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Christian Biblical Studies
THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD
Unless otherwise denoted, all Scripture references are to the
New International Version (NIV; British text)
Question: What is the resurrection of the dead?
Answer: The doctrine of the resurrection is unique to the Jewish and Christian religions and is also one of the most misunderstood teachings of the Bible. An explicit reference to it is Acts 24: 15: “And I [Paul] have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked”.
Why is a resurrection necessary? The entire human race is in a state of sin, imperfection, and is on the road to death, extinction. The vast majority who have ever lived have already entered the death condition. The explanation for this sad state of affairs can be traced back to the fall of Adam and his sin of disobedience in Eden, by which he justly came under Divine condemnation. As a result, the whole human family has fallen under the same condemnation by heredity.
The good news is that God has made provision for this calamity by sending His beloved Son into the world to be the ransom sacrifice for Adam and his race, thereby assuring deliverance from the condemnation of death and the opportunity to gain perfect life (1 Corinthians 15: 21, 22).
Nature of the Resurrection
The English word “resurrection” is translated from the Greek word anastasis. It implies a gradual re-standing from the fallen condition to the perfection of God’s image, the condition that Adam was in before he fell into sin. From this definition we see that resurrection is more than merely being awakened from death, which is only the beginning of the process.
In the resurrection it is not the body that was buried which will be raised, but the soul, the person, the entity. God will supply each individual with a suitable body (1 Corinthians 15: 35-38).
Kinds of Resurrection
We may classify resurrection into two main categories: the resurrection of (1) the righteous and (2) the wicked.
1. The first and most important class to experience a resurrection from the dead is the Church. Their resurrection, which occurs during the time of Jesus’ Second Advent, is called the first resurrection, and is to the Divine nature (2 Peter 1: 4). Long before the resurrection of the Church, however, Jesus, the great Head and Forerunner of the Church, was the first individual to be resurrected: “And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy” (Colossians 1: 18).
2. The second class is the world in general. They are referred to as “wicked” because in the present life they have been in an ignorant, sinful, unjustified condition, and therefore out of harmony with God.
Both the Church and the world are referred to in 1 Corinthians 15: 23: “But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.” In this verse Christ with His Church are styled “Christ, the firstfruits”, while the world is spoken of as “those who belong to him” − the afterfruits.
During the Millennial-Age Kingdom, the world will be awakened from the sleep of death, and every individual will be placed on trial for life under favourable conditions. Christ and His Church will be the judges, and each individual will go through the judgment process − instruction, testing, and chastisement for correction. The obedient will be gradually restored to human perfection, and the earth restored to an Eden-like state.
Copyright September 2008, UKBibleStudents.co.uk. May be reproduced only with permission.