My older brother passed away on Monday of this week after several months of illness. He has been close to death on several occasions in recent weeks, so his death was not a surprise. Nevertheless, it is difficult to say goodbye to a loved one. Because of his death, my thoughts have been on life after death. As part of my scripture study assignments this week, I studied some verses on the resurrection and am comforted.
The Apostle Paul writes about the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. He first writes about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the many witnesses of the resurrected Christ. We read in verses 5-8:
5 And that he was seen of Cephas [Peter], then of the twelve:
6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; …
7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
8 And last of all he was seen of me also…
The resurrected Lord appeared to many other people besides those mentioned above. The Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ tells of His appearance to a group of people living in ancient America. They were gathered around their temple when they heard a voice from heaven speaking to them. They could not understand the voice until the third time when it said: Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name – hear ye him (3 Nephi 11:7).
After hearing these words from Heavenly Father, the people watched as a Man dressed in a white robe descended out of heaven. He stood in the midst of them, and they thought that He was an angel until He said, “I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world” (3 Nephi 11:10).
The multitude fell to their knees when they remembered the prophecies that Christ would appear to them. The Lord bid them to rise and come to Him “that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world” (3 Nephi 11:14).
The people went forth, one by one, until they had all thrust their hands into his side and felt the nail holes in his hands and feet. Then they bore record that they “did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of the surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come” (3 Nephi 11:15).
Thus, we have records of two groups of people who saw the resurrected Jesus Christ. He was the first to be resurrected, and He made it possible for all of us to be resurrected. However, we will not all be resurrected at the same time. Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15:23 that there is an established order for the resurrection. He says that the righteous people will be resurrected first and will inherit the celestial kingdom or the glory of the sun. They will be followed by those who will inherit the terrestrial kingdom or the glory of the moon. The third group will be those who will inherit the telestial kingdom or the glory of the stars. The last group will be so wicked that they will inherit a kingdom with no glory.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915-85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles summarized the sequence in which the Resurrection occurs: “Order in the resurrection is determined by obedience to gospel law. The most righteous man was first, the most wicked shall be last; Christ was first, the sons of perdition shall be last” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965-73], 2:394, as quoted in the New Testament Student Manual, Religion 211-212, 385).
In addition to the order of the resurrection, Paul teaches that the nature of resurrected bodies will be different. He says that the bodies will differ in glory and splendor just as there are differences in the sun, moon, and stars (see 1 Corinthians 15:39-44). President Joseph Fielding Smith teaches that the differences in glory of resurrected bodies will be great.
In the resurrection there will be different kinds of bodies; they will not all be alike. The body a man receives will determine his place hereafter. There will be celestial bodies, terrestrial bodies, and telestial bodies, and these bodies will differ as distinctly as do bodies here….
… Some will gain celestial bodies with all the powers of exaltation and eternal increase. These bodies will shine like the sun as our Savior’s does, as described by John [see Revelation 1:12-18]. Those who enter the terrestrial kingdom will have terrestrial bodies, and they will not shine like the sun, but they will be more glorious than the bodies of those who receive the telestial glory” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:286-87, as quoted in New Testament Student Manual, 387).
In addition to being resurrected to different glories, Paul teaches that the resurrected body will be a “spiritual body” as compared to the “natural body” that is laid in the grave (see
1 Corinthians 15:44). President Howard W. Hunter explains that this “spiritual body” is a resurrected body and not a spirit.
There is a separation of the spirit and the body at the time of death. The resurrection will again unite the spirit with the body, and the body becomes a spiritual body, one of flesh and bones but quickened by the spirit instead of blood. Thus, our bodies after the resurrection, quickened by the spirit, shall become immortal and never die. This is the meaning of the statements of Paul that “there is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body” and “that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” The natural body is flesh and blood, but quickened by the spirit instead of blood, it can and will enter the kingdom” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1969, 137-38, as quoted in New Testament Student Manual, 388).
I did not particularly learn anything new in my studies about the resurrection this week, but I did appreciate the explanation of the spiritual body. I also received great comfort in reviewing these teachings of the various Apostles of the Lord. I know that my brother received all the necessary ordinances of the temple and that he kept the commandments of the Lord. He was also diligent in doing family history work and helping others to complete their genealogy. I feel certain that he was met by our parents, our two brothers, his daughter, and his great-grandson, plus a whole lot of people who were probably standing in line to say thanks to him. I believe that he will be resurrected as a celestial body, and I receive great comfort in this belief.