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Resurrection of the dead

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Detail from a North Mississippi Christian cemetery headstone with the common inscription:

May the resurrection find thee
On the bosom of thy God

Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Zoroastrianism all variously describe a resurrection of the dead, usually referring to a regeneration of all people to face God on Judgment Day.


The Sadducees did not believe in an afterlife, but the Pharisees believed in a literal resurrection of the body.[1]

Resurrections of dead people are found in the Tanakh, such as Elijah and the widow's son at Zarephath: "Behold your son lives.";[2] Elisha and the Shunammite woman: "Take up your son". . [3] and contact with Elisha's bones reviving a dead man: "as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet". 2 Kings 13:21 Ezekiel's Vision in the Valley of Dry Bones reads, "Thus says the Lord YHWH to these bones: Behold, I will cause Ruach (breath/spirit) to enter into you, and you shall live.". [4]

According to the Jewish Encyclopedia article on Resurrection, the topic may be discussed in Job 14:13-15, 19:25-26, Isa 26:19, Dan 12:1-4 and is argued in more detail in the Deuterocanonical books of Enoch, Jubilees, Apocalypse of Baruch, 2 Esdras and the Maccabees.

Orthodox Judaism holds belief in resurrection to be one of the cardinal principles of Rabbinical Judaism. Jewish halakhic authority Maimonides set down thirteen main principles of the Jewish faith which have ever since been printed in all Rabbinic Siddur (prayer books). Resurrection is the thirteenth principle:

"I believe with complete (perfect) faith, that there will be techiat hameitim - revival of the dead, whenever it will be God's, blessed be He, will (desire) to arise and do so. May (God's) Name be blessed, and may His remembrance arise, forever and ever."


Most Christian denominations teach the concept of eternal life after death, provided through the atonement of Christ as demonstrated by the Resurrection of Jesus. Contrary to the idea of the separation of soul and body the fundamental tenet of Christian doctrine is the resurrection of the flesh at the End Times.

The centrality of this idea for Christian doctrine is early stated in 1 Corinthians 15 by Paul the Apostle:

51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
and re-emphasised in Nicene Creed, which contains two resurrection clauses within its short length:

  • Jesus "was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father;
  • believers "look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come."

The Christian writers Irenaeus and Justin Martyr, in the 2nd Century, wrote against the idea that only the soul survived. Justin [5] insists that a man is both soul and body and Christ has promised to raise both, just as his own body was raised. He wrote: "Seeing as ... the Saviour in the whole Gospel shows that there is salvation for the flesh, why do we any longer endure those unbelieving and dangerous arguments, and fail to see that we are retrograding when we listen to such an argument as this: that the soul is immortal, but the body mortal, and incapable of being revived? For this we used to hear from Pythagoras and Plato, even before we learned the truth. If then the Saviour said this, and proclaimed salvation to the soul alone, what new thing, beyond what we heard from Pythagoras and Plato and all their band, did He bring us? But now He has come proclaiming the glad tidings of a new and strange hope to men."

While the Christian doctrine of resurrection conforms to Jewish belief, there is, however, a minority point of view, held by certain Jewish mystics and others,[who?] which asserts that those Jewish beliefs are in contradiction with the resurrection as taught by Isaiah (Isaiah 8:16 and 26:19) and Daniel (12:1 and 13) in which the resurrection was understood as being a doctrine of physical 'Rebirth'.

Jesus appears to have been in general agreement with the position held by the Pharisees, as illustrated by his response to a question regarding marriage at the resurrection (Matthew 22:23-32, Mark 12:18-27 and Luke 20:27-40).

Most Christian churches continue to uphold the belief that there will be a general resurrection of the dead at "the end of time", as described Paul when he said, "...he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world..." (Acts 17:31 KJV) and "...there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust." (Acts 24:15 KJV).

Many of the early Church Fathers cited the Old Testament examples listed in the Judaism section above as either foreshadowing Jesus's resurrection, or foreshadowing or prophesying a future resurrection of all the dead.

In Gnosticism

There is also a minority point of view, held by the Gnostic writers of the Nag Hammadi Codices, that Jesus taught the resurrection as a doctrine of 'Rebirth'.

In Lutheranism

According to the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), on the last day,[6] all the dead will be resurrected.[7] Their souls will then be reunited with the same bodies they had before dying.[8] The bodies will then be changed, those of the wicked to a state of everlasting shame and torment,[9] those of the righteous to an everlasting state of celestial glory.[10]

New Testament teachings

There is some disagreement as to what constitutes resurrection, as different scriptures in the New Testament have been cited in different fashion. One of these arguments centers around whether a soul is immortal and non-physical, or whether it is merely physical, or whether it constitutes a union of spirit and body. Similar arguments were made among Jewish sects in the days of Christ. According to an account in the Book of Luke, after Christ's resurrection he said to his apostles, "handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have." Luke 24:39 In the Gospel of John Jesus tells Mary "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father." John 20:17 Such permission to touch or touch not can seem in conflict with a corporeal nature. However we find another possible take in Paul's teachings: "...our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel". 2 Timothy 1:10

According to the New Testament, Jesus argued with the Sadducees over the doctrine of the resurrection. These passages are Mark 12:18-27, Matthew 22:23-33, Luke 20:27–40. See also Mark 12. The Gospel of John also contains teachings about the resurrection of the dead (5:25-29, 6:39-59).

The Sign of Jonah (Matthew 12:38-42, 16:1-4, Luke 11:29-32, cf. Mark 8:11-13) may be about the resurrection of the dead. From the Scholars Version translation of Matthew 12:38-42: "...At judgment time, the citizens of Ninevah will come back to life along with this generation ... At judgment time, the queen of the south will be brought back to life along with this generation ..."

The "resurrection of the righteous" is mentioned at Luke 14:14. The "resurrection at the last day" is mentioned at John 11:24-25.

In Acts of the Apostles, the Apostles and Paul of Tarsus argued in support of the doctrine: 4:2, 17:32, 23:6-8, 24:15, 24:21.

In 1 Corinthians 15:13 Paul argues: "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised."

2 Timothy 2:18 warns of some "who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some."

Additional cites are Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 15:12-13; 2 Corinthians 4:14; 2 Corinthians 5:1-2; Philippians 3:21; 1 Thessalonians 4:12-16; 2 Timothy 2:11; Hebrews 6:2.



  • Simultaneous both of the just and the unjust
  • The just are resurrected before the unjust
  • Only the just are resurrected
  • Timed with the Rapture


The qualities of the resurrected body will be different from those of the body laid in the grave, but its identity will nevertheless be preserved; it will still be the same body which rises again.

End state of resurrected person

  • only spiritual, a body adapted to the use of the soul in its glorified state, and to all the conditions of the heavenly state
  • physical and spiritual resurrection
  • glorious, incorruptible, and powerful
  • like unto the glorified body of Jesus, based on the power and gift of His atonement

According to the Summa Theologica, spiritual beings that have been restored to glorified bodies will have the following basic qualities:

  • Impassibility (immortal / painless) — immunity from death and pain
  • Subtility (permeability) — freedom from restraint by matter
  • Agility — obedience to spirit with relation to movement and space (the ability to move through space and time with the speed of thought)
  • Clarity — resplendent beauty of the soul manifested in the body (as when Jesus was transfigured on Mount Tabor) [11]

Conditional immortality

Several churches, such as the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Christadelphians, Jehovah's Witnesses, and theologians of different traditions dismiss the idea of the immortality of a non-physical soul as a vestige of Neoplatonism, and other pagan traditions. In this school of thought, the dead remain dead (and do not immediately progress to a Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory) until a physical resurrection of the dead occurs at the end of time. Some groups, Christadelphians in particular, consider that it is at this time of resurrection that the Last Judgment will take place.

Modern de-emphasis

Template:Misleading Early church fathers defended the resurrection of the dead against the pagan belief that the immortal soul went to the underworld immediately after death.[12] Currently, however, it is a popular Christian belief that the souls of the righteous do go straight to heaven.[13][14]

At the close of the medieval period, the modern era brought a shift in Christian thinking from an emphasis on the resurrection of the body back to the immortality of the soul.[15] This shift was a result of a change in the zeitgeist, as a reaction to the renaissance and later to the enlightenment. Dartigues has observed that especially “from the 17th to the 19th century, the language of popular piety no longer evoked the resurrection of the soul but everlasting life. Although theological textbooks still mentioned resurrection, they dealt with it as a speculative question more than as an existential problem.”[15]

This shift was supported not by any scripture, but largely by the popular religion of the Enlightenment, deism. Deism allowed for a supreme being, such as the philosophical first cause, but denied any significant personal or relational interaction with this figure. Deism, which was largely lead by rationality and reason, could allow a belief in the immortality of the soul, but not necessarily in the resurrection of the dead. American deist Ethan Allen demonstrates this thinking in his work, Reason the Only Oracle of Man (1784) where he argues in the preface that nearly every philosophical problem is beyond humanity’s understanding, including the miracles of Christianity, although he does allow for the immortality of an immaterial soul.[16]

This is not to say that a belief in eternal life in heaven is contradictory to belief in the resurrection of the body. Most evangelicals believe that those who die in Christ go to be with Christ in heaven. But then at the second coming of Christ, there will be a rapture of all believers, including who have already died. ("For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) It is at the point of rapture that the souls of dead believers become reunited with their bodies. Then all believers will continue to live with Christ in their glorified, physical bodies. They will be both body and soul, as humans were originally created.

In modern Christianity resurrection is in many places not mentioned much. Sometimes only heaven is spoken of as the goal of the believer. Interviewed by Time in 2008 senior Anglican bishop and theologian N.T. Wright spoke of “the idea of bodily resurrection that people deny when they talk about their ‘souls going to Heaven,'" adding: “I've often heard people say, ‘I'm going to heaven soon, and I won't need this stupid body there, thank goodness.’ That's a very damaging distortion, all the more so for being unintentional.” Instead, Wright explains: “In the Bible we are told that you die, and enter an intermediate state." This is "conscious," but "compared to being bodily alive, it will be like being asleep." This will be followed by the resurrrection into new bodies, he says. "Our culture is very interested in life after death, but the New Testament is much more interested in what I've called the life after life after death." Early 20th century American preacher Billy Sunday epitomizes the focus on "going to heaven" in his sermon “Heaven: A Wonderful Place; Where There is No More Death; Blessed Hope of the Christian.” In the message Sunday characteristically explained the feelings of his audience by saying “Everybody wants to go to Heaven. We are all curious. We want to know, where Heaven is, how it looks, who are there, what they wear, and how to get there!” Sunday speaks of many aspects of the afterlife such as the nice weather and eternal health, although there is no mention of the resurrection of the dead. He ends with an illustration about a man who dies and goes to heaven exclaiming “Home, home at last!” as if he had arrived at the end of his eschatological journey.[17]

The emphasis on the immortality of the soul in heaven instead of the resurrection of the dead continues largely in the 21st century through popular charismatic and evangelical preaching. Jesus is often spoken of as “the way to heaven” and personal eschatology is generally seen in terms of whether or not a person gets into heaven when they die, rather than how they will fare at the resurrection of the dead. However, there are many theologians, such as Thomas Oden, popular Christian writers, such as Randy Alcorn and Christian scholars, such as the Anglican Bishop of Durham, N.T. Wright [18] who have defended the primacy of the resurrection in Christian faith.

Influence on secular law and custom

Formerly, it was widely believed that to rise on judgement day the body had to be whole and preferably buried with the feet to the east so that the person would rise facing God.[19][20][21] A Parliamentary Act from the reign of King Henry VIII stipulated that only the corpses of executed murderers could be used for dissection.[22] Restricting the supply to the cadavers of murderers was seen as an extra punishment for the crime. If one believes dismemberment stopped the possibility of resurrection of an intact body on judgement day, then a posthumous execution is an effective way of punishing a criminal.[23][24][25][26] Attitudes towards this issue changed very slowly in the United Kingdom and were not manifested in law until the passing of the Anatomy Act in 1832. For much of the British population it was not until the twentieth century that the link between the body and resurrection was finally broken as cremation was only made legal in 1902.[27]


Yawm al-Qayāmah (Arabic: يوم القيامة‎ literally: "Day of the Resurrection") is the Last Judgment in Islam. Belief in Qayaamah is part of Aqeedah ("creed") and is a fundamental tenet of faith in Islam. The trials and tribulations associated with it are detailed in both the Qur'an and the Hadith, as well as in the commentaries of the Islamic expositors and scholarly authorities such as al-Ghazali, Ibn Kathir, Ibn Majah, Muhammad al-Bukhari, and Ibn Khuzaimah who explain them in detail. Every human, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, is held accountable for his or her deeds and are judged by Allah accordingly (Qur'an 74.38). Al-Qayaamah is the 75th surah of the Qur'an.


The Magi rulers, who according to the Gospels came to worship the infant Jesus, were followers of Zoroaster. Zoroastrianism includes a prophecy that the dead will be raised and judged at the end of time. The world will be purified and all creation will be reconciled to God.[28]

Matthew 2:1-2: Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him."

Speculative physics

Professor of Physics Frank J. Tipler has claimed in his Omega Point (Tipler) theory that in the distant future a civilisation may develop such advanced computational abilities as to have god-like power over the entire universe and bring back the dead from past history into what will effectively be a paradise.

See also


  1. Pecorino, Philip (2001). "Section 3. The Resurrection of the Body". Philosophy of Religion. Dr. Philip A. Pecorino. Retrieved 2007-09-13. 
  2. 1 Kings 17:23
  3. 2 Kings 4:36
  4. Ezekiel 37:5,6-14
  6. John 6:40, John 6:54
  7. John 5:21, John 5:28-29, Matthew 25:32, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Acts 24:15
  8. Romans 8:11, Philippians 3:21, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Job 19:26, 1 Corinthians 15:44, 1 Corinthians 15:53, John 5:28, Revelation 20:12
  9. Daniel 12:2, Matthew 25:41-46, John 5:29
  10. Daniel 12:1-2, John 5:29, 1 Corinthians 15:52, 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 1 Corinthians 15:49-53, Philippians 3:21, Matthew 13:43, Revelation 7:16Graebner, Augustus Lawrence (1910). Outlines Of Doctrinal Theology. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. pp. 233-ff.. 
  11. The Catholic Catechism by Father John A. Hardon, p. 265
  12. Do Souls Go To Heaven?
  13. Hereafter
  14. ill We Be Reunited with Children Who Have Died?
  15. 15.0 15.1 Encyclopedia of Christian Theology Vol. 3, “Resurrection of the Dead” by Andre Dartigues, ed. by Jean-Yves Lacoste (New York: Routledge, 2005), 1381.
  16. The Encyclopedia of Unbelief, Vol. 1, A-K, “Deism,” Edited by Gordon Stein (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1985), 134.
  17. Billy Sunday “Heaven: A Wonderful Place; Where There is No More Death; Blessed Hope of the Christian” A Sermon reprinted in The Sword of the Lord Vol. 71, no. 21 Oct 7, 2005. p. 1, 20-21.
  19. Barbara Yorke (2006), The Conversion of Britain Pearson Education, ISBN 0582772923, 9780582772922. p. 215
  20. Essex, Mass. - Cemetery: The Old Burying Ground, Essex, Mass.I. Description and History "Up until the early 1800s, graves were marked by pairs of headstones and footstones, with the deceased laid to rest facing east to rise again at dawn of Judgement Day."
  21. Grave and nave: an architecture of cemeteries and sanctuaries in rural Ontario "Sanctuaries face east, and burials are with the feet to the east, allowing the incumbent to rise facing the dawn on the Day of Judgment"
  22. The history of judicial hanging in Britain: After the execution "Henry VIII passed a law in 1540 allowing surgeons 4 bodies of executed criminals each per year. Little was known about anatomy and medical schools were very keen to get their hands on dead bodies that they could dissect"
  23. Miriam Shergold and Jonathan GrantThe evolution of regulations for health research in England(pdf) Prepared for the Department of Health, February 2006. Page 4. "For example, the Church banned dissection and autopsies on the grounds of the spiritual welfare of the deceased."
  24. Staff. Resurrection of the Body Catholic Answers, Retrieved 2008-11-17
  25. Fiona Haslam (1996),From Hogarth to Rowlandson: Medicine in Art in Eighteenth-century Britain,Liverpool University Press, ISBN 0853236402, 9780853236405 p. 280 (Thomas Rowlandson, "The Resurrection or an Internal View of the Museum in W-D M-LL street on the last day", 1782)
  26. Mary Abbott (1996). Life Cycles in England, 1560-1720: Cradle to Grave, Routledge, ISBN 041510842X, 9780415108423. p. 33
  27. Department for Constitutional Affairs
  28. Zoroastrianism & Christianity

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