The Meaning Of The Term "Resurrection"

W. Terry Varner
September 22, 2013

We speak of the resurrection of Jesus (Romans 1:4) and of the general resurrection of all mankind. The latter is set forth as a biblical doctrine by Paul, “that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust” (Acts 24:15).

It would be good if we defined the term “resurrection.” The word resurrection is from anastasis [the Latin equivalent is resurrectio] and refers to “a rising [of the body] from the dead” (Thayer 41).

To explain further, we ask, “What dies” at a person’s death?” In the case of Jesus, we know it was not His spirit as He commended His spirit to the Father as He was dying (Luke 23:46). The soul of Jesus was in the hadean realm (Acts 2:27) and the body of Jesus was raised from the tomb (Matthew 28:7). His body died and His spirit went to the hadean realm.

This is exactly as Jesus predicted would happen to His body. This is what happened to the body of Jesus—He died and He was raised from the dead, came out of the tomb, and His spirit and body were reunited. Personally, this is my first deep conviction resulting from the resurrection of Jesus on the third day—that if this came true, as He predicted and it did, then I am bound to believe everything else that Jesus said.

A reverent point is that if Jesus had not been God’s Son as He claimed to be—One able to forgive sins, One able to judge the world in years to come, and One who is truly the only way to God (John 14;6)—then God would have left Him in the tomb to turn to dust. The term resurrection cannot be applied to the spirit, but to the body of Jesus, the body of the just, and the body of the unjust.

When you and I die it is our body that dies and not our spirit. James makes this clear, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, the Bible says they “died” (Luke 16:22). Both (one a just soul and the other an unjust soul) were in the hadean realm (Luke 16:23-31). Their souls were alive. Their body was dead.

If death affects the body and the body is not raised, then death is the conqueror; if Christ conquered death, and He did, then His body was raised. Paul preached “Jesus and His resurrection” (Acts 17:18) basing His argument upon the divine declaration of a universal call of repentance of all men in preparation of the coming judgment. “One should be careful to recognize that the resurrection means bodily resurrection . . . any other use of the term is a misuse of the word” (Smith 363-64).

The resurrection of Jesus is God’s stamp of approval. Paul said that Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power . . . by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). The word declared means to “separate; mark off by boundaries; appoint” (Abbott-Smith 323). This shows the uniqueness of His resurrection, as being separate from, marked by boundaries, and appointed and declared by God as being different from all other resurrections in the Bible. That is, the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11), the widow of Nain’s son (Luke 7:14-15), Jarius’ daughter (Matthew 9:25), and Dorcas (Acts 9:40-41) were raised to die again; whereas, Christ was raised to die no more. We must declare with fervency and conviction the resurrection of Christ to an ever skeptical and highly-educated world, as did Paul on Mars Hill.