By Ernie and Mary Kroeger

We hear a lot about the resurrection of our bodies, thinking that resurrection is all about our physical bodies being changed into spiritual bodies.   We visualize our bodies as being able to pass through concrete walls without a problem.  After all, isn’t that what Jesus did after He rose from the dead?  In this study we will look at various scripture passages to see what we can learn about resurrection.

In our childhood we were taught that resurrection was a future event which would take place when Jesus comes again.  Furthermore, at that time our body would rise from the grave and be changed into a new spiritual body that looked like a physical body, but be different.  It would be like the one Jesus had when He rose from the dead.  We were told that it could pass through walls, vanish, and reappear at will.  In our ignorance we wondered how God would put bodies together that had been burned or devoured by animals or fish, for we thought He needed the remains of the physical body in order to raise it into life. This is an illustration of the ignorance that is resident in the carnal mind.

It is amazing how we accept the natural understanding of spiritual realities as truth without hesitancy and investigation, yet later oppose any changes in our religious ideas - often without even a willingness to investigate the matter.  Even if we are presented with a logical explanation, we stubbornly refuse to accept a truth that does not match our previous understanding. We are just like the Jews who refused to leave their religious ideas and follow Christ.  They would rather kill the spotless Lamb of God than leave their traditions and beliefs. 

This pictures the depravity of the human heart.  Instead of listening and hearing the voice of the Spirit, we depend on our intellectual logic to produce and validate our religious belief system. The natural carnal mind always crucifies the spiritual.  If we do not know the voice of the Spirit, the lie becomes our truth! The trial and crucifixion of Jesus (the truth) illustrates this point beautifully.

In order to receive a true concept of resurrection, we have to be delivered from our old beliefs and traditional ideas. It is not enough to read the scriptures; we need to understand what they are teaching us by hearing the Spirit!  We must not put our trust in the philosophies of men, or base our faith on the visions that enforce our natural understanding.  When God speaks to us in visions, His message is generally accompanied by an element of surprise. Imagine Peter's surprise when God gave him a vision in which he was told to kill and eat what Peter considered unclean. In this vision God taught him that whatever God has cleansed is clean.  Our trust must be in Christ, and we must be willing to submit our thoughts to His teaching.

The word "resurrection" is translated from the Greek "Anastaseos", and it means to stand up or rise up. It could mean to rise up from sleep or from death - or whatever.  Usually it is used in connection with rising from the dead.  In Luke 2:34 it is used figuratively by Simeon. "And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, `Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise (Anastaseos - resurrection) of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed.'" 

Jesus gave us some tremendous insights about life and resurrection.  In John 5:25 He said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live."  How interesting!  The dead were already hearing the voice of the Son of God and coming into life when Jesus was on earth!  When the dead are raised into life, they are resurrected. Jesus said this was already a reality at that time, yet there was no change in the physical body of the believers!  Since this was a present reality even at that time, it cannot be limited to the end time. Jesus wanted them (and us) to know that it is a continuous and progressive reality.  He was not referring to the ones He would raise from the dead during His ministry on earth, for they would later die again. He was referring to people who are raised out of their sinful state into a life that has no corruption in it!

Many of our perplexities are cleared up when we understand the difference between the natural man and the spiritual man.  Jesus raised the dead in His ministry on earth but they all died again, for physical life does not have permanency.  However, when Jesus rose from the dead, He rose never to die again!  This difference is quite obvious when we recognize that Jesus was raised into a spiritual, immortal being!  There was no longer anything physical about Him, but the ones Jesus raised from the dead during His ministry on earth were only raised back into their previous physical life!

The scriptures teach us that we all enter this life, dead in our transgressions and sins.  There is no exception! (Rom. 3:10-11)  To receive life, we have to hear the voice of the Son of God.  Hearing His voice raises us out of our death in Adam and brings us into the life of Christ.  We are resurrected into a life that never dies, for there is no corruption in Christ's life!

Furthermore, in John 3:6 Jesus said, "That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."  In other words, the flesh will never change; it will always remain flesh.  Likewise, the spirit will never degenerate into flesh; it will always remain spirit.  We tend to think of flesh as referring to the physical body, however in the language of the scriptures, it refers to the thinking that is in the natural mind.  It is always against the Spirit, for it lusts after ease, beauty, comfort, pleasure, honor and power.  All the philosophies and intellectual concepts that originate in that mind are of the flesh, and they remain in the flesh realm; they can never become spiritual!   Spiritual understanding has its origin in the mind of Christ, and only it can bring us truth! 

Since Jesus Christ is the truth we have to abandon the idea that truth consists of a set of rules, dogmas and doctrines. In order to receive truth we have to get beyond the letter of the word – beyond the ideas that dwell in our carnal mind.  The carnal mind always fights spiritual realities, because it is in death; it cannot understand life nor can it hear what the Spirit is saying. A spiritual word does not originate in the carnal mind because the conditions for life are not favorable there.  This principle is illustrated in the grain that was placed in the Egyptian tombs; it remains dormant until it receives the right conditions for life.  A spiritual word also has to receive the right conditions for it to sprout.  To understand the meaning of resurrection we have to listen to Him who is the truth, and believe that He is the resurrection and the life.

Our natural concept of death is limited to the physical, but God's concept is higher than ours.  He tells us that being carnally minded is death, but being spiritually minded is life and peace. (Rom. 8:6) The carnal mind is focused on the natural realm, so it cannot take us out of the corruption and death inherent in that realm.  Faith to believe spiritual realities does not reside in the old Adam man - the man of sin who is dead in his transgressions.  He still loves his lies and thinks his lies are truth. We need to be born of the Spirit in order to receive life.  Life is not given to the old Adam man.  In Adam all die, but in Christ all are made alive! 

Our deceitful carnal mind is always against the truth, and it majors in bringing us substitutions and counterfeits of truth. It tells us that we are still sinners - forgiven sinners, but nevertheless, still sinners!  This thinking doesn't allow the Adam man to be buried.  It keeps us focused on the Adam man through whom sin enters the world. It substitutes the natural for the spiritual, and a counterfeit religious system for the life that is ours in Christ. It substitutes heaven for life, and hell for death. Heaven, the spiritual rule in Christ, is downgraded to a physical abode, and God's wonderful salvation that gives us His life in nature and quality is downgraded to forgiveness only.  This thinking keeps us from seeing that our new birth has brought us into the higher realm of the Spirit. If we let our natural thinking interpret God's words to us, the natural will become our truth and eventually crucify spiritual understanding.

We need to be in Christ and receive His life. This takes place when we are born of the Spirit.  Our new birth makes us a new creation!  It takes us out of the first man, Adam, and puts us into the second man, Christ; it takes us out of our old physical identity and gives us Christ's spiritual identity.  This is essential for victorious Christian living. Victorious resurrection life comes out of our death to the old man, just like new life grows out of the death of the planted seed. Victorious living does not consist of trying to polish up the old man, or trying to induce him to be good.  All self-effort is in the death realm.

Before Christ came, resurrection was only for the future. Martha, the sister of the Lazarus who was raised from the dead, voiced this thought to Jesus when she said, "I know that he (Lazarus) will rise again in the resurrection on the last day."  Jesus gently corrected her by saying, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die." (John 11:24, 25-26)

What an astounding statement! Jesus Christ IS the resurrection!  Do you have Him in your heart?  If you do, you have resurrection within you right now!  When we receive Jesus, we receive His life.  He awakens us out of our death and gives us His life.  His life does not have any corruption in it, and therefore it can never die.

Resurrection is not a historical event that will occur at the same time for everyone. Because many Christians do not believe what Jesus said, they are waiting for something they already have.  They are waiting to see it in the natural realm.  Resurrection has to be received in Christ as the Word of God. The cross has set us free to embrace the Son, and He is now our life.  Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning of a new humanity and the end of our old humanity. He is NOT the second Adam - He is the last Adam, for the old Adam ends in Christ.  All of God's work in us is in and through Christ.

When Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies," He gave us a new concept of resurrection.  Notice that Jesus did not say that He was bringing resurrection, or that resurrection was a future event in history.  Nor did He say that it is an event that is related to a change in our physical body.  Instead, He gave us a description of the life that we receive when we believe in Christ.  Since Christ is a present reality, resurrection is a present reality!  Wherever Christ is present, resurrection is also present.  When Christ is in us, and operating in us, resurrection life is in us, and operating in us. When Christ, the resurrection, dwells within us, we don't need to wait for what we already possess.  Our physical death cannot stop the continuation of our resurrection life.

In speaking to the unregenerate religious Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection, Jesus said, "You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God."  (Matt. 22:29)  How wonderful it would be if we would all recognize our need for understanding the scriptures spiritually!  As we learn to live in the reality of spiritual understanding, we see the necessity of chucking our natural ideas of truth.

Jesus continued His explanation and said, "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven." (v. 30)  Do we understand what Jesus is saying?  Since Jesus is the resurrection, we have to be in Him in order to be in the resurrection!  If we have been born of the Spirit, we are spiritual beings.  We have been raised out of our death in Adam, and we have been put into the life of Christ!  If Christ is in us, resurrection is in us; if we are in Christ, we are in the resurrection!

In this conversation Jesus was obviously trying to get the Sadducees to believe that God raises the dead.  God is a God of the living!  Jesus continued to explain, "But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: `I am 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." (vv.31-32) The fact that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are alive today proves that they are no longer dead. Although the bodies of the fathers are still in their graves, yet the fathers are alive. Therefore resurrection cannot be for the physical body and only for the end-time!  Jesus also said, "Before Abraham was born, I am." (John 8:58) Since Christ is a life-giving Spirit, and He existed before Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were born, He must have raised them. Let us not accept the traditional idea that resurrection is for the physical body.

Many Christians think that the disciples saw Christ in His spiritual resurrection body when He appeared to the disciples after His resurrection. Since Jesus said, "A spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have," they claim that our resurrection body will look like our present body, but be without blood.  They forget that the spiritual is in the unseen realm, and that it cannot be touched or seen physically.  A spirit body is weightless and does not occupy space, nor is it subject to gravity.  Jesus was not showing them a spiritual body; He was appearing to them in a physical body so that they would believe that He was alive!  When Jesus disappeared before their eyes, He simply returned to His spiritual body.  It was an appearance from the spiritual realm to the physical realm. The spiritual realm remains a mystery to us because we cannot see it. In our personal lives, the fact that He speaks to us and strengthens us, proves that He is alive. The proof to the world is in the appearance of His life in us.

In John 5:28-29 Jesus spoke of two resurrections: a resurrection to life and a resurrection of judgment.  "Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds, to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment." (The KJV translation freely uses the word damnation, but newer translations have corrected this error.)  In Rev. 20:6 we read, "Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection…" The ones who participate in the first resurrection are the first ones to hear the voice of Christ and come to life.  They have passed from death to life!

Those who commit evil deeds have not passed into life.  Evil deeds are the result of their unbelief in Christ.  Those who have died in their unbelief and sins need to be awakened to their true condition.  A judgment is a statement of truth.  Without a resurrection of judgment that brings them the true knowledge of their lost condition, they will not repent.  The fact that many have died in their sins does not mean that they are beyond redemption. God's purpose for the redemption of all humanity cannot be thwarted.  In order for this to occur, unbelievers will have to repent of their rejection of the truth that is in Christ.  In order to get them to repent, they will have to pass through the lake of fire.  This is not a physical fire but a spiritual one.  It consists of whatever afflictions and difficulties are needed to awaken them to their need of righteousness, and to create a desire in them to receive Christ.

It is important for us to know that all of God's dealings with us are redemptive, so we know that the lake of fire is also redemptive.  Our God is not a vindictive God who would punish people without end in a physical fire to fan His ego.  God is love, and love always wants the best for everyone!  His fire is a spiritual fire that consumes all our carnal thinking and all our dross so His purity can come forth in us.

Christ's resurrection is of utmost importance!  If He had not been resurrected, His death would be like the death of any other human being.  His resurrection from among the dead proved that His life overcame death!  For this reason the disciples preached the resurrected Christ. This concept was foreign to the Jews so they needed to know that this event was rooted in the prophecies of the Old Testament. So in Peter's first sermon after the Spirit had been poured out, he pointed this out by quoting David's prophecy. "He looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades (the abode of the dead), nor did His flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses." (Acts 2:31-32)  Peter again emphasized this fact in his first epistle by saying, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."  (1 Peter 1:3)

Paul had met the resurrected Christ on his way to Damascus when a great light surrounded him and he heard a voice saying, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" (Acts 9:4)  This experience led to his conversion; Paul had met the resurrected Christ, and had developed an intimate relationship with Him.  Therefore he could preach the crucified and resurrected Christ in power!

A discussion about resurrection stimulated questions at that time, even as it does today. The church in Corinth was no exception; it even questioned its validity.  We find Paul's explanation and his emphasis on the importance of resurrection in 1 Cor. 15:12-14.  "Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.”  If Christ had not been raised from the dead, He would still be dead, and therefore could not bring us into life.  Resurrection is foundational to everything we have in Christ!  Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ all our faith and preaching about Him is in vain.

In verse 21 Paul underlines the fact that both death and resurrection came to us through man. "For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead." (v. 21)  Why is it so important for us to know this? Again we need to go back to the beginning to see God's purpose for man.  God wanted an image of Himself, and the image He created He called man.  Since God is spirit, an image of Himself has to be a spiritual image.  It cannot be a mixture of dust and spirit.  We see this created spiritual image in its perfection in Genesis one.  Then in Genesis two we see another image - a formed image made of dust.  This image received the breath of God and it became a living soul.  Since it is not a life-giving spirit, we know that it is just an earthy image of God.  It needs to be released of its earthiness before it can become a spiritual image of God.  The process God used to accomplish this begins in Genesis 3 and continues to the end of Revelation.  It finds its fulfillment in the Son of Man - the Man Christ Jesus! 

"The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven.  As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly.  And just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." (vv. 47-49)

We all bear the earthy image when we come into this world.  So how can we cast off the earthy in order to receive the heavenly?  This is our big dilemma - we can't!  We need the help of the second man - the man from heaven.  In His identification with sinful humanity, He overcame the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life by dying to them. In His death on the cross He took that earthy image with Him, and it died together with Him. The earthy image remained in death, for it could not be resurrected into life.  The fact that Christ Jesus entered into death and then rose out of death proves that life is stronger than death. The only way we can get rid of our earthy image is to participate in Christ's death and resurrection.  We do this by faith.  This is not a union of the earthy with the heavenly, but a death to the earthy and a resurrection into life.  Death always has to precede resurrection. Just as our earthy image bore testimony to our earthy ideas of God, Christ and heaven, so our heavenly image will bear testimony to the life and truth in Christ. 

Here we see that we need to be changed into a spiritual image of God.  A spiritual image of God knows that God is good and that there is no darkness in Him.  The only way to goodness that does not contain any evil is the pathway of obedience to the will of God. The first Adam did not know the difference between the good that resides in obedience, and the good and evil that reside in disobedience.  The good in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was rooted in disobedience.  Its fruit looked good, but it was not good because it contained evil.  A tree does not bear two kinds of fruit, and neither did the tree of the knowledge of good and evil bear two kinds of fruit.  It bore one kind of fruit, and evil was embedded in all its fruit.  A true image of God has to know this difference.   Before man could become a spiritual image of God, he had to learn obedience and be released of all earthiness.  In man's subjection to vanity, he learned that the dire consequence of evil is death (not hell) - just as God had declared.  He had to learn to hate unrighteousness even as God hates it.  God made this possible in the life and death and resurrection of the Man Christ Jesus.  He learned obedience by the things He suffered! (Heb. 5:8)

In Christ we have resurrection!  "So also is the resurrection of the dead.  It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body." (v.42)  Some translations use the words corruption and incorruption instead of perishable and imperishable.  The perishable perishes because it contains decay and death.  In order for life to spring out of the perishable, the perishable has to die.  To help us understand this precious truth we receive a picture of this in nature.  The old potato has to die before it can produce new life.  Christ's death was not only a physical death, but also a death to sin!  (Rom. 6:10)  In baptism we identify with Christ's death to sin, and our body of sin is buried in the watery grave of baptism. Out of this death we are raised into the imperishable body of Christ. 

Corruption does not inherit incorruption.  Flesh and blood does not inherit the kingdom of God. The mortal has to put on immortality.  How does this occur?  By being born of the Spirit!  Our new birth takes us out of the flesh and blood realm, and puts us into the spiritual realm.  We become a new creation - a spiritual creation, for we are born of the Spirit.  The only death in this new creation is its death to sin.  The natural carnal mind is in death, so it does not belong to the new creation man, for he has the mind of Christ.  But the old mind lives alongside the new.  Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and spiritual forces of wickedness that reside in the imaginations of the carnal mind.  We cannot overcome them in our own strength; they can only be overcome in our identification with Christ!  He has won the victory, and His resurrection power in us brings us into victory.  

Many Christians think that a physical glorified body is needed in order to recognize their loved ones in heaven. In our imagination we compare our spiritual body with one that can be seen - only better.  Since the unseen realm is foreign to us, it remains a mystery. It is difficult for us to put aside our old ideas and hear what God is revealing to us. 

The Corinthian Christians were just as concerned about their physical body as many are today.  So they asked, " How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?" (v.35)  Paul answered this question by saying, "You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be…" (v. 36)  Then he goes on to say that there are many different types of bodies, and that they differ in glory. The body into which we are raised is very unique and does not fit into any seen classification!  It is an imperishable or incorruptible body!  

Our physical bodies are important, but God has ordained that they shall return to the dust from which they were made. (Gen. 3:19) Flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom of God!  The flesh always opposes the Spirit, and the Spirit opposes the flesh (Gal. 5:17), so the two can never be united.  Therefore our physical bodies can never become spiritual bodies. 

Then how do we explain Rom. 8:11? "But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you."  If God's Spirit gives life to our mortal bodies, do they not become spiritual bodies? It also says that the mortal does not inherit immortality!  However, this mortal must put on immortality! (1 Cor. 15:53)  How can the mortal receive immortality?

Life comes forth when the bondage to live according to the flesh is taken away.  Living according to the flesh brings death.  The Spirit and the flesh dwell together in one body, but only one can rule; either the flesh or the Spirit will rule the body. When the Spirit rules, the body obeys the Spirit. The flesh is mortal and corruptible, but the Spirit is immortal and incorruptible; so it is higher than the flesh and should be ruling.  When the Spirit is master, we will not perform the deeds of the flesh.  The redemption of our body takes place when the Spirit rules, and the body is no longer used to do evil deeds.

Christ's life in us brings us His righteousness.  Righteous deeds can now be expressed through this body of ours.  This is for NOW!  Life and righteousness belong together; we cannot have one without the other.  When His Spirit dwells in our inner man, His life will be expressed through our words and actions. This is the life that is given to our mortal bodies.

In Romans 14:23 we read that whatever is not from faith is sin. If we are minding the flesh, we are moving in unbelief and doing our own will!  To have the life of Christ evidenced through our mortal body we need to walk by faith.

God has something better for us than a resurrected physical body!  In Christ we receive an imperishable spiritual body!  An imperishable body has no corruption in it, so it can never perish.  Incorruption can only be found in God's life. In 1 John 3:9 we read that no one who is born of God can sin.  That which is born of God contains the very life and nature of God!  When we are raised out of our death in Adam, we are resurrected into a spiritual body of truth and life!  Our physical eyes cannot see this body, but that does not mean it does not exist.  Blind people cannot see the physical world, but that does not nullify its existence.  God did not create the world out of nothing; He created the world out of that which is in the unseen realm.  It is difficult for us to believe that the unseen realm is greater than the seen realm. 

God has given us an example of the power of the invisible in nature. The invisible wind lifts cars and houses off the ground, uproots trees, and leaves devastation in its wake. Jesus Christ gave us examples of invisible spiritual power when He healed the sick, calmed the sea, raised the dead, and later was resurrected out of death!   Before He ascended into heaven He said, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you."  (Acts 1:8) The power of the apostles' testimony witnessed to the risen Christ within them.  "And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all."  (Acts 4:33) 

Christ's resurrection proved that He is above all the pagan deities.  They are all dead, but Christ is alive!  Jesus "was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom. 1:4)  The good news is that this power is now available to us in Christ!  "For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection."  (Rom. 6:5)  In order to avail ourselves of this power we first have to be united with Him in His death to sin.  Christ's death to sin took place progressively, and culminated on the cross.  So also our death to sin is a continuing process, and with each victory our resurrection into Christ's life grows better, until sin no longer holds any fascination for us.  Its power over us has been broken, and the power of His resurrection is evidenced in us!  

How we thank God that we have a living Savior!  Christ is the resurrection!  In our union with Him, resurrection is working in us and bringing us into an ever-greater realization of life!  Resurrection is not a one-time event; it is a present possession, and it has to increase in us!  Christ is the great "I AM", and in Him there is neither past nor future.  His resurrection power has the ability to change us into His image!  The greatness of His saving power is unfathomable to us! 

Return to the Insights into Living Articles Index