Jesus said: "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:" (John 11:25)
The FOUNDATION of our hope in Christ Jesus is the fact that Jesus was raised from the grave after three days, and that he has been granted the power to raise those who are sleeping in his name when he returns.
As it is written: "Each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ." ( 1 Cor 15:23 NRSV)
The Apostle Paul dedicated an entire chapter in his letter to the Corinthians on this very important subject. He states: "If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept." ( 1 Cor 15: 17-20)
The resurrection is our only hope for life after death. The verses that have been quoted clearly indicate that if there were no resurrection, then those who are sleeping ( in the grave) have perished forever.
When we study the Bible teachings on this subject, it is difficult to understand why modern Christianity has accepted the erroneous view that death is not final, and that it is only a stage in the process of a life that continues somewhere beyond the skies.
Certainly, such a belief would be a comfort to people when a loved one dies, but unfortunately, it has no support in the Bible.
Teachings that are based in the philosophies of men, or on Greek mythology, are not reliable. We may want to believe in everlasting life without conditions, but why accept a fable? Why deceive ourselves with a false sense of security?
The Bible tells us that: "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." (Prov 14:12 ) The ways of man will lead to everlasting destruction.
"The living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun." ( Eccles. 9:5-6)
The Bible offers a real hope for life after death through Jesus. The resurrection is not something that occurs at the very instant of death, and it may involve sleeping for a long period of time in the dust of the earth. When Christ raises us from the dead, however, it will seem like waking from an overnight sleep.
"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." (1 Thess 4: 13-14)
The doctrine of the resurrection is not just a New Testament teaching. The hope for life from the grave was woven into the entire fabric of the revealed plan of God.
Jesus opened our eyes to a better understanding of certain events in the Old Testament that demonstrated that there would be a resurrection.
"Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.' ( Luke 20:37-38)
In the "faith" chapter in Hebrews, we learn that even prior to Moses, there was a hope for the resurrection.. Abraham manifested his strong faith in God's power to raise his son Isaac from the dead if necessary, to fulfill the promise that had been made to him.
"By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son.
Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure." ( Heb 11:17-19)
The teaching of resurrection is also demonstrated in a national sense when we consider the resurrection of the "dry bones" in Ezekiel's prophecy. (chap 37)
Ezekiel was inspired to reveal that the nation of Israel which was punished and scattered into all nations, would eventually be restored to her land of promise.
His vision states: "These bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD." (verses 11-14)
The Prophet Daniel spoke clearly about the resurrection in his 12th chapter: "And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." ( verses 1-2)
Job was another faithful man in the Old Testament era who understood that there would be a resurrection. He was inspired to write: "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: ( Job 19:25-26)
The Bible has made it clear. Our hope is in a future life on this earth, as children of the resurrection.
The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy: "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom." ( 2 Tim 4:1)
This verse tells us a wealth of information when we consider all of the contemporary events described. The resurrection will involve raising the dead in Christ. The living saints will be gathered with them, and they will all be judged, when Christ returns to set up his Kingdom on earth.
Jesus gave us many signs concerning the time of his coming and the resurrection. He made it very clear however, that no one would actually know the exact time. We read therefore: "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." (Matt 24:36-37)
We are currently living in days that are similar to the time just before the flood. There are also countless other signs that lead us to believe that these are the last days.
The time of the resurrection is linked with the return of Christ. This Bible truth is important because it places the resurrection in the future. The resurrection, our judgment and our potential reward are not events that occur the instant we die.
Why will there be a resurrection? This has already been indicated in the verse quoted in the first paragraph. Jesus will judge his people, ( both the living and the dead) when he comes. A judgment is necessary before our reward, or punishment can be established.
This fact is supported by the following verses: "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." ( 2 Cor. 5:10)
"Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." (Rev 22:12-14)
The Apostle Paul provided us with an entire chapter of information about the teaching of the resurrection. (see 1 Corinthians 15) He even addresses this question: "But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?" ( verse 35)
He answers the question by reminding us of the natural process of planting. If we plant corn, we should not expect to grow wheat. Each seed is unique and it produces its own kind.
So also is the resurrection. We will be resurrected in a body that is like the one that went into the ground. When we first come from the grave, we will be recreated by the power of God, just as we were.
When Jesus appeared to his disciples, ( after his resurrection) he told them: "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have." (Luke 24:39) There can be no greater proof that a resurrected body looks identical to the body that we have before our death.
Paul also points out that there is a natural body and a spiritual body. The spiritual body looks identical to the natural body, but it has been perfected. After we are judged, and if we are found worthy, our body will be changed. We will no longer be corruptible. We will live and reign with Christ bringing glory to God on the earth forever.
Once we have understood the Bible truth that it is only through a resurrection that we have hope for life after death, then we must consider the question: Who will be raised? Will everyone who has ever lived and died be resurrected?
The quotation from Daniel 12:2 shown above makes it apparent that many, not all will be raised. Who are these many and how are they chosen? Our cover story; "I am the Resurrection and the life, helps us to answer these questions. We are taught in scripture that resurrection is in and through Christ.
The writings of Isaiah the Prophet help us to understand some of the detail on this subject. He tells us concerning some men: "They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise: therefore hast thou visited and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish." (Isa 26:14)
In the same chapter however, he writes that there are others who will be raised. They are styled "Thy dead men" referring to God's people: Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead." ( Isa. 26:19)
When we begin to qualify who will be raised, we should understand the purpose for resurrection. The Bible consistently links the process of resurrection with the judgment. ( see 2 Tim 4:1)
The Apostle Paul told the believers in Corinth: " For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." ( 2 Cor 5:10)
This is consistent with the words of the Psalmist who said: "He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people. Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice." ( Psalm 50:4-5)
When we look at all of the scripture related to this subject, it is clear that there is a responsibility associated with our baptism into Christ. We will certainly be resurrected and judged for our deeds in his name.
Will others be raised and judged? God certainly has the power to do so, but we have no certain instruction in this matter. Our thoughts on the issue remain subject to God's will and our limited knowledge. "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!( Rom 11:33)