INTRODUCTION TO THE RESURRECTIONS

THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD

The reality of death is one of the most terrifying thoughts  that can  come to the human mind; consequently, there are few  subjects in the Bible that command more interest than the resurrection of the dead.

Most  rational people want to live forever, yet the reality of the  human existence  dictates that death is inevitable for everyone.  There are  very  few  people who have not given some  thought  to  what happens  to people after death. Some wonder whether or not  there is life after death. Others firmly believe in some sort of  existence   beyond  the grave and they wonder whether it will be  one  of happiness or one of sorrow. However, few people have found a satisfactory  answer to the question: "Where or how will I spend eternity?"

Is physical death the end of human existence?   According to  the Bible,  the answer is No! This physical life is not the  end  of human existence. There is an event that will determine the  eternal destiny  of each individual and this  event  is  a resurrection from the dead.

THE HOPE OF A RESURRECTION

The  resurrection from physical death to eternal life is  one  of the  central themes and promises of the Bible. It is this  resurrection to eternal life  that  Jesus Christ, the apostles, and the prophets spoke about throughout the Bible.

Thousands  of  years ago, a man named Job asked the  same  questions that  many people ask today. The only difference between Job  and most people of today is that Job knew the answers. Job knew  that there  would  be a resurrection of the dead  and  he  understood God's plan to give life to those who served him:

"But man dies, and wastes away: yes, man gives up the spirit, and where  is  he?  As the waters fail from the sea,  and  the  flood decays  and dries up: So man lies down, and rises not:  till  the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised  out  of their sleep.  O that you would hide me in the grave,  that  you would  keep me secret, until your wrath is past, that  you  would appoint  me a set time, and remember me! If a man die,  shall  he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait,  till my  change  come [Job knew he would be resurrected.].  You  shall call,  and I will answer you: you will have a desire to the work of your hands" (Job 14:10-15 KJV). See also Job 19:25-26.

A Common Belief

In  the  conversation between Jesus and Martha prior  to  Lazarus being  brought back to life, Jesus says, "Your brother will  rise again.  Martha said to him, I  know that  he will rise  again  in the resurrection  in the last day. Jesus said to her, I  am  the resurrection  and  the life: the one believing in me,  though  he die, he shall live" (Jn.11:23-25 KJV). See also Rom.5:8-11; 6:5-11,23.

In  the account of the resurrection of Martha's brother  Lazarus, two  things become apparent. First, during Jesus' lifetime,  some believed there would be a resurrection of the dead at some  point in  the future. Second, the way to obtain  the  resurrection  to eternal  life  is  through belief in  Jesus.  See Matt.19:16-21; Jn.5:21-29; 6:40; 10:27-28.

Paul's Hope

"Yes doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered  the loss of all things, and do count them as dung, that  I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ,  the righteousness which is of God by faith: That  I  may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the  fellowship of  his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If  by any  means  I  might attain to the resurrection  of  the  dead" (Phil.3:8-11 KJV). See also Heb.11:17-19; Isa.26:17-21.

Paul Speaks With Felix

"But  this I confess to you, that after the way which  they  call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all  things which  are written in the law and in the prophets: And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a  resurrection of the dead, both of the just and  unjust"  (Acts 24:14-15 KJV).

Paul Writes to the Corinthians

Notice  what the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians about  the hope of a resurrection.

1.Corinthians 15:12-22 NIV

"But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how  can  some of you say that there is no  resurrection  of  the dead?  If  there is no resurrection of the dead,  then  not even Christ has been raised" (vs.12-13).

"And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless  and so  is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be  false witnesses  about  God, for we have testified about  God that  he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in  fact the dead are not raised" (vs.14-15).

"For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been  raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is  futile; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men" (vs.16-19).

"But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through  a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive"  (vs.20-22).

AFTER DEATH THE JUDGMENT

There are two texts that contain the words 'judged' and  'judgment', which  are quoted to support the false teaching that today is  the only day of salvation. Many people also  assume that John and  Paul spoke of a single event at the return of Christ, when all  of mankind  will be judged according to how they have lived in  this present  life.

"And I saw a great white throne, and the One sitting on it,  from whose  face  the earth and the heaven fled; and a place  was  not found  for  them. And I saw the dead, the small  and the great, standing 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 the things written in the books according to their  works. And  the  sea gave up the dead. And death and Hades gave  up  the dead in them. And they were each judged according to their works" (Rev.20:11-13 Para.).

"And  as  it is reserved to men once to die, and after  this  the Judgment" (Heb.9:27 Para.).

The English word 'judged' in Revelation 20  is translated from the  Greek word 'krino',  which means 'to judge'. It can also mean   'to  sunder',  'to select',  'to  decide',  'to assess', 'to go to  law',  'to seek justice',  'to expound', 'to believe', or 'to resolve'.   In  Hebrews  9, the word 'judgment' is translated from the Greek word 'krisis', which has the senses of 'estrangement', 'conflict',  'selection', 'decision', 'judgment', 'verdict', and 'even accusation'.

The  assumption that the words 'krino' and 'krisis' always  indicate the delivering of a sentence or punishment for a crime when used in scriptures  concerning  the salvation of humanity is  a much  too narrow meaning. Many assign this narrow meaning to all  of the  scriptures that concern the salvation of humanity,  so  that this meaning will fit these people's own belief about life after death. Both 'krino' and 'krisis' can be used to convey  the  sense  of something  yet to be decided or resolved. The use of these  words in this sense is the intent in many scriptures that pertain to the overall plan of God for the salvation of mankind.

The Prophet Daniel

Daniel  foretells the climactic end of this age, when Christ  will return  and establish his government upon the earth. Notice  that Daniel only mentions two categories of people who will be  resurrected:

Daniel 12:1-4 KJV

"And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince  which stands for the children of your people: and there shall be a time of  trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even  to that same time: and at that time your people shall be  delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book" (v1).

In  verse  one, there is a reference to the elect of God  who  are written  in  the Book of Life. See Ex.32:23-33;  Psa.69:28; Lk.10:19-20; Rev.3:5.

"And  many  of  them that sleep in the dust of  the  earth  shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt" (v2).

In  verse two, Daniel was inspired to use the word 'MANY' not 'ALL'  when he referred to those who are to be resurrected  from  the dead.  The word 'many' is translated from the common Hebrew word 'rab', which can mean 'much', 'many', or 'great'. The Hebrew word  for 'all' is either 'kole' or 'micpar', depending  on  contextual requirements.  This  is important, because if everyone will not  be resurrected to either a reward or a punishment, there  must be  another  category of the dead who will also be dealt  with at some time before a final judgment.

This prophecy is sealed until the time of the end: "And 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. But you, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even  to the  time  of the end: many shall run to and fro,  and  knowledge shall be increased" (vs.3-4).

Jesus  Says, "Do not marvel at this: for an hour is  coming,  in which  all those in the tombs will hear his voice. And they  will come out, the ones having done good into a resurrection of life; and  the ones having practiced evil into a resurrection of  judgment" (Jn.5:28-29 Para.).

After reading this verse, many people assume that there is  only  one specific  hour when all of humanity will be resurrected to  judgment;  however, this is  not what Jesus says. He says that  there will be an appointed time when all those in the grave  will  be judged for the way they have lived.

Because Jesus clearly divides these people into  two distinct categories—good and evil—, many people assume that there  are only  two categories of people who will be resurrected.  Although the English word 'judgment' is translated from the Greek word 'krisis', which does refer to the condemnation of  those  who  habitually practice  evil, in this context, we must consider to whom Jesus was speaking here?

We must remember that Jesus was speaking to the Jews who were a people who are  well  versed in the law of God, which  clearly  defines  the difference  between good and evil. But what about those who  have never  known or understood the law of God? God has  made an allowance for a special resurrection for  those  who have never had an opportunity to understand his laws during their lifetime.

TODAY IS NOT THE ONLY DAY OF SALVATION!

Many believe that the period of time between Adam and the  return of Christ is the only time when salvation is offered to humanity. It is true that there are a few scriptures which seem  to  substantiate this view. However, a review  of  all  the  scriptures that speak of the resurrection of the dead will clearly show that, past this present age, salvation will be offered to physical humans.

FEW UNDERSTAND THE GOSPEL IN THIS AGE

Although  the  mystery  of  salvation  has  been  and  is  being preached, only a very few are allowed to understand its  secrets  for very good reasons. God the Father and Jesus Christ  love their human creation much more than most can begin to comprehend. And it is this love and concern for each individual that prevents God the  Father from offering salvation to all of humanity before the establishment of his kingdom on earth.

God  the  Father and Jesus Christ do not want anyone to  miss  or fail  in  their opportunity to become a part of the  God  family; they want everyone to obtain salvation:

"Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the  knowledge of the truth" (1.Tim.2:4 KJV).

"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men  count slackness; but is long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2.Pet.3:9 KJV).

This  earnest desire for the salvation of humanity is the  reason that God the Father and Jesus Christ have formulated a plan that will  afford each individual the optimum opportunity for  success.  In order for each individual to have the best possible conditions to enhance  their possibility for success, they must be  allowed  to live in a time and environment in which they may succeed, if they want to. This is also  why so few in this age are being  given the  understanding of the mysteries of the Gospel. God knows  the potential and character of each individual, and he knows in which phase  of his plan to offer each individual the  opportunity  for salvation.

A DAY OF SALVATION

The  scriptures pertaining to the requirements for salvation cannot be reconciled with the facts of history or the rest of the Bible, if  God the Father and Jesus Christ have been trying to save  all of humanity from the time of Adam to this present age. However, the understanding that God is  not trying  to do this before the establishment of his  kingdom  on earth clarifies the meaning of these scriptures.

If God were trying to save mankind now, he would do it! There  is no  competition  or contest for the lives of humans  between  God and  Satan.  God alone is in authority over all  that  exists  in heaven  and  earth. Satan can do nothing against God's  will  or without  God's  permission. God allows Satan to  rule  the  earth within set parameters that do not adversely influence his overall plan for the salvation of humanity. God's plan for humanity is right on  schedule, and  no  human or evil spirit can stop God  from  fulfilling  his purpose for mankind.

Today  is not the only day of salvation; it is 'a' day of  salvation. Calling all of  humanity to salvation at one time has never been a part of God's plan. However, at the proper time and  after the  proper sequence of events, he will present this  opportunity to all of humanity. Surprising as it may be, this is not the only day  of salvation for humanity; it is only the day  of  salvation for  those  called  and chosen for salvation in this  age  for  a special  purpose.  See our study paper for a full explanation of the day of salvation.

GOSPEL PREACHED FOR A WITNESS

Jesus  says the Gospel was to be preached only as a  witness;  he says nothing about trying to convert all of humanity during  this present age:

"And  this  gospel of the kingdom shall be preached  in  all  the world  for  a witness to all nations; and then  shall  the  end come" (Matt.24:14).

The  end that is spoken of here is the end of human rule on  this earth. A new age will begin after the end of human rule, and  the Kingdom of God will reign on earth with Jesus Christ as its king.

During  this present age, many people are called and  exposed  to the opportunity for salvation, yet those who are called are  very few in comparison to the earth's population. And among those  who are  called, few are chosen to participate in the first  resurrection:  "So the last shall be first, and the first last: for  many be called, but few chosen" (Matt.20:16; 22:14 KJV).

THE RESURRECTIONS

Many people believe that there is only one general resurrection for all  of humanity after Christ's return, and that at this resurrection, all who have ever  lived and died will either be given eternal life and go  to heaven or be sent to eternal torment in a lake of fire.

However, this popular belief concerning the resurrection of the good and the wicked cannot be verified in the  scriptures.  The plan of God for the resurrection of the dead  is  far more complex and fair than commonly believed.

God  is fair, loving, merciful, and true to his promises.  He  is not  the cruel and merciless monster that so many  preachers  depict.  Because he is a God of love (1.Jn.4:8), he has designed  a number of different resurrections in order to give the opportunity for eternal life to those who  have  not known him or had an opportunity to  qualify  for eternal life.

There  is no doubt that each person will have an  opportunity  to obey  God's  code of righteous conduct.  The  only  question  is when each individual will have this opportunity?:

"For  as  in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall  all  be  made alive.  But every man in his own order: Christ  the  first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming" (1.Cor.15:22-23).

After  the return of Christ and the first resurrection,  all  the dead will be raised to life to have their first  opportunity  for salvation or to be punished for their failure  to  obey God.  All will eventually give account to God for what they  have done with the opportunity God gives them.

FOUR GENERAL RESURRECTIONS

In  the Book of Revelation, we find the statement: "This  is  the  first  resurrection."  Logic should tell us that if  there  is  a first resurrection, there must be a second. As we will see, there is  not only a first, but a second, a third, and a fourth  resurrection of the dead.

The  Bible reveals that, at this present time in the plan  of  God for the salvation of humanity, all people fall into one of  three categories:  the saved, the lost, and those who have not  had  an opportunity  for salvation. And all people represented  by  these categories  will  take part in one or more of  the  four  general resurrections mentioned in the Bible.

1. The  first resurrection at the return of Christ  is  for  the righteous dead of all ages. They are the ones who were given  an opportunity for  salvation prior to the return  of  Christ,  and because  they lived a life of obedience to God and his  ways,  they will receive eternal and immortal life in the Kingdom of God.  See Rev.20:4-6;12.

2. The second resurrection is for the dead of national  Israel  who have  never  had  their  first opportunity  for  salvation.  See Ezekiel chp.37.

3. The  third resurrection is for all those who have  lived  and died, either  being deceived by Satan's religions or  never  having heard of God's way of life. Therefore, they have never had an opportunity for salvation. They are the rest of the dead mentioned  in Revelation 20:5;13.

4. The fourth resurrection is to the second death for the  incorrigible wicked  who  intentionally disobey and  reject  God  and refuse to obey his way of life. See Rev.20:14-15; 21:8; Dan.12:2.

SUMMARY

The  Bible  reveals  the great love and fairness  of  God  toward humanity through each of these four general resurrections of  the dead.

In his infinite wisdom, the  Eternal God has carefully  designed his plan for humanity in order that every person will be given an opportunity to  have eternal life (read the entire 18th  chapter of Ezekiel). The vast majority of people who have lived  throughout  history  have died without ever hearing  or  understanding God's plan.

The comforting truth is that the  majority of humanity, past  and present,  are neither saved nor lost. They simply have  not   yet been given an opportunity for salvation.

By B.L Cocherell, file b7w1