The Assurance of the Resurrection

The age in which we live is one of unbelief. There is a saying that a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. There are many people who do not believe that there will ever be a resurrection; however, the Bible evidence is overwhelming.

Paul says, “If there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. … We are found false witnesses of God; … For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. … Every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming.” I Corinthians 15:13–20, 23.

Paul cites evidence here that because Christ has already risen, it proves the fact that God can raise people from the dead, and there will also be a resurrection of Christ’s children when He returns.

Christ being raised from the dead is one of the most indisputable facts in history because of the many witnesses. About twenty to twenty-five years after the resurrection, Paul said, “He was seen above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present [time], but some are fallen asleep [some have died].” Verse 6.

To establish what is true or false in a courtroom, witnesses are called to testify. In this instance there were over five hundred witnesses, some of whom were still alive and could verify that they had visited with Jesus after He rose.

The Scriptures record that He appeared to different individuals ten times after His resurrection.

  • He appeared first of all to Peter, that is, Cephas. I Corinthians 15:5
  • He appeared to Mary Magdalene. See Mark 16:9
  • He appeared to two disciples as they were walking to Emmaus. See Luke 24:13–15
  • He appeared to all eleven of the apostles the same day. See John 20:19; Luke 24:33–36
  • He appeared to more than five hundred at one time. 1 Corinthians 15:6
  • He appeared to James. I Corinthians 15:7
  • He appeared to the eleven apostles again, one week later. John 20:26
  • He appeared to seven of the apostles while they were fishing. John 21:1
  • His disciples saw Him ascend into heaven. Acts 1:9
  • He appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus. I Corinthians 15:8

Evidence – Neither the Jews nor the Romans could produce His body. The Jews claimed that He was never raised from the dead, but dead people don’t walk away. So what happened to the body of Jesus? Nobody could produce a body.

Evidence – At the time of His burial, the tomb was sealed by a Roman seal. Anyone who broke that Roman seal would be in defiance of the Roman government, subject to prosecution, and at the very least, put in prison. But there was no prosecution. Jesus’ disciples were accused of stealing the body, but there was never a prosecution, because the evidence would show that there was not a body to be found.

Evidence – One hundred Roman soldiers who were commissioned to guard the tomb did not all fall asleep at the same time and sleep so soundly that the disciples could come and roll the stone away and steal the body. The penalty for a soldier to sleep while on guard was death, but it is recorded that all one hundred soldiers were so sound asleep that they did not wake while the stone was being rolled away. It just defies all reason.

Evidence – Before the crucifixion, when Jesus was arrested, the disciples were all so afraid that they ran away. Were they suddenly not afraid anymore to steal His body? In Acts 5:29–32 it says, “But Peter and the other apostles answered and said, ‘We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Saviour, to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses of these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.” NKJV

The cowardice of the disciples was transformed into an unspeakable boldness. The change in the apostles is one of the strongest evidences for the resurrection. Before the resurrection, they were a group of eleven men who were scared to death and hiding out, but the power of the resurrection empowered them. When brought into courts, they boldly spoke truth, saying, “You are the ones who killed the Lord, but now He is at the right hand of the Father in heaven.”

Evidence – By A.D. 100, it is estimated that between five and ten percent of the people in the Roman Empire were Christians even though paganism attempted over and over again to destroy Christianity. This was because of the evidence of the resurrection of Christ. Because Christ had been raised, the Christians had the assurance that they also would be raised at His Second Coming if they died beforehand.

There are many Bible facts about the resurrection.

The dead will come from definite localities. “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.” Isaiah 26:19. The people who dwell in dust are those who are in their graves. “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice.” John 5:28. They will come out from their graves.

But what about the people who are not buried in graves? Some people have died and have been buried in the sea. “The sea gave up the dead which were in it.” Revelation 20:13. There is not a place that will not give up the dead on that day when they are called—the old English word is quickened. That means that they will be made alive again.

The resurrection is one of the prominent doctrines in the Bible. The first two books of the Bible that were written were the book of Genesis and the book of Job. It is clear in the book of Job that the ancient followers of the true God understood the resurrection. “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” Job 19:25, 26. Job understood that he would see God and have a new body.

David had the same hope. He wrote, “As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake with Thy likeness.” Psalm 17:15.

The New Testament is full of texts about this, since Christ had already risen. “Knowing that He which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.” II Corinthians 4:14.

“I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I might win Christ, And be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” Philippians 3:8–11.

“But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed [paid back] at the resurrection of the just.” Luke 14:13, 14.

Jesus says there is an exact record being kept of your life. Those who have dedicated their lives to serving others, especially helping others who are unfortunate and in distressing circumstances, will be paid back at the resurrection of the just.

By and by, there will be a big payment for the just. This is encouraging news while living in a world where it seems there is more than enough sorrow to go around. We all do not go through the same trials, and one of the saddest things to deal with is the loss of a child. Some very dear friends of ours lost all of their five children from smoke inhalation when their house caught on fire. They believe in the resurrection and look forward to the hope they have in raising their children in a perfect environment when they get to heaven.

“Thus saith the Lord, A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not. Thus saith the Lord, Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the Lord; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. And there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy children shall come again to their own border.” Jeremiah 31:15–17.

This event will be fulfilled when Jesus comes back. The apostles constantly wrote about the Second Coming of Christ. They knew that when Jesus returns, the dead will be raised and reunited with their loved ones.

Before the ascension, Jesus promised His disciples that, “In My Father’s house are many mansions [permanent dwellings] … I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14:2, 3.

In the book of Ezekiel, the resurrection is described in symbolic language. “Then He said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O My people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up out of your graves, And shall put My Spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall you know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it.” Ezekiel 37:11–14.

The resurrection is a wonderful subject. It thrills us to think about it and gives us hope, because we all have had friends and loved ones who have died. However, Jesus made it very clear, and we need to remember, that not everybody who is raised will be raised to eternal life.

“The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice.” John 5:28. But notice what Jesus says in verse 29: “And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”

The Bible is very clear in both the Old and New Testaments that not everybody raised will be raised to eternal life. The Jews believed this. While on trial and speaking about the Jews, Paul said, “And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.” Acts 24:15.

Daniel expressed, “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Daniel 12:2. Revelation 20 points out specifically that there will be two resurrections one thousand years apart and calls those who have a part in the first resurrection “blessed and holy” (verse 6).

The first resurrection is a resurrection unto eternal life, never having to suffer the second death. But “the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished” (verse 5). At the end of the thousand years a second resurrection will take place. “Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,” and there will be people “to deceive” once more (verses 7, 8). The number of these people are as the sand of the sea. “I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” Verses 12–15.

The most important question of all is how to have assurance of being part of the first resurrection. The person who has a part of the first resurrection is described with two words. They are blessed and they are holy (Revelation 20:6).

A powerful text on that very same subject is Hebrews 12:14: “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” Those who are raised in the first resurrection must be holy persons.

The next question is, If I have to be holy, what does that mean? Some people say, “O, that’s what God is like.” Well, Jesus said that if you have seen Me, you have “seen the Father” (John 14:9). In Hebrews 7:26, Jesus is described as holy, so if you study the life of Jesus, you will find the meaning of holiness.

“Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” Romans 7:12. In the context of this text, Paul is specifically referring to the Ten Commandments. Quoting the tenth commandment, he says, “The law is holy, and the commandment is holy.” This is not complicated; a holy person’s life will be in harmony with the Ten Commandments. The thoughts, feelings, words and actions of a holy person will be in harmony with the Ten Commandments, because the law is holy and an unholy person is one whose life is not in harmony with the Ten Commandments. It is so simple that a child can easily understand.

How can you have assurance that you will be in the first resurrection if you should die before Jesus comes? “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” II Peter 3:14. “Without spot” is an analogy, or a description, using the symbolism of clothing. When clothes become soiled, they are washed to remove the spots and then ironed to remove the wrinkles. So the Bible uses this analogy. Paul says, “… that He might present her [the church] to Himself a glorious church, not having spot [unstained] or wrinkle” (Ephesians 5:27, NKJV). The church that Christ presents to His Father is without spot or wrinkle; it has been made clean.

It is God’s purpose to remove every spot and every wrinkle so we need to pray that God will send His Holy Spirit to reveal them and give us the power to overcome. I can’t explain how this happens. All I know is that the Bible says it, and it is so.

“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6. It is the Lord who is going to finish the work that He has started in your life.

James says, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers [various] temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” James 1:2–4. God will have a people who will be perfect and entire when Jesus comes. They will be holy, with no spots, no wrinkles, and no blemishes. To get to that point, there will be many various temptations to overcome, but “count it all joy.”

Time is running out, and unlike Enoch, God will not have three hundred years to accomplish His work. He has to speed up the process. A holy character is perfected through the process of trials and temptations.

If you want to be perfect, if you want to be ready for Jesus to come, the Spirit of Prophecy needs to be confirmed in your life. “As the testimony of Christ [that is the Spirit of Prophecy] was confirmed in you: Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Corinthians 1:6, 8. The people who are going to be blameless will have been confirmed in the Spirit of Prophecy.

God will have a perfect people. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” II Timothy 3:16, 17. This is the key to Protestant thinking and one of the main texts in the New Testament upon which we base our belief. It would be wise to study it carefully to get its full impact and power.

We want to be sure we acknowledge the truth gently and tactfully. It is not unkind to acknowledge the truth. For hundreds of years the Roman Catholic Church has claimed that to reach spiritual perfection, the Scriptures are not enough. They have claimed that in addition to the Scriptures, oral traditions, the sacraments of the church, and various religious exercises are needed in order to have spiritual perfection. The most famous group within the Catholic Church that has perfected spiritual exercises is the Jesuit order. They are actually called spiritual exercises, and after taking them, a person is supposed to be on a higher spiritual level than anybody else in the world.

Some of the people who have taken these spiritual exercises have committed the most violent and awful crimes of anybody who has ever lived. As Protestants, we do not believe that Catholic teaching and do not believe that a minister or a church organization or any Christian organization or group can add something to the Bible in order to become spiritually perfect.

Paul draws attention to what is inspired of God—the Scriptures. The purpose of the Scriptures is that the man of God may be perfect. That is the basis of Protestant teaching.

The Bible is like a cup that is clear full of water. It has everything necessary to arrive at spiritual perfection. If anything is added to it, it will spill over and something will be taken away from it.

You cannot add to the Bible. The wise man said, “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it.” Ecclesiastes 3:14. In other words, nothing can be added to it nor can anything be taken from it. When God has given us His book, the book is complete.

There are some people who believe that it is impossible to overcome and that you are going to go through your whole life sinning, but as long as you just confess your sins every day, you will be saved. It is true that confessed sins will be forgiven. But you cannot go through life living like the devil, just confessing your sins, and be in the first resurrection. The Bible, the New Testament, does not teach that.

“Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly [without being intoxicated], righteously, and godly, in this present world.” Titus 2:12. This is “the grace of God that bringeth salvation” (verse 11). And the grace that brings salvation teaches us that we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. To be in the first resurrection, we must live like this in the present world.

Ellen White wrote to a married man who was in real trouble in his family: “How long a time are you designing to take to prepare to be introduced into the society of heavenly angels in glory? In the state which you and your family are in at present, all heaven would be marred should you be introduced therein. The work for you must be done here. This earth is the fitting-up place. You have not one moment to lose. All is harmony, peace, and love in heaven. No discord, no strife, no censuring, no unloving words, no clouded brows, no jars there; and no one will be introduced there who possesses any of these elements so destructive to peace and happiness. Study to be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate, laying up for yourselves a good foundation against the time to come, that you may lay hold on everlasting life.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 705, 706.

The resurrection is the most exciting subject in the world, if you are ready. If you want to be ready, you need to live soberly, righteously and godly now. You need to be preparing. You need to be praying. The Bible says that we need to pray for each other so we will be healed and so that we will be ready.

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Free Seventh-day Adventist Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at:, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.