The Biblical Resurrections

As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes will see and not another. My heart faints within me! (Job 19:25-27 NASB)

       When God originally created Adam and Eve, He created them in His image (Heb. tselem), to have personality, consciousness, self-consciousness, intellect, volition and emotion (Gen. 2:16-27).  God formed Adam’s body from the dust of the earth and created his soul (Heb. nephesh; Grk. psuche) and breathed it into his body (Gen. 2:7; 1 Cor. 15:45).  At that moment Adam became a living being. 

       When Adam sinned through disobedience and brought sin into the human race, he also brought death, both spiritual and physical (Gen. 2:15-17; 3:1-8; Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:21-22).  Death means separation.  Spiritual death refers to separation from God, and physical death refers to the separation of the soul from the body.  The unbeliever who is alive on the earth is separated from God in time, and should he continue his entire life rejecting the Gospel message (John 3:16; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; Eph. 2:8-9), will be separated from God for eternity in the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:11-15).  At physical death, the soul is separated from the body.  Solomon states, “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7).  God gives life, and He takes life (Job 1:21; Ps. 100:3; Luke 12:20).

       Death is not the final victor in life.  God created the soul to be forever united with the body.  Therefore, God will resurrect (Grk. anastasis) each body that has died and will reunite it with every human soul.  It is necessary to distinguish between resuscitation and resurrection.  There were times when God raised, or resuscitated, a person back to life, but that person was subject to death, and eventually died again (John 12:9-10).  When a person is resurrected, they never die, but live forever (John 11:25-26). 

       Concerning resurrections in general, the OT prophet Daniel wrote, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt” (Dan 12:1-2).  Daniel is writing in general and referring to the resurrection of believers and unbelievers.  The resurrection of believers means the body and soul will be reunited and spend eternity with God in heaven.  The resurrection of unbelievers means the body and soul will be reunited and spend eternity separated from God in the Lake of Fire.  We learn from other biblical passages that there are actually seven resurrections mentioned in the Bible:

  1. The resurrection of Jesus (Matt. 28:1-7; Mark 16:1-11; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-18; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; Rev. 1:5).
  2. Unidentified Old Testament saints were resurrected after Christ’s resurrection (Matt. 27:50-53).  There is some question as to whether these people were resurrected (to live forever and translated into heaven) or resuscitated (brought back to life and died again).
  3. The resurrection of the church at the Rapture (1 Cor. 15:51–53; 1 Thess. 4:14–17).
  4. The two witnesses who are killed and resurrected during the tribulation (Rev. 11:8-11).
  5. The Tribulation saints (Rev. 20:4-6).
  6. Old Testament saints at the Second Coming after the Tribulation (Job 19:25-27; Isa. 26:19; Ezek. 37:12-14; Dan 12:1-2, 13).
  7. The resurrection of all unbelievers at the end of the Millennium who stand before the Great White Throne before being thrown into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:11-15).  Those who are part of the second resurrection partake of the second death (Rev. 20:14).

       The “first resurrection” occurs in six stages starting with Christ, and involves only believers who will live with Christ during His millennial reign and for all eternity (Rev. 20:4-6).  It is called “the first resurrection” in the Bible, “not in the sense of being number one or prior to all resurrections, but in the sense that it occurs before the final resurrection, the resurrection of the wicked.”[1]  The final resurrection is for unbelievers only who will be thrown into the Lake of Fire, which will occur after the millennial reign of Christ.  Charles Ryrie states:

The resurrection of the just is also called the first resurrection and will occur in several stages, not all at once. The dead in Christ will be raised first at the rapture of the church (1 Thess. 4:16). The redeemed of the tribulation period who die during that time will be raised before the millennium (Rev 20:4). The redeemed of Old Testament times will also be a part of the resurrection of the just. Expositors are divided over when they will be raised, some believing that it will happen at the rapture when the church saints are raised, and others holding that it will occur at the second coming (Dan 12:2—the writer prefers the latter view)…all unsaved people of all time will be raised after the millennium to be judged and then cast into the lake of fire forever (Rev 20:11–15). At their resurrection they will apparently be given some sort of bodies that will be able to live forever and feel the effects of the torments of the lake of fire.[2]

The following illustration may be helpful:

The Number and Order of the Resurrections.png

     As a special note, all children who die before reaching God consciousness have heaven as their home.  They are given resurrection bodies and will spend eternity in the presence of God.  Robert Lightner states:

In the Bible, infants, little children, and others who cannot believe are neither told to believe nor expected to do so.  They are not classified as wicked evildoers and rejecters of God’s grace.  It is always adults who are addressed, either directly or indirectly, regarding these matters.  Because the Bible has so much to say about those who cannot believe and yet says nothing about their being eternally separated from God because of their inability, we conclude that they have heaven as their home.  They die safely in the arms of Jesus.[3]

       Those who reach the age of God consciousness are accountable for their own lives.  How each person responds to God determines his eternal destiny.  Man cannot save himself, as he is severely damaged by sin and totally depraved (Rom. 5:6-10; Eph. 2:1-3).  Today, the Gospel message of Jesus Christ is clear.  The good news is, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16; cf. 1 Cor. 15:3-4).  Salvation is as simple as, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Act 16:31).

Dr. Steven R. Cook

[1] John F. Walvoord, Major Bible Prophecies (Grand Rapids: Michigan, Zondervan Publishing, 1991), 379.

[2]Charles C. Ryrie, “Resurrections” A survey of Bible doctrine (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1995), 182-183.

[3] Robert P. Lightner, Safe in the Arms of Jesus (Grand Rapids, Mich., Kregel Publications, 2000), 15-16.

3 thoughts on “The Biblical Resurrections

Leave a Reply