PMW 2023-034 by Louis Berkhof

Louis Berkhof was a famed Reformed theologian who wrote an important Systematic Theology. In this theology he explained and defended the historic Christian understanding of the physical resurrection of the dead. In this he was in lockstep with virtually universal Reformed theology, as well as with the ecumenical creeds defining Christianity to the world.

Below is his comments on the resurrection, taken from his Systematic Theology, pp. 720ff.


  1. IN THE OLD TESTAMENT. It is sometimes said that the Old Testament knowns of no resurrection of the dead, or knows of it only in its latest books. The opinion is rather common that Israel borrowed its belief in the resurrection from the Persians. Says Mackintosh: “Strong evidence exists for the hypothesis that the idea of the resurrection entered the Hebrew mind from Persia.”[Immortality and the Future, p. 34.] Brown speaks in a somewhat similar vein: “The doctrine of individual resurrection first appears in Israel after the exile, and may have been due to Persian influence.”[Christian Theology in Outline, pp. 251 f.] Salmond also mentions this view, but claims that it is not sufficiently warranted. Says he: “The Old Testament doctrine of God is of itself enough to explain the entire history of the Old Testament conception of a future life.”[The Christian Doctrine of Immortality, pp. 221 f.] De Bondt comes to the conclusion that there is not a single people among those with whom Israel came in contact, which had a doctrine of the resurrection that might have served as a pattern for the representation of it that was current among Israel; and that the faith in the resurrection which finds expression in the Old Testament does not find its basis in the religions of the Gentiles, but in the revelation of Israel’s God.[Wat Leert het Oude Testament Aangaande het Leven na dit Leven, pp. 263 f.]

It is true that we find no clear statements respecting the resurrection of the dead before the time of the prophets, though Jesus found that it was already implied in Ex. 3:6; cf. Matt. 22:29-32, and the writer of Hebrews intimates that even the patriarchs looked forward to the resurrection of the dead, Heb. 11:10,13-16,19. Certainly evidences are not wanting that there was a belief in the resurrection long before the exile. It is implied in the passages that speak of a deliverance from sheol, Ps. 49:15; 73:24,25; Prov. 23:14. It finds expression in the famous statement of Job, 19:25-27. Moreover, it is very clearly taught in Isa. 26:19 (a late passage, according to the critics), and in Dan. 12:2, and is probably implied also in Ezek. 37: 1-14.


Nourishment from the Word (by Ken Gentry)

Reformed studies covering baptism, creation, creeds, tongues, God’s law, apologetics, and Revelation

See more study materials at:

  1. IN THE NEW TESTAMENT. As might be expected, the New Testament has more to say on the resurrection of the dead than the Old, because it brings the climax of God’s revelation on this point in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Over against the denial of the Sadducees, Jesus argues the resurrection of the dead from the Old Testament, Matt. 22:23-33, and parallels, cf. Ex. 3:6. Moreover, He teaches that great truth very clearly in John 5:25-29; 6:39,40,44,54; 11:24,25; 14:3; 17:24. The classical passage of the New Testament for the doctrine of the resurrection is I Cor. 15. Other important passages are: I Thess. 4:13-16; II Cor. 5:1-10; Rev. 20:4-6 (of dubious interpretation), and 20:13.
  2. IT IS A WORK OF THE TRIUNE GOD. The resurrection is a work of the triune God. In some cases we are simply told that God raises the dead, no person being specified, Matt. 22:29; II Cor. 1:9. More particularly, however, the work of the resurrection is ascribed to the Son, John 5:21,25,28,29; 6:38-40, 44,54; I Thess. 4:16. Indirectly, it is also designated as a work of the Holy Spirit, Rom. 8:11.
  3. IT IS A PHYSICAL OR BODILY RESURRECTION. There were some in the days of Paul who regarded the resurrection as spiritual, II Tim. 2:18. And there are many in the present day who believe only in a spiritual resurrection. But the Bible is very explicit in teaching the resurrection of the body. Christ is called the “firstfruits” of the resurrection, I Cor. 15:20,23, and “the firstborn of the dead,” Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5. This implies that the resurrection of the people of God will be like that of their heavenly Lord. His resurrection was a bodily resurrection, and theirs will be of the same kind.

Moreover, the redemption wrought by Christ is also said to include the body, Rom. 8:23; I Cor. 6:13-20. In Rom. 8:11 we are told explicitly that God through His Spirit will raise up our mortal bodies. And it is clearly the body that is prominently before the mind of the apostle in I Cor. 15, cf. especially the verses 35-49. According to Scripture there will be a resurrection of the body, that is, not an entirely new creation, but a body that will be in a fundamental sense identical with the present body. God will not create a new body for every man, but will raise up the very body that was deposited in the earth. This cannot only be inferred from the term “resurrection,” but is clearly stated in Rom. 8:11, I Cor. 15:53, and is further implied in the figure of the seed sown in the earth, which the apostle employs in I Cor. 15:36-38. Moreover, Christ, the firstfruits of the resurrection, conclusively proved the identity of His body to His disciples.

The Book of Revelation and Postmillennialism (Lectures by Ken Gentry)

In the first of these three 50-minute lectures Gentry explains Revelation’s judgments to show they do not contradict postmillennialism. In the next two lectures he shows how the Millennium and the New Creation themes strongly support the gospel victory hope found in postmillennialism.

See more study materials at:

At the same time Scripture makes it perfectly evident that the body will be greatly changed. Christ’s body was not yet fully glorified during the period of transition between the resurrection and the ascension; yet it had already undergone a remarkable change. Paul refers to the change that will take place, when he says that in sowing a seed we do not sow the body that shall be; we do not intend to pick the same seed out of the ground. Yet we do expect to reap something that is in a fundamental sense identical with the seed deposited in the earth. While there is a certain identity between the seed sown and the seeds that develop out of it, yet there is also a remarkable difference. We shall be changed, says the apostle, “for this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” The body “is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.” Change is not inconsistent with the retention of identity. We are told that even now every particle in our bodies changes every seven years, but through it all the body retains its identity. There will be a certain physical connection between the old body and the new, but the nature of this connection is not revealed.

Some theologians speak of a remaining germ from which the new body develops; others say that the organizing principle of the body remains. Origen had something of that kind in mind; so did Kuyper and Milligan. If we bear all this in mind, the old objection against the doctrine of the resurrection, namely, that it is impossible that a body could be raised up, consisting of the same particles that constituted it at death, since these particles pass into other forms of existence and perhaps into hundreds of other bodies, loses its force completely.

  1. IT IS A RESURRECTION OF BOTH THE RIGHTEOUS AND THE WICKED. According to Josephus the Pharisees denied the resurrection of the wicked.[Ant. XVIII. 1,3; Wars II. 8.14.] The doctrine of annihilationism and that of conditional immortality, both of which, at least in some of their forms, deny the resurrection of the ungodly and teach their annihilation, embraced by many theologians, has also found favor in such sects as Adventism and Millennial Dawnism. They believe in the total extinction of the wicked. The assertion is sometimes made that Scripture does not teach the resurrection of the wicked, but this is clearly erroneous, Dan. 12:2; John 5:28,29; Acts 24:15; Rev. 20:13-15. At the same time it must be admitted that their resurrection does not stand out prominently in Scripture. The soteriological aspect of the resurrection is clearly in the foreground, and this pertains to the righteous only. They, in distinction from the wicked, are the ones that profit by the resurrection.
  2. IT IS A RESURRECTION OF UNEQUAL IMPORT FOR THE JUST AND THE UNJUST. Breckenridge quotes I Cor. 15:22 to prove that the resurrection of both saints and sinners was purchased by Christ. But it can hardly be denied that the second “all” in that passage is general only in the sense of “all who are in Christ.” The resurrection is represented there as resulting from a vital union with Christ. But, surely, only believers stand in such a living relation to Him. The resurrection of the wicked cannot be regarded as a blessing merited by the mediatorial work of Christ, though it is connected with this indirectly. It is a necessary result of postponing the execution of the sentence of death on man, which made the work of redemption possible. The postponement resulted in the comparative separation of temporal and eternal death, and in the existence of an intermediate state. Under these circumstances it becomes necessary to raise the wicked from the dead, in order that death in its widest extent and in all its weight might be imposed on them. Their resurrection is not an act of redemption, but of sovereign justice, on the part of God. The resurrection of the just and the unjust have this in common, that in both bodies and souls are reunited. But in the case of the former this results in perfect life, while in the case of the latter it issues in the extreme penalty of death, John 5:28,29.


  1. THE PREMILLENNIAL VIEW RESPECTING THE TIME OF THE RESURRECTION. It is the common opinion among Premillenarians that the resurrection of the saints will be separated by a thousand years from that of the wicked. They almost seem to regard it as an axiomatic truth that these two classes cannot possibly arise at the same time. And not only that, but the type of Premillennialism which is now dominant, with its theory of a twofold second coming of Christ, feels the need of positing a third resurrection. All the saints of former dispensations and of the present dispensation are raised up at the parousia or the coming of the Lord. Those still alive at that time are changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. But in the seven years that follow the parousia many other saints die, especially in the great tribulation. These must also be raised up, and their resurrection will occur at the revelation of the day of the Lord. seven years after the parousia. But even at this point Premillenarians cannot very well stop. Since the resurrection at the end of the world is reserved for the wicked, there must be another resurrection of the saints who die during the millennium, which precedes that of the wicked, for the two cannot be raised up at the same time.
  2. SCRIPTURAL INDICATIONS AS TO THE TIME OF THE RESURRECTION. According to Scripture the resurrection of the dead coincides with the parousia, with the revelation or the day of the Lord, and with the end of the world, and will immediately precede the general and final judgment. It certainly does not favor the premillennial distinctions with respect to this doctrine.

In several places it represents the resurrection of the righteous and that of the wicked as contemporaneous, Dan. 12:2; John 5:28,29; Acts 24:15; Rev. 20:13-15. All of these passages speak of the resurrection as a single event and do not contain the slightest indication that the resurrection of the righteous and that of the wicked will be separated by a period of a thousand years. But this is not all that can be said in favor of the idea that the two coincide.

In John 5:21-29 Jesus combines the thought of the resurrection, including the resurrection of the righteous, with the thought of the judgment, including the judgment of the wicked. Moreover, II Thess. 1:7-10 clearly represents the parousia (vs. 10), the revelation (vs. 7), and the judgment of the wicked (vs. 8,9) as coinciding. If that is not the case, language would seem to have lost its meaning.

Furthermore, the resurrection of believers is directly connected with the second coming of the Lord in I Cor. 15:23; Phil. 3:20,21; and I Thess. 4:16, but it is also represented as occurring at the end of the world, John 6:39,40,44,54 or at the last day. That means that believers are raised up at the last day, and that the last day is also the day of the coming of the Lord. Their resurrection does not precede the end by a period of a thousand years. Happily, there are several Premillenarians who do not accept the theory of a threefold resurrection, but who nevertheless cling to the doctrine of a double resurrection.

Blessed Is He Who Reads: A Primer on the Book of Revelation By Larry E. Ball

A basic survey of Revelation from an orthodox, evangelical, and Reformed preterist perspective. Ball understands John to be focusing on the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70. Insightful. Easy to read.

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