In study: 'Death and the state of the dead' we see that scripture is very clear: when we die we return to dust - in the grave there is no knowledge or awareness - we are asleep. Therefore, without a resurrection of the body all mankind would be doomed to spend eternity in the grave.
It was necessary even for the sinless Christ to have a resurrection - how much more necessary, then, for mankind. Christ’s resurrection is the pattern for mankind.
Scripture places great emphasis on a resurrection - indeed without a resurrection of the redeemed, all teaching on salvation is irrelevant. We must therefore have a clear understanding of this topic in Scripture.
2. The Resurrection of Christ
The resurrection of Christ is the crowning act of salvation - it makes mankind’s resurrection certain (this was affirmed in the resurrection of those who rose with Christ, see study: ‘the Cross’,4.2).
Christ is the resurrection and the life
Jn 11:25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
Christ is the source of life for all
1Co 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
Note. In section 3 we see that both the redeemed and the lost will have a resurrection - thus all will indeed be made alive.
If Christ was not resurrected, we would have no hope
1Co 15:14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
1Co 15:19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
If Christ was not resurrected, we would still be in sin
1Co 15:17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
We depend on Christ’s resurrection to complete our justification
Rom 4:25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
2.1 Christ the firstfruits (Strong’s G536, ‘a beginning’)
1Co 15:20,23 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.
Christ is the most important one who is raised from the dead. He rose on the feast of Firstfruits (see study: ‘The seven feasts of the Hebrew ecclesiastical year’, 2.3) - He is the first amongst many. Christ’s resurrection has enabled the resurrection of all mankind - He has conquered and vanquished death for us.
2.2 Christ resurrected Himself
Many find the concept of Christ resurrecting Himself difficult to accept. However, scripture is clear.
He said that He could resurrect Himself
Jn 10:18 No man taketh it [His life] from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
He said that He would resurrect Himself
Jn 10:17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
Jn 2:19,21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I [meaning Himself] will raise it up.
21 But he spake of the temple of his body.
If Christ resurrected Himself then He has total power over death. How much more certain, then, is our resurrection. If Christ was able to overcome His own death, how much more is He able to overthrow death itself.
All things possible with God
We cannot limit God’s power by thinking that Christ raising Himself is impossible - with God all things are possible (Mt 19:26; Mk 10:27; Lk 18:27)
3. The resurrection of mankind
The resurrection of mankind is one of the plainest teachings in Scripture.
3.1 The first of many
In study: ‘The Cross’,4.2 we see that upon Christ’s death the graves of many of the saints were opened, and they were resurrected with Christ on the third day (Mt 27:52,53).
Scripture does not say so, but it is reasonable to believe that those risen saints ascended to Heaven with Christ, and from amongst them the 24 Elders in the Sanctuary in Heaven (Re 5:8,9) were selected (see study: 'The Cleansing of the Heavenly Sanctuary',3.1).
The saints who rose with Christ were the first of a 'great multitude' of the redeemed (Re 7:9) from all ages.
3.2 The resurrection of the redeemed
Is 26:19 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.
Mt 27:52,53 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
Lk 14:14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
Ro 6:5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
Resurrection at the second coming of Christ
1Co 15:51,52 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.
1Th 4:16 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:
Hope in a resurrection
Ac 24:15 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.
1Pe 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
3.3 The resurrection of the lost
Da 12:2 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.
Jn 5:28,29 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
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.
It is abundantly clear that all mankind will be resurrected from the grave, some to salvation at the second coming of Christ (see study: ‘The second advent of Christ’, 8), and some to the resurrection of condemnation (God's 'strange act', see study: ‘The end of sin and sinners’, 5).
The hope of the redeemed is centred in a resurrection to eternal life, without which God’s plan of salvation would be futile and pointless.
4 The resurrection muddle
Mainstream Christianity is muddled on the concept of a resurrection. If it is the case (according to common Christian belief) that when one dies one goes either to Heaven or to Hell, what is the point of a resurrection?
The resurrection of Lazarus by Christ (Jn 11:43,44) proves that no-one goes directly to Heaven (or Hell) immediately upon death. If Lazarus had gone to Heaven when he died four days previously (Jn 11:39), why would Christ have brought him back to this evil world? - that would have been cruel indeed.
Furthermore, there is no record of Lazarus testifying that he had been to Heaven - he surely would have done so had that been the case. Indeed, it would have been a powerful first-hand testimony of what was in store for the redeemed, but Scripture is silent. Precisely what happens at death is addressed in study: ‘Death and the state of the dead’.
The great hope of all who trust in Jesus is to spend eternity with Him, free of sin and death. Because in death we are asleep, this would not be possible without a resurrection from the grave. Furthermore, without Christ’s resurrection we would have no resurrection ourselves - we are dependent upon Him for eternal life.
Scripture is plain - all die and pass into the grave, and in the grave we remain until the resurrection of the body, either to eternal life or to eternal condemnation.