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3. The Resurrection

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In concluding our study of personal eschatology, we will consider the resurrection of the dead. Throughout history, most religions have not believed in a physical resurrection. Most believe in the immortality of the soul, but not the body. However, Christianity teaches the importance of the body to God and that both unbelievers and believers will eventually be resurrected and judged. In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Paul said this, specifically, to the believers in Corinth:

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.

Christ died not just to redeem the spirits of those who put their faith in him but also their bodies. Consequently, one day when Christ returns, he will resurrect the bodies of believers and make them glorious. And the bodies of believers who are alive when Christ comes will be instantly transformed into glorious bodies. In 1 Corinthians 15:52-53, Paul described this:

Listen, I will tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.

With unbelievers, Scripture teaches that they will be resurrected to be judged by Christ and then thrown in the lake of fire to suffer eternally for their sins. In Revelation 20:11-15, John said:

Then I saw a large white throne and the one who was seated on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne. Then books were opened, and another book was opened—the book of life. So the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to their deeds. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each one was judged according to his deeds. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death—the lake of fire. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, that person was thrown into the lake of fire.

Not much is known about the exact nature of an unbeliever’s resurrected body. Most likely, it will be very much like their natural human bodies—no more and no less. However, Scripture teaches that the resurrected bodies of believers will be glorified bodies, which resemble Christ’s resurrected and glorified body. Consider a few verses:

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

1 Corinthians 15:20

But our citizenship is in heaven—and we also await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform these humble bodies of ours into the likeness of his glorious body by means of that power by which he is able to subject all things to himself.

Philippians 3:20-21

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

1 John 3:2

Christ is called the firstfruits of those who have died (1 Cor 15:20) because, like the firstfruits of a harvest, his body pictures what the future harvest will be like when those who follow him are resurrected.1 As Paul and John said (Phil 3:21, 1 John 3:2), our bodies will then be like his.

By considering Christ’s resurrected body, we can discern what the believers’ resurrected bodies will be like. Charles Ryrie notes several characteristics:

Christ’s resurrection body had links with His unresurrected earthly body. People recognized Him (John 20:20), the wounds inflicted by crucifixion were retained (20:25–29; Rev. 5:6), He had the capacity (though not the need) to eat (Luke 24:30–33, 41–43), He breathed on the disciples (John 20:22), and that body had flesh and bones proving that He was not merely a spirit showing itself (Luke 24:39–40).

But His resurrection body was different. He could enter closed rooms without opening doors (Luke 24:36; John 20:19), He could appear and disappear at will (Luke 24:15; John 20:19), and apparently He was never limited by physical needs such as sleep or food.2

In 1 Corinthians 15:37-38, Paul compares the glory of our new bodies with the difference between a seed sown into the ground and the plant which eventually comes from it. This clarifies that our glorified bodies will not be totally new in the sense of being made out of previously nonexistent material; they will come from our natural bodies. As Paul said, the seed of our bodies, which will be sown into the ground, will be raised “imperishable,” “in glory,” and “in power” (1 Cor 15:42-43). They will be made fit for the kingdom, as they will no longer age, die, or decay (1 Cor 15:50). They will be glorious, just like our Lord’s body.

Conclusion

In reviewing personal eschatology, people will die (unless they are alive when Christ returns), enter the intermediate state of either the current heaven or hell, then eventually be resurrected. In cosmic eschatology, we will consider the timing of these resurrections (which people have differing views on) and other topics like the tribulation, the second coming, the millennium, the final judgment, and the eternal state.

Reflection

  1. What stood out most in the reading and why?
  2. What did most ancients believe about the resurrection of the body?
  3. What will believers’ resurrected bodies be like?
  4. What will unbelievers’ resurrected bodies be like?
  5. What other questions or applications did you take from the reading?

Copyright © 2021 Gregory Brown

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1 Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 615). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

2 Ryrie, C. C. (1999). Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (p. 310). Chicago, IL: Moody Press.

Related Topics: Eschatology (Things to Come)

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