There are a number of Scriptures which we would have liked to present our views upon in detail, but the lack of space forbids more of our own writings appearing here. We will, however, take the liberty of making a few observations and commenting briefly upon certain points not yet touched upon.
So far as we have been able to discover the word resurrection does not appear at all in the Old Testament. There are, nevertheless, portions of Scripture to be found there which some of the brethren interpret to mean that when this natural world comes to an end, the dust bodies of all the saints will be raised and reunited with their spirits and then go on to heaven, forever to be with the Lord. One of these Scriptures will be found in Job 19:25-27, which reads as follows: "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; whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me." Job has always been and will ever continue to be a great comfort to the Church of the true and living God, and he was here exhibiting a superb quality of that faith which is much needed by those who follow after righteousness here in this unfriendly world. As Abraham, by faith, received Isaac in a figure from the dead, so Job, by faith, declared his unshakable belief in the fact that he would see the hand of God in the land of the living, despite all that had occurred or might take place with him in the loss of all that he once possessed, or the terrible affliction which had been visited upon him and the turning of his wife and friends against him. He believed in the absolute sovereignty of God and that nothing, or all things combined in this world, could prevent the purposes of God concerning him from coming to pass. Those who will read the last chapter of Job will see that his faith was amply rewarded and that his latter days were far more wonderful with the blessings of God than his beginning. There have been times in our own life, when seemingly at least, the very powers of hell were arrayed against us, but faith was given to triumph over all our foes and then we were made to realize that all things were in the hands of our God and that he could make whatever obstacle confronted us melt away as the snowflake does in the midday sun. We could then say with Job that we knew that our Redeemer lived, and that nothing was impossible with or too hard for him.
In the thirty-seventh chapter of Ezekiel there is found recorded the vision of dry bones which God gave to his prophet concerning the whole house of Israel. Some brethren claim that this is a type of the resurrection on what they call the last day, but we prefer to understand it as portraying the church of God, including both Jew and Gentile, as it stands in nature. The Old Testament scriptures were prophetic of what would come to pass in the day of the Lord, or when the Messiah came, or as someone has well said, what is concealed in the Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament. It would be difficult to more forcefully illustrate the utter destitution of spiritual life in the natural creature than is set forth in the type of the valley of dry bones. It requires the same God to create a new creature in Christ that it did to make those bones live.
In Daniel 12:2 is written: "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." It is claimed by many that this refers to what will take place on what they call the General Resurrection Day. By reading the preceding verse, we believe, it will be clearly seen that this was vitally connected with the coming of our Lord into the world to set up and establish his kingdom. This Gospel Day is the last day, and the Lord is carrying on his various kinds of work all about us, and will continue to do so till the end of time here below. Spiritually speaking, members of Adam's race sleep in the dust of their nature until they are awakened by the voice of their God. The Jews slumbered and slept under the law until Jesus came, and then those whom he was pleased to make alive were awakened to the fact that God was manifesting himself in the flesh. Jesus said unto his disciples, "For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them." Mat. 13:17. But even his disciples who walked and talked with him while he was here in the flesh only understood him in part. Philip could not preach JESUS from the text: "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth," etc., until after Jesus arose from the dead and the spirit of understanding was poured out upon him. None but Jesus can open the book sealed with seven seals and give his people understanding today. It is his life that is the light of men, and unless he is pleased to reveal himself unto us we must forever remain in total darkness.
In John 5:25 Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live." Those who were dead were evidently in their graves; nevertheless, Jesus said they would hear the voice of the Son of God, and would live, or come forth as we understand out of their graves, and he said that that time was then present – "and now is." The word "grave" undoubtedly can mean something besides "an excavation in the earth for the burial of a dead body." We once heard one of our able ministers devote considerable time to explaining the different meanings of the word "world," and he well pointed out that it did not always mean the earth upon which we live. Therefore when Jesus said, "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 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," he did not necessarily imply that dust bodies would come up out of excavations in the ground on a single twenty-four day. Jesus nowhere mentions a General Resurrection Day. We seriously fear that some are still in the grave of tradition. The Apostle Paul said to the Ephesians, "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins," etc. If they were dead they were unquestionably in a grave of some kind. We believe they were buried in the grave of sin, but when they were quickened together with Christ they were brought forth in a new life, and when they possessed that new life, which is the life of Christ, there is a sense in which they never died. Jesus said to Martha, "I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." John 11:25-26. He did not mean that the natural body would not die, but he meant that the creature who inhabits this body, or tabernacle which Peter says must be put off, or this house which Paul says must be dissolved, shall never die. He illustrated this point elsewhere in presenting the parable of the corn of wheat which is put into the earth. The literal grain of wheat which is put into the ground rots and returns to the earth, as every experienced farmer well knows, but he also well knows that life arises, so to speak out of death, for it cannot be holden of death, and the form in which that life appears is not the form in which it was put into the earth; therefore that which comes forth is that which cannot or does not die. Some say if the identical body which goes into the grave does not come up out of the grave, there is no resurrection. Jesus did not say so, but on the contrary, through the parable of the corn of wheat, refutes that theory and confirms what Paul said in the fifteenth chapter of first Corinthians: (1) "That which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be," "but God giveth it a body as it has pleased him;" and (2) "It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body." When one says it is raised a body of flesh and bone, as we see it, he is saying just the opposite to what Jesus and Paul said, and we prefer to stand with them.
As will be seen by referring to the forty-second verse of the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians, Paul was talking about the "resurrection of the dead." Had it been proper for him to have used the expression "the resurrection of the body", he could just as well have done so, and the Holy Spirit would no doubt have moved him so to do, but he very definitely says, "So also is the resurrection of the dead," and he then goes on to say, "It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption; It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body." When Jesus appeared unto his apostles to convince them beyond the question of a doubt that it was he, and not another, who was risen from the dead, he also said to them, "A spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have." This was before he had ascended unto his Father. How then can any say that a spiritual body has flesh and bones! The Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul are the highest possible authorities on this matter and their testimony must stand as the final word, from which there can be no appeal.
It is also in this chapter that Paul says, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man m his own order: Christ the first-fruits: afterward they that are Christ's at his coming." Sometimes brethren quote this as a text, but strange as it may seem to us they not only avoid explaining the words, every man in his own order, but in the face of them they go on and emphasize that ALL are to be raised at the same time and on the same day. We are convinced that the Gospel Day in which we are now living is the last day and that during this day the Lord is carrying on all phases of his work: Sinners are being regenerated, quickened, made alive, suffering, dying and are resurrected, but every man in his own order. In addition to knowing, as we hope, something of the appearing of the Lord Jesus to his people here in the flesh, we are confidently expecting that when the time comes for us to quit the walks of men and go down in the valley of the shadow of death, we will not be left alone, for Jesus, the shepherd and bishop of our soul, will come to pilot us safely through death into that home which will be our eternal abode. Closely following the verses which we have just quoted it is said, "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." How can death be the last enemy that shall be destroyed if after death an important part of us is to be entombed as a prisoner in the grave until some far-distant and unknown time, which no one knows anything about. Under such conditions, it would seem that the grave and not death would be the last enemy to be destroyed. We prefer to accept the Scriptures at their face value, rather than avoid or omit any part of them, for we are persuaded that when they are employed as they were intended to be, consistency and harmony will be found to prevail throughout. It is only when we either misconstrue or misapply them that we run into difficulties, and there are so many passages which are contrary to the point of view held by some of the brethren that we can but feel they are mistaken so far as this point of doctrine is concerned.
Because we do not believe in the resurrection of a literal body of flesh and bones, we are sometimes accused of being a "non-resurrectionist" or a Sadducee. The Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection of any kind or thing, or to quote the Apostle Paul, "The Sadducees say there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: But the Pharisees confess both." Acts 23:8. In the sixth verse of this chapter Paul said, "I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question." If the resurrection of the literal body is as important as some of the brethren make it out to be, why did not Paul include it here in acknowledging that he agreed with the Pharisees in confessing their belief in the resurrection of "angel" and "spirit," and why did not Jesus, the head over all things to the church, or some one or more of his immediate disciples say something about it in some of their writings?
As we pen these lines there are beautiful dahlias and other flowers about us, and we recall that only a few months ago the dahlia bulbs were put into the ground. We are not now beholding the bulb, for that has decayed and returned to the earth, but we are beholding a new and different body, the grandeur of which it would be difficult to describe. It would be, indeed, mortifying and humiliating to the majestic oak to reduce it again to its original embryonic state, when it was in the small acorn. The wonder and grandeur of yonder world is utterly beyond the comprehension of mortal man as he is here in this state. Of a truth, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, and neither hath it entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him, but God reveals some knowledge of them here by his spirit. It is so wonderful that we are not capacitated here in this body to receive it; therefore Paul desired to be delivered from the body of this death.
We truly hope that our treatment of this subject, as well as other articles which we are publishing, will prove interesting, instructive and helpful to our readers. We have been forced to work by piece-meal, with many interruptions and often under trying conditions. As a result there will be mistakes and repetition, but a certain amount of repetition is sometimes needful in order to have matters of great importance indelibly impressed upon our minds. We have spent a great deal of time searching for articles in order to present both sides of this question in as fair a manner as possible, and we hope we have succeeded in large measure, at least. We honestly believe that the publication of this book is of Divine appointment and that it is according to the will of our God that it be sent forth to the brethren, or the household of faith, and we are very definitely persuaded that it will accomplish whatever purpose he has for it. If it be of man, we pray God that it will come to naught, but if it be of God we know that no power in earth, nor all earthly powers combined, will be able to overthrow it.
In conclusion, we would most earnestly commend to our readers and especially those who speak and write in a public way, the following admonition given to us by Elder H. H. Lefferts, which appeared in the March, 1943, issue of the Signs of the Times: "May you bear in mind that you are his (the Lord's) steward to whom you must render some day an account of that which he has committed unto you. Endeavor to preach and to write that which the Word of God teaches, that you may acquit your conscience in his sight. His approbation is all that his servants need. We must not seek to please men, not even to please our own brethren, but to "preach the word," to give the word its full significance, not merely to square ourselves with our own or other's preconceived notions. Until you and others of us do this, we shall not have reached our mature stature as servants of the true and living God."
R. LESTER DODSON
The Resurrection of the Dead
Pages 47 - 53