Biblical Doctrine, Plainly Stated

By William S. Plumer, 1875


I. The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is purely a doctrine of revelation. It is learned from the Bible, not from nature. Those thoughtful heathen, who expressed a hope that the soul was immortal, never taught that the body would live again.

II. The great mass of infidels in every age have hated this doctrine, reviled it, and ridiculed it. When Paul preached it at Athens "some mocked." Acts 17:32. In the days of our Savior, the Sadducees, in their pride and folly, did the same thing. They framed absurd arguments against it, and insisted upon them as though they were true and unanswerable.

III. This doctrine has always been precious to the people of God, nor will they ever give it up. It is taught in the Old Testament, in the sermons of Jesus Christ, and in the writings of his apostles. It is found in the Creed of every evangelical church that is or ever has been upon earth. If God's word teaches it, it is true.

IV. When we say that Christ will raise the dead, we do not mean that he will create new bodies for his people, but that he will "change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working, whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself." Phil. 3:21. He will raise up the same body, the same material frame, with which the soul was formerly united. Paul expressly says that the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead, shall also quicken our "mortal bodies." Romans 8:11.

V. Against the doctrine of the resurrection there has never been urged any objection, which was of any considerable force. It involves no absurdities. God has infinite knowledge, so that he ever knows how the same body that lies in the grave may be raised. And he has all power, so that at his bidding the necessary energy shall go forth to raise the dead. So that with Paul we may boldly say: "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you that God should raise the dead?" Acts 26:8. With God nothing is impossible. Luke 1:37. From him nothing is hid. Matt. 10:26; Heb. 4:13; Job 26:6.

VI. This doctrine has been the stay of God's people in all ages. The reason why Abraham was so upheld in offering Isaac was, that he "accounted that God was able to raise him up even from the dead." Heb. 11:19. In the midst of his great trials Job said: "I know that my Redeemer lives, 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. 19:25-27.

VII. Later writers of the Old Testament teach the same doctrine. Thus says the evangelical prophet: "Your dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, you that dwell in dust: for your dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead." Isaiah 26:19. Compare Hos. 13:14. Still later the prophet Daniel says: "Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." Dan. 12:2.

VIII. Our Lord Jesus Christ often spoke of the "resurrection;" "the resurrection of the just;" "the resurrection of life;" "the resurrection of damnation;" "the children of the resurrection," who cannot "die any more." Matt. 22:30; Luke 14:14, 20:36; John 5:29.

IX. Christ's apostles taught the same doctrine. They "preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead." Acts 4:2; 17:18, 32; 24:21.

X. The Old Testament tells us of three, who were raised from the dead—the child of the widow of Sarepta, the Shunammite's child, and the man whose body was put into the sepulcher of Elisha. Our Lord Jesus raised from the dead the daughter of Jairus, the young man of Nain, and Lazarus. And after Christ's resurrection many saints arose and showed themselves alive. Matt. 27:52, 53.

XI. The fullest discussion of the resurrection found in Scripture, is in the fifteenth chapter of first Corinthians. It is too long to be here inserted. The reader will please turn to it and read it. This great discussion clears up many difficulties. A few remarks are offered for the right understanding of this chapter.

1. The key to the whole passage is found in the fact that Paul is writing to believers, and is mainly treating of the resurrection of the just. He is comforting believers, not warning sinners.

2. The doctrine of the resurrection must be held and taught. It is essential. Without it preaching is idle, and faith is vain. Verses 14, 17.

3. The resurrection of Christ and that of his people are so connected, that he who denies the one subverts the other. Because Christ rose his people must rise. Verses 12, 13.

4. This doctrine is very consolatory to the suffering people of God. Verses 19, 20. It always has been so.

5. Christ's work for his people would clearly be imperfect, if he did not raise them from the dead. Verses 21, 22.

6. Hard questions concerning the resurrection are foolish, and have not even the merit of being new. Verses 35, 36. They all proceed from ignorance.

7. Nature tells us of many things quite as far beyond explanation as the resurrection of the dead, such as the growth of grain. Verses 36-38. Yet who denies the facts in the case of the wheat? and why should we deny the facts in the resurrection?

8. It does not at all impair the doctrine of the resurrection that the body we shall then have will be very different from the body we now have. Verses 39-41. That is just what the Christian hopes for.

9. Some of the pious dead shall be raised in more glory than others. Verses 41, 42. One of the old prophets taught the very same thing. Dan. 12:3.

10. The resurrection body shall be fashioned by the Holy Spirit, and so shall be a spiritual body. Verse 44; compare Romans 8:1.

11. On the subject of the change effected by the resurrection, it is idle for us to indulge in conjecture. We can get no light on the subject beyond what is given in the Scripture. Verses 42-54. Wisdom will be content with what God there teaches us.

12. Because the change wrought in the resurrection will be very glorious, therefore the saints greatly desire it as the day of their triumph. Verses 54, 55. Elsewhere Paul says, they are "waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body." Romans 8:23.

13. This whole chapter in Paul's writings shows us how easy it is to fall into foolish mistakes and dangerous errors. Other Scriptures warn us directly on the subject. It is not easy to shun profane and vain babblings; for they naturally increase unto ungodliness. The errors of such eat like a cancer. 2 Tim. 2:16-18.

14. Paul's first inference from this doctrine is both logical and pleasing: "Thanks be to God, which gives us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ." Verse 57.

15. Another inference from the doctrine is no less fair or pleasing to the pious. It is this: "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be you steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." Verse 58.

XII. If these things are so, then it follows:

1. We ought not to mourn as those without hope for our friends who have died in the Lord. They sleep in Jesus. And if they so sleep, they do well.

2. If we are Christ's, our own flesh shall rest in hope. Death cannot harm us.

3. Let us lay fast hold of this doctrine, as Paul did. Hear him: "I have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men." Acts 24:15, 16.