Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What the Bible Says About the Resurrection

They say there are two things for certain in life: death and taxes, but I would add a third to the list: resurrection. Now I have never seen a real resurrection, and I doubt if you have either.  There are cases of near-death experiences, and even people who have been "brought back to life" after being medically dead for a very short time. However, I don't categorize those as true resurrections. Is it a certainty that those who die will be resurrected?  And if they are resurrected, when will this be?  And where are the dead before the resurrection?  And what happens after the resurrection?  Lots of questions.  Does the Bible have answers to all these questions that we as humans are interested in?  Absolutely.  Let's start with the basics and go from there.

To be resurrected means to rise from the dead.  Christ was resurrected on the third day after being crucified.  By His victory over death and the grave through His resurrection, we too have been promised to be raised to new and everlasting life from the dead when Christ returns.

"I have hope in God, ... that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust."  Acts 24:15

Where are the Dead Now?

To understand what happens at the resurrection, we first have to understand where the dead are.  The Bible makes it clear that the dead are asleep in the grave, resting until Christ's return and the resurrection.  They are not in heaven or burning in hell.  (See John 11:11 and my post on death.)  This is the first death.  This is the death that is awaiting resurrection.

"And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt."  Daniel 12:2

There is a second death, and that is a death from which there will be no resurrection.  It is permanent.  I'll talk about the second death another time.

How to Escape from Death

Sin leads to death.

And we have all sinned.  "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23

Therefore, we shall all die.   "The soul who sins shall die."  Ezekiel 18:20

But the good news is that Christ came to redeem us, to save us from the curse and power of sin and death and to restore us to fellowship with God.  "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace."  Ephesians 1:7

When a person dies, his life is over on this earth.  He has either chosen to accept Christ's free gift of salvation, the forgiveness of sins, to accept Christ's righteousness, to follow God and live for Him out of thankfulness for His love for us, or he has chosen to spurn that gift and turn the other way - to be against Christ and live for self.

At death, a person is either safe in the arms of Jesus with Christ's robe of righteousness covering him, or he is in his sins without salvation.

What Happens at the Resurrection

When Christ returns, the first resurrection occurs.

Not all will be dead when Christ returns.  There will be living people on earth who will see it with their eyes.  Now everyone who has ever lived will be in one of four categories*:

1).  The righteous dead
2).  The unrighteous dead
3).  The righteous living
4).  The unrighteous living

* There are a few humans already in heaven.  Enoch, Elijah, and Moses are three specific people the Bible has made clear that have been taken to heaven already.  These are very special cases.  Elijah represents those who will be raised without touching death.  Moses represents those who will be resurrected from death to eternal life.  See ( Gen. 5:24;  2 Kings 2:11; Jude 1:9)  At Christ's resurrection, there were many who were resurrected and appeared to others in the cities.  They ascended to heaven with Jesus.  This was a special resurrection, but not a universal resurrection.

What will happen to the righteous (#1 and #3 in our list) at the resurrection? 

The Bible is clear what will happen.  In 1 Corinthians 15:51-55 it says,

"51 Behold, I tell you a mystery:  We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed - 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of any eye, at the last trumpet.  for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.  54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption,and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory.'  54 'O Death, where is your sting?   O Hades*, where is your victory?' "

*Hades means grave.

Verse 51 says we shall not all sleep.  Who won't be sleeping in our list above?   The righteous living and the unrighteous living won't be sleeping.  Who will be changed?  The righteous living and the righteous dead will be changed.  They will be changed instantly.  Verse 52 says the dead (righteous dead) will be raised incorruptible - that means with new, perfect bodies.  No more sin or disease.  The righteous living will also be changed at the same time.  We will have perfect, whole, healthy bodies remade by the Creator Himself.

Death will have been conquered, or "swallowed up".  Christ is the victor!

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 adds more information:

"13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.  14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
15 ...we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.  16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meed the Lord in the air.  And thus we shall always be with the Lord."

What good news!  Jesus is coming back for us.  He will change us in an instant and we will be with Him forever.

What will happen to the unrighteous living (#4 in our list) at the resurrection? 

"With the breath of his lips shall He slay the wicked." Isaiah 11:4
"And the slain of the Lord shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth."  Jeremiah 25:33

What will happen to the unrighteous dead (#2 in our list) at the resurrection?

A small group of the unrighteous dead will be resurrected at Christ's second return.  The Bible says those who pierced Him shall see Him come in the clouds.  "Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him..."  Revelation 1:7
They will see Christ in all His glory, and then they will be slain again by His brightness.

They shall remain in Hades, or the grave, until the second resurrection and the second death.

What is the Second Death?

The Bible is clear that there is a second death.  This is the lake of fire which consumes Death and Hades, the grave.  It destroys everything that was the consequence of sin and is sin.  It is the death of Satan and his angels as well.  It was never intended for humans.  Sadly, not all will have chosen Christ's salvation and righteousness but will have chosen either willfully or by their actions to reject Him.  They will be cast into the lake of fire and be consumed until they are no more.  There is no resurrection from the second death.  They will not continue to suffer endlessly in the lake of fire, but will be burnt up and destroyed.

"He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death." Revelation 2:11
"But the rest of the dead [unrighteous dead] did not live again until the thousand years were finished.  Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection.  Over such the second death has no power, ..."  Revelation 20:6
"Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire.  This is the second death."  Revelation 20:14
"But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burn with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."  Revelation 21:8

When Will the Second Death Occur?

When the saints arrive in heaven after the first resurrection, the Bible indicates that there will be a thousand years, the Millennium, when the saved will be able to examine the Books.

There will be lots of surprises in heaven.   I am sure Stephen will be quite surprised to find Paul there!  And
there will be people who are in heaven whom we thought would not be there.  There will also be some that are missing.  Why didn't so-and-so make it to heaven?  What happened?  Was God just in His judgment?  Of course we know He is always just, but He does not want us to have any doubt.  He will give us a full thousand years to put any doubt or question out of our minds.  We will have access to what has been recorded about everyone's life -  how He had worked in their lives and tried to woo and draw them to Him.  We will see what their response was.  We will be able to see that God did all He could to win them, but they had refused to be drawn and changed.  A thousand years!  That's a long time - and yet, in the light of eternity it is a short time.  It will be more than sufficient and  ample time to settle questions in everyone's minds.

"And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them....And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years."  Revelation 20:4

During the Millennium, who is alive on the earth?
The righteous have all been taken to heaven.
All the unrighteous are dead upon the earth.
However, Satan and his angels have not yet been destroyed.  The Bible says:

"Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.  He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished.  But after these things he must be released for a little while."  Revelation 20:1-3

Satan will be bound to this earth will no one to tempt.  Everyone is dead.  Satan has a thousand years to wander over the desolate earth to ponder what he has done.

The Second Resurrection

Who is left to be raised from the dead for the second resurrection?  Only the unrighteous dead.
When the unrighteous dead are resurrected, Satan is unloosed, for now he has people to deceive again.

"Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth."  Revelation 20:7,8

The New Jerusalem

After the Millennium, Christ and the saints will travel back to earth with the New Jerusalem.

"Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband."  Revelation 21:2

Now is when the final conflict, Armageddon, occurs.  The wicked will see the beautiful New Jerusalem and with Satan as their leader will attempt to take the city.  The righteous in the city will see that the wicked have not changed.  The New Jerusalem, was freely available to them through Christ, yet they want it on their own terms and by their own strength and means.  How sad.

Satan gathers them "to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.  They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city."  Revelation 20:8,9

This is when the second death occurs.  The death with no more resurrection.

"And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.  The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are.  And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever."  Revelation 20:9,10

"The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them.  and they were judged, each one according to his works.  then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire.  This is the second death.  And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire."  Revelation 20:13-15

All Things Made New

After these things, God will make a new heaven and a new earth - for the ones existing today will be destroyed.  This is when God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.  There will be no more sorrow, death, pain, or crying.  All things will become new.

"Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away."  Revelation 21:1

"And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.  There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."  Revelation 21:4

This is when Christ will pronounce:

"It is done!"  Revelation 21:6

No more will there be sin or rebellion.  No more will there be death and disease.  No more will there be any doubt that God is holy, just, loving, and greatly to be praised.

Christ's Pleading
Christ pleads with all to come to Him to be saved.

"And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' And let him who thirsts come.  Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely."  Revelation 22:17

Christ himself said, "I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live." (John 11:25)

Christ has given all for you to be part of the first resurrection and to receive eternal life.  What is your response to Him?

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