Calvin, Institutes, Vol.3, Part 31
(conclusion, Book 3)
Chapter 25. 
25. Of the last resurrection. 
    There are four principal heads in this chapter, - I. The 
utility, necessity, truth, and irrefragable evidence of the orthodox 
doctrine of a final resurrection - a doctrine unknown to 
philosophers, sec. 1-4. II. Refutation of the objections to this 
doctrine by Atheists, Sadducees, Chiliasts, and other fanatics, sec. 
5-7. III. The nature of the final resurrection explained, sec. 8, 9. 
IV. Of the eternal felicity of the elect, and the everlasting misery 
of the reprobate. 
1. For invincible perseverance in our calling, it is necessary to be 
    animated with the blessed hope of our Savior's final advent. 
2. The perfect happiness reserved for the elect at the final 
    resurrection unknown to philosophers. 
3. The truth and necessity of this doctrine of a final resurrection. 
    To confirm our belief in it we have, 1. The example of Christ; 
    and, 2. The omnipotence of God. There is an inseparable 
    connection between us and our risen Savior. The bodies of the 
    elect must be conformed to the body of their Head. It is now in 
    heaven. Therefore, our bodies also must rise, and, reanimated 
    by their souls, reign with Christ in heaven. The resurrection 
    of Christ a pledge of ours. 
4. As God is omnipotent, he can raise the dead. Resurrection 
    explained by a natural process. The vision of dry bones. 
5. Second part of the chapter, refuting objections to the doctrine 
    of resurrection. 1. Atheists. 2. Sadducees. 3. Chiliasts. Their 
    evasion. Various answers. 4. Universalists. Answer. 
6.. Objections continued. 5. Some speculators who imagine that death 
    destroys the whole man. Refutation. The condition and abode of 
    souls from death till the last day. What meant by the bosom of 
7. Refutation of some weak men and Manichees, pretending that new 
    bodies are to be given. Refutation confirmed by various 
    arguments and passages of Scripture. 
8. Refutation of the fiction of new bodies continued. 
9. Shall the wicked rise again? Answer in the affirmative. Why the 
    wicked shall rise again. Why resurrection promised to the elect 
10 The last part of the chapter, treating of eternal felicity; 1 Its 
    excellence transcends our capacity. Rules to be observed. The 
    glory of all the saints will not be equal. 
11. Without rewarding questions which merely puzzle, an answer given 
    to some which are not without use. 
12. As the happiness of the elect, so the misery of the reprobate, 
    will be without measure, and without end. 
    1. Although Christ, the Sun of righteousness, shining upon us 
through the gospel, has, as Paul declares, after conquering death, 
given us the light of life; and hence on believing we are said to 
have passed from "death unto life," being no longer strangers and 
pilgrims, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household 
of God, who has made us sit with his only begotten Son in heavenly 
places, so that nothing is wanting to our complete felicity; yet, 
lest we should feel it grievous to be exercised under a hard 
warfare, as if the victory obtained by Christ had produced no fruit, 
we must attend to what is elsewhere taught concerning the nature of 
hope. For since we hope for what we see not, and faith, as is said 
in another passage, is "the evidence of things not seen" so long as 
we are imprisoned in the body we are absent from the Lord. For which 
reason Paul says, "Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in 
God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also 
appear with him in glory." Our present condition, therefore, 
requires us to "live soberly, righteously, and godly;" "looking for 
that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and 
our Savior Jesus Christ." Here there is need of no ordinary 
patience, lest, worn out with fatigue, we either turn backwards or 
abandon our post. Wherefore, all that has hitherto been said of our 
salvation calls upon us to raise our minds towards heaven, that, as 
Peter exhorts, though we now see not Christ, "yet believing," we may 
"rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory," receiving the end 
of our faith, even the salvation of our souls. For this reason Paul 
says, that the faith and charity of the saints have respect to the 
faith and hope which is laid up for them in heaven, (Col. 1: 5.) 
When we thus keep our eyes fixed upon Christ in heaven, and nothing 
on earth prevents us from directing them to the promised 
blessedness, there is a true fulfillment of the saying, "where your 
treasure is, there will your heart be also," (Matth. 6: 21.) Hence 
the reason why faith is so rare in the world; nothing being more 
difficult for our sluggishness than to surmount innumerable 
obstacles in striving for the prize of our high calling. To the 
immense load of miseries which almost overwhelm us, are added the 
jeers of profane men, who assail us for our simplicity, when 
spontaneously renouncing the allurements of the present life we 
seem, in seeking a happiness which lies hid from us, to catch at a 
fleeting shadow. In short, we are beset above and below, behind and 
before, with violent temptations, which our minds would be 
altogether unable to withstand, were they not set free from earthly 
objects and devoted to the heavenly life, though apparently remote 
from us. Wherefore, he alone has made solid progress in the Gospel 
who has acquired the habit of meditating continually on a blessed 
    2. In ancient times philosophers discoursed, and even debated 
with each other, concerning the chief good: none, however, except 
Plato acknowledged that it consisted in union with God. He could 
not, however, form even an imperfect idea of its true nature; nor is 
this strange, as he had learned nothing of the sacred bond of that 
union. We even in this our earthly pilgrimage know wherein our 
perfect and only felicity consists, - a felicity which, while we 
long for it, daily inflames our hearts more and more, until we 
attain to full fruition. Therefore I said, that none participate in 
the benefits of Christ save those who raise their minds to the 
resurrection. This, accordingly, is the mark which Paul sets before 
believers, and at which he says they are to aim, forgetting every 
thing until they reach its (Phil. 3: 8.) The more strenuously, 
therefore, must we contend for it, lest if the world engross us we 
be severely punished for our sloth. Accordingly, he in another 
passage distinguishes believers by this mark, that their 
conversation is in heaven, from whence they look for the Savior, 
(Phil. 3: 20.) And that they may not faint in their course, he 
associates all the other creatures with them. As shapeless ruins are 
everywhere seen, he says, that all things in heaven and earth 
struggle for renovation. For since Adam by his fall destroyed the 
proper order of nature, the creatures groan under the servitude to 
which they have been subjected through his sin; not that they are at 
all endued with sense, but that they naturally long for the state of 
perfection from which they have fallen. Paul therefore describes 
them as groaning and travailing in pain, (Rom. 8: 19;) so that we 
who have received the first-fruits of the Spirit may be ashamed to 
grovel in our corruption, instead of at least imitating the 
inanimate elements which are bearing the punishment of another's 
sin. And in order that he may stimulate us the more powerfully, he 
terms the final advent of Christ our redemption. It is true, indeed, 
that all the parts of our redemption are already accomplished; but 
as Christ was once offered for sins, (Heb. 9: 28,) so he shall again 
appear without sin unto salvation. Whatever, then, be the 
afflictions by which we are pressed, let this redemption sustain us 
until its final accomplishment. 
    3. The very importance of the subject ought to increase our 
ardor. Paul justly contends, that if Christ rise not the whole 
gospel is delusive and vain, (1 Cor. 15: 13-17;) for our condition 
would be more miserable than that of other mortals, because we are 
exposed to much hatred and insult, and incur danger every hour; nay, 
are like sheep destined for slaughter; and hence the authority of 
the gospel would fail, not in one part merely, but in its very 
essence, including both our adoption and the accomplishment of our 
salvation. Let us, therefore, give heed to a matter of all others 
the most serious, so that no length of time may produce weariness. I 
have deferred the brief consideration to be given of it to this 
place, that my readers may learn, when they have received Christ, 
the author of perfect salvation, to rise higher, and know that he is 
clothed with heavenly immortality and glory in order that the whole 
body may be rendered conformable to the Head. For thus the Holy 
Spirit is ever setting before us in his person an example of the 
resurrection. It is difficult to believe that after our bodies have 
been consumed with rottenness, they sill rise again at their 
appointed time. And hence, while many of the philosophers maintained 
the immortality of the soul, few of them assented to the 
resurrection of the body. Although in this they were inexcusable, we 
are thereby reminded that the subject is too difficult for human 
apprehension to reach it. To enable faith to surmount the great 
difficulty, Scripture furnishes two auxiliary proofs, the one the 
likeness of Christ's resurrection, and the other the omnipotence of 
God. Therefore, whenever the subject of the resurrection is 
considered, let us think of the case of our Savior, who, having 
completed his mortal course in our nature which he had assumed, 
obtained immortality, and is now the pledge of our future 
resurrection. For in the miseries by which we are beset, we always 
bear "about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life 
also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh," (2 Cor. 
4: 10.) It is not lawful, it is not even possible, to separate him 
from us, without dividing him. Hence Paul's argument, "If there be 
no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen," (1 Cor. 15: 
13;) for he assumes it as an acknowledged principle, that when 
Christ was subjected to death, and by rising gained a victory over 
death, it was not on his own account, but in the Head was begun what 
must necessarily be fulfilled in all the members, according to the 
degree and order of each. For it would not be proper to be made 
equal to him in all respects. It is said in the psalm, "Neither wilt 
thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption," (Ps. 16: 10.) 
Although a portion of this confidence appertain to us according to 
the measure bestowed on us, yet the full effect appeared only in 
Christ, who, free from all corruption, resumed a spotless body. 
Then, that there may be no doubt as to our fellowship with Christ in 
a blessed resurrection, and that we may be contented with this 
pledge, Paul distinctly affirms that he sits in the heavens, and 
will come as a judge on the last day for the express purpose of 
changing our vile body, "that it may be fashioned like unto his 
glorious body," (Phil. 3: 21.) For he elsewhere says that God did 
not raise up his Son from death to give an isolated specimen of his 
mighty power, but that the Spirit exerts the same efficacy in regard 
to them that believe; and accordingly he says, that the Spirit when 
he dwells in us is life, because the end for which he was given is 
to quicken our mortal body, (Rom. 8: 10, 11; Col. 3: 4.) I briefly 
glance at subjects which might be treated more copiously, and 
deserve to be adorned more splendidly, and yet in the little I have 
said I trust pious readers will find sufficient materials for 
building up their faith. Christ rose again that he might have us as 
partakers with him of future life. He was raised up by the Father, 
inasmuch as he was the Head of the Church, from which he cannot 
possibly be dissevered. He was raised up by the power of the Spirit, 
who also in us performs the office of quickening. In fine, he was 
raised up to be the resurrection and the life. But as we have said, 
that in this mirror we behold a living image of the resurrection, so 
it furnishes a sure evidence to support our minds, provided we faint 
not, nor grow weary at the long delay, because it is not ours to 
measure the periods of time at our own pleasure; but to rest 
patiently till God in his own time renew his kingdom. To this Paul 
refers when he says, "But every man in his own order: Christ the 
first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming," (1 
Cor. 15: 23.) 
    But lest any question should be raised as to the resurrection 
of Christ on which ours is founded, we see how often and in what 
various ways he has borne testimony to it. Scoffing men will deride 
the narrative which is given by the Evangelist as a childish fable. 
For what importance will they attach to a message which timid women 
brings and the disciples almost dead with fear, afterwards confirm? 
Why does not Christ rather place the illustrious trophies of his 
victory in the midst of the temple and the forum? Why does he not 
come forth, and in the presence of Pilate strike terror? Why does he 
not show himself alive again to the priests and all Jerusalem? 
Profane men will scarcely admit that the witnesses whom he selects 
are well qualified. I answer, that though at the commencement their 
infirmity was contemptible, yet the whole was directed by the 
admirable providence of God, so that partly from love to Christ and 
religious zeal, partly from incredulity, those who were lately 
overcome with fear now hurry to the sepulchre, not only that they 
might be eye-witnesses of the fact, but that they might hear angels 
announce what they actually saw. How can we question the veracity of 
those who regarded what the women told them as a fable, until they 
saw the reality? It is not strange that the whole people and also 
the governor, after they were furnished with sufficient evidence for 
conviction, were not allowed to see Christ or the other signs, 
(Matth. 27: 66; 28: 11.) The sepulchre is sealed, sentinels keep 
watch, on the third day the body is not found. The soldiers are 
bribed to spread the report that his disciples had stolen the body. 
As if they had had the means of deforming a band of soldiers, or 
been supplied with weapons, or been trained so as to make such a 
daring attempt. But if the soldiers had not courage enough to repel 
them, why did they not follow and apprehend some of them by the aid 
of the populace? Pilate, therefore, in fact, put his signet to the 
resurrection of Christ, and the guards who were placed at the 
sepulchre by their silence or falsehood also became heralds of his 
resurrection. Meanwhile, the voice of angels was heard, "He is not 
here, but is risen," (Luke 24: 6.) The celestial splendor plainly 
shows that they were not men but angels. Afterwards, if any doubt 
still remained, Christ himself removed it. The disciples saw him 
frequently; they even touched his hands and his feet, and their 
unbelief is of no little avail in confirming our faith. He 
discoursed to them of the mysteries of the kingdom of God, and at 
length, while they beheld, ascended to heaven. This spectacle was 
exhibited not to eleven apostles only, but was seen by more than 
five hundred brethren at once, (1 Cor. 15: 6.) Then by sending the 
Holy Spirit he gave a proof not only of life but also of supreme 
power, as he had foretold, "It is expedient for you that I go away: 
for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you," (John 
16: 7.) Paul was not thrown down on the way by the power of a dead 
man, but felt that he whom he was opposing was possessed of 
sovereign authority. To Stephen he appeared for another purpose, 
viz., that he might overcome the fear of death by the certainty of 
life. To refuse assent to these numerous and authentic proofs is not 
diffidence, but depraved and therefore infatuated obstinacy. 
    4. We have said that in proving the resurrection our thoughts 
must be directed to the immense power of God. This Paul briefly 
teaches, when he says that the Lord Jesus Christ "shall change our 
vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, 
according to the working of that mighty power whereby he is able 
even to subdue all things unto himself," (Phil. 3: 21.) Wherefore, 
nothing can be more incongruous than to look here at what can be 
done naturally when the subject presented to us is an inestimable 
miracle, which by its magnitude absorbs our senses. Paul, however, 
by producing a proof from nature, confutes the senselessness of 
those who deny the resurrection. "Thou fool, that which thou sowest 
is not quickened except it die," &c., (1 Cor. 15: 36.) He says that 
in seed there is a species of resurrection, because the crop is 
produced from corruption. Nor would the thing be so difficult of 
belief were we as attentive as we ought to be to the wonders which 
meet our eye in every quarter of the world. But let us remember that 
none is truly persuaded of the future resurrection save he who, 
carried away with admiration gives God the glory. 
    Elated with this convictions Isaiah exclaims, "Thy dead men 
shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and 
sing, ye that dwell in dust," (Isaiah 26: 19.) In desperate 
circumstances he rises to God, the author of life, in whose hand are 
"the issues from death," (Psalm 68: 20.) Job also, when liker a dead 
body than a living being, trusting to the power of God, hesitates 
not as if in full vigor to rise to that day: "I know that my 
Redeemer liveth, and that he will stand at the latter day upon the 
earth;" (that is, that he will there exert his power:) "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 19: 25-27.) For though some have recourse to a 
more subtle interpretation, by which they wrest these passages, as 
if they were not to be understood of the resurrection, they only 
confirm what they are desirous to overthrow; for holy men, in 
seeking consolation in their misfortunes, have recourse for 
alleviation merely to the similitude of a resurrection. This is 
better learned from a passage in Ezekiel. When the Jews scouted the 
promise of return, and objected that the probability of it was not 
greater than that of the dead coming forth from the tomb, there is 
presented to the prophet in vision a field covered with dry bones, 
which at the command of God recover sinews and flesh. Though under 
that figure he encourages the people to hope for return, yet the 
ground of hope is taken from the resurrection, as it is the special 
type of all the deliverances which believers experience in this 
world. Thus Christ declares that the voice of the Gospel gives life; 
but because the Jews did not receive it, he immediately adds, 
"Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming in which all that are in 
the grave shall hear his voice, and shall come forth," (John 5: 28, 
29.) Wherefore, amid all our conflicts let us exult after the 
example of Paul, that he who has promised us future life "is able to 
keep that" which "is committed unto him," and thus glory that there 
is laid up for us "a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the 
righteous judge, shall give," (2 Tim. 1: 12; 4: 8.) Thus all the 
hardships which we may endure will be a demonstration of our future 
life, "seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense 
tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled 
rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with 
his mighty angels, in flaming fire," (2 Thess. 1: 6-8.) But we must 
attend to what he shortly after adds, viz., that he "shall come to 
be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that 
believe," by receiving the Gospel. 
    5. Although the minds of men ought to be perpetually occupied 
with this pursuits yet as if they actually resolved to banish all 
remembrance of the resurrection, they have called death the end of 
all things, the extinction of man. For Solomon certainly expresses 
the commonly received opinion when he says "A living dog is better 
than a dead lion," (Eccl. 9: 4.) And again, "Who knoweth the spirit 
of man that goes upward, and the spirit of the beast that goes 
downward to the earth?" In all ages a brutish stupor has prevailed, 
and, accordingly, it has made its way into the very Church; for the 
Sadducees had the hardihood openly to profess that there was no 
resurrection, nay, that the soul was mortal, (Mark 12: 18; Luke 20: 
27.) But that this gross ignorance might be no excuse, unbelievers 
have always by natural instinct had an image of the resurrection 
before their eyes. For why the sacred and inviolable custom of 
burying, but that it might be the earnest of a new life? Nor can it 
be said that it had its origin in error, for the solemnity of 
sepulture always prevailed among the holy patriarchs, and God was 
pleased that the same custom should continue among the Gentiles, in 
order that the image of the resurrection thus presented might shake 
off their torpor. But although that ceremony was without profit, yet 
it is useful to us if we prudently consider its end; because it is 
no feeble refutation of infidelity that all men agreed in professing 
what none of them believed. But not only did Satan stupefy the 
senses of mankind, so that with their bodies they buried the 
remembrance of the resurrection; but he also managed by various 
fictions so to corrupt this branch of doctrine that it at length was 
lost. Not to mention that even in the days of Paul he began to 
assail it, (1 Cor. 15,) shortly after the Chiliasts arose, who 
limited the reign of Christ to a thousand years. This fiction is too 
puerile to need or to deserve refutation. Nor do they receive any 
countenance from the Apocalypse, from which it is known that they 
extracted a gloss for their error, (Rev. 20: 4,) since the thousand 
years there mentioned refer not to the eternal blessedness of the 
Church, but only to the various troubles which await the Church 
militant in this world. The whole Scripture proclaims that there 
will be no end either to the happiness of the elect, or the 
punishment of the reprobate. Moreover, in regard to all things which 
lie beyond our sight, and far transcend the reach of our intellect, 
belief must either be founded on the sure oracles of God, or 
altogether renounced. Those who assign only a thousand years to the 
children of God to enjoy the inheritance of future life, observe not 
how great an insult they offer to Christ and his kingdom. If they 
are not to be clothed with immortality, then Christ himself, into 
whose glory they shall be transformed, has not been received into 
immortal glory; if their blessedness is to have an end, the kingdom 
of Christ, on whose solid structure it rests, is temporary. In 
short, they are either most ignorant of all divine things or they 
maliciously aim at subverting the whole grace of God and power of 
Christ, which cannot have their full effects unless sin is 
obliterated, death swallowed up, and eternal life fully renewed. How 
stupid and frivolous their fear that too much severity will be 
ascribed to God, if the reprobate are doomed to eternal punishment, 
even the blind may see. The Lord, forsooth, will be unjust if he 
exclude from his kingdom those who, by their ingratitude shall have 
rendered themselves unworthy of it. But their sins are temporary, 
(see Bernard, Epist. 254.) I admit it; but then the majesty of God, 
and also the justice which they have violated by their sins, are 
eternal. Justly, therefore, the memory of their iniquity does not 
perish. But in this way the punishment will exceed the measure of 
the fault. It is intolerable blasphemy to hold the majesty of God in 
so little estimation, as not to regard the contempt of it as of 
greater consequence than the destruction of a single soul. But let 
us have done with these triflers, that we may not seem (contrary to 
what we first observed) to think their dreams deserving of 
    6. Besides these, other two dreams have been invented by men 
who indulge a wicked curiosity. Some, under the idea that the whole 
man perishes, have thought that the soul will rise again with the 
body; while others, admitting that spirits are immortal, hold that 
they will be clothed with new bodies, and thus deny the resurrection 
of the flesh. Having already adverted to the former point when 
speaking of the creation of man, it will be sufficient again to 
remind the reader how groveling an error it is to convert a spirit, 
formed after the image of God, into an evanescent breath, which 
animates the body only during this fading life, and to reduce the 
temple of the Holy Spirit to nothing; in short, to rob of the badge 
of immortality that part of ourselves in which the divinity is most 
Refulgent and the marks of immortality conspicuous, so as to make 
the condition of the body better and more excellent than that of the 
soul. Very different is the course taken by Scripture, which 
compares the body to a tabernacle, from which it describes us as 
migrating when we die, because it estimates us by that part which 
distinguishes us from the lower animals. Thus Peter, in reference to 
his approaching death, says, "Knowing that shortly I must put off 
this my tabernacle," (2 Pet. 1: 14.) Paul, again, speaking of 
believers, after saying, "If our earthly house of this tabernacle 
were dissolved, we have a building of God," adds, "Whilst we are at 
home in the body, we are absent from the Lord," (2 Cor. 5: 1, 6.) 
Did not the soul survive the body, how could it be present with the 
Lord on being separated from the body? But an Apostle removes all 
doubt when he says that we go "to the spirits of just men made 
perfect," (Heb. 12: 23;) by these words meaning, that we are 
associated with the holy patriarchs, who, even when dead, cultivate 
the same piety, so that we cannot be the members of Christ unless we 
unite with them. And did not the soul, when unclothed from the body, 
retain its essence, and be capable of beatific glory, our Savior 
would not have said to the thief, "Today shalt thou be with me in 
paradise," (Luke 23: 43.) Trusting to these clear proofs, let us 
doubt not, after the example of our Savior, to commend our spirits 
to God when we come to die, or after the example of Stephen, to 
commit ourselves to the protection of Christ, who, with good reason, 
is called "The Shepherd and Bishop" of our souls, (Acts 7: 59; 1 
Pet. 2: 25.) Moreover, to pry curiously into their intermediate 
state is neither lawful nor expedient, (see Calv. Psychopannychia.) 
Many greatly torment themselves with discussing what place they 
occupy, and whether or not they already enjoy celestial glory. It is 
foolish and rash to inquire into hidden things, farther than God 
permits us to know. Scripture, after telling that Christ is present 
with them, and receives them into paradise, (John 12: 32,) and that 
they are comforted, while the souls of the reprobate suffer the 
torments which they have merited goes no farther. What teacher or 
doctor will reveal to us what God has concealed? As to the place of 
abode, the question is not less futile and inept, since we know that 
the dimension of the soul is not the same as that of the body. When 
the abode of blessed spirits is designated as the bosom of Abraham, 
it is plain that, on quitting this pilgrimage, they are received by 
the common father of the faithful, who imparts to them the fruit of 
his faith. Still, since Scripture uniformly enjoins us to look with 
expectation to the advent of Christ, and delays the crown of glory 
till that period, let us be contented with the limits divinely 
prescribed to us, viz., that the souls of the righteous, after their 
warfare is ended, obtain blessed rest where in joy they wait for the 
fruition of promised glory, and that thus the final result is 
suspended till Christ the Redeemer appear. There can be no doubt 
that the reprobate have the same doom as that which Jude assigns to 
the devils, they are "reserved in everlasting chains under darkness 
unto the judgment of the great day," (Jude ver. 6.) 
    7. Equally monstrous is the error of those who imagine that the 
soul, instead of resuming the body with which it is now clothed, 
will obtain a new and different body. Nothing can be more futile 
than the reason given by the Manichees, viz., that it were 
incongruous for impure flesh to rise again: as if there were no 
impurity in the soul; and yet this does not exclude it from the hope 
of heavenly life. It is just as if they were to say, that what is 
infected by the taint of sin cannot be divinely purified; for I now 
say nothing to the delirious dream that flesh is naturally impure as 
having been created by the devil. I only maintain, that nothing in 
us at present, which is unworthy of heaven, is any obstacle to the 
resurrection. But, first, Paul enjoins believers to purify 
themselves from "all filthiness of the flesh and spirit," (2 Cor. 7: 
l;) and then denounces the judgment which is to follow, that every 
one shall "receive the things done in his body, according to that he 
has done, whether it be good or bad," (2 Cor. 5: 10.) With this 
accords what he says to the Corinthians, "That the life also of 
Jesus might be made manifest in our body," (2 Cor. 4: 10.) For which 
reason he elsewhere says, "I pray God your whole spirit and soul and 
body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus 
Christ," (1 Thess. 5: 23.) He says "body" as well as "spirit and 
soul," and no wonder; for it were most absurd that bodies which God 
has dedicated to himself as temples should fall into corruption 
without hope of resurrection. What? are they not also the members of 
Christ? Does he not pray that God would sanctify every part of them, 
and enjoin them to celebrate his name with their tongues, lift up 
pure hands, and offer sacrifices? That part of man, therefore, which 
the heavenly Judge so highly honors, what madness is it for any 
mortal man to reduce to dust without hope of revival? In like 
manner, when Paul exhorts, "glorify God in your body, and in your 
spirit, which are God's," he certainly does not allow that that 
which he claims for God as sacred is to be adjudged to eternal 
corruption. Nor, indeed, on any subject does Scripture furnish 
clearer explanation than on the resurrection of our flesh. "This 
corruptible (says Paul) must put on incorruption, and this mortal 
must put on immortality," (1 Cor. 15: 53.) If God formed new bodies, 
where would be this change of quality? If it were said that we must 
be renewed, the ambiguity of the expression might, perhaps, afford 
room for cavil; but here pointing with the finger to the bodies with 
which we are clothed, and promising that they shall be 
incorruptible, he very plainly affirms that no new bodies are to be 
fabricated. "Nay," as Tertullian says, "he could not have spoken 
more expressly, if he had held his skin in his hands," (Tertull. de 
Resurrect. Carnis.) Nor can any cavil enable them to evade the force 
of another passage, in which saying that Christ will be the Judge of 
the world, he quotes from Isaiah, "As I live, saith the Lord, every 
knee shall bow to me," (Rom. 14: 11; Isa. 45: 23;) since he openly 
declares that those whom he was addressing will have to give an 
account of their lives. This could not be true if new bodies were to 
be sisted to the tribunal. Moreover, there is no ambiguity in the 
words of Daniel, "Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth 
shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and 
everlasting contempt," (Dan. 12: 2;) since he does not bring new 
matter from the four elements to compose men, but calls forth the 
dead from their graves. And the reason which dictates this is plain. 
For if death, which originated in the fall of man, is adventitious, 
the renewal produced by Christ must be in the same body which began 
to be mortal. And, certainly, since the Athenians mocked Paul for 
asserting the resurrection, (Acts 17: 32,) we may infer what his 
preaching was: their derision is of no small force to confirm our 
faith. The saying of our Savior also is worthy of observation, "Fear 
not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but 
rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in 
hell," (Matth. 10: 28.) Here there would be no ground for fear; were 
not the body which we now have liable to punishment. Nor is another 
saying of our Savior less obscure, "The hour is coming, in the which 
all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come 
forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and 
they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation," (John 
5: 28, 29.) Shall we say that the soul rests in the grave, that it 
may there hear the voice of Christ, and not rather that the body 
shall at his command resume the vigor which it had lost? Moreover, 
if we are to receive new bodies, where will be the conformity of the 
Head and the members? Christ rose again. Was it by forming for 
himself a new body? Nay, he had foretold, "Destroy this temple, and 
in three days I will raise it up," (John 2: 19.) The mortal body 
which he had formerly carried he again received; for it would not 
have availed us much if a new body had been substituted, and that 
which had been offered in expiatory sacrifice been destroyed. We 
must, therefore, attend to that connection which the Apostle 
celebrates, that we rise because Christ rose, (1 Cor. 15: 12;) 
nothing being less probable than that the flesh in which we bear 
about the dying of Christ, shall have no share in the resurrection 
of Christ. This was even manifested by a striking example, when, at 
the resurrection of Christ, many bodies of the saints came forth 
from their graves. For it cannot be denied that this was a prelude, 
or rather earnest, of the final resurrection for which we hope, such 
as already existed in Enoch and Elijah, whom Tertullian calls 
candidates for resurrection, because, exempted from corruption, both 
in body and soul, they were received into the custody of God. 
    8. I am ashamed to waste so many words on so clear a matter; 
but my readers will kindly submit to the annoyance, in order that 
perverse and presumptuous minds may not be able to avail themselves 
of any flaw to deceive the simple. The volatile spirits with whom I 
now dispute adduce the fiction of their own brain, that in the 
resurrection there will be a creation of new bodies. Their only 
reason for thinking so is, that it seems to them incredible that a 
dead body, long wasted by corruption, should return to its former 
state. Therefore, mere unbelief is the parent of their opinion. The 
Spirit of God, on the contrary, uniformly exhorts us in Scripture to 
hope for the resurrection of our flesh. For this reason Baptism is, 
according to Paul, a seal of our future resurrection; and in like 
manner the holy Supper invites us confidently to expect it, when 
with our mouths we receive the symbols of spiritual grace. And 
certainly the whole exhortation of Paul, "Yield ye your members as 
instruments of righteousness unto God," (Rom. 6: 13,) would be 
frigid, did he not add, as he does in another passage, "He that 
raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal 
bodies," (Rom. 8: 11.) For what would it avail to apply feet, hands, 
eyes, and tongues, to the service of God, did not these afterwards 
participate in the benefit and reward? This Paul expressly confirms 
when he says, "The body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; 
and the Lord for the body. And God has both raised up the Lord, and 
will also raise up us by his own power," (1 Cor. 6: 13, 14.) The 
words which follow are still clearer, "Know ye not that your bodies 
are the members of Christ?" "Know ye not that your body is the 
temple of the Holy Ghost?" (1 Cor. 6: 15, l9.) Meanwhile, we see how 
he connects the resurrection with chastity and holiness, as he 
shortly after includes our bodies in the purchase of redemption. It 
would be inconsistent with reason, that the body, in which Paul bore 
the marks of his Savior, and in which he magnificently extolled him, 
(Gal. 6: 17,) should lose the reward of the crown. Hence he glories 
thus, "Our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for 
the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, 
that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body," (Phil. 3: 20, 
21.) As it is true, "That we must through much tribulation enter 
into the kingdom of God," (Acts 14: 22;) so it were unreasonable 
that this entrance should be denied to the bodies which God 
exercises under the banner of the cross and adorns with the palm of 
    Accordingly, the saints never entertained any doubt that they 
would one day be the companions of Christ, who transfers to his own 
person all the afflictions by which we are tried, that he may show 
their quickening power. Nay, under the law, God trained the holy 
patriarch in this belief, by means of an external ceremony. For to 
what end was the rite of burial, as we have already seen, unless to 
teach that new life was prepared for the bodies thus deposited? 
Hence, also, the spices and other symbols of immortality, by which 
under the law the obscurity of the doctrine was illustrated in the 
same way as by sacrifices. That custom was not the offspring of 
superstition, since we see that the Spirit is not less careful in 
narrating burials than in stating the principal mysteries of the 
faith. Christ commends these last offices as of no trivial 
importance, (Matth. 16: 10,) and that, certainly, for no other 
reason than just that they raise our eyes from the view of the tombs 
which corrupts and destroys all things, to the prospect of 
renovation. Besides, that careful observance of the ceremony for 
which the patriarchs are praised, sufficiently proves that they 
found in it a special and valuable help to their faith. Nor would 
Abraham have been so anxious about the burial of his wife, (Gen. 23: 
4, 19,) had not the religious views and something superior to any 
worldly advantage, been present to his mind; in other words, by 
adorning her dead body with the insignia of the resurrection, he 
confirmed his own faith, and that of his family. A clearer proof of 
this appears in the example of Jacob, who, to testify to his 
posterity that even death did not destroy the hope of the promised 
land, orders his bones to be carried thither. Had he been to be 
clothed with a new body would it not have been ridiculous in him to 
give commands concerning a dust which was to be reduced to nothing? 
Wherefore, if Scripture has any authority with us, we cannot desire 
a clearer or stronger proof of any doctrine. Even tyros understand 
this to be the meaning of the words, resurrection, and raising up. A 
thing which is created for the first time cannot be said to rise 
again; nor could our Savior have said, "This is the Father's will 
which has sent me, that of all which he has given me I should lose 
nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day," (John 6: 
39.) The same is implied in the word sleeping, which is applicable 
only to the body. Hence, too, the name of cemetery, applied to 
    It remains to make a passing remark on the mode of 
resurrection. I speak thus because Paul, by styling it a mystery, 
exhorts us to soberness, in order that he may curb a licentious 
indulgence in free and subtle speculation. First, we must hold, as 
has already been observed, that the body in which we shall rise will 
be the same as at present in respect of substance, but that the 
quality will be different; just as the body of Christ which was 
raised up was the same as that which had been offered in sacrifice, 
and yet excelled in other qualities, as if it had been altogether 
different. This Paul declares by familiar examples, (1 Cor. 15: 39.) 
For as the flesh of man and of beasts is the same in substance, but 
not in quality: as all the stars are made of the same matter, but 
have different degrees of brightness: so he shows, that though we 
shall retain the substance of the body, there will be a change, by 
which its condition will become much more excellent. The corruptible 
body, therefore, in order that we may be raised, will not perish or 
vanish away, but, divested of corruption, will be clothed with 
incorruption. Since God has all the elements at his disposal, no 
difficulty can prevent him from commanding the earth, the fire, and 
the water, to give up what they seem to have destroyed. This, also, 
though not without figure, Isaiah testifies, "Behold, the Lore comes 
out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their 
iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more 
cover her slain," (Isa. 26: 21.) But a distinction must be made 
between those who died long ago, and those who on that day shall be 
found alive. For as Paul declares, "We shall not all sleep, but we 
shall all be changed," (1 Cor. 15: 51;) that is, it will not be 
necessary that a period should elapse between death and the 
beginning of the second life, for in a moment of time, in the 
twinkling of an eye, the trumpet shall sound, raising up the dead 
incorruptible, and, by a sudden change, fitting those who are alive 
for the same glory. So, in another passage, he comforts believers 
who were to undergo death, telling them that those who are then 
alive shall not take precedence of the dead, because those who have 
fallen asleep in Christ shall rise first, (1 Thess. 4: 15.) Should 
any one urge the Apostle's declaration, "It is appointed unto all 
men once to die," (Heb. 9: 27,) the solution is easy, that when the 
natural state is changed there is an appearance of death, which is 
fitly so denominated, and, therefore, there is no inconsistency in 
the two things, viz., that all when divested of their mortal body 
shall be renewed by death; and yet that where the change is sudden, 
there will be no necessary separation between the soul and the body. 
    9. But a more difficult question here arises, How can the 
resurrection, which is a special benefit of Christ, be common to the 
ungodly, who are lying under the curse of God? We know that in Adam 
all died. Christ has come to be the resurrection and the life, (John 
11: 25.) is it to revive the whole human race indiscriminately? But 
what more incongruous than that the ungodly in their obstinate 
blindness should obtain what the pious worshipers of God receive by 
faith only? It is certain, therefore, that there will be one 
resurrection to judgment, and another to life, and that Christ will 
come to separate the kids from the goats, (Matth. 25: 32.) I 
observe, that this ought not to seem very strange, seeing something 
resembling it occurs every day. We know that in Adam we were 
deprived of the inheritance of the whole world, and that the same 
reason which excludes us from eating of the tree of life excludes us 
also from common food. How comes it, then, that God not only makes 
his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, but that, in regard to 
the uses of the present life, his inestimable liberality is 
constantly flowing forth in rich abundance? Hence we certainly 
perceive, that things which are proper to Christ and his members, 
abound to the wicked also; not that their possession is legitimate, 
but that they may thus be rendered more inexcusable. Thus the wicked 
often experience the beneficence of God, not in ordinary measures, 
but such as sometimes throw all the blessings of the godly into the 
shade, though they eventually lead to greater damnation. Should it 
be objected, that the resurrection is not properly compared to 
fading and earthly blessings, I again answer, that when the devils 
were first alienated from God, the fountain of life, they deserved 
to be utterly destroyed; yet, by the admirable counsel of God, an 
intermediate state was prepared, where without life they might live 
in death. It ought not to seem in any respect more absurd that there 
is to be an adventitious resurrection of the ungodly which will drag 
them against their will before the tribunal of Christ, whom they now 
refuse to receive as their master and teacher. To be consumed by 
death would be a light punishment were they not, in order to the 
punishment of their rebellion, to be sisted before the Judge whom 
they have provoked to a vengeance without measure and without end. 
But although we are to hold, as already observed and as is contained 
in the celebrated confession of Paul to Felix, "That there shall be 
a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust," (Acts 24: 
15;) yet Scripture more frequently sets forth the resurrection as 
intended, along with celestial glory, for the children of God only: 
because, properly speaking, Christ comes not for the destruction, 
but for the salvation of the world: and, therefore, in the Creed the 
life of blessedness only is mentioned. 
    10. But since the prophecy that death shall be swallowed up in 
victory, (Hosea 13: 14,) will then only be completed, let us always 
remember that the end of the resurrection is eternal happiness, of 
whose excellence scarcely the minutes part can be described by all 
that human tongues can say. For though we are truly told that the 
kingdom of God will be full of light, and gladness, and felicity, 
and glory, yet the things meant by these words remain most remote 
from sense, and as it were involved in enigma, until the day arrive 
on which he will manifest his glory to us face to face, (l Cor. 15: 
54.) "Now" says John, "are we the sons of God; and it does not yet 
appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we 
shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is," (1 John 3: 2.) 
Hence, as the prophets were unable to give a verbal description of 
that spiritual blessedness, they usually delineated it by corporeal 
objects. On the other hand, because the fervor of desire must be 
kindled in us by some taste of its sweetness, let us specially dwell 
upon this thought, If God contains in himself as an inexhaustible 
fountain all fulness of blessing, those who aspire to the supreme 
good and perfect happiness must not long for any thing beyond him. 
This we are taught in several passages, "Fear not, Abraham; I am thy 
shield, and thy exceeding great reward," (Gen. 15: 1.) With this 
accords David's sentiment, "The Lord is the portion of mine 
inheritance, and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are 
fallen unto me in pleasant places," (Ps. 16: 5, 6.) Again, "I shall 
be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness," (Ps. 17: 15.) Peter 
declares that the purpose for which believers are called is, that 
they may be "partakers of the divine nature," (2 Pet. 1: 4.) How so? 
Because "he shall come to be glorified in his saints and to be 
admired in all them that believe," (2 Thess. 1: 10.) If our Lord 
will share his glory, power, and righteousness, with the elect, nay, 
will give himself to be enjoyed by them; and what is better still, 
will, in a manner, become one with them, let us remember that every 
kind of happiness is herein included. But when we have made great 
progress in thus meditating, let us understand that if the 
conceptions of our minds be contrasted with the sublimity of the 
mystery, we are still halting at the very entrance. The more 
necessary is it for us to cultivate sobriety in this matter, lest 
unmindful of our feeble capacity we presume to take too lofty a 
flight, and be overwhelmed by the brightness of the celestial glory. 
We feel how much we are stimulated by an excessive desire of knowing 
more than is given us to know, and hence frivolous and noxious 
questions are ever and anon springing forth: by frivolous, I mean 
questions from which no advantage can be extracted. But there is a 
second class which is worse than frivolous; because those who 
indulge in them involve themselves in hurtful speculations. Hence I 
call them noxious. The doctrine of Scripture on the subject ought 
not to be made the ground of any controversy, and it is that as God, 
in the varied distribution of gifts to his saints in this world, 
gives them unequal degrees of light, so when he shall crown his 
gifts, their degrees of glory in heaven will also be unequal. When 
Paul says, "Ye are our glory and our joy," (2 Thess. 2: 19,) his 
words do not apply indiscriminately to all; nor do those of our 
Savior to his apostles, "Ye also shall sit on twelve thrones judging 
the twelve tribes of Israel," (Matth. 19: 28.) But Paul, who knew 
that as God enriches the saints with spiritual gifts in this world, 
he will in like manner adorn them with glory in heaven, hesitates 
not to say, that a special crown is laid up for him in proportion to 
his labors. Our Savior, also, to commend the dignity of the office 
which he had conferred on the apostles, reminds them that the fruit 
of it is laid up in heaven. This, too, Daniel says, "They that be 
wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that 
turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever," (Dan. 
12: 3.) Any one who attentively considers the Scriptures will see 
net only that they promise eternal life to believers, but a special 
reward to each. Hence the expression of Paul, "The Lord grant unto 
him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day," (2 Tim. 1: 18; 
4: 14.) This is confirmed by our Savior's promise, that they "shall 
receive an hundredfold and shall inherit everlasting life," (Matth. 
19: 29.) In short, as Christ, by the manifold variety of his gifts, 
begins the glory of his body in this world, and gradually increases 
it, so he will complete it in heaven. 
    1l. While all the godly with one consent will admit this, 
because it is sufficiently attested by the word of God, they will, 
on the other hand, avoid perplexing questions which they feel to be 
a hindrance in their way, and thus keep within the prescribed 
limits. In regard to myself, I not only individually refrain from a 
superfluous investigation of useless matters, but also think myself 
bound to take care that 1 do not encourage the levity of others by 
answering them. Men puffed up with vain science are often inquiring 
how great the difference will be between prophets and apostles, and 
again, between apostles and martyrs; by how many degrees virgins 
will surpass those who are married; in short, they leave not a 
corner of heaven untouched by their speculations. Next it occurs to 
them to inquire to what end the world is to be repaired, since the 
children of God will not be in want of any part of this great and 
incomparable abundance, but will be like the angels, whose 
abstinence from food is a symbol of eternal blessedness. I answer, 
that independent of use, there will be so much pleasantness in the 
very sight, so much delight in the very knowledge, that this 
happiness will far surpass all the means of enjoyment which are now 
afforded. Let us suppose ourselves placed in the richest quarter of 
the globe, where no kind of pleasure is wanting, who is there that 
is not ever and anon hindered and excluded by disease from enjoying 
the gifts of God? who does not oftentimes interrupt the course of 
enjoyment by intemperance? Hence it follows, that fruition, pure and 
free from all defect, though it be of no use to a corruptible life, 
is the summit of happiness. Others go further, and ask whether dross 
and other impurities in metals will have no existence at the 
restitution, and are inconsistent with it. Though I should go so far 
as concede this to them, yet I expect with Paul a reparation of 
those defects which first began with sin, and on account of which 
the whole creation groaneth and travaileth with pain, (Rom. 8: 22.) 
Others go a step further, and ask, What better condition can await 
the human race, since the blessing of offspring shall then have an 
end? The solution of this difficulty also is easy. When Scripture so 
highly extols the blessing of offspring, it refers to the progress 
by which God is constantly urging nature forward to its goal; in 
perfection itself we know that the case is different. But as such 
alluring speculations instantly captivate the unwary, who are 
afterwards led farther into the labyrinth, until at length, every 
one becoming pleased with his own views there is no limit to 
disputation, the best and shortest course for us will be to rest 
contented with seeing through a glass darkly until we shall see face 
to face. Few out of the vast multitude of mankind feel concerned how 
they are to get to heaven; all would fain know before the time what 
is done in heaven. Almost all, while slow and sluggish in entering 
upon the contest, are already depicting to themselves imaginary 
    12. Moreover, as language cannot describe the severity of the 
divine vengeance on the reprobate, their pains and torments are 
figured to us by corporeal things, such as darkness, wailing and 
gnashing of teeth, inextinguishable fire, the ever-gnawing worm, 
(Matth. 8: 12; 22: 13; Mark 9: 43; Isa. 66: 24.) It is certain that 
by such modes of expression the Holy Spirit designed to impress all 
our senses with dread, as when it is said, "Tophet is ordained of 
old; yea, for the king it is prepared: he has made it deep and 
large; the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the 
Lord, like a stream of brimstone, does kindle it," (Isa. 30: 33.) As 
we thus require to be assisted to conceive the miserable doom of the 
reprobate, so the consideration on which we ought chiefly to dwell 
is the fearful consequence of being estranged from all fellowship 
with God, and not only so, but of feeling that his majesty is 
adverse to us, while we cannot possibly escape from it. For, first, 
his indignation is like a raging fire, by whose touch all things are 
devoured and annihilated. Next, all the creatures are the 
instruments of his judgment, so that those to whom the Lord will 
thus publicly manifest his anger will feel that heaven, and earth, 
and sea, all beings, animate and inanimate, are, as it were, 
inflamed with dire indignation against them, and armed for their 
destruction. Wherefore, the Apostle made no trivial declaration, 
when he said that unbelievers shall be "punished with everlasting 
destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his 
power," (2 Thess. 1: 9.) And whenever the prophets strike terror by 
means of corporeal figures, although in respect of our dull 
understanding there is no extravagance in their language, yet they 
give preludes of the future judgment in the sun and the moon, and 
the whole fabric of the world. Hence unhappy consciences find no 
rest, but are vexed and driven about by a dire whirlwind, feeling as 
if torn by an angry God, pierced through with deadly darts, 
terrified by his thunderbolts and crushed by the weight of his hand; 
so that it were easier to plunge into abysses and whirlpools than 
endure these terrors for a moment. How fearful, then, must it be to 
be thus beset throughout eternity! On this subject there is a 
memorable passage in the ninetieth Psalm: Although God by a mere 
look scatters all mortals, and brings them to nought, yet as his 
worshippers are more timid in this world, he urges them the more, 
that he may stimulate then, while burdened with the cross to press 
onward until he himself shall be all in all. 
End of Book Three. 

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 3, Part 31

(Conclusion, Volume 3)

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