Shall We Meet Our Loved Ones Again?
A Study of 1 Corinthians 15
by D.L. Moody
This is one of the grandest chapters in the writings of Paul. It is
especially grand to those who have
lost friends. No sooner do loved ones
pass away than the question arises, Shall we meet them again?
Paul answers this question and gives a consolation we can find so clearly
stated nowhere else.
What a consolation to know, as we lay our friends away, that we shall meet
them again in a little
As I go into a cemetery, I like to think of the time when the dead shall rise
from their graves. We
read part of this chapter in what we call the "burial
service."I think it is an unfortunate expression.
Paul never talked of
"burial." He said the body was sown in corruption, sown in weakness, sown in
dishonour, sown a natural body.
If I bury a bushel of wheat, I never expect to see it again, but if I sow it,
I expect results. Thank
God, our friends are not buried; they are only sown!
I like the Saxon name for the cemetery --
The Gospel preached by the apostles rested upon four pillars: the atoning
death of Christ, His burial
and resurrection, His ascension, His coming
again. These four doctrines were preached by all the
apostles, and by them
the Gospel must stand or fall.
In the opening verses of I Corinthians 15, we get a clear statement from Paul
that the doctrine of the
resurrection is a part of the Gospel. He defines
the Gospel as meaning that Christ died for our sins,
but not that only -- He
was buried and rose again the third day. Then he summons witnesses to
"He was seen of Cephas [Simon Peter] then of the twelve: After that, he
of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the
greater part remain
unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After
that, he was seen of James;
then of all the apostles. And last of all
he was seen of me also, as of one born
out of due time."
Now that is pretty clear testimony, strong enough to satisfy a candid
inquirer. But the Greeks had no
belief in the possibility of the
resurrection, and these converts at Corinth had been reared in that
unbelief. So Paul puts the question:
"Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some
you that there is no resurrection of the dead?"
It was one of the false doctrines that had crept into the church at Corinth,
because no orthodox Jew
would ever think of questioning it.
To deny the resurrection is to say that we will never see more of the loved
ones whose bodies have
been committed to the clay. If Christ has not risen,
this life is the only one, and we are as the brutes.
How cruel it is to have anyone love you if this be true! How horrible that
they should let the tendrils
of your heart twine around them, if, when they
are torn away in death, it is to be the end. I would
rather hate than love
if I thought there will be no resurrection, because then I would feel no pangs
losing the hated thing.
Oh, the cruelty of unbelief! It takes away our brightest hopes.
"If in this life only we have hope in Christ,
we are of all men most
Mankind has natural "yearnings after the infinite." Among the most primitive
have detected what has been well called "an appetite
for the infinite," which belies the teaching that
death ends all.
It is one of the points of difference between man and beast. Birds of the air
and beasts of the field
are much the same today as they were in Eden. They
eat, sleep and pass their lives from sun to sun
in unvarying monotony. Their
desires and needs are the same.
But man is always changing. His desires are always enlarging. His mind is
always planning ahead. No
sooner does he reach one goal than he presses
towards the next. Not even death itself can arrest
him. A well-known infidel
once said, "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is not death, but the
belief of man in his own immortality."
This presentiment of a future life has been beautifully illustrated by the
feeling which grows within the
bird when winter approaches, impelling it to
travel towards the south -- "an impulse mysterious and
irresistible and unerring"; or to "the longing of southern plants, taken to a
climate and planted in a northern soil. They grow there, but they
are always failing of their flowers.
The poor, exiled shrub dreams of a
splendid blossom which it has never seen, but which it is dimly
that it ought somehow to produce. It feels the flower which it has not strength
to make in
the half-chilled but still genuine juices of its southern nature.
That is the way in which the thought of a
future life haunts us all."
Philosophers have many facts to prove this universal reaching forward to the
life beyond the grave. It
is supposed that many funeral rites and
ceremonies, for instance, are due to it. If the body is once
more to be
occupied by its spirit, it at once suggests itself that it must be protected
Accordingly we find that graves are concealed lest enemies should
dig up the remains and dishonour
Livingstone tells how a Bechuana chief was buried in his own cattle pen, then
the cattle were driven
about for some hours until all trace of the grave was
But the body must be protected not alone from ill-usage, but also, as far as
possible, from decay;
and the process of embalming is an endeavour in this
Sometimes, indeed, resurrection would be undesirable, and so we find that
dead bodies are thrown
into the water to drown the spirit.
Modern Egyptians turn the body round and round, it is said, to make the
spirit giddy and therefore
unable to retrace its steps.
Certain aboriginal Australians take off the nails of the hands lest the
reanimated corpse should
scratch its way out of its narrow cell.
When the conception of a second life as a continuation of the present life is
held, we find the custom
of burying inanimate things, such as weapons and
instruments. The dead man will require everything
beyond -- as he did this
side -- death.
Not alone inanimate things, but animals are killed in order that their ghosts
may accompany the ghost
of the dead man. The Bedouins slaughter his camels
over the grave of their dead comrade:
indispensable in this world, it will
be the same in the next.
From this, one step leads to the immolation of human beings. Wives follow
their husbands; slaves are
slain that they may continue to serve their
masters. In the words of a poet:
They that in barbarian burials
killed the slave and slew the wife
Felt within themselves the sacred
passion of the second life.
THE DOCTRINE OF THE RESURRECTION IN THE
We only catch glimpses of the doctrine of the resurrection now and then in
the Old Testament, but
the saints of those days evidently believed in it.
Nearly two thousand years before Christ, Abraham rehearsed His sacrifice when
on Mt. Moriah he
obeyed God's call to offer up Isaac. Referring to this,
Paul writes: "Accounting that God was
able to raise [Isaac] up, even from
the dead: from whence also he received
him in a figure."
Five hundred years later we find God saying unto His servant Moses, "I kill,
and I make alive."
Isaiah wrote, "He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will
away tears from off all faces." Again, "Thy dead men shall live,
my dead body shall they rise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in
the dust: for
thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out
Ezekiel's vivid description of the resurrection of dry bones, setting forth
in prophecy the restoration
of Israel, is another evidence.
When David lost his child, he said he could not call the little one back to
him, but that he would go
and be with the child. At other times he wrote,
"As for me, I will behold thy face in
righteousness: I shall be satisfied,
when I awake, with thy likeness." And, "God
will redeem my soul from the
power of the grave: for he shall receive me."
The Patriarch Job comforted himself with the same glorious hope in the hour
of his deep sorrow. He
who had asked, "What is my strength that I should
hope? and what is mine end
that I should prolong my life?" said, "I know
that my Redeemer liveth, and
that he shall stand at the latter day upon the
earth: And though after my skin
worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh
shall I see God: Whom I shall see for
myself, and mine eyes shall behold,
and not another:"
Job must have firmly believed that his body was to be raised to life again,
hereafter, but not on earth,
for he said again,
"There is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout
again, and that
the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the
root thereof wax old in
the earth, and the stalk thereof die in the
ground; Yet through the scent of
water. it will bud, and bring forth
boughs like a plant. But man dieth, and
wasteth away: yea, man giveth
up the ghost, and where is he? As the waters
fail from the sea, and
the flood decayeth and drieth up: So man lieth down,
and riseth not:
till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake nor be raised
out of their sleep."
In Hosea the Lord declares: "I will ransom them from the power of the grave;
redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I
will be thy
In the last chapter of Daniel we have another glimpse of the same truth:
"They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and
that turn many to
righteousness as the stars for ever and ever."
And his book closes with
"Go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in
thy lot at
the end of the days."
And typically, too, resurrection was set forth in the Old Testament. By the
firstfruits offered the day
after the passover-sabbath as a pledge of the
whole harvest, the children of Israel were taught in
type of the Messiah who
should be "the firstfruits of them that slept."
Someone has said that the very first employment of Israel in Canaan was
preparing the type of the
Saviour's resurrection, and their first religious
act was holding up that type of a risen Saviour.
AND IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
But what was referred to only at long intervals in the Old Testament became
in the New Testament a
prominent matter of fact and teaching. The word
"resurrection" occurs forty-two times in the New
Testament. Many times
during His ministry did our Lord refer to the resurrection of all the dead.
The sadducees once came to Him with a difficult question about the marriage
relation hereafter; and
"As touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which
spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the
Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the
dead, but of the
On another occasion Christ said,
"When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy
friends, nor thy
brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich
neighbours; lest they also bid thee
again, and a recompence be made
thee. But when thou makest a feast call the
poor, the maimed, the
lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they
thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of
When Lazarus died, Jesus spake the consoling words to his sisters: "Thy
brother shall rise
Martha replied, "I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the
Jesus then said unto her, "I am the resurrection and the life."
A SPLENDID GUESS
We see then that the belief in a future life did not begin with Christ.
But though the idea existed before Christianity, it was at best only "a
splendid guess." The natural
man cannot look across the narrowest grave and
see what is beyond. Strain his eyes as he will, he
cannot pierce the veil of
death. It is ever before him, blighting his hopes, checking his plans, thwarting
his purposes, a barrier that nothing can break down.
Ever since sin entered the world, Death has reigned, making the earth one
huge graveyard. He has
not rested for a moment. In every age and every
country, "Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt
return" has been the
sentence overhanging mankind. All the generations of men as they pass across
the earth do but follow their dead.
Many unexpected things happen to us in this life, but death is not among
them. We do not know how
or when it will come, but come it will, if the Lord
We have heard of doctors who have performed wonderful cures, but all their
skill and knowledge
have been unable to undo the work of Death. In all these
six thousand years since Death entered this
sin-cursed earth, human means
have failed to win back a single trophy from Death. Advancing
increased education, progress in commerce and art -- none of these things make
superior to the most degraded savages. Death always triumphs in the end.
The flow is always in one
direction -- onward and never backward.
BROUGHT TO LIGHT BY CHRIST
What was unknown by the wisest men on earth was revealed by Christ. He
and hath brought life and immortality to light through the
"That undiscovered country," spoken of by the poet, "from whose bourn no
traveller returns," is not
an undiscovered country to the believer. Our Lord
explored it. He entered the lists against Death in
His own territory and
came off more than conqueror.
The sceptre of Death is universal still, but it is broken and shall one day
crumble into dust. The
Christian need no longer speculate about the future:
certainty is reached beside the empty tomb of
Christ. "Now is Christ risen
from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them
that slept." We can see
the trace of His returning footprints.
And so we can join in the triumphant strain, "Death is swallowed up of
victory." The sting of death is
sin, and God has given us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ. They which have fallen asleep in
not perished, but we shall one day see them face to face.
What a Gospel of joy and hope we have, compared to that of unbelief!
The heathen sorrowed without hope, wrote Dr. Bonar:
To them death connected itself with no hope, no
brightness, no triumph. It was not sunset to
for that bids us be on the lookout for another sun, as bright as that which set.
It was not
autumn or winter, for these speak of
returning spring and summer. It was not seed cast into
rough soil, for that predicts the future tree or
flower, more beautiful than the seed. It was pure
and simple darkness, all cloud, shadow, desolation.
A shattered pillar, a ship gone to pieces, a race
lost, a harp lying on the ground with snapped
strings and all its music lost, a flowerbud crushed -- these were the sad
utterances of their
hopeless grief. The thought
that death was the gate of life came not in to cheer the parting and
brighten the sepulchre. The truth that the grave
was the soil and the body the seed sown by
own hand to call out the latent life; that the race was not lost, but
transferred to another
building and another city to
be "a pillar in the house of God," that the bud was not crushed,
but transplanted for fuller expansion to a kindlier
soil and air; that the harp was not broken,
handed to a truer minstrel who will bring out all the rich compass of its hidden
were things that had no place in their
theology, hardly in their dreams.
AN ESSENTIAL DOCTRINE
Some people claim that the question of a risen Saviour is not essential. Hear
what Paul says:
"If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is
Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we
have testified of
God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not
up, if so be that the dead
rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not
Christ raised: and if Christ be not
raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins."
I tell you, it is very essential. It is not a mere speculative question that
we are dealing with; it is of the
greatest practical importance. The
resurrection is the keystone of the arch on which our faith is
If Christ has not risen, we must impeach all those witnesses of lying.
If Christ has not risen, we have no proof that the crucifixion of Jesus
differed from that of the two
thieves who suffered with Him.
If Christ has not risen, it is impossible to admire His atoning death which
was accepted. Someone
has said that the power of Christ's death to take away
sin is always conditioned in the New
Testament with the fact of His
If Christ has not risen, it is impossible to admire His words and character.
He made the resurrection
a test-truth of His divinity.
The Jews once asked for a sign, and He answered -- "Destroy this temple, and
days I will raise it up" -- referring to the temple of His body.
On another occasion He gave the sign of the Prophet Jonah: "As Jonah was
three days and
three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of man be
three days and
three nights in the heart of the earth."
Paul says, "Declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from
"If He had not been divine," says one, "the sins of any one of us would have
been a gravestone too
heavy for Him to throw off; the claims of Jehovah's
justice would have been bands of death too
strong for Him to burst."
What would Christianity be without the resurrection? It would descend to the
level of any of the
other religious systems of the world. If Christ never
rose from the dead, how do His words differ
from those of Plato? Other men
besides Christ have lived beautiful lives and have left behind them
beautiful precepts to guide their followers. We should have to class Christ
"HOW ARE THE DEAD RAISED? AND WITH WHAT
BODY DO THEY COME?"
Turning back to the chapter, we find that Paul next deals with the question
of how the dead can be
raised and with what body they come. He says,
"Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that
which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain,
may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God" -- and all things
possible with God -- "giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to
his own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one
kind of flesh of
men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and
another of birds. There
are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial:
but the glory of the celestial is
one, and the glory of the terrestrial is
another. There is one glory of the sun,
and another glory of the moon, and
another glory of the stars: for one star
differeth from another star in
"So also," continues Paul, "is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in
corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is
glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a
natural body; it
is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and
there is a spiritual
body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made
a living soul; the
last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was
not first which is
spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that
which is spiritual The
first man is of the earth, earthy. the second man is
the Lord from heaven. As
is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy:
and as is the heavenly, such
are they also that are heavenly. And as we have
borne the image of the
earthy, we shall also bear the image of the
We see the truth of Paul's illustration in the world around us. The analogy
of nature does not indeed
furnish a proof of the resurrection, but it
affords illustrations of many things that are just as hard to
explain -- yet
we do not deny the facts.
Take a little black flower seed and sow it. After it has been planted some
time, dig it up. If it is
whole, you know that it has no life; but if it has
begun to decay, you know that life and fruitfulness
will follow. There will
be a resurrected life, and out of that little black seed will come a beautiful
Here is a disgusting grub, crawling along the ground. By and by old age
overtakes it, and it begins to
spin its own shroud, to make its own
sepulchre, and it lies as if in death. Look again, it has shuffled
shroud, it has burst its sepulchre open, and it comes forth a beautiful
butterfly, with different
form and habits.
So with our bodies. They die, but God will give us glorified bodies in their
stead. This is the law of
the new creation as well as of the old: light
after darkness; life after death; fruitfulness and glory after
Thank God, we are to gain by death. We are to have something that death
cannot touch. When this
earthly body is raised, all the present imperfection
will be gone. Jacob will leave his lameness. Paul
will have no thorn in the
flesh. We shall enter a life that deserves the name of life, happy, glorious,
everlasting -- the body once more united to the soul, no longer mortal,
subject to pain and disease
and death, but glorified, incorruptible,
"fashioned like unto his glorious body,"
everything that hinders the
spiritual life left behind. We are exiles now, but then we who are faithful
shall stand before the throne of God, joint heirs with Christ, kings and
priests, citizens of that
A bright young girl of fifteen was suddenly cast upon a bed of suffering,
completely paralyzed on one
side, and nearly blind. She heard the family
doctor say to her parents as they stood by the bedside,
"She has seen her
best days, poor child!"
"No, doctor," she exclaimed, "my best days are yet to come, when I
see the King in His beauty."
That is our hope. We shall not sink into annihilation. Christ rose from the
dead to give us a pledge of
our own rising. The resurrection is the great
antidote for death. Nothing else can take its place.
Riches, genius, worldly
pleasures or pursuits, none can bring us consolation in the dying hour.
"All my possessions for a moment of time," cried Queen Elizabeth when dying.
"I have provided in the course of my life for everything except death, and
now, alas! I am to die
unprepared" were the last words of Cardinal Borgia.
Compare with these the last words of one of the early disciples: "I am weary.
I will now go to sleep.
Good night!" He had the sure hope of awaking in a
At the Battle of Inkerman a soldier was just able to crawl to his tent after
he was struck down.
When found, he was lying upon his face, his open Bible
before him, his hand glued fast to the page
by his life blood which covered
When his hand was lifted, the letters of the printed page were clearly traced
upon it; and with the
ever-living promise in and on his hand, they laid him
in a soldier's grave. The words were: "I am
the resurrection and the life:
he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet
shall he live."
I want a religion that can comfort even in death, that can unite me with my
loved ones. Oh, what
gloom and darkness would settle upon this world if it
were not for the glorious doctrine of the
resurrection! Thank God, the
glorious morning will soon break. For a little while God asks us to be
watchtower, faithful to Him and waiting for the summons. Soon our Lord will come
His own, whether they be living or dead.