There are only two choices when we discuss the biblical definition of the resurrection. One is a physical body resurrection, the other an event that takes place in an unseen realm, a spiritual resurrection. The scriptures never mention two resurrections; but one resurrection (described as THE resurrection) is mentioned numerous times. As bible students, we have to decide whether THE resurrection is spiritual or physical; it cannot be both.
The bible is filled with miracles, metaphors, allegories and symbols, which use the physical to describe the spiritual. In 1 Cor. 2:14 the apostle Paul cautions us that “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; ----for he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” Let us be cautious in interpreting scripture, as our natural tendency is toward thinking in the physical rather than the spiritual realm.
Resurrection is a term used to describe man’s stance before God. To be resurrected is to change man’s status before God from death to life. In 1 Cor. 15:21 & 22, we find an example of the nature of the resurrection.
Verse 21: “For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.”
Verse 22: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.”
A common writing method in the scriptures is to use parallel statements to expand and explain one another. Note that the “resurrection of the dead” in verse 21 parallels “in Christ all shall be made alive” in verse 22. From death to life changed man’s status and stance before God. Conspicuously absent is any mention of a physical body.
Was Adam’s death physical or spiritual? Whatever the nature of Adam’s death, the nature of man’s death had to be identical because “in Adam all die.” God told Adam that “the day” he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would die (Gen. 2:18). Adam lived another 930 years after he was expelled from the garden, so on “the day” that he died, he was separated from God and his death was spiritual. (see Isa. 59:2 & Romans 5:12). It was only through Christ’s death and resurrection that “all were made alive,” and there was no physical resurrection of dead bodies. The nature of Adam’s death by necessity determined the nature of the resurrection. Paul stated in 1Cor 15:51 that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the
“Things of the Spirit of God are spiritually appraised“, (1 Cor. 2:14). These “things” certainly include the resurrection of the dead.