Resurrection—What Is It?
How is it accomplished?
"For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." 1 Corinthians 15:22
"That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world." John 1:9 (NKJV)
"Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth..." John 5:28‑29 (NKJV)
If "every man" is to receive enlightenment by the "true light", and "all" are to be "made alive", and "all" in the graves are to "hear his voice", then the billions of deceased human beings must be restored to life again. This is known as the "resurrection of the dead".
The Christian Doctrine of the Resurrection
The re‑creation of the deceased individual by the impression of the previous identity upon a new bodily organism (suited to its intended environment), in consequence of a fresh operation of Divine power, restores living, sentient existence that is the ability to use its senses. The unique individual lives again!
So, what is identity? The identity ("who we are") exists in the mind (which operates through the human brain, via electrical and chemical impulses), and includes all that makes each individual a unique being. This includes character, personality, will, emotions, memory, motives, hopes, and more. At death this identity is preserved by God and later restored to a newly‑created body, which is given a newly‑infused life.
In the Beginning
The first human was brought into being by God; compounded out of the elements of the earth: carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, sulphur, potassium etc., infused with the power of life by the Holy Spirit of God and became a living sentient being:‑"The LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Genesis 2:7)
Once the body had been created, God started it ‘operating’, by putting the life principle, the power of life, into it. The human began to live. The heart started beating; the lungs started breathing (hence, "the breath of life"), the brain began to awaken; the eyes opened. The human began to experience his environment by means of his five senses i.e. he became a sentient being. The human became a "living soul (being)"; he became the human being named Adam. But he had no identity as yet; that was still a blank slate. His existence as a living, breathing, sentient human being had just begun.
Then there was the admonition; refusal or failure to preserve his loyalty to God, or to transgress the laws of his being, would involve the loss of all that God had given him, the loss of life itself, extinction of being.
"In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (Gen.2:17)
"In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return." Gen.3:19 (NKJV)
Logically, death is the antithesis of life. If life only continues when the individual is in a state of harmony with God, of loyalty to Him, then the entry of sin must indicate the extinction of that life, the dissolution of the "living soul" (being) which subsists only when life, bodily organism, and mind are joined. If any of these three is missing, the "living soul (being)", the sentient individual, does not exist.
With What Body do they come?
The apostle Paul addresses the "resurrection" question in 1 Cor.15. He tells us in v.37 that "you do not sow" (in death) "that body that shall be". But he continues in v.38, "God gives it a body as He pleases". (NKJV) Following this, he writes at some length about "celestial" and "terrestrial" bodies; i.e. bodies for heavenly, spirit beings, and bodies for earthly, physical beings. Seemingly, the type of body one receives will depend upon the type of mind (character) one has developed during this life; a mind attuned to the earth, will get a suitable earthly body; a mind fully attuned to heavenly, spiritual things, will get a suitable heavenly body (this, the "upward calling" to heaven, is offered only to the Gospel‑age disciples of Jesus). There will be no mind‑body mismatches.
The resurrection of the faithful Gospel‑age (Christian Era) church to be the "Bride" of Christ, is known in Scripture as the "First Resurrection" (Rev.20:4‑6; 1 Cor.15:23; Romans 8:19), because it precedes the general resurrection of the remainder of mankind.
This "First Resurrection" has a dual aspect. At the time of the Second Advent there is to be initially the resurrection to spirit life of believers who are described as "asleep" i.e. in the grave, having finished their earthly lives prior to the Second Advent. Moments later comes the "change" to spirit life of those who are still living at the time of the Second Advent. 1 Thessalonians 4:16‑18. The "Bride" now glorified spirit beings, ascends "together" to "meet the Lord". The physical bodies no longer needed, lie dead.
The net effect is the same; in both cases the individuals concerned close their eyes to the earth, in death; they enter an unconscious dreamless "sleep"; they come to the end of consciousness and existence as experienced through the human organism, which thereafter returns to its dust. They open their eyes to a new and celestial world in which consciousness and existence is experienced (by the same identity) through a new and celestial body, one adapted to that order of life. The apostle Paul only alludes to the fact in 1 Thess.4:13‑18 and 1 Cor.15:51‑52 where the sleeping ones are "raised" and the living ones are "changed" or "translated". The philosophy of the matter is much more closely set out in 1 Cor.15:35‑50 and 2 Cor.5:1‑4.
The first overt act of the Second Advent—and this is stressed repeatedly in the New Testament—is the resurrection or "change" of the church, the joining of all those dedicated believers, of whatever generation between Pentecost and the end, to the Lord, in Heaven, as his "Bride". The apostle Paul describes this in 1 Cor.15 as a change from the terrestrial state of being to the celestial, a change not only of habitat but also of nature. The celestial is of a superior and totally different order of being; the celestial world, as real to its own citizens as the earth is to humanity, is one in which powers and potentialities, and consequently activities and achievements, are upon an immensely wider basis than are those of man upon earth.
What about the remainder of humanity, those not of the glorified Church? There are billions living, and tens of billions already in the grave. What about them? When the Millennial Kingdom starts, it seems reasonable to assume that those human beings living at that time will be dealt with first. They will be taught clearly the ways of God, and encouraged to accept Jesus as Saviour, and to enter (into) that new arrangement, pictured as the "highway that leads to holiness" (Isa.35:8). Once the Kingdom operations are well underway with this group, the next phase can begin.
There follows during the Millennial Kingdom, the (probably gradual) resurrection of all the remainder of the dead human race all the way back to Adam and Eve. This will be a return to physical human life, with the previous identity restored.
Eternal life will be offered to all, but only on God’s terms. Those who refuse this offer will, at some point, lose their existence—forever. The death sentence will be applied the second time for such.
Mankind, i.e. human beings, has been destined to occupy a definite and unique place in the Divine scheme of things. No other conceivable order of sentient beings, fitted as they might be for their own ordained place, can or will fill the position intended for physical humankind.
The Bible does in fact indicate that the mode of existence we know is not the only one; that this earth is not the only scene of life, that there is at the very least one other universe (i.e., heaven—a spirit world) not perceptible by human senses, the citizens of which are always and altogether in absolute harmony with each other and with God—so much so that the ideal is set before men that God’s Will might eventually be universally accepted here as it is there.
"Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Matthew 6:10 (NKJV)
How Does God Actually Do This?
Well, of course, we do not know the details; so we offer a little speculation here based on current technology of digital recording on disks (perhaps a very weak illustration). Perhaps God records (on some kind of spiritual "disk") the activities of the person’s "identity", all the way from birth until death, and then puts the completed "disk", with the person’s identification written on it, on a shelf. At resurrection time, this "disk", containing the "identity" information, is "downloaded" into the new body, and the person, the unique individual, lives again. Or perhaps God simply remembers everything. Or perhaps it is beyond our comprehension.
Can All This Really Be True?
Absolutely. God did this for Jesus. God can also do it for all others, in due time. Jesus is still the only one ever resurrected to eternal life (a few others, like Lazarus, were resuscitated but died again).
The man Jesus died, was buried, and on the third day raised from death by the Heavenly Father. Jesus then was given a new spirit body, of which we are told that it is the "express image of His (God’s) person" (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus also now has life on the very highest plane of existence. And yet with all this the angel plainly tells the disciples that it is "this same Jesus" (Acts 1:11) that shall return one day.
Jesus remains the same even though he has experienced a change of nature—twice: from spirit to human; from human to highly exalted spirit existence.
To the Christian death has lost its fear and sting. Because Christ lives, we also have the hope, the promise that we shall live; experiencing a change from physical to spirit life (forever, in the heavens). And the willing and obedient of the human race too, will live again through a gradual process of restoration to perfect human life in an earthly paradise.
"The Saviour of the world"
The only ones to be lost forever, both physical beings and spirit beings i.e. Satan and his angels, will be those who absolutely, positively refuse the gift of life on God’s terms. The universe will then be clean; no more sin or evil, forever, anywhere—ever.