Upon completion of this post you will be able to:
- Write the Key Verse from memory.
- Describe the future resurrection of the dead.
- Distinguish between the resurrections of the just and the unjust.
- Explain how the death and resurrection of Jesus affected the destiny of the human soul.
For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first;
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (I Thessalonians 4:16-17)
In the previous chapter the term “resurrection” was defined and three resurrections mentioned in the New Testament were identified. The past resurrection of Jesus and the present resurrection of the believer in Jesus were discussed in detail.
This chapter explains the future resurrection of all that are in the graves. The future resurrection actually will be two separate resurrections, one of the just and one of the unjust. This chapter also explains how the death and resurrection of Jesus affected the destiny of the human soul.
Since this chapter concerns future events, it deals with prophecy about the end of time and eternity. If you are not familiar with Bible prophecy then you should review the “For Further Study” section of this chapter. It provides a general outline of future events as revealed in God’s Word.
FUTURE: RESURRECTION OF ALL IN THE GRAVES
The Bible reveals two things about all human beings:
- All will experience the resurrection of the dead.
- All will experience eternal judgment.
Jesus said concerning the future resurrection:
Marvel not at this: for 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)
The Apostle Paul also writes about this resurrection:
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
(I Corinthians 15:22)
Because of the original sin of Adam, death came upon all men. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, all men will die physically and later be resurrected.
EXCEPTIONS TO THE RESURRECTION
Those who never die will not need to be resurrected from the dead.
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality. (I Corinthians 15:51-53)
When Paul says “we shall not ALL sleep” he means all true believers who are alive at the time of Christ’s return for His Church.
These believers will never experience death. They will be caught up to meet Jesus and be reunited with Christians resurrected from the grave.
DESTINY OF THE DEAD
There is much about the period between physical death and the resurrection that is not revealed in the Bible, but three things are clear:
- At the time of death there is a separation between the body and the spirit and soul. The physical body is put in the grave, but the soul and spirit live on in eternity.
- The spirits and souls of those who were righteous go to a different place than those who were wicked.
- The destiny of the righteous was different before and after the death of Jesus.
Jesus revealed what happens after death through the story of a beggar named Lazarus who laid at a rich man’s gate:
And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom; the rich man also died, and was buried;
And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torment, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and thou art tormented.
And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed; so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us that would come from thence. (Luke 16:22-26)
At death, the physical body returns to the earth:
…for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. (Genesis 3:19b)
The soul and spirit of man enters a new existence in eternity. There is still a personality, recognition of one person by another, and awareness of present conditions. The destiny of spirits of the righteous is different from that of spirits of the wicked. Both Lazarus and the rich man went to a place of departed spirits called in the Hebrew language “Sheol” and in the Greek language “Hades.” (Most of the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew. The New Testament was written in Greek).
But the destinies of the two men were different. The rich man was in a place of torment called Hell. Lazarus was in a place of rest. Between these two places there was a gulf that could not be crossed from either side.
If the gulf could not be crossed, then it means there is no hope to change the eternal destiny of the soul after death. Because of this, it is of no value to pray for the dead. The decision to accept or reject Jesus as Savior must be made during this life. It is this decision that determines the destiny of your soul.
The place of rest for departed spirits of the righteous was called “Abraham’s bosom.” This meant it was a place for those who followed the same faith of Abraham by serving the one true and living God.
AFTER THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS
The story of Lazarus and the rich man reveals what happened to departed souls before the death and resurrection of Jesus. After His resurrection the destiny of the souls of the wicked remained the same, but the destiny of righteous souls changed.
When Jesus died He said “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” His body was laid in a tomb but the destiny of His spirit was decided by God. The Bible reveals what happened to the spirit of Christ after death:
Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower part of the earth?
He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things. (Ephesians 4:9-10)
Before His death, Jesus told the dying thief who repented:
Today shall thou be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43)
The spirit of Jesus descended into Sheol, the place of all departed spirits. First He went to the place of the spirits of the righteous. This was called “paradise” or “Abraham’s bosom.”
From paradise, Jesus went further into the area of Sheol reserved for the wicked spirits. This was necessary in order for Him to complete the work of atonement for man’s sin. He had to endure both the physical and spiritual penalties of sin. The physical penalty was physical death.
The spiritual penalty was separation from God which is called spiritual death. Jesus experienced that in Sheol.
Then the spirit of Jesus ascended from Sheol back to the world. At that time, His body which had been lying lifeless in the tomb, was raised up from death. His soul, spirit, and body were reunited to form a complete personality. As we learned in the last chapter, Jesus appeared in visible form to many on earth before He returned to Heaven.
THE NEW PATTERN
The events between the death and resurrection of Jesus set a new pattern for the destiny of righteous souls. Prior to Christ’s resurrection, departed spirits of the righteous went to paradise. After the death and resurrection of Jesus, the spirits of the righteous could ascend immediately into the presence of God. This is confirmed in the record of the death of Stephen:
But he [Stephen], being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:55-56,59-60)
Moments before death, Stephen saw a vision of Jesus in Heaven at the right hand of God. His words, “Lord Jesus receive my spirit,” indicate he knew that immediately upon death his soul and spirit would go directly to Heaven.
The Apostle Paul also confirms this:
Therefore we are always confident, knowing that whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord…
We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. (II Corinthians 5:6,8)
Paul compared the value of death to that of remaining alive in order to fulfill his earthly ministry.
He said that to be absent from the body is to be with Christ:
For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.
But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor; yet what I shall choose I wot not.
For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.
Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.
In addition to the new destiny of the righteous dead, Jesus set another new pattern that will be followed by all men:
- At death man’s spirit and soul will go to the realm of the departed spirits. The righteous will ascend to the presence of God. The wicked will go to a place of torment [hell].
- At the time of resurrection, the body will be raised again from death and reunited with the spirit and soul.
RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD: THREE STAGES
The Apostle Paul describes the resurrection of the dead in three stages.
The first resurrection of the dead was that of Jesus:
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming.
Then cometh the end, when He [Christ] shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. (I Corinthians 15:22-24)
The first resurrection was of Jesus. This is what is meant by the phrase “Christ the firstfruits.” There are two other resurrections of the dead which will occur in the future. These are the resurrection of the just and unjust:
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.
The Bible also calls these two resurrections the resurrection of life and the resurrection of damnation:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.
Marvel not at this: for 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 5:25,28-29)
The resurrection of life will happen when Jesus returns to earth for His Church. This event will resurrect from the dead all true believers in Jesus. This is called the resurrection of the just or the resurrection of life.
The resurrection of Jesus was the first stage…
The resurrection of believers is the second stage…
The third stage of the resurrection of the dead is called “the end.” This resurrection occurs at the end of Christ’s earthly reign of 1000 years of peace. This resurrection is called the resurrection of the unjust or the “resurrection unto damnation.”
The following chart summarizes what you have learned about the three stages of the resurrection of the dead:
Resurrection Of The Dead
Stage One: Resurrection Of Jesus Christ
Stage Two: Resurrection Of The Just (Resurrection Of Life)
Stage Three: Resurrection Of The Unjust (Resurrection Of Damnation)
You have already studied the resurrection of Jesus. Now you will study the resurrections of the just and the unjust.
THE RESURRECTION OF THE JUST
Paul said those in the second stage of the resurrection are “they that are Christ’s.” This means those who have repented from dead works and through faith accepted Jesus as Savior. Paul said that this resurrection of believers will happen at the time of Christ’s coming. The main New Testament passage describing this resurrection of life [the just] is found in Thessalonians:
But I would not have you to be ignorant brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.
For this we say unto you by the Word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (I Thessalonians 4:13-18)
The purpose of Paul’s teaching is to comfort believers concerning other Christians who have died [“them which are asleep”]. His message provides assurance that all true believers will be resurrected.
When Jesus returns, two great events will occur on earth:
- All true believers who have previously died will be resurrected, given new bodies, and reunited with their own soul and spirit.
- All believers alive on earth at that moment will experience a quick change in their physical bodies.
Both those resurrected and those alive at the time of Christ’s coming will be raised by God’s power from the earth into the air. They will be reunited with the Lord and each other. From that time on, they will forever be with the Lord.
The book of Revelation provides an additional record of the resurrection of the righteous:
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto 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 upon 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 hath part in the first resurrection…
The resurrection described in this passage is of believers who die as martyrs during the tribulation period. They are raised just before Christ’s Kingdom is established on earth. This passage reveals that the resurrection of the just, which is called the first resurrection, is complete after the raising of this last group of believers.
NEW BODIES FOR BELIEVERS
The Bible reveals some things about the new bodies believers will receive. The new body will be:
ACCORDING TO THE WILL OF GOD:
But God giveth it a body, as it hath pleased Him, and to every seed his own body. (I Corinthians 15:38)
A GLORIOUS BODY:
It is sown [dies] in dishonor; it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. (I Corinthians 15:43)
A SPIRITUAL BODY:
It is sown a natural body [physical]; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. (I Corinthians 15:44)
A POWERFUL BODY:
It is sown in infirmity and weakness; it is resurrected in strength and endued with power. (I Corinthians 15:43b, The Amplified Bible)
AN IMMORTAL BODY:
This means the new body will never age, decay, or die:
…for the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. (I Corinthians 15:52-54)
A BODY LIKE THAT OF OUR RISEN LORD:
But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the firstfruits of them that slept. (I Corinthians 15:20)
Jesus arose from the dead first. His resurrection is compared to the first sheaf of a great harvest that will follow. This harvest is the raising of believers in the resurrection. Our resurrected bodies will be like the Lord’s:
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth 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. (I John 3:2)
Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself. (Philippians 3:21)
THE RESURRECTION OF THE UNJUST
The last resurrection is described by Paul in I Corinthians 15:24. He calls it “the end.” This is the resurrection of the unjust. When Jesus completes His earthly Millennial reign of 1000 years, God will defeat all His enemies. The last of these enemies to be conquered will be death. This will complete God’s plan for the world:
Having made known unto us the mystery [or secret] of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself:
That in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in Heaven, and which are on earth… (Ephesians 1:9-10)
Revelation chapter 20 reveals how the resurrection of the unjust relates to other parts of God’s plan. In this chapter, the Apostle John describes Satan’s final attempt to take the authority of God. This happens at the end of Christ’s Millennial reign:
And when the thousand years are over Satan will be loosed…
And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth… to gather them together to battle, the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
And they went upon the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of Heaven, and devoured them.
And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake fire and brimstone…and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20:7-10)
During the Millennium reign, Jerusalem will be the center of Christ’s rule over the nations of earth. Satan will be a prisoner during this time. At the end of the Millennium, Satan will be freed long enough to stage a final rebellion among the Gentile nations. This will result in an attempt to attack Jerusalem. God will intervene with fire from Heaven and the rebellion will be defeated. Satan will be cast into the lake of eternal fire to be tormented forever.
THE END AND ETERNITY
John describes the final resurrection of all the remaining dead:
And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
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.
And death and Hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)
All true believers who have died will be raised from the grave before the 1000 Millennium year reign of Christ. This is the first resurrection. It is the resurrection of the just to eternal life. The majority of those resurrected at the close of the Millennium will be the unrighteous dead. This is the resurrection of the unjust to damnation. The Bible tells of another great event which will happen after these resurrections. This event is known as eternal judgment and is the subject of study of the next chapter.
After judgment, the destiny of the unrighteous is the lake of fire which is called in the Bible “the second death.” The wicked already experienced physical death. Now they will experience the second death of eternal separation from God. This is spiritual death or the “second death.” The destiny of the righteous is eternity in the presence of God.
THE RESURRECTION MESSAGE
The doctrine of the resurrection is a foundational truth of the Christian faith. The message of the Gospel not only includes the life and death of Jesus Christ, but also the message of His resurrection.
The apostles preached both the resurrection of Jesus and the resurrection of the dead:
…They [Peter and John] taught the people and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. (Acts 4:2)
…He [Paul] preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection…And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked; and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. (Acts 17:18,32)
These verses illustrate two different responses of people to the message of the resurrection. Some will not believe it. Others will listen to the message. Our responsibility as believers is to share the resurrection message as part of the Gospel. This is what Paul did:
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also we have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved…
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures;
And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures;
And that He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve;
After that He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
After that He was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
And last of all He was seen of me also… (I Corinthians 15:1-8)
The preaching of the Gospel is incomplete without the doctrine of the resurrection:
And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain…If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
(I Corinthians 15:14,19-22)