherever they may be, in the grave, in the sea, in the fire. Believers will be resurrected first (1Thess. 4:16). The resurrection of the wicked does not stand out prominently in Scripture. The soteriological aspect of the resurrection is in the foreground and they are the only ones that profit from the resurrection. However the resurrection of the wicked is taught (Dan. 12:2; Jn. 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15; Rev. 20:13-15).
…And transform the bodies of all to suit their eternal destiny.
All bodies will be transformed. The souls of the living will be transformed (the souls of the dead already having been transformed at death). Those alive at the time of the resurrection will not pass through physical death (1 Cor. 15:51-52).


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70. What will the believer’s resurrection body be like?

The believer’s resurrection body will be physical, personal, recognizable, changed, victorious, imperishable, beautiful, powerful, spiritual and Christ-like

Lecture notes:
The believer’s resurrection body will be physical…
The Christian hope is higher than the intermediate state with its spiritual glory. In Paul’s day many believed in only a spiritual resurrection (2 Tim.2:18). Christ is the “firstfruits” of the resurrection (1Cor. 15:20, 23) and the “firstborn of the dead” (Col. 1:18). This implies that as the resurrection of Christ was a bodily resurrection, the Christian’s will be the same.
Moreover, the repeated instances in which Jesus demonstrated to the disciples that he had a physical body that was able to be touched, that had flesh and bones (Luke 24:39), and that could eat food, show that Jesus’ body, which is our pattern, was clearly a physical body that had been made perfect.  Christ’s redemption includes not just the soul but the body (Rom. 8:23; 1Cor. 6:13-20) and will not be complete until then.
In Rom. 8:11, we are told that God through His Spirit will raise up our mortal bodies (…ζῳοποιήσει καὶ τὰ θνητὰ σώματα ὑμῶν…).  It’s clearly the body that’s prominently before the mind of the apostles in 1Cor. 15 esp. 1Cor. 15:35-49.
If the resurrection body were non-material or non-physical, the devil would have won at least a partial victory over God’s initial creation.
But what about: “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Cor. 15:50)?
“Flesh and blood” is our present human nature, particularly our physical bodies, as they are now existing in the likeness of Adam after the fall – that is, subject to weakness, decay, and ultimate death.  This is the point he has made in the previous four verses (1Cor. 15:45-49), in which he has been contrasting Adam with Christ.  He does not mean that we shall exist in a nonphysical state, for the entire heaven and earth will be made new and renewed for us to live in (Rom. 8:18-25).  We will not cease to exist in physical bodies, but we will be changed, and we will have an imperishable body, “For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:53).
…personal…
There will be a fundamental identity with the earthly body (Rom.8:11). The seed has a fundamental continuity with the fruit. It is sown, it is raised. Heidelberg Catechism 57 says: “This my body being raised.” Even now every particle in our body changes every seven years but through it all the body retains its identity. It will not be a completely new creation but a body continuous with the present body
Another indication of significant continuity between our present bodies and the bodies that we will have is seen in the fact that those believers who remain alive on the day Christ returns will “be changed”-yet their bodies will not be replaced (1 Cor. 15:51-53).
Closely connected with this is the question of whether the same body that was separated from the soul, and reunited with it at the resurrection, would consist of all the same atoms. Luther thought so, and in this he followed Augustine. The Reformed did not express themselves about this point, except to insist that the same body shall be raised. In his Catechism Voetius asks: But how is it possible that bodies which have rotted and have become dust and ashes, yea. have been eaten by fish, and have been changed into the substance of fish, can rise again? “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible;’ (Matt. 19:26; Ps. 115:3)
The God who created the universe and created each one of us, and who sovereignly rules over every bit of this creation at every moment, and who carries along all things by his word of power, can certainly keep track of the parts of our physical bodies that he wishes to preserve and use as the “seed” from which a new body will be made. It is important to insist on the resurrection of a real, physical body, not only for the reasons above, but also because this provides a clear affirmation of the goodness of God’s physical creation.
…recognizeable (to owner and observer)…
The disciples were slow to recognize Christ (opposite of aging had occurred) but did recognize. The nail prints were continuous. Jesus says that people will come from east and west and “sit at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 8: 11 ). Implies recognition of personalities.
…changed…
Christ’s post-resurrection body was not fully glorified but it had already undergone a remarkable change
…victorious…
The day of glorification will be a day of great victory as death will be swallowed up (1 Cor. 15:25-26; 54-55)
…imperishable…
What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable (1 Cor. 15:42-44, 49). It will never wear out, grow old, or be sick. It will be healthy and strong forever.  Grudem says that there will be no aging but all will have the characteristics of youthful but mature manhood or womanhood.  Fragility and vulnerability will be replaced by enduring and indestructible bodies.
…beautiful…
Our bodies will be raised in glory in contrast to dishonor. They will have strikingly beautiful appearance with a brightness or radiance (Matt. 13:43; Dan. 12:3; Ex. 34:35; Matt. 17:2; 1 Cor. 15:49).
…powerful (1Cor. 15:43)…
In contrast to weakness which we see in our present bodies, there will be a fullness of strength and power (though not omnipotence). Not superhero power but sufficient strength to do all we desire to do.
…spiritual (1Cor. 15:44)…
“Spiritual (pneumatikos) never means non-physical but rather consistent with the character and activity of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 1:11; 7:14; 1 Cor. 2:13, 15).  Wayne Grudem paraphrases, “It is sown a natural body subject to the characteristics and desires of this age, and governed by its own sinful will, but it is raised a spiritual body, completely subject to the will of the Holy Spirit and responsive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance.”[footnote]Systematic Theology 833.[/footnote]  Such a body is not at all “non-physical,” but it is a physical body raised to the degree of perfection for which God originally intended it.
…and Christ-like.
Phil. 3:21 Our body will be conformed to His glorious body (Rom. 8:17, 30). “When he appears we shall be like him” (1John 3:2).  Ethical and spiritual likeness (1Cor. 15:49; also Rom. 8:29).

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71. What will the unbeliever’s body be like?

The unbeliever’s resurrection body will be physical, personal, recognizable, changed, imperishable, defeated, ugly, weak, sinful, and devil-like.

Lecture notes:
 The unbeliever’s resurrection body will be physical, personal, recognizeable, changed, imperishable…
You will see that unbeliever’s resurrection (Jn. 5:28, 29) shares some qualities with the believer’s.  Both resurrections will be physical, personal, recognizable, changed and imperishable.  However, changed is not for the better but for the worse, and imperishable does not mean no decay or weakness, but rather that the bodily existence will never cease.
…defeated, ugly, weak, sinful, and devil-like.
We do not have a lot of explicit teaching on the unbeliever’s resurrection. However, we can imply it from the reverse of the believer’s resurrection. The resurrection of the wicked is not an act of redemption but of sovereign justice. The bodies of the wicked are reunited with their souls, but in a hideous state of weakness and defeat. There is no sense of gain but rather the sense of loss is increased by the reunion of body and soul. God’s righteousness demands that sin shall be punished in the soul and body in which sin was committed and therefore the wicked shall receive the same body again. And it will be impossible not to sin in such an existence. All restraint, internal and external will be removed.  The wicked will become like their father the devil.
How could the bodies of the wicked endure forever in the burning fire of hell, if these bodies also would not become immortal and incorruptible?” (Kersten)