Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

The Doctrine of the Last Things (15) The Resurrection

Written by Rev. C.A. Schouls
For this and some of the following notes, the primary source used is Wm. HendriksenÕs The Bible on the Life Hereafter
John 5:19-30
Although there are various passages in Scripture which speak of the resurrection, there is one which puts this entire truth in a concise ÒtheologicalÓ light - i.e. it gives us understanding about the resurrection which goes beyond the obvious facts. The passage is John 5: 19-30. Briefly, this is what the Lord teaches in this passage:

The Jews had attacked Jesus because He had healed a man on the Sabbath. The Lord replies that He and the Father were working; the implication is that He is equal to God. The Jews plotted to kill Him for that. The Lord presents the following argument to prove the truth:

1. In attacking Me, you attack the Father, for the Son can only do what the Father is doing.

2. If this healing amazes you, wait until you see Me do greater things, for the dead will rise and I will judge all men.

3. I can do this, for the Father has given Me, the Son of man, life in myself.

4. The proper reaction to My words is not unbelief, nor even amazement but faith that honours the Son and the Father.

5. They who exercise faith will not be condemned, but have already passed from death into life.

6. On the last day, they will rise from the dead physically, together with all the other dead. Although they will all be raised, the characters of their resurrection will be different: the one will be raised to life, the other to condemnation.

This, then, provides us with the framework of truth, which lies behind the fact of the resurrection. Now we can deal with various other aspects.

How Many Resurrections?
Based on this passage, some say there will be two resurrections, one for the righteous, one for the wicked. However, is that really meant here? Dispensationalists speak of a time-interval: there will be the resurrection of the just at the (first) time Jesus comes; seven years later there will be the resurrection of the Òtribulation saintsÓ and one thousand years after that, there will be the resurrection of judgment. This is a very popular view on the resurrection. But is it correct?

In John 5 we are told that all will arise, together, in that hour. How long this ÒhourÓ will last, we do not know, but the Bible teaches no time distinction in the matter of the resurrection. When the hour comes, all will arise. Acts 24:15 speaks of one general resurrection. Martha, sister of Lazarus, spoke of one resurrection and she very specifically spoke of the resurrection in the last day. Jesus himself gives no hint of such a time interval as proposed by the Dispensationalists when He speaks of the resurrection in John 6:39, 40, 44, 54.

Is the Resurrection Possible?
We may say, ÒOf course, with God all things are possible.Ó That is true and it is the Òbottom lineÓ answer. But more can be said. How can all those who ever lived on earth come to life again? People whose bodies were blown up, devoured by animals, destroyed in fire--can they live once more? Yes, they can, by the power of God. God is the Creator. He created matter. One of the basic laws of science is that matter cannot be destroyed; it can change form but cannot be destroyed. Is it so far-fetched to believe that the matter, which makes up our bodies, can be Òre-organizedÓ at the time of resurrection? We should, of course, not think simply of restoration. The resurrection is far more than that. In 1Corinthians 15, Paul uses the picture of a seed, a kernel of corn. It must decompose before it can bring forth an entirely new plant.

The resurrection body has a glory all its own; God gives to Òevery seed his own bodyÓ (1 Cor.15: 38). And the glory of one body is not the same as the glory of another (1 Cor.15: 39-42). All the believersÕ bodies will share the glory of the risen Lord. At the same time, each human body will be distinct from the others. We confess in the Belgic Confession, Article 37: ÒFor all the dead shall be raised out of the earth, and their souls joined and united with their proper bodies in which they formerly lived.Ó God can do this. How? The details are hidden from us. If we believe God created each of us and when we now know about such things as DNA patterns which are different in every person, is it so hard to believe that God can preserve some kind of pattern of every body and make new ones at that time? This is not so hard to believe at all. It becomes hard to believe when we think of God in human terms and not as the ÒAlmighty, Maker of heaven and earthÓ.

Two Kinds of Resurrection
Little is revealed in the Bible about what kind of resurrection bodies we will have. There is, however, enough of a contrast made between the state of the blessed and that of the damned that we can speak of two kinds of resurrection. The Lord himself, in the John 5 passage, gives us the pattern for speaking this way: the resurrection of life and the resurrection of damnation (ÒjudgmentÓ). There is enough difference between the two that we can speak of different resurrections, although we do understand that it is one event.

If we take together the various Bible passages about the appearance and condition of the bodies of the damned, we get the following picture:

Some shall awake to shame and everlasting contempt (Dan.12: 2).

Their worm shall not die and their fire shall not be quenched and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh (Isa.66: 24).

There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt.8: 12).

And shall be tormented day and night forever and ever (Rev.20: 10b).

Of the blessed, quite a different picture can be drawn from Scripture:

They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever (Dan.12: 3).

We shall bear the image of the heavenly (1 Cor.15: 49).

We shall be made like the image of Christ (Phil. 3:21).

We shall be like Him (1 John 3:2).

The contrast does not need to be emphasized!

The Bodies of Believers
However, not only is there a contrast between the resurrection bodies of believers and unbelievers, there is also a great contrast between what the believers now have and what they will have then. This contrast is outlined for us in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44.

A. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption.
ÒWe are born to dieÓ--it is true because from the moment of birth we begin the process that will inevitably end in death. In fact, after death, this process of decay speeds up in a most terrible way. However, our resurrection bodies will never decay. There will be strength, freshness, power and charm, which will never diminish. Since there will be no death, there will be no need for births to replenish the human race; hence, the marriage relationship will disappear. Does this mean there will be no sex differences? Although the Bible tells us we will be like the angels as far as physical relationships are concerned, it does not specify that we will all be exactly alike. In fact, as we will receive our ÒproperÓ bodies, it is very well possible that the physical/emotional/spiritual gender characteristics that distinguish us now, will still be there. As God originally created man Òmale and female,Ó is it not likely that on the new earth this distinction in completion will still be present?

B. It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory.
We cannot imagine the great gap there is between us now and Adam and Eve before the Fall. If this is so, the gap between our ÒdustÓ and the new bodies must be much greater. We will be like Christ (Phil.3: 20, 21). After His resurrection, the body of Christ, although the same, was gloriously different: physical barriers were gone. What other glories are laid away, we do not yet know.

C. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.
Weakness marks our very existence from cradle to grave, but it will give place to strength: eyes will be always bright, hearing always sharp, minds will never be dull, fatigue will never be known. We ÒÉ shall run and not be weary,Ó [we] É shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).

D. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.
The natural body is limited by all the laws of nature. It needs the earth and what it has to offer in order to live. If God should suspend the laws of nature, without doing some work of compensation in us to deal with such changed situations, we would die. We have natural bodies in the most basic sense. The spiritual body, although it will have physical dimensions and aspects, will have no such limiting factors placed upon it. In addition we may say that, in a way, the natural body is controlled by our mind or soul. We experience emotions in a physical sense. The new body will be fully controlled by the spirit. It will be a fully willing instrument of the spiritual side of man and thus be fit for the everlasting glory and service of God.

Questions for Discussion
1.All the dead will be raised and appear before the throne of Christ to be judged. This will involve billions of people. How will this all be? Will there be enough room? Can every one see Him? Where will this throne be set up? See Revelation 20:11-15

2.What does the passage in John 5:19-30 teach us with respect to how we should approach all these things? Does Jesus go into details about the resurrection?

3.We believe Òthe resurrection of the body.Ó What does that imply about what there will be in the interval between our present body and that new one? Will we ÒexistÓ?

4.Will those who died in infancy be raised as infants and will they remain in that condition forever? (Consider the creation of man and passages such as Revelation 11:18; 13:16; 19:5,18; 20:12.)

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