God’s plan for all people is to resurrect them—to call them back out of their graves and give them life again—at the end of the age. This is accomplished in two main phases. The “first resurrection” takes place at the return of Jesus Christ and consists of “the saints,” which refers to those who are called into God’s Church at this time (see Revelation 20:4-6 Revelation 20:4-6  And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark on their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
 Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
American King James Version×). Individuals in the first resurrection will be spirit beings who have eternal life and cannot die again (Revelation 20:6 Revelation 20:6Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
American King James Version×). After the 1,000-year reign of Christ, the “rest of the dead” will also live again (Revelation 20:12-13 Revelation 20:12-13  And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.  And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
American King James Version×) but will not be immortal. The “rest of the dead” will be resurrected to a second physical life where they then have the opportunity to know God, receive His Holy Spirit and ultimately inherit eternal life in God’s Kingdom (Ezekiel 37:1-14 Ezekiel 37:1-14  The hand of the LORD was on me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the middle of the valley which was full of bones,  And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, see, they were very dry.  And he said to me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, you know.  Again he said to me, Prophesy on these bones, and say to them, O you dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.  Thus said the Lord GOD to these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live:  And I will lay sinews on you, and will bring up flesh on you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.  So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone.  And when I beheld, see, the sinews and the flesh came up on them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them.  Then said he to me, Prophesy to the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus said the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.  So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up on their feet, an exceeding great army.  Then he said to me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts.  Therefore prophesy and say to them, Thus said the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.  And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves,  And shall put my spirit in you, and you shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall you know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, said the LORD.
American King James Version×).
In terms of God’s resurrection, the state of a person’s dead body has no impact on God’s ability to resurrect that person. Revelation 20:12 Revelation 20:12And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
American King James Version×refers to the dead lost at sea being resurrected, while Ezekiel 37 refers to a multitude of people whose remains are nothing more than “dry bones.” God is able to resurrect a person no matter what has become of their physical body after death.
We can also say with confidence that what happens to a person’s body after death has no impact on their salvation. This is necessary because, while we may state our wishes for our remains while still alive, we have no control over what actually happens after we die.
Specifically, is it a sin for a person to request that his or her body be donated for research after death, which brings another matter to bear—what is sin? 1 John 3:4 1 John 3:4Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
American King James Version×defines sin as the transgression of God’s law, but Paul also writes in Romans 14:23 Romans 14:23And he that doubts is damned if he eat, because he eats not of faith: for whatever is not of faith is sin.
American King James Version×that “whatever is not from faith is sin.” This statement comes at the end of a discussion about violating one’s conscience on a matter that is not addressed in God’s law—it means that if we willingly do something that we believe to be sinful, then that is a sin for us even if the action itself is not otherwise sinful.
Paul’s specific issue in Romans 14 was about meat sacrificed to idols. Some members of the Church at that time concluded that it was a sin to eat meat because of the possibility that it had been sacrificed to an idol without their knowledge. Paul acknowledged that there was not a clear command from God’s law on the matter and encourages the brethren to bear with each other in love when they disagreed. However, this statement in verse 23, “whatever is not from faith is sin,” tells us that a person who believed it would be a sin to eat such meat would indeed be sinning if they ate it—that is, if they did something they believed was a sin, even though it was not, then it became sinful.
In relation to this question about donating your body to medical research, this means that if a person’s conscience is troubled and they feel it would be wrong to donate their body for research, then it would in fact be a sin for them to do so. Otherwise, there is no scriptural reason to conclude that it is a sin to donate one’s body for medical research.
For further reading about the state of the dead and the wonderful hope of the resurrection, please see our free study aid, “What Happens After Death?”