THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD

In 2 Tim. 3:1 5-1 8, Paul wrote some needed instruction to Timothy. In verse 15 Paul urges Timothy to "be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth." This plainly teaches us that "a workman" to be "approved to God" must handle "accurately the word of truth". One must "be diligent" in this vital matter. If this is not done one should be ashamed and afraid to face God. This is needed instruction for all of us who seek truth and attempt to teach others "the word of truth".

Obviously, then, "the word of truth" can be handled, taught, and used in ways that are not accurate. Truth can be perverted or distorted. Handling "the word of truth" is serious business and it can have eternal consequences. No doubt all readers of this paper understand and believe this. Also, any informed person is aware that in the vast religious world there is a multitude of contrary and conflicting teachings or doctrines. Surely no one can believe that all these teachings or beliefs are true; that they all make up "the word of truth." A knowledgeable person knows that truth does not contradict itself. "God is not a God of confusion but of peace" (1 Cor. 14:33).

There is a statement of truth that I learned years ago: Truth on any point is narrow; error covers the rest of the ground. We must accept this reality and seek for the truth about every vital matter, especially as it pertains to our relationship to God. We must always have the goal of "handling accurately the word of truth", meaning God's word as revealed to us in the Sacred Writings we call the Bible.

Paul also told Timothy to "avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene" (v. 17). Gangrene is a deadly affliction. Paul then identifies two men, Hymenaeus and Philetus, who are among those whose "talk will spread like gangrene." Paul identified the "guilty" when it was important to do so in order that Timothy and others could be warned of such dangerous men. This plainness of speak is approved of God.

Paul further describes these men by writing.: (1) men who have gone astray from the truth (2) saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and (3) they upset the faith of some." Paul charged that these men had gone astray from the truth in claiming "the resurrection has already taken place". Such teaching is not the truth; and, in Paul's view, it was an error of such magnitude that to teach it and/or believe it is to "upset" or destroy "the faith" of those who were deceived with such false teaching. As far as we know, the only truth that these men had "gone astray" from was the truth about the resurrection of the dead. Note carefully that they were proclaiming that "the resurrection has already taken place..." One does not have to renounce all truth in order to "go astray from the truth". Apparently "the truth" about the resurrection was sufficient in itself that these men stood condemned for their false teaching that "the resurrection has already taken place."

I am not certain about "the resurrection" that these false teachers claimed had already taken place; but I am certain about another resurrection that has not yet taken place, but will occur when Jesus comes the second time. This bodily resurrection of the dead is the one the apostle Paul discusses in 1 Corinthians 15, which I now review.

THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD

I have heard 1 Cor. 15 twisted and perverted to make it appear that it has absolutely nothing to do with the literal resurrection of the dead, that is, the physical body of people. The believers of the A.D. 70 theory, with whom I have talked, do not believe that the physical bodies of men will be raised at all at any time! They try to make 1 Cor. 15 refer to the death of fleshly Israel, the Jewish nation, which "died" in A.D. 70 (sometime during that year) in the physical destruction of Jerusalem.

Also at the same time they claim that there was "the resurrection" of "the new spiritual Israel," "the church," which rose out of, or in connection with, the end of the Jewish nation. If this is true, then it follows that "the church" (ekklesia) did not really have the fullness of existence and life until the Jewish nation "died" sometime in A.D. 70.

According to these brethren, 1 Cor. 15 has to do with the death of the Jewish state in A.D. 70 and with the "rising" of "the church" out of that event at that time; and, therefore, it has nothing to do with the bodily resurrection of the dead. In my view, that position is totally wrong.

Let's look at I Cor. 15.

In 1 Cor. 15: 1-11, Paul reminds these saints of "the gospel" which he had preached to them, which they had received, and "in which also you stand, by which also you are saved ... unless you believed in vain." He then enumerated the facts upon which that "good news" rested: 1 ) Christ died for our sins, 2) he was buried, and 3) "He was raised on the third day ... and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve." He appeared to others also; and Paul says that "last of all, as it were one untimely born, He appeared to me also." Paul here affirms that he was the "last" person to whom Jesus appeared; and even in his case it was out of the ordinary, an exception.

Jesus has not in person, or bodily, appeared to or talked directly to anyone since that time, even though there have been thousands and thousands of people down through the ages who have claimed to see Him and/or that He personally has talked to them. One of the most recent claims was by Oral Roberts, when he claimed that a "900-foot Jesus" appeared to him with a special message for his critical time of great financial need! This delusion or self-deception of a "visit" from Jesus was used by Roberts to "con" his followers out of a large sum of money, something like $6-8 million dollars. It seemed to work well for him. This type of deception and fraud has been used often by many false teachers through the ages and it is still being used by hundreds in this age.

I do not believe that either Jesus or God, the Father, has appeared to or even talked with anyone directly or in person since the ascension of Jesus, with the exception of Paul as noted above. Jesus even told His apostles that after His ascension He would not personally speak to or directly help them in their work. He promised them another Comforter, the Holy Spirit, who would provide for them what they needed in order to do the work assigned to them. In my view, the "baptism" (immersion) of (in) the Holy Spirit was promised only to the apostles and in fact was received by them only. This promise was not a promise to all believers for all time to come. Paul was "not one whit behind the chiefest apostle," therefore he must have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit because he claimed that the "signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles" (2 Cor. 12:12). No one today can do the "signs of a true apostle signs and wonders and miracles."

Let me give you my view of one other related thing: The Holy Spirit is NOT today speaking directly to anyone "guiding them into all truth" about anything! The apostles, along with those upon they laid their hands and imparted some "spiritual gift" (a miraculous power), are the only ones upon whom such "powers" or "gifts" have been bestowed. The Holy Spirit directed or guided the apostles into "all truth", and God in His providence has preserved their written "holy record" through all the ages. The "blessed Holy Spirit" yet works and accomplishes God's work on behalf of all men through and by God's word which has been preserved for us in the "Holy Bible"! And in no other way does He act or operate that man can identify and prove!

In God's revealed word, we have everything that we need: "...seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence" (2 Pet. 1:3). Paul wrote to Timothy: "...and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which in Christ Jesus. ALL SCRIPTURE is inspired of God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; THAT the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:15-1 7). What else do we need?

Let us therefore believe and sing: "How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent word! What more can He say than to you He has said, all ye who to Jesus for refuge have fled"? Oh, you of little faith, who want, and even demand and claim, more than He ever promised! The faith that saves still "comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Recall often: "God ... in these days has spoken to us in His Son ... how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoke through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also bearing witness WITH them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will" (Heb. 1:1-2; 2:1-4).

When anyone today claims that he or she is speaking a "message" of any kind from God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, that person must be able to verify or demonstrate that such is from God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit by performing "signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit". No one today can do such! Yet thousands over the world claim that they can and have done these things, but the evidence or proof of such is "weighted in the balances and found wanting." It is often easy for people to be deceived and even deceive themselves. Just remember an old common sense rule: One can almost always find "proof" for what he or she wants to prove. If you are determined to prove it, you can "prove" it to your satisfaction!

So much for the little excursion concerning some vital and related matters. Let's continue with the study of 1 Cor. 15.

Let us first note Acts 1:3 where we are told that "to these [the apostles] He also presented Himself alive ... by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days ..." Is any further evidence needed to show that Jesus Christ was bodily raised from death; that is, that His same body that was nailed to the cross was raised from death on the third day, even though it was "changed" from mortal to immortal? Jesus Christ still has, in heaven, that same body which was raised from death (Acts 1:9-11 ). That the saved in heaven will be able to see, as did the apostles when He appeared to them here on earth, the "prints of the nails in his hands" is a reality in my mind. I await with eager anticipation that glorious day.

Dear brother and sister, if Jesus Christ did not rise from death with that same body in which He lived and died here on earth, then it follows that there has not been any resurrection at all; therefore, there will never be any "victory over death, hades, and the grave"! If death will forever claim this mortal frame of men, then even if the redeemed spirit should "fly away to glory" it will be a spirit un-clothed or "body-less", and a"victory" only half-won! If that is true then death indeed will be victorious over the fleshly bodies of men - "if the dead are not raised."

The "spirit of man" does not die! NEVER! It was "created" by God of His nature and it has an immortality because it is made in the image of God; partaking of God's nature in this respect. Physical death takes place when the spirit leaves the body. James says that "the body without the spirit is dead" (2:26). No where in Scripture have I found any teaching that the spirit, which is the real being or person made in the image of God, ever dies. In fact, the spirit will be always in a conscious state of existence, even out of the body. And your spirit is the real you! Only the physical body dies; and the promise of God is that that same body will be raised from death, as we shall see in our further study of 1 Cor. 15.

The Argument Of Paul

"Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead" (1 Cor. 15:12)? Apparently some in Corinth, as some do today, were teaching that there is no resurrection of the dead the physical body of men. Paul's question hits the heart of the error. The logic of his question is this: "If Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead," how can any reasonable, believing disciple "say that there is no resurrection of the dead?" To deny the resurrection of the dead is to deny the resurrection of Christ! The very fact that Christ rose from death is absolute proof of the resurrection of the dead. Paul's point is that "if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised..." The two stand or fall together: First, if Christ has been raised from the dead, then there is indeed the resurrection of the dead. Or, second, if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. This argument by Paul, along with the entire chapter, is the death-knell to this doctrine of unbelief which claims that "the resurrection has already taken place." It also shows the error and folly of the teaching being set forth today that there is no resurrection of the dead at all.

Paul claimed that a basic element, if not the most vital   fact, of the gospel is the bodily resurrection of Jesus from death: "he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" (15:4). His bodily resurrection is the supreme historical fact upon which our faith and hope are built.   In 1 Cor. 15, Paul intensely argues the case for the bodily resurrection:

1) "But if there is no resurrection of the dead,   not even Christ has been raised" (v. 13)!  

2) "And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching   is vain, your faith is also vain" (v. 14). His preaching was a lie; and their faith was a delusion if Christ was not raised from death!  

3) Paul also says: "Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against   God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise, if in   fact the dead are not raised" (v. 15). Paul is very strong   here. He says that "we" (the apostles) are false witnesses,   meaning they were lying witnesses, if the dead are not raised. What he means is that they preached that God raised Jesus from the dead, which would have them lying about what God did, if indeed God did not raise Christ from death. Hence, they "witnessed against God" charging God with a lie if He did not raise Jesus from the dead.  

4) Paul hangs the resurrection of Christ upon the fact or   reality that all the dead are to be raised. He puts it in plain   language: "For if the dead are not raised, not even   Christ has been raised..." (v. 1 6). That is the bottom line!   It is folly and a gross lie to attempt to sustain the resurrection of Christ from death, and at the same time deny the resurrection of all the dead!  

5) Paul used reasoning and logic that cannot be over-   thrown: "and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is   worthless; you are still in your sins" (v. 1 7). Note well Paul's   line of reasoning: a) if the dead all the dead are not raised, b) not even Christ has been raised because He did indeed die on the cross, and c) therefore, Jesus Christ did not and has not risen from death!! If that is true then we do   not, therefore, "serve a risen Savior," but a false one; one   who is not alive but dead!  

6) He further tells them (and us) that if Christ has not been raised from death, "Your faith is worthless; you are still  in your sins' (v. 17). He means if Christ has not been raised   from death then our faith is based upon a big lie or deception. If the body of Jesus is yet dead and in the grave, our faith is indeed worthless. We are still in our sins and lost forever! Therefore, when Christians sing in faith and with hope, "up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph over His foes", it is totally false.  

7) If there is no resurrection, "then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished" (v. 18). That is, they have gone out of existence; they are no more, they have ceased to be in any sense!  

8) "If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most to be pitied" (v. 19). Paul argues that if there is no resurrection of the dead, then "we have only hoped in Christ in this life"; that is, there is no hope beyond this world! He  means that all hopes are dashed and we are to be pitied for hoping in vain that there is to be a resurrection of the dead. Death is the tragic eternal end for all of us! There is no future life for any of us. God forbid!

9) Paul's faith is strong and his hope steadfast: "But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep" (v. 20). The word "asleep" is a gentle way of speaking of death. Have you heard that precious old song: "Asleep in Jesus! blessed sleep, from which none ever wakes to weep! A calm and undisturbed repose, unbroken by the last of foes"? The language applies to the physical body, not to the spirit of man. Paul had not the slightest doubt concerning his own resurrection from the dead; nor the resurrection of all others. "First fruits" denotes the beginning, a pledge of the rest. Christ being the "first fruits of those who are asleep" is the guarantee that all the dead will be raised from death. Probably only a minority of the followers of Jesus have really denied the resurrection of Christ, but how meaningless and fruitless His resurrection would be without the resurrection of others.

Was Christ raised from death? Hallelujah! He arose! Just as the eye-witnesses have verified, Paul himself being one of them. Indeed, praise God, we do "serve a risen Savior"!; and "on the resurrection morning we shall rise" to be with Jesus forever.

10) "For since by man came death, by a man [Jesus was truly man] also came the resurrection of the dead" (v. 21 ). Physical death passed upon all men because of Adam's sin, hence, "in Adam all die." However, by another "man also came the resurrection of the dead." This "MAN" was Jesus Christ. Again the assurance of the resurrection of the physical body of man.

11) "For as in Adam all die, so [to the same extent] also in Christ all shall be made alive" (v. 22). The "all" who die as a result of Adam's sin is the same "all" who shall be made alive by Jesus Christ. Hear Jesus speak on this vital subject: "Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds, to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment" or condemnation (John 5:28-29). The physical body goes to the tomb or grave when it dies; and from that tomb or grave, from death, it shall come forth when that "hour" comes.

12) "But each [Christ is one; and "all" is the other!] in his own order: Christ the first fruits,, after that those who are Christ's at his coming ..." (v.23). Christ was the first one to rise from death to die no more; He is the first fruits, the assurance that the rest will follow. "At His coming" refers to his second coming, which is yet future. At the second coming of Christ all "those who are Christ's," that is, those who belong to Christ will be raised from death. Since the dead have not yet been raised, we can be assured that Christ has not yet come again His "second coming" has not yet occurred!

13) "... then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all authority and power" (v. 24). It should be noted that at "the end" Jesus will deliver up the kingdom to God and that is when He will have abolished all authority and power. This is yet future, which should be obvious. He has not yet abolished all authority and power; and He has not yet delivered up the kingdom to God. He has definitely not yet abolished the power of death! Hence, "the end" spoken of here has not yet come! This "the end" is obviously yet in the future; to take place at His second coming which will be at the end of this world. This is the time of the resurrection of all the dead.

14) "For He must reign until he has put all enemies under His feet" (v. 25). He still reigns because all enemies are definitely not yet "put under His feet". In verse 26we learn that "the last enemy that will be abolished is death." Certainly that enemy is not yet abolished and shows itself with large numbers of deaths each moment over the world. "The end" has not yet taken place and this should be apparent to all believers. Jesus is still King, reigning over those in His kingdom. Death, the last enemy to be destroyed, still operates striking down thousands each day. But at "His coming, then comes the end..." Neither "His coming" or "the end" has yet taken place; and no one knows anything about when they will occur. However, we can rest assured that "the day and the hour" will come and we must be ready for His coming even as a bride is adorned and prepared for her husband.

Let me here insert an interesting quote:

"Nothing is said here which can affect either (1) His coequality and co-eternity with the Father in the Godhead, which is prior to, and independent of this mediatorial work, and is not limited to the mediatorial kingdom; or (2) the eternity of His humanity: for that humanity ever was, and is subordinate to the Father and it by no means follows that when the mediatorial kingdom shall be given to the Father, the humanity in which the kingdom was won, shall be put off; nay, the very fact of Christ in the body being the first fruits of the resurrection proves that his body, as ours, will endure forever; as the truth that our humanity, even in glory, can only subsist before God by virtue of His humanity, makes it plain that He will be very man to all eternity." Alford, Lange's Commentary

I must bring this study to a close. However, in the next issue or in some future issue, I would like to present a study dealing with the questions, "How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?" (1 Cor. 15: 35-58.) Would it be of interest to you? These are vital matters and erroneous and dangerous doctrines are based upon a perverted use of this great chapter. God bless you one and all. CAH