Resurrection and Raised from the Dead
What Is the Difference?
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Jesus: The Fruits of the Resurrection
Jesus was the first fruits of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). Therefore, we know that no one was resurrected before Jesus was resurrected. So, the question becomes: What about the people who came back to life in the Old and New Testaments? To understand the difference between resurrection and coming back to life, we must review the Scriptures concerning those matters.
Old and New Testament People Raised from the Dead
Abraham had faith that God was able to raise (“ἐγείρειν“) his son Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:19). Old Testament saints also expected to see life after physical death (Job 19:26; Psalm 17:15; 49:15; 73:24; 26:19; Daniel 12:2; 12:13). Jesus also explained that He was the God of the living, naming Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jesus explained that the Hebrew phrase “I am the God . . . of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (“אָנֹכִי֙ אֱלֹהֵ֣י אַבְרָהָ֛ם אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִצְחָ֖ק וֵאלֹהֵ֣י יַעֲקֹ֑ב“) means they they still live in Jesus after physical death (Matthew 22:32).
In the Old Testament some people died and came back to life. Elijah prayed for the widow’s son and the soul of the child returned to his inward parts and he lived (“וַתָּ֧שָׁב נֶֽפֶשׁ־הַיֶּ֛לֶד עַל־קִרְבֹּ֖ו וַיֶּֽחִי“) (1 Kings 17:22). The Shunamite’s son died and Elisha came and laid on the child and put his mouth on his mouth and his eyes on his eyes and his hands on his hands, and he stretched himself on him. The flesh of the child became warm. Elisha went back a second time and stretched himself on the child and the child sneezed seven times and opened his eyes (2 Kings 4:32-35). Even though these people came back to life, they continued on in the same physical body they had before death, and then died again later.
♦ Raised from the dead means people come back to life, and often means people come back to their mortal bodies.
In the New Testament, Jesus raised several people from the dead. They returned to living in their mortal bodies.
Jesus raised the widow’s son at Nain. While crowds watched, Jesus stopped the casket holding the widow’s son and said: “Young man, I say to you, arise” (“νεανίσκε, σοὶ λέγω, ἐγέρθητι”) (Luke 7:14). Jesus returned the young man to his mother. The young man returned to living in his mortal body.
♦ Jesus raised the Widow of Nain’s son with the simple command “arise.”
Jesus raised a child from the dead. While others scoffed at Him, Jesus privately took the child by her hand and called: “Child, arise!” (“ἡ παῖς, ἔγειρε”) (Luke 8:54). Her spirit returned to her and she arose immediately (Luke 8:54-55). Jesus raised the child and she returned to her mortal body.
♦ While others scoffed at Him, Jesus raised a child with the simple command “arise.”
Notice that Jesus used the verb “ἐγείρω”, which may mean to raise up or to awaken. At times, Jesus referred to people as sleeping, even though they were dead (John 11:11). Likewise, Paul used the term sleep to refer to dead saints (1 Thessalonians 4:13). This term sleep refers to death, with their bodies asleep. The spirits and souls of believers go to be with Jesus at death, where they live with Him in Paradise.
♦ Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead with the simple command “come out.”
Jesus raised Lazarus from the tomb. After the body of Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days, Jesus cried out with a loud voice: “Lazarus, come out!” (“Λάζαρε, δεῦρο ἔξω”) (John 11:43). Lazarus returned to life in his mortal body, and crowds came to see him.
After Jesus died on the cross, the tombs were opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, they entered the Holy City and appeared to many (Matthew 27:52-53).
♦ After Jesus died on the cross, the tombs were opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised and seen by many people in the Holy City.
Being raised from the dead should not be confused with resurrection. Please recall that Jesus was the first fruits of the resurrection, meaning He was the first person resurrected. If being raised from the dead is not the same as being resurrected, then what is the difference between resurrection and being raised from the dead? In order to answer that question, we must review what resurrection means in the Bible.
Jesus defined resurrection to Mary after Lazarus died. He began with the declaration: “I am the resurrection and the life” (“ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἀνάστασις καὶ ἡ ζωή”). Jesus then defined the term resurrection. Jesus said that resurrection means that one who believes in Him will live even if he dies” (“ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμὲ κἂν ἀποθάνῃ ζήσεται”–notice the concessive force of κἂν–even if–and they surely will die in the future) (John 11:25-26).
♦ Resurrection means that the believer will live even after death.
Jesus also explained that all people, good and bad, will be resurrected in the future.
Jesus revealed that both the righteous and the wicked will be resurrected in the future. Jesus said an hour is coming when everyone in the tombs would hear His voice and come forth (“ἐκπορεύσονται”). Both the righteous and the wicked will be resurrected. Jesus described that resurrection to judgment and the resurrection to life as future. Therefore, we know that no one, except Jesus, has been resurrected previously. Those people who did good works will go to resurrection of life (“ἀνάστασιν ζωῆς”). But the people who practiced foul things will go to resurrection of judgment (“ἀνάστασιν κρίσεως”) (John 5:28-29). So everyone will face resurrection in the future.
♦ People who did good deeds go to the resurrection of life.
♦ People who practiced foul deeds to the resurrection of judgment.
Paul wrote about resurrection to the Corinthians. He told them that the resurrected bodies of the saints will be imperishable, glorious, and immortal (1 Corinthians 15:42-54). The natural body will be replaced by a spiritual body. The natural body was sown in weakness, but raised in power. The resurrected body will bear the image of the heavenly. When Jesus appears, He will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of His power (Philippians 3:21).
♦ Resurrected bodies of saints are raised imperishable, glorious and immortal.
Resurrection and the Gospel
Jesus laid down His soul and took it again. He did it on His own initiative; no one took His soul away from Him (John 10:18). When Jesus took up His soul again, He came back with a glorified body. His earthly body did not undergo decay (Acts 2:27). His glorified body appeared in a room after all the doors were locked (John 20:19). Jesus spoke to His disciples and His glorified body still had the nail holes in His hands and feet and the wound in His side (Luke 24:39; John 20:27). His glorified body could also eat food with His disciples (Luke 24:42). When people were raised from the dead before Jesus was resurrected, they returned to their mortal bodies.
Paul explained in detail that the resurrection is essential to salvation. If the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised from the dead, then all believers are still in their sins and their faith is worthless (1 Corinthians 15:17). Further, if Christ has not been raised, then all who have fallen asleep in Jesus have been destroyed (“ἀπώλοντο”) (1 Corinthians 15:18). Paul made the resurrection of Jesus a cornerstone of His preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:4-5; see also Peter: 1 Peter 1:3)
♦ If Christ has not been raised, then we are still in our sins and our faith is worthless.
♦ If Christ has not been raised, then those who have fallen asleep in Jesus have been destroyed.
The Difference between Resurrection and Raised from the Dead
The Bible provides a strong difference between a person only raised from the dead and resurrection. Raised from dead, without more, means the people returned to their mortal bodies and will die again. In contrast, saints who have died will be resurrected to new spiritual, glorified, imperishable, and immortal bodies by the power of God. In the future, believers will go to the resurrection of life and unbelievers will go to the resurrection of judgment.