The Resurrection of the Righteous

THE RESURRECTION OF THE RIGHTEOUS

The resurrection of the righteous (also known as the saints or the just) is part of a judgment process; the relationship between resurrection and judgment will be discussed further in chapters 14 and 15. For now we will focus on resurrection.

God’s gift of salvation entails the receipt of an immortal body. Depending on whether the recipient is still alive upon the return of Christ, God will either raise the person from the dead or transform the individual’s mortal body to an immortal version.

This sounds like foolish talk to our modern ears. Most people speak of the spirit or soul when describing the afterlife, but the Bible describes transformed, glorified physical matter. If this sounds strange to you, you’re not alone; two thousand years ago, King Agrippa was just as incredulous at Paul’s testimony.

“And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?”

—Acts 26:6–8

Here Paul associates the promise to Abraham and the other Patriarchs with the resurrection, without directly mentioning the land promise. Yet the inheritance contains a promise of both land and eternal life according to other passages.

The physical aspect of salvation is all about obtaining immortality. We will not receive this gift until the second advent during the physical return of Christ when the resurrection of the righteous takes place. There are several predictions in the Old Testament of the resurrection, but they do not always associate the timing with the Messiah’s second coming since the first advent had yet to occur. Daniel 7 and 12 discuss and correlate the Big Three end-time events—Christ’s return, the saints’ resurrection, and divine judgment. Job 19 depicts the resurrection at the coming of the Redeemer.

Key resurrection passages include the following:

Christ came the first time to atone for our sins and conquer death for himself so he could defeat death for us later on.[footnote]See Romans 6:5–9.[/footnote] He will come a second time to establish his heavenly reign on the restored earth. Notice the Master’s plan to unite heaven and earth in Ephesians 1.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

—Ephesians 1:7–14

Throughout the Bible, from the Old Testament to the New, the only hope offered to humanity rests on the resurrection event and the invitation to enter the kingdom of heaven on earth. There is no other complete gospel message found in the Bible; every passage of hope shares this ultimate meaning. You could call this the total unveiling because it climaxes with the fulfillment of all promises made to Adam and Eve on down. Nobody is left hanging with unfulfilled promises.

Resurrection: Physical or Spiritual?

Salvation is mentioned in the past, present, and future tense so we need to consider the timing of salvation, but we also need to differentiate spiritual salvation from physical salvation. Physical salvation is always depicted at the future resurrection event of all believers—which is the full realization of salvation. We will discuss this topic more within this chapter.

The resurrection event is the second of the Big Three cluster. This is presented as an actual event in the truest physical sense. There are certainly places in Scripture where the word “salvation” is used figuratively; however, the main message of the Bible is a description of God’s redemption plan. He provides the means for eternal life, allowing us to dwell together with him forever. This is the restoration of all things: God and his people together again in a physical sense, not as spirit or consciousness or anything mystical. Our redemption is primarily focused on the physical resurrection of our bodies.

Several passages do focus on spiritual salvation, as we have seen earlier. These passages are intended to provide great comfort for believers in their current state. We are blessed in the assurance that our salvation is kept in heaven. This knowledge will instill hope in us until we are ultimately saved on the day of the redemption.[footnote]See Romans 8:23–25.[/footnote] We wouldn’t need hope at all if we were completely saved today.

The word “resurrection” in the New Testament comes from anastasis, a Greek root word meaning “to stand up” (John 11:23–24). Passages describing a spiritual salvation or resurrection do not use this particular root.

In 2 Timothy 2:18 Paul clarifies that bodily resurrection is a single future event. It had not yet occurred at the time of the letter’s composition, and it was not a mystical resurrection, as some in Paul’s day were preaching.

First John 3:2 also states that Christ’s appearing is in the future, and we will be transformed at that time. Earlier in the letter, 1 John 2:28 correlates Christ’s physical appearing with his coming (parousia). The second coming and physical “appearing” are synonymous in the advent passages mentioned herein. So the resurrection will happen when Christ physically comes again as the Royal King.

“…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”[footnote]“Perfect” refers to the glorified body.[/footnote]

—Philippians 3:10–14a

Bodily resurrection happens in the future at the “upward call” (second coming). Paul states that he hasn’t obtained a “standing up” resurrection, so he is not talking about spiritual salvation in this passage; he is predominantly focused on the bodily resurrection in Philippians 3 and all his related salvation passages. The one exception is 2 Corinthians 6:1–2. Here Paul discusses spiritual salvation alone, in a context of being kept by the Spirit in present tense.

Spiritual resurrections use different Greek roots such as those meaning “lifted” or as “raised” in ESV translations of Ephesians 2:4–7 and Colossians 3:1–4 (which we’ll examine shortly).

The “Now and Not Yet” Paradox

We are saved, and we are not yet saved. We need to understand this “now and not yet” concept if we are to understand end times. Salvation is a paradox that God uses throughout Scripture. There are many passages that speak of physical salvation through bodily resurrection, others speak of spiritual salvation, and thankfully, some speak of both types to help differentiate the two.

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

—Titus 2:11–13

Now we have received spiritual salvation based on the first advent, as verse 11 implies.

We are not yet ultimately saved; we must wait for the blessed hope mentioned in verse 13, which comes at the second advent. The blessed hope is Christ’s “appearing,” which is his physical return stated in the future tense.

Christ’s appearing will let us see him with our eyes; this is the parousia, the moment when physical salvation comes.

The main point to consider in this Titus passage is that God has brought salvation to us today while we wait for ultimate salvation: the future physical appearing of Christ (see Romans 8:1123 for the redemption of our body).

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”

—1 John 3:2

Salvation came at Christ’s first appearing and will come again in its ultimate form at the second. We are now God’s children because of the first advent, but we won’t mature until we experience transformation at the second advent—when we shall receive a glorified body.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages[footnote]See Ephesians 1:7–14.[/footnote] he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

—Ephesians 2:4–7

Notice the Ephesians 2 passage speaks to being “raised” in the past tense, referring to a spiritual resurrection. Later in the passage, there is a switch to the future tense of the “coming ages.” Future timing is based on Ephesians 1:7–14, which refers to the merger of heaven and earth taking place in “the fullness of time.” This is the event at which God will grant us our share in the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven.

The word “raised” in Colossians 3:1–4 (see below) and Ephesians 2:4–7 comes in both instances from a root literally translated as “lifted.” As noted earlier, bodily resurrection is based on a different Greek root, anastasis (to stand up).

It is not hard to differentiate between literal and figurative language when it comes to the resurrection. We receive the gifts of spiritual and physical salvation at different times—now and not yet—but here in the same earthly realm  until the merger of heaven and earth. Passages that speak of being raised or lifted to heaven in a spiritual sense are written in the past or present tense. These state that the Holy Spirit is a seal or guarantee until the second coming; your spirit is kept with Christ in heaven until he comes back to earth at the merger.[footnote]See Ephesians 1:13–14.[/footnote]

In passages that describe Christ’s physical, visible return to earth (Matthew 24:30), we often find references to our own bodily resurrection (for example, see Job 19:25–27). “Appearing” is used in the future tense in second advent passages mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:8, 2 Timothy 4:8, Titus 2:13, Hebrews 9:28, 1 Peter 5:4, and 1 John 3:2. See also Colossians 3 for a description of what will happen when Christ appears.

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”[footnote]Colossians 3:6 refers to God’s wrath to associate with the second coming.[/footnote]

—Colossians 3:1–4

This passage in Colossians clearly uses figurative language in the opening verse, using the term “raised” in the past tense. But an actual event took place when the reader was baptized and born again. Paul is referencing a spiritual “lifting” event, and then speaks to the appearing (second coming) in a future tense based upon the many passages that speak of “appearing” in the physical sense such as after Christ’s bodily resurrection from the grave when he visited the disciples.

The term “in glory” refers to how we will dwell together in God’s presence. We will receive his full glory. The “poured out” glory of the Spirit has been dwelling in God’s people since Pentecost; Paul described this as a seal for what is to come. Prior to Pentecost, God’s glory on earth was confined to the Holy of Holies. But this, too, was but a partial display of God’s glory.

John 17:5 describes the glory found in the presence of God. Titus 2:13 describes the glory to accompany Christ’s future return. 1 John 3:2 does not use the term “glory” but states we will be like him in his presence.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.”

—Matthew 25:31

“And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”

—John 17:5

“When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

—Colossians 3:4

“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed.”[footnote]Peter saw a glimpse of glory firsthand during the first advent but will see full glory with us at the “revealing,” or second coming.[/footnote]

—1 Peter 5:1

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming [parousia] of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.”[footnote]Ref. Matthew 17 transfiguration vision of the second advent.[/footnote]

—2 Peter 1:16–18

“…waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…”

Titus 2:13

Paul says we must wait to see Christ’s appearance with our own eyes in the future. We would not need to wait if we were already “saved” today.

There are many passages that differentiate physical salvation from spiritual salvation. Appendix 2 provides a summary of salvation passages, categorizing those that refer to spiritual salvation in past or present verb tenses, as well as passages that refer to the resurrection in future tense.

Some of these passages mention both salvation in the past or present tense and future salvation (the event at which believers are resurrected); these passages tend to emphasize the resurrection over the spiritual salvation already attained. The gifts of salvation that we receive today often mention the tie into hope for the second coming.

Sealed by the Spirit

In 1 Timothy 6:13–16, Paul urges his readers to persevere “until the appearing” of Christ, assuring them that “he will display at the proper time.” We can only reconcile salvation passages with the “now and not yet” concept. When we first become born again, God seals us and fills us with his Spirit. From that moment on, we have hope based on the physical salvation we will receive at Christ’s future appearing.

John 6:40 shows the belief aspect of faith in the gift of Christ’s nature working in the present tense to achieve salvation later through resurrection:

“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Here we see Christ associating presently held faith with the transmission of eternal life at the last day. Notice what Christ doesn’t say: at no point does he say we are saved today, nor that we have eternal life today, nor that we are eternally secure today, nor did he put any special focus on the present tense.

Peter says we are “kept in heaven,” while Paul describes seals and guarantees of the Spirit, which are related to what Christ is preparing in heaven to reveal on earth on “that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). Hope in future redemption is not hope if we already have it (Romans 8:24). We patiently wait for fulfillment (Romans 8:25).

Passages about waiting on earth or heavenly storage of blessings to be brought to earth don’t make sense if we receive a spirit body in heaven immediately upon death. If we had a soul that went to bliss in heaven when we died, there would be no need for all these passages urging us to patiently wait for Christ’s return. These passages would instead tell us to put our hope in what we receive when we get to heaven upon our death. Not one passage in Scripture contains such a teaching.

We need to be careful of the eternal security message of “once saved, always saved.” We have security today, but we need to fully understand the meanings of “soul” and “spirit” in comparison to a resurrected body. Hope is one of the key aspects of faith; waiting for the future demonstrates our faith. If we stop keeping watch, our faith will likewise deteriorate.

If we interpret resurrection passages in figurative terms, whether we expect a spiritual or physical return of Christ, we have the same potential issue to deal with regarding future verb tenses in the texts. We wouldn’t have to wait for the second advent or any rapture or appearing if we were to be absent from the body and immediately “present” with the Lord.

The temple of the Holy Spirit is our body today; as we see in Ephesians 2:19–22, this is a work in progress. We do not see clearly yet (“face to face”) as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13:8–12. We must wait for the appearing—for the moment when “the perfect comes.”[footnote]See Philippians 3:10–14 and Hebrews 11:40 for “perfect” language; to be made perfect is to obtain a resurrected body.[/footnote]

The Spirit we receive from Christ guarantees our future resurrection. 2 Corinthians 5:5 speaks of immortality in the context of the resurrection, and Paul uses very similar language in Ephesians 1:13–14. We don’t receive guarantees for things that are already perfect or that we’ve already obtained. We are not perfected yet.

We are “comforted” by the guarantee of the Spirit in 2 Corinthians 1:20–22 based on the blessings in store on the “day of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 1:14). The Comforter is prophesied extensively in John 14:15–31 and John 16:4–14. The explanations the disciples were looking for when Christ was physically present with them did not come until after the Comforter entered into them at Pentecost. The answer they received was to spread the gospel and wait longer for the kingdom to appear (or to be revealed) and for God’s blessings to be fully established.

“…knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.”

—2 Corinthians 4:14

Second Corinthians 4 and 5 draw significantly from 1 Corinthians 15, which deals with the resurrection extensively. Paul uses different terms in 2 Corinthians to describe the same event he taught about in his previous letter. The word “tent” in 2 Corinthians 5:1 refers to our body. Paul speaks of the upgrade we get by moving out of a mortal tent into a heavenly building—that is, an immortal body.

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”

—2 Corinthians 5:1–10

Paul wanted to shed his earthly body and be with his Lord. This is Paul’s confession, not an argument for a new doctrine. He provides many details in other passages that explain the resurrection (especially 1 Corinthians 15), and never does he describe an afterlife in heaven, harp in hand or otherwise. He simply states the preference of being immortal with the Lord over being mortal. Everyone should want the same thing. Timing is not stated specifically in this passage as it was not necessary since he previously stated timing in his first letter to the Corinthians.

The Pauline passages must be considered as a whole; in light of the order of the Big Three events he defines elsewhere, this individual passage must not be advocating a private rapture or private judgment scenario. A similar verse often taken out of context is Philippians 1:23, in which Paul again expresses his desire “to depart and be with Christ.” We should not read this as an argument for an “absent from the body, immediately present with the Lord” afterlife. Paul clarifies both passages in another passage using very similar terminology.

In 1 Corinthians 5, he explains how the body and spirit are related. While the passages above talked about being with the Lord in spirit upon death, here Paul describes being with other believers in spirit while still alive. Basically, Paul was in two places at the same time. His body was absent, but his spirit was present in the assembly. This explains how Paul’s body could be in the grave upon death and his spirit in heaven. There is no mention of a body or soul entity going to heaven.

“For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus…”

—1 Corinthians 5:3–4

There is no theological problem with Paul stating he wanted to be preserved with Christ upon his death, as he certainly knew his spirit returned to God upon death. Paul was an expert in the Old Testament. He was well versed in the resting-state passages of Sheol.[footnote]Even the New Testament writers understood Sheol to be the place where spirits rest after death. See Acts 2:22–35, for instance, regarding the spirits of David and Christ.[/footnote] Paul never taught that a person might bypass judgment and receive instant bliss in the heavenly realm. The very fact that these passages of Philippians 1:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:8 are used so often to justify mythology should warn us against forcing preconceived beliefs onto biblical texts; a better practice is to read the surrounding passages, to search for more details, and to allow what we read to challenge our assumptions.

To make the context clear regarding Philippians 1:23, a little later in Philippians 2:16, Paul says he is “holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory. Paul then begins to lead into a discussion of the resurrection in chapter 3. Paul’s hope was in the resurrection that only happens at the second coming of Christ (stated as the “upward call”). Philippians 3:20–21 describes how we wait on earth for Christ’s appearing, at which time we will be resurrected and given a glorified body.

Philippians 3:10–21 completes the theme that began in chapters 1 and 2, but many people take Philippians 1:23 completely out of context. The main theme of the epistle focuses on the end times, not merely death and what comes after. It just took Paul a few chapters to develop his resurrection theme.

The Old and New Testaments both emphasize the importance to see with our own eyes what appears before us. This is a Hebrew or eastern way of thinking where physicality is central. A western or Greek way of thinking focuses more on spiritualization. Plato in particular promoted idea that the physical realm is corrupt and only the spirit realm is good.

From the verb tenses in Philippians 3:10–14, we know that perfection will come in the future when the resurrection takes place. Verse 12 states, Not that I have already obtained this [resurrection of the dead] or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”

People who believe they have an immortal soul that will go to heaven either at death or at the rapture must not understand what 1 Corinthians 13:12 means. That future moment of clarity of vision does not take place in another realm; Paul describes a “face to face” encounter on earth. Throughout his epistles, Paul focuses on being sealed now, with perfection to come at the resurrection.

2 Corinthians 5:7 is wedged in the middle of a resurrection passage. “We walk by faith, not by sight” at this time. But in the future, we will indeed see. This passage is not obvious to those who believe in a soul going to some celestial heaven, as they may think that faith is a completed work. Yet hope is attached to faith, so we need to understand salvation as a work in progress to be realized in the future.[footnote]See Romans 8:23–25 for the clear message.[/footnote]

The concept of something mortal putting on immortality (as in 1 Corinthians 15:54) is repeated in 2 Corinthians 5:4 with the phrase “so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”[footnote]See  Isaiah 25:8.[/footnote] Then verse 5 states the Spirit is our guarantor for what comes in the future at the second advent when God saves his people. Romans 8:11 also speaks to the future event of the mortal gaining immortality but being preserved in the Spirit today.

God wants us to know we are secure today (sealed now) through the continual gifts of the Holy Spirit through his Word and institutions. He provides hope for the future when we will see him “fully,” face to face.[footnote]See Job 19:26–27; Psalm 17:15; 1 John 3:2.[/footnote] The concept of partial vision today, then full vision tomorrow, is extremely important.

Our salvation is presently secure. That’s the first half of the gospel message, but many people stop at that point. As a result, we see multiple gospel messages being preached or evangelized today:

  1. Saved today: If a person gives his life to Christ today, he is “saved.” If that person died today, he would be in heaven today. This partial gospel has two offshoots: the “once saved, always saved” argument for eternal security, and the idea of conditional salvation in which a person can lose his salvation if he rejects God later.
  2. Time dependent: A person’s claim to salvation isn’t determined until she dies. Constant vigilance, confession, and other continual acts must be performed to be kept in God’s grace. One can hope by the grace of God that salvation remains in the end (whether a spirit body or physical body is saved).
  3. Paradox: A person is sealed yesterday and kept today to be saved in the future. This is the biblical model under the literal interpretive method. Since the resurrection is a cornerstone, we absolutely will be ultimately saved in the future. The Bible is also very clear that we have blessed assurance to know we are kept, preserved, comforted, and sealed today. All guarantees. These terms are primary works of the Spirit.

Necessity of Physical Resurrection

Without absolute resurrection, our hope is in vain, as Paul states. The faith Abraham and everyone else had throughout the Bible was misplaced if faith is only spiritualized and doesn’t fulfill God’s physical plans. If Abraham doesn’t rise from the dead to enter into the Promised Land, God’s irrevocable promise will not be fulfilled. The resurrection also facilitates God’s plan for the earth to be inhabited.[footnote]See Isaiah 45:18.[/footnote] God could just take us in spirit to heaven when we die, but this would not fulfill his promises to his people nor his intentions for his creation. And so he will bring heaven to earth for us to enjoy in his presence (glory) at the restoration of all things.

Scriptural promises are consistent in stating that God will bring gifts, crowns, and preparations with him on the day of resurrection. New Jerusalem is coming to earth; we are not going to some other realm or planet. See how the promised city in Hebrews 11:16 is brought to God’s people in Revelation 21:2 and not the other way around. People and place are connected. New Jerusalem is not a city by itself without the saints, and the saints are not New Jerusalem without a place to inhabit. Over-spiritualizing the heavenly city diminishes the prophecy that people will dwell with God in glory.

Ephesians 1:10 and 1 Corinthians 15 lay out the Master’s plans for the physical–heavenly merger. Either there is a physical resurrection, or God’s plans fail. There is no middle ground. It is all or nothing.

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

—1 Corinthians 15:12–19

First Corinthians 15 is one of the best salvation chapters in the Bible, as it explains the physics behind Old and New Testament understanding. Paul asks in essence, “Why bother being a Christian if you don’t believe in the resurrection of the dead for salvation?” Paul finds it pitiful to focus on spiritual meaning alone in this lifetime. It never occurred to him that he might simply receive a spirit body in heaven when he died. He would have found no hope in such a concept. The physical resurrection was the only hope he knew of; otherwise, a person remained as “perished.” He anticipated the future merger of the physical and heavenly realms, as we will see in other verses he wrote here in chapter 15 and elsewhere.

Without the resurrection of the dead, our faith is in vain. There is no justifiable reason to be a believer if Christ didn’t rise from the dead, or if we don’t believe we will rise from the dead. Christianity would be just another philosophy or belief system to compete with every other religion that offers an afterlife for the soul in heaven. But Paul never describes a “spirit-body”—he assumed a dead person stays dead until the resurrection (an “in this life only” philosophy).

Differing concepts of the resurrection result in different versions of Christianity.

  1. Spiritual focus: There is no physical resurrection. Our spirit or soul goes to heaven when we die, so we don’t really need a physical body or transformed body. We get some kind of spirit body or become a spirit being. Resurrection language in the Bible is assumed to be figurative.
  2. Physical focus: Our body will be physically raised, just as Christ’s body was raised. Our spirit goes back to God upon death and is kept until resurrection day. Bible language uses “resting” language to describe that interim period as we wait for resurrection. The Holy Spirit is a seal or a guarantee that preserves us until that day.
  3. Hybrid: Resurrection happens in phases. We obtain a new spirit-body in heaven when we die, entering a state of bliss. Later, we will receive some other type of glorified body. This may take place at the rapture, the day of judgment, or resurrection day.

The hybrid option is not mentioned in the Bible, except in one highly symbolic passage in Revelation that will be discussed in Volume II.