The Promise of a Resurrection

“Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should show light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.” —Acts 26:22,23

THE assurance of a resurrection is one of the very prominent themes in the Bible, and thus it should be, else the promises of God would be of no effect. It is first necessary to fully discern the nature of death if one is to understand why there must be a resurrection of the dead. The Bible tells us that death is a condition of oblivion. When the perfect man Adam sinned, he incurred the penalty for sin—death. The condition of death was described by God thus: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”(Gen. 3:19) There was no mention of an after-life or of a “soul” not subject to death. Adam was destined to go out of existence except for the love and mercy of God which was expressed by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. His resurrection was a guarantee that this phase of God’s plan, involving a resurrection for all, would become a reality. The Apostle Paul in his sermon on Mar’s Hill said, “He hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”—Acts 17:31

It was important, of course, in the plan of God that Jesus die as the ransom for Adam, but it was equally important that he be resurrected out from the condition of death; a dead Christ, or Messiah, would not be able to fulfill the wonderful promises of God’s word, such as contained in Isaiah 9:6,7: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.” The disciples expected this promise to be fulfilled at our Lord’s first advent, and that is why they were so discouraged and despondent when Jesus died on the cross. They did not understand that this was part of the Heavenly Father’s plan.

On the third day after Jesus was crucified (the first day of the week, Luke 24:1,21) he appeared to two of his disheartened disciples who were on their way to Emmaus. They thought him to be a stranger. As they conversed he mildly rebuked them for not discerning this important part of the Lord’s arrangement, saying: “Oh fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25-27) During the subsequent forty days the disciples came to accept and believe the fact that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead, but it was not until after Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon them that they fully understood the importance of the resurrection in God’s plan of reconciliation. This was demonstrated by Peter’s sermon in the second chapter of Acts.

The word resurrection is not found in the Old Testament, but the doctrine is taught by many plain statements of scripture. In Job 14:13-15 we read: “Oh that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me! … Thou shalt call and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.” The Prophet Isaiah wrote: “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.” (Isa. 26:19) The Prophet Hosea wrote: “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Oh death, I will be thy plagues; Oh grave, I will be thy destruction.”—Hos. 13:14

The absolute certainty of a resurrection was illustrated for us in an incident that demanded a resurrection in order for the promise to be meaningful. We are speaking of God’s promise to Abraham recorded in Genesis 22:5-18. It will be remembered that God had promised Abraham a son who was to be born of Sarah. Abraham had waited many years for this promise to be fulfilled for it was to be through this seed that all the promises God had made to him were to be brought to pass. Yet the account tells us that when Isaac was a young man God asked Abraham to offer his only son as a burnt offering. Abraham’s faith in God’s promises was such that he believed God would resurrect Isaac from the dead, if necessary, in order to fulfill them.

This confidence was demonstrated in Abraham’s words to those left behind at the foot of the mount when he instructed the young men “abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.” The Apostle Paul in Hebrews 11:17-19 confirms this thought: “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.” We note that in this picture God was represented in Abraham and Jesus was represented in Isaac. All of the promises of God to the world were centered in Jesus. It was necessary for Jesus to live if he were to carry out these promises, by resurrecting him from the dead.

The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection and they endeavored to trap Jesus by inventing a preposterous situation that made one woman the wife of seven deceased husbands. The question to our Lord was, in the kingdom whose wife shall she be? Jesus answered, “Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” (Matt. 22:23-30) Jesus was simply pointing out that in the kingdom there would be no marriage and therefore the situation invented by the Sadducees had no meaning. But Jesus saw an opportunity to point out the error in the Sadducees’ doctrine when he said, “But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”—Matt. 22:31,32

The Sadducees knew that the patriarchs were dead and they also knew that Jesus knew this. They also were forced to acknowledge that, if God was true and dependable, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would have to be brought to life if they were to enjoy this promised relationship with God.

In Deuteronomy 18:18,19 Moses prophesied concerning the kingdom which will function under a new mediator and a new covenant. “I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and I will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.”

The Apostle Peter in Acts 3:21-26 applies this prophecy by Moses to the kingdom, calling it the “times of restitution of all things,” and stating that this wonderful time was spoken of by God through the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. Then he quoted the original prophecy spoken by Moses. This wonderful sermon of Peter’s was given on one of the porches of the Temple and among those in the audience were the captain of the Temple and the Sadducees. When Peter concluded his sermon with this statement, “Unto you first God, having raised up his son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities,” the captain and the Sadducees were angry. They were angry because Peter claimed that Jesus had been raised from the dead and that through him all who were in their graves would be resurrected in order to benefit from “the times of restitution.” The account continues: “And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the Temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.”—Acts 4:1,2

We are told in the Scriptures that many features of the Law Covenant given to the nation of Israel were typical and prophetic and we find that this is especially true of Leviticus chapter twenty three which was a part of the Law. In this chapter the Lord gave Moses instructions concerning the feasts which the nation was to observe. On the fourteenth of Nisan at even (or sundown) they were to begin to commemorate the Passover, and twenty-four hours later, on the fifteenth of Nisan, they were to celebrate the feast of unleavened bread which was to last seven days. After they came into their land and had a grain harvest, the Lord instructed Moses that they were to perform an additional rite during the seven day feast. In verse ten we read: “When ye come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you. On the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.” The Sabbath was the holy convocation that marked the first day of the feast of unleavened bread.

As part of the ritual, the priest would go out among the fields, select the grain that was ripe, gather a bundle and tie it into a sheaf. He would return to the Temple and there before the altar would wave the sheaf before the Lord as an offering of the firstfruits of the harvest. This act marked the beginning of the harvest which was to last fifty days.

This feature of the feast was marvelously prophetic in the case of Jesus. It was incumbent upon Jesus to keep the details of the Law perfectly, and therefore, on the fourteenth of Nisan at even (sunset) Jesus and the disciples prepared and ate the Passover feast. Sometime after midnight Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemene and delivered to Caiaphas and then to the Romans. (Matt. 26:47-75; 27:1-21) The account in Mark states that he was crucified the third hour, approximately 9:00 a.m., on the fourteenth of Nisan. Jesus was on the cross until the ninth hour, which was approximately 3:00 p.m., and he died. (Mark 15:25-37) He was placed in a sepulchre before sundown on the fourteenth of Nisan. (Luke 23:53-55) The body lay in the sepulchre the entire next day (from sunset to sunset) which was the Sabbath or the fifteenth of Nisan. (Luke 23:56) Then very early in the morning—the first day of the week, or the sixteenth of Nisan—the women came to the sepulchre and found that Jesus had been raised from the dead. (Luke 24:1-3; Mark 16:1-4) And thus Jesus became the firstfruits of the harvest and the firstfruits of them that slept. (I Cor. 15:20) We like to think of the Jewish priest fulfilling the rite of waving the sheaf before the Lord early in the morning of that sixteenth day of Nisan, at the same time Jesus was fulfilling the type by being resurrected from the dead.

In the Apostle Paul’s day, as in ours, there was skepticism concerning the resurrection of the dead. To combat this he wrote the fifteenth chapter of I Corinthians to show that the promised resurrection was an essential and integral part of God’s plan of salvation. In the opening verses of the chapter Paul reminds the brethren that the message he declared to them was the Gospel and that the first and foremost part of that message was the death and resurrection of Jesus. “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”—I Cor. 15:3,4

The apostle then presents the resurrection of Jesus as a fact because he was seen by the Twelve and then by more than five hundred brethren, the greater number of whom were still alive at the time of Paul’s writing. Last of all, the risen Lord was seen by Paul himself on the road to Damascus. (verses 5-11) The entire doctrine of the resurrection hinges on the resurrection of Jesus, and because he was raised there will be a resurrection for all who are in their graves. If he had not been raised then all—even the footstep followers of Jesus—would still be in their sins. For even though Jesus died to take Adam’s place in death, it was necessary for him to live in order that he might appear in the presence of God for the footstep followers of Jesus and then subsequently be the mediator of the New Covenant that will provide the means for life to the world of mankind.—verses 12-19

The apostle concludes this part of his argument saying: “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept. For since by man [Adam] came death, by man [Jesus] came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (verses 20-22) But the resurrection will be according to a set plan—“every man in his own order: Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” (verse 23) Christ means anointed, and the apostle is saying that the anointed footstep followers of Jesus will be resurrected first. This is logical and reasonable since they will be associated with Jesus in the kingdom as co-mediators of the New Covenant. (Matt. 19:28,29) Then the subjects of the kingdom, all who are in their graves, will be resurrected so that they might have an opportunity for life.—John 5:28,29

Then the apostle says: “But some man will say, How are the dead raised up, and with what body do they come? … That which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It 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. There is a natural body and there is a spiritual body.”—verses 35-44

In this statement by the Apostle Paul several illustrations are used, all of them illustrating the fact that in the resurrection there will be more than one kind of body, specifically, those with bodies of flesh and those with spirit bodies. The kind of body that each individual will have depends on what is sown in death. The “it” that the apostle speaks of in verse thirty eight is the personality or character that the individual develops in this life. The vast majority of the human race will have a personality and character that will be best suited for a life here on the earth and they, therefore, will have a body of flesh. In the kingdom the earth will be a glorious place in which to live, and those who attain to everlasting life here on the earth will praise God eternally for his favor and blessing.

But during the Gospel Age some have learned of a higher provision for life made possible through the blood of Jesus, and responding to the call to walk in the footsteps of Jesus they are invited to transform their minds and affections from the things of the earth and set them on things of the spirit. (Rom. 12:1,2; Col. 3:1-3) These, during the course of their Christian walk, transform their minds by study of God’s word and applying its principles in their lives to the point that they develop a spiritual mind, which is the “it” that they sow in death. These will receive a spiritual body in the resurrection.

The apostle continues his explanation of the resurrection by stating that those who are resurrected to a spirit nature are granted immortality: “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” The thought of the text is that when the work of the Gospel Age is completed and all of those who are to be of the divine nature have been resurrected, then the prophecy in Isaiah 25:6-10 which was quoted in part, will come to pass. This is a prophecy of the kingdom and the blessings that will flow to the human race when they are returned from the dust of the ground in the resurrection.

“He [God] will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”—Isa. 25:8,9

Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |