The New Zealand Evangelist
The Resurrection Of The Body
The Resurrection Of The Body.
Direct proof,—From Scripture.
The light of reason goes far to establish the immortality of the soul. The nature, the powers, the workings, and the aspirations of the living principle within us are such, that a belief, more or less distinct, of its immortality has, in every age of the world, been co-extensive with the human race. Scripture has cleared up and confirmed, rather than revealed, the doctrine of the soul's immortality. It is not so with the doctrine of the resurrection of the body. The light of nature could not penetrate the darkness of the grave, nor illuminate the gloomy recesses of the tomb. It was a doctrine of which philosophy never dreamed. Hence, when Paul entered the Forum at Athens, and propounded this doctrine to the learned followers of Zeno and Epicurus, by one class, his doctrine was regarded as nonsense and himself a babbler, and by another class, his doctrine was regarded as heresy, and the very word Resurrection was mistaken for the name of a foreign deity. Among the grave and learned judges of Areopagus—the Supreme Court at Athens—his reception was little better. While he discoursed of the deity, of the origin of man, of idolatry, and of the last judgment, he was listened to with patience and respect; but when he came to speak of the resurrection of the dead, it was too much for the gravity even of judges; it appeared so absurd, that a part of them treated it with derision; while the more polite treated the speaker page 41 with cold civility, and to get easily quit of such a subject, promised, in words of course, to hear him again of this matter. Among the most learned of the Romans this doctrine was regarded in the same light. When Paul spoke in the audience of the Roman Governor, and delivered a speech replete with the words of truth and soberness, his commanding eloquence secured him a respectful hearing; but, by his repeated allusions to the resurrection of the dead, Festus came to regard him as a raving madman, whose head was turned, and whose mind was unhinged by the influence of misdirected learning.
But if the light of nature upon this subject is dim, glimmering, and obscure, the light of scripture is clear, steady, and remarkably distinct.
It is a doctrine expressly declared in scripture,—“The hour is coming in which all that are in their graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth,” &c.—(John v, 28, 29.) “The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised,” &c.— (1 Cor. xv. 52.) “The dead in Christ shall rise first,” &c.—(1 Thes., iv. 16.)
It is a doctrine that has been always held by the church. It was believed in by the Antediluvians.—Our records of their faith, as well as of their history, are very scanty; but Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “The Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints to execute judgment upon all,” &c, (Jude, 14, 15.) This refers more to the general judgment than the resurrection; but when taken in connexion with the translation of Enoch, and the current language of scripture, there can be no doubt that the Antediluvians believed in the resurrection of the dead. It was believed in by the Patriarchs. When Abraham was called to offer up Isaac, “he believed God who quickeneththe dead,” “Accounting that God was able to raise up Isaac from the dead, from whence also he received him in a figure.” (Rom. iv, 17.—Heb. xi. 19.) Job held this doctrine. Passing over other passages; in one of page 42 those clear and lucid intervals, when his faith rose triumphant over the temptations to despondency, arising from his unprecedented afflictions, he uttered these memorable words, “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,” &c—(Ec. xix, 25, 27.) To explain this away, as referring to his returning temporal prosperity, and not to the general resurrection, is to outrage every principle of sacred criticism. Moses believed in this doctrine. The soundest and surest of his commentators, the prophet that arose from among his brethren like to him, confated the sceptics of his day, and confirmed the faith of his followers, by an appeal to the writings of Moses. “Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he called the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob; for he is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”—(Luke, xx, 37, 38.) He was the God of their persons; their souls were alive, their bodies simply asleep, and under certain assurance of awakening. It was believed by the Jews. This doctrine is implied in the language which they employed in speaking of death; they spoke of it as a sleep, sleeping with their fathers, &c, but sleeping implies an expectation of awakening afterwards. We pass over what is said by David, Isaiah, Hosea, and others, and come to the very clear declaration of Daniel, (c. xii, 2, 3.)—“Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,” &c. Had this doctrine not been universally believed by the Jews, the prophet Ezekiel would never have illustrated the return of the captives from Babylon, and the revival of their national existence and institutions in their own land, by the resurrection of the dry bones in the valley of vision. Had this doctrine not been believed and understood, the illustration would have been far more incomprehensible than the subject illustrated. It is true that the Sadduces, in the latter period of the Jewish history, page 43 by rejecting the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, necessarily rejected the doctrine of the resurrection also; but they were never a numerous sect, and this doctrine was held by the Pharisees and the body of the people. Speaking of the pharisees Paul says, “They themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and of the unjust. (Acts, xxiv, 15.) Martha may be regarded as a fair type of the common people, and her sentiments a fair specimen of the common belief.—When Jesus said to her, “Thy brother shall rise again,” (John, x, 23,) she evidently understood this, not of his being raised that day by the power of Jesus, but of the general resurrection; for she said, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection, at the last day.” It was a doctrine repeatedly taught by our Lord and his apostles; and as the Scriptures are every where full of it, the sacred Canon appropriately concludes with a description of the resurrection, the day of judgment, and the scenes that shall follow. “I saw,” says the favoured disciple, “the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened. 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 his works.” (Rev. xx, 12, 13.)
This doctrine is illustrated and confirmed by facts. —Dead bodies have been raised to life:—three instances are recorded in the Old Testament.—The widow's son of Zarephath by Elijah, (1 Kings xvii, 22.) — the Shunemite's son by Elisha, (2 Kings iv, 35.) — and the man cast into the sepulchure of Elisha, (2 Kings xiii, 21.) Three are recorded in the New, as raised by our Saviour:—the daughter of Jairus, (Mark v, 41.)—the widow's son of Nain, (Luke vii, 11.)—and Lazarus, (John xi, 39.)—The case of Dorcas by Peter, and of Eutychus by Paul, (Acts ix, 40.-xx, 12.) Had there been only one instance, or had they been similar, they might have been regarded as cases of suspended animation. But the circumstance. page 44 were dissimilar; at Zarephath, the young man was newly dead;—at Shunem, the child must have been dead several hours; Shunem was about 16 miles from Carmel;—at Elisha's gave, the man was possibly dead a day or two—Jairus's daughter was newly dead;—the widow's son of Nain was being carried to his grave;—Lazi as had been dead four days, and the process of decomposition was, as they believed, going on. These cases of dead persons being brought to life, show that the dead body can be re-animated, when divine power is put forth upon the lifeless clay.
But the crowning proof of the resurrection is drawn from the fact of Christ's resurrection. The whole of the apostle's argument in I Cor. xv. rests upon this fact. Christ's resurrection differed from all the other cases. They returned again to the dead, but Christ dieth no more. He did not check but conquered Death. Their resurrection in no way effected others; whereas Christ rose not in a private but in a public capacity. He vanquished death not for himself alone; but he rose in the name and as the representative of his people,—as the first fruits of them that slept [sic: .] The resurrection and life of the head, secures the resurrection and life of the members. If we can establish the fact of Christ's resurrection, we as fully establish the certainty of the general resurrection. No fact rests on better evidence. He appeared not to all the people; lest from their imperfect knowledge of him, or unprincipled character, or indolent disposition, we might have had conflicting testimony, or on authenticated evidence transmitted to us; but he appeared to chosen witnesses—men selected, on account of their fitness, for this important work—who were mentally and morally qualified as witnesses, and whose future work was to make this fact known. They were not credulous persons. They were most reluctant to believe it themselves. It was not till they had seen and heard Christ, yea and felt him with their hands, that they believed in his resurrection [sic: .] The number was competent to establish any fact. Had he been seen by one person only, it might have been regarded page 45 as a spectral illusion, produced by disease, or as the effect of imagination; had he been seen by two only, it might have been thought there was some collusion to establish a fraud; but he was seen not simply by one, two, seven or eleven; but by more than five hundred at once. The witnesses saw him not once only, but as often as eleven times during a period of forty days. He was seen by Paul about one year, and by John about sixty years, after his resurrection. He was seen in different places; at Jerusalem, at Emmaus, at the Sea of Tiberias, at the Mount of Olives, near Damascus, and in the Isle of Patmos. The persons who saw him, had known him intimately for years before his death, and had the fullest opportunities of ascertaining the identity of his person. The accounts we now possess of these things were written by eye-witnesses, and that while the greater part of those who saw him were alive. The writers of these accounts were morally incapable of falsifying. They gave the strongest proofs of their veracity, by suffering every penalty, even death itself, rather than deny their declaration, and renounce their belief in his resurrection.
His victory over Death, and the complete security it affords for our resurrection, is further confirmed by the fact, that Christ rose not simply himself alone, as the first fruits, but he brought a portion of the dead with him, as an earnest of the whole. At his death graves were opened; after his resurrection many bodies of the saints that slept arose, came out of their graves, went into the holy city, appeared unto many, and doubtless ascended along with Christ, as a pledge of his victory and part of his trophy, when he ascended gloriously, leading captivity captive, (Matt. xxvii, 52, 53.)
The resurrection of Christ, and the rising of the saints with him, were not accidental but predicted events, and consequently parts of a pre-arranged and previously appointed system. Christ often predicted his own resurrection; and David, a thousand years before, spake of the resurrection of Christ, “that his page 46 soul was not left in hell (hades, or the invisible state,) neither his flesh did see corruption.” (Com. Ps. xvi, 10, with Act ii, 27, 31); and Isaiah, (c. xxvi, 19.) speaking in the person of Christ says, “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise, Awake, and sing, ye that dwell in dust; for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.”
The above are a few of the most simple and obvious of the direct scripture proofs for the doctrine of the resurrection; but by no means the whole. If there is any doctrine of Scripture, the proofs for which, arising either from positive declaration or historical evidence, amount to the hightest degree of moral certainty, it is the doctrine of the resurrection. May the quickening and life-giving Spirit carry it home, as a felt truth, to every heart, and render it daily and deeply influential upon life and conduct.
The collateral proof from science, obviating objections, may be expected in our next number.