The question of the physical bodily resurrection is an important one to resolve. The first century controversy over the resurrection, at least generally, is well documented. There was the sect called the Sadducees who said there was no resurrection8 which apparently had even found its way into the first century church. In his letter to the young church of Corinth, Paul says, “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:12)

Still others were “saying that the resurrection has already happened” but Scripture confirms that they had “swerved from the truth” and were “upsetting the faith of some.” (2 Timothy 2:18) In fact, there are those today that make that same claim by arguing that there is no physical bodily resurrection. Preterism, or realized eschatology, is an approach to biblical eschatology that teaches Christ’s second coming occurred in the first century AD. In order to hold this position, they are forced to conclude that there is no physical bodily resurrection, claiming instead that it was a spiritual resurrection.

How Scripture answers "Will there be a physical bodily resurrection?"

There will be a physical bodily resurrection1,3,4,8,9,11,12,13,14, just as Jesus had a physical bodily resurrection2,6,10. This second resurrection5 of those who are “in Christ”9,11,13 is a “resurrection of/from the dead”8,11 who are in graves5,13. These will join Jesus2 along with the righteous living at that time9. This will happen on the final day of judgment1,3,5,9 (or “last day”7). The physical bodily resurrection is effectively “what happens next in the Bible”….it has not happened yet!

What’s the big deal? Holding the Preterist’s view that a ‘spiritual-only’ resurrection has already happened bears only one result. The Preterist must be labeled as a false teacher, since as Paul said, preterits “swerves from the truth…upsetting the faith of some” (2 Timothy 2:16-18). It “swerves from the truth” because, among other things, it directly contradicts scripture’s image of a person’s baptism into Christ with Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:1-12).

Answer built on scripture-blocks below

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

Pay attention! I [Paul] am telling you a mystery. We shall not all die, but we all will be changed in an instant at the last trumpet.  For when the trumpet sounds, the dead will become alive and changed forever.

Paul is making his great defense of the resurrection of Christ.  Some were denying the bodily resurrection from the dead (vss 12-19) which Paul refutes based on the fact that Jesus was raised in the body to live again.

Scripture-block application to this question

Paul states that we all (the physically dead and living) will be “raised” (resurrected) and “changed” at the “last trumpet”.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

The importance of understanding our resurrection and its nature is prefaced by and connected to “the gospel” Paul preached and us not believing “in vain” (vss 1-2). Furthermore, the entire chapter is clearly contemplating a physical bodily resurrection throughout given Paul’s argument:

  1. starts with affirming Jesus’ own physical bodily resurrection (vss 12-19),
  2. compares Adam’s physical bodily death (“fallen asleep”) with ours (vss 20-23) and contrasts with Jesus’ physical bodily resurrection,
  3. affirms the “last enemy” which is physical bodily death (vs 26).
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

If we have been united with Him in a death like His, then we will certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.

Paul is making the broader point of the richness and fullness of God’s grace toward sinful man (chap 5) before turning to man’s response (and responsibility) for salvation.  He states the absurdity of continuing “in sin” (vs 1) because they killed off their old self through baptism (vs 3).
Scripture-block application to this question

Our resurrection will be like Jesus’6.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we await our Savior, Jesus Christ, who will change our physical bodies to be like His glorious body with the same power that allows Him to subject all things to Himself. Because of this brethren – you who I love and long for and are my joy and crown – stand firm in Christ.

Paul is urging them to “rejoice in the Lord” (vs 1) in spite of the false teachers among them.  He has just expressed his own striving to attain “the resurrection from the dead” (vs 11).  This is what he has “not yet obtained” (vs 12) but continues to “press on toward.”

Scripture-block application to this question

Our “lowly” (e.g. physical) bodies will be changed into a “glorious body” upon the Savior’s return1.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
So we don’t grow weary.  Even though our physical bodies are dying, our inner person is renewed each day. Our affliction is for just a moment and it prepares us for the eternal glory without comparison, as long as we keep our eyes on the spiritual and not the physical. The things physical are passing, but the things spiritual are eternal.

Paul is extolling the great virtues of God’s word, wanting to encourage the saints in Corinth to “not lose heart” (vs 1) by reminding them of the danger of becoming “blinded” by worldliness.  He encourages them by contrasting their current physical state, illustrated as “jars of clay” (vs 7) and a “tent” (5:2) with their future resurrection (vs 14).

Scripture-block application to this question

The physical, outer man (that is dying) is contrasted with an “inner self” or person that is being renewed each day until an “eternal weight of glory” is put on.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

The renewal of our “inner self” happens when “he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us…into his presence” (vs 14). Furthermore, Paul continues his argument into chapter 5 where he notes that our “tent” will be “further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”1

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
I [Jesus] tell you a fact, that whoever hears My word and obeys God’s word will have eternal life. He won’t be condemned, but pass from death to life. Truly, it is here now, when the dead hear the voice of the Son of God and upon hearing will live.
Jesus is in Jerusalem and healing on the Sabbath day and stating that He was the son of God. “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” (vs 18)
Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus’ two “truth” statements say the same thing and describe the spiritual resurrection (e.g. the first resurrection) that takes place when one hears and obeys His word. It was present then.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

This spiritual resurrection is followed by (vss 28-29 where “the hour is coming”) the physical bodily resurrection (“all who are in the graves”) described taking place at the final judgment.

“Look at my hands and my feet; it’s me! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones like you see I have.”
Touch me and observe my hands and feet.  It is me in flesh and bones.  I am not a ghost.

Luke’s account of Jesus’ life after his bodily resurrection.

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus rose physically; He was flesh and bones.

Jesus said to her, Your brother will rise again. Martha said to him, I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day. Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this? She said to him, Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.

Jesus told Martha that her brother, Lazarus, would rise again. Martha confessed her faith that he would indeed be resurrected again on the last day. Jesus proclaimed that He is the resurrection and the life and that whoever believes in Him, even though he dies physically, he will live again never to die. He asked Martha if she believed this and she said, “Yes, Lord. I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Mary and Martha had sent for Jesus because their brother Lazarus was ill (vs 3). However, He did not come immediately (vs 6), waiting and foretelling that Lazarus had now in fact died (vs 11) in order that His raising him might glorify God (vs 4, 42).
Scripture-block application to this question

Lazarus has physically died. After Jesus asks if he would rise again, Martha confesses her belief in his physical resurrection “on the last day.” Jesus doesn’t correct here and further affirms two different types of deaths, and that those spiritually alive can still physically die.

Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial. 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, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.

When Paul realized that his audience consisted of both Pharisees and Sadducees, he exclaimed to the council that he was a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee, and that it was with respect to his belief and expectation of the resurrection of the dead that he was on trial. Having said this he divided his audience, arguing amongst themselves, since the Sadducees didn’t believe in resurrection, or angels, or spirits, while the Pharisees believed in all of these.

Upon returning to Jerusalem from his third missionary journey, Paul has been arrested by the Romans based on charges levied by the Jews of the city (21:27-36 and 23:12-15). He will ultimately end up in Rome to plead his case before the Emperor (chapters 27-28). Leading up to that he would give a defense before Felix, the governor of Judea (chapters 23-24), Felix who replaced him (chapter 25), and King Agrippa (chapter 26).

Scripture-block application to this question

Paul leveraged the fact that the Sadducees did not believe in a physical bodily resurrection by stating that was what his hope rested in. He was aligning himself with the Pharisees in their shared understanding about the resurrection (physical bodily). It’s not reasonable to conclude from this that the Pharisees believed that the resurrection was only to be of a spiritual nature (as a Preterist would be forced to conclude).

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
Jesus will descend from heaven with an announcement from heaven.  Rising to meet Him in the air (“in the clouds”) will first be those already dead, then those who are alive.

Paul is giving instruction about the second coming of Jesus.  Apparently, there were some there were confused about brethren who had “fallen asleep” or died (vs 13). They were brethren because they died “in Jesus” (vs 14). He confirms that all believers – dead and alive – will meet Him and in the preceding verse, “For we tell you this by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not go ahead of those who have fallen asleep” (vs 15).

Scripture-block application to this question

At the “trumpet of God” (or, “last trumpet”1), the dead that are “in Christ” will rise first (has to mean the physically dead since the spiritually dead are not “in Christ”). Then, those Christians who are living will be taken up with the physically bodily resurrected to meet the Lord in the air.

And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?

And now I [Paul] am on trial because of God’s promise that He made to our fathers, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain as they worship day and night. It is for this hope I’m accused by the Jews, O king [Agrippa]! Why do any of you think it’s incredible that God raises the dead?

Upon returning to Jerusalem from his third missionary journey, Paul has been arrested by the Romans based on charges levied by the Jews of the city (21:27-36 and 23:12-15). He will ultimately end up in Rome to plead his case before the Emperor (chapters 27-28). Leading up to that he would give a defense before Felix, the governor of Judea (chapters 23-24), Felix who replaced him (chapter 25), and King Agrippa (chapter 26).

Also told by Luke in Acts (9:1-19) and the first time by Paul before the Jewish crowd (22:3-16).

Scripture-block application to this question

Paul once again8 connects his “hope” with the fact “that God raises the dead”.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Built upon this fundamental hope (e.g. physical bodily resurrection) is the receiving of forgiveness of sins and a shared inheritance (vs 18). Paul also again connects and confirms Jesus’ own physical bodily resurrection as the first1 (vs 23), implying that others follow like His.

And Jesus said to them, The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.

Jesus responded to them [the Sadducees] that while people in this age marry, those worthy to attain the age of the resurrection of the dead – or, sons of the resurrection – do not marry, nor can they die again since they are equal to angels and are sons of God.

It is Jesus’ final week and He is teaching in the temple. “Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection,” (vs 27) have asked Him what they expect is probably a riddle. The situation is that a woman who’s husband dies, is subsequently taken by his brother (seven times over) — all according to Mosaic law. Their question is who’s husband would she be in the resurrection (vs 33)?

This account is also given in Matthew 22:23-33 and Mark 12:18-27.

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus’ answer is about the absence of marriage after the resurrection and ignores any correction that the resurrection isn’t physically bodily. In other words, He does not say that the resurrection is only of a spiritual nature. Importantly, Jesus also states that those worthy of “the resurrection from the dead…cannot die anymore.” Therefore, those worthy of this resurrection cannot fall away.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Fully appreciating Jesus’ response to the Sadducees for this question requires us to remember that not only did the Sadducees not believe in the resurrection, but they also did not believe in spirits8. Therefore, Jesus’ example of the very [physically] dead patriarchs “living” (vs 38), but still subject to being “raised” (vs 37), is quite damning for the Preterist view.

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

We understand that all of creation struggles and suffers together in the present. Likewise, we also, who have the Holy Spirit and its fruits, struggle in our bodies while we wait to be adopted as sons when our bodies are redeemed.

Paul is emphasizing the Christian’s relationship to the Holy Spirit throughout the entire chapter for those that are “in Christ Jesus” (vs 1). Contrasting with the flesh, some of the points made about this relationship include:

  • the law of the life-giving Spirit set us free,
  • we are to walk according to the Spirit,
  • outlook should be shaped by the Spirit — an outlook that is life and peace and submitting to the law of God,
  • made alive by the Spirit living in us,
  • those led by the Spirit are sons of God.
Scripture-block application to this question

Paul expresses that Christians are awaiting “the redemption of our bodies,” much like he does to the Corinthians4.

The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
Tombs were opened and many of the saints that had died had their bodies raised. They emerged from their tombs after Jesus’ own resurrection and entered Jerusalem, appearing to many.

Matthew’s account of the events surrounding Jesus’ death on the cross. He jumps ahead a little here and is the only gospel writer to record this detail that occurred after Jesus’ resurrection.

Scripture-block application to this question

Saints’ bodies were physically resurrected – mentioned together with the other miracles occurring during the crucifixion of Jesus – but happening when Christ Himself had resurrected.

Then you will begin to say, “We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.” But he will say, “I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!” In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out.

Then you will plead about having been with me [Jesus] and teaching about me. But He [the Father] will tell you to depart from His presence, that He doesn’t even know you, and that you are evildoers. You will be cast into Hell where there will be great mourning at seeing your faithful forefathers in the kingdom of God.

In the midst of Jesus’ public ministry, teaching parables and being challenged by the Pharisees – considered the religious elite of the day.

Scripture-block application to this question

Those who are condemned to “that place” will be able to bodily recognize “Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets” who are themselves in the kingdom of God.

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