One of the most important teachings in the Christian faith is the resurrection of the dead. According to the New Testament, the apostles were witnesses to Christ’s resurrection on the third day. Christianity teaches that Christ rose in His literal, physical body.
We believe that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit rose Christ from the dead. The resurrection of the dead not only applies to Christ; but, to those who die as well. Christianity emphatically teaches the resurrection. Those who claim otherwise are something other than Christian. The Westminster Larger Catechism states the resurrection of Christ well.
Christ was exalted in his resurrection, in that, not having seen corruption in death (of which it was not possible for him to be held), and having the very same body in which he suffered, with the essential properties thereof (but without mortality, and other common infirmities belonging to this life), really united to his soul, he rose again from the dead the third day by his own power; whereby he declared himself to be the Son of God, to have satisfied divine justice, to have vanquished death, and him that had power of it, and to be Lord of quick and dead: all which he did as a public person, the head of his church, for the justification, quickening in grace, support against enemies, and to assure them of their resurrection from the dead at the last day.
Westminster Larger Catechism Question 52
The apostles taught that the Old Testament prophets spoke not only of Christ’s resurrection, but of the resurrection of the dead for those who believe in Christ.
Some say there is no resurrection
During Christ’s time, there was a group of Jews, called the Sadducee’s, who believed there was no resurrection of the dead. Christ addressed this teaching in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. He said,
On that day some Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to Him and questioned Him,. . . But Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures, or the power of God. “For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. “But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘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.”
(Mat 22:23-32 NAS see also Mar 12:18 and Luk 20:27)
This passage expressly teaches that there is a resurrection of the dead. Jesus uses Exodus 3:6 as His proof of the resurrection.
Believing in the resurrection of Christ is important
The belief that God will raise us from the dead and that Christ rose from the dead is an extremely important doctrine. Those who negate, explain away, or deny this teaching cannot possibly claim to be Christian. Paul states,
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. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.
(1Co 15:12-22 NAS)
Paul so adamantly teaches the resurrection of Christ that, he says, if there is no resurrection, then Christianity is false and a lie. This sets those who deny the resurrection outside of Christianity. Denying the resurrection is the teaching of some other religion, which, has no right to call itself Christian.
There were witnesses to Christ’s resurrection
The apostles claimed to be witnesses to His resurrection. This is found in John and many places in Acts.
When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples therefore rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
(Joh 20:19-20 NAS)
but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses.
(Act 3:15 NAS)
And with great power the apostles were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all.
(Act 4:33 NAS)
“This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.
(Act 2:32 NAS)
We are confident that the resurrection of Christ is true because the apostles were eye witnesses to Christ’s resurrection. They truly saw Him in His body, dined with Him, spoke to Him, and touched Him.
Christ rose in His body
The apostles taught that Christ rose in His literal body. The New Testament states,
Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews therefore said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had spoken.
(Joh 2:19-22 NAS)
The other disciples therefore were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” And after eight days again His disciples were inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst, and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
(Joh 20:25-29 NAS)
Jesus did not raise merely as a spirit or an apparition. Nor was He a hallucination of the apostles mind. He rose from the dead in His actual body. The Second Helvetic Confession states this well.
We believe and teach that the same Jesus Christ our Lord, in his true flesh in which he was crucified and died, rose again from the dead, and that not another flesh was raised other than the one buried, or that a spirit was taken up instead of the flesh, but that he retained his true body. Therefore, while his disciples thought they saw the spirit of the Lord, he showed them his hands and feet which were marked by the prints of the nails and wounds, and added: “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see, for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39).
Second Helvetic Confession; CHAPTER XI. Of Jesus Christ, True God and Man, the Only Savior of the World – CHRIST IS TRULY RISEN FROM THE DEAD.
Who raised Christ from the Dead?
The resurrection of Christ was done by God. What we mean by this is that the Father raised Christ from the dead, the Holy Spirit raised Christ from the dead, and Christ raised Himself from the dead.
God raised Christ from the dead
But God raised Him from the dead;
(Act 13:30 NAS)
that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved;
(Rom 10:9 NAS)
The Father raised Christ from the dead
Paul, an apostle (not sent from men, nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead),
(Gal 1:1 NAS)
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. . . . These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,
(Eph 1:17-20 NAS)
Christ raised Himself from the dead
For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”
(Joh 10:17-18 NAS See also Joh 2:19-21)
The Holy Spirit raised Christ from the dead
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 indwells you.
(Rom 8:11 NAS)
who 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 NAS)
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is God and He raised Christ from the dead.
The Apostles taught the resurrection as the promise through the prophets
The apostles not only witnessed the resurrection of Christ, they also found the resurrection in the Old Testament as prophecy of what was promised to God’s people at death. Christ said,
“But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
(Luk 20:37 NAS)
Christ clearly was teaching that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were raised from the dead at the time of their death. Paul says the promise given to the prophets was the resurrection from the dead.
. . . set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who 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 1:1-5 NAS)
Paul explains that “the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain” was the resurrection of the dead which is only possible through Christ.
“And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews. “Why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead? “So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
(Act 26:6-9 NAS)
For this reason some Jews seized me in the temple and tried to put me to death. “And so, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place; that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He should be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.
(Act 26:21-23 NAS)
The “Promised Land” that the prophets were looking forward to was not an earthly country; but, the paradise in heaven reserved for them. Only obtainable through the resurrection of the dead.
All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.” He considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead; from which he also received him back as a type.
(Heb 11:13-19 NAS)
The apostles were able to teach the resurrection because the Old Testament clearly teaches the resurrection of the dead.
The Resurrection of the dead in the Old Testament
The Old Testament has plenty of places that talk about the resurrection of the dead. Because of Christs resurrection, God’s people will raise from the dead.
He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day That we may live before Him
(Hos 6:2 NAS)
For Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Sheol; Neither wilt Thou allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay. Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; In Thy presence is fulness of joy; In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever.
(Psa 16:10-11 NAS)
But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol; For He will receive me. Selah
(Psa 49:15 NAS)
Your dead will live; Their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, For your dew is as the dew of the dawn, And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits.
(Isa 26:19 NAS)
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.
(Dan 12:2 NAS)
Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God;
(Job 19:26 NAS)
These passages show that at the time of death, the resurrection occurs.
Events that occurred when Christ rose from the dead
The resurrection of the dead is a direct result of Christ’s resurrection. Christ said,
Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear shall live. “For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.
(Joh 5:25-29 NAS)
When Christ rose from the dead, those who did good deeds were raised to resurrection of life and those who did evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment. Some of those who were dead already were raised at the time of Christs resurrection. All the rest of the people who died were resurrected at the time of their death.
Those who were not raised at the time of their death, were raised at the time of Christ’s resurrection.
and the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.
(Mat 27:5-53 NAS)
These are the ones whom Christ preached to, while in “Hell,” during His death in the tomb.