I cannot think of a more enticing discussion. Can the dead be raised? History shows they can be. Jesus showed that fact clearer than anyone who ever lived. After raising several people from the dead during his lifetime, He personally returned from the grave after three days.
If Jesus could do what He did, what are the real possibilities?
1 Corinthians 15:20 “But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first fruits of them that slept.”
Here is a subject that is very controversial. Will dead men really live again?
Christians are at the forefront of this controversy. No other society holds the views we do in this important matter.
Paul was very straight forward in his approach to the subject of the resurrection:
1 Corinthians 15: 13-20 “But if there be no resurrection, 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 witness 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 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 first fruits of them that slept.”
With those words, Paul sets forth his own firm belief that Jesus is in fact alive from the dead. Our eternal hope and our ultimate motivation for living for God today rest in those statements. One single fact isolates Jesus Christ from every other human being who ever lived. Jesus had complete control over his own death and resurrection.
Jesus himself explained: John 10: 17-18 “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”
Ordinary men have no power with death.
The famous magician, Houdini, was fascinated with the subject of communication with the dead, and wanted to prove that it was possible. He planned an experiment in which he hoped to communicate with his wife after his death. After he died, nothing at all of the planned experiment was realized, to the great disappointment of his loving wife. Houdini had no power after death.
Houdini’s failure is a simple reminder of the human limitations surrounding the fact of death. None of us had power over our on birth, and we will have very little power over our death.
Jesus, on the other hand, was the first and only person to have the ability to raise himself after three days in the grave. Through Jesus Christ ordinary men are given the opportunity to affect their destinies beyond the grave.
Scripture strongly supports the notion of life after death.
Hebrews 9:27 “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”
If death of the body meant annihilation, then there could be no judgment afterward. Solomon taught that the body of a man returns to the dust from which it came, and the spirit of man returns to God who gave it. (Ecclesiastes 12:7)
John saw the souls of the righteous dead under the altar in heaven, praying for the day of God’s vengeance on their persecutors. (Revelation 6:9). They were given white robes and told to wait for the rest of their brethren who were yet to come.
Paul taught that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8)
There are eternal benefits associated with living for God.
Ps. 58:11 declares that “this is a reward for the righteous.”
Prov. 24:20 “there shall be no reward to the evil man.”
Daniel spoke of two different kinds of resurrections: “some to everlasting life, some to everlasting shame and contempt.”(Daniel 12:3)
Job expected to see God after he died
Job 19:26 “And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God;”
This clearly suggests that Job expected his dead body to revive and appear before the presence of God. Jesus was the first one to give hard evidence for God’s ability to raise a mortal to immortality. Even though there had been several instances in both the Old and the New Testaments of the dead being raised, none of them had risen to immortal glory as he did.
Many of the Greek philosophers, such as Plato (427-347 BC), believed that an immortal soul inhabited a body and that at death the soul left its bodily prison and soared upward to the divine spirit.
They did NOT teach that the bodies would ever be resurrected.
Many of the pagan religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism teach the transmigration or reincarnation of the soul- that the soul will be passed at death into another body of another form. Even the early church was exposed to similar teachings from the Gnostics. Still, none of these pagans expected the old body to be resurrected. Jesus is the only human on record that actually resurrected bodily from the grave unto eternal life.
Even in Jesus’ time, his brethren the Jews were disputing the issue of life after death. The Pharisees accepted the notion, while the Sadducees strongly resisted any concept of it.
In Mark 12: 18:27, The Sadducees attempted to discredit the notion of afterlife by proposing a story of a woman dying, having had seven husbands, all brothers, in her lifetime. Jesus rebukes them of their ignorance of the word of God and of the power of God. On that occasion, He reveals that in our resurrected bodies there will be no marring.
Paul gave this account in
1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose on the third day according to the scriptures.”
It is difficult to understand the finality of death to the human body. The heart stops, the blood stops, the lungs stops, the brain stops. The eyes no longer see, the ears no longer hear. Every organ shuts down.
Jesus was dead. It does not matter what the skeptics think. The historical fact of Jesus’ death is firmly established by numerous proofs.
1. The authors of the four gospels. They were either present to see His death or personally acquainted with eyewitnesses.
2. The multitude that observed His crucifixion.
3. The Roman soldiers that handled His corpse
4. The woman who prepared His body
5. Joseph of Arimathea who buried Him
6. The Roman soldiers who stood watch over His tomb.
Jesus’ burial is almost as significant as His death. It was prophetically significant Isaiah 53:9 “And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.”
David had prophesied of the Messiah,
Ps. 16:10 “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine
Holy One to see corruption.”
Peter linked David’s prophecy to Jesus:
Acts 2: 30-32 “Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.”
It is impossible to comprehend the potential of a miraculous resurrection. Even though a body may have been decomposed, burned, lost at sea, or otherwise destroyed, we are not prevented from believing that God will raise it up. Ezekiel 37 shows a valley of dry bones hearing the word of the Lord. The breath of life came to them all. If we believe that God created the heavens and the earth, then we should have no problem believing that God is able to call back into existence every atom and every molecule that once comprised the old body, and raising it up, transforming it and glorifying it.
Lazarus had lain dead in the tomb for three days and stank. But at the command of Jesus, who declared to Martha, “I am the resurrection” (John 11:25), Lazarus’ decomposition was instantly reversed. And so it shall be for every man or woman who obeys the gospel of Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”(John 3:16)
Jesus’ own resurrection outshined all the previous miracles he had done. Never before or since has a man walked back into the material world from the grave. We have the Bible record. Jesus’ resurrection was witnessed by many:
1. Cephas (Peter) and the twelve (1 Corinthians 15:5)
2. The five hundred (v.6)
3. James and all the apostles (v.7)
4. Paul, the Apostles (vv.8, 9)
Peter witnessed an empty grave. Mary Magdalene and the women were told by the angel, “He is not here, He has risen.” Christianity is the only religion in the world with an empty tomb, and Jesus is the reason.
Jesus’ resurrection is the guarantee of the Christians victory. In modern times, some Christians have distorted the simplicity of the resurrection. Several Bible commentators insist there have been numerous resurrections, and will be numerous raptures. It is true that:
1. Elijah raised the Zarephath widow’s son, (1 Kings 17:20-24)
2. Elisha raised the Shunammite woman’s son, (2 Kings 4:32-37)
3. The dead man who touched Elisha’s bones revived, (2 Kings 13:21)
4. Jesus raised Jarius’ daughter in Mark 5:41-43, and Lazarus in John 11:44
5. Peter raised Dorcas, (Acts 9:40-41)
6. Paul raised Eutychus, (Acts 20:9-12)
Unfortunately, every one of these people were forced to return to the grave eventually. None of these were permanent resurrections. Only Jesus is alive forever more. All other saints are still waiting what John called the first resurrection, (Revelations 20:4-6), John said, “This is the first resurrection,” and gave details indicating the time frame. Then he continued (verse 5), “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.” In verse six, John defines the SECOND resurrection, and explains that since all the SAINTS where in the FIRST resurrection, only SINNERS would be in The SECOND resurrection a thousand years later. So we see that there are only two resurrections; one before the thousand year reign of Jesus Christ, and the second at the end of the thousand years.
In Corinthians, Jesus is the “first fruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15:20). As the second Adam, Jesus reversed the curse of death that was begun with the first Adam. As a result, one man, Jesus Christ has restored life, because through Adam all die. “As in Adam all die, in Jesus Christ all those who are “in him” shall live, (v.22)
Jesus’ new life is obtained through baptism, “Know ye not that as many of us were baptized INTO Jesus Christ were baptized INTO his death? Therefore, we are BURIED with him by baptism INTO death, that as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Romans 6:3-5). Paul taught that the seed sown would come up in a new form.
One of the early church fathers, Justin, wrote a work on the subject of the resurrection. He argued for the resurrection of the fleshy body. He showed that Jesus was resurrected in his fleshy body. Jesus’ first appearance was to the women. He instructed them not to touch Him for He had not yet been glorified. Later, He challenged Thomas to thrust his hands into His wounds. Jesus could be felt, eat, and be seen. His body was essentially the same as it had been with one major exception; it was no longer mortal, but immortal. It was not earthy, profane, corruptible, but a new glorified immortal body.
Water baptism illustrates this principle profoundly. It is one of the parts of the new birth. It plays a special role in transforming the believer from a death doomed mortal, to an everlasting immortal. It is truly a miracle.
Many believers fail to the importance of water baptism in the new birth, but Jesus’ instructions to Nicodemus were very clear: “Except a man be born of water and of Spirit, he CANNOT ENTER into the kingdom of God.”(John 3:5) Peter agreed when he preached to the crowds on the day of Pentecost: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost,” (Acts 2:38) Peter understood the typology of burying the old man. Through burial in the name of Jesus we are now prepared for resurrection to newness of life in the Holy Spirit.
Water baptism is a necessary step in the new birth. Water baptism is the burial of the old man, which will lead to the resurrection of a new creature, born of the Holy Spirit. There is an actual birthing that takes place IN THE WATER. Something is created, born in the water. Just as a baby’s birth involves two distinct processes, so does the new birth. In natural birth, the water envelope around the fetus bursts, and the baby’s body emerges from the womb. Secondly, this new born creature must breathe. If not, it is STILL BORN.
Likewise, in the water of baptism, a new heavenly body is born, and when the Holy Ghost baptizes, (which comes with the initial evidence of speaking with other tongues), its first breath of God’s Spirit is inhaled. Unless both processes are completed successfully, the child will PERISH. Receiving the baptism of the Holy Ghost is the point at which a person is born of the Spirit.
Jesus was clear to tell Nicodemus that the new birth consisted of two elements:
1. Water baptism
2. Spiritual baptism…You have to be born of the water and of the Spirit. Both of them together constitute a complete baptism. “One Lord, one faith, one baptism,” (Ephesians 4:5)
Paul explains this clearly in 1 Corinthians 15:37-40 “……But God giveth it a body as it has pleased him, and to every seed his own body.” The dead in Christ will be raised from the grave, but they will not be raised corruptible. They will be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. The saints, which are alive and remain, will not be required to die. Our mortal bodies will instantly be changed to immortal bodies. (1 Corinthians 15:53-55)
Unless we have been water baptized according to the scriptures, there will be no miraculous change. The miraculous change took place in the water. Only on the resurrection day will we see the new bodies we were born with in baptism. Romans 8:23 describes the “waiting game” we all endure until our new bodies are revealed, “And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”
The resurrection is a miraculous transformation. Paul taught that all saints would one day be changed in like manner. 1Corinthians 15:52says, “In a moment, in a 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.”
No other event will compare with the joyous emotions that will accompany the resurrection of our bodies. We will have overcome the world, the flesh and the devil for the last time. Death will be defeated. There will be no more sickness, no more sorrow, no more pain or death. (Revelation 21:4)
Jesus Christ is the key to our victory. Winston Churchill once said, “Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road maybe; for without victory, there is no survival.”
Victory is defined as the defeat of an enemy or an opponent; success in a struggle against difficulties or an obstacle; the state of having triumphed. It refers especially to the final defeat of an enemy or opponent. Our eternal salvation is in Jesus Christ because He was victorious at the cross we can have victory in our lives.
Ultimately, it is our obedience to the resurrection power that saves us. The gospel of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is preached every time a believer repents of their sins and is baptized (immersed in water) in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins, and receives the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
Everything we know about God, His word, and His incarnation in the man Jesus would be pointless or worthless, if there were no resurrection of the dead. Even the Apostle Paul admitted it would be miserable.
Jesus taught that life does not consist in the abundance of the things which a man possesses. (Luke 12:15) He taught against laying up treasures on earth. Rather, we should set our affections on the things above. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Paul declared that much of the hardship he faced was due to the fact that he believed in the resurrection. As he stood before Ananias the high priest, and an angry mob, he realized that it was because of “the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question” (Acts 23:6)
May God grant us the same desire Paul expressed, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made comfortable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” (Phillipians3:10-11) “O death, where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55