The Significance of Christ’s Physical Resurrection -- By: Norman L. Geisler

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 146:582 (Apr 1989)
Article: The Significance of Christ’s Physical Resurrection
Author: Norman L. Geisler

The Significance of Christ’s Physical Resurrection

Norman L. Geisler

Dean, Center for Research and Scholarship
Liberty University Graduate School of Religion, Lynchburg, Virginia

The New Testament declares that without Christ’s bodily resurrection there is no salvation (Rom 10:9–10). For He “was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification” (Rom 4:25). The physical resurrection of Christ’s body is just as much a part of the gospel as His death (1 Cor 15:1–5). The Apostle Paul insisted that if Jesus did not rise bodily from the dead, then (a) the faith of believers is useless, (b) they are still in their sins, (c) departed loved ones are lost, (d) the apostles are false witnesses, and (e) “we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Cor 15:14–19).1

The Orthodox View of the Resurrection Body of Christ

Orthodox Christianity has always confessed two things about the resurrection body of Christ. First, it was the same physical body in which Jesus was crucified. Second, Jesus’ body, at the moment it was resurrected, became an immortal, glorified body, a body that was physical but was also imperishable. Both are important to a biblical view of the resurrection, but the former is the primary focus of this discussion.

In his classic History of Christian Doctrine, William G. T. Shedd noted that “the doctrine of the resurrection of the body was from the beginning a cardinal and striking tenet of the

Christian Church.”2 Historically the bodily resurrection has been taken to mean a literal physical body. Indeed even some scholars who oppose the phrase admit that “until the time of the Reformation the creeds of the West spoke only of the resurrection of the flesh (sarkos anastasis; resurrectio carnis).”3

The Second Creed of Epiphanius (A.D. 374) confessed that Christ “suffered in the flesh; and rose again; and went into heaven in the same body, sat down gloriously at the right hand of the Father.”4 In emphasizing the material nature of the resurrection body Augustine confidently pronounced, “It is indubitable that the resurrection of Christ, and His ascension into heaven with the flesh in which He rose, is already preached and believed in the whole world.”

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