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Raised up With the Selfsame Bodies

Gravestones in an old church cemetary.

The doctrine of our Confession of Faith concerning the resurrection of the dead is, in part, that “all the dead shall be raised up, with the selfsame bodies and none other, although with different qualities, which shall be united again to their souls forever” (Chap. 32.3). There is much that is profitable to consider simply in the statement that the dead shall be raised up “with the selfsame bodies and none other.” The same body that is fearfully and wonderfully knit together in one’s mother’s womb, preserved through the course of one’s life (with its very hairs numbered by God), and laid in the grave after death – this is the body that shall be raised up at the last day. Raised with different qualities, yes, but still the same body, not a different body newly created by God.

Several truths work together to confirm this doctrine. The first comes from the examples of resurrection miracles given in the Scriptures. The body of the widow of Nain’s son was carried forth to be buried, but our Lord Jesus “came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still” (Luke 7:14). Our Lord Jesus raised up the young man with the same body that his friends had expected to bury. His burial bier was lightened from its load that day when the young man sat up and began to speak and was delivered to his mother. Just so, the Lord Jesus at the last day will cause all the dead to arise from their graves with the selfsame bodies that once were carried forth and laid in their graves.

Our Lord himself also rose in the selfsame body in which he suffered. “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Luke 24:39). “My hands and my feet,” that is, the same hands and feet that were pierced at Calvary. If the Head rose with the same body in which he suffered for his members, his members shall rise with the same bodies in which they suffered with him. Because of Christ’s redemption, believers have hope for the very bodies that now groan under corruption. “And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:23).

Furthermore, the doctrine of the resurrection of our selfsame bodies is undergirded by the infinite wisdom and almighty power of God. The dead shall all be raised with their selfsame bodies, though some will have been lying dead for a very long time (Gen. 23:19; Job 19:26-27); though some of the dead be in the depths of the sea (Rev. 20:13); though others were devoured by dogs and by fowls of the air (1 Kings 21:23-24); though the bodily remains of some have been greatly mistreated and disfigured (Judg. 19:29; 1 Sam. 31:11-13); though in some burial places, the dust of multiple generations lies mingled together (Gen. 49:29-31); and though the resting-place of some of the dead is known only to God (Deut. 34:5-6). To raise one man from the dead under any circumstances is utterly beyond the ability of the combined powers of the world of men and angels. Therefore, when God raises each of the dead with his selfsame body under the circumstances described, God’s wisdom and power will be greatly glorified. Let us have great views of our God, so that we might say, “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?” (Acts 26:8).

The final truth that supports this doctrine is the justice of God. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). Thomas Boston writes:

Though the glorifying of the bodies of the saints is not, properly speaking, and in a strict sense, the reward of their services or sufferings on earth; yet this is evident, that it is not at all agreeable to the manner of the divine dispensation, that one body should serve Him, and another receive the crown. …No, surely, as the bodies of the saints now bear a part in glorifying God, and some of them suffer in His cause, so they shall partake of the glory that is to be revealed. And these bodies of the wicked, which are laid in the dust, shall be raised again, that the same body which sinned may suffer. Shall one body sin here, and another body suffer for that in hell? [Thomas Boston, Human Nature in its Fourfold State, (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1964, first published 1720), 38.]

This point of Christian doctrine stands out against rationalistic Sadducees, ancient and modern, who scoff at the resurrection of the body, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God (Matt. 22:29). This doctrine stands out against Gnostics, who consider the body irrelevant, and as something to be escaped from. This doctrine stands out against the old Hindu myth of reincarnation, and the modern delusions of millionaires who hope to outlive their mortal bodies by uploading their brains onto computers.

Though soul and body are separated at death, the body that now is shall one day be reunited to the soul forever. The unconverted man should tremble at this truth, for he is storing up wrath for his whole person, soul and body. He does not, and cannot, mortify the motions of sin that are at work in his members (Rom. 7:5), and, unless he repents, his “whole body” (Matt. 5:29) will one day be cast into hell, with not so much as a drop of water to cool his parched tongue. The only way for perishing sinners to escape is by fleeing unto Jesus, who felt and bore to the uttermost the penalty of sins not his own, both in his soul, and also in the members of his body: his bones, his heart, his tongue, his hands and his feet (Psalm 22:14-17).

From this doctrine, the saints should take comfort, and go on willingly presenting the members of their body to Christ in service and suffering. The Lord acknowledges in his Word what a strong natural affection we have toward our own bodies (Eph. 5:29). Therefore, where our loyalty to Christ demands that we go against this natural affection, by spending our bodily strength for Christ, we can be sure that our Lord will not overlook such service, but will raise up and glorify these very mortal bodies.

Brent Evans
Brent Evans
Rev. Brent C. Evans serves as the pastor of Reformation Presbyterian Church (FCC) in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA.