Faces of deceased loved ones who never came to the truth of the Word race through the mind, the pain almost unbearable thinking that they are forever lost.
Or are they? Is it rational to believe that billions will be destroyed for eternity because they never had the opportunity to grasp the essentials of Yahweh’s Truth? Is Yahweh fervently trying to bring everyone to saving knowledge now?
As with other widely embraced myths, the notion that today is the only day of salvation has zero basis in Scripture. An essential key to proper understanding of salvation is in the Bible’s teaching about the resurrection.
Not One But Two
The fact that there are two resurrections distinctly taught in the Word provides resolutions to otherwise problematic issues such as:
- How all must appear before the judgment seat, as the Apostle Paul revealed. (But what if most are ignorant of the Scriptures? Is it fair to judge one’s ignorance?)
- Why Yahweh is merciful and patient with the unenlightened and the unknowing, desiring that all be saved and come to the Truth,1Timothy 2:4.
- Why not everyone is being called now (“For many [not all] are called, but few chosen,” Matt. 22:14).
- Why the Scriptures speak of firstfruits who rise first (presupposing secondfruits who will follow later).
- Why a rapture doesn’t fit the salvation blueprint, let alone prophetic events, and is nonexistent in the Word.
These issues and many others are solved by understanding that there is more than one resurrection.
A basic understanding of Yahweh’s Word is the antidote to a plethora of questions and popular fallacies. Many misunderstand key doctrines because of gaps in their knowledge. To solve that problem the entire biblical teaching on a subject must be pursued from start to finish.
Most are unwilling or unable to embark on such a task, however, and just accept popular or traditional teachings that invariably conflict with the Scriptures. Let’s take a look at the subject of the resurrection from the beginning.
‘Resurrection’ in Old Testament
Many who have never taken a close look think that the concept of a bodily resurrection was unknown in the Old Testament. The resurrection was nothing new to the religious elite of the early New Testament, who obviously learned it from the Old. As with most fundamental, Biblical truths the resurrection has its basis in the foundational books of the Old Testament.
Following are Old Testament pas-sages clearly teaching a resurrection:
- Isaiah 26:19 – “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, you that dwell in dust: for your dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.”
- Ezekiel 37:13 – “And you shall know that I [am] Yahweh, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves.”
- Daniel 12:2-3 – “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. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.”
- Hosea 13:14 – “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be your plagues; O grave, I will be your destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.”
NT Teaches the Resurrection
In Yahshua’s day denial of the resurrection was a flaw in the doctrine of the priestly class, the Sadducees (Matt. 22:23).
In contrast to the Sadducees, the Pharisees believed in a resurrection of all faithful Jews, which became a doctrine of the rabbinic period (70-500 CE).
By the Roman period, however, many Jews believed in a future restoration. This was not immortality of the soul in heaven. Resurrection to them meant resuscitation of the body itself on earth. Yahshua and His disciples taught a kingdom rulership on earth by the saints changed to spirit beings.
In one of the clearest descriptions in the New Testament of the resurrection, Paul explains when and how those found worthy will receive their reward.
“For if we believe that Yahshua died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Yahshua will Elohim bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of Yahweh, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Master shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Master himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of Elohim: and the dead in Messiah shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Master in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Master,” 1Thessalonians 4:14-17.
This is the Second Coming of our Savior when He will gather His elect, those “in Messiah,” from the four corners of the earth,Matthew 24:31. This event is not a rapture (see p. 24). This is the first resurrection of both living and dead. There would be no point of rapturing the dead.
What happens to those not “in Messiah” and not raised to meet Yahshua at His return in this first resurrection? Many worry about family and friends who never knew or followed truth. Are they and billions like them on a collision course with hell-fire?
Yahweh is not a callous tyrant. He didn’t put us on this planet just to watch us self-destruct. He created us for a purpose – to join Him one day in His Kingdom family and serve Him for eternity in responsible positions in a government that will defy description and that will encompass the universe.
As an earthly father loves his children, Yahweh desires every in-dividual on earth to serve Him both now and in the Kingdom under Yahshua the Messiah. He wants everyone to become like Him in mind and heart by obedience to His standard of righteousness, which is His laws.
Peter wrote, “Yahweh is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” 2Peter 3:9.
Sadly, not everyone who comes to the Truth will prove worthy in living a set-apart life. Once we grasp His truths the ball is in our court with a clear mandate to live by them – or else. Fully grasping the Truth is one thing but ignorance of it is quite another.
A Second Resurrection
Yahweh is merciful, especially to the ignorant. This fact forms the framework for another resurrection that comes a thousand years after the first one at Yahshua’s return. Because most people are not being called today, most have no concept of what is happening now with Yahweh’s plan of salvation. Yahweh will offer them a chance after the millennial Kingdom is over to choose Him over death.
The Father in heaven is no compromiser. He has repeatedly made His mandates known. He has promised blessings for living by them and curses for not doing so. It’s entirely His prerogative, and it’s our job to get on board. Our salvation depends on it.
Since the days of Eden Yahweh has been telling His human creation to walk in His ways, not in our own. That’s not complicated. If you follow Him you will be blessed eternally. But if you rebel and turn away from Him and live life your own way, you will be in utmost danger. That’s the thrust of salvation in the Scriptures.
Endless doctrinal disputes arise when someone tries to circumvent Yahweh’s commands. In doing so they reject His preeminence and authority. Man instinctively hates having to obey anything. In fact, widespread DISobedience is the order of our day.
His ways are not hard to understand: Yahweh sees obedience as good, disobedience as rebellion. He rewards obedience, He punishes disobedience. It’s the same for any parent bringing up a child.
Experience proves that widespread disobedience results in societal break-down. Yet common anti-law teachings advocate that His laws be ignored as obsolete.
Let’s look at the resurrection in light of fundamental, biblical fact.
Rewards in First Resurrection
The apostle tells us in 2Corinthians 5:10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Messiah; that every one may receive the things [done] in [his] body, according to that he has done, whether [it be] good or bad.”
Many have read this verse believing that everyone will go through a great final judgment and be sentenced. But notice1Corinthians 15:23:
“Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of Yahweh and of Messiah, and shall reign with him a thousand years. But every man in his own order: Messiah the firstfruits; afterward they that are Messiah’s at his coming”
How can He gather His chosen before they are formally judged? He reveals that if you are in the first resurrection that the second death has no power over you. Therefore you are already judged if you are in the first resurrection.
Truth seekers are appearing before the judgment seat right now. They are being evaluated by how they live today. This has major implications for obedience. This is the key to con-forming to Yahweh’s commands and not just relying on His grace and living life any way you choose.
Peter Confirms a Judgment Now
The Apostle Peter wrote, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of Elohim: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the evangel of Elohim?” The faithful are undergoing judgment right now. Their good behavior is a witness for them and bad behavior a witness against them, 1Peter 4:17.
The ignorant and unenlightened are not under judgment yet because they are not being called now. They are busy living for themselves. That is why the True Worshiper must never let the ignorant society set his or her standards. The secular world is not “in the game” and therefore their example or advice about obedience is not creditworthy.
Traditional notions lead to the belief that judgment is a mere sentencing where the gavel drops and a trap door opens to hellfire – or a ladder to heaven appears for those wearing halos.
Judgment is a process, just as it is in any trial proceeding. As the proceedings go on, the judge or jury draw conclusions as to the guilt or innocence of the accused. Those who will be the chosen are being judged in their lives now.
Judged By What We Do
By what criteria are we judged? Yahshua the righteous Judge says, “I will give unto every one of you according to your works,”Revelation 2:23. Works means how we conformed to His will. His will is expressed by His laws and commands relating to those laws.
If we are saved by grace and faith alone, with no requirement on our part, then there is no need for a judgment. There is no point or purpose in ex-amining behavior if it’s a foregone conclusion that we are saved regardless. All we need is a simple confession and we are home free. James contradicts that.
“But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continues [therein], he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed,” James 1:25. He says further in 2:12: “So speak, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.”
An assessment of our lives determines our worthiness for the Kingdom and our rewards in it. And that is a key reason obedience to Yahweh’s laws is mandated, not optional. Judgment would be impossible without a way to gauge behavior.
Without posted speed limits it would be ludicrous for a police officer to stop anyone for speeding.
The first resurrection involves those who remained faithful to Him now, in this life. It includes both the chosen living and the chosen dead. They are considered “in Messiah.” They are the faithful saints who will have persevered and stood fast until the end.
To be in this first resurrection all must already have been judged righteous and worthy. “As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear,”Matthew 13:41-43.
Combine this passage with Revelation 20:6 (a parallel to 1Cor. 15:23): “Blessed and holy [is] he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of Elohim and of Messiah, and shall reign with him a thousand years.”
Yahshua Himself promised an eventual resurrection of all the dead, revealing more than one resurrection. He described the first resurrection as one “to life,” meaning those who would be raised or changed from flesh to spirit essence. Those in the first resurrection will be immortal.
John 5:28-29: “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto damnation.” He spoke of judgment that will come a thousand years later in a second resurrection.
Paul, in his defense before Felix, stated there would be a resurrection of two groups. “And have hope toward Yahweh, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resur-rection of the dead, both of the just and unjust” Acts 24:15.
Notice here that the just are resurrected before the un-just. The just are those believers who keep striving to obey the commandments, statutes and judg-ments. That’s what makes them “just.”
The Greek for just is dikaios and means: “righteous, observing divine laws; in a wide sense, upright, righteous, virtuous, keeping the commands of Elohim.”
Yahshua promised that in the first resurrection, those who were obedient would then be blessed. “And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just,” Luke 14:14.
Paul was hopeful of being in that first resurrection. Writing to the Philippians he referred to a resurrection from the corpses. In other words he hoped to be raised from the dead (known as the “out” resurrection).
Too many treat the gift of everlasting life flippantly as if by reciting a few words they have guaranteed salvation. Paul recognized that this first resurrection is highly prized and not easy to come by. “If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead,”Philippians 3:11. The great evangelizing apostle was uncertain even of his own salvation.
Those worthy to be resurrected at the return of Yahshua are firstfruits. Theirs is a resurrection built on better promises and greater rewards, Matthew 16:27. It is a resurrection to spirit essence to be forever with Yahshua.
Second Resurrection Later
Another resurrection takes place a thousand years later. Those in this resurrection will be brought back as flesh and blood to live on a physical earth.
The prophet Daniel speaks of it in 12:2: “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.”
The second resurrection precedes what is called the great white throne judgment that follows. John sums up the two resurrections in the Book of Revelation.
“And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Yahshua, and for the word of Yahweh, and which had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Messiah a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of Elohim and of Messiah, and shall reign with him a thousand years” (20:4-6).
Those judged un-worthy in the second resurrection will be destroyed in the lake of fire, where their existence ends forever in what is called the second death. Those deemed worthy of life from this second resurrection will be given lesser rewards than those worthy of the first resurrection.
It will be a great day when Yahshua returns and sets up His kingdom. He will put down all rule and authority. The saints will be tested and tried for a better resurrection, Hebrews 11:35.
Make the days of your life count by doing what the Word commands.