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Both Old and New Testaments record examples of ordinary people who died and were brought back to life. In all these cases the kind of life to which they returned was the same kind of life as they had known previously. They experienced a normal human existence again, and in due course died a normal human death (1 Kings 17:22; 2 Kings 4:32-35; Luke 7:12-15; Luke 8:49-55; John 11:39-44; Acts 9:37-41). The present article, however, is concerned with a kind of resurrection that is an entirely new order of existence, where death has no more power (Romans 6:9; 1 Corinthians 15:54; 2 Corinthians 5:4).

Death and the afterlife

Old Testament believers did not have a clear understanding of eternal life, though they did at times express the hope of a resurrection through which they would have deliverance from the power of death. Likewise they expected a resurrection of the wicked that would be followed by punishment (Psalms 49:14-15; Daniel 12:2). The reason their understanding was so limited was that Jesus Christ had not yet come. By Christ’s death God broke the power of death and revealed the nature of resurrection life (2 Timothy 1:10; Hebrews 2:14-15). A minority of Jews, the Sadducees, refused to believe in a resurrection of any sort (Matthew 22:23).

Death is a consequence of sin, and therefore salvation from sin must include victory over death if that salvation is to be complete. It must involve the resurrection of the body to a new and victorious life. Because Jesus’ death and resurrection conquered sin and death, the believer in Jesus can look forward to salvation from sin and death (Romans 4:24-25; Romans 6:8-10; Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15:26; 1 Corinthians 15:54-57).

God created the human being as a unified whole, and therefore he deals with people in the totality of their being. God does not divide them into physical and spiritual ‘parts’. The human being’s destiny, whether for salvation or damnation, is connected not with death but with the resurrection of the body, after which the person faces final judgment (Daniel 12:2; John 5:29; Acts 24:15; see DEATH).

Assurance of Jesus’ resurrection

People’s only basis of hope for a victorious resurrection is the resurrection of Jesus (John 11:25; 1 Corinthians 15:20-21; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49). Throughout his ministry Jesus pointed out that he was not only to die but was also to rise from death (Mark 8:31; Mark 9:9; Mark 9:31; John 2:19-21). In spite of Jesus’ clear statements, his disciples often displayed a lack of understanding concerning his coming crucifixion and resurrection. Therefore, when Jesus met with them after his resurrection, he made sure that they knew it was a true bodily resurrection (Luke 24:39-43; John 20:20; John 20:27; 1 Corinthians 15:4-7).

Nevertheless, there was something uniquely different about Jesus’ body after his resurrection. On some occasions his physical appearance seems to have changed, for his friends did not at first know who he was (Luke 24:30-31; Luke 24:36-37; John 20:14-15; John 21:4; John 21:12). On other occasions they recognized him immediately (Matthew 28:9; John 20:26-28).

In his resurrection body Jesus was capable of normal physical functions (Luke 24:41-43), but he was also able to appear and disappear as he wished. Although always with his disciples invisibly, he could make himself visible to them if he so desired (Luke 24:31; John 20:19; John 20:26; cf. Matthew 18:20). The last time he appeared to them, he disappeared in a way that showed that he would appear to them no more, until he returned in power and glory at the end of the age (Acts 1:3; Acts 1:9-11).

Jesus’ resurrection changed the apostles from people who were confused and cowardly into people who were assured and courageous (Acts 2:14; Acts 2:36; Acts 4:13; Acts 4:18-20; Acts 4:29-31; Acts 5:27-29). By his resurrection he had conquered death and made salvation sure, and they were witnesses of these things (Luke 24:46-48; Acts 2:24; Acts 2:32; Acts 5:30-32; Acts 10:39-43).

The resurrection was therefore a central theme in the apostles’ preaching. It had a significance that people could not ignore (Acts 2:22-24; Acts 4:2; Acts 4:33). Jesus was alive and, through his disciples, was continuing the work he had begun during the time of his earthly ministry (Acts 3:15-16; Acts 4:10; cf John 14:12-18; see HOLY SPIRIT).

Not just the original disciples but all disciples are changed because of Jesus’ resurrection (Ephesians 2:5-6; Revelation 1:17-18). Paul, who had not known Jesus during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, claimed that the resurrection gave him assurance of eternal life and confidence in his Christian service (Acts 23:6; Acts 25:19; Romans 1:4-5; 1 Corinthians 9:1; 1 Corinthians 15:8; 1 Corinthians 15:14-15; 2 Timothy 2:8). The resurrection of Jesus is essential for a person’s entire salvation (1 Corinthians 15:14; 1 Corinthians 15:17; 1 Corinthians 15:19; Romans 4:24-25; Romans 8:10-11). This is one of the truths that believers express when they are baptized (Romans 6:3-4; Romans 10:9; Colossians 2:12; see BAPTISM).

Having become united with Christ through faith, believers share in the resurrection life of Christ. God’s power worked in Christ in raising him to new life, and that same power can work in those who have come into union with Christ. Christians have a new life. They share in Christ’s conquest of sin, and so can claim victory over sin in their everyday lives (Romans 6:6-11; Romans 6:13; Romans 7:4; Romans 8:10; Ephesians 1:19-20; Philippians 3:10).

Future resurrection

Only through Jesus’ resurrection can believers have the assurance of a future resurrection. Through their union with him, they can look forward to an entirely new order of existence where sin and death have no more power (1 Corinthians 15:20-26; 1 Corinthians 15:54-57; 1 Peter 1:3-4). This new order of existence will begin at the return of Jesus Christ, when the resurrection of believers will take place (John 6:40; John 6:54; 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

Believers have no way of knowing exactly what the resurrection body will be like. But they know at least that it will be imperishable, glorious and strong, suited to the life of the age to come just as the present body is suited to present earthly life. The link between the future resurrection body and the present physical body may be compared to the link between a plant and the seed from which it grows. The plant is different from the seed, but in a sense it is the same thing. Similarly, the resurrection body of the believer will be different from the present body, but the believer will still be the same person (John 6:40; 1 Corinthians 15:35-38; 1 Corinthians 15:42-44).

As Adam’s body was the pattern for the bodies of people in the present life, so Christ’s resurrection body is the pattern for the bodies of believers in the life to come (1 Corinthians 15:45-49; Philippians 3:20-21). The Christian’s expectation at the resurrection is not for the giving of life to a corpse, but for the changing of the whole person into the likeness of Christ (1 John 3:2; cf. Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18).

The resurrection of the ungodly is a different matter. Whatever form their resurrection will take, they will not be given spiritual and imperishable bodies. Their resurrection will result not in life, but in judgment, condemnation and eternal destruction (Daniel 12:2; Matthew 10:28; John 5:29; 1 Corinthians 15:50; Revelation 20:6; Revelation 20:12-14; see HELL).

Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Resurrection'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​bbd/​r/resurrection.html. 2004.
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