Recovering the classic, Protestant interpretation of Bible prophecy.

Of the Resurrection of the Body

Though the immortality of the soul may be known by the light of nature, yet not the resurrection of the body; the one arises from the nature of the soul itself; but the other does not arise from the constitution of the body, but depends, upon the sovereign will and power of God: now the will and purpose of God, or what he has determined to do, is secret, and cannot be discovered by the light of nature, and is only known by divine revelation. It might be known by the light of nature, that God can raise the dead if he will, because he is Almighty, and nothing is impossible to him; though it has been asserted by some heathen writers, that it cannot be done by God himself: one says {1}, it is not in the power of God to raise the dead; and says another {2} it seems to me, that no one can make one that is dead to live again: which is false; since by the light of nature, and the works of nature, are known the eternal power and Godhead, or that God is eternal and infinitely powerful. Indeed, it cannot be known by the light of nature, that God will raise the dead; this is of pure revelation: hence heathens, destitute of it, had no knowledge of the resurrection of the body: that that was mortal they all agreed; and that the soul was immortal, the wiser part of them especially, affirmed: but that the body, when dead, should be raised to life again, this Tertullian says {3}, was denied by every sect of the philosophers. Those, the most refined among them, and who pretended to a greater degree of knowledge than others, as the philosophers of Athens, were so ignorant of this doctrine, that, as some think {4}, they took Jesus, and anastasiv, the word used by the apostle Paul for the resurrection, when preaching to them, to be the names of some strange deities they had never heard of before; and therefore said, "He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods", #Ac 17:18. The heathens had no faith in this doctrine, nor hope of it; and therefore are sometimes described as without "hope", #Eph 2:12 1Th 4:13,14 that is, of the resurrection of the body, neither of their own nor of their deceased relations {5}; and this may be rather thought to be, at least part of the sense of the apostle in these passages; since in his defence before Felix and Agrippa he represents the resurrection of the dead as the object of the hope of the Jewish fathers, #Ac 24:15 26:6-8. Yea, the Gentiles, not content with barely denying this doctrine, have treated it with the utmost scorn, calling it a dream, fancy, and madness {6}, an old wives’ fable {7}; as abominable and detestable {8}; and of all the tenets of the Christians, it was held in the utmost contempt by Julian the apostate {9}; the abettors of it were always accounted by the heathens vain, trifling, babbling fellows {10}, as the apostle Paul was by the Athenian philosophers of the Epicurean and Stoic sects {11}, #Ac 17:18,32; it was so contrary to the reasonings of the unenlightened Gentiles, that they judged it quite incredible, and pronounced it beyond all belief of rational creatures; hence, says the apostle Paul, when before Festus the Roman governor, and king Agrippa, a Sadducee, why should it be thought a thing "incredible with you that God should raise the dead?" as it seems it was {12}, #Ac 26:8.

Some have thought the Gentiles had knowledge of the resurrection of the dead, which they conclude from some notions of theirs, which seem to bear some semblance to it, as is thought; as that the soul after death has a perfect human shape, and all the same parts, external and internal, the body has; that they both have an equal duration after death; that there is a transmigration of souls into other bodies, especially human; that man may be translated, soul and body, to heaven, of which they give instances; which, perhaps, take rise from the translations of Enoch and Elijah, communicated by some tradition or another; and particularly, that after certain periods and revolutions, when the stars and planets are in the same configuration and aspect to one another they formerly had, the same men shall appear in the world, and the same things in succession be done in it as formerly have been {13}. But I must confess, I cannot see any likeness between any of these notions and the Christian doctrine of the resurrection of the dead: and at most and best, they are only hints borrowed from the Jews and their writings; or are the broken remains of some tradition, received from their ancestors, originally founded on divine revelation; so Plato {14} seems to speak of it, as an ancient tradition, that the dead shall live again. Likewise the belief of this doctrine among the pagans is argued from their account of future punishments; as of Aridaeus, and other tyrants, having corporal punishments inflicted on them; of Sisyphus, Ixion, Tantalus, and others; which may arise from the above notion of the soul having the same parts with the body. Some passages are also produced out of the heathen writers in favour of this doctrine; as some Greek verses of Phocylides, whose poem, perhaps, is the work of a Christian, or of some Jewish writer; and the opinion of the Persian "magi", that men shall live again; which they doubtless had from Zoroastres, their founder, said to be originally a Jew, and a servant of one of the prophets. Some particular persons are mentioned as raised from the dead to life; the most remarkable of which is the case of one Er Pamphilius, who, after he had been dead twelve days, revived on the funeral pile; and which seems to be credited by Plato {15}: but if such stories as these can be believed, why should the doctrine of the resurrection be judged incredible {16}?

But though the doctrine of the resurrection is above reason it is not contrary to it; though it is out of the reach of the light of nature to discover it, yet being revealed, it is not repugnant to it; it is entirely agreeable to the perfections of God, knowable by it, and is no contradiction to them; for considering the omnipotence of God, with whom nothing is impossible, it is what may be: and though there are some things which argue imperfection and weakness, and imply a contradiction, which God cannot do; yet the resurrection of the dead is not an instance of either; it is no contradiction, that dust formed out of nothing, and of it a body made, and this reduced to dust again, that this dust should again form the body it once constituted: and this can be no instance of imperfection and weakness; but a most glorious instance of almighty power: and if God could, out of the dust of the earth, form the body of man at first, and infuse into it a living and reasonable soul; then much more must he be able to raise a dead body, the matter and substance of which now is, though in different forms and shapes; and reunite it to its soul, which still has a real existence: and considering the omniscience of God, who knows all things, it is not impossible nor improbable that the dead should be raised; since he knows all the particles of matter bodies are composed of; and when dissolved and transmuted into ten thousand forms, knows where they are all lodged, whether in the earth, air, or sea; and his all-discerning eye can distinguish those which belong to one body from those of another, and his almighty hand can gather and unite them, what are necessary, and range them in their due place and order. Nor is it beneath or unworthy of God to raise the dead; for if it was not unworthy of him to make a body out of the dust of the earth, which became subject to infirmities, corruption, and death; it cannot be unworthy of him to raise weak, inglorious, corruptible bodies, as they are when laid in the grave, powerful, glorious, and incorruptible. Nor is it inconsistent with the goodness of God; for by this he does no injury to any of his creatures; neither to those that are raised, nor to others, rational or irrational. Not to the angels; for the children of the resurrection will be like unto them: nor to the brute creation, who will not be; and who, if they were, would not suffer by it: nor will any injury be done to those that are raised, neither to the righteous nor to the wicked, since both will then receive a recompence for the deeds done in the body, whether good or evil. Some such like reasonings as these are used by that ancient learned apologist, Athepagoras {17}. Besides, the justice of God seems to make it necessary that the bodies both of the righteous and the wicked should be raised; that being united to their souls, they may partake with them of the glory and happiness provided for the one, and they are made meet for; and of the punishment justly inflicted on the other; having been partners together either in sufferings or in sins.

However, the doctrine of the resurrection is most certainly a doctrine of pure revelation; the Jews were first peculiarly favoured with it; having "the oracles of God committed" to them, in which this doctrine is clearly revealed; and yet there were some among them who disbelieved it; as the Sadducees, who "erred, not knowing the Scriptures", which assert it; nor "the power of God", which can effect it: and of the same sentiment were the Hemerobaptists {18} and the Essenes {19}: also the Pharisees, at least some of them, held the Pythagorean notion of the transmigration of souls into other bodies {20}: but it is more surprising, that since Christ has abolished death, by his own resurrection from the dead, and by the gospel brought to clearer light this doctrine of the resurrection; that some very early, who bore the Christian name, should deny it; as some in the church at Corinth, and Hymenaens and Philetus, #1Co 15:12 2Ti 2:18 who were followed by Simon Magus, Saturninus, Basilides, Carpocrates, Valentinus, and others, too numerous to recite: and of late is rejected by Socinians and Quakers. Nevertheless, since it is a doctrine of such great importance, on which all other doctrines of the gospel depend, as well as the faith, hope, and comfort of the saints, #1Co 15:13-19 it should be held fast, abode by, and defended to the uttermost. The resurrection to be treated of is not a figurative one; neither civil, like that of the Jews restoration from captivity, represented by a resurrection, #Eze 37:1-28 nor spiritual, as the resurrection of the soul from the death of sin to a life of grace: but the resurrection of the body, in a literal sense, the quickening of mortal bodies; and not a particular resurrection, or a resurrection of particular persons; of which there are instances both in the Old and New Testament; but the universal resurrection; the resurrection of men, both just and unjust; of which,

1. I shall give the proof from the sacred writings. It appears to have been the faith of the saints in all ages, according to the scripture account of them. It was the faith of Abraham, the father of the faithful, #Heb 11:19 Ro 4:17-20 and of Joseph, as appears by the orders he gave concerning his bones, and his carefulness about the interment of them, #Heb 11:22 and of Moses, in celebrating the divine perfections in his song, #De 32:39 with which words the mother of the seven brethren, who suffered martyrdom in the times of the Maccabees, animated them while suffering {21}; and of Hannah, in her song, expressed in much the same language, and more explicit, #1Sa 2:6. This was the faith of Job, which he expresses, not only in the famous text hereafter to be considered, #Job 19:25-27 but also in #Job 14:12,14,15. And likewise of David, who not only speaks of the resurrection of Christ, when representing him, #Ps 16:10 but in his last words, where he expresses his strong faith of his complete salvation, of soul and body, in the everlasting covenant, #2Sa 23:1,5. And also of Isaiah, and other prophets, who speak of the resurrection of Christ, and his people with him; which they either expressly make mention of, or allude unto, when they foretell figurative resurrections, #Isa 26:19 Ho 6:1,2 Eze 37:11-14 Da 12:2. This was the faith of those who suffered martyrdom in the times of the Maccabees, who refused deliverance that they might obtain "a better resurrection", even the resurrection of the just, #Heb 11:35 and in the Apocrypha:

“26 For though for the present time I should be delivered from the punishment of men: yet should I not escape the hand of the Almighty, neither alive, nor dead.”(2Maccabees 6:26)

“11 And said courageously, These I had from heaven; and for his laws I despise them; and from him I hope to receive them again.” (2 Maccabees 7:11)

And this was the faith of the Jewish fathers and of all the Old Testament saints, #Ac 26:6-8 Heb 11:13. This was the faith of Christ and his apostles, as declared in the writings oil the New Testament; to give the whole compass of the proof of this would be to transcribe a very considerable part of them. The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead will admit of proof from scripture types; as the deliverance of Isaac from death; from whence Abraham received him in a figure: the budding and blossoming of Aaron’s dry rod, thought by some to be an emblem of it: the reviving of the dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision; but especially Jonah’s lying three days and three nights in the whalers belly, and his deliverance from it. However, if God could save Isaac when so near death; cause a dry rod to bud, blossom, and bring forth almonds; make dry bones to live; and deliver Jonah out of the whale’s belly, it need not be questioned that God can raise the dead. To which may be added, the several instances of particular persons raised from the dead; as the widow of Zarephath’s son, by Elijah; the child of the Shunammite, by Elisha; and the man cast into his sepulchre on the touch of his bones; those who came out of their graves at our Lord’s resurrection, and who were raised by him in his lifetime; as the daughter of Jairus, the widow of Naim’s son, and Lazarus; Dorcas by Peter; and Eutychus by the apostle Paul: and if these particular resurrections are to be credited, as doubtless they are, then the resurrection of all the dead need not be thought incredible, But this doctrine may be further proved,

1a. First, from express passages of scripture. As,

1a1. From #Ge 3:15 which gives the first intimation of the Messiah and his work, which was to bruise the serpent’s head, to destroy the devil and all his works; among which, death, the effect of sin, is a principal one. This Christ has abolished in himself by raising himself from the dead; and will abolish it in his members, and even in all men, by the resurrection of them at the last day; when, and not before, all that is meant in the above passage will be accomplished, #1Co 15:21,54.

1a2. From #Ex 3:6 produced by Christ himself in proof of this doctrine; "As touching the resurrection of the dead", says he, "have you not read that which was spoken to you by God; saying, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; God is not the God of the dead but of the living?" #Mt 22:31,32. Let it be observed, that it is not said, "I was", or "will be"; but, "I am the God of Abraham", &c. which, as it relates to covenant interest, respects a covenant in being, and an abiding one, even the covenant of grace; which is concerned, not only with the souls of men, but their bodies also, their whole persons; wherefore, as the souls of the above patriarchs now live with God, who is the God of the living only, in the enjoyment of the promised good; it is necessary their bodies should be raised from the dead, that, with their souls, they may enjoy the everlasting glory and happiness promised in the covenant; or otherwise, it would not appear to be ordered in all things and sure.

1a3. From #Job 19:25, &c. "I know that my Redeemer liveth", &c. None of the Jewish writers {22}, indeed, understood these words of a real, but of a figurative resurrection; and suppose, a deliverance from his afflicted state, and a restoration of him to his former health, honour, and happiness, is meant; in which sense they have been followed by some learned Christian interpreters {23}; at which the Socinians {24} have greedily caught: but Job’s restoration is not expressed by such phrases as here used; see #Job 42:10,12 and against this sense may be observed, that Job was so far from any faith, hope, and expectation of such a restoration, that he utterly despaired of it; see #Job 6:11 #Job 7:7,8 10:20 16:22 17:1,14,15 and even he expresses the same in this very chapter, #Job 17:10,11. Besides something of greater moment seems to be meant, as the solemn preface shows; "O that my words were now written!" &c. and what he had in view appears to be future, at a great distance, after death, the consumption of his body by worms, and was his comfort under his afflictions; and was an answer to what Bildad said, #Job 18:12-14 and the vision, with the eyes of his body he expected, is not suited to any state in this life; but rather to the state after the resurrection, when the saints shall see God in Christ, and Christ in the flesh, with the eyes of the body. To which may be added, Job speaks of the awful judgment, between which and death there must be a resurrection from the dead, #Job 19:29. Upon the whole, it is an observation of an ancient writer {25},

"No one since Christ speaks so plainly of the resurrection
as this man did before Christ."

Though Spinosa {26} foolishly says, the sense of the text is
confused, disturbed, and obscure.
1a4. From #Isa 26:19. "Thy dead men shall live", &c. which words are an answer to the prophet’s complaint, #Isa 26:14. "They are dead, they shall not live", &c. and which answer is made by the Messiah, to whom the characters given, #Isa 26:4,12,13 agree; assuring the prophet, that his people, though dead, should live again, either at the time of his resurrection, or in virtue of it; for the words are literally true of Christ’s resurrection and of theirs by him; "With my dead body shall they arise", as many of the saints did, at his resurrection; or, "as my dead body", after the exemplar of it; or, "as sure as my dead body"; Christ’s resurrection being the pledge of his people’s; and the following phrases confirm this sense; "Awake, ye that dwell in the dust", &c. see #Da 12:2. "Thy dew is the dew of herbs", compared with #Isa 66:14. "The earth shall cast forth her dead"; see #Re 20:13. The Jews {27} refer this prophecy to the resurrection of the dead.

1a5. From #Da 12:2. "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake"; which is generally understood of the resurrection of the dead, both by Jewish and Christian interpreters; only Grotius, after Porphyry the heathen, interprets the passage of the return of some of the Jews to their cities and habitations, after the generals of Antiochus were cut off: but surely this return was not of any of them "to everlasting shame and contempt", but the reverse; nor of any of them "to everlasting life", seeing they are all since dead: nor is it true that the Jewish doctors, from that time, shone illustriously; but, on the contrary, their light in divine things became dim, and they taught not the doctrines of the scriptures but the traditions of men. On the other hand, the whole agrees with the resurrection of the dead, as described by our Lord, #Joh 5:28,29. And when the bodies of the saints will be raised in incorruption, power, and glory, they will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Besides these, there are other passages of scripture referred to by the apostle, in #1Co 15:54,55 as proofs of this doctrine; as #Isa 25:8 #Ho 13:14 which will have their full accomplishment at the general resurrection. The passages out of the New Testament are too numerous to recite, and so plain as to need no explanation; and many of them will be made use of in other parts of this subject.

1b. Secondly, this truth may be proved from various doctrines contained in the scripture; as from the doctrine of election, which is of the persons of men, souls and bodies, unto everlasting happiness; and therefore their bodies must be raised, that they, united to their souls, may enjoy that happiness, or the end will not be attained: from the gift of the same to Christ, and who was charged, when given to him, to lose none, but raise them up again at the last day; which must be done, or his trust not discharged, nor his Father’s will be fulfilled: from their union to Christ, whose "bodies are members of him", and a part of his mystical body, by virtue of which union they will be raised; or else he must lose a constituent part of those who are his mystical body and his fulness: from the redemption of them by Christ, which is both of soul and body; both are bought with the price of Christ’s blood, and therefore their bodies must be raised from the dead, or Christ must lose part of his purchase: also from the sanctification of the same persons, in soul and body, by the Spirit of God, in whose bodies he dwells, as in his temple; and therefore, unless raised, he will lose that which he has taken possession of as his dwelling place, and a considerable part of his glory as a sanctifier. Moreover, the general judgment, which is a most certain thing, requires the resurrection of the dead, as necessary to it: nor will the happiness of the saint’s be complete, nor the misery of the wicked proportionate to their crimes, without the resurrection of their bodies: but the grand and principal argument used by the apostle, #1Co 15:1-58 in proof of this doctrine, with so much strength, is the resurrection of Christ. To which may be added, that there will be need of and uses for some of the members of the body in heaven; as the eye, to see Christ in the flesh, and one another; the ear, to hear the everlasting songs of praise; and the tongue, to sing them: as well as we read of men being cast into hell with two eyes, two hands, and two feet; yea, even the whole body. Nor may it be improper to observe, the translations of Enoch and Elijah, soul and body, to heaven; and the saints that rose at our Lord’s resurrection, and went to heaven in their risen bodies; and the saints who will be alive at Christ’s coming, and be caught up into the air to meet him, and be for ever with him. Now it is not probable that some saints should be in heaven with their bodies and others without them; and therefore a general resurrection must be asserted and allowed {28}. I proceed,

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About Me

Historicism.com is owned and operated by me, Joe Haynes, of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. I serve as a pastor in a church plant in Victoria since 2013. My wife, Heather, and I have five kids. In 2011, I completed a Master of Arts in Christian Studies from Northwest Baptist Seminary at the Associated Canadian Theological Seminaries of Trinity Western University. Feel free to visit my blog at Keruxai.com.
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