Can we be resurrected from the dead today, right now?

The bad news is, that “death came to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12)

But the good news is, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ,” (Colossians 2:13).

The bad news is, “For you died.”

But the good news is, “your life is hidden with Christ in God,” Colossians 3:3.

The bad news is, “we were dead in transgressions.”

But the good news is, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 2:5-6).

The good news is, we have a Great Resurrector, who lifted all humanity out of its dead state of “gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts,” Ephesians 2:3, and united us with Christ so that “our old self was crucified with him,” Romans 6:6. But it didn’t end there, because “If we have been united with him in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection,” Romans 6:5, so “count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus,” verse 11.

So that’s where we are right now: Thanks to the Great Resurrector raising Jesus from the dead “we too may live a new life,” verse 4. But what kind of “new life” is it?

It’s a new life of constant resurrection from the dead, for “he who raised Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you,” Romans 8:11. And what the Spirit enables us to do every day is “put off your old self, which is being corrupted by evil desires, to be made new in the attitude of your minds, and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness,” Ephesians 4:22-24.

Our minds are being lifted – or resurrected – from “the futility of their thinking” (verse 17) to living “as children of light,” Ephesians 5:8, the clear fruit of which is “all goodness, righteousness and truth,” verse 9.

And that, to Paul, is like being raised from the dead every day. So “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you,” he cries in verse 14, because imagine the impact our new life of the Spirit can have on a dying marriage, on an addiction that’s killing us, on moods we cannot shake, or on anything “beyond our ability to endure,” that makes us “despair even of life,” 2 Corinthians 1:8. In all those things we can rely on God “who raises the dead,” verse 9.

But that’s the Christian life for you; it’s a life of constant resurrection from the dead.

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What kind of bodies are WE resurrected into?

Jesus gave us very few hints as to the kind of bodies we receive when we’re resurrected from the dead. Lazarus was raised from the dead, yes, but he was still in the body he had, which would die a second time. Staggering though the miracle was, in reality Lazarus was just a corpse being revived. And all the other people whom Jesus raised from the dead would die again too.

The resurrection we receive, however, is much different to that. In Romans 8:29, Paul tells us that God is conforming us “to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers,” so whatever Jesus is like in his resurrected state right now as the firstborn of many is the likeness we will have when we join him as his resurrected brothers.

So what is Jesus like now? In 1 Corinthians 15:45, Paul talks of “The first man Adam,” who “became a living being” (quoting Genesis 2:7), but “the last Adam,” referring to Jesus, is “a life-giving spirit.” Jesus’ flesh and blood body was transformed in his resurrection. It became a “spiritual” body, which Paul defines as powerful, imperishable, and immortal (verses 42-44, 54). But most important – he had a body that could give life too.

Does that mean we’ll have that kind of body too? Yes, verse 49, for “just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” The body Jesus now has is the body we’ll be given: It’s powerful, imperishable and immortal. It is also capable of giving life. So in the same way that Jesus’ power “has given us everything we need for life and godliness,” enabling us to “participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world,” we will have that same power too.

Paul made that very clear in Philippians 3:20-21, when he talks of “the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they (too) will be like his glorious body.”

Imagine having the same power Jesus has IN FULL to give life to others. But we’re already experiencing a taste of it even before we’re resurrected. Right now the Spirit is transforming us into Jesus’ likeness “so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body,” 2 Corinthians 4:10. Already the life-giving spirit of Jesus “is at work” in us, verse 12.

It’s a lovely taste of the kind of bodies we’ll be resurrected into, as Jesus is already giving life to people through those who are “one with him in spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:17).

What visible difference does Christ’s resurrection make?

What visible difference has Christ’s resurrection made to death, evil and suffering? On the face of it, none, because we still die, do terrible things to each other, and pain, grief and mental turmoil are epidemic. Accidents haven’t stopped either, nor have natural disasters.

Even Scripture says “the whole creation has been groaning,” Romans 8:22, and it certainly got that right, because animals, forests and oceans are groaning under the weight of human stupidity and greed. Humans groan in frustration too, verse 20, because we still can’t stop ourselves getting old and sick, or stop what wrecks human lives and kills us.

So what has Christ’s resurrection done that’s actually changed anything?

Well, it did create Christians, who’ve done all sorts of things through the centuries to improve people’s lives and ease human suffering. But for all the good they’ve done, Christians still haven’t eradicated war, famine, disease, cruelty, crime or poverty, nor have Christians themselves escaped those things either. They too have been victims, and they too suffer like everyone else. So, what proof do even Christians have that Christ’s resurrection has made a difference, other than provide hope that there’s a better life after this one? But other religions, that have no belief in Christ’s resurrection, have that hope too.

Is there some other visible evidence, therefore, that demonstrates the difference Christ’s resurrection makes? There must be some obvious difference, surely, when it dawns on a person that Jesus being raised from the dead proves he was who he said he was, and that everything he said was true.

Like what, though?

Well, one of the things Jesus said in John 11:25 was, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” Oh. So if I’m facing terminal cancer, or I lose a child to suicide, I have absolute proof in Jesus’ own resurrection, and in this statement he made in John 11:25, that he has the power to resurrect me and my child. Death, therefore, is only temporary. Does that then add weight to that other statement Jesus made in John 14:27, when he said, “My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives”?

It should be obvious in a Christian’s life, therefore, that he is visibly at peace, even in the face of horrible things happening in this life. Like Paul said in Philippians 3:10, therefore, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection,” and in this very real way too, of not “being anxious about anything” (4:6), and having “the peace of God guard my heart and mind” (verse 7). And if that’s visible to others, even better.

Did Jesus really come back from the dead?

The key to any event in history being credible and true is witnesses. The proof, for instance, that the insanity and terror of trench warfare in World War 1 was tragically real is the men who wrote in their diaries about it, sent letters home about it, took photographs and painted pictures of it, and many of those who survived wrote books about it and told stories to their children and grandchildren.

A veteran could stand up before a room full of school children, therefore, and none would question his credibility, even though none of the children had witnessed World War 1 themselves. He was believable because he’d been there. He’d been a witness.

It’s an accepted tradition throughout the centuries too, that if there is some record of an event preserved by people of that period, whether it be a document like the Magna Carta, or paintings on a Pyramid wall, or the scribblings of an arrogant tyrant etched in rock, that there must be some truth to it. The record may be exaggerated or skewed by a bloated ego, or it may deliberately stretch the facts to support a national agenda, or there may be many different and even contradicting reports of an event, but none of those things has stopped events in the past being taught and accepted as fact, so long as there were witnesses.

It makes my job a lot easier when telling the story about Jesus being resurrected from the dead, because it’s already an accepted tradition that witnesses are the key to an event in history being credible and true. What applies to other historical events being true must apply equally to Jesus, therefore. So long as there are witnesses who made records of what happened, it doesn’t matter if the records are exaggerated, skewed or they differ widely, because none of those things have mattered in accepting other historical events as being true. Differences in stories don’t mean the event never happened. Witnesses to a road accident, for instance, differ widely sometimes in their memory and view of what happened, but it doesn’t mean the accident never happened. They were witnesses and that’s all that matters.

When Jesus told his disciples in John 15:27, therefore, that “you must testify about me, for you have been with me from the beginning,” he too was simply working on the accepted principle that credibility depends on witnesses. And yes, even his witnesses differed in their view and record of what they saw, as we see in the differing stories of those who witnessed his resurrection, but never have differing stories in other events been reason for dismissing them as never happening.

The day everything changed

When Jesus was resurrected everything changed. In one moment of time the great questions of life were answered, like: What happens after we die? What are we here for? What does the future hold? Will things on this earth ever improve? Why so much evil and suffering, and does God even exist? And more personally: What is my life all about? What is my future? Is God really up there and involved in my life, and why should I bother being a good person when it doesn’t make much difference and we all die in the end anyway?

But if Jesus really did rise from the dead, and he was just as human as we are, all those questions are answered, aren’t they? Death is not the end. Evil and suffering don’t get the last word. There’s a future beyond this life, and God must exist because none of us can raise ourselves from the dead, can we? And since God exists then it’s worth being a good person, because Jesus was a good person and God raised him from the dead.

On the other hand, if Jesus hadn’t been resurrected, we’d have no idea why we’re here as humans, what life is for, and what really happens after we die. All we’d have to base our hopes on instead would be the ramblings of Greek philosophy, evolution, a host of weird and differing religions, the visions of people who imagined themselves in heaven, and endless theories about the afterlife that have us coming back as butterflies, or wandering round as floaty things in a distant bliss, or having our feet roasted in hell.

Christianity, on the other hand, bases its origin, its credibility and its total reason for existence on a moment in time when a human being called Jesus came back to life after being killed and buried for three days. Take that away and Christianity is meaningless. It would look like any other religion that has nothing more to offer us humans than vague ideas about an afterlife, a way of life that mildly improves human behaviour, a lot of idealistic teachings that most people can’t live up to anyway – unless threatened with hell or coming back in another life as a dung beetle – and a nice feeling of spiritual superiority, that unfortunately bursts out in frequent vicious violence against infidels and pagans.

To a Christian, however, Jesus’ resurrection changed all that and gave us humans something real to hope and live for. It also removed all fear of death, all fear of evil and suffering, and all fear of the future. It really was the day everything changed.

The biggest surprise of all time

The biggest disappointment of all time has been humans dying who never live to tell the tale. It’s a strange situation we humans find ourselves in, where billions of us die but none of us come back from the dead to explain what happens next. It seems like an odd thing for evolution to do to us as well, letting us live for a few years and then disappear with no actual purpose in life beyond living it until we die. You wonder why we bother putting up with the mess of life at all, when after years of struggle, heartache and pain the lights go out and that’s it.

And that was the state of affairs all the way through the Old Testament too. Even God’s chosen people, the Israelites, lived and died in their millions without any evidence of a life after death. No wonder the Sadducees didn’t believe in a resurrection from the dead, when there was clearly no proof of it.

On the other hand, there were many Jews in Jesus’ day who did believe in a resurrection from the dead, based on scriptures in the Hebrew Bible, even though there was no actual mention of the word ‘resurrection’. But there were hints of resurrection, as Jesus himself pointed out to the Sadducees who tackled him on the resurrection in Mark 12. Jesus replied in verse 24: “Are you not in error because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God?” And then in verse 26: “Now about the dead rising – have you not read in the book of Moses….?” Oh, so resurrection was there in the Old Testament after all. But there was still no proof as yet that resurrection actually happened.

Until, that is, the biggest surprise of all time, when Jesus was resurrected. Even to the Jews who did actually believe a resurrection would happen were shocked, because no one was supposed to be resurrected until the end of days, based on Daniel 12:2, when “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.”

But suddenly, here was a human being who’d been resurrected ahead of time – and look what he’d been resurrected into, as well. He wasn’t a ghostly, disembodied soul or spirit essence floating off to heaven in a green haze, he was in a human-like body. So here, for the first time ever, a human had died who’d lived to tell the tale of what happens next.

So there really is a life after death – and it’s lived in a human body too. It’s two surprises for the price of one.

What if the resurrection never happened?

If the resurrection of Jesus never happened God is a liar, we can throw out the Bible, and dismiss Christianity as a hoax. No resurrection equals no God, no Bible, and no Christians, because the underlying promise throughout the Old Testament is that one day God would raise his Servant in Israel to “bring my salvation to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:3-6). And the sign revealing who that servant would be was the promise in Psalm 16:10 that “you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.”

That verse was then quoted in Acts 2:27 as evidence that Jesus was that Servant in Israel, because Jesus was not left to rot in his grave, exactly as promised in Psalm 16:10. It was used as clear proof in verse 24, that “God raised Jesus from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”

This was the day that Christianity began, and it was based entirely on Jesus being resurrected from the dead exactly as promised by King David in Psalm 16. And how did David know God’s Servant would be raised from the dead? Because, verse 30, David was “also a prophet and knowing that God had solemnly sworn that a descendant of his would rule his kingdom, seeing far ahead, David talked of the resurrection of the Messiah” (The Message).

The only reason Christianity got started in the first place was because King David’s prophecy of the Messiah’s resurrection came true. The only question we’re left with, then, is how do we know Jesus was resurrected and his body didn’t rot in his grave? The best answer we’ve got “that God has raised this Jesus to life,” verse 32, is Peter’s claim that “we are all witnesses of the fact.”

We have the documented evidence of witnesses. They were there at the time of Jesus’ resurrection, saw with their own eyes the empty grave, and met with the very much alive and well Jesus for several weeks after his resurrection, and put it all down on record what they saw, and even what Jesus said.

We have Jesus’ resurrection on record, therefore. And the only way it can be refuted is by witnesses documenting their evidence to the contrary, that Jesus stayed dead and his body rotted and they can prove it. How? By producing his bones; clear proof we can all admit to. And if it really was so important to people back then to refute Jesus’ resurrection, then they’d make sure they had undeniable proof. But I’ve never read or heard of such proof existing; have you?