4 Misconceptions About Resurrection… and the Truth

By Sean McDowell Published on April 1, 2018

Not long ago, I was invited onto a radio show to discuss the evidence for the resurrection with a Christian and a skeptic. The skeptical host pushed back on my argument for the uniqueness of the resurrection of Jesus. “Your claim is so obviously false,” he said, “Just look at all the resurrections of the dead in the Bible alone, including people like Lazarus.”

The host was certainly right that many other people have been raised from the dead in the Bible, but he was confused about the difference between rising from the dead and resurrection. This is a common misunderstanding. We are going to briefly consider four misconceptions about the meaning of resurrection, and then clarify the biblical idea.

1. Resurrection Is Not Immortality of the Soul.

Greek philosophers saw the body as the prison house of the soul. The material world was considered corrupt, fallen and evil. Thus, the goal of salvation was to escape the physical realm and to be freed from its shackles. But in Hebrew thought, the material world is considered good. The soul without the body is incomplete. A human being is a body and soul in unity.

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2. Resurrection Is Not Reincarnation.

Eastern religions teach reincarnation, the rebirth of the self (consciousness, soul, mind, etc.) after the death of the body. Reincarnation is considered a curse, not a blessing. Depending on the specific tradition, the goal is to escape the cycle of reincarnation and experience nirvana or personal annihilation. In contrast, the biblical view is that human beings live one life, and then are raised to be judged by God (Hebrews 9:27).

3. Resurrection Is Not Resuscitation.

As mentioned by the skeptic in the opening story, the Bible records many instances of people coming back to life. Elijah raised the widow’s son (1 Kings 17:17-24). Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43-44). Peter raised Tabitha (Acts 9:36-42). And Paul raised Eutychus (Acts 20:9-12). But here is the difference between these people and Jesus: They would each die again, but Jesus was raised to immortality and glory.

4. Resurrection Is Not Translation.

The Bible records at least two instances where people were taken directly to God without dying. Enoch lived 365 years and then was taken up directly to be with God (Genesis 5:21-24). The prophet Elijah was taken to heaven by a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:1). These are not examples of resurrection because there is no evidence either experienced death.

Jesus was not resuscitated, reincarnated or translated. And his soul did not escape to an immaterial realm. Jesus was resurrected — never to die again.

So, what is resurrection? As my father and I state in the updated Evidence that Demands A Verdict, resurrection is a return to physical life. But it is not a return to the present physical existence with all its limitations. Resurrected bodies are transformed, incorruptible and eternal (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).

Jesus was not resuscitated, reincarnated or translated. And his soul did not escape to an immaterial realm. Jesus was resurrected — never to die again. And since Jesus is the firstfruits of those who are yet to come, if we trust in Christ, we too will one day have transformed, resurrected bodies and be able to experience eternity with Christ and the Church in the New Heavens and New Earth (Revelation 21-22).


Sean McDowell, Ph.D., is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

Originally appeared at SeanMcDowell.org. Republished with permission.

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  • davidrev17

    AMEN! Nothing BUT glorious truths for one to consider brother Sean…great stuff indeed.

    And a very happy and blessed Redemption/Resurrection weekend blessing is extended to you and yours!

    ▪ ▪ ▪

    “Now if Christ is being preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty. Also, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified against God that he raised Christ from the dead, when in reality he did not raise him, if indeed the dead are not raised.”

    “For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless; you are still in your sins. Furthermore, those who have fallen asleep [physically died] in Christ have also perished. For if only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone.”

    “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also came through a man. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; then when Christ comes, those who belong to him.

    “Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when he has brought to an end all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be eliminated is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:12-26/NET)

    • Kevin Quillen

      Resurrection is going from death to life. It happened to us when we were born again. Christ did things in the physical realm to demonstrate what happens in the spiritual. This is the explanation for Matt 27:52. These people who had believed Christ was the Messiah BEFORE He was tried and convicted “fell asleep” i.e. lost their faith, and then when they saw the sun darken, felt the earthquake, realized that He was Messiah! Their “graves” broke open, that is to say that their faith was restored and they believed again. They were resurrected, born again. Notice that after His resurrection they went into town. For three days they waited, and confirmation came, He arose! Food for thought.

  • Kevin Quillen

    Enoch and Elijah both died. Christ’s resurrection was a physical manifestation of a spiritual truth. Going from death to life. It happened to me when I was born again. It is really simple when you get man’s end time foolishness out of it. There is no such thing as a last days general resurrection in the future. Hebrews 11:13 says that all the people mentioned from verse 4 through 11 “all died in faith”. This would include Enoch. Elijah sent a letter to a king some 20 years after he “died”. Really? Where this is escapes me but it is not hard to find. 2 Chronicles maybe.

  • Kathy

    There seems to be a lot of confusion concerning resurrection, as you said. Thanks very much for explaining it so clearly, Sean.

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