Archive: On Resurrection from the Dead

Archive: On Resurrection from the Dead

Archive: On Resurrection from the Dead

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” I Corinthians 15:20

This message was originally published by Benjamin Calamy, D.D., Vicar of St. Lawrence, Jewry, London, In 1704. Later John Wesley abridged and revised the message and used it himself. We have continued the evolution by phrasing It In today’s language. – Charles W. Keysor, Editor

“Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (I Corinthians 5:12). It cannot any longer seem impossible to you that God should raise the dead; since you have so plain an example of it in our Lord, who was dead and is alive. And the same power which raised Christ, must also be able to raise our immortal bodies from death.

“But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?” (I Corinthians 15:35). How is it possible that these bodies should be raised again, which have mouldered into fine dust – that dust scattered over the face of the earth, dispersed far as the havens are wide?

How are the dead raised up?

The plain notion of a resurrection requires that the self-same body that dies should rise again. Nothing can be said to be raised again but the very body that died. There are many places of Scripture that plainly declare it. In I Corinthians 15:53, Paul says, “This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” “This mortal” and ‘this corruptible” can only mean that body which we now carry with us, and shall one day lay down in the dust.

We read in Daniel 12:2, “Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” “Sleep” and “awake” imply that when we arise from the dead, our bodies will be as much the same as they are when we awake from sleep.

In John 5:28, 29, our Lord affirms: “The hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear His [Christ’s] voice, and come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” Now if the same body does not rise again, what need is there of opening the graves at the end of the world? The graves can give up no bodies but those which were laid in them.

To this we need only add the words of St. Paul: “The Lord Jesus Christ … shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body” (Philippians 3:21a). This “vile body” can be no other than that with which we are now clothed, which must be restored to life again.

In all this there is nothing incredible or impossible. God can distinguish and keep unmixed from all other bodies the particular dust into which our several bodies are dissolved. He can gather it together and join it again. For God is infinite both in knowledge and power. “He knows the number of stars and calls them all by their names”(Psalm 147:4). He can tell the number of sands on the seashore.

May not the same Power collect the ruins of our corrupted bodies and restore them to their former condition? God can form this dust, so gathered together, into the same body it was before. It is no more wonderful than forming a human body in the womb, which we have daily experience of, and is doubtless as strange an instance of divine power as the resurrection can possibly be.

When God has raised this body, He can enliven it with the same soul that inhabited it before. Our Savior Himself was dead, rose again, and appeared alive to His disciples and others. They who had lived with Him for many years were then fully convinced that He was the same Person they had seen die on the cross.

The resurrection of the same body is by no means impossible to God. That which He has promised He is also able to perform, by that mighty power by which “He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself” (Philippians 3:21b).

Though we cannot exactly tell the manner how it shall be done, yet this ought not to in the least weaken our belief in this important article of our faith. It is enough that He to whom all things are possible, has passed His word that He will raise us again.

The change which shall be made in our bodies at the resurrection, according to the Scriptural account, will consist chiefly in these four things:  (1) our bodies shall be raised immortal and incorruptible, (2) they shall be raised in glory, (3) they shall be raised in power, (4) they shall be raised spiritual bodies.

What frail things these bodies are! How soon are they disordered! To what a troop of diseases, pains and other infirmities are they constantly subject! But our hope and our comfort are that we shall shortly be delivered from this burden of flesh. When “God shall wipe away all tears from [our] eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4). When we shall have once passed from death unto life, we shall be eased of all the troublesome cares of our bodies which now take up so much of our time and thoughts. We shall be set free from all those mean and tiresome labors which we must now undergo to support our lives. A mind free from all trouble and guilt, in a body free from all pains and diseases. Thus our mortal bodies will be raised immortal. They shall not only always be always preserved from death, but the nature of them shall be wholly changed, so they cannot die any more.

The excellency of our heavenly bodies will probably arise from the happiness of our souls. The unspeakable joy we shall feel will break through our bodies and shine forth from our faces.

In the present state, our bodies are no better than cogs and fetters which confine and restrain the freedom of the soul. The corruptible body presses down upon the soul. Our dull, sluggish, inactive bodies are unable, or backward, to obey the commands of the soul. But in the other life, “they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Our heavenly bodies shall be as active and nimble as our thoughts are. For our bodies shall be raised in power!

They shall also be raised as “spiritual bodies.” After resurrection, our bodies shall wholly serve our spirits, minister to them, depend on them. By a “natural body” we understand one fitted for this lower, sensible world, for this earthly state. A “spiritual body” is one that is suited to a spiritual state, to an invisible world, to the life of angels. We shall not be weary of singing praises to God through infinite ages.

The best way of preparing ourselves to live in those heavenly bodies is by cleansing ourselves more and more from all earthly affections, and by weaning ourselves from this body and all the pleasures that are peculiar to it. We should begin, in this life, to loosen the knot between our souls and this mortal flesh; to refine our affections, and raise them from things below to things above. A soul wholly taken up with this earthly body is not fit for the glorious mansions above. A sensual mind is so wedded to bodily pleasures that it cannot enjoy itself without them. Those who are such would find it the greatest unhappiness to be clothed in spiritual bodies. It would be like a beggar in the clothes of a king. Such glorious bodies would be uneasy on them. They would not know what to do in them; they would be glad to retire and put on their old rags again.

But when we are washed from the guilt of our sins, and cleansed from all filthiness of flesh and spirit by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, then we shall long to be dissolved, and to be with our exalted Savior. We shall always be ready to take wing for the other world, where we shall at last have a body suited to our spiritual appetites.

Thus we may see how to account for the different degrees of glory in the heavenly world. For although all the children of God shall have glorious [resurrection] bodies, yet the glory of them all shall not be equal. “As one star differeth from another star in glory, so also is the resurrection of the dead” (I Corinthians 15:41b, 42a). They shall all shine as stars. But those who, by a constant diligence in welldoing have attained to a higher measure of purity than others, shall shine more bright than others. They shall appear as more glorious stars. It is certain that the most heavenly bodies will be given to the most heavenly souls. And this is no little encouragement to us to make the greatest progress we possibly can in the knowledge and love of God. Since the more we are weaned from things of the earth now, the more glorious will our bodies be at the resurrection.

Let this fortify us against the fear of death. It is now disarmed and can do us no hurt. It divides us, indeed, from this body awhile-but it is only that we may receive it again more glorious. So be “steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:58). Then let death prevail over (and pull down) this house of clay! God has promised to raise it up again, infinitely more beautiful, strong and useful.