The Doctrine Of The Resurrection


A useful breakdown of 1 Corinthians 15

1. The resurrection is a historical fact, 1 Corinthians 15:1-25.

2. The consequences of denial, 1 Corinthians 15:16-34.

3. The method of the resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15:35-38.

a. The analogy from nature, 1 Corinthians 15:35-44.

b. The argument from Adam and Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:45-49.

4. The change! 1 Corinthians 15:50-53.

5. The triumph! 1 Corinthians 15:54-57.

6. The final exhortation, 1 Corinthians 15:58.

The Sadduceean View

Remember that some of the Corinthians were originally Sadducees. The Sadducees rejected the belief in a life after death and believed that mental and spirit life are only manifestations of physical life, therefore, they said, when physical life ceases all other manifestations of life also cease. This life is everything.

In other words, at death, the individual ceases to exist, and it was this notion that had led some of the Corinthian Christians to embrace the philosophy which said, ‘Let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.’ 1 Corinthians 15:32.

Therefore, there is no resurrection, because there is no future! 1 Corinthians 15:2.

At the other extreme, there were those who didn’t deny the possibility of the resurrection of the body and therefore the possibility that Christ was raised, but they nevertheless thought that it is ‘undesirable’!


Because they regarded the body as the part of Man’s being that ‘holds him back’ and prevents him from fulfilling his potential and experiencing the quality of life which is desirable. The body ‘shackles’ him. It ‘leads him along the wrong path’. It’s ‘the source of sin’.

Some of the early philosophers even refused to allow their portraits to be painted, lest the picture of their physical appearance caused them to be remembered and honoured because of how they looked and they gave thanks to God because he had not tied their spirit to an immortal body! It limits him in much the same way that a physical disability restricts the movement of a person.

These people even taught that the resurrection of Christ was a special resurrection, and because, at their baptism, they were buried with Christ and raised with Him to a new life, the resurrection was past already! Romans 6:3-8.

As for the risen Christ, they taught that the physical body of Christ remained in the tomb and eventually returned to the earthly elements of which it was composed, but His Spirit went out and was alive in His people. And that, they claimed, is what really matters. Bodily resurrection is not important. In fact, they said, to offer people a physical resurrection is a very doubtful blessing indeed!

A form of this idea is still alive today because there are those who deny that there will be a Day of Resurrection, and believe that Christ wasn’t raised from the dead.

What they consider to be important is what remains after death, is the goodness that flows from the life of every good person and every great teacher. They say that Jesus is still alive because of His example and His teaching,

And you will find such people who regard themselves as Christians, in many of the religious bodies today. One German philosopher, Keim, whose thinking was regarded as very influential, even claimed that the Apostles never actually saw the risen Christ. What they ‘saw’, was an impression that was placed on their minds by Christ Himself, who had passed into higher spiritual life.

To use the man’s own words, he said that these appearances were like telegrams, to assure them that He was alive. And, if He hadn’t given these signs of His glorified life, belief in Him as the Messiah would have died on the cross. The odd fact is that there is an element of truth in the last part of this idea because belief in the identity of Christ, the Messiah, depends on His resurrection.

Paul says in Romans 1:4, where he states that ‘Christ is proved to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead.’

But the difference between these ideas and what Paul actually taught, is irreconcilable. There is nothing mystical about his statements about the Lord’s Resurrection.

Belief in a Christ whose influence is alive only through His teaching and example may satisfy a man who has nothing more to help him, but it is not what the Scriptures teach. Consider the theory of the German Keim.

How does it explain the appearances of Christ in the Upper Room, where He invited Thomas to touch His body, and where they gave Him food to eat?

That was no phantom, Christ!

It wasn’t a ‘mental image’. And, whilst there are elements in the account of the Lord’s resurrection which we cannot explain at our current level of knowledge, we must be prepared to consider that one day we shall discover that there are forces and power in God’s World that explain the currently unexplainable and ‘we shall know, even as we are also known.’ 1 Corinthians 13:12

Paul touches on this thought when he writes about ‘a physical body and a spiritual body’. He says that ‘this mortal shall put on immortality and this corruption that put on incorruption.’ 1 Corinthians 15:54

Now, we may say that we don’t know how this will or can happen. Is this the only thing that we don’t understand? It seems to me that we need to bear in mind that the factor that connects the physical body which we have now, and the spiritual body which we shall eventually receive, is the soul, our true identity, the part of our real self.

The part of man which makes us unique, different from every other human being, the part that will occupy both bodies. Paul simply refuses to see a problem here. He says, ‘we shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed! In a moment in the twinkling of an eye!’ 1 Corinthians 15:52

Think about this!

When the moment comes and the dead are raised in the new bodies, at the same time, the bodies of living believers will also undergo the very same change. The transformation of the dying physical body will be experienced by both those who ‘sleep in Jesus’, and those who are still alive on Earth! And it will occur in a moment! Paul doesn’t attempt to describe the process, he simply states it as a fact.

Here is a very important truth. The word ‘sleep’, ‘koimaomai’, occurs 18 times in the Greek New Testament, and it is never used in connection with the ‘soul’ of a believer.

The Bible nowhere teaches the doctrine of ‘the sleep of the soul’. The word ‘sleep’ is only ever used to describe the appearance of the body in death. In fact, it is interesting to notice that the word ‘cemetery’ comes from the Greek word which means ‘sleeping place’.

Also, when Paul thinks about dying he says he ‘has a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better’. Philippians 1:23

Notice Philippians 1:22, where he speaks about living ‘in the body’. He explains this further when he says ‘absent from the body, at home with the Lord’ 2 Corinthians 5:8 and in 2 Corinthians 5:1 he refers to his body as an ‘earthly house’, a ‘tabernacle’, or ‘tent’, which is the very analogy that Peter uses in 2 Peter 1:13-14, ‘I am in this tent, I must put off this tent’.

Incidentally, I think that we overlook the problem that the resurrection of Christ must have caused Paul himself! It is true that, as a Pharisee, he would have no difficulty in accepting the fact of Resurrection, but we should remember that, as an ultra-orthodox Pharisee, he described himself as ‘a Pharisee of the Pharisees’, Acts 23:6 / Philippians 3:5, to accept the crucifixion of the Messiah must surely have been a struggle. After all, he had been brought up to believe that when the Messiah came, He would never die.

The Messiah could not die, but his mind underwent a radical change when he met the Risen Messiah on the Damascus Road. It may be significant that he asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Acts 9:5

Because it suggests that, up to that moment, he hadn’t believed that the Jesus, whom he would certainly was raised from the dead, if he had known Him who had been crucified, was the Messiah, and it was the Lord’s reply which came as the revelation that changed Paul’s thinking.

It occurs to me that if, as the critics assert, the accounts of the Lord’s resurrection are untrue, and His body wasn’t raised from the dead, the consequences would be devastating. It was Fairburn who made a statement to the effect, that, if no living Christ emerged from Joseph’s tomb, Matthew 27:57-61 that tomb becomes the grave, not only of a man but also of a religion and all the hopes that have been built upon it.

And Paul says as much in this chapter.

‘No resurrection, no faith.’ ‘No faith, no hope’

He declares what the consequences would be as far as the Apostles themselves were concerned, they were either liars or, at least, greatly deceived, 1 Corinthians 15:12-15. As for the believers, their faith would be empty and worthless, 1 Corinthians 15:16-17. And as for those who have died trusting in Christ, they have died without hope. 1 Corinthians 15:18-19.

But then there is something which Paul doesn’t mention. He doesn’t deal with the consequences as they relate to Christ Himself.

1. He repeatedly claimed, that, although He was going out to die, He would rise again, Matthew 16:21. He claimed that He had the power to lay down His life, and to take it up again, John 10:17-18.

He informed the Jews that His body was a ‘temple’ which He would ‘after three days’, John 2:19-22. If He didn’t rise from the dead, His word has failed. Just imagine what this would mean!

2. Furthermore, since Jesus claimed that His identity as the Messiah would be proved by His resurrection and His victory over death, 1 Corinthians 15:14. if He didn’t rise, His victory was incomplete and His claim unproven.

Remember, it wasn’t His death on the cross which proved His Deity. Many good men have died for what they believed. It was His resurrection from the dead which vindicated His claim, as Paul states in Romans 1.

Romans 1:1-4 ‘Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God—the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.’

Belief in the future life

We have been brought up in a society which is not surprised when resurrection from the dead is mentioned. People may not believe in it, they may not feel capable of discussing it. But it is not a revolutionary notion to them! They know it as an item of Christian belief. It is ‘what the church teaches’.

But, although philosophers throughout the ages had hoped that there might be something after death, they were never sure, and even God’s ancient people, who were in a covenant relationship with Him, knew nothing about ‘eternal life’ because the promise or hope of a life after death was not a part of the covenant enacted at Sinai. What was offered in the Mosaic covenant was long life in the Promised Land.

But Paul states in 2 Timothy 1:10 that, ‘Our Lord and Saviour Jesus has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel’.

Notice the phrase, ‘brought to light’. It implies that, until the Lord Jesus came, the subject was enshrouded in mist or darkness.

Only Christianity, in the Gospel, clearly and positively, offers to mankind the assurance that life beyond this life, is possible, because of the coming of Jesus Christ.



"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."