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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: Does the Bible Teach the Resurrection of the Dead?

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Don Stewart
Immediately after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, and the sentence of death was handed down to them and their descendants, humanity began to face the question, "Is there life after death?" The patriarch Job put it this way.

If a person dies, will they live again? (Job 14:14).

The Bible answers this question loud and clear - the dead shall live again. One of the great doctrines of the Christian faith is the resurrection of the dead. The Apostle Paul declared.

And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as children, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? (Romans 8:23,24).

Each believer is presently waiting for the redemption of their body, the changes that God has promised to make to each one who believes.

Death Not The End

Though our body dies, the spirit or soul never dies. The body ceases to function, but not the inner person, or spirit. Hence physical death does not end life, it is only one step in the ongoing and eternal process of conscious life.

Resurrection Of The Body

The Bible, in both testaments, promises that the dead will rise. This is done in four ways.

1. By Direct Statements

2. Symbolically

3. Through Predictive Prophecy

4. By The Resurrection Of Christ

These four different ways make it very clear that the dead will someday rise. The evidence is as follows.

1. Direct Statements

The belief in the resurrection of the dead is progressively taught and illustrated in both testaments by direct statements.

Old Testament

The Old Testament speaks explicitly about a future resurrection for all who have died. Hannah, the mother of Samuel, said.

The LORD brings death and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and raises up (1 Samuel 2:6).

This shows the hope of a future resurrection.

Hope For Job

After suffering much anguish Job said,

For I know my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God (Job 19:25-27).

Although Job knew his body would be destroyed, he also had the promise that God would raise it again someday. Job had the belief in a personal resurrection.

Hope For The Psalmist

The psalmist wrote.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption (Psalm 16:9,10).

We find another example of a belief of a personal resurrection in the psalms.

As for me, I will see your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness (Psalm 17:15).


The prophet Daniel realized that there was hope of a resurrection beyond the grave.

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2).

Thus we find the hope of the resurrection being taught in the Old Testament.

New Testament

We find this same truth taught in the New Testament. Jesus said.

For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will (John 5:21).

He also said.

Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and will come out - those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:29).

And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up on the last day (John 6:39).

Jesus And Martha

In John 11 we have the account of the death and raising of Lazarus. When Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been dead for four days. The following conversation then occurred.

Jesus said to her, "Your brother shall rise again." Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day" (John 11:23,24).

We find from the statement of Martha that she believed there would be a time when the dead are raised. From the Old Testament itself, there was the assurance that this life was not all that exists - there is life beyond the grave.

Jesus Gives Them Life

Jesus agreed with Martha. He further said that He is the One who will give them life.

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in Me, even though they die, will live (John 11:25).

Early Preaching

We find the fact of the resurrection of believers was a part of the early preaching of the apostles.

They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead (Acts 4:2).


There was a group of religious leaders named the Pharisees who believed in the resurrection. A rival party, the Sadducees, did not. The Apostle Paul was confronted by both groups.

But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, 'Men and brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!' And when he had said this a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection - and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both (Acts 23:6-8).

Paul also said.

And I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked (Acts 24:15).

Three Passages In Paul's Writings

There are three great passages in the writings of Paul in which the subject of the resurrection of the dead receives special treatment: 1 Corinthians 15; 2 Corinthians 5:1-4; and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

1 Corinthians 15

In this passage Paul argues forcefully for the resurrection of the dead. Three points that he makes need to be emphasized.

1. Christ's Resurrection Guarantees The Believers Resurrection

Because Christ is risen, the believer will also rise someday (vss. 12-20, 45-49).

2. Similar Body

The body that will be raised is somehow related to the one that died (vss. 35-38, 42-44, 52,53).

3. New Body For Each Believer

There will, however, be a new glorified body for each believer.
(vss. 35-54). This raised body, which is characterized by the spirit, will be immortal and incorruptible.

2 Corinthians 5:1-4

This passage contrasts our earthly house with the house not made with hands in the heavens.

Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life (2 Corinthians 5:1-4).

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Paul speaks of the certainty of the resurrection of the dead in this passage.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the Word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord Himself, with a shout, with the archangel's call and with the sound of God's trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).


John also spoke of the resurrection.

I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the Word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4-6)

Hence the biblical writers looked forward to a day when the dead would rise.

2. Symbolically

There are verses which symbolically speak of the resurrection of the dead. God told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Yet Abraham knew that Isaac had to continue to live on to give Abraham further descendants. Hence Abraham said in faith to the men with him.

Stay here with the donkey, the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you (Genesis 22:5).

The writer to the Hebrews comments upon this event.

Accounting God was able to raise him [Isaac] up, even from the dead from which he also received a figurative sense (Hebrews 11:19).

Although Abraham had been told by God to offer up his son Isaac as a sacrifice, Abraham knew that Isaac would survive. God had promised Abraham that He would have descendants through Isaac.


The prophet Jonah was also a symbolic type of the resurrection of Christ.

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him [Jesus], "Teacher, we wish to see a sign from You." But He answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:38-40).

3. Predictive Prophecy

The Old Testament predicts the future resurrection of the dead. Isaiah the prophet wrote.

Your dead shall live; together with my dead body they shall arise. Awake and sing you who dwell in dust; for your dew is like the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead (Isaiah 26:19).

Hosea said.

I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from the earth. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction (Hosea 13:14).

New Testament Predictions

The New Testament also predicts the future rising of the dead. Jesus said.

But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just (Luke 14:13,14).

In another place He predicted.

But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are the children of God, being children of the resurrection (Luke 20:35,36).


In Athens, the Apostle Paul spoke about the coming resurrection.

Also some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers debated with him. Some said, "What does this babbler want to say?" Others said, "He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign divinities." (This was because He was telling the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.) . . . [Paul said] because He [God] has fixed a day on which He will have the world judged in righteousness by a Man whom He has appointed, and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead." When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some scoffed; but others said, "We will hear you again about this" (Acts 17:18,31,32).

4. Resurrection Of Christ

Although the Bible records examples of God bringing people back to life, Jesus is the first biblical example of one who has been raised from the dead never to die again. His resurrection was unique. The others, whom the Bible records were raised from the dead, eventually died again. Jesus rose to die no more. Jesus said.

I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold I am alive forevermore (Revelation 1:18).

First To Rise

Paul testified that Jesus was the first to rise from the dead in a new body.

Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come - that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead (Acts 26:22,23).

Prelude To Judgment

It is also important to note that the resurrection of the body is always linked with judgment. Before people are judged in the afterlife, they are raised from the dead. Therefore, the resurrection of the dead always happens before judgment, because judgment necessitates a resurrection of that person. The Scriptures link the two.

Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings, and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment (Hebrews 6:1,2).

Consequently the resurrection of the dead and judgment are inseparable. They are also basic beliefs of the faith.


The resurrection of the dead is something that is taught in both testaments - the body will be re-united with the spirit. There will be a restoration of the entire personality with both the body and the soul. From a study of the Scripture there are four important facts that are clear.

1. There will be a resurrection of the dead.

2. This resurrection will be universal - everyone will be raised.

3. There is a resurrection unto life and a resurrection unto death, or separation from God. Those who are raised will never die again.

4. The resurrection will be a prelude to the final judgment of both the righteous and the wicked.
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