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The resurrection of the dead

20 February 2019

The resurrection of the dead

ESCHATOLOGYGod predicted through the prophets of old that the dead will rise again, for in the book of the prophet Isaiah it is written: “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead” (Isaiah 26:19), and in the book of Daniel it is written: “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt ….But you, go your way till the end; for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days” (Daniel 12:2,13 – NKJV).

Several centuries later He confirmed that prediction through His Son and the apostles. For Jesus said: “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29 – NKJV); Paul said that he had the same hope in God as the people of Israel, “that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust” (Acts 24:15 – NKJV); and John wrote that he saw both the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and the rest of the dead come to life; those who had been killed because of their testimony for Jesus came to life just before the millennial reign, for John says that they reigned with Christ a thousand years, while the rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended (Revelation 20:4, 11-15).

Therefore, the resurrection of the dead was predicted by the prophets first, and then by Jesus and the apostles. So the resurrection of the dead is certainly one of the events which is to take place in the latter times. God foretold the resurrection of the dead and we believe that the dead will rise again at His appointed time. I would like to point out that all the dead will rise again, no one of them will be excluded because all men must appear before God with their body to give account to Him for the things they did in the body. I say this because some people affirm that according to the following words of Daniel “many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake” the resurrection of the dead will be partial; however the words of Daniel were made clear by Jesus who said that “all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth”. Therefore, let no one deceive you with empty words.

The resurrection of the just

Paul says to the Corinthians: “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming ….” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23 – NKJV). Now, Jesus Christ is called the firstborn from among the dead (or the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep) because He rose from the dead with a glorious and incorruptible body, that is to say, because He is the first man who has risen again with an immortal body. Those who were raised from the dead before Jesus, such as the son of the widow of Sareptha, Lazarus and the son of the widow of Nain, were not raised from the dead with an immortal body but with the same mortal body they had before their death, for the Scripture says that after Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead “the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus” (John 12:10-11 – NKJV). As you can see, Lazarus could still be killed and thus could still die, and we are sure that at God’s appointed time he died again. But the One whom God raised from the dead on the third day “dies no more” (Romans 6:9 – NKJV) because death no longer has dominion over Him. Therefore, when we say that Christ is the firstborn from among the dead we mean that He is the first man who has been raised from the dead with a glorious, immortal and incorruptible body. And since Christ is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep that means that all those who died in Christ will be raised from the dead too; they will be raised from the dead at the return of the Lord.

Both Jesus and the apostles stated that the saints who have fallen asleep will be raised from the dead; let us look therefore at some of their statements about the resurrection of the just which is to take place at God’s appointed time.

Jesus mentioned the resurrection of the just when he said to a Pharisee who had invited Him: “When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:12-14). And on another occasion He said to the Jews: “Do not marvel at this, for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life ….” (John 5:28-29 – NKJV).

Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power” (1 Corinthians 6:14NKJV), and to the Thessalonians: “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. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 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. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 – NKJV).

In the light of the above mentioned verses of the Scripture, therefore, when the dead in Christ hear the mighty shout of the Lord Jesus they will come out of the graves with an immortal body and they will meet the Lord in the air. Therefore, the resurrection of the just will take place at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The resurrection of the unjust

As for the resurrection of the unjust, Jesus said that “those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:29NIV). That means that they will be raised from the dead in order to be judged according to their works and to be condemned to an everlasting contempt in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone. The apostle John speaks of their resurrection in the book of Revelation, when he says: “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 [hades] delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell [hades] 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 20:12-15). The resurrection of the unjust will take place at the end of the millennial reign (during which Christ will reign on earth with the saints, who will be resurrected and changed at His return).

As I said before, the unjust will rise to be condemned to an everlasting contempt, for after their resurrection they will be cast into the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, where they will be tormented forever and ever. There are several verses of the Scripture which confirm that the torment which the unjust will suffer in the lake of fire is eternal.

Jesus said about those who will be put on His left: “And these will go away into everlasting punishment ….” (Matthew 25:46 – NKJV).

Paul said to the Thessalonians: “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9).

John wrote in the book of Revelation: “And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name” (Revelation 14:9-11). The following expressions, “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever”, “they have no rest day nor night” show that those people will be tormented forever, and, unlike those who will live forever with the Lord and will rest from their labor, they will never have rest.

John says in the book of Revelation that when Jesus comes back, both the beast and the false prophet will be cast into the lake of fire burning with brimstone (Revelation 19:20); and that when the millennial reign is over the devil also will be cast into the lake of fire “and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10 – NKJV). Obviously since the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars will be cast into the lake of fire, we must conclude that they also will be tormented forever and ever (Revelation 21:8).

Jesus said: “And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire [geenna]: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:47-48). Notice that it is written that the worm of the wicked does not die and the fire is not quenched, which shows that the torment which the wicked will suffer in the lake of fire will be endless.

Jude said: “As Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7 – NKJV). That means that when the inhabitants of those wicked cities rise again on that day, they will be condemned to a state of endless torment in the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. However, keep in mind that even at present the inhabitants of those cities are tormented, for they are in Hades.

As you can see, the above mentioned verses in one way or another speak of eternal torment. However, as you know, some people say that these verses must not be interpreted literally, but they are greatly mistaken because if it were so as they say we shouldn’t interpret literally the following words of Jesus “but the righteous [will go away] into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46 – NKJV) and the following words of John concerning the righteous “and they shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:5 – NKJV) either.

How the dead are raised up

Let us see now how the dead are raised up. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven [some manuscripts don’t have ‘the Lord,’ thus they read ‘the second man is from heaven’]. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Corinthians 15:35-49).

In order to explain how the dead are raised up, Paul used some similes. First of all he said that what one sows does not come to life unless it dies, and in fact every seed which is sown must decompose first in order to bear fruit; then Paul said that when one sows he does not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, but God gives it a body as He has determined, and to each kind of seed He gives its own body. All these things happen in nature at God’s command because the Scripture says that all things continue this day according to His ordinances, and they are useful to us to understand how the dead in Christ are raised.

Man’s body is subject to sickness and to all kinds of pains, and it gets tired when it makes some physical efforts; these are signs which show that man’s body is weak. However, at the resurrection the resurrected saints will receive from God a powerful body, which will not be subject to these things any longer for the former things will pass away and He will make all things new. In other words, the resurrected body will be more powerful than the earthly body. The body of the saints is sown in weakness, for when it is buried is lifeless, but at the resurrection it will be raised in power because it will be full of strength.

We who are in this tent see our body perishing for it is a corruptible body, but when we are clothed with our habitation which is from heaven then we will no longer see it perishing because it will be an incorruptible body. Our body is sown in corruption and it will be raised incorruptible, for the body which is buried decomposes and it returns to the dust as it is written: “For dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19 – NKJV), however when it is raised, since it will be immortal, it will never see corruption again.

Paul says also that all flesh is not the same, for men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. He says this so that we may understand that the flesh of which will be made the resurrected bodies of the saints is different from the flesh of their earthly bodies. Yes, because even the resurrected bodies of the saints will be made of flesh, but of a kind of flesh which will be different from the one we have now on earth. This is confirmed by the resurrection of Jesus, for Jesus rose again with a powerful and incorruptible body, but at the same time with a body made of flesh and bones, in that when He appeared to His disciples (who thought they were seeing a spirit) He said to them: “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:38-39 – NKJV). As you can see, the body of Jesus could be touched because He was not a spirit. However, even though Jesus was not a spirit, He was able to pass through the walls, for the Scripture says that “when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them. Peace be with you” (John 20:19NKJV). He could appear to His disciples and could also vanish from their sight and at the same time He could eat and drink with them. Therefore, since Jesus is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep, when the dead in Christ rise again they will receive a resurrected body which will be like His glorious body.

Furthermore, the apostle says that there are heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies, but the splendour of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendour of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendour, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendour. We can see this with our own eyes, can’t we?

Let us consider the angels who are in heaven, which are heavenly beings created by God and thus they have a heavenly body. The splendour of their body differs very much from the splendour of our body. To understand this concept it suffices to consider the appearances of angels to men. For instance, let us consider the angelic vision that the women had at the tomb where the body of Jesus had been laid. It is written that an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it; “his appearance was like lightning” (Matthew 28:3 – NIV). Besides this vision, we can consider also some visions of angels that some brothers in our generation have seen; there is no doubt, according to their words the splendour of the bodies of these heavenly beings differs from the splendour of our bodies. Therefore, at the resurrection the body which has been sown in dishonor will be raised in glory, in a glory that is much greater than the glory our body has on the earth. Paul confirmed this when he said to the Philippians that the Lord Jesus Christ “will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body” (Philippians 3:21NKJV).

The apostle Paul says also that just as there is a natural body so there is a spiritual body. However the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The natural body is the body we have now, while the spiritual body is the body which both the dead in Christ (who will rise again) and the saints who are alive at the coming of the Lord (who will be changed) will receive from the Lord on that day. It is called spiritual because it will be made alive by the Spirit of God, as it is written: “He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11 – NKJV).

Therefore, what we clearly learn from the Scripture is this: “As we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man” (1 Corinthians 15:49NKJV).

At this point someone may ask: ‘With what body do the unjust come?’ The Scripture does not say anything about the body with which the unjust will rise again. However, their body will surely be a physical body since their resurrection also will be a physical resurrection. Furthermore, it will be an immortal body because with that body they will be tormented in the lake of fire for ever and ever. When Jesus told His disciples to fear “Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [geenna]” (Matthew 10:28 – NKJV), the body he referred to is the resurrected body of the wicked, since geenna is the everlasting fire into which the wicked will be cast after their resurrection.

On that day death will be destroyed and the saints will receive the redemption of their bodies

Paul says: “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. 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. O death, where is thy sting? O grave [hades], where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:51-55).

The reason why Paul says that we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, is that at the return of the Lord there will be some believers who will be found alive and since they have not tasted death they will be changed. However, they will obtain a body like the body of the resurrected saints. That’s what we learn also from the following words that Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: “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 [precede] 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” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).

Then, that is, when the dead in Christ rise and we are changed, will death be destroyed; yes, because death has not yet been destroyed. It is true that Paul says to Timothy that Christ “has destroyed death” (2 Timothy 1:10 – NIV), however this destruction applies to the death of Jesus, for it is written that Christ, “having been raised from the dead, dies no more” (Romans 6:9 – NKJV), and not to the death of all the saints who died because they are asleep and they haven’t yet waked up. Believers still die, therefore we must say that death has not yet been swallowed up in victory. Actually death still has a sting, which is sin, that dwells in us, as it is written: “Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me” (Romans 7:20 – NKJV), and again: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8 – NKJV). However, at the resurrection this sting will be taken away because in the glorious body we will obtain there will be no more evil or sin. Now as you know it is written: “The LORD said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool” (Matthew 22:44 – NKJV), therefore Christ is at the right hand of God and He is reigning, waiting for His enemies to be put under His feet, for “now we do not yet see all things put under him” (Hebrews 2:8 – NKJV). Now according to what Paul says, “the last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26NKJV). When will it be destroyed? At the resurrection. Then will be brought to pass the word spoken by Isaiah: “He will swallow up death forever” (Isaiah 25:8 – NKJV), and there will be no more death.

On that day the redemption of our body will be fulfilled, for when the Scripture speaks of the resurrection of the just, which will take place on the day of Christ, it refers to the redemption of our body, for Paul says to the Romans: “We also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23 – NKJV). This, because only on that day the mortal bodies of the righteous will be delivered from the bondage of corruption and will become immortal, glorious and incorruptible. So we can say that when the righteous die, they save their soul but ‘lose’ their body, but they lose it only for a time because they will take it back again in the resurrection, that is, when God raises their bodies. This is an important thing concerning the resurrection of the just, which must be stressed and kept in mind, because it confirms that the resurrection will be a physical resurrection, that is, it confirms that at the resurrection the just will take their own bodies back again, (and this is something which many sects deny). Obviously, since not all the just will die, not all the just will rise again because those who are alive at the coming of the Lord will be only changed; notwithstanding this, the redemption of the body will be experienced also by those who are alive because their bodies will be changed into glorious, incorruptible and immortal bodies, thus they also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption.

Our hope

Dear brothers in the Lord, the resurrection of our body is the hope we have in God, and how distressed we are till it is fulfilled! Paul expressed this distress in these terms: “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life” (2 Corinthians 5:2-4 – NKJV).

Therefore, brothers, we are eagerly waiting for the redemption of our body, that is to say, we are eagerly waiting for our body to be transformed into a heavenly body, because we who belong to Christ were appointed to obtain a heavenly body; the habitation in which we now live is an earthly habitation but we earnestly desire to be clothed with out habitation which is from heaven (that is, the heavenly body which we will keep for ever and ever) and which is better than the earthly habitation. However, in order to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, we must be found clothed and not naked at the return of the Lord. Someone will say: ‘With what must we be found clothed?’ We must be found clothed with what we put on when we believed. I will explain this concept through the Scriptures. Isaiah says: “He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10 – NKJV). That means that we believers have clothed ourselves, or rather, have been clothed with the garments of God’s salvation and the robe of God’s righteousness, and this, by faith in Christ. However, we must continue to wear the garments of God’s salvation and the robe of His righteousness till the glorious appearing of our Lord. That’s what Paul was determined to do, for he said to the Philippians: “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Philippians 3:8-9 – NKJV).

Therefore, beloved, let us see that we are found by the Lord, at His coming, clothed with the righteousness which is from God by faith, and let us not imitate those who have put off the righteousness which is from God in order to put on their own righteousness (that is to say, let us not imitate those who have forsaken Christ in order to be justified by the law of Moses), for “by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight” (Romans 3:20 – NKJV). Nor let us imitate those who have put off the new man “which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24 – NKJV), and they have put on the old man “which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (Ephesians 4:22 – NKJV); or else we will be found naked, that is to say, with the shame of our nakedness revealed. Brothers, know this, that all those who, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, are again entangled in them and overcome (2 Peter 2:20), thus, they return to walk like natural brute beasts according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, I say, know that they will not be found clothed but naked.

I conclude by reminding you that the Lord said to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see” (Revelation 3:15-18). As you can see, that believer with the passing of time had become lukewarm and the Lord, knowing his works, told him that he was naked, and He counselled him to buy from Him white garments so that he might be clothed, that the shame of his nakedness might not be revealed. That shows that if we cease to watch and keep the commandments of the Lord, we will lose the white garments that the Lord has given us.

Therefore, beloved, let us keep the white garments with which the Lord, after removing our filthy garments (our iniquities) from us, has clothed us. Let us not put them off, so that we might be found by the Lord clothed and not naked, and thus we may be clothed with our heavenly habitation.

From: The New Way (author doctor Giacinto Butindaro)

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