HomeArticlesResurrection: Theological Implication and Applications

Resurrection: Theological Implication and Applications

The resurrection is the central doctrine of Christianity. Sadly, today, the idea of resurrection is limited to the study of Christ’s resurrection as being evidence for Christianity. For example, Henry Morris said, “The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the crowning proof of Christianity. Everything else that was said or done by Christ or the Apostles, no matter how great or marvelous, is secondary to the resurrection in importance.”1)Henry M. Morris with Henry M. Morris III, Many Infallible Proofs, Master Books, 1996, p. 97 Though this research does make for great apologetics, it neglects the practical and meaningful truths of the general resurrection and how the doctrine should effect every believer’s thinking and actions.

First, it is appropriate to note that the resurrection is not a pagan idea and this is why the biblical morality is so vastly different from paganism.2)See Heath Henning, “Should Christians Hold a Higher Moral Standard,” Feb, 4, 2017; https://truthwatchers.com/christian-held-higher-moral-standard/ Skeptics used to argue, “Christianity offered the pagan not only the universal God of the Jews, but also a son of God, a god in human form who died and was resurrected as many pagan gods had been.”3)Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin, Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY: 1985), p. 90 The idea of the dying-and-rising-gods has been refuted by scholars and rejected for decades now.4)see Mark Smith, “The Death of ‘Dying and Rising God’ in the Biblical World,” Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament, 1998, Vol. 12, pp. 257-313 As I have written elsewhere, “understanding the religious thoughts and ideas of the first century. The common expression of the pagan thought of the Greco-Roman culture in the first century viewed a bodily resurrection as impossible. The physical world was decaying, corrupting, and perishing, thus it was inconceivable to even entertain the thought of anything physical being eternal. Moreover, the Greco-Roman mind viewed a resurrection as undesirable. Salvation was considered as liberation from the body, the immortality of the soul was their hope. Even in expressions of soul transmigration or reincarnation was understood as a curse to be continuously trapped in different bodies seeking a final liberation from the curse of this cycle of deaths and rebirths.”5)Heath Henning, “Reasons to Believe the Resurrection of Christ (Part 2),” March 27, 2016; https://truthwatchers.com/reasons-believe-resurrection-christ-part-2/

N. T. Wright has also assessed the pagan literature of the centuries preceding the rise of Christianity, writing: “The immediate conclusion is clear. Christianity was born into a world where its central claim [i.e. resurrection] was known to be false. Many believed that the dead were non-existent; outside Judaism, nobody believed in resurrection.”6)N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God, vol. 3, Fortress Press (Minneapolis, MN: 2003), p. 35 Again he reiterates his conclusion, “Nobody in the pagan world of Jesus’ day and thereafter actually claimed that somebody had been truly dead and then come to be truly, and bodily, alive once more.”7)N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God, vol. 3, Fortress Press (Minneapolis, MN: 2003), p. 76 “Third, Paul’s views on resurrection remain rooted firmly in Judaism — which is hardly surprising, because no pagans known to us ever imagined that resurrection could or would really take place, let alone offered any developed framework of thought on the subject.”8)N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God, vol. 3, Fortress Press (Minneapolis, MN: 2003), p. 272

The Jewish view of resurrection was that it would only happen at the end of history, when all would be raised and judged by God (see Matt. 16:21-22, 20:17-19; Mark 8:31-32, 10:32-34; Luke 9:22, 18:31-34; John 11:24; Acts 1:6). As these verses identify, multiple times Christ spoke of His intentions to go to Jerusalem to be crucified, buried and rise from the grave. No matter how many times the disciples were told this very clearly, they never understood it because their presuppositions of resurrection only happening at the end of the age. Immediately before Christ’s ascension, the apostles were still expecting the kingdom to be immediately ushered in by Christ because He has rose from the grave and this was interpreted by the apostles that the resurrection had happened, hence it must have been the end times in their minds. Presuppositions are difficult to get over.

After Christ corrected this thinking and ascended, the disciples began to teach Christ’s resurrection from the Old Testament (Acts 3:18, 17:2-3, 26:22-23). Apostles referenced a number of Old Testament texts to support their new view (Ps. 16:8:11 in Acts 2:25-32, Ps. 118:22 in Acts 4:10-11, Ps. 2:1-2 in Acts 4:25- 28, Is. 53:7-8 in Acts 8:32-35, Is. 55:3 and Ps. 16:10 in Acts 13:33-37). Our interest in this article is to acknowledge the general resurrection as a doctrine that should affect the Christians life here and now.

In 2011, T. A. McMahon asked the question, “Is Your Eschatology Showing?”9)T.A. McMahon, “Is Your Eschatology Showing?,” The Berean Call, Oct. 1, 2011 indicating that our views of the end times will be the most significant in theology to influence our life and behavior. I agree with this assessment as it is what Scripture teaches (1 Pet. 1:13, 4:7; Rev. 3:3; 1 Thess. 3:12-13, 5:23; Titus 2:11-13; Phil. 3:17-21; 2 Tim. 4:7-8) However, the practical applications of the fact that all will be raised from the grave to be judged is often ignored in the studies of eschatology. Most Christians seem to think end times as the rapture, tribulation period, Christ’s return and the millennium kingdom; leaving off just short of the general resurrection and the resurrection is only considering Christ’s past event of rising from the grave. This is very unfortunate.

1 Corinthians 15:20 says, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” This tells us the Christ is the first resurrection with many more to follow. He is a physical example as evidence to the fact that we will be like Him in a resurrected state (1 John 3:2). Daniel 12:2 says, “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Note here the term sleep is applied to all who are dead, not just the dead in Christ as is commonly taught. Furthermore, the resurrection is universal, not limited to born again believers in Christ. Jesus taught this truth very clearly: “and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5:29).

The Pagan world could not conceive of this thought. When Paul preached, the reaction reflected the preconceived ideas of paganism in his day. Acts 17:32 “And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked…” Tertullian, a former pagan who converted to Christ during the late second century wrote: “as being about at the end of all to adjudge His worshippers to everlasting life, and the wicked to the doom of fire at once without ending and without break, raising up again all the dead from the beginning, reforming and renewing them with the object of awarding either recompense. Once these things were with us, too, the theme of ridicule.”10)Tertullian, Apology 18 in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Edited by Alexander Roberts, D.D., & James, Donaldson, LL.D., Hendrickson Publishers, 2012, Vol. 3, p. 32 Resurrection was a ridiculed idea in pagan thinking. Paul also acknowledged that this was the purpose he wrote the resurrection chapter to the church in Corinth: “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:12). The former pagans of Corinth struggled with accepting the doctrine of resurrection and Paul set forth a defense of this great truth in 1 Corinthians 15. Notice that in the midst of this important chapter, Paul makes the comment that is always stripped from its context: “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Cor. 15:33). The deception and evil communication referenced in this verse was that of the Corinthians not believing in the bodily resurrection of all mankind in the end times, which had caused the people in that church to fall into great sins. Christianity today is widely ignorant of this topic which is why so much sin is evident and the faith of so many professing Christians reveal very shallow in their actions and reflects a lack of holiness. We need a renewing of the mind as the Bible demands.

N. T. Wright wrote, “…resurrection was not resuscitation, but transformation into a non-corruptible body.”11)N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God, vol. 3, Fortress Press (Minneapolis, MN: 2003), p. 276 Those in the resurrection of damnation, as Christ called it, will be raised to a non-corruptible, immortal body which will physically be burning in the lake of fire for eternity. How can that thought not stir your heart to a more fervent need to evangelize the lost? John wrote of his vision in Revelation 20:11-14: “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” The phrase “stand before God” indicates that these are physical bodies being judged by God and physically cast into hell. Job spoke of this in Job 19:25-26 “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” However, popular preaching seems to imply that it is only the soul that will last forever.

How often has it been heard from a pulpit, “Receive Christ. Save your soul. Your body will perish but your soul can go to be with Jesus in heaven forever.” Rolland McCune properly stated, “Biblical immortality for human beings affects the body. Soul immortality is more Platonic than Pauline.”12)Rolland McCune Promise Unfulfilled: The Failed Strategy of Modern Evangelicalism, Ambassador International (Greenville, NC: 2004),p. 295 Here, “Platonic” is referring to the doctrines of the pagan philosopher Plato.  In Plato: “Death is frequently defined precisely in terms of the separation of soul and body, seen as something to be desirable.”13)N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God, vol. 3, Fortress Press (Minneapolis, MN: 2003), p. 49 This Platonic dichotomy contrasts the spirit as good and the body as evil, hence the pagan view was to discard the evil body for eternity for liberation, that is salvation being  soul immortality only. Many Christians think that the saved will be resurrected but the lost end up as some sort of etheric essence wafting around in the lake of fire. Hell has even become defined as separation from God (actually it is “death” which is being defined as separation and hell being the “second death” becomes eternal separation).14)This will be a topic to deal with in a separate article. To state is briefly, I do not believe it is biblically accurate to define “death” as “separation.” To do so causes many theological issues.

The most common verse sited to identify this doctrine of separation judgement for unrepentant sinners is 2 Thessalonians 1:9 – “Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary states, “Separation from the Lord’s presence (lit., ‘face’) is the essence of eternal punishment.”15)John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, Victor Books, 1987, p. 716  The interpretation of this verse hangs upon how the word “from” is to be understood. It could be understood as the punishment being “separation from” the presence of the Lord as Paul uses the word in 2 Thessalonians 3:2, 3, 6; or it could be understood as the punishment is “coming from” the presence of the Lord according to the use of the word in 2 Thessalonians 1:2, 7, 2:2, 13, 3:18. To accept the popular interpretation of this punishment being a “separation from” the presence of the Lord would cause a greater exegetical problem in light of Revelation 14:10 that clearly states that those suffering in hell are in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. “The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.”

Since resurrection is essential part of the gospel, any attempt to preach the gospel without the resurrection is not the gospel. The gospel consists of more than Christ dying as a penal substitution in our place so we do not have to be punished for our own sins. Christ rose from the tomb, conquering death, and His blood was shed for the purchase of eternal life in the flesh for all mankind. Leviticus 17:11-12 teaches, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. Therefore I said unto the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood.” Note the definition of “Soul” in this passage is identifying the whole individual. We do not normal think of a soul being able to eat, but this passage say “no soul shall eat blood.” In both Hebrew and Greek the word “soul” can and does often identify the whole being of man, including the body. Since we can see that the word soul in this passage is being used in the sense of the whole individual (the soul can eat physically) it is evident that Leviticus is teaching us that blood was given for the atonement of the whole individual—including the body.

Acts 20:28 states: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” It is God’s blood which is being acknowledge as having purchased us in this verse. It says God’s blood (indicating the divinity of Christ Who shed His blood on the cross for us) to emphasize that there is eternal value in this blood that purchases us. It is a transaction of eternal value purchasing eternal life for the flesh since “life of the flesh is in the blood.” Eternal valued blood shed to purchase eternal life in the flesh. 2 Peter 2:1 explains, “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” This verse is extremely problematic for Calvinists because it tells us that these false teachers who deny Christ were bought by Christ. This refutes “unconditional election” since the false teachers “deny the Lord” which would set a condition (cf. John 1:12). It refutes “limited atonement” since these false teachers will suffer “destruction” for their damnable heresies, however, it say the Lord bought them. It refutes “irresistible grace” since these false teachers are denying the Lord and not being irresistibly grace into salvation which Calvinism would demand since they are said to be bought. What the text is truly teaching is that the blood of Christ bought eternal life in the flesh for these false teachers who will be damned. Note also how that the doctrine of the blood atonement, which is intrinsically link to the resurrection, when applied practically dictates our diet and restricting us from consuming blood (see Acts 15:29).

The general resurrection is also emphatically applied to our sanctification. Paul spoke to the Thessalonians, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5). Sanctification is expressed as honoring your body being called a “vessel.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23 expresses the sanctification of the whole individual: “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is reflecting the thought that you will have a body for all eternity which should cause you to honor it with reverence and diligently protect it from defilement. We do not know what exactly the resurrection body will be like except for what Christ revealed in His resurrection. His body still bore the marks of His crucifixion. Will our bodies also continue perpetually with scars? Nowhere in the Bible does it say we will receive missing limbs back as is commonly taught. However, Jesus Christ did say, “And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire” (Matt. 18:9). Interestingly, “life” in the verse is contrasted to “hell fire” which is eternal—hence life is referring to eternal life (cf. Matt. 25:46). We must be cautious and not apply a hyper-literal interpretation to this passage as the doctrine of resurrection would forbid dismemberment of the body. However, it does appear to indicate this continuity of a maimed body in eternity. My purpose for researching the resurrection of Jesus Christ is to understand how it relates to our own resurrected bodies, in order to better determine the justifiable extent of a practical application of the general resurrection and how it should dictate how we live now.

Pagan authors wrote against the idea of resurrection and it reflected in the morality and disregard for purity of their bodies. Aeschylus: “But when the dust has drawn up the blood of a man, once he is dead, there is no return to life.”16)Aeschylus’ Eumenides: 647; http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0006%3Acard%3D640 N.T. Wright discussed how Plato’s doctrines, being profoundly impacting the pagan culture of thinking, was expressed in practical ways of the pagan life. Plato’s philosophy: “Applied to human beings, this obviously privileges the soul over the body, and encourages people to regard the nurture of the soul as more important than the pleasures and pains of bodily existence.”17)N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God, vol. 3, Fortress Press (Minneapolis, MN: 2003), p. 51 This ideology influencing Christian thinking was what produced the Catholic practice of Monasticism and Asceticism, where “mortify the body” is interpreted as actually abusing the body to the most extreme as if it would somehow help purify the soul. This thinking has also influenced Mysticism.

The extent to how this thinking is influence contemporary Christianity is also giving rise to a modern Gnosticism as I have warned would be the end time apostasy that gives rise to the antichrist18)see Heth Henning, “Antichrist will be Gnostic,” Feb. 14:2016; https://truthwatchers.com/antichrist-will-be-gnostic/ As I have argued, Gnosticism is the blending of Pagan doctrines with Christianity as the pagan mystery religions sought to infiltrate Christianity. Peter Jone wrote:

The two most renowned experts on Gnosticism are German scholars—Hans Jonas and Kurt Rudolf. Neither sees Gnosticism as Christian. For Jonas, Gnosticism is an example of “revived Eastern thought” brought to the West by Alexander the Great. When Oriental mysticism invaded the pragmatic West after  Alexander’s conquest, it brought a new dynamic of occult spirituality, creating a “prevalence for half a millennium of the Gnostics conception of religion,” supremely expressed in the so called “mystery cults.” we noted above that certain “Christian” Gnostics attended these cults.”19)Peter Jones, Stolen Identity, Victor (Colorado Springs, CO: 2006), p. 164

Josh McDowell explained, “With Christianity exploding onto the scene of the Roman Empire, it is evident that other religions adopted certain teachings or practices from Christianity in order to stem the tide of departing adherents or, perhaps, to attract Christians to their side.”20)Josh McDowell, The DaVinci Code: A Quest for Answers, Green Key Books, 2006, p. 38 N. T. Wright related, “These documents are attempting to retain a key Christian term while filling it with new content.”21)N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God, vol. 3, Fortress Press (Minneapolis, MN: 2003), p. 550 So the thought of resurrection became spiritualized, literally, in Gnosticism.

Exmples of this is seen in the Gospel of Thomas which claims Jesus as saying, “Jesus said, ‘I shall destroy [this] house, and no one will be able to build it [again].’”22)Gospel of Thomas, 71; The Nag Hammadi Scripture: The International Edition, edited by Marvin Meyer, Harper Collins (New York, NY: 2007), p. 149 This being a perversion of when Christ said He would destroy the temple and raise it again in three days which was interpreted as “But he spake of the temple of his body. When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said” (John 2:22-23). In the Gnostic text titled The Treatise on Resurrection (The Letter to Rheginus), the editors Introduction states: “This idea is related to another important theme in the text: spiritual existence is fundamentally the only real form of existence.”23)The Nag Hammadi Scripture: The International Edition, edited by Marvin Meyer, Harper Collins (New York, NY: 2007), p. 50 The text says: “He [Christ] arose and swallowed the visible through the invisible, and thus he granted us the way to our immortality.”24)The Treatise on Resurrection 45,23; The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The International Edition, edited by Marvin Meyer, Harper Collins (New York, NY: 2007), p. 53 Hence our “immortality” is “invisible” not physical as in a true resurrection. Again it says, “Rheginus, do not get lost in details, nor live according to the flesh for the sake of harmony. Flee from divisions and bonds, and then you already have resurrection.”25)The Treatise on Resurrection 49,9; The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The International Edition, edited by Marvin Meyer, Harper Collins (New York, NY: 2007), p. 55 This teaches that it was not the goal of Gnosticism to live harmoniously with the spirit and flesh. One is not expected to live a pure life in the flesh because it was all about purity in a spiritual sense. So within many Gnostic sects, the rituals immolated the pagan temple worship with temple prostitutes and all.

The way we think dictates the way we behave, and it is our theological positions that should dictate us as Christians in our behavior. Why are more Christians today involved with fornication, alcohol, tattoos, body piercings, cremation, and a multiple other ways that reveals an antinomian mentality and a disrespect for the body which will be raised in the end times? It becomes evident that pagan thinking has influenced Christianity more than we can realize or want to admit. This pagan thinking in Christian circles is the Gnostic revival of the end time’s apostasy that will give rise to the antichrist. We need to begin to think of the harmony of the material and immaterial essence of our being as it is taught in the Bible.




Heath Henning
Heath Henning
Heath heads the Set Free addictions ministry on Friday nights at Mukwonago Baptist Church and is involved in evangelism on the University of Wisconsin Whitewater campus, offering his expertise in apologetics at the weekly Set Free Bible Study every Tuesday evening. He currently lives in East Troy, Wisconsin with his wife and nine children. Read Heath Henning's Testimony

Related Articles

Other Featured Articles

Microchip implant to buy, sell, and trade

The New York Times reported, “At first blush, it sounds like the talk of a conspiracy theorist: a company implanting microchips under employees’ skin....

Mormonism: A Neo-Pagan Cult

Mormon Occult History

Beware of the New Prophets