Elementary Doctrines - Resurrection from the Dead
I AM the Resurrection and the Life
Resurrection from the Dead - Part 1
As we continue our studies on the Elementary Doctrines I would suspect that no doctrine is more foundational than the resurrection of the dead. There are two elements to the resurrection of the dead that I’d like for us to consider—and for those of you who may be listening to this as the first broadcast, we are establishing, once again, the elementary doctrines, or the foundational doctrines which should be at the heart of the belief structure of every believer. (Inserted – actual verse—“Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” – Hebrews 6:1,2) And you can readily see that the absence of the understanding of these elementary things allows our enemy to have great victories over us in ordinary situations.
We ought to be strong and courageous and growing up in the things of God but when we neglect these basic foundations, in some senses we are like the person whom Jesus described at the end of the Sermon on the Mount in the 7th chapter of Matthew as “building upon the sand”. (Inserted – actual verse—“ ‘Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.’” – Matthew 7:24-27)
In the present church culture, personalities have become more important than truth and truth is not just information and ideas; truth is not even what is logical or reasonable. Truth is what stands the test between the eternal and time because heaven and earth will pass away but what is true cannot be shaken. What is true is not just what is factually true; what is true is more like: what are the rules, what are the laws of nature? If you were to analogize to, say, the laws of thermodynamics and nature and to try to find the principles that are foundational to our walk in the Kingdom, these elementary things would be like that. And perhaps no concept is more basic and becomes more necessary that we understand it than the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.
There are two elements to this that I’d like for us to explore. As so commonly is the case, God shows us the “big picture” and then He shows us the personal application and in the big picture we are looking at the resurrection of Jesus himself from the dead and then we are looking at the applications to ourselves in terms of the dual resurrection that we experience. First there is Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead which is the template—it sets up the whole model of our understanding—and you will see in a moment as we read from I Corinthians, the 15th chapter, that Paul considers the resurrection of the dead and the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead to be the very foundation stone of our belief as Christians and our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ rises or falls on whether or not the resurrection of the dead is, in fact, true.
We live in a time in which even “Christian theologians” are known for assailing something as foundational as the resurrection of the dead. Such a person cannot be a believer in Jesus Christ—cannot be a believer in the fact of who Jesus is—because the testimony that was set forth on the day of Pentecost by the twelve who were selected was the testimony of eyewitnesses and they testified to the Jewish nation—in the city of Jerusalem—they testified that God raised Jesus from the dead and made Him both Lord and Christ. Paul picks up this theme in I Corinthians, the 15th chapter, and he explores it fully when he says—beginning at verse one—“Now brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” Very strong words, and then he says that he is giving to them the things that he has received from the Lord. Now he launches into it in verse 12 where 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, (here it is in the plainest of language)our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (Inserted – I Corinthians 15:1,2; 12-14)
Now there are famous theologians today who question such things as the virgin birth and there are others of equal fame who question the resurrection of the dead and yet they claim to be followers of Jesus. Their problem is that they do not understand how it is possible for someone who was dead to be raised. Well it is a pretty simple thing really. If no one is raised from the dead then once you die, you just die. Their theology then is the theology of humanism because the only value to being a Christian is that it’s a different lifestyle. But if it’s just a different lifestyle of what real value is it? How do you test and prove that this lifestyle is better than, say, another lifestyle?
Well they will point out that the lifestyle that’s based on Jesus’ teachings—not on the person of Jesus and not on the resurrection of the dead but just on Jesus’ teachings—they say, “Well, that will result in more peace, or it will result in a better or more humane society because you will tend to love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Well that’s just an alternative; it’s not better unless there is a morality that is a standard by itself. To simply say, “Here isthis thing and here is this thing and this one is better than this thing.” The question is what standard are you using, because those who agree with the other thing are equally persuaded that that is the better thing.
So today when you hear these theologians speaking about such things as “there is no resurrection of the dead”, Paul would say, “If the dead are not raised then we are foolish and miserable people.” If Jesus is not raised from the dead, no one ought to believe in the Christian philosophy and if you are to choose to, then it’s just another belief structure. Oddly enough, people who hold so lightly to the Christian faith and yet believe that they are representatives of the Christian faith will very quickly turn to a global religion when it is offered because there is nothing unique, nothing essentially valuable and perhaps not even anything really that distinct about being a Christian.
We are laying claim, as Christians, to being the ones who have “the truth” and we base that claim on the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead. Because if He, in fact, was raised from the dead—which we claim and believe—then God did the unthinkable. God vindicated everything Jesus said as true. Now if Jesus is not raised from the dead then it really does not matter what god you believe in and it really does not matter what religious form you adopt. We are the only ones in all of the entire religious spectrum who believe in a living God. Jesus is the living God because He is raised from the dead and we say that the resurrection of the dead—and specifically the resurrection of Jesus from the dead—is the basis of our hope. Because we believe—inasmuch as God raised Him from the dead—that everything that He said is true.
Because you see, if Jesus claimed to be “the way”—not “a” way, not “a” truth, not “a” life—but “the way”, that’s exclusivity, that’s very narrow. Jesus is the most narrow of all persons and He claims about himself that He is “the” way and “the” truth and “the” life. In other words He is the pattern for righteousness as a lifestyle; He is the declaration of the truth. He’s going beyond saying what He was saying was true, He’s saying, “I am the embodiment of the truth.” So therefore truth is not just belief, truth is a person. If Jesus is right, truth is a person.
The Book [Bible] speaks and records the truth—speaks of the truth and records the truth—but the Book does not claim that it is the truth. The Book claims that it contains the truth because it contains accurate representations of the person who is the truth. Even the Book says that the truth is a person. The proof that the truth is a person then… the proof of it is that God raised Him from the dead because if he were not the truth there would be no reason for God to raise Him from the dead. In fact if God were to raise Him from the dead and He had not in fact been the truth then God would participate in the perpetration of a fraud upon all those who, by reason of the resurrection, declare their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The resurrection stands as the foundation of what we believe to be true. Now God was so particular about this that He made the qualification for being an apostle to be contingent upon being a witness of the resurrection. Barsabbas Justus and Matthias were selected to replace Judas according to the Book of Acts, the 1st chapter. (Inserted – actual verse—“ ‘For,’ said Peter, ‘it is written in the book of Psalms, “ ‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, “ ‘May another take his place of leadership.’ Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.’” - Acts 1:20-22)
After the disciples had gone back from the Mount of Olives where Jesus ascended into heaven, one of the first orders of business was the replacement of Judas, who had fallen. Peter set forth two criteria: they were that the one to replace Judas should have been a follower of Jesus from the time that He was baptized by John to the time that He was crucified and then the second qualification was that he be a witness of the resurrection. Now here is an interesting point: since Jesus had already chosen the twelve and one of them had fallen, why not simply leave the number at eleven? While you are think about that, here is another consideration: when Peter set forth the criteria for the selection of a replacement there were two of them who were qualified—Barsabbas Justus and Matthias. Well, since they were both qualified why not choose both? If you are going to choose, choose both. It could reasonably have been said that another might fall, you’d have a spare; you don’t have to go through this process every so often.
So here is the dilemma: you have eleven, all of whom were handpicked by Jesus, why replace the one who had fallen? Why not leave it at eleven? But since you are going to replace him and two are qualified, two are eligible and it could be either one, why not choose both, why cast lots? There did not appear an overabundance of apostles at that point so if you are going to choose and two are qualified then choose both of them. Well obviously eleven wouldn’t do and thirteen wouldn’t do. Why? Because of the significance of the number twelve.
What was the significance of the number twelve? Well the answer is that in the Jewish legal customs of that day when twelve witnesses testified to a matter the matter was conclusively presumed to be true. So when twelve witnesses testified before the Bethden then whatever they said was—by that declaration—a conclusion, a presumption that it was true because that was the form of truth required. So that’s why the number eleven would not do and that’s why the number thirteen wouldn’t do—it was twelve.
Now what were these two qualifications about? These two qualifications were to establish the participant—the one to replace Judas (Matthias in this case)—to establish him as a witness and in Acts, chapter 2, this is exactly what was said. It says, “Peter stood up with the twelve and he said, ‘You took Jesus and with wicked hands you crucified and slew the Son of God and God raised Him from the dead.’” And he said, “Of this, we are all witnesses.” (Inserted – actual verse—“ ‘Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him: “ ‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ ‘Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.’” – Acts 2:22-32) And the declaration is that they were witnesses.
Now when the audiences heard this it says that they were “cut to the heart” and they said, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Inserted – actual verse—“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’” – Acts 2:37) It showed that the twelve, in their testimony as witnesses, were totally believable. Why did God go through this process of selecting twelve witnesses? The answer was that He wanted to guarantee the testimony of Jesus’ resurrection because that testimony is the very foundation of the Christian faith.
There are other references here, principally in the book of I Corinthians the 15th chapter, there are other references to this. It speaks of how Jesus was seen alive at one time on one occasion by over 500 people. As we continue on from our reading in the 15th chapter where we were before, at verse 14, it says that Jesus was seen alive by over 500 people at the same time. (Inserted – actual verse—“After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.” – I Corinthians 15:6) So what I wanted to show was how carefully God chose to establish the resurrection of the dead as being absolutely essential.
The resurrection of the dead therefore is the foundation of the Christian faith and the testimony of the resurrection is the testimony of God himself having raised Jesus from the dead. In this respect, we who have fled to place our hope in the Lord Jesus Christ as the true and living God are not meant to place our hope merely in a belief but in the guarantee that we have received from God that He raised Jesus from the dead. I tell you this: in this time that is immediately ahead of us, one of the great trials that will come upon the earth—and it will sorely test our faith—is “how do you define God”.
Today everyone is talking about God and [about] being the people of God but today in the contemporary religious setting God may be—in the minds of some—God may be Buddha, God may be Allah, God may be whomever you want God to be, including your own personal God. But this time that is before us will be characterized by a very strict definition of God and that definition of God will be: the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ… the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because who Jesus is and what He says is actually how God is meant to be understood for us and in spite of the popular political notion surrounding God, God has not changed and who He is will not be subject to new and different reinterpretations.
The only one that we manage to deceive—by defining god in such a way as to include everything including that which is false—the only one who is deceived are those foolish enough to believe in the wrong god. The mere fact that you should choose to believe in god doesn’t mean that you believe in the right god. The 1.2 billion Muslims who believe in Allah as god have placed their faith in the wrong god. Likewise, the billions of Indians and Chinese who believe in Hinduism and its offshoot Buddhism also believe in the wrong god because there is only one god and that god is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore Jesus’ claim that He is the way and the truth and the life cannot be interpreted in any other way except that it is an exclusive access to God limited to who Jesus actually is. (Inserted – actual verse—“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” – John 14:6) The entire foundation of this—its basis, the basis of this truth—we offer as the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. All of what we believe stands or falls on whether or not it is true that Jesus was raised from the dead. Now if a person does not believe that Jesus was raised from the dead he cannot be a believer in Jesus Christ because it is not just some philosophical idea, it is that Jesus is the Living God… the Living God. And among all of the religions of the earth the true Christian is the only one who believes in a Living God: the person who is the Lord Jesus Christ, He is the Living God and the evidence of that for us who believe in Jesus as the Living God is the resurrection of the dead.
This leads to two other vastly important concepts: one is our own expectation of being transformed, in a manner of speaking—resurrected also—while we are alive… transformed from human beings who are destined for destruction to people who are resurrected, as it were, from the dead. And I will deal with that in the next broadcast. Similarly, we also expect that there will be a resurrection of the dead who believe in Christ and that will be the first resurrection of all those who physically have died and I’d like to raise this question and we’ll answer it also in a subsequent broadcast and that is this: if those who believe in Jesus Christ, if when they die they go to heaven why is there a need for them subsequently to be resurrected from the dead?
If you are already in heaven what need is there for you to be resurrected from the dead? These are two vitally important questions. One would be how you as a person living today might experience a resurrection that results in a transformation of your nature and if you are once dead and gone to heaven why must you be resurrected from the dead? It requires very little imagination to see that if you do not understand these vastly important subjects then your foundation is either non-existent or what exists of it is very weak. That is why it is necessary for us to teach these vastly important subjects called The Elementary Doctrines. I hope that you will continue to study with us as we reveal the fullness of all of this. God bless you and I’ll see you again. See Part 2 of this topic on the hub below.
I Corinthians 15:1,2; 12-14
I Corinthians 15:6
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Resurrection from the Dead - Part 2
The resurrection of the dead, Paul asserts, is the foundation of the Christian faith. (Inserted – actual verse—“Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. – Hebrews 6:1,2) Jesus’ resurrection sets Him apart as the Living God—there is no other like Jesus—He is the Living God. He was dead and is alive forevermore. This is how He greeted John on the island of Patmos in Revelation the 1st chapter. He says, “I am he who was dead and is alive forevermore.”
He asserts that His resurrection is the foundation of His claim to have defeated the spirits of death and hell. Here it is in Revelation, chapter 1, early in the chapter, John turns to see the voice that was speaking to him and this is what he heard in Revelation 1:17 he says, “I fell to His feet as if I were dead and then He placed his right hand on me and He said, ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One and behold I am alive forever and I hold the keys of death and Hell.” (Inserted – actual verse—“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.’” – Revelation 1:17,18)
On the basis of His resurrection He claims to excuse us from the control of the spirits of death and hell so that when the believer dies, death has no authority over him and in fact that’s how I Corinthians 15 sums up the entire presentation of the resurrection of the dead. (Inserted – actual verse—“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 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.” – I Corinthians 15:51-57). Because of Jesus’ own triumph over death—through the resurrection—He has stripped the spirit of death and the spirit of hell from their right to imprison those who die in Christ. Those who lived believing in Jesus and died having confidence in that inasmuch as God raised Him from the dead, so too He will raise us from the dead.
Now that brings us to two very important considerations and these considerations will be the subject of this particular program. The first is: our own resurrection while we are alive and the second is: “inasmuch as it is appointed unto man once to die”, what happens to us when we die? (Inserted – actual verse—“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” – Hebrews 9:27,28) If we go to heaven when we die why is there a need for us to be raised from the dead and why is there resurrection of the dead? So let’s move into that.
In the first of these readings—we’ve actually looked before on this subject—but let’s look again to first Romans, chapter 6 and then we will look atRomans, chapter 8 because these speak of the personal resurrection of everyone who believes in Jesus Christ. In Romans 6:5, it says, “If we have been united with him like this in his death,” (that is we who believe in Jesus have been united with Jesus in death) “we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know”—and this is the confidence with which Paul declares these things under the leading of the Spirit—“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” (Inserted – Romans 6:6,7)
Then he goes on to say, in verse 11, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God” (alive to God, that means you were dead, you are alive—that’s the subject of resurrection—alive to God in Christ). Just prior to that he said, “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.” (Inserted – Romans 6:9) And then he goes on to say, “We who are in Him now have also been granted mastery over death.” (Inserted – actual verse—“Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” – Romans 6:8)
There are two elements to this, two components to this. The first is that you who believe in Jesus have become a partaker of both His death and His resurrection. He died for you on the cross and therefore you do not have to die for yourself. So you are found placed in Him in the cross. He was raised from the dead and you have been raised with Him. Now what does that mean and how, exactly, does that happen? Here is how it happens—this is Romans 8—Romans 8:11 says this, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you,” (so if the Holy Spirit—the Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead—if the Holy Spirit is living in you then He who gave Christ life from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who lives within you.) (Inserted – actual verse—“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” – Romans 8:11)
That’s how your resurrection is accomplished. While you are still alive—once you have decided to follow Jesus, to give your life to him—He brings you to death. That death is the recognition that you no longer rule your own life. It’s not that you are physically executed, it is that your right to govern your life the way you want to, you present that right to Him and because that is the very energy of your life, He considers that as if you died. In that state of being dead, the Holy Spirit comes into you and resurrects you and when you are resurrected you are now a new creation.
Well how do you even know that this is so? I mean, isn’t this just “religious talk”? Why should anybody be concerned about the resurrection of the dead? These seem to be very “intellectual” studies… very ponderous things, and in today’s fast paced religious environment where men speak at the pace of a machine gun and emotions are the high point of religious experience today, why would anybody want to be bothered with these mundane subjects like the resurrection of the dead? Whatever that stuff is, should it not stand upon its own—whether or not you know about it? What difference does it make if you know about it or even if you believe it?
The answer is that it makes all the difference in the world because when you cede or give up your right to govern your life that means that you no longer have the right to control the decisions you make every day. The problem is, you see, we have confused the “church experience” on Sunday morning—where the actors are up on the stage, the show is set, and you go and you have a great time, you have an emotional catharsis and you “get into it”—we’ve confusedthat with life, we’ve confused that with reality. Increasingly, that’s a joke, increasingly, that whole charade is far less than useful to you and terribly irrelevant—unrelated to reality.
When you give up the right to govern yourself, to make the decisions about how you are going to live—every day—then you are dead. The Spirit of God comes into you and resurrects you from the dead. When He does, He begins to direct your life every day… day by day, moment by moment, and you genuinely come to experience a new life. Do you know what is true? You could go to these “hype meetings”—that they commonly are—year after year after year and one day when you take stock of where you actually are as a Christian, you’ll find that you are no further down the road than where you started. And the frightening thing is that this may not be just the condition that attends you—it is the condition that attends the vast number of people who claim to be believers in Christ.
Why are the people not going on? Why are they not maturing? Simple… nobody has ever schooled them in these elementary belief structures. This is what is different about your life from before and your life now. It is both what you believe and the truth that lives in you and lives through you on the basis of what you believe. If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you then what is true is: He who gave Jesus life from the dead also occupies your human body and gives life to you and resurrects you and so real is this fact that when you are born again of the Spirit—just like when a natural child is born, the first thing that natural child does is he or she cries out with a loud voice and at that point you know that it is a live birth.
When you are a believer in Jesus and have been resurrected by the Holy Spirit, you also cry out and that’s how it is known—throughout the heavens and in the earth—that you are a live birth, you are a new creation in Christ. Do you know what your first cry is? Your first cry is, “Abba, Father.” It is your spiritual cry. It means that you begin to recognize instantly upon being born again that now God and not Adam is your father. Therefore you are a partaker of a divine nature. Just like when you were a natural man in Adam, you were a partaker of Adam and his sinful nature, when you are born again and resurrected—this is how you were born again: you were born again by being brought to death and resurrected by the Spirit of God and when that happens there is a material change in your idea of life and that is that you are born from above and not from beneath. You are a child of God and not a child of Adam. You are born from above and not from below.
That brings us to the third aspect that I wanted to talk about in this subject of resurrection and that is that you are born from above. How do you know that that is true? I mean, other than the fact that it is written in the Bible, is there any reality to this? What hope do you have that this is so? It brings us to the understanding of “why are the dead raised?” When you die, the Scriptures say in James, that the body without the spirit is dead, so what happens is that there is a separation between the body and the spirit. (Inserted – actual verse—“As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” – James 2:26)
The body is put into the dust of the earth because it was dust—came out of the dust—and it returns to the dust. But the spirit goes back to God who gave it, Ecclesiastes, chapter 12, verse7. (Inserted – “and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”)Now when a person is saved his spirit is saved, his soul is being saved and his body is meant to be renewed… meant to be renewed. Yet the Scriptures say that outwardly we are wasting away yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. That’s II Corinthians, chapter 4, the very end of the chapter. (Inserted – “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” – II Corinthians 4:16) Now the earth does not know the truth of this, people of the earth do not know the truth of this so when you are born again they cannot see any difference, at least not immediately and sometimes not for a long time.
So the truth that you are born again from above, you are born of the Spirit of God, the Spirit who dwells in you gives your spirit life and issues you forth as a child of God. Although that is true, at the moment that it is true it’s not obvious. But there will come a day when it is obvious and it is at the heart of why the dead are raised—those who die in Christ are raised first. This is what the Scriptures say, in fact the Scriptures that say it are I Corinthians, where we have based most of our principle teaching of the resurrection, we’ve based it in I Corinthians 15. So I’d like for us to first look at the vast sweep of the resurrection of the body and then we’ll understand why.
In verse 35 of I Corinthians 15, Paul says, “But someone may 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. All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies…” – I Corinthians 15:35-40a)
Now the point of it all is this: when you are living on the earth you live in a fleshly body, a body that is subject to decay—that body you got from Adam, it’s a human body. But it is said that you are born again, you are born from above; God is your father. What proof is there that this is so? How do you know? Well he first explains that when you are born again that you are born from God and you’ve been given also a spiritual existence. When you die, James says that the body and the spirit are separated. At that point it is still a natural body and you have a spirit from above. The spirit goes to God, the body goes back to the dust but God does not intend to leave the matter there. He intends to resurrect, from the dust, a body—your body—but it is not the body that you died with that will be raised; it is a different body.
The body that you died with is subject to decay because it was taken out of the earth—that’s called a natural body and it has a certain glory to it, it functions well within time and space. That’s what you have, that’s what dies, that’s what is separated from the spirit, that’s what’s buried. But when the day of the resurrection comes you will be raised but not in the body in which you were sown, and you will be raised and taken to heaven. Now your spirit is already in heaven.
Before we go any further let me point out to you that this is absolutely what happened to Jesus. Was the body in which Jesus was resurrected the same body as the one in which He died? My question again: was the body in which Jesus was resurrected the same body as the one in which He died? He looked the same, but was it the same body? The answer is: absolutely no, it was a different body. Why? How do you know that? Well here is the obvious difference: when He was in His first body—the natural body—He could be crucified. He was crucified, He was killed; He actually died. In the resurrected body could He have been killed? The answer is: no, He had already overcome death.
So although He looked the same, the body that He had upon being resurrected was totally different from the body He had before He died. The difference was that you could kill the body that He had before He died—and that’s what they did—but you could not kill the body in which He was upon His resurrection. Now what happened to the old body? It was transformed… it was transformed and that’s what will happen to you. You will be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. (Inserted – actual verse—“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” – I Corinthians 15:51,52)
The body that was is this one we have now and it is subject to disease, to decay, to age and so on. But the body that you will be raised with will not be subject, in any fashion, to the elements. You noted that after Jesus was raised from the dead, “While they beheld, He was taken up and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” (Inserted – actual verse—“After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.” – Acts 1:9) Without strings, pulleys or anything like that, He was simply raised from the dead and taken up into heaven. So that body was capable—the body in which Jesus was resurrected from the dead—was capable of living on the earth and living in heaven. That’s why He was taken up and He is in that form in heaven today.
Now that body, you see, may also be suddenly moved or suddenly brilliant or suddenly glorified so that when Jesus came and visited John on the Island of Patmos this body was a glorious body and yet it was the same body in which He was raised. Why are you raised and why are you given a different body? The answer is that first you are raised and you are taken to heaven. Your spirit, your soul and your body become one and then you come back from heaven in the view of all men and in the company of Jesus Christ. Why? Because God intends to demonstrate the truth that you were born from above, you were born from heaven. So He will bring you from heaven and at the beginning of the millennium you will come from heaven so that all may see that your origins are from heaven—you are born from above.
Those who did not die and yet believed in Jesus, the Scriptures say that they will be “changed in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye”—just like Jesus, when He was raised from the dead if you looked into the tomb as others did, there was no body in the tomb. Why? Because the thing raised was simply transformed from one level of glory to another level of glory. Those who did not die will go through that transformation just as rapidly—“in a twinkling of an eye”—and they too will be caught up. Because all who believe in Christ have this destiny: that they will be either resurrected from the dead—physically—or transformed—instantly—and will take on a new body, and this is the clarity with which the truth will appear to all: that if you are born of God, you will come again from heaven and God will see to it that that is so.
So in looking at the whole picture, Jesus was raised from the dead and that establishes the vast truth that He is the Living God. We are baptized into Christ, we put on Christ in that process, change our beings from being born of Adam to being born of Christ and that process is the resurrection of the dead also. And finally, these two things are the foundations of the hope that when we die we will also be resurrected and nothing of us will remain in the dust of the earth because we truly are a new creation and God will establish the truth that those who believe in Him are born from above by bringing us—quite literally—out of heaven, with the Lord, back to the earth. For the Lord himself will proceed us in this event. (Inserted – actual verse—“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till 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. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” – I Thessalonians 4:13-18)
I Corinthians 15:51-57
II Corinthians 4:16
I Corinthians 15:35-40a
I Corinthians 15:51,52
I Thessalonians 4:13-18
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