The foundation of the Christian faith is based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:12-17).
The word resurrection (anastasis [an-as-tas-is]) means “a standing up again”; “to rise again.” The word speaks of a recovery of physical life.
The Church has always affirmed faith in the resurrection of the body. The Apostle’s Creed affirms belief in “the resurrection of the body.” This affirmation states belief in the resurrection of Jesus, and of His people.
It is because God raised Christ from the dead that every Christian can have confidence in their own bodily resurrection. The apostle Paul teaches this truth in his epistle to the Romans. “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. 10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Rom. 8:9-11).
It is not just the spiritual part of man that Paul addresses, but the body as well. It is true that God does raise individuals from spiritual death to spiritual life through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. But then, the promise is extended that God will raise individuals from physical death to physical life by the same power of the Spirit which brought Christ back from the sphere of the dead.
A great analogy and contrast is made in Scripture between the First Adam and the Last Adam. As the First Adam, though made a living soul, brought spiritual and physical death to the world, the Last Adam, Christ, brings spiritual and physical life to those who are the heirs of salvation. “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. 46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. 47 The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Cor. 15:45-49).
The triumph over death comes as the fruit of victory secured by the Last Adam, Jesus Christ the Lord.
It is a wonderful and exciting thought to believe that the resurrection of Jesus was not meant to be an isolated event, but the prototype of the resurrection of many. Christ was the first-fruit, but there is a rich harvest to come. “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20).
Saying that Christ was the first fruit of them that slept does not diminish the other resurrections chronicled in Scripture.
There was the resurrection of the widow of Zarephath’s son, by Elijah. “And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived” (1 Kings 17:22).
There was the resurrection of the Shunammite woman’s son, by Elisha. “And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and he stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm. Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro; and went up, and stretched himself upon him: and the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes” (2 Kings 4:34, 35).
There was the man raised when he came into contact with Elisha’s bones. “And Elisha died, and they buried him. And the bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in of the year. And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulcher of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet” (2 Kings 13:20, 21).
There was the resurrection of the widow of Nain’s son, by Jesus. “And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother” (Luke 7:14, 15).
There was the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter, by Jesus. “And all wept, and bewailed her: but he said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn, knowing that she was dead. And he put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise. And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat. And her parents were astonished: but he charged them that they should tell no man what was done” (Luke 8:52-56).
There was the resurrection of Lazarus, by Jesus after 3 days. “And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go” (John 11:43, 44).
There were the resurrections of many Holy people who came out of their tombs after Jesus died on the Cross. “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose” (Matt. 27:52).
There was the resurrection of Dorcas, by Peter. “But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up” (Acts 9:40).
There was the resurrection of Eutychus, by Paul. “And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him. When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed. And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted” (Acts 20:9-12).
There was the resurrection of Jesus, “Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it” (Acts 2:24).
In distinction from all other resurrections, the resurrection of Jesus was permanent, and transformative, for His body was structurally different. The resurrections prior to that of Christ did not last. Those individuals subsequently died again.
The larger point is that with the resurrection of Jesus there is continuity, between the body that was laid in the tomb, and the body that came forth out of the tomb after three days, according to prophesy and promise. It was the same body.
Of course, the element of discontinuity cannot be discounted, for the resurrected body underwent a dramatic change to produce a glorified body.
The glorified body is a wonderful body, as the apostle Paul sets forth in his Epistle to the Corinthians by way of a classical ad hominem address. An ad hominem (Latin, “to the person”) argument whereby you take the premise of an opponent and take that premise to its logical conclusion, however absurd it may be. (This technique was made popular by the Greek philosopher Zeno (c. 495 – 430 BC).
Paul is trying to reason from the premise that there is no resurrection from the dead, a premise that some people in Corinth had embraced. Paul is ready to argue.
There is no resurrection from the dead.
The Logical Conclusion of that PremisePoint by Point
Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
If there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:
If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
If Christ is not risen from the dead then Christians are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.
If the dead rise not, “then Christ is not raised.”
If Christ be not raised, “your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.”
If Christ be not raised, “then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.”
If in this life only Christians have hope in Christ, we are men “most miserable.”
The Main Point Established
If there is a universal negative, there cannot be a positive affirmative. That would violate the laws of logic. If there is no resurrection, then the Church cannot preach that Christ rose from the dead, for if the Church does make such a proclamation, and it is not true, then Christians are delusional, false witnesses, liars, have no forgiveness of sins, and are left without hope.
Paul goes on to affirm the faith of the Church and says, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20).
What Paul is saying is that without the resurrection, there is no Christian faith. The resurrection is essential to the Apostolic faith.
Tragically, a large portion of the Church in the 21st century no longer believes that to be true. We are living in a time when a number of theologians have embraced the idea that Christianity can be vibrant and true apart from belief in, and preaching the doctrine of the bodily resurrection of the dead.
One prominent German theologian, Rudolf Bultmann (Aug 20, 1884 – July 30, 1976), after clearly teaching what Paul sets forth about the resurrection, dares to say that Paul is wrong. There is no bodily resurrection from the dead. Bultmann is the “Father of Demythologization” of the Bible, according to the concepts of existentialist philosophy. Simply put, Bultmann taught that the New Testament was expressed in mystical terms (Norman Perrin, Encyclopedia Britannica).
For many people, the facts of the life of Christ, including His resurrection, no longer matter. What is important is faith in the transcendent Christ. But facts do matter for the Christian. The Church is asked to believe, and affirm a historical fact as the basis of faith, the bodily resurrection of Christ. Otherwise, news commentator Charles Krauthammer was right. The only meaning to life is what a person wants to give it. God is not needed. Faith in heaven, and fear of hell, can be dismissed. All that matters is the moment. What a pity. Belief in the resurrection makes a difference in the way a person lives, and how a person dies.
Belief in the resurrection is to be affirmed, because life would be dreary without such faith. Belief in the resurrection is to be affirmed, because it is true! “Now IS Christ risen from the dead.” There were manifold witnesses to the resurrection. “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. 8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time” (1 Cor. 15:3).
Because Christ is raised, and has been given a glorified body, every Christian can believe with confidence they too shall one day be resurrected and enjoy a glorified body, suited for eternity.
If the question should be raised in mockery and unbelief, “What will the resurrected body look like?” Paul has a reply.
“Thou fool!” (1 Cor. 15:36).
Drawing from an analogy in nature, Paul explains that the resurrected body will be different than the body that is buried.
“Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: 37 And 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: 38 But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. 39 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. 40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. 41 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. 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: 43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:36-44).
Rather than focus attention on the appearances of the resurrected body, Paul speaks to what the resurrected body is.
It is a body that is produced from death for “that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die.” From the death, from the rotting seed of the dead and buried body, comes something new, as nature teaches.
When a farmer sowest a seed of grain, he “sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain” knowing that when the harvest comes, what was planted will be radically different and the outcome of death.
What is certain about the resurrected body, is that there will be continuity and discontinuity. In the continuity, the resurrected body will be human, and recognizable. There will be the capacity to eat food (Luke 24:30-32), to speak fluently and intelligently (Mark 16:7), and to will and command (John 21:16-17).
But there will be changes. Even the resurrected body of Christ might have still been undergoing changes for “Jesus saith unto her [Mary], Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (John 20:17).
It is a body that pleases God. “But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him.”
It is an individual body. “To every seed his own body.”
It is a body of differences and distinction. for as “one star differeth from another star in glory. So also, is the resurrection of the dead.”
It is an incorruptible body. “It is raised in incorruption.”
It is a glorious body. “It is raised in glory.”
It is a body of strength. “It is raised in power.”
It is a spiritual body. “It is raised a spiritual body.”
It is an immortal body for “this mortal must put on immortality.” Care must be taken for the word for immortality is athanasia, and means deathless. Only God is intrinsically immortal (1 Cor. 6:15-16). However, in the resurrected body, every Christian shall share His deathlessness. God will not allow us to perish. What guarantees immortality is the loving grace and mercy of God.
Christianity offers a marvelous view of the future. There is a more glorious life and body that awaits those who believe in Christ.
The hope of every Christian is that we shall be like Christ in His glorious resurrected body. Christian, preach the resurrection of the body. It is the foundation of the Christian faith.