Your dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, you that dwell in dust…
I. AGAINST DECOMPOSITION. One of the great difficulties connected with the resurrection is the fact that the bodies of the dead decompose, and that oftentimes some of their parts go to make up the growth of plants and animals. But is not this difficulty removed by the law of the text; the law that governs the reproduction of plants, and which is so forcibly presented by the apostle in his argument to the Corinthians for the resurrection of the dead?
II. AGAINST DEPORTATION. Other dangers threaten the bodies of the dead. Being on the surface of the earth and mingled with its particles, they must necessarily be moved about. The winds may waft them to other regions; birds or animals or men may carry them abroad; the rivers may float them in their rapid currents; the ocean may heave them on its mighty billows. How then shall they be preserved? God has purposely made many of the seeds so that they are wafted on the winds, not that they may be destroyed, but may be brought into better positions for their preservation and subsequent prosperity. And shall we disbelieve the fact that the great God who performs these wonders in the ordinary operations of nature, is able and willing so to control winds, and birds, and beasts, and living men, and flowing rivers, and heaving oceans, as to preserve and carry to safer or better places the germs of those bodies which He has taught us shall rise at the resurrection of the last day?
III. AGAINST INTERMINGLING OR LOSS OF IDENTITY. Take the many hundreds of plants that exist about us — there are computed to be more than 80,000 kinds on the globe — with their millions of seeds. The God of nature never mixes them up. Whatever may be true about the amalgamation of growing plants, when their seeds or germs are perfected it is impossible so to mix them as to confound them. And think you that the God who works such wonders of infallible certainty in the identification of the untold millions of these varieties of plant seeds, every year and through so many centuries, however they may be mixed up, cannot or will not, even when He has promised it, preserve the identity of each different human body, so that it shall be enstamped with all the characteristics of its own individuality, though it be mingled with so many other human bodies through so many centuries?
IV. AGAINST DESTRUCTION BY EXTERNAL FORCES. The seeds of many species resist the destructive power, not only of cold but of great heat, and of drought and moisture, in a wonderful manner, not only through the lapse of one season, but of centuries. And as God does thus preserve these inferior and feebler creations of His, amid such great and long continued action of the elements of destruction, will He not much rather preserve against all accidents and all assaults of the forces of destruction, those nobler creations of His for whose use and control the inferior things of earth were made and preserved?
V. AGAINST THE "GNAWING TOOTH" OF TIME. So far as the law of life has been developed, it is evident that mere lapse of time has no effect to destroy life, so long as circumstances are favourable to its continuation. Some Celtic tombs were discovered not very long since in France, which had been filled nearly two thousand years ago. Under the Lead of each corpse was found a tile, and under each tile a circular hole covered with cement, and containing a few seeds. These seeds were planted, "they soon vegetated; and the heliotrope, the trefoil, and the cornflower were seen rising to life again, and expanding their flowers in the light of spring with admirable display, after their seeds had slept two thousand years beneath the pillows of the dead in the dust of the tomb." Can we believe less of the power and willingness of God, with reference to the preservation through the onstretching centuries, of the bodies of men whom He made in His own image, and whom He rescued from destruction by the death of His well-beloved Son, who "is risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept"?
VI. AGAINST PREMATURE DEVELOPMENT. But, says a persistent objector, if all these things are true, why do we not have some evidence of it; why do we not find such occasionally appearing in the body? We know that there are plants in tropical countries called "air plants," which grow from the sustenance they receive out of the atmosphere. One species of these — the "live-forever" plant, — grows in the temperate zone; and some of us may remember seeing these plants suspended from the beams of houses and flourishing there. Suppose a man who had never seen an oak grow, but who was told that an acorn contained the germ of an oak, should fasten that acorn by the side of his air plants to a beam of his house, or fasten ten, or twenty, or a hundred acorns there; and then, when he saw his air plants growing, and his acorns remaining dry and unsprouted, should declare to you that there was "no such fact as that oaks would grow from acorns, or that, anyhow, those acorns would never produce oaks"; what would be your reply? You would say to him, "There is a law of germination and growth belonging to those acorns; and whenever you bring them into the position where that law is met, they will grow." We are ignorant equally of the facts in what the identity or germ of a human dead body consists, and what conditions are necessary to bring it into active resurrection life; these are the affairs of the Author of existence. But we do know, that whatever it is that constitutes the identity of the dead body's existence, cannot and will not develop itself in a resurrection life power, until the great Keeper of man brings it into a position and condition where the laws of its development are fulfilled.
(N. D. Williamson.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.