30. The Resurrection Of The Dead


One of the great phenomena of history occurred a few weeks after the death of Jesus Christ at Calvary. When he was crucified his disciples were disillusioned.

One had betrayed him into the hands of his enemies. The rest had forsaken him at his trial. When he was buried, it was by the hands of others than his apostles.

Apparently, they had lost all hope because their Master was taken away. Yet these same men, who shortly before were utterly discouraged, preached the gospel on the day of Pentecost just fifty days later with astounding success.

In the months and years that followed they spread the teachings of the Galilean throughout the world with a rapidity unequalled in history. Eventually, if tradition may be replied on, they all died as martyrs, except for John, the beloved apostle.

How shall we account for the amazing transformation of these men? What changed their dejection into a burning zeal that knew no bounds?

There is but one explanation, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Between the time of his death and the day of Pentecost, they had beheld in the flesh the one whom they had seen die on the cross.

The importance of the resurrection cannot be too highly stressed. Man has always been concerned about it.

Job asked, “If someone dies, will they live again?” Job 14:14. The Pharisees and Sadducees of the time of Jesus were divided over the matter.

The Pharisees contended for the resurrection, but the Sadducees denied it. Our whole philosophy of life necessarily revolves around what we think of life after death.

Paul believed in the resurrection, but he declared, “If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 1 Corinthians 15:32.

He summed the matter up correctly. If there is no hereafter, then we might as well give ourselves over to enjoying life in the fullest carnal way. If there is a life after death, then our primary concern should be for that.

The doctrine of the resurrection is in the realm of faith. It is not possible to scientifically prove it. By the same token, it cannot be scientifically disproved.

There are thousands of things which cannot be demonstrated by science, yet we accept them without question. Why? Because of the testimony of others.

For example, we cannot prove by science that Julius Caesar ever lived. Yet this is accepted as an unquestioned fact because of historical records that have come down to us.

In the same way, we have abundant testimony of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from those who were eyewitnesses. Our faith, therefore, rests upon a firm foundation, not mere speculation.


In support of the doctrine of the resurrection, Paul draws an argument from things familiar to every tiller of the soil.

“But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.” 1 Corinthians 15:35-38.

Whenever a seed is planted, it dies in producing a new plant. In order for there to be new life, there must first be death. Paul’s reasoning is that if we die a physical death, it is possible for that death to produce a new life even as a seed produces a new plant as it dies.


Jesus Christ taught the doctrine of the resurrection. Of himself he declared, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day, he will be raised to life!” Matthew 20:18-19.

Of others, he said, “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.” John 5:28-29.

Not only did Jesus teach the resurrection, but he proved it possible by himself arising from the grave. Since he arose it proves his teachings relating to the resurrection correct and that we also may arise some day. It is impossible to separate the resurrection of Christ from our future resurrection.

Their connection is demonstrated by Paul when he says, “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” 1 Corinthians 15:12-17.

It follows then that the resurrection of Christ and our resurrection stand or fall together. If the former can be proved from adequate testimony, then the latter is established.


The resurrection of Christ has been called the best proven fact of ancient history. We know that he appeared to the following people between his resurrection and ascension.

1. Mary Magdalene, John 20:11-17.

2. Some women, Matthew 28:1-10.

3. Peter, 1 Corinthians 15:5.

4. Cleophas and a companion, Luke 24:13-35.

5. All the apostles except Thomas, John 20:19-25.

6. All the apostles including Thomas, John 20:26-29.

7. Seven disciples at the Sea of Tiberias (Galilee), John 21:1-24.

8. All the apostles on a mountain in Galilee, Matthew 28:16-20.

9. Five hundred disciples at once, 1 Corinthians 15:6.

10. James, 1 Corinthians 15:7.

11. All the apostles at the ascension, Acts 1:1-11.

These people bore witness that they had seen Jesus. Therefore, the number of witnesses is sufficient to establish the resurrection of Christ. Let us notice two other questions which may be asked regarding their testimony.


If it could be shown that the witnesses were neurotic or mentally incapable, it could be argued that their testimony is unreliable. But the gospel narratives show that neither of these suppositions is true.

Thomas, for example, was extremely hard to convince. He refused to believe that Jesus had arisen, even when ten other men declared that they had seen him. But when he saw him with his own eyes, he believed.

The gospel records show these witnesses to be dispassionate and not likely subjects of hallucinations. That they were of high mentality is demonstrated in the writings of the New Testament, several of the writers of which were eyewitnesses to the resurrection.

These books are not the babbling of either incompetent or deranged minds, as even the disbelievers in the resurrection must admit. Therefore, the witnesses were competent.


If it could be shown that the witnesses were deceivers, the resurrection story could be discredited. Four reasons which will prompt a witness to testify falsely are fear, avarice, ambition and pride. Fear could not have been the motive, since their declaration of the resurrection only endangered their own lives.

The desire for gain did not prompt a lying testimony, since such a declaration could not benefit them materially. In fact, the opposite was true.

And certainly, ambition and pride were not motives, since their teaching of Christ only resulted in their being ostracised by their own people. Furthermore, their honesty is demonstrated by their relating matters in their writings to their own discredit, such as the apostles forsaking Jesus.

And perhaps, above all, is the fact that they suffered immeasurably for what they believed. They were willing to die rather than renounce Christ. Only an honest man will die for what he teaches.

Therefore, the testimony must be accepted since (1) there were sufficient witnesses, (2) they were competent, and (3) they were honest. The proof of our future resurrection depends upon the promise of Jesus that we will arise from the grave. Since his own resurrection has been proved, we may accept his promise as trustworthy.


There are things relating to the resurrection which we do not understand. However, of some things we may be certain. We will arise from the grave when Christ returns again.

“According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17.

We know that the unrighteous will be resurrected at the same time.

“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.” John 5:28-29.

While both the righteous and the unrighteous will arise at the same time, their fate will be vastly different.

We also know that in the resurrection we will possess a body, but that it will not be a physical one.

“I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” 1 Corinthians 15:50.

We will have a spiritual body. “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” 1 Corinthians 15:44.

We do not know exactly what this will be like, but we are assured, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:2. Our spiritual bodies, therefore, will resemble that of Jesus Christ.

Our resurrection will signal the defeat of the last enemy, death.

This is beautifully expressed by Paul when he avows, “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:54-57.


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