The Hope of the Resurrection - Part 2

~ Two Resurrections ~

Likewise, much of the confusion about resurrection clears up when it is understood that the Scriptures teach two resurrections, not just one:

"And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and  for the word of God, who had not worshipped 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. [First Resurrection] But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. [Second Resurrection] This is the first resurrection." [The one mentioned in the previous paragraph.] (Rev. 20:4-5)

~ The First Resurrection ~

"Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years." (Rev. 20:6)

It is a great honor to be counted worthy of a place in the first resurrection. This resurrection is called by Y'shua 'the resurrection of the just:'

"'When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor your rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.'" (Luke 14:12-14)

The first resurrection is to a spirit life, not a physical one, and its recipients are no longer susceptible to death:

"And Jesus answered and said to them, 'The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.'" (Luke 20:34-36)

Since those in the first resurrection can no longer die, that which was mortal has now become immortal:

"But someone will say, 'How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?' "Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain -- perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body. ... "The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. "And so it is written, 'The first man Adam became a living being.' The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. "As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man." (I Cor. 15:35-38, 42-49)

At death, the human body becomes, in analogy, like a seed of grain that is planted in the earth. What grows out of that seed looks  nothing like the seed itself. For example, a corn stalk does not at all resemble a corn seed. However, eventually there is fruit born of that new plant, which does look exactly like the seed that was planted.

 Even so, our physical body will disappear just like a corn seed that has been planted in the earth. If you dig up a corn plant you will not find the original seed, it is gone. However, from that tiny seed a great plant grows. Paul likens this physical life process of plants to the resurrection. We are buried in a physical state and our bodies disappear into dust. Those revived in the first resurrection are raised up not with physical, but with spiritual bodies. It is very important to notice that Paul says we will have spirit bodies. We do not become disembodied spirits:

"Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 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. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory.' "'O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?' "The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." (I Cor. 15:50-58)

The mystery of the resurrection, an event that defies all known science, is not just in the raising of the dead, it is also in the changing of those who are still alive in the flesh from mortal physical human beings into spirit beings, both groups becoming children of the Living God.

The first resurrection is also known as the 'better resurrection' and is spoken of in the great 'Faith Chapter' of Hebrews:

 "And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection." (Heb. 11:35b)

~ Obtaining the First Resurrection ~

Our resurrection to spirit life is possible only because Y'shua took upon Himself our sins (which would otherwise have led to our being subject to the second death), and suffered death in our stead. Because Y'shua did not sin He was not liable to die the second death Himself. Since Y'shua's father was God (He was not descended through the male line from Adam) neither was He subject to the first death (see previous chapter: The Sting of Death).

The Scriptures teach that the only way to obtain the first resurrection is through acceptance of Y'shua as our personal Savior and Messiah. His atoning sacrifice (He willingly gave Himself to suffer death in our stead) pays the full penalty for all of our sins and frees us from the second death, the permanent death.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Eph. 2:8-9)

"For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin." (Rom. 6:5-6)

"But indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead." (Phil. 3:8-11)

Even though we have been freed from the second death, each one of us must still suffer the first death, because we are descended from Adam through our male line. However, we no longer have to fear the ultimate death; the eternal, second death.

When Y'shua went to visit Martha and Mary, after their brother Lazarus died, He said to Martha:

"... 'Your brother will rise again.' "Martha said to Him, 'I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.' "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. ...'" (John 11:23-26)

Here again we see Y'shua promising that those who accept Him as Messiah and Savior will not die permanently. This is true because Y'shua, being perfect in the flesh and also being the Son of God, has already been resurrected to an eternal spirit life.

"'Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know -- ... whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.'" (Acts 2:22, 24)

Y'shua has been taken up to heaven where He sits at the right hand of the Father, awaiting the time when He will be sent by the Father to return for His Bride.

"'Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He could raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself:

 "'The LORD said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.'

 "'Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.'" (Acts 2:29-36)

Having become victorious over death, Y'shua now sits at the right hand of the Father so that Believers have a high priest who can mediate with the Father on their behalf.

"But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel." (Heb. 12:22-24)

Here we see that those who have died in the faith, and are awaiting the first resurrection, are said to be 'spirits,' "registered in heaven."

~ The Second Resurrection ~

"But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. ..." (Rev. 20:5a)

While the first resurrection is the resurrection to eternal life, the second resurrection, which takes place one thousand years later, has the potential of ending in eternal death, for it is a resurrection to physical life not to a spirit life. A major passage that has to do with this physical second resurrection is found in the famous "dry bones" passage of Ezekiel 37:

"The hand of the LORD came upon  me and brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry.

"And He said to me, 'Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, "O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! Thus  says the LORD God to these bones; 'Surely I will cause breath to enter into you and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the LORD.'"'

"So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them.

"Then He said to me, 'Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, "Thus says the Lord God: 'Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.'"'

"So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.

"Then He said to me, 'Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, "Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!"

"'Therefore prophesy and say to them, "Thus says the Lord God: 'Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it,' says the LORD."'" (Ezek. 37:1-14)

Many scholars view this passage as having nothing at all to do with a literal resurrection of the dead. They teach that the entire passage is a metaphor for the return of the house of Israel to the land of Israel. However, armed with the understanding that Scripture teaches two separate resurrections, not just one, the resurrection pictured here seems clearly to be the second resurrection, the one in which all people who ever lived (including those of the house of Israel who are not in the first resurrection) will be  resurrected to a physical existence. There is no reason why this passage (like many others in Scripture) cannot have both a literal and a metaphorical meaning.

~ Judgment ~

According to the Scriptures, everyone who has ever lived will eventually be judged:

"... it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment ..." (Heb. 9:27)

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.'" (II Cor. 5:10)

Those in the first resurrection were judged during their own lifetime:

"For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now, 'If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?' Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator." (I Pet. 4:17-19)

Those who are not a part of the first resurrection, will experience a physical (second) resurrection, of indeterminate length, during which time their judgment will take place:

"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." (Rev. 20:13)

Occasionally, we hear Believers questioning the conversion of other Believers, usually because they do not hold all of the same doctrinal beliefs as the accuser. Brethren, this ought not to be so. It is our Father in heaven and His Son, Y'shua HaMashiach, who are responsible to judge both our conversion and our works.

"But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: 'As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.' "So then each of us shall give account of himself to God." (Rom. 14:10-12)

~ Great White Throne Judgment ~

Those who are given physical life in the second resurrection will face what is commonly called the 'Great White Throne Judgment:'

"Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 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." (Rev. 20:11-13)

There are a number of interpretations concerning what constitutes the 'books' which are opened for this judgment. The only book actually identified in Scripture is the Book of Life. Some believe the other books mentioned here are all of the books of the Bible. Another view, from Jewish teaching, has to do with three books which are said to be opened each year during the high holydays of Rosh HaShanah (Rohsh ' = Feast of Trumpets) and Yom Kippur (Yohm Key-poor' = Day of Atonement). They are: the Book of Life, the Book of Death, and the Book of the Intermediates. It is said that on Rosh HaShanah all of the totally righteous have their names inscribed in the Book of Life for the coming year. Meanwhile, the totally wicked have their names inscribed in the Book of Death, while everyone else (the vast majority of people) have their names inscribed in the Book of the Intermediates. Those who have their names in this last book have until Yom Kippur (ten days away in the yearly cycle) to reconcile with both God and their fellow man so that their names can be transferred to the Book of Life. If they fail to do so during this time period (called the Days of Awe)  their names will be moved to the Book of Death at the close of Yom Kippur. (For more details see the Hebrew Roots Special Publication: The High Holydays.)

We believe this Jewish teaching is an annual 'rehearsal' for great events that are yet to come, and believe these events are clearly laid out in the passage of Scripture commonly known as The 'Great White Throne Judgment,' found in Revelation 20. Following is a summary of how the functioning of these three books takes place:

At the end of the Millennium two major events occur:

  1. The rest of the dead (those not raised in the first resurrection) will be resurrected back to a physical life.
  2. HaSatan is released "for a little while" (Rev. 20:3), and He will once again go forth to deceive the nations. Those nations will consist of the billions of people who have come up in the second resurrection and may also include people who were alive during the thousand year period. The armies of Gog and Magog will eventually be gathered together to battle the saints at Jerusalem:

"Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city [Jerusalem]. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them." (Rev. 20:7-9)

It is after this event that HaSatan will be taken captive once again, this time to be cast into the Lake of Fire.

"And the devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are [were cast]. And ... will be tormented day and night forever and ever." (Rev. 20:10)

It is also after this war that the three books will be opened and a final judgment will be made, based on what the people of the second resurrection chose to do during the period when all of those events took place. In reality they will have only two choices:

To follow the instructions (Torah) of  God as taught by the King Messiah, Y'shua. These will be the people who resisted HaSatan, reconciled themselves with God, and made peace with their enemies. They will have their names transferred from the Book of the Intermediates into the Book of Life.-To follow HaSatan into rebellion. These will be the people who have rejected Y'shua as King of kings and Lord of lords. They will find their names transferred into the Book of Death. When this judgment is finished no one will have their name left written in the Book of the Intermediates; all will be either in the Book of Life or the Book of Death.

"And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire." (Rev. 20:15)

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