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THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD

In presenting our views on this subject, as in all other of our writings, we desire to adhere strictly to what is taught in the Scriptures. The Apostle Paul realized that a great mystery enshrouded the Resurrection of the Dead; therefore, we hear him saying, "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended," Phil. 3:13. Evidently he meant by this that he did not fully understand all that there was to know about it, and we would do well in this day and time to follow his example, as well as to give earnest heed to his admonition concerning this matter. In the second verse of this same chapter, he says, "Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision." The great apostle is here warning against those who fight, who would stir up strife among the brethren on this issue, or cut off those whose views do not coincide with their own. Paul urged his brethren to "mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)" Phil. 3:17-19. He then says, "For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself." Phil. 3:20-21. If our vile body has to be changed in order to be fashioned like unto his glorious body, it is quite evident that in the resurrection it will not be as it is now. There is abundant scriptural evidence to show that there will be a change. Consider for instance 1st Cor. 15:44, 46 and 49: (1) "It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body." (2) "Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual." (3) "And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly."

While we affirm most emphatically that Christ arose from the dead and that the identical body which went into the tomb was the same body which came out of the tomb, we do not understand that that body is anywhere in the Scriptures declared to be "his glorious body". On the contrary, the record is that that body was especially prepared for him here in this world: witnesseth, "wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God." From the record, again, we read: "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of his people." Heb. 2:14-17. It was absolutely necessary for the Savior to come to where his people were - in the flesh - in their lost and ruined condition, in order that he might deliver them. It is written, "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Rom. 8:3-4. John says, "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." John 1:14. Paul said, "It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins," so Jesus came, as it was written of him, to do the will of God, "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Heb. 10:10. It was, therefore, of the utmost importance that he should demonstrate beyond the shadow of a doubt that he not only had power to lay down his life, but most of all that he had power to take it up again. He had said to the Jews, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up," and in order to verify his word, which could not possibly fail, whereby he was to put to open shame Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Roman soldiers, and all others who took part in crucifying him with wicked hands, it was absolutely necessary that the identical temple, or body, in which he had appeared before them here in this world should be the one to come forth from the tomb victorious on the third day, otherwise there might have been some semblance of truth in the false reports which they circulated by saying, "His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept." Mat. 28:13. There were many infallible, or unmistakable proofs, which could not be gainsaid, of the fact that Jesus actually arose from the dead. He was seen by many of his disciples, by Cephas, then the twelve; after that he was seen of above five hundred at one time. These things we verily believe with all of our heart and soul. The Scripture must needs have been fulfilled which had declared, "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." This is the very essence of our faith, or the foundation upon which it rests, and without it all would be vain and we would yet be in our sins. And, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable."

There are some, however, who claim that Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high in a body of flesh, blood and bones, and that in the resurrection the bodies of the saints will be the same as we see them now; therefore, it is claimed, we will recognize each other in heaven. We have not yet found any scriptural authority to support such an idea, and until we do we shall refuse to accept it. If not dreadfully mistaken, we have beheld him, by faith, the same as the prophet Isaiah did. He asked, "Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, traveling in the greatness of his strength?" The one answer is, "I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save." We understand that "Edom" means earthy, or fleshly, and so Paul comes along and says, "Though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more." He then goes on to say, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." 2nd Cor. 5:16-17. When Jesus had finished the work assigned to him by his Father here in this world, he himself prayed, saying, "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." John 17:5. The glory which he had with the Father before the world was did not consist of a body of flesh, blood and bone, for that was not assumed until he came into the world. John declares that "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." John 4:24. In the very outset of John's record he says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, the same was in the beginning with God." If God is a Spirit and the Word in the beginning was God, then the Word was Spirit, and if God heard his prayer, and he said, "The Father heareth me always," he must have glorified him with the same glory which he had with the Father before the world was. We must conclude, therefore, that he is now with the Father and that they both are spiritual. Paul could very properly write to his Corinthian brethren then, as follows: "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption." 1st Cor. 15:50. We have no less an authority than our Lord himself for saying, in substance, that earthly relationships cease in the resurrection. When the Sadducees came to him with the case of the woman who had had seven husbands, and asked whose wife she would be in the resurrection, he reproved them by saying, "Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." Mat. 22:29-32. Shall we question the fact of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob being alive with God in heaven today, and can anyone even attempt to describe the kind of body possessed by the angels of God? John could not describe the bodies to be possessed by the saints in glory, and we feel it would be wise for ordinary men not to undertake that which John could not do. He said, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth no yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." 1st John 3:2. By way of emphasizing these words, let us repeat them: It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him: for we shall see him as he IS - not as he was when he was here in the flesh. If Jesus is now as he was when he was here in the world, and we are to be like him, it would appear what we shall be, but this is contrary to what John says about the matter. It would seem to us that it should be sufficient for every saint to be assured of being like Jesus. The Psalmist said, "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness." Psalm 17:15. But Paul said, "Some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?" He answers his own question by saying, "Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare (or natural) grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: but God giveth it a body as it has pleased him." 1st Cor. 15:35-38. In this connection, the same apostle wrote, "Behold, I show 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ; Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know your labor is not in vain in the Lord." 1st Cor. 15:51-58.

So far as we are concerned, no better illustration of this glorious mystery (and it is a mystery, regardless of what any man may say about it) can be found anywhere in the Bible than that given by Jesus, who said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." John 12:24. Do we not see typified here the very change which the apostle has been setting forth as that which is wrought in the grain of corn when it is put into the ground and comes forth anew? The grain of corn is composed of two parts, representing the two bodies - the natural and the spiritual; one sees corruption and returns to the earth from whence it came, but that which cannot be holden of death appears in a more glorified state. It does not by any means, however, lose its identity. It is corn when it is planted and it is still corn when it comes up even though it has a different body given to it. We verily believe that the creature who is known here in this life by his brethren and friends as LESTER DODSON, if indeed he be a subject of divine grace, will beyond all peradventure of a doubt be the one to sing praises eternally to God in that world which is beyond this vale of tears, but he will then be bearing the image of the heavenly, and not the image of the earthy. Peter said, "Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me." Paul said, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor: yet what I shall choose I wot not, For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better; Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you." Phil. 1:21-24. After relating at some length to the church at Rome the corruptness of the flesh, he says, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" He evidently expected to be delivered from it, and by giving thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord he tells us how this deliverance is to be brought about. Then, in writing to the Corinthians, he said: "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were' dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight;) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." 2nd Cor. 5:1-8.

The Scriptures all harmonize with each other, and there is not a single solitary Scripture in all of the Bible, when it is properly understood, that is not in full accord with the foregoing quotations. To literalize and physicalize the resurrection, in our humble opinion not only does not harmonize with the Scriptures, but belittles and detracts from the resurrection itself. It was a great condescension for our Lord to forsake the glory which he had with the Father before the world was and assume a life of humiliation, which subjected him to ignomy and shame, but it will be the GLORIFICATION of his people for them to appear in his likeness and be with him in glory.

Let us earnestly urge those who prefer to take the word of God as the man of their counsel, rather than accept the traditions of uninspired men, to diligently read their Bibles. Surely a matter as important as this one is to the Church was not overlooked or neglected by the Great Head of the Church and his immediate disciples, who both laid the foundation and builded thereupon. Both Jesus and his disciples frequently used the expression "the resurrection of the dead," but neither he nor they made use, at any time or place, of such expressions as "the resurrection of the dead bodies of the saints," "the resurrection of bodies of flesh and bone," or even "the resurrection of the body." Nor do we find any such expressions by any of them as his raising up dust bodies on the General Resurrection Day and reuniting them with the Spirit. On the contrary, they said something entirely different, according to our way of thinking. Jesus said, in the resurrection they shall be "as the angels of God in heaven." Paul says (Heb. 2: 16) "Verily he (Jesus) took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham." We see here that the nature of the angels of God in heaven is not the same as the seed of Abraham here on earth, and since Jesus says in the resurrection they shall be as the angels of God in heaven, it is definitely certain that they will not be as the seed of Abraham, which possesses an earthly nature, consisting of flesh, blood and bone. This should settle the matter for all time to those who prefer to accept what Jesus and Paul says rather than what any mere man may say. He gave another illustration which is more common and more readily understood by earthly creatures by citing what takes place when a corn of wheat is put into the earth. Very little is said by some who like to quote from 1st Cor. 15th chapter, about that portion of Paul's testimony where he said, "thou sowest not that body that shall be." He follows that up by saying, "But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him." Later on he says, "It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body." It should be noted that the apostle says "there is a spiritual body," and not that there will be a spiritual body. Elsewhere we are quoting the words of Jesus to show that a spirit hath not flesh and bones. If the natural and the spiritual are the same of what need would there be for the apostle to distinguish between them? They are separate and distinct, suited for separate worlds entirely, and Paul makes a very definite statement in 2nd Cor. 5:16 where he says, "though we have known Christ after the flesh (here in this world), yet now henceforth know we him no more." John says, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." 1st John 3:2. This should suffice us, without quibbling over the matter. We are reminded here of what Joshua said to Israel: "If it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood (before regeneration), or the gods of the Amorites in whose land ye dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." If the unregenerate religious world is correct in their version of the resurrection, important as this matter is, may they not also be right about the rest? Years ago, we recall talking with the late Elder John McConnell, former pastor of the Ebenezer Church in New York City about having listened to some Minister speak what we felt certain was the truth, and we were somewhat puzzled to understand how he could preach what he did and remain where he was. Elder McConnell said while he may have spoken the truth to us he doubted that it was the truth to him. It was like God commanding the raven to feed the prophet. He did not feed the prophet with raven's food, but with bread and fish, which was what God had for his servant, and neither did the raven feed upon the prophet's food. Jesus said to the Jews which believed on him, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Anyone can quote the Scriptures of eternal truth, but they are TRUTH only to those who are given to receive and understand them. We should be very careful about accepting a doctrine believed by worldly men, rather than clutch it to our bosom as gospel truth. We like to believe that the vast majority of those who have been called to follow in the footsteps of our Lord, sincerely desire to conform to the pattern laid down by Jesus and the Apostles. The Good Book is a model and it should not be emasculated, and neither should expressions be attributed to it which it does not contain. The prophet Isaiah said, "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."

One was asked how he arrived at a certain interpretation of a particular Scripture. He replied, "according to the rule of Greek Grammar." Another says in substance, "There is no mystery about the resurrection; it can all be explained by the use of the Dictionary." Still another says in effect, he will make certain of explaining the mystery by going to the root of the various English words which are to be found in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, etc. If the Lord's people are going to be dependent upon any such methods as these for a proper interpretation of the Scriptures, they are in a most pitiable condition. We are persuaded that such is not the case, but instead God will reveal to them whatever is necessary for them to know.

Before concluding this part of our treatise, we wish to revert to Phil. 3:13. After Paul said, "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended," he went on to say, "but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." If we correctly understand him, he meant to tell us that he had turned his back upon the things which he formerly believed in and practiced. Having part with Christ who was the first fruits of them who were to arise from the death and condemnation of the law, he saw the legal dispensation at an end; he was in a new world and was contemplating to some extent, at least, the things which pertain to the kingdom of our God. If we have been delivered from the powers of darkness and brought into the marvelous light of the gospel of his blessed Son we, too, should forget the things which are behind, which we clung to in our unregenerate state, and press toward the mark for the prize of our high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

R. Lester Dodson
The Resurrection of the Dead
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