The Resurrection| Who are the dead ones?
By Holger W. Neubauer
I am very glad to share with our visitors a series of articles on the resurrection, by my friend Holger Neubauer. Needless to say, 1 Corinthians 15 is the foundational text of appeal by futurists who claim that the resurrection is yet future and is to be the raising of dead, decomposed human corpses out of the dirt. If 1 Corinthians 15 does not teach that kind of resurrection, then no text does, and Holger makes a strong case that the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 has nothing to do with the raising of human corpses. This is installment #1 of Holger’s study.
1 Corinthians 15, remains for some the sure teaching for a future resurrection in which the end of the planet will bring about a miraculous transformation of dead corpses and a physical change of those living at that time. We affirm that Paul intended no such doctrine. Much of the confusion which exists is driven away when we discover that the Corinthians were not denying resurrection for everyone, but for a distinct class of those who were dead. This truth becomes apparent when noticing the arguments that Paul utilized in refuting the Corinthians’ claim that there was no resurrection of the dead ones (1 Corinthians 15:12).
The traditional interpretation of this passage has the Corinthians denying the resurrection of every dead person. But if that was the case those Corinthians would not have been Christians at all and the argument that Paul sets forth would have had no persuasive power. Besides this, Paul stated in clear terms, that those who denied the resurrection of the dead believed in the resurrection of Christ! Notice please, Paul’s statement, “Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed” (1 Corinthians 15:11). Therefore, the Corinthians could not have been denying the resurrection of all the dead, for then they would have denied Jesus’ own resurrection, but Paul affirmed they believed in Jesus’ resurrection!
Let’s take a detailed look at the chapter. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-10 we have the fact of the resurrection of Christ, Paul being an eyewitness himself. The miracle of the resurrection was no different than all the miracles of Christ in that its purpose was to produce faith (John 20:30,31). No one would assume because Jesus walked on the water we will all one day walk on the water. Neither was the purpose of Jesus’ resurrection for the purpose of proving everyone will be raised in a physical body. Paul would affirm, “it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:44).
The Resurrection and the Resurrection of Jesus
The purpose of the resurrection was to demonstrate that Christ conquered the grave, but the nature of the resurrection will not be revealed until later in the chapter. Jesus rose with a physical body that still contained wounds from his passion (John 20:27). His glorious body would not be assumed until His ascension. Therefore, the resurrection of Christ was not for the purpose of demonstrating what kind of physical body we will be resurrected with, but rather to prove that Christ had conquered the realm of the dead. Paul’s argument will begin with the fact that the Gospel he delivered was “received” by the Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 15:1,2 begins, “Moreover brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye received, and wherein ye stand; By which ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you unless ye have believed in vain.” Paul first affirmed that the Corinthians had “received” the teaching about the Gospel and consequently the resurrection of Christ. This again is proof that the general resurrection of the dead was not being denied by the Corinthians.
Paul next affirmed what the Old Testament scriptures had taught, that “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3). The vicarious death of Christ for “our sins” is an allusion to Isaiah 53:5 which says, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities.” Isaiah went on to say, “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin” (Isaiah 53:10). God would require the “soul” of Jesus as the payment for sin because soul death or spiritual death is the penalty for sin. The same prophet said, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you” (Isaiah 59:2). Paul’s statement in Romans 6:23 reiterates this truth, “the wages of sin is death.” The law demanded “…thou shalt give life for life, an eye for eye, a tooth for tooth…” (Exodus 21:23,24). God demanded the exact payment for sin, for he demanded “life for life.” Since spiritual death is the penalty of sin, Jesus must have died spiritually. If cancer is the penalty of sin then Jesus would have had to experience cancer to pay the exact penalty. Jesus paid the penalty for sin, for “He hath made him to be sin for us” ( 2 Corinthians 5:21). That Jesus died spiritually is made absolutely clear in the statement, “if one died for all, then were all dead” (2 Corinthians 5:14). All were dead because “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23). The topic is not physical death but spiritual death. The death that Jesus died was for our sins. Sin is spiritual in nature, therefore the death that Jesus died must have been spiritual in nature as well.
Though Jesus died physically, the true significance of Jesus’ death was to forgive sin. The physical resurrection demonstrated that there was life beyond the grave but the true significance of the resurrection of Jesus was that He conquered Hades. Hades was the place of all departed souls and it was Jesus who would “ransom them from the power of the grave” (Hosea 13:14). In order for Jesus to build his church and restore relationship with God’s people He had to overcome Hades. This is exactly what Jesus promised when He said, “I will build my church and the gates of Hell (Hades) shall not prevail against it”(Matthew 16:18). Jesus overcame Hades and was the only one to prevail against it because he did not return to Hades but returned to the Father (Acts 1:9-11). Once Jesus was raised, He then, “was no more to return to corruption” (Acts 13:34). This victory over the grave gave Jesus the right to say, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and death” (Revelation 1:18). The Great Revelation theme is the second coming of Christ and He was coming with the keys to unlock the realm that the grim tyrant of death and Hades held upon God’s creation. The word hell is the Greek “hades.” Jesus possessed the keys to Hades because He was the only one that had overcome it.
Paul continues his argument and states that Jesus was both buried and raised again the third day “according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4). These were the Old Testament scriptures, for the New had not yet been completed. But what text does Paul quote from? The only text which mentions being raised on the third day is Hosea 6:1,2 which says, “Come let us return unto the Lord; for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten , and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us; in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.” Hosea speaks of Old Covenant Israel and their relationship with God that was to be restored. The phrases, “he hath torn” and “he hath smitten” refers to relationship with God that was lost. Paul would quote from Hosea again later in this chapter affirming the same point, that the resurrection of Christ was to restore relationship with His people (Hosea 13:14; 1 Corinthians 15:54). The resurrection of Christ signified the promise that Old Covenant Israel would be raised. The reason that Paul quotes from Hosea is because some at Corinth were denying that very thing; the resurrection of Old Testament Jews. This will be seen as we proceed.
For an extended study of the resurrection see Don K. Preston’s We Shall Meet Him In The Air, the Wedding of the King of kings. It will be of great assistance in understanding the resurrection.