THE SCRIPTURAL DOCTRINE OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY
The Biblical doctrine of resurrection is both exciting and encouraging for all who love God, for eventually all that have ever gone into death will be raised from the dead, whether they died as the just or the unjust, and in this way God shall be glorified. This is guaranteed because of who God is. He is the living God, and as such cannot allow death to thwart Him. He must, and will, triumph in this matter. This triumph is assured through His Firstborn Son, into whose hand He has committed all His affairs, John 3:35. Because the pleasure of the Lord prospers in His hand, Isaiah 53:10, we know that all that are in the graves shall hear His voice and come forth, John 5:28,29.
When God made man He first of all made his body from the earth as a potter forms a vessel, Genesis 2:7. He then breathed into that lifeless body the breath of life, “and man became a living soul”. He was a tripartite being by Divine design, and whether in life or in resurrection he will always be a tripartite being. Only when in a state of death is man divided into his parts, with the body going to the dust, (“for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return”, Genesis 3:19), the spirit going back to God that gave it, Ecclesiastes 12:7, and the soul going out into its appropriate place awaiting its appropriate resurrection moment. As we shall see, even after Abraham had died he still lived unto God, Matthew 22:32. His body was dead because the spirit had been withdrawn, but that spirit does not die. Because Abraham was a believer he could still be said to live unto God.
The word resurrection does not occur in the Old Testament, but the idea is certainly there, for the dead were raised in the Old Testament times. In the New Testament the main word used means “a raising up, a rising”, (Grimme.) The thought being the reversal of what happened when a person fell in death, and was lowered into a grave. It has to do with the body, for souls and spirits cannot die. Just as death is defined as “the body without the spirit” in James 2:26, so resurrection has to do with the return of the spirit to the body, and the rising of that body from the dead by Divine power. In the book of Ecclesiastes we read, “then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God that gave it”, Ecclesiastes 12:7. This is an echo of the word to Adam, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return”, Genesis 3:19. Now Adam’s spirit did not come from the dust, but from God breathing into his nostrils. His body did, however, come from the dust of the ground, for he was “of the earth, earthy”, 1 Corinthians 15:47. Only this part of him, therefore, can return to the ground. And what is true of Adam is true of all who have him as their head, for in Adam all die, 1 Corinthians15:22. Or as Romans 5:12 puts it, “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”. The proof that death has passed upon all is that all have sinned in their experience, showing that they have the sin principle within them from Adam. The wages of this sin principle is death, Romans 6:23.
When a person dies, their spirit returns to the “God of the spirits of all flesh”, Numbers 16:22, awaiting the moment of resurrection. When that resurrection is, depends on what their relation to God was at the moment of their death. For the believer, there is “the resurrection of life”, John 5:29, also called the “first resurrection”, Revelation 20:5,6; for the unbeliever there is the “resurrection of damnation”, John 5:29. The time of that resurrection as far as believers are concerned also depends on which age they lived in, whether the Old Testament era, the New Testament, or the Tribulation period. Hopefully these things will become clear as we proceed.
We should remember that there is a distinction between existence and life. There are many things that exist that have no life. But man has life, and when he dies he exchanges that state of existence for another, called death. He still exists, whether believer or unbeliever, but he now exists in death, as before he existed in life.
As a result of the sin of Adam our first-father, the sin-principle has been passed on to us. As Romans 5:12 says, “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin: and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”. In other words, by sinning, all men show they have a sin-principle within them. Because they have that sin within, they die physically, for “the wages of sin is death”, Romans 6:23.
God is not defeated by this situation, for He is the Living God, and His Son manifest this attribute when He declared, after learning that His friend Lazarus had died, “I am the resurrection and the life”. By Him not only eternal life may be known as to the spirit, but resurrection as to the body. These things were but dimly seen in the Old Testament, but we shall notice various scriptures showing that Old Testament saints were not entirely ignorant on the matter of resurrection.
Resurrection and Abraham
We begin with Abraham. To Him God said, “I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee the land whereon thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession: and I will be their God”, Genesis 17:8. Now we learn from Hebrews 11:13 that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all “died in faith, not having received the promises”. This means they did not receive the fulfilment of the promises. Yet God had made His promise to Abraham personally, not just to Abraham’s seed. And since the fulfilment of the promise involves living on the earth under the reign of the Messiah, (“ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God”, Luke 13:28), it follows that these men must be raised from the dead to come into the good of God’s promise to them. For the same promise was given to Isaac in Genesis 26:2-5, and Jacob in Genesis 35:12.
That Abraham believed that God could raise the dead is seen in Genesis 22:5 when he said to his young men, as they travelled to Moriah, “I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you”. It was not that Abraham simply believed in resurrection as an event in the future; he believed that God could raise the dead at any time of His choosing. So it is that Hebrews 11:19 says he received Isaac from the dead in a figure. Abraham’s faith was such that he believed God could raise Isaac from the dead immediately, so that he could come down with him from the mountain.
No doubt Abraham was encouraged in his faith by the fact that he already had experience of God producing life from the dead. His body, at 100 years old, was dead as far as having children was concerned, and so was Sarah’s, at age 90. Yet God had given them a son, and thus showed that he could produce life out of dead conditions, a fact which the apostle Paul uses in Romans 4:17-25.
We should notice, however, that the apostle Paul assures us that when Abraham believed God, he believed in Him as the one who quickens the dead, Romans 4:17, and this is before Isaac had been produced out of the “dead” bodies of Abraham and Sarah. So his belief in the God of resurrection came before the birth of Isaac, suggesting that he had realised that the promise that he would live in Canaan under the Messiah was to be brought about after his resurrection.
So it is that the apostle Paul, giving his defence before Agrippa, was able to say, “And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?” Acts 26:6-8. So not only did Abraham, Isaac and Jacob believe in the resurrection of the dead, but Jacob’s twelve sons, and the tribes that came from them, did so also. Why else would Paul link the hopes of the twelve tribes with resurrection? He had not mentioned the resurrection of Christ up to that point in his conversation with Agrippa, nor does he mention it until the very end of his remarks, 15 verses later, (although his reference to the Lord speaking to him on the Damascus road does imply it).
When Moses was being commissioned to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt, he heard the voice of God from the midst of the burning bush saying, “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”, Exodus 3:6. The Lord Jesus pointed out the deep significance of this statement when He was questioned by the Sadducees at the end of His ministry on earth, Matthew 22:23-33. They did not believe in resurrection, so the situation they recounted to the Lord, that of seven brothers who all had the same wife in succession, was designed to trip Him up. They thought that the question of whose wife she would be in the resurrection was not capable of an answer, and they thought they would thereby disprove resurrection, and discredit Christ who taught resurrection.
The Sadducees had ignored the fact that when the first six brothers died, their marriage to the woman was at an end, for “the woman that hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband”, Romans 7:2. This was why she was free to marry the successive husbands. But when the last husband died, she was no longer married to any one of them. So if the question is “Whose wife shall she be”? the answer is “No-one’s”, because death has ended her marriages, and also, as the Lord said, “in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage”. Because the brothers’ marriages were ended, they would have to marry again to have the woman to wife. But in the resurrection the men do not marry, and women are not given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven, who do not marry. The reason they do not marry being that they have no bodies. This is why the question is about the resurrection state; the intermediate state between death and resurrection is one in which the person does not have a body- there is no possibility of marriage then anyway.
Having confounded the Sadducees by His teaching, the Lord goes on enforce the truth of resurrection further. He used the incident of the burning bush, and the statement made by God quoted above from Exodus 3:6. The Sadducees were prepared to accept the five books of Moses, but rejected the rest of the Old Testament. They cannot make the excuse that the quotation is from a part that they do not recognise as the Word of God. By saying, “I am the God of Abraham”, God was using the present tense. Abraham had been dead for many years at this point, yet God declared “I am the God of Abraham”. In other words, although dead as to the body, Abraham lived on in relationship with God as to the spirit. He was “living unto Him”, as the Lord said. When God declares He is the God of someone, it means He is in relationship with that person, and will be true to all He has promised. By saying that He was the God of Abraham, then, Jehovah is assuring Moses that all that He had promised to Abraham would come to pass, including the promise that Abraham would personally possess the land of Canaan, Genesis 17:8.
No wonder the Sadducees were put to silence, for a truth that had been in the Word of God all along, contained simply in the tense of a verb, had completely undermined their position; there was such a thing as resurrection after all!
Resurrection and Job
We come now to the patriarch Job, a man who had a close personal relationship with God. He exclaimed out of his trial and distress, “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me”, Job 19:25-27.
These are remarkable statements, and show that Job had taken to heart the things God had told him. He was conscious that at the moment he uttered the words, his redeemer was living. Moreover, He would stand at some late stage upon the earth, implying His incarnation and real manhood. Since Job connects this with his own resurrection, it must be a reference to Christ’s second coming to the earth, when He shall redeem His people from the power of the grave, as Hosea 13:14 says. Job is confident that even after the worms in his grave have not only eaten up his skin, but have totally destroyed his whole body, yet he would be raised again, and in his resurrection body see God. Even though his reins had been consumed in the grave, yet he would personally recognise his redeemer, and be sure that it was not another, but He Himself.
Think of the things these words imply:
1. Job had a Redeemer, who would ultimately deliver him from his troubles.
2. He was living at the time Job spoke the words, probably 1520 BC.
3. He would stand upon the earth, implying His real manhood.
4. He would do so after a long period of time.
5. Even though Job would die, and his body be consumed in the grave, he was confident of a resurrection which involved having a body.
6. He was sure that His Redeemer was God and that he would see Him.
7. He was also sure that even though his whole body had been consumed, his memories and insights would be carried over into resurrection conditions, so that he would know his Redeemer, not as a stranger seen for the first time, but as one well-known.
All this shall be realised when Christ comes to earth to reign, for we read in Revelation 11:15-18 as follows:
“And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, saying, We give Thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and Thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto Thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear Thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth”.
So it that Job’s prayer will be answered, “O that Thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that Thou wouldest keep me secret, until Thy wrath be past, that Thou wouldest 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. Thou shalt call, and I will answer Thee: Thou wilt have a desire to the work of Thine hands”, Job 14:13-15.
Resurrection and David
We come to the words of David, found in Psalm 16. They read as follows: “I have set the Lord always before Me: Because He is at My right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore My heart is glad, and My glory rejoiceth: My flesh also shall rest in hope, for Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell; neither wilt Thou suffer Thine holy one to see corruption. Thou wilt show Me the path of life: in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore”, Psalm 16:8-11.
My might think at first that these words are about David, until we get to “Thou wilt not suffer Thine holy one to see corruption”. This shows that David is not writing of himself, but the Messiah, for David’s body was not preserved from corruption, for it was “sown in corruption”, 1 Corinthians 15:42, like every other man except Christ. And the apostle Peter emphasised this on the Day of Pentecost, for this was one of the passages he quoted in his address. He pointed out that David’s sepulchre was still with them, with David’s dust within it; so he had gone to corruption. The inspired apostle states categorically in Acts 2:25, that David was writing about Christ, not himself.
But David had a promise from God that a descendant of his would sit on his throne, and “reign over the House of Jacob for ever”, Luke 1:33. The only way to achieve this was for Christ, of the seed of David, to rise from the dead to die no more. And this He has done. God has seen to it that His body saw no corruption whilst He was in Joseph’s tomb. The tomb was new, was hewn out of the rock, and had no-one else in it before, and He was wrapped in a new linen cloth, so there was nothing to pollute the body of Christ in death. He had no sin-principle within, so He would not see corruption that way, nor did He see any corruption from without, for His tomb was sealed. He has been shown the path of resurrection life, and is currently at the right hand of God, where all the things that spiritual minds find delightful are enjoyed.
Resurrection and Daniel
Daniel was confident of resurrection, and he looked forward to the time when he would stand in his lot at the end of the days, Daniel 12:13. At the beginning of that chapter he was told “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy 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 thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book”, Daniel 12:1. So the time in view is the great tribulation, (Matthew 24:21), and the promise is given that as many of Daniel’s people, the people of Israel, as are found written in the Book of Life, shall be delivered from it. So much for the living, what of the dead? The angel goes on, “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”, Daniel 12:2. Now it is important to understand this verse correctly. On the surface it appears to say that all involved awake together, and some go into everlasting life, and the rest into shame and everlasting contempt. The word translated “some” is never used in the Hebrew Bible, however, to divide up what has been mentioned before.
The correct understanding of the words, (and the Rabbis were agreed about this), is as follows:
1. Many of them that sleep in their graves shall be wakened. The word “of” means “out of”, so bearing in mind the angel is only referring to Daniel’s people, the Israelites, the prophecy is telling us about the resurrection of Israelites from among the dead, with no reference to any others in the graves, whether Gentile believers or Gentile unbelievers. In fact the Gentile believing dead will indeed be raised at this time, as we shall see, but the concern in this passage is Daniel’s people.
2. Since the promise to believers in Israel was that they would have a share in Messiah’s kingdom, (and this is what having everlasting life meant to an Old Testament Jew), those who awake to everlasting life go into Christ’s kingdom when He comes to earth to reign.
3. Those who go into shame and everlasting contempt are clearly unbelievers, even though of Israel. These shall awake at the resurrection of the unjust, and shall be judged at the Great White Throne judgement, Revelation 20:11-15. There is nothing in the verse to say that all the people in view rise at the same time, just that they rise from among other dead persons, and go to their respective places. So there are one thousand years between the two awakenings, just as there are one thousand years between the first resurrection and the resurrection of damnation.
4. The foregoing is a warning to the men of Israel not to presume that since they were children of Abraham they were guaranteed a place in the kingdom. Nicodemus thought this in his day, and the Lord Jesus had to warn him that unless he was born of water and of the Spirit he would not enter into the kingdom of God, John 3:5. The Rabbis taught that all those who were descended from Abraham and had been circumcised were sure of a place in the kingdom, but they were wrong.
Resurrection and Hosea
Hosea the prophet also spoke of God’s promise to His people, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from Mine eyes”, Hosea 13:14.
In the Old Testament, redemption is most often in relation to national deliverance from calamity for Israel. So Israel were redeemed from their slavery in Egypt, and the prophets speak of a future deliverance for the nation when Christ comes to earth in glory. The verse just quoted, and also the words of Job we have already looked at, are exceptions. God is pledging to redeem His people from the power of the grave, as it holds the bodies of His people, and from death, as it holds their souls. Their spirits are with God, for the spirits of all who live upon earth go to God at death, to be re-united with the body in the resurrection day, whether for judgement or for blessing. Hence there is no mention of redemption for the spirit. God issues an ultimatum to death and the grave, that just as death had been the result of the plague of sin, (what Solomon called the plague of a man’s heart, 1 Kings 8:38), so God would plague death to such an extent that it shall be rendered completely powerless. And just as the grave had swallowed up the bodies of His saints, and corruption had destroyed their bodies, so God will corrupt and destroy the power of the grave. God is determined to do this, and assures us that any idea of repentance or change of mind is completely out of the question as far as He is concerned. As we now turn to the New Testament, we see the way this announcement by God that He will deliver His people from death and the grave comes to pass.
Resurrection and Martha
The coming of the Son of God into this world changed everything. One of the purposes of His coming was so as to “bring life and immortality (incorruptibility) to light through the gospel”, 2 Timothy 1:10. We see this illustrated in what happened to Lazarus. Lazarus was not only a disciple but a friend of the Lord Jesus, but he had died. When the Saviour met Martha, Lazarus’ sister, four days later, He said to her, “Thy brother shall rise again”, John 11:23. This was not only a word of encouragement and comfort for her, but also the introduction to a conversation in which He would reveal His glory to her. Martha’s reply was, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection in the last day”. She was in the good of what Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Job, Daniel, and Hosea believed. And she was confident that the “last day” was the last day before Messiah’s kingdom would be set up, so that Lazarus, raised from the dead, could enjoy that kingdom. She was about to learn more, however, for a new age was about to dawn, about which the Old Testament saints knew nothing, as a reading of Ephesians chapter 3 will show.
So it is that at this point the Lord utters one of His “I am” statements. Said He, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believeth thou this?”
Let us look at this statement phrase by phrase. By saying “I am the resurrection”, the Lord is introducing the idea that because He is present, a fresh situation prevails. Resurrection is vested in Him as the Son of God, so He holds in His person the right to raise men. He Himself said, “For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself”, John 5:26. If He who is the resurrection stands in a cemetery, things must change.
But He is not only the resurrection, but also the life; not natural life here, (although all forms and expressions of life come from Him at the beginning, “In His was life”, John 1:4), but eternal life. He is “that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us”, 1 John 1:2, and He is “the true God and eternal life”, 1 John 5:20. So we are being presented with two aspects to life. There is eternal life, the life of God, which Divine persons have essentially, and which believers have by the new birth. And there is the expression of that life in resurrection conditions.
The Saviour went on to say to Martha, “he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live”. The expression “he were dead” is in the Aorist Subjunctive, “which refers to a simple defined action, without signifying the time of the action. The Subjunctive Mood makes an assertion about which there is some doubt, uncertainty, or indefiniteness. It is closely related to the future tense, which helps point up the fact that often the uncertainty only arises because the action has not yet occurred”, (Zodhiates).
Applying this to our phrase, we learn that the event referred to, death, is in the future. Yet it is not certain that this believer will die; but should he do so, he will certainly live again in resurrection. This is an important point, for the Lord is giving for the first time an indication that some believers will partake of resurrection without dying.
Then we have the last expression, “And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die”. Note the change in designation of the person in question. In the first part, it is “he that…though he”. Now it is, “whosoever…shall”. Because the first part had to do with a possibility that might not involve everyone, it was “he”. Now we are learning of something that all believers shall share, so it is “whosoever”, meaning everyone without exception. So what is it that is to be true of all believers? As those who are alive physically, and alive spiritually too, they shall never die physically or spiritually. Such is the power of eternal life, that it renders the event of death as if it were of no consequence. This has already been stated, for in John 8:51, the Lord said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep My saying, he shall never see death”. It is also why the Lord said, when told of the death of Lazarus, that “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby”, John 11:4. Unbelievers might say this was not the case, because Lazarus did die. The point is, however, that the sickness was allowed by God, not so that Lazarus might die, but that he might be raised from the dead, and as a result both He, and His Son, might be glorified in his resurrection.
We should not apply this to the death of the Lord Jesus however, and say that because He is eternal life personified death was of no account to Him either. For in His death He was being held responsible for the sins of others for whom death was a terrible consequence. So for Him death was of the utmost significance.
Having taught these things to Martha, the Lord went on to illustrate the truth of them by raising Lazarus from the dead. He was selected from among the dead that day, and came forth from his grave in response to the word of the Son of God. This marks one of the differences between the raising of the dead by Elijah, Elisha, Peter and Paul, and the raising of the dead by Christ. They did not act of their own will, but as subordinate to the will of God. The Son, however, had authority to raise the dead of His own will. But only in harmony with the will of His Father, with whom He is equal. His own words were, “For as the Father raiseth the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom He will”, John 5:21.
Of course Lazarus was not raised to never die again, for the Lord Jesus must have the privilege of being the first to rise in that way. Lazarus did not have a spiritual body as he came forth from his grave, or else he would not have needed to be loosed from his grave-clothes. The resurrection body is spiritual, and does not suffer the restrictions our physical body does.
Resurrection and the disciples
When the Lord Jesus referred to His resurrection in Mark 9:9, He used the preposition “ek”, meaning “out of”, which is the equivalent to the “of” in Daniel 12:2. Yet the disciples were puzzled by this use of the word, “And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean”, Mark 9:10. The idea of resurrection was not strange to them; nor was the idea of many persons rising from among the dead, for they would know the meaning of Daniel 12:2. What was new to them was the idea of one man rising from among the dead, leaving all others, of whatever class, behind. They did not as yet realise that the resurrection of Christ would inaugurate a new sort of resurrection, namely some believers rising and leaving other believers behind. Those raised being church saints at the rapture, and those left being Old Testament saints.
Now the Lord Jesus later told His disciples that He had many things to say to them, but they were not able to bear them at that point, for the Holy Spirit had not yet come to indwell them as He would on the Day of Pentecost. After that, however, the Spirit in His capacity as the Spirit of Truth would lead them into all the truth, (and if it was all truth it must include about resurrection), John 16:12,13.
Resurrection and Christ
This brings us to a brief consideration of the resurrection of Christ. When the Lord Jesus spoke of His death by lifting up in John 12:31, the people were puzzled, for they had “heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever”. What they had been taught was perfectly correct, for Isaiah had declared that the Son whose name is Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of peace, that “of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgement and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this”, Isaiah 9:7.
If the Son of Man is to be crucified, and yet will reign for ever, then He must rise from the dead. And this is what Peter asserted on the Day of Pentecost, quoting the words of Psalm 16 and alluding to the words of Psalm 132. In the latter passage David wrote of God’s promise to him that his family would occupy the throne of David for evermore. There were conditions, however; a condition which they (with one exception) did not fulfil. Those conditions were that the children be just, fear the Lord, and keep God’s covenant. David confessed that his house had not done this, for he has to admit “although my house be not so with God”, 2 Samuel 23:5. How sad that in his last words, (see verse 1), David has to write this. Does this mean that David’s throne shall be forever vacant? Not at all, for as David goes on to say, “He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure”. If David’s throne is to be occupied only by one who has not broken God’s law, then there is only one person qualified, even Christ who is the Just One, was heard for His godly fear, and who magnified the law and made it honourable, and thus fulfilled the conditions for occupying that throne. And being a prophet, David knew this, Acts 2:30,31, which is why he foretold that Christ’s soul would not be left in Hades, nor His body allowed to see corruption, but, on the contrary, would be quickly raised from the dead. So how is it Christ shall be able to reign uninterruptedly for ever? Because He has been raised to die no more. “His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom”, Daniel 7:44, and “He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end”, Luke 1:32.
When we come to Isaiah 52 and 53 we hear the prophet asking, “And who shall declare His generation? For He was cut off out of the land of the living”, Isaiah 53:8. Then to safeguard the integrity of the One of whom he speaks, Isaiah makes it clear by the Spirit that “for the transgression of my people was He stricken”. Matthew declares His ancestry, but who shall declare His posterity? To die childless was to a Jew a disaster ever since Abraham lamented, “I go childless”, Genesis 15:2. It is true that Messiah was cut off without natural seed, but the prophet assures us “He shall see His seed”; that even though cut off in the midst of His years “He will prolong His days”, and it will continue to be true that “the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand”, verse 10. There is, in other words, an expectation on the part of the prophet that the Messiah will rise from the dead. And so it came to pass. But if He rises, so must the seed associated with Him rise too.
Resurrection and Paul
Now it is the apostle Paul that especially deals with the consequences of the resurrection of Christ and applies those consequences to those who believe. We shall look briefly at Romans 6 to see the spiritual and moral consequences, and 1 Corinthians 15 to see the consequences as to our bodies. Turning, then, to Romans 6 we find the apostle confronting those who suggested that because the sin of man had been met by the grace of God in Christ, then the more we sin, the more opportunity there would be for God to be glorified by the exhibition of His grace, Romans 5:20-6:1. The apostle answers this not by saying, “You ought not to sin”, but rather, “How shall we, that are dead to sin live any more therein”, Romans 6:2.
He shows that when we believed we not only came into the good of Christ’s death, but, more than that, we were associated with Him in it. Not, of course, that we made any contribution to the value of His death, but that God associates those who believe with what happened at Calvary, so what happened to Christ happened to them, in His sight. He can do this because He foreknows who will believe. So our old man, (ourselves considered as having links with Adam), was crucified with Christ, verse 6. God considers that the pre-conversion person is cut off morally, as much as a crucified person was cut off physically.
When the Roman authorities wished to declare very publicly that a certain criminal was not fit for their society, they crucified him. After the same manner, God cannot have sinners in the society of heaven, so He publicly sets them aside by associating them with His Son when He was crucified. So they are crucified by proxy. Now if this was all there was to Christianity, it would be a very negative thing. But it is positively positive! For, having been crucified with Christ, the true believer is buried with Him, and then raised with Him to walk in newness of life.
There are two things that show that a person has died, namely the death certificate and the burial service. Our death certificate is the Scripture which says, “our old man is crucified”, verse 6. Our burial is when we are baptized. Those who are buried in the ordinary sense have died beforehand- they do not die at their own funeral. So baptism is the burial of a person who has already died. But unlike every normal burial, the buried person arrives at resurrection immediately, coming out of the watery grave to live a new sort of life. So it is that to be baptized into His death means to be baptized into His state of death, associating with the one who for three days lay dead in the sepulchre. But He is risen, so we are authorised to rise from our “grave” too.
Now since we are dead and buried, and since we have emerged to live a new and different sort of life, the old way of life is not appropriate for us. Yet we have a problem, for whilst our old man is crucified, the flesh is still with us. As far as God and spiritual reality are concerned the pre-conversion person is dead; but as far as practical reality is concerned the ability to sin is still with us. The reason being that we still have our old body, and that body is the seat of the sin-principle, so that the apostle calls it “the body of sin” in verse 6. But he raises the possibility that that body of sin may be destroyed, or “made of no effect”. This is the potential, and not the actual. We know only too well that our bodies still have the tendency and ability to sin. We are exhorted, however, to “let not sin reign in your mortal body”, verse 12.
How do we do this? The apostle tells us, for he writes, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord”, verse 11. We are to reckon with the fact that as far as God is concerned, we are dead to sin. If we act on that truth, by the power of the indwelling Spirit, we shall not sin. We are also to act on the truth that we are alive to God, and if we do this, we shall live righteously, again by the power of the Spirit.
In this way we enter into the good of what the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Christ has secured for us. And as we reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God, we increasingly attain to the (out) resurrection of the dead, Philippians 3:11, which means moral conformity, even now, and by degrees, to the truth of Christ’s resurrection.
Resurrection and church saints
We come now to the classic chapter on resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15. What body can possibly rise from the grave, when it has crumbled to dust centuries before? The answer is found in the One who made man from the dust at the beginning, and who can bring a man out from the dust at the resurrection. We should remember that our body is not only an object, but is also an idea- one million cells in our body die and are replaced each second, so we are constantly changing. The body we had when we were saved, the body God bought with the price of His Son’s blood, 1 Corinthians 6:19,20, is composed of different cells now. The resurrection body is “eternal in the heavens”, and “from heaven”, 2 Corinthians 1,2, in other words it exists in the mind of God in the first instance.
Before we take a look at what the apostle says about the resurrection body, we might ask why it is necessary for us to have one. Are we not linked to Christ already on a spiritual level, for “he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit”, 1 Corinthians 6:17. And are we not able already to commune with God by the gracious aid of the Holy Spirit, even in this present body? Can we not be in heaven simply as spirits? After all, the angels dwell in heaven, and they are spirits without a body.
We might answer this question by considering four things:
1. Having a body is part of being human, and is therefore part of our personality. We express ourselves not only by soul and spirit, but also by our body. We need to have our body to be recognised in heaven, as no doubt we shall be.
2. The Lord Jesus has a body in heaven, for He is shortly coming out from heaven as the Last Adam; if Adam had a body and He does not, then that title has lost most if not all of its meaning. He is coming as the Second Man, so He has a body, or else He could not be called a man.
3. God has purchased our bodies by the redeeming blood of Christ, 1 Corinthians 6:19,20, and therefore they are valuable to Him, and He has an eternal purpose for them.
4. We are to be conformed to the image of God’s Son, so as to represent Him. But He has a body, therefore we cannot fully represent Him in heaven, or anywhere else for that matter, if we do not have a body.
When the apostle is giving instruction about the kind of body that believers will have in resurrection, he first of all gives some illustrations from the world of botany, biology and astronomy, to help us understand what the resurrection body will be like, in verses 36-41. Then he makes a series of contrasts, in verses 42-44.
First the comparisons. In verse 36 we learn that the resurrection body is a quickened body, a body pulsing in all its parts with Divine life, and freed from all the current hindrances imposed on it because it is a natural body having the sin-principle within it. Death is a necessity, in this context, not a calamity, for seeds left unsown will not grow. Later on the apostle will show that some believers will not die, yet shall share in the resurrection.
Our bodies in resurrection will be suited to their occupation, which will be to serve God, for “His servants shall serve Him”, Revelation 22:3.
In verses 37 and 38 we learn it will be a clothed body, compared to which the present body is plain and unadorned. Just as a grain of corn when it is sown is bare or unclothed, but when it is quickened into life a luxuriant plant is produced which seems to bear no resemblance to the plain seed sown, so will it be with our bodies in resurrection. God “giveth”, (in the present), a body to a seed when it is sown, but He does so in accordance with what pleased Him at the beginning when He created all things.
Just as we know what was sown by seeing what has come up, so those in the resurrection body will be recognised as those we knew before, there will be a continued identity.
Verse 39 draws lessons from the world of biology. Each kind of creature has a body suited to its environment, whether land, sea or air. So the resurrection body will be suited to the environment of heaven.
Leading on from this idea, Paul moves into the world of astronomy. The sun radiates Divinely-give energy, and so shall believers display the power of God, in bodies of glory. The moon, on the other hand, reflects the glory of the sun. So the believer will gladly acknowledge that any glory he is able to display is only a reflection of the glory of Christ; it is not intrinsic but acquired. And just as each star has its own peculiar glory, so each believer will have his or her different and glorious characteristics, but all to glorify Christ. The resurrection body will be able to display glory.
Having spoken of the resurrection body by the use of comparisons with creation, the apostle now makes a series of contrasts in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, as follows:
Even though believers may have lived a spiritually incorrupt life, the body in which they lived was a corrupt one, because affected by the fall. They shall be “raised incorruptible”, however, not only with no trace of corruption on them, but with no capacity to ever do corrupt things again.
Even though they may have been much honoured and respected by the saints, they are laid in the grave, sharing the dishonour that Adam brought on the race. They shall be “raised in glory”, with a body ideally fitted to glorify God in the realms of glory, and to appreciate that glory to the full.
Even though they may have died when they were still physically strong, the weakness of the fall was still about them, and they were weak compared to what they shall be. When raised, however, their bodies shall pulse with resurrection power, for they shall be “raised in power”, and they shall serve God with energy and enthusiasm for all eternity.
Even though they may have been very spiritual, their bodies were still natural, or soulish. Like Adam they were living souls, not living spirits. Their bodies were governed by the soul, and its relations with the earth. They had eternal life from God, and thus they could grow in spirituality, but the fact remained that they had a body fitted for life on earth. At the resurrection this will change, and there will be given “a spiritual body”, one fitted for the heavenly sphere, and one, moreover, that will have the capacity to relate to God in the fullest way that is possible for a creature.
We then learn from the apostle the role of the Lord Jesus in this change of the body. He is now declared to be “the second man”, 1 Corinthians 15:47, the first man having shown himself to be a failure. That first man was not only known personally as Adam, but that was also his title as head of natural men. Christ is second man, not because He has some shortcoming- that cannot be- but because the first man must be seen to fail before God brings in the One who cannot fail. But He is second, and not third, not only because there are only two heads of men as far as God is concerned, (there is no-one between first and second), but also because there is no-one to follow Christ as the third. He brings in finality. This is why the apostle calls Him the Last Adam, for He takes that name, not in a personal sense as Adam did, but in its official sense.
Just as there are only two heads of men, so there are only two companies of men, those under the headship of Adam, and those who have believed, and therefore have transferred from the headship of Adam to that of Christ. This is a moral and spiritual change, but not as yet a physical change, for that awaits the resurrection. At that time the believers shall begin to bear the image of the heavenly. That is, they shall be equipped to adequately represent their Head, even Christ, because they will have changed bodies. Of course it is the responsibility of believers to represent Christ now, but they are somewhat hindered by being in the body they have from Adam. In the resurrection every hindrance will be removed, and the last link with Adam will be gone. The bondage of corruption which we share with the whole of the fallen creation shall be broken, and we shall be set free, Romans 8:19-23. The apostle calls this the redemption of the body, when full sonship will be ours, with all its accompanying advantages and abilities.
As a result of these changes, the resurrected saints will be enabled to “bear the image of the heavenly”, 1 Corinthians 15:49, or in other words, to represent Christ their head to the limits of their capacity. Formerly representing Adam, and hampered by a body of clay, (see Job 4:19), they represented Adam; now all is changed, even as to the body. Full sonship will have been reached, and the conformity to the image of God’s Son that God has purposed for all eternity will be attained, Romans 8:29. When God made man at the beginning, He gave him rationality, personality, and spirituality. Rationality, to enable him to think and reason, so that he might understand God’s truth. Personality, so as to be able to express the character of God, (insofar as that is possible for a finite being). Spirituality, so that he could relate to God, worship Him and commune with Him. As far as Adam and his race are concerned, these faculties have been spoiled. As far as believers are concerned, they are restored in Christ, but not fully, since they are still in a natural body. When the resurrection comes, the believer will be able to fully exploit the rationality, personality and spirituality he has been given, to God’s glory.
Resurrection and living saints
There is a difficulty, however. What of saints who are “alive and remain” when the Lord comes out of heaven for them? How can they partake in resurrection if they have not died?
We have really come across part of the answer to that question already, when we noticed that the Lord Jesus said, “he that liveth and believeth in Me shall never die”, John 11:26, and “if a man keep My saying, he shall never see death”, John 8:51. In other words, it is not just those alive when the Lord comes who will not die. All believers, since they have eternal life, (which cannot be touched by death), do not die as other men die. For them death is defeated, and has no claim on them in the ultimate sense. Their bodies are mortal and do indeed die, but their spirits are born of God and they share His life.
This situation prevails for three reasons. The first is that believers have eternal life, and that life is not dissoluble by death, just as the Lord Jesus could not be held by death, and He is made priest in relation to the fact that by His resurrection He has shown His life to be indissoluble by death, Hebrews 7:16.
The second reason is that he who had the power of death in Old Testament times has been rendered of no effect in that regard, as Hebrews 2:14 informs us. In Job’s day, the Lord had to say to Satan, “Touch not his life”, for he had power to do that; but now, through the death of Christ his power is gone.
The third reason is that the Spirit of God within the believer is the guarantee, according to Romans 8:11, that the believer’s mortal body will be quickened, or made alive, at His coming. The Spirit is given a special title in that passage, namely “the Spirit of Him that raised up Christ from the dead”. In other words, since the Spirit of the God of resurrection dwells within, the mortal body He indwells will certainly be quickened.
1 Corinthians 15:50-54 assures us that unchanged flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The latter expression refers to the sphere of God’s spiritual rule, where-ever that rule is exercised. “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit”, Romans 14:17. In other words, it has not to do with natural, material things, but spiritual things. Those who inherit something do so because they have a claim upon it. A body of flesh and blood, however, has no claim upon the heavenly sphere, for it is fitted for life on the earth, not heaven. There must be a change to the body of living saints, so that they do have a claim upon heaven, and this is what will happen.
So it is that the apostle assures us that even though not every saint shall sleep in death, nevertheless every saint shall be changed, for missing death will not rob living saints of their body fitted for heaven. After all, this present body is corruptible, and tends to death every moment- it is therefore not so different to a body in the grave, where the corruption and mortality is most marked. The only difference is that the living saint’s spirit is still within the body, whereas the dead saint’s spirit is with the Lord. As to the body, (and the apostle is only thinking of the body here), in principle they are the same. This is why he does not distinguish between the living and the dead in the next verses, for living saints have corruptible bodies, and dead saint’s bodies have corrupted wholly. Living saints have a mortal body, and dead saints have seen the fact of mortality brought to its logical and terrible conclusion.
We learn more about this process in Philippians 3:20,21. Philippi was a colony of Rome, which meant that it was a miniature of Rome at a distance. The customs, laws, dress and loyalties of the Philippians was centred on Rome, far away. The believers in the assembly at Philippi were citizens of a far away place in another sense. Their citizenship, and that of all believers, is in heaven. The laws of heaven govern them. Out from the city-state of heaven that is our true home, we await the Lord Jesus to come in His capacity as Saviour. No doubt the Philippian citizens were used to the arrival of the Emperor from Rome, claiming as he did to be the “Saviour of the World”. He was not able to do what our true Saviour will do. He has already fitted us for heaven as to the soul and spirit; but soon He will come to complete the task, and fit our bodies for heaven also. It is God’s purpose that we should be “conformed to the image of His Son”, Romans 8:29. This involves representing and manifesting Him. To do this effectively we shall need to have our bodies changed so that they are like His body. And this will happen. As we have seen from 1 Corinthians 15, we shall “bear the image of the heavenly”. He has a body that is in all senses glorious, and we shall have one like that too. A body fitted to do glorious things; fitted to appreciate glorious things; fitted to express glorious things.
So it is that in His Saviour-capacity He shall change our vile body. The expression “vile body” means the body that we have in our current low estate, as compared to the high estate of living in heaven. Mary spoke of her low estate, meaning her low status in society, Luke 1:48. Citizenship of Philippi was a very coveted privilege, but it is nothing compared to being a citizen of heaven. Our bodies will be changed so that we fulfil that role to the glory of God.
The word for change used here means to fashion anew, and has special reference to the outward appearance of things. All the blemishes and defects that our bodies have will be completely removed, so that not only will the moral spots, wrinkles and similar things be gone, Ephesians 5:27, but the physical ones as well. If Nebuchadnezzar insisted that his courtiers should be “children in whom is no blemish”, Daniel 1:4, how much more shall the Sovereign of heaven expect that no trace of the fall of man should be upon His servants.
The power He will put forth to do this, (for it does involve great power, such as was needed to raise Christ from the dead, Ephesians 1:19,21), is the same power He will use to subdue everything to Himself in a day to come. It is spiritual energy supported by moral authority. The same energy that shall see to it that “all rule and all authority and power” are put down in a day to come, 1 Corinthians 15:25. Nothing shall prevent the Saviour from completing the task of fitting His people for heaven.
So this corruptible body, whether of the living saint or the dead one, shall put on incorruption. Not that an incorrupt body will be put on like a garment over the corrupt one that was laid in the grave, but rather, the corrupt body will put on incorruption in the sense that it “acquires qualities”, (Souter, Lexicon to Greek New Testament). It will be so changed morally as to be unrecognisable as to its former link with Adam, but not so changed that it is not recognisable as to appearance.
The whole of creation is in the bondage of corruption, functioning at less than its full potential, but when Christ comes to earth that will change. But the sons of God will be manifest with Him, Romans 8:19, and they will be the clear sign that God will give to the world that He has been able to deliver from bondage. Instead of being slaves in body, soul and spirit, they have been released, and have been brought, at the rapture, into full sonship, and as such are free.
The change spoken of will be accomplished according to three time-phrases, 1 Corinthians 15:52. First, “in a moment”. The Greeks believed that they had discovered the smallest particle, so small that it could not be divided further. They called it “a-tomos”, meaning “not divisible”, (they were mistaken, of course, for man has split the atom), and this is the word the apostle employs here. If we could imagine a period of time that could not be divided up, then we would have some idea of how quickly the change will take place. It is not, therefore, a process, but occurs in indivisible time, preparing the body for the sphere where time has no relevance. Second, “in the twinkling of an eye”, which is not as long as a blink, but the momentary change in the light of the eye. This tells of change so sudden that the eye cannot capture it. An imperceptible change, preparing us for the changeless state. Third, “at the last trump”, telling of an irresistible call. In 1 Corinthians 14:8 the apostle likened the commands of the Lord to His people by means of gifted men, as a trumpet preparing them to battle. No doubt a allusion to the silver trumpets which directed the movements of Israel, whether to assemble, prepare for war, or prepare to march, Numbers 10:1-10. It is the latter use of the trumpet that is relevant here, for the last call to movement for the people of God shall be, not to enter into an earthly Canaan, but to rise to meet Him in the air. And it is with changed bodies that they shall do so.
When these changes have taken place, then the full extent of the victory obtained by Christ at the cross will be realised, and the triumph which He knew over death, Hades and the grave, will be shared with His people on the resurrection day. The apostle employs as his victory hymn two quotations from the Old Testament, one from Isaiah 25:8, and the other from Hosea 13:14. He prefaces them by the word “then”.
It must be borne in mind that there are three distinct formulas for introducing the fulfilment of prophecy:
1. With the word “ina”, meaning “in order that it might be fulfilled”, indicating that the object of the prophecy has been completely realised.
2. With the word “opus”, meaning “so that it might be fulfilled”, where, not the full realisation of the thing prophesied, but an event within the scope and intention of the prophecy is in view, Matthew 8:17, for instance.
3. With the word “tole”, as here, meaning merely “a case in point”, when what happens is an illustration of what was said in the prophecy.
So the resurrection of the saints of this age is not a fulfilment of the prophecies by Isaiah and Hosea that Paul quotes here, but rather, it is an illustration of what will happen regarding Israel in the future.
“Death is swallowed up in victory” is a Hebrew way of saying that permanent victory over death has been achieved. Believing Israel shall know it when the Lord Jesus comes to the earth, whilst church saints shall know it when the Lord comes for them.
In Hosea God looked on to a time when He would plague death, and be the destruction of Sheol, the equivalent of the Greek word Hades used by the apostle in the passage we are considering. (The Authorised Version departs from the Textus Receptus at this point). He did it first by raising Christ from the dead, thus robbing death of its prey, and plaguing death itself with the plague of death. Did it too, by ensuring that Christ’s soul was not left in Hades. If death cannot hold one who had all sins laid upon Him, its power is broken; if the Devil cannot defeat Christ when He is crucified through weakness, 2 Corinthians 13:4, he will never defeat Him.
When the Lord comes, and their bodies are changed, the saints will realise that the victory of the resurrection is shared by them. A statement of intention by God in Hosea will be transformed into a song of triumph for the saints, as they confidently challenge death to say where its sting has gone. That sting was the sin-principle dwelling within the old body. Now the body is changed, and the sin tendency has gone with it. And since the wages of sin is death, then death is powerless. Instead of sin stinging us so that we develop the plague of death, everything has been reversed, and freedom from sin shall be ours for ever. No longer shall we transgress God’s law, (for “sin is the transgression of the law, 1 John 3:4), we shall gladly do His will, for “His servants shall serve Him”, Revelation 22:3, and not, as is too often the case now, “serve sin”, Romans 6:6.
We do not have to wait until the resurrection to share in this victory, however, for the apostle gives thanks for the current position in which we are given victory through the Lord Jesus. The victory which was achieved when God destroyed death, hell and the grave by raising Christ from the dead, is given by grace to us, because of Him. Isaiah 53:12 speaks of Christ being divided spoil with the great, and Himself dividing the spoil with the strong, because He has poured out His soul unto death. We may work out the triumph of the death and resurrection of Christ by not allowing sin to have dominion over us.
Another way we may share in His triumph now is by being steadfast in the implications of His resurrection, unmoved by error concerning it, (as, unhappily, some at Corinth were), and always abounding in the work of the Lord. The only feast in Israel’s calendar that had not prohibition about working, was the feast of the waving of the firstfruits, see Leviticus 23:9-14, 1 Corinthians 15:20,23. Service for the Lord is worthwhile, for He will bring over into resurrection everything we have done for Him in this life that has been to His glory.
John looks at things from a slightly different angle in 1 John 3. He is concerned, as ever, about an inner change of mind and heart. The world did not appreciate that the Lord Jesus was the Son of God, and that the life He lived out amongst them was the life of God; “the world knew Him not”, John 1:10. By the same token the world does not understand believers, for as the children of God they possess the life of God in their souls. This is because what we shall be as those conformed to Christ’s image has not yet been manifested. It will be one day, however, when He is manifested to the earth, and we shall come with Him then, Colossians 3:4.
The reason we shall be like Him is because at the rapture we shall see Him as He is. We fail to appreciate Him fully at present, being hindered by our natural, soulish bodies. But when we have a spiritual body, we shall fully know Him, even as He fully knows us now, 1 Corinthians 13:12.
It is not simply that we shall see Him with our eyes. That will be wonderful indeed! Seeing Him means seeing Him with spiritual insight. John often uses in his writings that particular word for know which is derived from the word to see. We do not fully understand Christ now, as we will. We shall see Him then as He really is, and not as we failingly and falteringly think of Him at present.
Resurrection and Old Testament saints
We come now to a consideration of the resurrection of Old Testament saints, and also of those martyred during the future tribulation period. We have already seen that Abraham had an expectation of resurrection, and this was expressed by others in Old Testament times. For instance, Job surveys the life of man from his birth, life, and death, in Job 14:1-6. Then he muses upon the fact that after a tree has been cut down, it may sprout and revive again, verses 7-9. Yet man has no prospect of being revived to live upon the earth again, for “he layeth down, and riseth not”, verse 12. So is that the end of the matter? Oblivion is all there is for unbelieving man? Not so, for Job goes on to say- “Till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep”. That ominous word “till”! John the apostle looked on to the time when the heaven and the earth shall flee away from before God on His great white throne of judgement, Revelation 20:11. And Peter had told of a time when “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burnt up”, 2 Peter 3:10. Death and Hades shall certainly give up their dead; death holds the body and Hades the soul, and both shall yield up their contents. The fact that John saw the dead standing shows that they had been reunited with their bodies by Divine power, to stand before God’s solemn judgement throne.
This is the same event spoken of by the Lord Jesus, when He asserted that all judgement had been committed to Him because He is Son of Man, John 5:27. As such, men have had opportunity to respond to Him, not only whilst He was on earth in person, but also now that the account of His life has been set down in the gospel records. As Son of Man He has relevance to all men, and that relevance extends to the raising of the dead, for the Father “hath given Him authority to execute judgement also, because He is the Son of Man. 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 5:27-29.
As for Job, he appealed to God in these words, “O that Thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that Thou wouldest keep me secret, until Thy wrath be past”, Job 14:13. So Job has his “until” as well, but his is until the wrath of God has been poured out upon the earth during the great tribulation, the final three and a half years of man’s rule upon the earth. Revelation chapter 11 confirms this, for as the final stages of God’s wrath take their course, heaven anticipates the coming reign of Christ. Then come the words “And the nations were angry, and Thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that Thou shouldest give reward unto Thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear Thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them that destroy the earth”, Revelation 11:18. It is clear that the dead who are judged are not saints of this present age, for they will have been taken to heaven at least seven years before when the Lord Jesus descended from heaven to take them to Himself, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18. The fact that God’s servants the prophets are included in the list of those judged, and that the other classes mentioned are believers also, serves to show that we have here the raising of Old Testament saints, and also those who were martyred during the great tribulation. They now have their part in the first resurrection, as those who are blessed and holy, Revelation 20:4,6. But as verse 5 says, “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished”, Revelation 20:5. Surely an echo of Job’s word “until”.
David shared this hope with Job. Like Job 14, Psalm 49 has to do with death. In fact, it is commonly used at Jewish funerals. Yet for all its melancholy, David was confident that God would redeem his soul from the power of the grave, and receive him, Psalm 49:15. These convictions were confirmed by the prophets, including David, in what they had to say about the Messiah’s resurrection. He would not be left in the grave as to the body, nor would His soul be left in Hades, Psalm 16:10.
Resurrection and unbelievers
The final stage of resurrection is intensely solemn, for the Lord Jesus called it the resurrection of damnation. All that are in the graves shall hear His voice and shall come forth. It is because they have done (practised) evil that they are damned, John 5:28,29. For what a man habitually does is the sure indicator of what his nature is like. This is why at the great white throne judgement the record books are opened, not only to apportion judgement according to the degree of guilt, but also to clearly demonstrate the justice of God’s judgement. None shall have cause for complaint that they were treated unrighteously.
The fact that John saw the dead stand before God shows that they are in the body. The very body in which they sinned against God will be restored to them. But with this difference. As the Lord Jesus made clear, the unsaved will be cast into Gehenna, (which is another name for the Lake of Fire), with the body they sinned with, Mark 9:43-50. And if it be asked how the body can continue in fire for ever, then the solemn answer comes in that passage, “every one shall be salted with fire”. In other words, just as salt preserves from change in the physical realm, so the very fire of the lake of fire shall preserve the bodies of the damned for all eternity. As Job put it long ago, “But his flesh upon him shall have pain, and his soul within him shall mourn”, Job 14:22. What a combination! Eternal pain, coupled with remorse for opportunities of salvation ignored upon earth.
When this solemn judgement has taken place, the last of God’s enemies shall have been defeated, and no hostile force is left to disturb the eternal day of God, when He is all in all, 1 Corinthians 15:26,28.