How do we know there will be the resurrection of the dead? Jesus Christ's resurrection is the assurance of the resurrection for all. This article looks at how people will be raised, and the place of believers and unbelievers in the resurrection.

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General Resurrection

Dead in Christ will rise in glory🔗

But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed.... So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 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... 1 Corinthians 15:35-37, 42-44

Jesus was the first to rise from the dead (Acts 26:23), and when he returns to this world he will raise his servants to a resurrection life like his own (1 Cor. 15:20-23; Phil. 3:20-21). He will, indeed, raise the whole human race; those who are not his through faith will be raised for sentencing (John 5:29). Christians alive at his coming will at that instant undergo a marvelous transformation (1 Cor. 15:50-54), while Christians who had died will experience a glorious re-embodiment (2 Cor. 5:1-5).

There will be continuity between the mortal and the immortal body, as there was in Jesus’ case, for it was the body in which he had died that was raised. Paul compares the relation between the resurrection body and the mortal body to the relation between a seed and the plant that grows out of it (1 Cor. 15:35-44), a kind of continuity, we should note, that allows for great differences between the starting point and the end product. Also, says Paul, there will be in every case a contrast of quality. Our present bodies, like Adam’s, are natural and earthly, subject to all sorts of weakness and decay until finally they perish. But our resurrection bodies, like Christ’s, will be spiritual (created, indwelt, and sustained by the Holy Spirit) and will belong to the eternal, imperishable, immortal, heavenly order of things (1 Cor. 15:45-54).

However, as the risen Jesus was recognizable by his disciples despite the change that resurrection had wrought in him, and as the re-embodied Moses and Elijah were recognizable at the Transfiguration (Matt. 17:3-4), and as re-embodied Jewish saints were recognizable at the time of Jesus’ rising (Matt. 27:52-53), so risen Christians will be recognizable to each other, and joyful reunions beyond this world with believers whom we loved and then lost through death are to be expected. That is implicit in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, which was written because persons who were alive in Christ feared they had finally lost those who had died in Christ; Paul wrote as he did about Christ’s return in order to assure them that they would certainly see their Christian loved ones again.

As Jesus’ single-minded love and humility are the model to which God is conforming our regenerate characters, so his glorified body, the present form of the body through which he perfectly expressed these qualities when he was on earth, is the model for the remaking of our bodies (Phil. 3:21). The bodies that Christians have now are at best poor tools for expressing the desires and purposes of regenerate hearts, and many of the weaknesses with which the saints struggle—shyness, shortness of temper, lust, depression, coolness in relationships, and so on—are closely linked with our physical constitution and its patterning in our behavior. The bodies that become ours in the general resurrection will be bodies that perfectly match our perfected regenerate characters and will prove perfect instruments for our holy self-expression throughout eternity.

Glorification (so called because it is a manifesting of God in our lives, 2 Cor. 3:18) is the scriptural name for God’s completion of what he began when he regenerated us, namely, our moral and spiritual reconstruction so as to be perfectly and permanently conformed to Christ. Glorification is a work of transforming power whereby God finally turns us into sinless creatures in deathless bodies. The idea of our glorified final state includes (a) perfect knowledge of grace, through limitless extension of our powers of understanding (1 Cor. 13:12); (b) perfect enjoyment of seeing and being with the Father and the Son; (c) perfect worship and service of God out of a perfectly integrated nature and a heart set perfectly free for love and obedience; (d) perfect deliverance from all that is experienced as sinful, evil, weakening, and frustrating; (e) perfect fulfillment of all desires of which we are conscious (not sexual desire, Matt. 22:30; or hunger and thirst, Rev. 7:16; or desire for sleep, Rev. 22:5; but desires for more communion with God); (f) perfect completion of all that was good and valuable in this world’s life but that had to be left incomplete because desire outran capacity; and (g) endless personal growth in the encompassing of all these perfect things.

Paul ends his analysis in Romans 8:30 of the action whereby God saves his elect with a striking past tense: “Those he justified, he also glorified.” Glorification was in Paul’s day, and still is, future for everyone apart from Jesus himself, but Paul’s thought evidently is that since our glorification is here and now a fixed point in God’s sovereign plan, it is already as good as done. The past tense is meant to let us know that it is absolutely impossible for our glorification not to happen. Such is the sureness and certainty of the Christian hope.

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