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1 The return of Christ - Appendix 3 The Resurrection

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The resurrection

The Bible says that when Jesus Christ returns to the earth, there will be a resurrection of the dead. So what exactly is a resurrection, what will happen and what does it mean?

At the resurrection many people will be brought back to life.

Because the New Testament was originally written in the Greek language it is always good to look at the original Greek word behind English words we read in the New Testament. The English word “Resurrection” comes from a Greek word “Anastasis”. This Greek word is used many times in the New Testament (42 times to be exact!) and means to rise up or stand up. So whenever we see the word Resurrection we know that it means the standing up of dead ones.

At the resurrection, dead bodies will be brought back to life. There will be a re-creation of these people who have died back to the same mental, moral and physical state that they had prior to their death. There are two passages in the Bible which speak at length on the resurrection process. One passage is found in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 and the other at Daniel chapter 10.

Passage 1: I Corinthians Chapter 15: 35 to 54

This passage is part of the letter which the Apostle Paul wrote to the church (ecclesia) at the ancient city of Corinth. The people at this church denied the idea that it was possible for the dead to be resurrected. They saw it as a fable or mythical story. They could not understand how it was possible for a man to be raised back to his former self, mentally, morally and physically, after centuries of being in the ground . This is not a problem confined to Corinth or to the first century. There are many today that mock belief in the resurrection by asking how anyone can possibly live again after the body has completely decomposed. So Paul proceeded to show the Corinthians that they were wrong – it was possible for resurrection of the dead. But to accept this idea of resurrection they must do it in faith – and this is the crucial fact here. Resurrection is not something that can be proved conclusively as the event has not happened yet. But ofcourse there has been a resurrection in the past (Jesus Christ) and there is strong evidence for this. To make it easier for us to understand how Paul put forward his argument for resurrection we will look at the passage from 1 Corinthians chapter 15 in sections:

Verse 35 to 38

35 But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” 36 Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. 37 And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body.

The words “raised up” in verse 35 come from a Greek word “Egeiro”. This Greek words means to awaken, wake up and also to rebuild and cause to exist. So in verse 35 Paul is preempting the Corinthians – he knows that they are wondering how a person would be rebuilt if they were brought back to life. Will they be exactly the same as they were before they died?

Paul calls them foolish (verse 36) for he shows the answer to their difficulty was right under their noses. He points out that nature teaches the principles of resurrection. They all knew about planting and harvesting – it was part of everyday life. The seed they planted each year was destroyed in the process of reproduction and growth – it died so that it could live as a fully grown plant! When he wrote this, Paul was probably thinking about the words of Christ:

Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. (John 12:24)

Seeds maybe dead but they can produce life

A grain of wheat produces a wheat plant.

 

In dying and then only through the process of decay, a seed can produce life. What this process does is not produce the seed that was sown, but something very closely related to it. A grain of wheat produces a wheat plant when it develops through being sown. You do not get a barley plant from a wheat seed or oats from a corn-seed. So the Corinthians were asked to considered the natural phenomena of sowing grain which is dead when it is put into the ground but becomes a new plant when it springs forth. In a similar way, the human body is dead in the ground but through resurrection it springs forth to a living creature. So the principle of nature is that new life is preceded by death of the original seed body – it is the same idea for human beings.

Probably a passage that influenced Paul’s thinking is found in John chapter 12 and verses 23 to 25.

But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:23-25)

Jesus in this verse is talking about his coming glorification. He sees a man who chooses not to plant a seed and hold on to it and as a result he loses it by the natural process of decay. However, if a man chooses instead to plant it in his field, he sacrifices it, and even though the seed still decays he will gain a harvest. This same process can be applied to human life. One man may choose not to commit his life to God and live his life entirely for himself. At the end he will perish. Another man may “lose” his life by following Christ, but he gains everlasting life.

Paul points out (verse 37) that the fully grown plant is a completely different form from the original seed that was put in the ground. It is the same with human beings (verse 38) – a body placed in the grave after an existence in a state of corruption, dishonour and weakness will not be raised in a state of perfection, incorruption, honour and power. The human cannot become the angelic without a complete change effected by the intervention of God’s divine will (in other words, God's determination).

Verse 42 to 44

42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body

Paul continues with the idea of comparing nature (seeds) with human resurrection in verse 42. In verses 37 and 38 he spoke about the seed being planted, dying and sprouting forth in a new life (as per its species). He says this is similar to the resurrection or standing up of dead humans from the dust of the ground.

The seed dies and then sprouts new life. In a similar way, the human body dies and is resurrected to a new life.

Paul goes on to show by a series of stark contrasts the nature both of the “sowing” and of the harvest. There is a sowing in corruption, in dishonour, in weakness – these are all part of our current natural body. But then there is a raising in incorruption, in glory, in power – these are parts of the spiritual body. One is related to a natural life, the other is related to a spiritual life. If we wish to be part of the resurrection to everlasting life, there must be a “sowing” now, during our lifetime. This “sowing” is done:

“in corruption” – referring to our mortal bodies

“in weakness” – the condition of our mortality

“in dishonour” – referring to the frailty and unworthiness of mortality.

So what we “sow” during this lifetime in our natural body will govern what we reap later.

At Christ's return the dead will be resurrected

At the return of Christ, the individual will be awakened from sleep in the dust of the earth (in other words, from death) and will assume his former identity, mentally, morally, and physically. He will then be taken to the judgment seat where he will stand before Christ in a state of “corruption”, “weakness “, “dishonour” being the possessor of a natural, living body. If the person is accepted by Christ as worthy, the saints will undergo a change “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” into a state of incorruptibility or immortality. He is then said to have been “raised in incorruption”.

And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being ”The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians Ch.15: 45 - 54)

Passage 2: Daniel Chapter 10: 8 -19

In the third year of King Cyrus of Persia, a Godly man known as Daniel had vision of his own death, resurrection, judgement and glorification. This was intended as a example of the process he and others would have to pass through to become part of the future kingdom.

8 Therefore I was left alone when I saw this great vision, and no strength remained in me; for my vigor was turned to frailty in me, and I retained no strength. 9 Yet I heard the sound of his words; and while I heard the sound of his words I was in a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground.

10 Suddenly, a hand touched me, which made me tremble on my knees and on the palms of my hands. 11 And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.” While he was speaking this word to me, I stood trembling. 12 Then he said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. 13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia. 14 Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come.”

15 When he had spoken such words to me, I turned my face toward the ground and became speechless. 16 And suddenly, one having the likeness of the sons of men touched my lips; then I opened my mouth and spoke, saying to him who stood before me, “My lord, because of the vision my sorrows have overwhelmed me, and I have retained no strength. 17 For how can this servant of my lord talk with you, my lord? As for me, no strength remains in me now, nor is any breath left in me.”

18 Then again, the one having the likeness of a man touched me and strengthened me. 19 And he said, “O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong!” So when he spoke to me I was strengthened, and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.”

Daniel’s death

Daniel felt the loss of strength and bodily vigour (verse 8) which was due to the passing of life from his body. Daniel was face down on the ground (verse 9) in a deep sleep. This was the sign of his death.

The first stage of his resurrection

A hand touched him (verse 10) which brought a renewal of existence but its effect was partial, not complete. In other words, he had life back but he was not energetic. This will be the same for the reformation of the dead and their emergence from the grave.

The second stage of his resurrection

Daniel was asked to stand upright (verse 11). He stood there trembling probably because he was still feeble but it also seems because he was in a state of fear. Daniel is told that his words have been heard (verse 12). He turned his face to the ground and was speechless (verse 15) probably because he was still in a state of weakness. Then Christ stood before him at the judgement seat and touched Daniel’s lips (verse 16) so that he could give an account of himself.

The third stage of his resurrection

Daniel was touched again (verse 18) and this strengthened him. This tells of the approval of Daniel and the bestowal of his reward for faithfulness. It is the equivalent to being changed “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” into a state of incorruptibility. Daniel is told peace be to him and be strong. This in symbol tells us that Daniel stood immortal in the tranquility of unfading strength.

This is indeed a magnificent picture and one which every believer hopes he or she may also experience.

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Last Updated: Sunday, 08 March 2015