Burning Questions answered
by Rev Colin Le Noury.
Q1. Will there be a General Resurrection?
I have received many questions on the subject of the resurrection of the dead and matters related to it, such as, where will the dead remain until the resurrection?
The subject is a broad one and not always clearly understood without a concentrated study of the issues.
Let me begin by saying that the idea of a general resurrection, followed by a general judgement, often espoused by amillennialists, is a fallacy. Scripture clearly teaches that there will be a number of judgements, just as there will be a number of phases in the raising of the dead. On the matter of a general judgement this teaching is based mainly on two scriptures:
"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 v 28-29).
"And have hope toward God that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and of the unjust" (Acts 24v 15).
If these two verses were the only two on the subject then we might well conclude that the general resurrection theory is correct, and that both the righteous and the wicked are to be raised simultaneously. This, however, is not the case.
Many other scriptures need to be taken into consideration. For example, Revelation 20vv5-6 both refer to the FIRST resurrection. The terminology itself implies that there is to be another resurrection. In v.4 of Rev. 20 we read about the raising to life of those martyred in the tribulation period. This is immediately followed by the statement "And the rest of the dead lived not again until the 1000 years were finished" - proving conclusively that a general resurrection of all humanity at one given moment is not biblical.
How then should we understand the whole subject of the raising of the dead? Let us begin by speaking of the first resurrection which involves the righteous, and then, the second resurrection which involves unbelievers. If we can grasp hold of this fundamental difference then we are on our way to a true understanding of the subject.
But, even so, to speak just of the first and second resurrections is a gross over simplification, because the first resurrection (that of the righteous) is itself divided into three stages as outlined below:
1. The First Resurrection
a. The Firstfruits (O.T. saints)
b. The Harvest (The dead in Christ)
c. The Gleanings (Tribulation saints)
2. The Second Resurrection i.e. "the rest of the dead" (Rev. 20v5)
The above outline suggests four major resurrection events, but where do they all fit into the prophetic calendar? The main event in the first resurrection obviously will be the harvest - the resurrection of those who have died in Christ during the church age. But this is preceded by the firstfruits or the raising of Old Testament saints. This appears to have already taken place following Jesus' own resurrection. It is referred to in part in Math. 27 v 52-53 which says;
"And the graves were opened and many bodies of the saints which slept arose.... And then in Ephesians 4vv8-10:
"...when He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men. (Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.) The Jews always believed that the righteous dead were reserved in Paradise. Jesus Himself made reference to the same when conversing with the penitent thief. The above scripture seems to suggest that upon His resurrection Jesus emptied paradise taking the righteous with Him into higher realms where they are now arrayed as a great cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12v1) surveying the events of this present dispensation. These are the firstfruits of the first resurrection. The actual harvest, or main event, will take place prior to the tribulation, simultaneous to the rapture of the living believers;
"... 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 the air" (1 Thess. 4v 16-17).
The bodies of the dead in Christ are in the graves. There souls and spirits are already in the heavens for Paul says; "Absent from the body is to be present with the Lord" (2 Cor. 5v8) At the harvest these souls and spirits will be reunited with their resurrection bodies. The third phase, or the gleanings, refers to the resurrection of the tribulation saints, which will take place at the end of the tribulation and immediately before the millennial reign of Christ. Revelation 20v4 speaks of the raising of "those who were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark on their heads or in their hands, and they lived again and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
The statement that follows; "This is the first resurrection" is a statement of completion and signifies that this brings to an end the third phase of the first resurrection.
The second resurrection, that of unbelievers, is easier to deal with as it takes place as one event at the end of the millennium - "the rest of the dead lived not again until the 1000 years were finished" (Rev. 20v5)
These are presently held in the graves unto the day of judgement and their resurrection is graphically described in Rev. 20v13-14;
"And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them; and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death." As Christian believers our hope is in Him who said;
"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".