The doctrine of the resurrection is one of our foundational truths:
Heb 6:1-2 Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
The OT & NT refer to death as “sleep”. Sleep is a temporary condition after which we expect the person to waken. Here are just a few examples:
Daniel 12:2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life…
Ps 90:5 You sweep
men away in the
sleep of death…
Acts 7:60 When he
(Stephen) had said
this, he fell asleep.
And Saul was there,
giving approval to
Acts 13:36 For
when David had
served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers…
1 Cor 15:6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
The good news is that to Jesus, raising a dead person to life was as simple as waking up someone who is sleeping. He saw no difference in the complexity of either task.
John 11:11-13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.
Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.
Matt 9:23-25 When Jesus entered the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd, he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up.
The importance of Jesus’ resurrection
to a wicked generation (John 2:18-19)
What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?
Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.
John 2:20-22 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?
One of the criteria
used for apostleship
was that the person had to be a witness
of the resurrection.
Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection. (Acts 1:21-22)
… Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.
It was a focal point of the preaching of the early church.
On the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached on the resurrection of Jesus. (Acts 2:22-32)
This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
David said about him: ‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.
Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day.
Paul says that if Jesus was not raised from the dead, then he and all the other apostles are false witnesses and liars.
1 Cor 15:15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.
But why would so many men all risk their lives and ultimately suffer terrible deaths – for something they knew to be a lie?
Unlike many modern Western preachers, the apostles did not enrich themselves through their message. They were treated badly, beaten and ultimately killed because of the testimony to the fact that Jesus had been raised.
Paul makes that very point. If the apostles were not convinced that Jesus’ resurrection was real and that their own resurrection was assured, what earthly motive could they have for testifying to the veracity of the resurrection?
1 Cor 15:30-32 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I die every day—I mean that, brothers—just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
Belief in it is crucial for salvation
Rom 10:9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
In 1 Corinthians 15 (a chapter dedicated to the resurrection) Paul shows that it is one of the 3 key components of the gospel.
1 Cor 15:2-3 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…
Necessary for our justification
Rom 4:25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
Why? Because the resurrection was God’s stamp of approval on the sin sacrifice of Jesus, showing that it was an acceptable sacrifice.
1 Cor 15:17 And if Christ has not been raised… you are still in your sins.
Without it, our faith is useless and futile
1 Cor 15:14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
1 Cor 15:17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile…
1 Cor 15:19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
Why? Because then we have no hope of resurrection and eternal life.
1 Cor 15:16,18 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either… Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.
Christ’s resurrection is intrinsically linked to ours. If Christ was not raised, then neither are we and vice-versa.
1 Cor 15:12-13 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.
Why? Because the head is incomplete without the body. And Christ “is the head of the body, the Church” (Col 1:18).
The membership of the Sadducees was drawn almost entirely from the upper socio-economic strata of the Jews and the majority of the Sadducees were from priestly families. As the upper class, priests they controlled the temple and had dominated the
Sanhedrin in the 1st century BC.
The Sadducees had struck
agreements with Rome that
allowed them to retain religious
and local political power in
return for their support of
the larger Roman political
structures and control. 1
1 SOURCE: “Matthew 22:23-23:39” by Roger
Hahn – CRI/ Voice, Institute (
crivoice.org/ biblestudy/ bbmatt17.html)
Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection
Acts 4:1-2 The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly
of the dead.
Acts 23:6-8 Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead.” When he said this, a dispute
broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (The Sadducees say that
there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees
acknowledge them all.)
Because they did not believe in the resurrection the Sadducees try to trap Jesus with a question regarding the resurrection.
Luke 20:27-36 Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question.
“Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. The second and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. Finally, the woman died too. Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”
But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection.
The people of this age marry and are given in marriage.
The question of the Sadducees assumed that resurrection life was simply an extension or continuation of earthly life. 1
Jesus’ response does not start with the assumption that resurrection life is modelled after life here on earth. Instead he shows that theological discussion needs to proceed from the nature of God rather than from the projection of human culture. 1
Jesus pointed out the error in the assumption of the Sadducees that resurrection life is simply an extension of normal human life on earth. Rather, resurrection will bring persons into a new kind of existence that is more like that of the angels than like that of humans on earth. 1
1 Roger Hahn – CRI/ Voice, Institute
" crivoice.org/ biblestudy/ bbmatt17.html)
In particular, the defeat of death means that marriage will no longer be necessary for the sake of propagating the human species and family names. As a result family relationships are transcended in heaven. 1
For this reason Jesus taught that family relationships cannot be the most important source of meaning and identity in the Kingdom of God (Matt 10:37; 12:46-50; 19:29). 1
Jesus’ response to their question charges them with ignorance of both Scripture and “the power of God” (Matt 22:29).
Why did Jesus not quote the following OT scriptures to the Sadducees?
Job 19:25-27 (NASB) I know that my Redeemer lives. In the end he will stand on the earth. After my skin has been destroyed, in my body I’ll still see God. I myself will see him with my own eyes. I'll see him, and he won’t be a stranger to me. How my heart longs for that day!
Daniel 12:2 (NASB) Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.
Daniel 12:13 “As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.”
Isaiah 26:19 Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. (KJV)
Psalm 16:10-11 For You will not abandon my soul to
Sheol; 1 Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. (NASB)
Psalm 49:15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, 1 For He will receive me. (NASB)
With his training as a Pharisee (and hence belief in the resurrection) Paul quotes these verses in 1 Corinthians 15, a chapter dedicated to the resurrection:
Hosea 13:14 Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? 1 Shall I redeem them from death? O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, 1 where is your sting? (NASB)
Isaiah 25:8 He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces.
1 The NIV erroneously translates “Sheol” (sheh-awl) as “grave” i.e. the place where dead bodies are laid. The Hebrew word “Queber” (keh-ver) is “the grave”, not “Sheol”. In the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Heb OT) “Sheol” is translated “Hades”, the term used by Jesus in Luke 16 as the abode of departed spirits.
"https:// www.blueletterbible.org/ lang/ lexicon/ lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H6913&t=KJV
"https:// www.blueletterbible.org/ lang/ lexicon/ lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H7585&t=KJV
Josephus (1st century Jewish historian) writes that the Sadducees accepted as Scripture only the 5 books of the Torah (i.e. the Pentateuch) and accepted no doctrines that they could not establish from the Pentateuch.
One of these doctrines was belief in the resurrection. Jesus thus met the Sadducees on their own ground, arguing his case from only the Pentateuch Scriptures. He used the Book of Exodus.
Josephus (37-100 AD)
But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.
Lk 20:37-40 Some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, teacher!” And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Jesus points out that God said “I am the God of Abraham…”, not “I was the God of Abraham…” The use of the present tense indicates that Abraham still existed, despite being deceased.
The Church fathers would consistently echo the Biblical teaching of the OT and NT regarding the resurrection.
The Nicene Creed (4th century) ends, “And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”
EARLY CHURCH FATHERS
Resuscitation - the restoration or revival of a person from a coma, unconsciousness, or apparent death back to the same earthly life.
Reanimation - the reuniting of an earthly body with the same soul after a temporary separation.
After Resuscitation and Reanimation a person is still mortal i.e. they will die again. Examples of reanimation are Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter.
Resurrection - a transition from a mortal body, after physical death, to a new, immortal body.
After resurrection a person is immortal i.e. they cannot die. Examples of resurrection are Jesus and the 2 witnesses.
Resurrection to immortality
Rom 6:9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.
Luke 20:35-36 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels…
1 Cor 15:25-26 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
An interesting observation by David Lowe shows that in the only 3 cases of resurrection to immortality in the Bible (i.e. not reanimation) there is a corresponding earthquake.
Matt 28:2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.
2) The “many saints”
Matt 27:51-53 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
3) The 2 witnesses
Rev 11:3-13 “And I will give power to my two witnesses… Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them…
But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and
terror struck those who saw them… At that very hour
there was a
a tenth of the
killed in the
The evidence seems to
indicate that when a body
passes from mortality to
immortality an incredible
amount of energy is released,
which is manifested in a
physical shaking of the
Eph 1:19-20 and his incomparably
great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead…
1 Cor 6:14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.
Phil 3:20-21 … the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (NIV)
Matt 22:29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”
Some identify the Rapture (and associated resurrection) with the opening of the 6th seal. This is interesting because we should expect that a resurrection of this scale should coincide with a vast amount of energy being released and a resultant earthquake of enormous magnitude. This is exactly what John witnessed:
Rev 6:12-14 I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place…
Rev 7:9-10 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
For those who believe in a “rapture”, or catching up of believers, it has long been believed that newscasts will suddenly flash a story that millions of people are missing all around the world. Planes will fall from the sky, accidents will occur all over the globe, and the world will be in a state of bewilderment as to where everyone disappeared to. How will it be explained? Did the ‘rapture’ just take place? Were all the people abducted by aliens?
The book “Earthquake Resurrection” explores the possibility that the disappearance of believers worldwide will be masked by global catastrophe. The missing people could thus be explained as casualties of the earthquake.
Jesus has promised us that we will experience a resurrection similar to his – i.e. to immortality.
Rom 6:5-8 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
John 10:27-28 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
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Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:
New American Standard Bible®,
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