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The Resurrection #1

First part of Resurrection topic as found in the Bible

                Taken from the book "Life and Immortality"
                     by the late Basil Atkinson Ph.D.


     We have sought in our first two sections (this was as
sectioned in his book - Keith Hunt) to look as thoroughly as
possible into the teaching of Scripture on the nature of man and
the meaning of death.  We found that what the Bible says on both
these great subjects consistently agrees that the dead are lying
in their graves in a sleep of profound unconsciousness, in which
they neither know nor remember anything of what happens in the
     In this section we study the joyful teaching of God's
victory over death, first in the Lord Jesus Himself, and then in 
all His believing people.  How are these promises fulfilled?  The
teaching of the Bible on this matter is clear, definite and
unmistakeable.  It has been rejected and despised by destructive
critics and unconverted theologians, but never by any Bible
believer however tenaciously he may cling to the idea of natural 
immortality, because no one can fail to see the teaching in the


     Those believers who hold to natural immortality add to it
the doctrine of resurrection and accept both.  On  this point we
will ask three questions.  First, how is it that the doctrine of
resurrection is taught clearly and  definitely in Scripture,
exactly as we should expect in the case of so momentous a theme,
while the doctrine  of survival or immortality of the "soul" is
not once taught definitely?  This theme is just as great and 
momentous.  There are a few passages from which, if they are
taken in isolation (but only so), such a  doctrine can be
inferred, but even assuming that such an inference could stand up
against the consistent  testimony of Scripture as a whole, is it
reasonable, is it conceivable that such a tremendous truth about
the  nature of man and the real meaning of death should be left
to be understood by us by inference?  We are  left to fall back
on the writer mentioned on page 28, who stated, "The Bible does
not anywhere state the  immortality of the soul, it assumes it." 
But surely all readers will agree that it is the Word of God
alone  which is basic and axiomatic.


     Our second question is this.  If the believer at death is
released from the "burden" of his body, is "called  home," enters
immediately the presence of his Lord and is reunited with his
loved ones, enjoying complete  satisfaction and spiritual bliss,
what is the need or purpose of resurrection?  This very question
was once  asked of the writer by a thoughtful Christian lady.  If
a human being can live in perfect happiness without  his body and
exercise all the functions of a full human life, why should he be
burdened again with his  body?  An answer of course can be given:
"Because the whole man has been redeemed."  This is a theoretical
answer which does not  really touch the question, but as we
sought to show in our first section the whole man cannot exist
apart  from his body.  This question is sometimes met by speaking
of "paradise" instead of heaven and assuming  incomplete
satisfaction until the last day, but evangelical Christians do
not generally speak like this.


     There is a third point that needs to be raised.  In the Old
Testament there were three restorations of dead persons to life
in the days of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. In the Gospels
there were three people raised by the Lord Himself and in the
period of the Acts there were two raised by the apostles.  If
these eight persons had been enjoying a life of bliss in glory,
was it not greatly to their disadvantage, if not positive 
cruelty, to bring them back to the weaknesses and troubles of the
world?  Again, how is it that not so much as a hint is recorded
to have been given by any one of them of experiences passed
through during the time between death and restoration, which
varied from a few minutes in the case of Eutychus to four days in
that of Lazarus?  We may reasonably believe that, had they
enjoyed such experiences, they are likely to have spoken often of
them for the rest of their lives.  The stories as they stand all
give us the impression that these persons awoke from a profound


     There runs throughout the Old Testament a recurring note of
Messianic blessing to come.  In the law and the prophets this is
almost wholly national in character.  In the Psalms and Wisdom
writings it becomes more personal.  It is clearly outside our
scope to follow through all these promises.  The absence of
direct references to resurrection in the books of Moses and the
smallness of their number in the rest of the Old Testament has
been remarked upon, the main reason being the occupation of the
Old Testament with the typical temporal blessings of the typical
people of God, all of which may be read in the light of the
Gospel and turned, as it were, into spiritual realities.
     When we reach the New Testament, we find that the kingdom of
God and everlasting life, two aspects of the same thing, form the
blessings promised to the individual believer through faith in
Christ.  References to resurrection are many more in number in
the New Testament, illustrating the fact that life and 
immortality have been brought to light through the Gospel (2 Tim.
1.10).  We will examine these references in both Testaments and
we shall find that God's purpose for His people is to give them
victory over death by a glorious resurrection to take place
instantaneously at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in glory
at the end of the world.  At the coming of the Lord, which
will be sudden and instantaneous, the generation of living
believers will be transformed in an instant by the same change as
the dead at the resurrection and be caught up to meet the Lord,
abiding with Him henceforth in eternal glory.  The resurrection
of believers will be on the same model as the resurrection of
Christ.  God's way of victory is far more glorious and 
triumphant and far happier for the believer than the way of
survival and natural immortality.  
     Christian people shrink from the idea of their loved ones
lying for years in the grave, but they forget that the
unconsciousness of the dead is so profound that time does not
pass for them.  Children will sometimes go to bed early to make
the morning come quickly.  The moment after the believer draws
his last breath and closes his eyes he opens them again in the
presence of Jesus in resurrection glory with all his loved ones
and the whole loving brotherhood of the church of God around him.
He has his resurrection body, his house not made with hands,
eternal in the heavens.  He never has, nor will have, nor can
have the experience of a strange kind of life without a body,
separated from his loved ones left on earth, a life which, when
all is said and done, can only be described as that of a ghost.


     We will divide our Scriptural references into four sections:
(I) those dealing in a general sense with victory over death, of
which there are only two examples; (2) those dealing with
resurrection; (3) those dealing with the coming of the Lord; and
(4) those dealing with the glory to come.

     If we turn first to Isaiah 25. 8, we shall find the first
promise of victory over death "He will swallow up death in
victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all
faces."  This passage is quoted by the apostle Paul in I
Corinthians 15.54 and its fulfilment explained to take place at
the resurrection of believers at the coming of the Lord.  The
connection with the coming of the Lord is implied in the
following verse Isaiah 25.9, when the people of God are found
expressing their joy at the presence of God and His salvation.
     The second passage that promises victory over death is to be
found in Hosea 13.I4: "I will ransom them from. the power of
the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy
plagues; O grave I will be thy destruction."  The second part of
this passage differs widely from the Hebrew in the Greek 
version and is quoted, again with some alteration, from that
version by the apostle Paul in I Corinthians 15.55, being joined
there with Isaiah 25.8. We thus have the direct testimony of the
New Testament that victory over death comes at the resurrection
of the people of God.  If resurrection meant only the 
restoration to the godly of a part of their being which they
could live in perfect happiness without, there would be little
point in celebrating it so emphatically as a victory.


     Our first passage is Isaiah 26.19.  Here we find six
separate points: (a).  The resurrection of the people of God. 
The dead who belong to Him will live, the context showing that by
"live" the prophet means "live again," a usage we so often find
in the New Testament. (b).  The resurrection is personal and
individual.  "My dead body" will arise at the same time as all
the godly. (c).  The godly dead are called upon to awake and
sing.  When the call comes to them, they are asleep, and they
will hear the call just as Lazarus heard the Lord's loud can to
him to come out of his grave (John 11.43).  Thus one day we
shall hear and shall share in the great song of victory over
death raised by millions of voices.  Now would this be a natural
way to address the dead if they were alive in heaven and had been
joining in a song of triumph for centuries?  Would they under
such circumstances be told to awake? (d).  The dead who are
called upon to awake are said to be dwelling in the dust, not in
heaven or paradise.  As we have seen in our second section, this
is the consistent teaching of the Bible about death. (e).  The
dead will arise to life, strength, freshness and youth on the
resurrection morning.  All this is indicated in the prophet's
words, "thy dew is as the dew of herbs." (f).  There will also be
a resurrection of the unjust.  When dealing with the rephaim, we
saw that this was the probable meaning of the last sentence of
this verse.  In the immediate context we find the coming of the
Lord to judgment connected with the resurrection (ver. 21). 
     In Ezekiel 37.1-14 we find the then future Gospel revival
and restoration described in terms of resurrection.  It is
scarcely possible to see an account of literal resurrection in
verses I to 10, though some have done so.  In verses 12 to 14 we
may well see a continuation of the figurative description of
spiritual revival (compare John 5.25), though based on actual
resurrection as it will take place at the last day.  We may thus
perhaps look to these verses to be a promise, prophecy and
picture of our resurrection.  We find (a) the opening of the
graves, (b) our coming up out of our graves, (c) our being
brought into the land (Greek gee) of Israel.  This land is the
new earth (Greek gee) in the eternal glory to come (2 Peter 3.
13). (d) We find the spirit of life put within us.

(An interesting understanding from Atkinson on Ezek.37, but the
words plainly used show there should be no hesitation in
understanding this section to refer to a literal physical
resurrection of Israelites. If God could raise some from their
graves to physical life after the resurrection of Jesus, as
recorded in the Gospels, then it should be nothing for Him to
raise many Israelites to physical life again in due time,
according to this passage in Ezekiel 37 - Keith Hunt).

     We now come to Psalm 16. 10, 11, a passage which the apostle
Peter tells us is a prophecy of the  resurrection of Christ.  We
have dealt with this passage before.  The soul (Heb. nephesh) of 
Christ, that is Himself, the whole Man, was in sh'ol, that is,
the grave, but He was not left there.  After  three days He rose
again.  He was shown the way of life and joy in the presence of
God with pleasures at His right hand for evermore.
     In Psalm 17.15 we find David's prophecy of resurrection
for himself and each individual believer.  Here we find (a) that
we shall see the Lord's face, (b) that we shall be righteous
before Him.  Our sanctification will then be as perfect as our
justification is now. (c).  We shall enjoy satisfaction, (d) we
shall awake, that is, from the grave on the day of resurrection,
(e) we shall be like the Lord.  We have exactly the same message
in 1 John 3. 2.
     In the book of Job there are two important passages dealing
with resurrection.  The first is found in Job 14.14,15.  We
have already had occasion to touch on this passage. Job has
spoken of the sleep of death, from which a man does not awake
till the end of the world (ver. 12).  He asks to be hidden in
the grave and remembered at the last (ver. 13).  He asks in
verse 14 if a man will live again after death.  The unexpressed
answer is yes.  He will wait in the grave (sleeping and
unconscious) all the time that God appoints for him, till his
change comes.  This is the great change to take place at
resurrection (1 Cor. 15.51,52).  On that day the Lord will call
to each sleeping saint and he will answer (ver.15), just as
Lazarus answered the Lord's call (John 11. 43).
     The second passage in the book of Job is the well-known Job
19. 25-27.  Here we find (a) that job has been given by
inspiration knowledge of the last day and the resurrection, (b)
that the living Redeemer will stand at the last day on earth. 
The Redeemer is of course the Lord Jesus and Job's reference may
well cover both His first and second comings. (c) Job's body will
come to corruption in the grave, (d) yet he will see God in 
a risen and glorified body.  There is doubt here about the
preposition translated "in."  It may be translated "without."  In
this case it means that Job will see God without the old
weaknesses and sinfulness of the natural body which was sown in
the grave.  The preposition is perhaps best translated "from." In
this case it means that job will see God on the resurrection
morning from the very eyes which he possessed at the time of
speaking, although they would be transformed and glorified. (e)
We are taught the identity of the individual in resurrection with
the person that he was before death.  The last sentence of verse
27 is better rendered in the margin, " my reins within me are
consumed with earnest desire (for that day)."
     The last Old Testament passage is to be found in Daniel 12.
2, which looks beyond the Gospel age to the resurrection: "And
many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,
some, to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting
contempt."  A difficulty here lies in the words "many of them,"
which appear to imply that there will be some among the dead who
will not awake at all.  This may be the slender foundation of the
teaching of the Christadelphians on the subject.  The explanation
seems to be in the Greek version which translates "some....some"
by "houtoi.. ...houtoi," "these.....these."  This allows us to
take the "many" to refer to those who rise to life and the
residue to those who rise to shame.  The Apocalypse teaches us
that there will be an interval between the resurrection of the
just and that of the unjust (Rev. 20.5).
     The dead here are again described as "them that sleep in the
dust of the earth."  This cannot refer to bodies apart from the
real persons who are their owners.  Bodies as such can neither
sleep nor wake.  Only the whole conscious person, of whom indeed
the body is a vital part, can sleep or wake.  It would be untrue
to describe as sleeping those who had been for centuries enjoying
fulness of joy in the Lord's presence.
     Verse 3 goes on to describe the blessed and glorious
condition of the righteous after their resurrection. Before we
leave the Old Testament there are two points that should be
noticed.  Firstly there are at least two general references to
the power of God to make alive as well as to kill (Deut. 32.39;
1 Sam. 2.6), in which we may see an indirect reference to
resurrection.  We notice that if a man is killed he may be made
alive.  He is not kept alive at death.
     Secondly we may notice that references in Scripture to
death, though they may touch only indirectly upon it, tend to
give the impression that a person as such descends to the grave
and never suggest that he may be alive in some other world. 
Naturally it is impossible to follow all these out, but we may
take an example from 2 Samuel 18.17: "And they took Absalom, and
cast him into a great pit in the wood, and laid a very great heap
of stones upon him."  Most modem Christians would have written,
"And they took Absalom's body, and cast it into a great pit in
the wood, and laid a very great heap of stones upon it."  We
would venture to ask our readers when reading their Bibles to
keep an eye open for any such references and carefullly judge the
impression which they obtain from them.


     It becomes clear as we read the New Testament that the model
for the coming resurrection of the people of God is that of the
Lord Jesus Christ, on which it is based and with which its nature
is essentially identical.  
     This is made specially clear by the apostle Paul in 
1 Corinthians 15. Thus if we turn to the Gospels we shall 
find that His resurrection has the following characteristics:
(1).  His tomb was empty, so that He rose in the very body that
He had taken from Mary (Matt. 28.6).  If we have been able to
follow the findings to which our study in our previous sections
has led us, this is exactly what we should expect. (2). He met
with and spoke to His disciples after His resurrection (Matt. 28.
9,10,16-20). (3).  At their first meeting with the Lord after
His resurrection His disciples did not always recognise Him (Luke
24.16). (4).  He was recognised later by a characteristic action
or word (Luke 24.31). (5). In His resurrection body He was 
capable of vanishing and appearing suddenly, so that the nature
of His body was completely changed and raised to a higher plane
(Luke 24.31,36).  This is what the apostle Paul says in 
1 Corinthians 15.45,51. (6).  The marks of the nails were still
in His hands and feet (Luke 24. 39).  His body was still composed
of flesh and bones (Luke 24.40). (7).  He ate food after His
resurrection (Luke 24.42,43). (8).  The body of the Lord at the
moment of resurrection had passed through the graveclothes (John
20.4-9) and presumably through the stone at the grave's mouth.
(9).  The Lord told Mary Magdalene not to touch Him (John 20.
17), although the other women shortly afterwards clung to His
feet (Matt. 28.9).  The significance of this is not 
easily understood. (When you understand the typology meaning of
the Feasts of the Lord as outlined in Leviticus 23, then
understanding this is cleared up. The Wave Sheaf offering on the
first day of the week during the feast of Unleavened Bread
represented the risen Christ being accepted as the first fruits
of the first spiritual harvest of God. After Jesus appeared to
Mary Magdalene, who was not allowed to touch Him, He ascended to
the Father and was accepted as the wave sheaf offering of the
first of the first fruits harvest. Then coming back to this
earth, He could be touched, as He was, by some of His other
disciples. All this is fully explained in other studies of mine -
Keith Hunt).

(10).The spear wound was still in the side of the Lord as well
as the nail prints in His hands and feet (John 20.27).
     To sum up the nature of the resurrection appearances of the
Lord we find two principles underlying them, (a) identity of
Person and (b) change of nature.  It is clear from Scripture that
our own resurrection will be governed by these as well.


     We turn first to the direct teaching of the Lord about the
resurrection in answer to the Sadducees who denied it.  This is
found in parallel passages in the first three Gospels, Matthew
22.23-33; Mark 12.18-27; Luke 20.27-40.  The Sadducees
invented an artificial objection to resurrection with which they
foolishly supposed that they could catch the Lord.  They based it
on the law to be found in Deuteronomy 25.5,6, which ordained
that a man should marry the widow of his deceased elder brother
and raise up children in his brother's name.  They told the story
of seven brothers, who all married the same woman one after the 
other in accordance with this law and asked whose wife she would
be in the resurrection.  The Lord  answered this foolish
conundrum at once by explaining that there was no sex or marriage
in glory after the resurrection.  He then went on to tell the
Sadducees that the fact of resurrection is contained in the words
of the Lord to Moses at the bush, "I am the God of Abraham, the
God of Isaac and the God of Jacob" (Exod. 3.6).  He states that
God is not the God of the dead but of the living.  It is
extraordinary that so many have read into these words the
doctrine of survival and natural immortality, drawing the
conclusion that if God declares Himself the God of the living and
not of the dead therefore Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and an the 
departed people of God must be alive now.  It is extraordinary
because such a conclusion destroys the whole point of the
passage, which is to prove the resurrection. 
     If the dead are now living in a disembodied state, to say
that God is the God of the living and not of the dead does not in
any sense prove resurrection.  
     Instead it removes the necessity of it.  The Lord's argument
requires that the dead are not now living in a disembodied or any
other state.  God is the God of the living, not of the dead. 
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are now dead.  Therefore they must come
to life in resurrection in order to fulfil and vindicate God's 
declaration.  Thus the resurrection is proved, as the Lord says.
The evangelist Luke makes this clearer by adding the sentence,
"For all live unto Him."  He means that all the dead live (not
indeed in an absolute sense), but in the sight of God.  They do
so in view of the glorious resurrection in which they are to be
restored to life and live for ever with Him in glory.
     These passages are among the strongest in Scripture against
survival and natural immortality.  It is impossible to reconcile
them with them.
     We now turn to Luke 14.14.  Here we find the Lord telling
those who entertain the poor and those who cannot entertain them
in return that it will be recompensed them in the resurrection of
the just.  Notice that there is no word about recompense at
death.  If, as the Lord here distinctly states, recompense does
not come till resurrection, it follows that the departed, if they
are alive, have not got perfect satisfaction and fulfilment. 
This is a dangerous and unscriptural doctrine.  But difficulty
vanishes if we believe the teaching of Scripture that the dead
are sleeping in their graves.


     In the Gospel of John the Lord Himself gives us four
wonderful promises of resurrection: (1). Raising the dead and
making them alive is the work both of the Father and the Son
(John 5.21). (2). All who are in the tombs will hear the voice
of the One Who is Son of God and Son of man and will come forth,
the good to a resurrection of life and the bad to a resurrection
of judgment (John 5.28).  Many have deduced from this verse that
there will be a simultaneous resurrection of the just and the
unjust, but it need not bear this meaning and it seems from
Revelation 20.5 that there will be an interval between the
resurrection of the one and that of the other. (3). The Lord
Jesus will not lose a single one of His believing people, but
will raise up each one at the last day, because it is the
Father's will that everyone that believes on the Son should have 
everlasting life and the Lord Jesus will raise him up at the last
day (John 6.40).  Thus we are taught that the way to everlasting
life in the final glory is by resurrection on the last day. (4).
We find the marvellous and well-known promise of the Lord Jesus
at the grave of Lazarus: "I am the resurrection and the life; he
that believeth in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoso
liveth and believeth in Me shall never die." (John 11. 25,26). 
We are here taught that resurrection and everlasting life are the
gift of Jesus alone, that the believer will be raised to life
even if he dies, as most believers have done already.  Here
"live" means "live again," as so often in the New Testament. 
     Thirdly we are taught that every believer living at the last
day when Christ returns in glory will never die.  We may also
give to these words the undoubted meaning that when once a
believer is raised he will never die (Luke 20.36).
     We notice that not only in making these promises did the
Lord never say, "Whoever believes in Me I will take home to be
with Me in glory when he dies and will also raise his dead body
at the last day," but that no such promise is once found in any
verse of the New Testament.


     From the references to resurrection in the Acts of the
Apostles we learn that the apostles preached in Jesus 
the resurrection from the dead (Acts 4.2) - It is never said
that they preached any disembodied life between death and
resurrection.  At Athens the apostle Paul preached Jesus and the
resurrection (Acts 17-18).  Again it is never said that he
preached any other hope.  In the course of the same address he
announces the day of judgment with Christ Jesus as judge, the
proof of this being His resurrection (Acts 17.31). Some of his 
hearers mocked at the resurrection and some postponed a decision
(Acts 17.32).  If he had preached like some of the great
Athenian thinkers the immortality of the soul, they are not so
likely to have mocked.  
     When the apostle was before the council in Jerusalem, he
declared that the issue at stake was the resurrection of the dead
(Acts 23.6).  These references show the extent to which the
resurrection was on his heart and mind.  Before Felix the
Governor the apostle declared that he shared with the Jews the
hope that there would be a resurrection both of the just and the
unjust (Acts 2,4-15).  The Jews must have known this from Isaiah
26.19.  In Acts 26.8 the apostle asks King Agrippa and the
other distinguished members of his audience why it should be
thought incredible among them that God should raise the dead, and
he connects the resurrection with the promise made to the fathers
(Acts 26.6,7). 
     We may search the book of Acts in vain for any reference
whatever to a disembodied survival between death and


     Nowhere in Scripture do we have clearer or more glorious
promises of the resurrection than we do in the writings of the
apostle Paul.  Thus he tells us in Romans 6.5 that, if we have
been joined to Christ in His  death, we shall be joined to Him in
His resurrection also.  In Romans 8. 11 he tells us that, if the
Spirit of  the One Who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us,
the One Who raised Jesus from the dead will also make alive our
mortal bodies.  Both these passages may include a reference to
the power of the Holy Spirit enabling us to live in newness of
life by sharing the resurrection life of Christ while still in
this world.  
     In Romans 8.23 in the context of the whole creation
groaning and travailing together he says that we also groan
within ourselves waiting for the adoption, the redemption
of our body.  We may notice that he does not say that we groan
within ourselves waiting for the release from our body.  What we
wait for is the redemption of our body from the grave by
resurrection, which will make real and external to us the 
blessings which we now enjoy in our spirits by faith.  But there
would be no sense or point in saying this if we are to be "called
home" at death to glory and perfect satisfaction.
     It is in the epistles to the Corinthians that we find the
clearest and most definite teaching about the resurrection in the
two great passages 1 Corinthians 15 and 2 Corinthians 4 and 5.
Before these there is the statement in 1 Corinthians 6. 14: "God
hath both raised up the Lord and will also raise up us by His 
power."  Our future resurrection follows from the resurrection of
the Lord.
     The fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians is the great chapter
which deals with the resurrection from every aspect, perhaps in
answer to a question on the subject which had been asked the
apostle by the Corinthian believers.  He occupies verses 1 to 8
by affirming the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and
lists six post-resurrection appearances of which the last had
been to himself.  In these verses we may notice the apostle's
statement in verse 6 that some of the five hundred brethren who
had seen Him had fallen asleep.  
     Many Christian writers today would have said, "Some have
been called home."  We may also notice that the whole of the
apostle's teaching in this chapter is based upon the resurrection
of Christ and not a word said about, much less based upon, the
survival of Christ between death and resurrection.  Some have
thought that such a survival is taught in 1 Peter 3.18, where
Christ is said to have been put to death in flesh but quickened
(that is, made alive) in spirit.  But if this text had referred
to survival it could not have said "made alive."  It must 
have said "kept" or "preserved alive." The "spirit" is the
resurrection nature of Christ (1 Corinthians 15. 45) and the
"spirits" of verse 19 are "the angels that sinned" (2 Pet. 2.4).
In verses 9 to 11 the apostle diverges for a little from his
main topic to emphasise God's grace to him and his own
unworthiness to be entrusted with the Gospel.
     He goes on in verses 12 to 19 to ask his readers how it can
be possible for them to deny that there is any resurrection.  He
points out that if this is so then Christ is not risen.  The
consequences of this are threefold: 1. Faith is vain; 2.
Believers are still in their sins; 3. Those fallen asleep in
Christ are perished.  This last is very important.  It means that
believers sleeping in their graves would never wake up.
     Now the apostle triumphantly declares that Christ is risen. 
Resurrection and life came by man, just as death came by man. 
Christ rose as the first-fruits, then will rise those who belong
to Him at His coming.  
     Then comes the end.  We cannot tell for certain all that the
apostle means by the end, but it will comprise the complete
victory of Christ over all His enemies, the last to be destroyed
being death.  God will then be all in all (verses 20 to 28).
     Here the apostle diverges again to introduce arguments for
the truth of the resurrection drawn from the experience of his
readers and of himself (verses 29-34).  If there is no
resurrection, he says, there is nothing left in life but to enjoy
the present, and he gives a solemn warning against sin and
     From verses 35 onwards he works up to his grand climax at
the end of the chapter.  Dealing with the question of the method
of resurrection he compares death and resurrection to the sowing
of seed in the ground and the appearance of the grain when it
comes up.  The one is utterly unlike the other, yet an 
identity runs through them.  The bodies of those who rise differ
as the various earthly creatures differ and as the heavenly
bodies differ.  The body is sown in weakness, but raised in
power.  It is sown a natural (Greek psychikon) body, it is raised
a spiritual body.  This agrees with the fact that the first man
Adam was made a living soul (Greek psychee) and the last Adam,
Christ Jesus, was made a life-giving spirit (Greek pneuma).  As
we have borne the image of the earthly, so shall we bear the
image of the heavenly.
     The apostle goes on in verse 50 solemnly to declare that
flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.  He continues,
"Behold, I shew 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 trump.  For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall
be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed".  Dead and
living will be changed instantaneously and glorified at the
coming of the Lord when the trumpet sounds.  Now could the
apostle have said, "We shall not all sleep," if none of us are
ever going to sleep at all, but to live in glory in a disembodied
state?  It would be a strange way of putting the facts.  It is a
person who sleeps, not a dead body as such.  Waking and sleeping
are not words which can properly apply to a body apart from a
whole person.  If a modern Christian had written this passage, he
would have written somewhat as follows: "We shall not all die,
but those who die will be changed at the moment of death.  When
the trumpet sounds, the glorified spirits will be reunited to
their bodies, and we shall be changed."  But we shall find that
it is safer and happier and better to believe that the inspired
writers meant exactly what they said and used words according to
their accepted meaning among their contemporaries.
     When the resurrection to incorruption and immortality has
taken place, then the final victory over death will have been
won.  In view of these wonderful facts we may know that our
labour in the service of the Lord is not in vain (verses 53-58).
Another great passage relating to the resurrection is to be found
in 2 Corinthians 4.14 to 5.10.  In 4.14 the apostle says that
in all the trials and pressures of his ministry he is sustained
by the knowledge that the One Who raised up the Lord Jesus will
raise him up also with Jesus and present him with the Corinthian 
believers.  But if he knew that he was going to be in glory in a
disembodied condition immediately upon his death, is not this the
very place where he would have mentioned this as being at least
part, if not the whole, of the hope that, sustained him?  Yet no;
he fixes his hope on the resurrection.  He knows, at least he
does not mention, any other hope.  And it is after his
resurrection, not before, that he expects to be presented in 
the presence of God. In verse 16, his outer man is his Adamic
nature, his soul, himself as he is in this world.  His inner man
is his regenerate nature, obtained from the Spirit of God at his
new birth.  In verse 18 he contrasts temporal things and eternal
     If we turn on to 5.1, we find the apostle speaking of our
earthly house of this tabernacle and the possibility of its being
dissolved in death.  This earthly house is the natural body of 1
Corinthians I5. 44 and the tabernacle which the apostle Peter
knew he must soon put off (2 Peter. 1.13,14).  If this is
dissolved, that is, if we die, we have a building of God, a house
not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  This is the 
spiritual body of 1 Corinthians 15.44, which we are given in
resurrection.  We do not have this building immediately upon
death and the apostle does not say here that we do.  A verse or
two later on he denies it.  
     Now if the apostle had expected to be with Christ in glory
in a disembodied state, could he have passed this expectation
entirely over in a context such as this and fixed his
whole hope on his resurrection body?  "We know that if our
earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved.....," why this is
exactly the place to say "....we shall be in spirit in the
presence of the Lord in heaven." But he did not say it.  The only
reason can be that he knew of no such hope.
     He goes on to say that in this tabernacle we are in
distress.  We long to be clothed upon with our house which is
from heaven, that is, our resurrection body (ver.2), "if so be
that being clothed we shall not be found naked" (ver.3).  An 
equally possible translation of the Greek words ei ge (if so be)
is "inasmuch as."  Whatever exactly is the apostle's meaning in
this verse, it is clear that he is not looking for, nor does he
desire to be "naked," that is, in a disembodied condition.  He
repeats this in verse 4. Though distressed in this tabernacle,
his desire is not to be unclothed, but clothed upon, that
mortality might be swallowed up of life.  This is the same thing 
as he describes in 1 Corinthians 15. 53.  It has been thought
that to speak of the body as a building or a garment implies a
spirit or person that continues to live separately from it.  But
this natural figure of speech need mean no more than that there
is a mind within the body and joined to it and indeed in view of
the direct Scriptural teaching that we have reviewed can mean no
more.  Man is indeed what is called today a psychosomatic unity. 
He has an outward physical man and an inward man of thought and
emotion.  This readily intelligible figure of speech cannot by
itself sustain the doctrine of the survival of the spirit or the 
immortality of the soul, especially in the absence of any
Scriptural statement of either.
     In verses 6 to 8 the apostle says that we know that when we
are present in the body we are absent from the Lord.  Yet we
desire rather to be absent from the body and present with the
Lord.  Many have taken this to mean present with the Lord in a
disembodied state.  But this is not so because (1) the whole
context of the passage deals with resurrection (4.I4 and
onwards), (2) the apostle does not desire a disembodied 
condition (5.3,4), (3) "the body" in verses 6 and 8 means this
earthly body, as is clear from verse 10, (4) the only possible
way in which the apostle can be present with the Lord is by
resurrection (1 Thess. 4.17, which we shall study shortly).  The
apostle has in mind only two states, the present earthly one in
this "natural" (Greek psychikon) body and the one in resurrection
glory.  Here we are absent from the Lord.  There we shall be
present with Him.  He knows of course that the generation living
at the end will pass from the one to the other instantaneously
without experiencing death, and he was like us completely
ignorant of the time when that moment would be.  This view of the
apostle's meaning is confirmed by his references to the judgment
at the conclusion of the passage (ver.10), which takes place at
the end of the world.  
     The apostle's language here is also consistent with the
fact that in the dying believer's subjective experience he passes
instantly from this world to resurrection glory.  So profound is
his unconsciousness in death that on closing his eyes he opens
them at what to him is the next instant on the resurrection
     This fact, as our next passage shows, formed an important
element in the apostle's hope. 
     We pass on to Philippians 1.20-27.  The apostle speaks of
his expectation and hope that he will be ashamed in nothing, but
that in all boldness both always and at the moment Christ would
be magnified in his body, whether by life or by death.  He is
ready to live or die, whichever brings greater glory to his Lord.

     To him, he says, to live is Christ.  This is one of the
great, deep, heart-searching statements of the Bible.  The
apostle was absorbed in the interests, and glory of his Lord. 
His whole life was devoted to them alone.  For him to die was
gain.  There were two reasons for this.  One was his own 
personal gain in passing out of this toilsome and troublous world
and finding himself in an instant of time on the resurrection
morning, as he win do.  The other reason was the ultimate gain to
the Lord's cause and the increase of the Lord's glory that his
death would bring, if it proved to be God's purpose and way of 
witness for him.  He says that he is being pressed between the
two, his desire being fixed on "departing and being with Christ,"
as this is very much better.  The "departure" is his dissolution
in death (Greek analusai), but this will bring him instantly into
the presence of Christ with his loved ones and the whole church
about him in resurrection glory.
     The words "to depart and be with Christ" are represented in
Greek by two infinitives prefixed by a single definite article,
the effect being to bring together in a startling way two things
which are different and apart.  Thus in the believer's experience
the moment after closing his eyes in death he is in his glorified
body in the eternal state.  How much better, more joyous and more
triumphant is God's promise and God's purpose for His children
than the expectation that so many of them have of going at death
to heaven in a disembodied state, leaving behind their loved ones
on earth and obliged to wait for years or centuries as ghosts for
the final consummation.  Some dread the idea of lying for years
in the grave.  But they know nothing of this interval.  They are
translated in experience to final glory and will awake to look 
in the face of Jesus just as they have been hoping to at death,
but with far greater glory, joy and wonder than possibly could be
the case if they were in a disembodied state. 
     Indeed we shall see from 1 Thessalonians 4.17 that the only
way of being with Christ is by resurrection.  Here we may indeed
see the reason for the statements of the New Testament that "the
coming of the Lord draweth nigh."  It is nigh to every believer,
who only has to wait for it till he closes his eyes in death.
Yet such was the devotion of the apostle's life that in spite of
this wonderful prospect before him he realised that to remain in
this world would be more necessary and more profitable for the
believers under his care, and he was content to do so.
     In the same epistle the apostle mentions again the great
change that will take place at our resurrection (see 
1 Corinthians 15.43,49,53).  He speaks of the Lord Jesus
Christ Who at His coming will change the body of our humiliation
and fashion it like unto the body of His glory, and he says that
it is for this Saviour that we look (Phil. 3.20,21).
     We pass on for a moment to 1 Thessalonians 4.16.  We will
study the whole context when we come shortly to deal with the
predictions of the coming of the Lord. Here the apostle says,
"The dead in Christ shall rise first." This does not mean before
the dead out of Christ, but before the living believers are 
changed, even if it be only an instant before.  At the end of
verse 17 we find the words "and so shall we be for ever with the
Lord."  The words "together with them" a little earlier in the
verse make it clear that these final words apply to the dead as
well as the living.  Now the word "so" is Greek houtos, which
means "in this way."  Its place here at the beginning of the
sentence makes it emphatic, so that the meaning of the sentence
becomes "And this is way that we shall be for ever with the
Lord," implying that there is no other way and leading us to
conclude that we shall not be with the Lord till the day of
     We conclude the references which occur in the apostle Paul's
writings by looking at Hebrews 6.2, the epistle being included
in the Pauline corpus, if not directly by his hand.  This is a
rather striking passage.  The apostle lists six subjects which he
calls elementary principles of the Christian faith, which
believers are to leave behind and build upon.  The fifth of these
is the resurrection of the dead.  Now if this is an elementary
principle, part of the foundation, how much more would the
immortality of the "soul" be if it were an actual fact?  Yet
it is not mentioned among the fundamentals of the faith, just as
it is not mentioned anywhere else in Scripture, though it is
definitely contradicted in such passages as Ezekiel 18.4.


     Only two passages concern us here.  The first is Revelation
1.18.  Here the Lord Jesus as He gives to the apostle the great
vision of Himself in His risen glory says to him, "I am He that
liveth and was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore."  He
goes on to explain that as a consequence of His own resurrection
He has the keys of death and the grave.  This means that He will
unlock the gates of death and the grave and let His people out of
them in resurrection.  The same thing is said of the Lord in
Psalm 68.20.
     Our last passage is the rather mysterious Revelation 20.
4-6.  It remains mysterious because it has not yet been fulfilled
and therefore we cannot yet be certain of its meaning, though it
has caught the imagination of many who have dogmatised fiercely
upon it and contradicted each other.  The quotations at the 
beginning of verse 4 from Daniel 7 make it probable that this is
a picture of the day of judgment with the saints judging the
world (Matt. 19.28; 1 Cor. 6.2,3).  In any case the passage
deals with resurrection.
     Misunderstanding of the Scriptural meaning of the word
"souls" (Greek psychas) in verse 4 has caused some to regard
those here seen sitting upon thrones as being in a disembodied
state.  The word in fact leads us to the opposite conclusion. 
Here are the souls, the persons, the very selves, of the martyrs
living and reigning in resurrection and life.  This must be an
actual resurrection, because all are agreed that the 
resurrection of the rest of the dead, who are the wicked dead,
mentioned in verse 5, is their actual resurrection.  The two
resurrections referred to in verse 5 cannot be of a totally
different nature.  The language would be forced and harsh.  Thus
there seems to be an interval of the period called in this 
chapter a thousand years between the resurrection of the just and
that of the unjust.  Here we see the saints risen and reigning.

END OF PART ONE, on the RESURRECTION, as taken from Basil
Atkinson's book called "Life and Immortality."


January 2001

All articles and studies written by or presented by Keith Hunt,
may be copied, published, e-mailed, and distributed as led by the
Spirit. Mr.Hunt trusts nothing will be changed (except for
spelling and punctuation errors) without his consent.

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