by Steven Chan
24 October 2010
Is the doctrine of the resurrection of the physical body from the dead a matter of doubt among the apostles after they witnessed the resurrection of the physical body of Jesus Christ? In the light of the plain teachings of the apostles, one really wonder how some students of the Bible can possibly argue that there will be no resurrection of the physical body after physical death.
Let’s examine some of the plain teachings of the apostles as recorded in Acts and the epistles and satisfy ourselves whether one can possibly deny that the apostles explicitly taught the hope of the resurrection of the physical bodies after physical death – which bodies would be transformed into spiritual bodies just like in the case of Jesus (1 Cor 15:50-58; Phil 3:20,21; I John 3:2) for “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 15:50).
1. Act 4:1-4: “And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide. Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.”
What did the apostles Peter & John teach? “They taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” The resurrection from the dead was a central truth taught by the apostles.
The truth about the resurrection from the dead was premised on the resurrection of the physical body of Jesus – demonstrating His triumph over death: yes, the physical body of Jesus was raised: “The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.” (John 20:25-28).
In Luke 24:38-40 the emphasis on the resurrection of the physical body of Jesus cannot possibly be mistaken: “And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.”
The physical body of Jesus was raised – to demonstrate that He had power to overcome physical death (Rom 1:3,4; Heb 2:14-15; 2 Tim 1:10) and to give us the hope of the resurrection (Acts 23:6; 24:15; 1 Pet 1:3) so that we can receive our inheritance reserved in heaven (1 Pet 1:4-13) at His appearing. Let no one belittle the necessity for a resurrection of the physical body by suggesting that the physical body is irrelevant because no physical body can inherit heaven! If that argument is true then Jesus need not be physically raised.
2. Act 10:39-43: “And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”
The resurrection of the physical body of Jesus following His crucifixion and death, was also the premise for declaring that Jesus was “ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead”. Yes, the dead will also be judged on a day appointed by God as we shall read later in Acts 17:31.
3. Act 17:16-18: “Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. … And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.”
What did the apostle Paul preach? “He preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.” Was Paul was just preaching only about the resurrection of Jesus and not also the resurrection of all the dead? Let’s look at the next passage:
Act 17:30-33: “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. So Paul departed from among them.”
What did the intellectual scholars of the day mock at? “And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked.” Paul taught that the judgment of the world will happen on “a (single) day” appointed by God – not as taught by some today “on many days” or ‘as and when’ one dies and go meet the Lord. The entire world will be judged – not has already been judged but ‘will be judged’ – indicating a future one day! The Judgment has not passed and the entire world will be judged in one day appointed by God – Heb 9:27: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” So long as, and as sure as, it is appointed unto “men once to die”, there will be a judgment following that and it will be “on a day appointed by God” The judgment of the world did not happen in AD70 – now don’t let some confuse you when they say that “the world does not mean the world” – they will say it means something else which they will provide you – i.e. the world refers to “the Jewish world of Judaism”! Interpreting the scriptures with man-made definitions of words is the surest way to destruction (2 Pet 3:16)
4. Act 24:14-15, 21: “But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust…. Except it be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day”
Before the governor Felix, Paul declared that it was concerning “the hope toward God and the resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust” that he was being called in question by the Jews. Brethren, please note that Paul was explicit in defining what resurrection he was preaching about: “the resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.” If the resurrection of the dead refers to the resurrection of the church from the ashes of Judaism as some Bible speculators contend, then what does the resurrection of the unjust refer to? I guess we’ll have to wait for these Bible speculators tell us as it is nigh impossible to know what that is other than what the Bible plainly means: that the unjust shall be raised to be judged on that last day (Rev 20:11-15; Rom 14:12; 2 Cor 5:10-11)
How can any ordinary person reading the accounts in Acts possibly come to the idea that Paul was actually referring to something other than the resurrection of the physical bodies of every dead person – both just and unjust? Incredibly, some daringly propose that Paul was actually talking about ‘the resurrection of the church from the ashes of Judaism’ which supposedly happened in AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem! Now where can one find that idea in all the book of Acts or anywhere in the Bible for that matter? Where is that phrase or even its faintest idea ever found in the Bible?
5. Act 26:6-8: “And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?”
Paul repeated the same thing in his defense before King Agrippa: “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?”
6. Act 26:23-25: “That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles. And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.”
In his defense before Festus, governor of Judea, Paul declared that Jesus “should be the first that should rise from the dead” – the resurrection of the physical body of Jesus was not the last but “the first to rise from the dead” (not that no one had been raised before – as Lazarus was raised from the dead) – implying that he meant that others will follow Him and be similarly raised from the dead. Some Bible speculators contend that the “rising from the dead” is a spiritual resurrection (i.e. the spirit & not the physical body being raised) and yet at other times also argue when it is convenient to them, that it refers to the resurrection of the church from the ashes of Judaism in AD 70. But brethren, would any common man reading the plain statements of Paul come to any other idea other than the resurrection of the physical bodies of the dead just as Jesus was similarly raised?
7. Rom 8:11: “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”
Can Paul be any clearer about the hope of the resurrection – “he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwelleth in you” – notice that Paul said “shall give life” or “shall also quicken your mortal bodies” – referring to the future event that will happen to the Christians in Rome as it would also be for all Christians everywhere as regards our physical/mortal bodies.
8. 1 Cor 15:12-26: “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept….But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”
To the ordinary Christians, the above passage speaks for itself. There is no ambiguity as regards what Paul meant when he made his point: “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?” The resurrection of Jesus which was a resurrection of His physical body would portend a similar resurrection of all the dead. Then Paul gave the order of events: “Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father.”
9. This is reaffirmed in 2 Cor 4:13-14: “We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.”
10. 1 Thess 4:13-18: “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
Brethren, Paul wrote that we are to comfort one another with these words – words that assure us of the future events that await us when Christ comes again and the great reunion of all Christians – both those who have died as well as those who are alive at His Coming – the meeting with the Lord will be in the air (not on earth) and we “shall ever be with the Lord”.
A common sense reading of the Scriptures as outlined above would give rise to no confusion whatsoever about the nature of the resurrection of the dead – both just and unjust – and the fact of the judgment that will happen “on a day appointed by God” that follows after death (Heb 9:27; Acts 17:30-33). Let no man confuse you in these things. The scriptures are plain and the ordinary man can read and understand God’s Word with no need for special insights/interpretations needed to be supplied by so-called expert theologians.