Nobody can really understand the Bible and its promises unless they understand the resurrection, because it appears to be the only hope of life after death that God offered to humans. So we can say that the resurrection is a principal doctrine of the Bible. And if a person believes in the resurrection, it is impossible to believe in the ancient pagan doctrine of the immortality of the human soul, because the two terms have opposite meanings… immortal means undying and resurrect implies being brought back to life. For if you can't die, you can't be resurrected. Notice that the words resurrect and resurrection are found dozens of times in the Bible. However, the term immortal soul can't be found there at all.
The English word resurrect means to re-erect or, to make something stand upright again. So when it is used to speak of a dead person, it means that he or she will come back to life and stand erect as a human once again; for the meaning is almost the same as the Greek word that resurrect(ion) is translated from, ana/stasia, or, again stand.
Of course, there are several accounts of resurrections in the Bible. For example, the Prophets EliJah and EliSha performed resurrections. Jesus was recorded to have performed at least three resurrections (the son of a widow at Nain, JaIrus' daughter, and Lazarus). Paul resurrected a young boy who fell from a high window during an all-night speech, and Peter resurrected a faithful Christian woman named Dorcas. Of course, Jesus himself was resurrected, which Paul points out, is the basis ofor our hope in a resurrection. Yet, recognize that all these resurrections (except the resurrection of Jesus) were temporary, since the bodies that were brought back to life were still corruptible (aging and dying).
That fact that Jesus taught the resurrection as the primary hope for mankind, can be seen in his words recorded in John 11:24, 25, where he said, 'I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live. And all those who are alive and believe in me won't die through the ages. Do you believe this?'
So the question is: Do we believe this?
It is interesting that though the faithful patriarchs and IsraElites believed in and spoke of their hope of a resurrection, there is no record of God ever promising such a thing to people as their reward for living righteous lives. However, despite the fact that there was no promise of a hereafter prior to the coming of Jesus, the ancient faithful did believe in such a thing, because they trusted in God's love and justice.
Paul verified that faithful AbraHam believed in a resurrection. For when he was discussing what AbraHam must have been thinking when he was about to offer his son IsaAc as a sacrifice to God, Paul wrote (at Hebrews 11:19): 'However, [AbraHam] figured that God was able to raise him from the dead' (gr. ek nekron egeirein, or, from dead/ones raising/up).
And it appears as though all the faithful people of the pre-Christian era must have hoped in a resurrection. For we read that Job (who was the first to raise a question about the resurrection) asked (at Job 14:14, 15 LXX):
'Can a man live again after he dies,
Once the days of his life have all past?
As for me; I will wait 'til I live again,
When You'll call out to me and I'll listen.
O don't undo the work of Your hands!'
Also, notice what Job's faithful friend EliHu believed; for he said (as recorded at Job 36:5-7):
'I know that Jehovah won't harm a good man…
One who's mighty and has strength of heart.
But, to the irreverent, He won't return life.
'He gives justice to those who are poor,
And He doesn't turn His eyes from the righteous.
For they'll sit as kings upon thrones…
They'll be raised and treated like winners!'
Now, if you'll think about these words, you'll clearly see what ancient Bible writers believed about their hope of a hereafter. For they believed that when they died, they just went to sleep with their ancestors (Genesis 47:30), where they waited in the place of the dead (heb. Sheol, gr. Hades), during which time they would be unaware of what was going on around them (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10). Then it was their hope that they would be remembered and be allowed to stand up again (be resurrected) on this earth (not become angels and fly away into heaven).
Paul (the Apostle), when speaking in his own defense before the Jewish religious court (Sanhedrin), said in reference to the Pharisees (at Acts 24:15): 'And I have this hope in God, which they (the Pharisees) also share, that there's going to be a resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous.'
So he believed that not just the righteous, but also those who are unrighteous will be resurrected.
It was Jesus who first spoke of the unrighteous being resurrected when he said (at Matthew 11:21-24):
'Woe to you O ChoraZin,
And woe to you, O BethSaida;
For if the powerful deeds that had happened in you
Had happened in Tyre and Sidon,
They'd have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
That's why I say that the Day of the Judgment
Will be easier for Tyre and for Sidon
Than [it will be] for you.
'And you, O CapharNaum;
Will you be lifted to heaven?
No, you will go to the place of the dead!
For, if the powerful deeds that happened in you
Had also happened in Sodom,
It would still be here today.
'But I say that it will be better
For the land of Sodom in the Judgment
Than it will be for you.'
So, since Jesus spoke of the people of such famous ancient cities as Tyre, Sidon, Sodom, Chorazin, BethSaida, and CaperNaum standing in the Judgment Day, we must assume that those who lived in those cities, although truly unrighteous, will be brought back in a resurrection. And if you think about it, this only seems just, because there are millions or even billions of people who have never heard of Jesus or the promises of the Bible. So, doesn't it seem right that they would be given a chance to live again and to prove what they would do if they were given the opportunity under more righteous circumstances?
However, not all of the unrighteous will be resurrected. For more information about this, see the subheading, 'The Outcome Of the Unrighteous' in the linked document, 'What is Righteousness?'
As to the time when the resurrections are to begin; notice what Jesus said (as recorded at John 6:40): 'Yes, it is the Will of my Father that everyone who pays close attention to the Son and believes in him should have age-long life. For I will resurrect him… [yes] me, on the Last Day!'
So according to Jesus himself, the resurrections don't begin until 'the last day (gr. te hemera eschate).' And this is verified in the Revelation, which (as it says) was a vision of 'the Lord's Day.' For at Revelation 20:5, we find what is described as 'the first resurrection' happening. And although the words about the resurrection of 'the rest of the dead' not coming to life until 'after the thousand years have ended' are probably spurious (see below), we must assume that others are resurrected later; because, when something is mentioned as being first, we assume that something else will follow.
Where will people be resurrected to in the Lord's Day? Well, since the word resurrect refers specifically to
standing erect as a human once again; we must understand the meaning of the term the same as the faithful ancients understood it…
that they will be resurrected and stand again on the earth, land, or ground. For, notice that this was the promise they were given,
as recorded at Psalm 37:29:
'The righteous will inherit [the] land,
And through ages of ages, they'll camp there.'
This is also what Jesus implied when he said to John at Revelation 2:7: 'Let those who have ears hear what [God's] Breath says to the congregations: I will allow the one who conquers to eat from the Tree of Life that's in the Paradise of God'.
And where will that paradise be where the tree of life then will be located? We suspect that it will be here on the earth.
Then later (at Revelation 20:7-10) we read of two different groups of humans that are clearly to be resurrected on the earth. For, many in one group will join with Gog and Magog (apparently the Slanderer or Devil) in an attack against the second group, who are described as 'the Holy Ones' that live in 'the loved city.'
So from the context, we can see that this is to be an earthly (not a heavenly) war.
Now, so far we have only discussed the hope of a resurrection to this earth as a human, not a resurrection into heaven. For as we pointed out, the word resurrection doesn't imply anything other than standing on the earth as a human once again. However, wasn't Jesus resurrected to heaven?
No, he really wasn't! Though the Gospel accounts show that he was resurrected as a spirit; they also show that he was resurrected on this earth, where he stood erect once again and appeared in a human form before his followers for the next forty days. It was only after these forty days that he ascended into the presence of God in heaven. So we can't really say that Jesus (or anyone else) was or will be resurrected to heaven.
But isn't a heavenly resurrection implied by the words of Paul at Philippians 3:11, where he wrote (as translated in some Bibles), '… so I can somehow be found worthy of an upward resurrection from the dead?'
In Greek, this verse reads, 'ei pos katanteso eis ten ech/anastasin ten ek nekron,' or, 'if somehow I/might/attain/down into the
out/resurrection the from dead.'
Note: the ech (pronounced ek) in echanastasin could also be translated as from (as in from resurrection), or out-of (as in out-of resurrection).
Notice that this verse is very hard to translate with any surety, because it's the only place in the Bible where this exact word (ech/anastasin or out/resurrection) is found, so we can't look at the context to see what Paul meant. However, it is clear that Paul was writing about something other than a normal resurrection, and he used an unusual word to describe it. So if he was discussing being called out of death into the heavens, he did this by using a word that differed from the normal meaning of resurrection. By adding the Greek prefix ech (out of) ahead of resurrection (anastasin), it could possibly (but not surely) imply some sort of 'springing to life' as a spirit, rather than coming to life as a human on the earth. However, as common and as popular as this thought is, it is just speculation, because Paul didn't clarify what he meant.
But, notice from his words that Paul wasn't discussing whether he would be resurrected. Rather, he was talking about how he might obtain a better resurrection. And to receive this type of resurrection, he felt it would be required of him to share in the sufferings of Jesus and resign himself to a death like his (which really happened to Paul). Yet, this doesn't seem to be required of all the faithful who are counted among 'the living' by God and who will receive an honorable resurrection on this earth.
And since even Jesus had to undergo a forty-day 'cleansing' before he was allowed to enter the presence of God; we would have to assume that the 'out resurrection' refers to being made alive as a spirit, not to being directly resurrected into the heavens, as most think.
Also, notice that Paul wasn't telling his fellow Christians that they too should be reaching out for that type of resurrection… he was simply talking about something toward which he personally was striving, and for which he was willing to pay the heavy price. However, history tells us that many other Christians did in fact pay the same price. So, will they also achieve this better 'out' resurrection?
At Revelation 20:4-6 we read: 'And I saw thrones… and those who sat down on them were the ones who had been executed with axes for testifying about Jesus and for telling about God and who hadn't worshiped the wild animal or its image, nor had they received the mark on their foreheads and on their hands. Then they were appointed judges and they came to life and ruled as kings with the Anointed One for a thousand years. This is the first resurrection. Those who have a part in the first resurrection are blest and holy, because the second death doesn't have any power over them. For they will be Priests of The God and of the Anointed One, and they will rule along with him for the thousands of years.'
So, because such ones are said to have died a martyr's death, it sounds like they (along with Paul) will be raised in the 'out resurrection.' And here it is referred to as 'the first resurrection.'
Notice that this first resurrection could be (but isn't necessarily) the same as what is mentioned as happening at 'the marriage of the Lamb' at Revelation 19:6-9,
where we read:
'Then I heard what sounded like the voices of a huge crowd, along with the noise of a lot of water and heavy thunder. They were shouting, Praise Jah! Because, Jehovah our God the Almighty has started ruling as king! Let's rejoice, shout in joy, and glorify Him! Because, it's time for the Lamb's wedding! His bride has prepared herself, and she was found worthy to be dressed in bright, clean, fine linen (the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the Holy Ones). Then he said to me, Write this: Those who are invited to the Lamb's wedding banquet are blest! And he added, God really said this.'
But if those who are taken to heaven are the Lamb's bride (notice that the clothes the bride wears are spoken of as 'the righteous acts of the Holy Ones'), then why are they shown a few verses later as being resurrected after the marriage of the Lamb? Could this series of descriptions be out of sequence? Could the bride be someone other than the faithful 'chosen' who are taken to heaven? We don't know. But notice that two groups are mentioned here, the 'bride,' and 'those who are invited to the Lamb's wedding banquet.' Clearly, the invited guests cannot be the bride, since the wedding banquet followed the taking of the bride in a Hebrew or Jewish wedding.
As you can see, there just aren't any easy or clear-cut answers here, since each possible answer raises more questions. However, the lack
of understanding of scriptures and details never seems to keep religious groups from jumping to illogical conclusions. For example:
Š Most religions ignore the resurrection altogether, teaching (as do pagans) that people have immortal 'souls' or 'spirits' (they're unsure of which) that go to heaven, hell, purgatory, or just stay around to haunt people after they die.
Š Some religions teach that these Holy Ones or 'Saints' are people whom their religion has elected to that position after such ones have died.
Š Some religions teach that these are people whom God has chosen or 'anointed' (which is known only to themselves), and that they don't have to die a martyr's death to receive the reward.
Since Paul wrote that he believed he would have to share in the sufferings (of Jesus) and resign himself to a death like his to receive the 'out resurrection;' we suspect that for such a one to qualify for heavenly life (if that was what Paul was really talking about), he or she must either die a martyr's death or have suffered greatly for their faith. So we doubt that any religious group could elect a person to this position after his death, since Jesus said (at Matthew 20:23), 'It belongs to those for whom my Father has prepared it.'
The same is true of those who have made the claim of having received the 'anointing' to such a position before their deaths. Notice that Paul wrote at Philippians 3:13, 14: 'Brothers, I don’t think of myself as having achieved it yet … I’m running toward the goal, the prize of the higher calling from God, through the Anointed Jesus.'
So if Paul (who was personally chosen by Jesus in a miraculous vision and sent as an Apostle by him) didn't think that he had already achieved such a prize; then surely such lesser ones are just being boastful. For more information, see the linked document, 'False Anointed and False Prophets.'
You will see that we have deleted the words at Revelation 20:5, 'The rest of the dead don't come to life until the end of the thousand years,' because they are likely spurious (words that were wrongly added to the Bible). Though this familiar description of the resurrection has been quoted for years and used as a basis for many religious doctrines, those words are in question because they aren't found in the Bible's oldest manuscript of the Revelation, the Codex Sinaiticus. And while many attribute this deletion to an early scribal error; this verse is by its nature suspect, because it fits in so awkwardly that translators often put it in parenthesis.
What difference does it make if it was just added text, since 'the dead' (and their resurrection and judging) are mentioned again just a few verses later? Also, since this verse mentions a 'first resurrection,' wouldn't we just assume that another resurrection follows?
Well, these extra words give us the impression that there are just two resurrections, which we don't necessarily know to be true. For if there are just
two resurrections, and the 'first resurrection' is to life as a spirit, then it seems logical that there would be second resurrection to life as humans on the earth (or wherever).
However, notice that Jesus appears to have spoken of two different types of earthly or human resurrections at John 5:28, 29, when he said,
'Don't be surprised at this, because the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out… those who did good things to a resurrection of life, and those who practiced what is foul to a resurrection of judgment'
And this leaves us with another dilemma about the resurrection. What is that?
It seems unlikely that the rest of the righteous (those who don't die a martyr's death and aren't resurrected as spirits) would receive the same resurrection as those whom God considers to be the dead or the unrighteous. Yet, this is what some religions teach. For if there are only two resurrections and the first is as spirits; then the only other hope for the righteous is to be resurrected along with those those who practiced what is foul. So we must ask: Will unrighteous people receive the same resurrection as such great ones as Noah, AbraHam, Moses, and David (who don't seem to have been offered a resurrection to heaven)? That just doesn't make good sense, nor is it just, since these people received the promises that are the basis for all the other promises of God to mankind!
However, recognize that God's righteous servants have never been referred to as 'the dead.' Notice, for example, what Jesus said to the Sadducees at Mark 12:26, 27: 'As for the dead who are raised; didn't you read in the book of Moses – in the story about the thorn bush – how God said to him, I am the God of AbraHam, IsaAc, and Jacob? He isn't a God of the dead, but of the living!'
So the living and the dead are obviously two different groups! And Peter said concerning Jesus (at Acts 10:42): 'He ordered us to preach to the people and to testify to them that he's the one that God selected to judge the living and the dead.'
Therefore, it appears as though Peter wasn't saying that those who are physically alive and those who are physically dead would be judged by Jesus; rather, he was clearly speaking of those who are considered to be the living in God's eyes, and those who are the dead in His eyes. So obviously, 'the living' are not viewed by God as being the same as 'those who practiced what is foul' who receive 'a resurrection of judgment.'
So, while not being dogmatic, we would like to suggest some answers to the questions about the resurrection that we have raised above:
Š The Bible says that (in the Lord's Day) there will be a resurrection of those who have given their all for their faith. This will likely be an 'out resurrection' as spirits of those who will thereafter be taken into the heavens to rule with Jesus. These may also be referred to as 'the Bride of the Lamb.' Such ones may have been pictured in ancient Israel by the Priestly sons of Aaron and Moses.
Š There may also be a resurrection of other faithful servants of God who are not counted by Him as being among 'the dead,' but 'the living.' Though theirs may not be a resurrection as spirits, it will definitely be a resurrection into some sort of spiritual life, and it appears as though they will live on and rule over the rest of those on the land, earth, or ground. These are those whom Jesus finds to have been his 'faithful and sensible slaves' or 'house managers,' who have proven themselves to be such by taking the lead in providing for the Lord's household (for more information, see the linked document 'The Faithful and Sensible Slave).' Such ones may be treated as the 'virgin' friends of the bride who are invited to the 'wedding banquet of the lamb,' and they may have been pictured by the Levites.
Š In addition, there seems to be a resurrection of those faithful servants of God (who will also live on the earth) that are viewed as the Lord's household members. Though these may also be resurrected into some sort of spiritual life, they will not serve as the main judges, rulers, or priests. Rather, they may serve as kings and priests to 'the nations,' and they will live on the earth through the ages in peace, happiness, and comfort. Such ones may have been pictured by the nation of IsraEl.
Š There will likely be a resurrection of millions of people who, since they have yet to prove themselves righteous, are not yet counted among 'the living.' These are referred to in the Revelation as 'the nations.' However, not all of these will be found righteous in the end, for many will prove their unrighteousness by joining with Gog of Magog in a final attack against God's faithful ones on the earth at the end of the thousand years of Jesus' reign.
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