On Eagles Wings Ministries
Resurrection of the Dead
If, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection of the dead. Philippians 3:11
At the End of Time
We have examined the fourth of the foundational doctrines listed in Hebrews 6:1-2, which is called “laying on of hands.” It now remains for us to examine the last two doctrines in the list: resurrection of the dead and eternal judgement.
The examination of these last two doctrines leads us into an altogether new realm of study. The four doctrines we have already considered have all been directly related to this present world and to the realm of time. However, in the study of the two doctrines now remaining, we are taken, by the revelation of God’s Word, out of this present world and beyond the realm of time into the realm of eternity. The stage where the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgement will be enacted belongs not to time but to eternity.
Eternity: The Realm of God’s Being
Many people are confused by this word eternity. They think of eternity as being merely an immensely long period of time, beyond the power of the human mind to conceive. However, this is not correct. Eternity is not merely the endless extension of time. Eternity differs in its nature from time. Eternity is an altogether different realm, a different mode of being. Eternity is God’s own mode of being, the realm in which God Himself dwells.
In Genesis 21:33 and in Isaiah 40:28, God is called “the Everlasting God.”
In Psalms 90:2 Moses addresses God and says:
Before the mountains were brought forth,
Or ever You had formed the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.
God Himself also defines His own eternal nature and realm.
For thus says the High and Lofty One
Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place” (Is. 57:15).
These scriptures reveal that eternity is an aspect of God’s own nature, the realm in which God has His being. When Moses asked God by what name He wished to make Himself known to the children of Israel, God gave Moses the following reply.
And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’ ” (Ex. 3:14).
Here God gives Moses two forms of His name: “I AM” and “I AM WHO I AM.” This reveals the eternal and unchanging nature of God. God is always “I AM.” He is not in any way changed or affected by the course of time, which is but a part of His own creation. For God, past, present and future are ever united in an eternal present – an eternal “I AM.”
Out of this revelation granted to Moses came the sacred form of God’s name, consisting of four Hebrew consonants, represented in English as YHWH. Traditionally this has been rendered as “Jehovah.” Modern scholars suggest that it could more accurately be represented by the form YAHWEH – meaning “HE IS” or, alternatively, “HE WILL BE.” Some translators have sought to express the meaning of this name by the title “the Eternal.”
In the New Testament the same truths concerning the eternal, unchanging nature of God are brought out in the revelation granted to the apostle John on the isle of Patmos.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8).
Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and Omega the last. Thus, the whole alphabet of time, from its beginning to its ending, is contained within the nature of God Himself. The phrase “who is and who was and who is to come” sums up present, past and future, and thus exactly corresponds to the revelation of God’s nature given to Moses: “I AM WHO I AM.”
The other title of God here used, “the Almighty,” corresponds to the Hebrew form used from the book of Genesis onward – El Shaddai.
For instance, in Genesis 17:1 we read that the Lord – that is, Yahweh – revealed Himself to Abraham by this name El Shaddai, the almighty God, for it says:
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God [El Shaddai]; walk before Me and be blameless.”
The root meaning of the form El Shaddai would appear to be “God who is sufficient” – that is, “the all-sufficient God” – the One in whom all creation is summed up, from its beginning to its ending.
The same picture of the absolute all-sufficiency of God is contained in the New Testament as well.
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things (Rom. 11:36).
All things have their origin in God. All things are kept in being by God. And all things find their end and their completion in God.
Thus we find that the various biblical names and titles of God contain within them a revelation of God’s own eternal nature. As we contemplate the eternal nature of God, we begin to form a true picture of eternity.
Eternity, correctly understood, is not time in endless duration; rather, eternity is the nature and mode of God’s own being, the uncreated realm in which God Himself exists.
Out of eternity, by the act of creation, God brought into being the present world, and with it the order of time as we now know it – past, present and future. By another divine act God will one day bring this present world to an end, and with it time, as we now know it, will once again cease to be. Time is directly and inseparably related to our present world order. With this world order time came into being, and with this world order time will once again cease to be.
Within the limits of this present world order, all creatures are subject to the processes of time. Time is one factor in man’s total experience which he has no power to change. All men in this world are creatures and slaves of time. No man has the power to arrest the course of time, nor to reverse it.
This inexorable dominion of time in the affairs of men has always occupied the thought and imaginations of thinking men and women throughout the recorded history of the human race. In different ways and at different periods men have sought to escape from time’s dominion – but always in vain. The English poet Andrew Marvel gave utterance to the cry of the human race when he said:
For ever at my back I hear
Time’s winged chariot drawing near.
In countless different forms and figures of speech, poets and philosophers from all ages and all backgrounds have given expression to the same thought – time’s unalterable course and inexorable dominion over all men and all created things.
In recent years the science of physics, through the theory of relativity, has made a notable contribution to man’s understanding of time. Briefly, this theory states that the two categories of time and space are inseparably related to each other, so that neither can be properly defined or explained except in relation to the other. We cannot accurately define space without relation to time, nor time without relation to space. Together these two constitute what science calls “the space-time continuum.”
If we seek to relate this modern theory to the revelation of the Bible, we may say that this space-time continuum is the framework within which the whole of the present world order exists. By a sovereign act of God, this space-time continuum came into being together with the present world order; and by another sovereign act of God this present world order, together with the space-time continuum in which it exists, will once again cease to be. Before, behind and beyond the whole space-time continuum, the eternal nature and being of God continue unchanged.
The Bible reveals that, for the present world order as a whole, the end of time will come at a moment preordained by God. However, there is a sense in which every individual even now alive must bow before this divine edict that time shall end.
As individuals we do not need to wait for the end of the present world order. A moment lies ahead for each one of us when time shall be no longer – a moment when each one of us shall come to the end of time’s course and step out into eternity.
In the home of the late Chaim Weizmann, the first president of Israel, the hands of the clock were stopped at the hour of the president’s death. This is a picture of what awaits each man, no matter what his station in life may be. For each man individually there comes an hour when the hands of the clock stand still – a moment when time ceases and eternity begins.
Someone has expressed this same thought by saying, “The clock behind all other clocks is the human heart.” When this clock ceases to beat, then all other clocks cease to tick. For each individual, the end of life is the end of time.
What awaits each departing soul as it steps from time into eternity? What is on the other side of time?
Two Universal Appointments
Doubtless there are many mysteries and things unknown that await each departing soul, concerning which the Bible does not lift the veil separating time from eternity. However, beyond the immediate threshold of eternity the Bible reveals two things which are the ultimate destiny of all souls: the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgement.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Jesus all shall be made alive (1 Cor. 15:22).
Just as death is the universal fate of all, through their descent from Adam, so resurrection from the dead is the universal appointment of God for all; and this is made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
To this universal appointment of resurrection from the dead, the Bible admits only one class of exceptions. The exception is a wholly logical one: Those who never die will never need to be resurrected from the dead.
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality (1 Cor. 15:51-53).
When Paul says here “we shall not all sleep,” he is referring only to professing Christians. He means that all true professing Christians who are alive at the time of Jesus’s return for His church will not sleep – that is, they will not die or will not sleep in death. Instead, their bodies will be instantaneously and miraculously changed, and they will find themselves arrayed in bodies of an entirely new and supernatural kind. Corruption will be replaced by incorruption, mortality by immortality. Thereafter there will remain no further possibility either of death or of resurrection from the dead.
Besides this class of true professing Christians who will be alive at the time of Jesus’s return, we may leave open the possibility of two other exceptions to the universal appointment of resurrection from the dead. These are provided by Enoch and Elijah, the two men recorded in the Old Testament who were translated from earth to heaven without seeing death.
The Bible nowhere gives clear details as to what will be the ultimate experience of these two men. But one thing remains certain: Those who never die will never need to be resurrected from the dead. On the other hand, the Bible does clearly reveal that all who do die will also be resurrected from the dead.
The other great appointment of God in eternity for all men is judgement. Paul warned the people of Athens that the whole world must one day face the judgement of God.
Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all, by raising Him from the dead (Acts 17:30-31).
God’s appointment of judgement is made with the world at large, with the whole human race. This is why all men are commanded to repent, because all men will one day be judged.
Paul warns professing Christians that they, too, must be prepared to stand before God’s judgement.
But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgement seat of Jesus.
For it is written:
“As I live,” says the Lord,
“Every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall confess to God” (Rom. 14:10-11).
Here Paul is writing to professing Christians. Therefore, the phrase “your brother” denotes a fellow Christians. Similarly, the phrase “we shall all” denotes all professing Christians. Furthermore, that there are no exceptions to judgement is indicated by the universal application of the two phrases “every knee shall bow” and “every tongue shall confess to God.”
Later in this series of studies we shall examine in detail God’s program of judgement for all men, and we shall then see that there will be different scenes and purposes of judgement according to the various categories of men to be judged. Meanwhile, this basic principle has been established, that all who die will be both resurrected and judged.
And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgement (Heb. 9:27).
Here the phrase “it is appointed for men” includes the whole human race.
We may say, therefore, that for every human soul who, through death, passes out of time into eternity, there remain two universal, irrevocable appointments of God: resurrection and judgement.
Even those professing Christians who will be caught up, still alive, to meet Jesus at His return must still appear before the judgement appointed for all professing Christians.
For we shall all stand before the judgement seat of Jesus (Rom. 14:10).
Almost exactly the same words occur again in 2 Corinthians.
For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Jesus (5:10).
In each of these two passages the phrase “we . . . all” denotes all professing Christians, without any exceptions.
Resurrection and judgement are inseparably connected by the logic of Scripture.
Resurrection always precedes judgement. In no case will anyone appear before God for judgement as a disembodied soul; but in every case it will be the complete human personality, consisting of spirit, soul and body, that will appear before the judgement of God. For this reason, the resurrection of the body must necessarily precede the final judgement. It is in this order that these two things are always presented to us in Scripture: first resurrection, then eternal judgement.
Paul indicates the underlying principle which determines this order.
For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Jesus, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2 Cor. 5:10).
Judgement concerns the things done in the body while on earth. Since it is for the things done in the body that man must answer, God has ordained that man shall appear in his body before Him to answer for those things.
Therefore resurrection of the body must precede eternal judgement. In this, as in all points, the program of God is logical and consistent.