How Does God Resurrect the Dead?

“The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” ~ Job 33:4

“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” ~ John 6:63

“Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.” ~ Luke 23:46

“And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” ~ John 20:22

“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” ~ Romans 8:11

“So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:45

“He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” ~ 2 Corinthians 3:6

“The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” ~ Galatians 6:8

I don’t know what conclusion you draw from these verses; whether you regard them as literal or figurative or unimportant or incomprehensible. To me, these and other scriptures say very plainly that from the first moments when God’s Spirit hovered over the waters to the present moment when the Spirit and the Bride say “Come!”, the Holy Spirit has been and remains the Spirit of Life through whom God gives life.

If you believe that and regard it as part of the natural order that God has created and sustains, I cannot argue with you. If you believe that and regard it as miraculous – the restoration of life to dead, buried, disintegrated flesh; gloriously transformed into the image of the Incorruptible – I cannot argue with you, either. I do not know which way to describe it.

I simply believe it to be true, because that is what scripture simply says.

If it is true … what does that mean for those who quench the Spirit? confidently restrict His power to the past inspiration of the scriptures only? loudly assert their absolute knowledge regarding what He can or will or does or does not do in the present age?

Back up to Romans 8:9-10, just before the verse quoted above:

“You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.”

Can a person who does not permit the Spirit of Christ to live in him or her – by denying that He can and should – have a reasonable expectation to be resurrected from the dead by that Spirit?

If Jesus’ words in John 16:5-15 were for His disciples and/or that era only, then who convicts the world of sin and guides His followers into all truth today?

If He is gone from our lives and our words, how can we hope for the full and eternal life He brings?

How can we convey that hope to others?

28 thoughts on “How Does God Resurrect the Dead?

  1. A few things:

    (1) Isn’t it the case that in Hebrew the word for “spirit” and “breath” are one and the same word? (i honestly don’t recall.) Is that the case in Greek too?

    (2) your thoughts make me wonder about the depth and scope of connection between our moral and physical lives. is there a sense in which every sin hurts us physically? resistance of the Spirit morally maybe has detrimental effects on the Spirit’s work physically?

    (3) you wrote:

    “Can a person who does not permit the Spirit of Christ to live in him or her – by denying that He can and should – have a reasonable expectation to be resurrected from the dead by that Spirit?”

    Where does the scripture say that denying that the Spirit personally indwells necessarily implies that the Spirit is not permitted to do so? Do you believe that if a person has an inadequate view of baptism when undergoing baptism, this necessarily renders baptism ineffective for them? If not, then why would an incorrect understanding of the Spirit render the indwelling impossible or ineffective?

    If you don’t think incorrect understandings of certain doctrines will keep people from being saved in other cases, why would someone’s misunderstanding of the Spirit and His work itself keep them from being saved?

  2. I can’t answer (1) as I have no expertise in biblical languages, but as a response to (2), I do believe scripture indicates that sin leads to death, over and over again … how could that not hurt us physically? We die a little bit each time we sin. We reject grace and tell the Spirit of God we don’t want Him within.

    An answer to (3) is complicated; it’s a complicate question. I can only think of one instance in scripture (< HREF="" REL="nofollow">1 Samuel 19<>) in which God’s Spirit <>seemed<> to take control of people against their will – seemed enough so that it caused people to ask, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” Elsewhere in scripture, the Holy Spirit seems to prefer to be a welcomed guest (< HREF="" REL="nofollow">Acts 7:51<>. Jesus instructs that we ask for Him (< HREF="" REL="nofollow">Luke 11:13<>).

    For me the question isn’t about inadequate understanding (we all have that!), but about convicted certainty that He can’t or won’t do fill-in-the-blank based on scripture that may or may not imply that if you supply certain assumptions; it’s about an attitude that God no longer sends His Spirit to people today – and I believe that to be a false teaching.

    It isn’t a question about whether God can or can’t send His Spirit into the unwilling to inspire, guide, and/or even resurrect them – He can!

    My question really meant to say: How can folks deny the work of the Holy Spirit today and still be hopeful of resurrection which God accomplishes by the Holy Spirit?

    Or perhaps more simply – Can any of us afford to ignore scripture which doesn’t conveniently fit our preconceptions about how and when and where the Holy Spirit works?

  3. (1) i recall hearing this about Hebrew, though i never checked it myself. and i’m not sure if it’s the case in Greek or not. but if they were translations of the same word in one of both languages, it would mean that our reading through a text and seeing the english words “spirit” and “breath” and having neatly separate connotations from those words is a misleading experience and that those words may not have neatly separated connotations after all.

    (2) the fact that sin leads to death is not widely disputed i don’t think (unless you’re a pelagian or neo-platonist, i suppose). if i sin one time, i incur death–that’s nothing new. and i didn’t mean to express interest at the idea that sin could be linked to physical death: of course murdering someone could get you executed. but what is interesting is that each sin in my life or maybe even the weight of the particular sins i commit have effects on my material body that i am not (at least not now) able to measure. for instance, people may argue that mere lustful thoughts aren’t hurting anyone but themselves, and more specifically they’re not going to die because of it. We could say they’re going to die because of sin generally–that’s true and not what i find interesting, because they would’ve died without the lustful thoughts due to some other sin. But even after you’ve already sinned and incurred death, does continuing to sin continue to damage you physically? you’ve responded that we die a little bit each time we sin. that is the basic idea i’m hinting at, but i’m not sure how to understand that or where to go with it. if it’s true, then shouldn’t people who sin more age more quickly? or die sooner? shouldn’t people who sin less live longer? i suppose you could attempt to argue for a general rule sort of situation, but it would only be based on a small sample class and largely draw on connections that are already obvious (anger–high blood pressure), and there would be tons of ready counter-examples. i just wonder if there’s not a less obvious but necessary connection between the two.

    (3) i’m not entirely sure what to say just because i can’t imagine the likely opponent you have in mind. i don’t think i ever met professed Christian who thought the Spirit presently does *nothing.* i know people (including myself) who believe the Spirit doesn’t do *certain* things. But a person could believe that God won’t flood the whole earth again as a medium of wrath (and thus *cannot* do so in the sense that He cannot go back on His word), but that He is nevertheless capable and willing to cause local floods or manifests His wrath in the physical world in other ways. Why then can’t a person believe, say, that the Spirit does not presently produce canonical texts through human authors, but that the Spirit will quicken the dead? i see that you’re trying to expose an inconsistency in beliefs about the Spirit’s work. but unless a person believed the Spirit did *nothing,* then how is it inconsistent? If i can believe because of a rainbow that God won’t (and in a sense can’t) show His wrath in at least one way but is perfectly capable of showing it in others, why can’t i believe consistently that the Spirit won’t work in some ways but can and may in others?

  4. Reborn, you raise interesting questions. I don’t think I have all the answers by anyone’s count.

    I have read about “pneuma” and “ruach” before, and like you I’m not 100% confident that we can separate the nuances of breath and spirit in every biblical verse. But, as I said, I lack the expertise to comment meaningfully.

    Sin hurts. Sin does have consequences – but they are not always immediate. If they were, sin might be a whole lot less attractive. And not all sins hurt us or others <>physically<>; they just eat away at our souls and cauterize our consciences. Lust, for instance. Greed. Covetousness. Envy. They all exalt self over, well, pretty much anything or anyOne else. Given enough self-obsessive ground, yes, I’m sure they eat away at us physically as well.

    Sadly, reborn, the fact that you have never met a person with this belief does not mean that there are no such folks. Take a look around on the ‘net; you’ll find ’em. Just Google the phrase “Holy Spirit does not” for a sampling. There are people who believe with all their hearts that the Holy Spirit dwells only between the covers of the Bible.

  5. Keith , can you explain who raised Jesus ? Do you think a third person in a trinity is charged with the resurrection ? This trinity doctrine gets stranger and stranger, If a third person called “The Holy Spirit” is called to resurrect is he also the father of Jesus, or is the Holy Spirit and the Holy Ghost two different persons.

    Mt:1:18: Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.

  6. Well, any post that makes me ponder must be a good one. So you’ve definitely got a good post.

    Mind if i chase one rabbit?

    It seems that among many evangelical circles (and definitely within my experience in the CoC), the idea of bodily resurrection has been abandoned and the idea of a Platonic, disembodied heaven has been embraced wholesale as nearly unquestionable. Yet it appears from the both the early Christian writings and even pagan observers that belief in the bodily resurrection of the dead was a critical hallmark of early Christian belief. Why then the abandonment in our times? –especially among a restorationist group?

    i realize it’s an unfair question in a way because one approach to an answer boils down to nothing more than interviewing every individual who rejects bodily resurrection and asking them why. But i still think there’s another approach that tries to make sense of historical trends and puzzles. And this is an inconsistency that has puzzled me for some time. –not that i have an answer though. Just wondering about it since you brought up resurrection.

    Basically, why were Christians for the first two or three centuries so obsessed with this matter, and we’re not?

  7. Scripture, of course, describes no disembodied, soul-only resurrection. My guess is that it was taught by folks who wanted to see it there because it fit well with what they wanted to believe.

    I’m sure nobody does that today!


  8. laymond, there’s no evidence at all that the Holy Ghost and Holy Spirit are two different Persons; just different words for the same. (See < HREF="" REL="nofollow">Luke 4:1<> in the KJV as an example of both used in the same sentence.)

    I know you’re persuaded that a doctrine of Trinity is fatally flawed because man can’t grasp how one Person can be three and three can be one; or what the exact relationship between Jesus, God the Father and the Holy Spirit must be. (In view of < HREF="" REL="nofollow">Matthew 28:18<>, I don’t believe we can deny that there are these three separate expressions of individual names. Matthew 1:18, which you cite, describes the Holy Spirit as the way God chooses to express what comes upon Mary – but He also says “the power of the Most High” (< HREF="" REL="nofollow">Luke 1:35<>).

    I continue to maintain that with God, all things are possible, and that our language to describe – and mental capacity to grasp – the nature of the divine is what’s fatally flawed.

    But someday God will fix that.

    In the meantime, perhaps it would be best if we all saw “trinity” less as doctrine and more as metaphor; an attempt to describe the indescribable. As a metaphor, it has value. As a doctrine, it simply creates arguments.

  9. Keith, let me tell you what I think is flawed, not only flawed but a taught false doctrine. (The Godhead is made up of “THREE” individuals, separate but equal, God the Father,God the Son,God the Holy Spirit) now that is what is flawed.

    Have you ever noticed that “NO ONE” ever tells “GOD the Father” what to do.
    And “God” the Son said he never did anything but what “God the Father” SHOWED him. and he said he would ASK “God the Father” to SEND a comforter, which is “God” the Holy Spirit.

    Keith does that sound “separate but equal” to you? sounds to me like there is a “head honcho” there somewhere.

  10. Laymond, does a dad’s authority in a family mean that the other members are not equal to him? Or that they are any less members of his family, with the same last name?

    Again, we’re trying to talk about things that we have only the vaguest clue about.

  11. “Laymond, does a dad’s authority in a family mean that the other members are not equal to him?”

    Equal in what Keith? strength, size, intelligence, authority. In what way are children equal to their father, especially a Good Father such as God. If they are equal what can a father teach them? nothing! does your children participate equally in the decisions in your home ? The words “greater” and “lesser” define the difference in equal. Keith, I believe you understand the word “equal” better than you are letting us believe. You are just floundering about trying to explain the unexplainable, in which you believe.

    Jn:14:28: Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.

    Was Jesus just kidding us when he said “His Father is Greater than him, and god taught him everything he knew”

  12. Oh by the way, when I read the bible I get much more than a vague clue, I don’t believe Jesus came to leave us clueless.

  13. When a father turns over authority to a son, what does “equal” mean, laymond. You seem to define “equal” only by authority.

    “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.'” ~ < HREF=";&version=31;" REL="nofollow">Matthew 28:18<>What does Paul mean when he tells Timothy “we will reign with Him” (< HREF="" REL="nofollow">2 Timothy 2:12<>)? Or when he tells believers that Jesus “did not count equality with God something to be grasped” (< HREF="" REL="nofollow">Philippians 2:6<>)? What does John mean when he says those in the first resurrection will be priests of God and reign with Christ (< HREF="" REL="nofollow">Revelation 20:6<>)?

    I still believe that when it comes to trying to fully describe the relationship between God, His Son and His Spirit, our language and intellect are deficient … vague clues and metaphors are what God gives us.

    I appreciate the link to the site describing the < HREF="" REL="nofollow">Unitarian<> perspective. I’ll look at it more detail as I have opportunity. It is, like your site or mine, the work and quotations of men and therefore no more authoritative. The conclusions are those of men, and therefore no more inspired than yours or mine.

    Scripture says what it says about the relationship of God, Christ and the Holy Spirit – and whatever conclusions we may draw from it, the truth with almost certainly turn out to be more than we can possibly imagine.

    So let’s not go throwing around charges of heresy just yet.

  14. Since rabbits are being chased like crazy, i’d like to ask another question:

    When Jesus spoke in first person (“I”), was his first person consciousness the divine or the human?

    It just seems like a distinction that may effect these comparitive claims to the Father.

  15. reborn,

    Why does it have to be one or the other? Could Jesus not be speaking as both divine and human being?

    For instance, if I write a passionate blog entry about the relationship between parents and children, am I writing as a father or a son? Chances are … both!

  16. Sure both is a possibility. But at least once Jesus says there’s something the Father knows that He doesn’t, which seems strange if He’s speaking first-person-divine. And for that matter, if His consciousness is divine, does that mean He knew trigonometry when He was two? Why was He *asking questions* when He was twelve? If His first-person-consciousness was divine, wasn’t He omniscient? i guess i’m puzzled to see how first-person-divine-consciousness leaves room for human mental development.

  17. reborn, I think you’re talking about the day of Christ’s return (< HREF="" REL="nofollow">Matthew 24:36<>, < HREF="" REL="nofollow">Mark 13:32<>), and I think it illustrates the point that there are a lot of things we’d like to know, but a good number of them are not at all crucial to an understanding of God through Christ that leads to faith.

    I can’t recall any scripture that makes anything other than a <>belief in Him<> necessary to what He wants for us.

    I don’t have to believe in a Unitarian or Trinitarian view. I don’t need to believe in a definitive interpretation of “that which is perfect,” or a universally-applied single hermeneutic, or an exclusive theory of atonement, or even believe in any system of dogma whatsoever. Just <>Him<>.

    That Jesus is who He says He is. That God does what He says He does. That the Spirit guides as He says He guides us … into all truth.

    Literal or figurative? Or is there a sense in which “all truth” simply means “all the truth we need” and “all the truth we can handle in this life”?

    As nearly as I can tell, at the moment He said “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father,” Jesus didn’t need to know the time and date of His return.

    That gives me comfort. I know Whom I have believed. And it is enough.


    <>Other thoughts on the subject:<>< HREF="" REL="nofollow">Aha! and Uh-Oh!<>

  18. Keith, I will try to explain your examples, using scripture.

    M t:28:18: And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
    1 Cor: 15:27: For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.
    28: And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

    (It still seems there is a little separation in equality here.)

    2 Tm :2:12: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:
    1 Cor :6:3: Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?

    (Does this also mean man is equal to God? )

    NIV.  Phil :2:6 Who, being in very nature* God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
    KJV. Phil :2:6: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

    (Keith, I believe you quoted the wrong version to prove your point, you should have stuck with the KJV.
    I believe the newer versions say , equality with God is a thing “not to be acquired”
    (Lets look forward, ) 2:9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
    (because he did not claim equality with God he was rewarded.)

    Rv: 20:6: Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

    Keith if you are resigned to using Revelation to prove the “trinity” you are barking up the wrong book.

    “but they shall be priests of God and of Christ,” Keith where is the Holy Spirit in this threesome, did he loose his equality.? If God and Christ are the same why use two names to identify them. No you don’t want to use Revelation to prove The “ trinity” or the “oneness doctrine” .

    1 Cor :8:6: But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

    1 Cor: 11:3: But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.

  19. Quick hypothetical, laymond: Suppose you and I reasoned this out together over the next few years and came to an inarguable, unassailable, coherent, consistent, logical explanation for the relationship between God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Let’s say the conclusion was simple and elegant and clear to anyone with a child-like faith and an adult intellect. Either you were right, and correctly explained away all reasons to accept any kind of Trinitarian view, or I was right and proved conclusively that there are ways in which God is One and yet Three.

    What difference would it make?

    We agree God’s Son is Jesus Christ, that He is subordinate to the Father, that we come to the Father through Him, that we are given the Holy Spirit as a seal/promissory note of our ultimate salvation.

    Why is it so important to be consummately <>right<> about how we describe the divine relationship in human words? Does being right about this save us? Does being wrong about it condemn us forever? Does the issue trigger some hidden yet absolutely necessary key to our salvation?

  20. Keith, let me give my opinion why it makes a difference. If we teach these two doctrines as truth, I know you said maybe they shouldn’t be considered doctrines, but they are. Three co-equal persons, deserve our love and obedience equally, but Jesus said we can,t have more than one God because we will neglect one for the other.I believe that statement alone negates the “Trinity”. Jesus said “if you deny me I will deny you” I believe the Trinity Doctrine denies many things Jesus said. Such as “My Father is greater than I” I do nothing without my Father’s approval,There is no one good/holy except the Father. “Your will not mine” “My God and your God” I believe this is a damning doctrine. I believe when Jesus said one thing, and someone contradicts that statement, someone is lying, and it ain’t Jesus. There are places in the bible that compare God’s kingdom to the earthly relationship of father and son. Yes Keith I agree with you on many things, but this will never be one.

  21. You see inconsistencies and contradictions that I can’t perceive, bro. If we were talking about just people; just humans, maybe. But we’re not.

  22. Sorry Keith, but human logic, and human perception is all I was given with which to work. I hope it is not something that will cost many souls their place with God. but my will is not the one which will win out.I believe God the Father is the Holy Spirit himself, only recognized under another name. Jesus said in one place God is spirit, in another place he said The only good/holy one is the father. Put the two together I believe that makes God the holy spirit, the only holy spirit.

  23. Keith–

    if nothing else but belief in Christ matters, why was Paul throwing such a fit about those who taught falsely regarding the resurrection? (1 Cor 15:12; 2Tim 2:18)

    why did John make such a fuss regarding precisely what you believed about Christ? (2John 9f)

    why did Jesus point out particular doctrines it was important for the churches addressed in Revelation to reject? (Rev 2:6, 14-15, 20, 24)

    Did John think it was optional if i believed it was okay to hate my brother? (1John 3:15) Or did John think it was alright to believe that Christ is who He said He was, but be unwilling to confess such? (John 12:42)

    Surely, Jesus and His apostles expect me to believe a great deal more than merely that Jesus is who He said He was.

    But more to the point, regarding Trinitarian or other Nicean related disputes, who-exactly-Jesus-claimed-to-be is precisely what is in question.


  24. Dear brothers, I never had any intention of turning this blog into an argument between Unitarian and Trinitarian views. And I strongly resist it.

    Guy, with all due respect, I don’t see how you could draw the conclusion that I was saying “nothing else but belief in Christ matters.”

    I was trying to describe some common ground between my views and laymond’s, not compile a comprehensive litany of required beliefs for fellowship. (For folks trying to do that, go to < HREF="" REL="nofollow">Grace Conversation<>.)

    Establishing common ground, I have found, is a better way to work toward understanding the views of others. (Leveling charges of heresy does not work as well.)

    And how one expresses / understands the relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit is not something I find in scripture to be essential to our fellowship with Them or each other. As I said earlier, there are ways in which scripture expresses God as One (the < HREF="" REL="nofollow">“shema,”<> for instance). There are other ways in which scripture expresses God as Three (< HREF="" REL="nofollow">Galatians 4:6<> and < HREF="" REL="nofollow">Matthew 28:19<>).

    Logically – to me, laymond – the only conclusion one can draw is that God is both Three and One in ways that perhaps transcend our comprehension, since He is, as you point out, < HREF=";&version=31;" REL="nofollow">spirit<>, and with Him, < HREF="" REL="nofollow">all things are possible<>.

    Now I am closing comments on this post, because I largely don’t seem them discussing its subject at all.

  25. Pingback: Does the Holy Spirit Only Work Miraculously? « Blog In My Own Eye

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