Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Multiple Resurrections

One reason why so many Christians have a wrong view of the timing of the Rapture is that they assume there will only be one resurrection event “at the end of time.” This comes from either a superficial regard for Scripture or a failure to take literally what Scripture says. Either way, such error is a symptom of unbelief.

The passage that most clear reveals there will be multiple resurrections is 1 Corinthians 15:20-24:
“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. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.” (NKJ)
The harvest imagery is used here to help us better understand the sequence. Jesus was the firstfruits of the resurrection. In the Law God gave Israel, the firstfruits of the harvest were always offered as a sacrifice to God and this was certainly the case with Jesus going to the cross. The main harvest resurrection is the Rapture we look forward to in the Church Age. And in the Hebrew Law there were to be gleanings that followed the main harvest; see Leviticus 19:9.

Among the resurrection gleanings to be harvested will be those who come to Christ during the Tribulation and are killed for their faith. Revelation 20:4 says, “Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” Thus this group is resurrected either during the course of the Tribulation or at the end of the Tribulation prior to the Millennial reign of Christ on earth.

Another resurrection gleaning will be the Old Testament saints. Daniel 12:1-2 says:
“At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
The “time of trouble” is the Tribulation. While two-thirds of the world’s Jews are killed during the Tribulation (Zechariah 13:8-9), God preserves a third of Israel to enter His Millennial Kingdom. The Old Testament saints will be resurrected to join in the Millennial Kingdom. This passage seems to indicate that those who lived in Old Testament times that did not have faith in the Lord are resurrected at that time as well but Revelation 20:13 indicates that the unredeemed are all resurrected together at the end of the Millennial Kingdom.

Many are surprised that the Church Age saints are resurrected ahead of the Old Testament saints but this is clearly taught in Scripture. Jesus did say, “the last will be first, and the first last” (Matthew 20:16).

There will not be a resurrection of believers who survive the Tribulation or are born during the Millennial Kingdom because they will not die. In context Isaiah 65:22 has to be referring to the Millennial Kingdom and it says, “for as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people.” There are many trees that live over a thousand years old. I take it that these believers will be translated into their eternal bodies when God ushers in the eternal state: “the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up… according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:10-13).

Scripture teaches us that there are two types of resurrections, the just and the unjust: “there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust” (Acts 24:15). Jesus put it this way in John 5:28-29, “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.” While the resurrection of life occurs in multiple phases, the resurrection of condemnation occurs at one time…

The resurrection of condemnation is further described in Revelation 20:12-13:
“And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.”
The resurrection of condemnation is the last resurrection and based on the context in the book of Revelation, it occurs at the end of the Millennial reign of Christ and the beginning of the eternal state.

You don’t want to be in the last resurrection because all who are judged for salvation on the basis of their works will spend eternity separated from God in the lake of fire. If you have not previously trusted that the work of Jesus on the cross has paid the penalty for your sins, now would be a good time to do that… “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31).

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