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Resurrection vs. Resuscitation

What sets Christ’s bodily resurrection apart from other bodily raisings in the Bible?

Within the Biblical record are at least nine instances of specific individuals being raised from the dead. Three of these are found in the Old Testament and include the raising up of a widow’s son by Elijah in 1 Kings 17, the raising up of a Shunammite woman’s son by Elisha in 2 Kings 4:35, and the raising up of a man whose lifeless body merely touches the bones of Elijah in 2 Kings 13:21. In the New Testament there are six occasions of specific individuals being raised up. Of these, three are performed by Jesus Himself including the raising of a widow’s son at Nain, the raising of Jarius’ daughter, and the raising of His friend Lazarus. Similarly, in the book of Acts Peter raises Tabitha and Paul raises Eutychus. And then, of course, there’s the momentous raising of Jesus Christ on the third day after His death and burial. In addition to all of these, there is a group of dead saints that rises out of their graves between Jesus’ death and resurrection in Matthew 27.

“The physical bodies of these others were resuscitated, but Jesus was resurrected with a body that was recognizably his own yet radically transformed.”

Sean McDowell

While all of these miraculous raisings are a truly magnificent testimony to the power of God, they also beg an important question: What is it that sets Christ’s resurrection apart from all the others? A key passage is 1 Corinthians 15:20-23. As one notable scholar explains, here “Paul says that Christ is the firstfruits of those who are resurrected. But what about those who were raised before his resurrection? What about those in the Old Testament or the ones Jesus himself raised? Wouldn’t they be the firstfruits? Not according to Paul. Jesus was resurrected—never to die again. All those others who were brought back to life were raised, but they would eventually die again—to be raised a final time with all those who belong to Christ at his Second Coming. The quality of their resurrection was something very different from the resurrection Jesus experienced. In addition to all this, Jesus’ resurrected body had new characteristics, which his pre-resurrection body had not possessed. He was able to appear and disappear at will (Luke 24:31, 36, 37, 51; John 20:19, 26), and he ascended to heaven in his physical body (Acts 1:6–11). None of these other people who were raised had yet received their new resurrected bodies; they were raised in their mortal, flesh and blood bodies that they had previously died in with the expectation that they would die again. This is why their resurrections are really ‘resuscitations,’ while Jesus was resurrected in the fullest sense. The physical bodies of these others were resuscitated, but Jesus was resurrected with a body that was recognizably his own yet radically transformed.”[1]

Thanks be to God that those of us who are in Christ will also receive radically transformed bodies that will not be subject to decay or death anymore!

Ryan Hembree is a daily co-host, speaker, and writer of Bible Discovery. He also hosts a YouTube channel that shows the unity of the Bible and how science and Scripture fit together. Ryan also has an honorary Masters of Ministry in Creation Science from Phoenix University of Theology.

[1] Josh McDowell & Sean McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, P.235.

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