Athenagoras was a church father and philosopher in the second century who converted to Christianity. In his work, On the Resurrection of the Dead, he gives arguments and responds to objections about the general resurrection of mankind.
He makes some very interesting points that I am sure you have never thought about. For example, one of his arguments is literally that you cannot show that God does not will a resurrection to happen. I doubt many people will find that convincing!
A better example is what he calls the “Argument for the Resurrection from the Purpose Contemplated in Man’s Creation.” It goes something like this.
First, when a man does something, he usually does it with intentionality. For example, a man builds a house so he can live in it, or raises cattle so that his family will have something to eat. Even things that seem meaningless are usually a means to an end.
So it is with God. If a Creator exists, then we can deduce that God must have made us with a purpose in mind. Athenagoras says,
“God can neither have made man in vain, for He is wise, and no work of wisdom is in vain.”
God doesn’t create things without reason, so God purposefully created man in His own image. According to Athenagoras, God’s purpose for mankind is to recognize their Maker, obey his law, and experience an existence free from suffering. So we must continue to exist after death, otherwise we would perish in vain and not fulfill the purpose for which we were created.
He also insists that the hope we have is not just wishful thinking:
“…we steadfastly hope for a continuance of being in immortality; and this we do not take without foundation from the inventions of men, feeding ourselves on false hopes, but our belief rests on a most infallible guarantee — the purpose of Him who fashioned us.”
God’s infallible purpose for mankind is enough for Athenagoras to know that death cannot be the end.
He later makes another interesting argument. If there is no future reward or punishment, then how we live ultimately doesn’t matter. For example, if there is no future reward, why waste your time pursuing difficult traits like virtue and goodness? Why not instead focus on fulfilling your every desire?
He goes on to say that in this life there is neither sufficient reward for the righteous nor sufficient punishment for the wicked. So he asks,
“…the man who holds no true opinion concerning God, but lives in all outrage and blasphemy, despises divine things, breaks the laws, commits outrage against boys and women alike, razes cities unjustly, burns houses with their inhabitants, and devastates a country, and at the same time destroys inhabitants of cities and peoples, and even an entire nation — how in a mortal body could he endure a penalty adequate to these crimes, since death prevents the deserved punishment, and the mortal nature does not suffice for any single one of his deeds?”
An utterly wicked person could do horrendous things and yet meet the same fate as everyone else: death. This would let the guilty escape judgment and make God unjust. Since God is just, punishment and reward must be administered in the next life since they cannot be in this one.
In summary, God has reasons to raise the dead and as Creator is able to do so. According to Athenagoras, the same God who created our bodies out of nothing will also “raise them again with equal ease.”