The Guarantee Fulfilled – Part 4
This is the final article in this series.
If you made a list of resurrections as recommended in the first article, were you able to find any resurrections we have not yet discussed? What about the following—citing in chronological order?
- “The resurrection of life and the resurrection of judgement” Jesus spoke of at John 5:28-29?
- “The resurrection on the last day” mentioned by Martha at John 11:24 and Jesus at John 6:35-55?
- “The resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous” Paul referred to in his defense at Acts 24:15?
There is not enough detail contained in the Scriptures about how exactly the “Resurrection on the Last Day” or “Judgment Day” will occur to say with 100% certainty. Nevertheless, in the absence of any further indications from the Scriptures it does seem reasonable to conclude that the descriptions of a resurrection referred to in John and Acts are merely different aspects of the same overall process, but likely split into different stages or events.
For example, the Bible record is certainly not clear as to the length of the time period over which these events will take place.
- Martha and Jesus described the resurrection using the time period of occurrence,
- Jesus described the resurrection by its outcome, either to everlasting life or to judgment,
- Paul described the resurrection by the type of people getting life or judgement, the righteous and the unrighteous.
Given these descriptions, it makes sense to equate:
- The resurrection of the chosen ones with the resurrection of the righteous and the resurrection to life
- The resurrection of the unrighteous with the resurrection of judgement.
Using this approach makes it possible to discuss in a logical progression:
- the timing of the resurrections
- the types of resurrection
- the classes of people resurrected
However, the most important thing is that whatever form the resurrection takes, we want to build our confidence that it will take place.
It is important to note that as always, we encourage all readers to do their own personal research. This will enable all readers to be convinced about their own personal conclusions as how they understand the scriptures on this vital topic.
Timing of the Resurrections
The scope of these resurrections will dwarf all previous resurrections in scope. However, they are a process that has not yet started. Why can we say this with confidence? Paul warned Timothy and the early Christians that some would claim the resurrection had already occurred. The warning is recorded in 2 Timothy 2:18 that
“These very men have deviated from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already occurred, and they are subverting the faith of some”.
Why did Paul make that warning? Simply put, because if the resurrection had already occurred, then there was no remaining hope for any resurrection of anyone in the future.
There is no scriptural basis for claiming these resurrections would be something just perceived in faith by a few or occurring invisibly. Undoubtedly, the warning was given because men were running ahead of Jehovah and Jesus Christ and teaching their own non-scriptural view of the resurrection. The situation is still the same today. Even in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, there have been religious claims and teachings made that individuals have already been invisibly resurrected to heaven.
Therefore, let us remind ourselves of Jesus’ promise.
In John 5:28-29 Jesus said,
“Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgement”.
Yes, Jesus’ voice as the Son of God would be heard and those in the tombs would come out. Both those who were good and those who practiced bad things. Not much more than a year or so later after Jesus gave this promise, he gave a foretaste of what would happen at that future time when he resurrected Lazarus, calling him out to life.
Would any part of “the resurrection on the last day” or “resurrection to life” be in secret or invisible as some religions have taught?
All the resurrections discussed in the previous articles had earthly witnesses at the time of resurrection except for Jesus’ own resurrection. In this case only, witnesses saw him immediately thereafter. Extensive research has failed to find a scripture that describes either an invisible resurrection or a resurrection with no witnesses. Indeed, the Greek word for “resurrection” itself would appear to rule this out. Literally, it means “a standing up”. Those who died and were lain in the grave of mankind, stand up once again, alive again.
If this is the case, then how can we understand Jesus’ resurrection? Was Jesus resurrected as a perfect human or as a spirit creature? The Bible record does not say specifically what happened at the time he was resurrected, but 1 Corinthians 15:45 gives us the end result when it says he “became a life-giving spirit”.
The following facts found in the Bible record can help us decide what happened. They are as follows:
- John 20:12-13 shows that his body in the tomb disappeared, which could indicate Jesus was resurrected as a perfect human. See also Acts 2:30-32, which states, “his flesh did not see corruption”. Alternatively, it could be that God removed his dead human body so that his worshipers would not idolize it or treat it like a relic. (See Jude 1:9 about Moses body)
- However, to appear in the midst of the disciples with all the doors locked would not be possible for a human body, only a spirit. (John 20:19-20).
- In Luke 24:36-43 he encouraged the disciples to touch his body and feel his flesh and bones, stating that “a spirit does not have flesh and bones just as you behold that I have”. (In this he appears to be referring to a wicked spirit, who were not able to materialize.) Jesus, however, was able to materialize and dematerialize a fleshly body at will.
- After 40 days, he ascended to heaven where certainly no flesh and blood can go. (Luke 24:51, Acts 1:9-11).
- Finally, as mentioned above 1 Corinthians 15:45 amongst other scriptures talk about Jesus as a life-giving spirit. “The last Adam (Jesus) became a life-giving spirit”.
Hence, if the result of the resurrections cannot be invisible, and further, history does not record a resurrection event since the first century, nor have any of us seen such an event in our lifetime, these resurrections must therefore still be future.
Those “saying that the resurrection has already occurred” or started, are men who “have deviated from the truth”. (2 Timothy 2:18)[i]
Nevertheless, even though the resurrections were yet to happen, the fact they were recorded in God’s word means they are guaranteed to occur. By the time many of those words were actually recorded for our benefit, the payment of the ransom sacrifice with Jesus death and resurrection as the first fruits had taken place. It was his ransom sacrifice that makes these resurrections possible. Moreover, these resurrections will be unlike all previous resurrections, as rather than individual resurrections, they are a massive resurrection in terms of numbers. They will facilitate bringing the earth to its fullness and back to the state that Jehovah originally purposed for it that of being filled with perfect humans (Isaiah 45:18). They also will complete the resurrections recorded in the Bible in a dramatic, undeniable way (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23).
While the scriptures have quite a lot to say about the “Chosen Ones”, it has little to say about the unrighteous. Let us review the scriptures that follow which clearly show that there would be momentous, unmissable, and undeniable events when “the resurrection on the last day” and “Judgment Day” occurred, not something just perceived by some or occurring invisibly. For example, how could one miss loud trumpets sounding from heaven designed to call attention to the events?
The “resurrection on the last day”, the “resurrection of the righteous”, and the “resurrection of life”
Sealing of the Chosen Ones.
The resurrections start with the resurrection of the chosen ones who have already died. In Revelation 6:9-11 the Apostle John sees in vision those disciples of Christ who were martyred for their faith and awaiting resurrection. He writes:
“And when he opened the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those slaughtered because of the word of God and because of the witness work that they used to have. 10 And they cried with a loud voice saying: ’Until when, Sovereign Lord holy and true, are you refraining from judging and avenging our blood upon those who dwell on the earth?’ 11 And a white robe was given to each of them; and they were told to rest a little while longer, until the number was filled also of their fellow slaves and their brothers who were about to be killed as they also had been.”
Why were they waiting? Until the complete number of chosen ones had been accomplished to God’s satisfaction.
Revelation 7:1-3 continues the account:
“After this I saw four angels standing upon the four corners of the earth, holding tight the four winds of the earth….2 And I saw another angel ascending from the sun rising, having a seal of the living God; and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, 3 saying ‘Do not harm the earth or sea or trees until after we have sealed the slaves of our God in their foreheads’”.
This is confirmation that Armageddon does not proceed until God and Jesus are satisfied that they have chosen all those they desire to choose. Effectively a stamp of approval will be given to these ones.
Undeniable Appearance of the Son of Man.
When does this event happen?
Matthew 24:29-31 states:
“Immediately after the tribulation [or pressure] of those days…30 …the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven …and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send forth his angels with a great trumpet sound …and they will gather his chosen ones together from the four winds….” (See also Mark 13:24-27).
It is noteworthy that the Greek word translated as “appear” conveys the meaning of “to bring to light”, “to cause to appear”. The account then states that after “the sign of the Son of Man” appears, people would “see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory”. As Jesus coming is visible, it follows that if there is a great trumpet sound, which would have to be heard, then it would make sense that the gathering of the chosen ones will be a visible event.
From the events described in Matthew and Revelation it appears that these events and some of the following events take place some time just before Armageddon starts, as the release of the four winds would mean destruction, but it is not possible to pinpoint exactly when.
The location of the resurrection of the Chosen Ones
1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 continues the description of this event where Paul writes:
“15 For this is what we tell you by the Lord’s [ii] word, that we the living who survive to the presence of the Lord shall in no way precede those who have fallen asleep in death; 16 because the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s voice and with God’s trumpet, and those who are dead in union with Christ will rise first.[iii] 17 Then[iv] / Thereupon[v]/ After we the living who are surviving will, together[vi] with them, be caught away in clouds to meet the Lord in the air; …”.
Here Paul was stating that those who are dead in union with Christ would rise first, to join those following Christ (and chosen) who have survived to that time. Both those chosen resurrected dead ones and those chosen ones still alive at the time of Christ’s presence, would together be caught away in the clouds to meet Jesus in the air (atmospheric heavens, or sky).
Those chosen ones surviving to the presence of the Lord would be here on earth. If those asleep in death are to be raised up and together with those living, be caught away in the clouds, then necessarily the resurrection or raising up must be to earth where the living reside.
Transformation of the chosen ones.
In what state would these ones be taken into the sky? Paul spoke of those still alive at this time being changed in the twinkling of an eye into perfect beings [incorruptible] during the last trumpet. He described this change in 1 Corinthians 15:50-52.
“I tell you a sacred secret: we shall not all fall asleep [in death], (pause) but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye during the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised up incorruptible [without decay, imperfection], and we shall be changed.”
These verses indicate that there would still be some chosen ones alive at Christ presence. Those resurrected would be raised perfect and those still alive, would be changed in a moment, made perfect and incorruptible.
In summary the facts that are discernable here are:
- Some of the chosen ones would be alive at this time
- The resurrection, “the dead will be raised up incorruptible” (verse 52)
- Then, those chosen ones alive would be changed, the context says to be incorruptible and immortal.
Yet there is no mention of the resurrection of unrighteous or those being judged at this time.
Conclusion of the sacred secret.
Revelation 10:7 shows that this time is the conclusion of the sacred secret initially promised in Genesis 3:15.
“But in the days when the seventh angel is about to blow his trumpet, the sacred secret that God declared as good news to his own slaves the prophets is indeed brought to a finish.”.
Satan is thrown down to earth for a short time
(See Revelation 12:7-12)
Armageddon takes place
(See Revelation 16:14, Revelation 18:2, Revelation 19:19-21)
Satan abyssed bringing Armageddon to a conclusion
(See Revelation 20:1-3)
Chosen ones enthroned.
Next the chosen ones are enthroned as shown in the following verses.
Revelation 20:4-6 reads:
“And I saw thrones, and those who sat on them were given authority to judge. Yes, I saw the souls of those executed for the witness they gave about Jesus and for speaking about God, and those who had not worshipped the wild beast or its image and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand. And they came to life and ruled as kings with the Christ for 1,000 years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the 1,000 years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Happy and holy is anyone having part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no authority, but they will be priests of God and of the Christ, and they will rule as kings with him for the 1,000 years.”
This passage describes the enthronement of the chosen ones who are to be kings and priests with Christ. They are the first[vii] resurrection, which would correspond to the resurrection of the righteous with the resurrection of the unrighteous to the earth to be the second part following on.
In Philippians 3:11 Paul talks about
“if I may by any means attain to the resurrection[viii] from the dead”.
Here the NWT has the phrase “earlier resurrection”. However, I have been unable to find any external justification for the addition of “earlier” to the translation. The NWT uses the Greek word here with literal translation of ‘out-resurrection’ to support this. However, no English Bible translation on Biblehub.com (28 of them) contains the word “earlier”, even though all those translators believe in resurrection to heaven. All translations just read as has been quoted above. This therefore appears to be another change with dubious or no support, undertaken to the Bible text by the NWT translators to support their doctrine of a little flock and great crowd. The literal Greek translation reads: ”if by any means I may attain to the raising up (resurrection) out from the dead.” [ix]
Chosen ones are righteous ones.
Revelation 19:7-9 when discussing the marriage of the Lamb (Jesus) to the bride of Christ mentions that they are arrayed in fine white linen, which stands for the righteous acts of the holy [chosen] ones. This also corresponds with Revelation 6:11 discussed above.
Chosen ones are New Jerusalem.
The following scriptures link with Revelation 19:7-9, which seem to indicate that the chosen ones, as the bride of Christ are synonymous with New Jerusalem.
- Revelation 3:12 where New Jerusalem descends out of heaven [atmospheric heavens, sky]
- Revelation 21:2 where New Jerusalem descends out of heaven [atmospheric heavens, sky] as bride for her husband.
In Ancient Israel, the Israelites were expected to make sacrifices of the first fruits of the harvest. The best part. In Revelation 14:1-5 a symbolic 144,000 (not a literal number) are described as:
“These were bought from among mankind as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb” and fittingly “no falsehood was found in their mouths; they are without blemish.”
There also seems to be a parallel here with earthly Israel where the tribe of Levi were set apart as first fruits to serve as priests.
The “resurrection of the unrighteous”, and the “resurrection of Judgment”
The Bible says very little about the “resurrection to judgment” and the “resurrection of the unrighteous”, other than it will occur. It also does not say clearly when exactly this occurs. All the focus is on the resurrection of the righteous, the chosen ones, and the resurrection to life. The only clue we have on the timing is Revelation 20:5 which says
“(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the 1,000 years were ended.)”
i.e. after the resurrection of the righteous.
What exactly this means we will have to wait and see.
John 5:28-29 gives one of the few clues, saying that “those who did good things” are resurrected to “a resurrection of life”, whereas those who practiced bad things are given a “resurrection of judgment.” Further, Revelation 20:12-13 says that after Satan is let loose at the end of the 1,000 years, and defeated and destroyed, “the dead, the great and the small” stand before the throne, and the scroll of life is opened. “And the dead were judged out of those things written in the scrolls according to their deeds”.
However, whether these are the unrighteous, having lived up to a 1,000 years of judgment, only being granted life everlasting at this time, at the end of the 1,000 years, it is not possible to say with any certainty. This would mean becoming alive figuratively at that time rather than still dead figuratively (rather than literally). This could be because of not previously being granted everlasting life unlike the chosen ones who receive life on being resurrected. It is probably the most likely understanding, but rather than speculate further it is better to simply have to wait and see.
Conditions after the resurrection of the chosen ones
The conditions on the earth for those resurrected ones were described in a vision to the Apostle John in Revelation 21:3,4, when after describing the chosen ones (New Jerusalem) coming down to earth from the sky, he wrote:
“With that I heard a loud voice from the throne say: “Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his people. And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”
After the “resurrection to life and the resurrection to judgment” there will be no more resurrection, for death will be done away with after the 1,000-year reign (Revelation 20:12-14). Also, there will be no resurrection for those that die in the final test at the end of the 1,000-year reign or who will have had to have been removed from the paradise by Jehovah during the 1,000-year reign because of attempting to continue in wickedness as suggested by Isaiah 65:20.
The Bible has to have been inspired of God and beneficial for all things, even as Paul stated to Timothy (see 1 Timothy 3:16). The writers of Kings, and Matthew, Mark, Luke and John did not know at the time of writing that they were contributing to such an awe-inspiring overall account, which only becomes visible when we can search the whole of the inspired record of the Bible. While they recorded these events, their purpose in doing so was not specifically related to this wonderful future hope of the resurrection.
Those 1st century Christians firmly believed and had faith that Jesus had been resurrected. As a result, many were prepared to die horrible deaths while maintaining that faith. Would they have been prepared to die if they had any doubts? Most surely not.
Most of us today, if not all, are unlikely to face a painful death at the hand of persecutors. However, there is something we all have to face, for which we need like-minded faith.
If you have not sadly already experienced the loss of loved ones, then the likelihood is that you will likely do so between now and the time for when the “resurrection on the last day” takes place. So NOW is the time for building up our faith and conviction in this marvelous promise from Jehovah that is to be accomplished through his resurrected son Christ Jesus to whom he has granted all authority (Matthew 28:18). Reading and meditating on the accounts of the resurrections recorded for our benefit will help us to reaffirm and strengthen our conviction that resurrection truly is not only possible, but an event that with certainty will take place shortly at Jehovah’s due time.
Yes, our loved ones are sleeping peacefully awaiting this glorious time, when they will awake, refreshed to enjoy all that God and Jesus Christ through his ransom and resurrection have made possible. Revelation 21:3-4 relates:
“With that I heard a loud voice from the throne say: Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain (of heart) be anymore. The former things have passed away”.
“Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20)
[i] The current teaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses as per WT 1/1/2007 p28 para 12 is “Could it, then, be reasoned that since Jesus was enthroned in the fall of 1914, the resurrection of his faithful anointed followers began three and a half years later, in the spring of 1918? That is an interesting possibility. Although this cannot be directly confirmed in the Bible, it is not out of harmony with other scriptures that indicate that the first resurrection got under way soon after Christ’s presence began.”
[ii] Original Greek manuscripts read: “the Lord’s” rather than “Jehovah’s”. “Lord” is also better in keeping with the context, and all other translations other than the NWT.
[iii] 1 Thessalonians 4:16 “first” (Greek: “Protos” noun– “first in order of time”, “in time”, “place”, “order”, or “importance”) – “before”, “at the beginning”)
[iv] 21 out of 23 mainstream English Translations read “Then”, or, “and then”. Only the Weymouth and NIV read “After that or Afterwards” like the NWT. Also see next endnote.
[v] Kingdom Interlinear: thereupon (Greek = Strong’s 1899 “épeita” (an adverb composed of 1909 /epí, “on, fitting” and 1534 /eíta, a primitive particle meaning “then, to continue on”) – properly, only then (emphasizing what precedes is a necessary precursor). The event described in v15-16 is a precursor to the event in v17, as those raised in v15-16 accompany the living and both are caught away in the clouds to meet the Lord.
[vi] “together” (Greek = Strong’s 260 “hama” means “at once”, therefore “at the same time, along with, together with”.
[vii] Revelation 20:5b “first” (Greek = Strong’s 4413 “Prote” is an adjective means – “first in a series”, “first”, “foremost”, implying the start of a series of related events, in this case: resurrections)
[viii] (Literally “out-resurrection” Greek = Strong’s 1815 : “exanastasin”)
Morning Tadua, As usual a very great article to read and truly comforting one, 1 Thessalonian 4:13-18: 13 Moreover, brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who are sleeping in death, so that you may not sorrow as the rest do who have no hope. 14 For if we have faith that Jesus died and rose again, so too God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep in death through Jesus. 15 For this is what we tell you by Jehovah’s word, that (WE THE LIVING) who survive to the presence of the Lord will in no… Read more »
You are correct. Some from the 1st century were to stay alive and “survive” until our time. Thus there were two groups; one that would die out and need a ressurrection, and one group who would live down to our day. Paul included himself among the living who were to survive down to our time.
Yes, hard to comprehend, but that is what the Bible teaches and that is what has happened.
In reading this article I was struck by the connection between a belief/non-belief in the eternal soul/spirit of man and the interpretation of some resurrection passages. (Not spirit as in breath, but soul/spirit as in the animating principle of the body.) Having been raised in “Christendom”, I’ve always taken the verse in 2 Timothy to mean some were falsely saying the resurrection was only spiritual, not physical, something akin to being buried in baptism and made alive in Christ. So this false understanding mentioned in Timothy denied the resurrection of the physical body, and thus, to me, seems to presuppose… Read more »
Hi Tadua, to me it is clear. Putting all WT teaching and indoctrination out of mind, the scripture “(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the 1,000 years were ended.)” means just that, they are resurrected after the 1000 years are ended. John 5:28-29 “those who did good things” are resurrected to “a resurrection of life”, whereas those who practiced bad things are given a “resurrection of judgment.” Revelation 20:12-13 “And the dead were judged out of those things written in the scrolls according to their deeds”. This means exactly what it says, the dead are… Read more »
Regarding Philippians 3:11 they may have added “earlier” based on some older translations. Bible Union Version: Philippians 3:11 “If by any means I may attain to the resurrection* from the dead.” *Resurrection: Gr., out-resurrection, that is, a special or select resurrection. Compare Luke 14:14; Revelation 20:4-6 Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible Philippians 3:11 “If by any means I may advance to the earlier resurrection* which is from among the the dead.” *”the out-resurrection” Irwin’s Bible Commentary: “Resurrection” here is expressed by an emphatic word not found elsewhere in the New Testament, meaning complete resurrection – not simply of, but from the dead.… Read more »
Thank you Tadua. It is good that you remind us that we should wait and see, for I certainly cannot work it all out. I Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4 seem to indicate that all faithful Christians will find themselves raised up incorruptible, i.e. to heaven. Clearly Rutherford struggled with this thought and came to conclusions which form the foundation of JW belief today. But those beliefs do not answer how to tie up the thought that all faithful ones should be resurrected to heaven and where they might fit in with the book of Revelation. What do you… Read more »
At 2Tim 2:18 Paul said some men were subverting the faith of others. That meant they were causing some to no longer believe in salvation through Christ. The scriptures does not say they taught the resurrection already occurred OR STARTED. It said they were teaching it already occurred.
Although it doesn’t say when they claim it occurred it is reasonable that they could have been teaching it occurred before Christ came and so salvation by Christ was unnecessary.