EASTER SUNDAY is the day that Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is unique to the Jewish and Christian religions, but next to the ransom sacrifice of our Lord Jesus, it is the most misunderstood doctrine in the Bible. Satan has succeeded in blinding the eyes of the vast majority of Christians to this wonderful doctrine, and has replaced it with various false doctrines such as reincarnation, etc.
Those who preach funeral sermons usually speak of the deceased as “more alive than ever,” basing their statement on one of Satan’s lies (Genesis 3: 4). Ministers also speak about the “resurrection of the body,” explaining that the same body that was buried in the grave will come forth in the resurrection; that the spirit of the deceased which was parted from the body at death will inhabit the same body again. What a disappointing teaching! How many who preach these errors actually believe them? In contrast, how reasonable and joyful is the true doctrine of the resurrection, as taught in God’s Word.
Resurrection Versus Awakening
The English word resurrection is translated from the Greek word “anastasis,” and it means “raised to life again.” This implies that what is raised was previously dead, lifeless. Let us now consider the difference between being awakened and being resurrected from the dead. One may be awakened from the dead in either a perfect or an imperfect condition, but to be resurrected from the dead implies a raising up to perfection physically, mentally, morally and religiously. For example, there are many instances in the Bible of individuals being awakened from the dead, such as Lazarus, etc. These, however, were merely raised to an imperfect, temporary condition of life. They remained under the death sentence, and eventually returned to the death state. Jesus was the first one to be resurrected from the dead, to be raised up to perfection (1 Corinthians 15: 20) (Colossians 1: 18), even to the Divine nature.
Our Lord’s First Work Following His Resurrection
Our text states that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. His first work following His resurrection was to reveal to His disciples: (1) the fact that He had arisen from the dead; (2) that He was no longer a human, but a spirit being; and (3) that even though He had experienced a change of nature, He was still the same person whom His disciples had known and loved. These three facts provided Jesus’ disciples with sufficient proof to enable them to become reliable witnesses to His resurrection.
During the forty days between our Lord’s resurrection and ascension, He made about eleven appearances to His disciples, appearing in various human forms. Some of them are the following: (1) Mary Magdalene, in which He took the form of a gardener; (2) two of His disciples on the way to Emmaus, taking the form of a traveler; (3) all of His Apostles, except for Thomas; (4) all of His Apostles, including Thomas; (5) seven of His disciples, who were fishing; (6) the Apostles at the Mount of Olives, just before He ascended to heaven; and (7) the Apostle Paul, who caught a glimpse of the glory light that shone out from our Lord’s resurrection body, which was so bright that it caused him to become blind for several days.
Resurrection of the Dead – the only Hope for Eternal Life
The resurrection of the dead is the only hope for the Church and the world whereby they may gain eternal life. Father Adam and all his descendants either have, or are on the way toward death. Why must they die? The Scriptures inform us that Father Adam sinned and came under the death sentence, and his entire race has inherited that sentence, and are prone to sin (Romans 5: 12).
But the good news is that man’s extremity became God’s opportunity, as we read in Romans 5: 8: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” This passage proves that sin’s penalty is not eternal torment, but death. Jesus’ death ransoms man, but if eternal torment had been the penalty for sin, then Jesus would be suffering eternal torment, something completely contradictory to the Scriptures.
The fact that Jesus was resurrected from the dead is proof that His ransom sacrifice was acceptable to the Heavenly Father, and is a pledge to Father Adam and his entire human family that they will receive a full and complete opportunity to gain eternal life in due time. Some among the Corinthian brethren denied the teaching that there is a resurrection of the dead, but the Apostle Paul logically argued that if there is no resurrection of the dead, then all will perish (1 Corinthians 15: 16-18). We also read in 1 Corinthians 15: 21, 22 (Improved Version): “That as by a man [Adam] came death, so also by a man [Jesus] comes the resurrection of the dead; that as all in Adam die, even so all in Christ shall be made alive.”
Another important consideration is the fact that Jesus did not take back the human nature. He was resurrected to the spiritual nature (1 Corinthians 15: 45, 47). Had Jesus been resurrected to the human nature, His ransom sacrifice, His perfect humanity, would not have been available for Adam and his race, consequently the world would have remained unredeemed.
Two Main Categories of Resurrections
There are two main categories of resurrections:
(1.) The “resurrection of life” (John 5: 29), also referred to as the resurrection of the “just” (Acts 24: 15). This category includes the four elect classes and consists of three kinds of resurrections:
(A.) The “first resurrection,” which was experienced by our Lord and His Church (1 Corinthians 15: 23) (Revelation 20: 6), was first in both order and rank. These received the Divine nature, an essential quality of which is immortality. In one sense their resurrection was gradual, for at consecration the Lord began transforming their minds (Romans 12: 2), and this process continued until death, but the receiving of their spiritual bodies was instantaneous.
(B.) The second resurrection, called such because it was second in both order and rank, was experienced by the Great Company (Revelation 7: 9). The members of the Great Company, although not faithful enough to be of the Little Flock, eventually became overcomers, and were given spiritual bodies in their resurrection. Although they did not receive the Divine, immortal nature, they received incorruptible bodies, like the angels.
(C.) The “better resurrection,” will be experienced by the Ancient and Youthful Worthies (Hebrews 11: 35). The former class consists of the faithful before the High Calling opened, and the latter class the faithful after the High Calling closed. These will be resurrected as perfect human beings at the beginning of Christ’s Mediatorial Reign, and will form the earthly phase of Christ’s Kingdom, as princes in all the earth.
(2.) The “resurrection of judgment” (John 5: 29), also referred to as the resurrection of the “unjust” (Acts 24: 15). This category includes the world, and is usually referred to as the general resurrection. Whereas the Christ (Head and body) are the firstfruits, the world is the afterfruits, as we read in the second part of 1 Corinthians 15: 23: “afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” They are also spoken of as those who “sleep in Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 4: 14).
John 5: 28, 29 reads: “All that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth.” The world will be awakened from the sleep of death and undergo a fourfold judgment process during the time of Christ’s Mediatorial Reign. They will individually (1) learn God’s Truth; (2) be tested along the lines of that Truth; (3) undergo chastisement for their faults and failures; and (4) eventually receive a sentence. This judgment process will be experienced under conditions that will be conducive to righteousness, in contrast to present conditions which are conducive to evil. The obedient will be gradually restored to human perfection, and the physical earth will become like the Garden of Eden.
Those among mankind who live until the end of the Millennial Age will all have attained human perfection. They will then enter the Little Season, and receive one final searching test that will reveal those who are in heart harmony with the Lord, and those who are not in heart harmony with Him. The faithful will be rewarded with eternal life upon the earth, whereas the unfaithful will go into the Second Death.