Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 12, 1970
NUMBER 31, PAGE 6-8a

Will There Be A Bodily Resurrection?

Melvin Rose

In the April 30 issue of the Gospel Guardian, there appeared an article entitled "A Body Resurrection, 'Yes' or 'No'?" The writer represented a view that is quite common among members of the body of Christ. However, this does not mean that it is right. Our purpose is to consider the statements and conclusions of the writer to see whether they are in harmony with the Bible.

Before we busy ourselves with this task, we wish to bless and commend the brother who wrote the article. He has written and submitted, and the Guardian has published, an article on a theme which is most certainly neglected. We appreciate his interest in so vital a subject as the Resurrection, and trust that other contributions along these lines will appear in the Guardian from time to time.

However, though we sincerely appreciated the article, we must take exception to some of the conclusions reached therein. If we do not misunderstand the author, it is his belief that in the resurrection, God will clothe the spirit of man with a body as He wills. The article says, "There would be no apparent purpose served in the physical resurrection of the physical body, for in a moment's time, the dead will have been clothed with a body which is both incorruptible and immortal." (Emphasis mine, MR) Thus, he makes no allowance for the present body to be changed. God will simply clothe the spirit with a body! We cannot believe the Bible teaches it this way.

It is our conviction that God intends to raise us bodily from the grave, and that it will be a physical resurrection. To begin in proof of this, let us understand the meaning of the word "resurrection." Simply, it denotes "a raising up, or rising up; to cause to stand." (Vine's p. 290) Hence, when we speak of the "resurrection of the physical body," we mean that it will "rise up" and be caused "to stand" in the resurrection. Thus, the term "resurrection" signifies a restoration to life. In a resurrection, the effects of death are reversed.

The word "resurrection" is a noun in the New Testament; its verb form is "raise up," not "resurrect." In as much as the inspired writers employed "raise up" with all of its variants, we will restrict ourselves to this verb form in discussing the Resurrection. However, we offer no scriptural or grammatical objection to "resurrect."

The Nature Of Man

Man is a two-fold creature. He is body and spirit, or soul. (Matt. 10:28; 2 Cor. 4:16) What part of man is mortal? What part of man dies? The answer, of course, is simple: It is the body that dies! "As the body without the spirit is dead, so is faith without works dead." (James 2:26) It is the body that we place in the grave, not the spirit. What happens to the spirit? "And the spirit returneth to God who gave it." (Eccles. 12:7) In view of these basic facts, we but speak nonsense when we speak of the resurrection of the spirit! Only that which has died is susceptible to a resurrection. Certainly, the spirit must be reunited with the body in order for there to be a resurrection, but it is the body, not the spirit, that is "raised up." (Read Ezekiel 37; I Kings 17:22)

Bodily Resurrection In The Old Testament

The mass resurrection narrated in Ezekiel 37 is a prophecy of the revival of the Jewish nation following their Captivity in Babylon. But, even so, the facts behind the prophecy are indisputable: the bones, the sinews, the flesh and the spirits of men that once lived returned to life, affording us a lucid example of a physical, bodily resurrection of the dead.

It is so throughout the Old Testament. In Psalms 71:20 we read, "Thou, who halt showed us many and sore troubles, wilt quicken us again, and wilt bring us up again from the depths of the earth." Thus, a physical, bodily resurrection! In Isaiah 26:19: "Thy dead shall live; and my dead bodies shall arise. Wake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust; for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast forth the dead." Who can read this and not fully understand that a physical, bodily resurrection is involved!

Bodily Resurrection In The New Testament

"Marvel not, for the hour cometh when all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the son of man and come forth (from the graves, MR); they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment." (John 5:28-29) This is absolute proof of a bodily resurrection.

"And the sea gave up the dead that were in it.. ." (Rev. 20:13) Whether the resurrection mentioned here is symbolic or prophetic, the facts remain the same; the only part of man buried at sea is the physical part, the body of man. Hence, this passage clearly teaches a bodily resurrection.

"And be not afraid of them that can kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell." (Matt. 10:28. See also Mark 9:43-48) If the body of man is left in the grave, how could God destroy it in hell? It must be raised, and it will be.

What Paul Teaches In I Corinthians 15

Turning now to this great chapter on the Resurrection, we find where Paul asks two distinct questions: (1) How are the dead raised? (2) And with what manner of body do they come. We are concerned with this latter question, but we must briefly consider the former. The reader may be certain that Paul answers both questions in his ensuing argument.

But, to his first question: "How are the dead raised?" This question deals with whatever mystery there is connected with the resurrection, and every thoughtful reader has, at one time or another, wondered just how God is going to accomplish this. Much to our disappointment, perhaps, Paul does not tell us how God proposes to raise the dead. Instead, the Apostle, by using his seed illustration, seeks only to show that God, in His mysterious workings, will cause the dead to live again just as he causes life to spring from a seed. Who understands just how seeds produce life? Not this writer, nor his reader! But there is no need to be concerned. When the seed is planted, it will grow; God will see to it, whether we fully understand the process or not! This, we verily believe, is the very point Paul makes concerning the "how" of the resurrection. The Apostle utilizes this seed illustration, not to explain the mystery of how God will act, but only to show that God knows how to do it!

Unfortunately, Paul's illustration is abused sometimes because people relate it to the second question. His use of the word "body" in the illustration does not relate to the resurrection body. Yet we hear people say, "We don't know what kind of a body we will have in the resurrection, for Paul says that God will give us a body as it pleases Him." The Apostle does not say that God will give us a body at all! He is speaking of the seed, and the body it receives! "But God giveth it a body even as it pleased Him, and to each seed a body of its own." (I Cor. 15:38) We are not to look into the seed-illustration to learn the kind of body we will have.

When Does Paul Begin To Answer His Second Question:

"With what kind of body do they come?" At verse 39 where, although he leaves his seed illustration, he speaks further of "mystery," relating it to the resurrection body, of which he speaks particularly beginning at verse 42. He says, "It (the body) is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body." (I Cor. 15: 44).

We wish the reader to carefully consider the antecedent of "it" in these passages. "So also is the resurrection of the dead. It — it what? The dead body, to be sure. "It is "sown. . ." Paul's use of the word "sown" here is an echo of his seed illustration. It means buried, for "raised" is its opposite action. We bury the body of the dead in the earth, a body that is corruptible, dishonorable and weak; a "natural" body. But in time it is to be raised; blessed with incorruption, honor, power and glory; a "spiritual" body.

Paul's use of a "spiritual body" has not been well understood among Bible students, for they talk of a "spiritual" body in terms of a spirit body — a body that is non-physical and invisible. We deny that a "spiritual" body is a "spirit" body. The word "spiritual" simply means "belonging to spirit, relating to spirit," as defined by Thayer, Lexicon, page 523. Many things on earth are described as "spiritual," i.e., "spiritual house" and "spiritual sacrifices;" (I Pet. 2:5) "spiritual gifts," (Rom. 12:1) "spiritual men," (I Cor. 3:1; 14:37; Gal. 6:2) etc. A "spiritual body," then, does not signify an invisible body, but one "relating or belonging to the Spirit — Holy Spirit; and with good cause: "If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, he that raised up Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies through His spirit that dwelleth in you." (Rom. 8:11) In the resurrection the Spirit will "quicken" our mortal bodies, and they will live again. For this reason, the body is termed "a spiritual body."

Is It Necessary To Raise The Body?

The brother whose article we are examining declares: "There would be no apparent purpose served in the physical body. . ." As far as the present writer is concerned, the foregoing is a most shocking statement! It is a denial of the Resurrection — period! For we contend that if the body is not physically raised out of the grave, the Resurrection is a myth!

No apparent purpose? Why, in no other way can death be destroyed! Death is the enemy that brings man to his grave. It is God's soverign purpose to overthrow death, to destroy it. How? By restoring to life all whom death has claimed, both the righteous and the wicked! So taught Paul: "For he (Christ) must reign till he hath put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be abolished is death." (I Cor. 14:25-26) In closing his great argument on the resurrection, he declares, "But when this corruptible (the body we now have, MR) shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written, "Death is swallowed up in victory!" (I Cor. 15:54) Please observe that Paul does not say that death will be "swallowed up in victory" when, as our brother put it, "God clothes the dead with a body. . .!" Death is destroyed when the risen body is "clothed" with incorruption and and is not the spirit that is to be "clothed," but the body.

But, will it be a physical resurrection? How could it be otherwise? All Resurrections described in the Bible are physical. It is a physical body that lives, a physical body that dies, a physical body that is buried and a physical body that comes forth from the tomb! Who ever got the idea that it would be otherwise? We believe we know the answer: from the Roman Catholic Church, whose doctrines about Heaven lead men to think that we will be invisible spirits floating around out there somewhere — or some such vague, uncertain and indefinite fancy similar to that! Let us brush aside the clouds of superstition and doubt, and allow the light of plain truth to flood our hearts!

We hold that the Resurrection will be a physical one; physical bodies from physical graves. We will be "fashioned anew;" that is, our bodies will be fashioned anew. (Phil. 3:21) Our bodies will be "redeemed," (Rom. 8:23) God will do this by removing the corruption, frailty and weakness which now characterizes the body; and by bringing us up from the grave, he will clothe us with honor, power, glory, incorruption and immortality. This is what the Lord meant when he promised us eternal life. For when we are raised to die no more, this is immortality, eternal life. (John 6:40)

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