7But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Last time, we began to examine what the Word of God says about resurrection in preparation for our study of Philippians 3:10-11, We’ll continue to examine the topic of resurrection tonight. First, let me remind everyone that we’re talking about bodily, not spiritual resurrection. The Word clearly states that to be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord. The concept of so-called “soul sleep” wherein deceased people are said to lie in wait for the resurrection of their bodies before the soul and spirit rejoin the Lord in Heaven is unbiblical. Tonight we are focusing in once again on bodily resurrection.
We began our study of resurrection last time by classifying people into various categories in preparation for analysis of what the Bible has to say about resurrection of these various categories. Let’s review the categories we came up with quickly before we press on…
1. Jesus – fully God, yet fully man.
2. Old Testament saints – Those who believed in God’s promised Messiah but died without ever seeing Him – e.g. Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses (see Hebrews 11) including Lazarus in Jesus’ parable of Luke 16:19-31. Note – Enoch and Elijah are special cases – they are bodily with God even now, and will not be resurrected.
3. Old Testament non-believers – e.g. the rich man in Jesus’ parable of Luke 16:19-31.
4. The dead in Christ – i.e. those who believed in the deity of Jesus and confessed aloud Jesus’ lordship prior to their death. This includes those who believed, but died prior to Jesus’ resurrection – e.g. the thief on the cross (Luke 23:39-43), and probably the three wise men who visited and worshiped the infant Jesus (Matthew 2:1-12), and Simeon and Anna, who met and worshiped Jesus as He was brought to the temple to be circumcised (Luke 2:25-38).
5. Believers who remain alive when Jesus returns for His church.
6. Old Testament and church age martyrs killed for their faith.
7. Tribulation saints – those who come to belief between the rapture of the church, and the second coming of Christ with His saints at the final battle.
a. Those martyred for their faith.
b. The 144,000 sealed Jewish male virgin witnesses (Revelation 7:1-8 and 14:1-3)
c. Those who survive through the tribulation and into the millennial reign of Christ.
8. Those who die in unbelief during the tribulation.
9. Those who come to belief during the millennial reign of Christ on (the current) Earth.
10. Those who die in unbelief during the millennial reign.
Now that we have various categories of people to consider, it’s time to look at what the Bible has to say about resurrection. Note that I don’t say “the” resurrection. The Word of God clearly speaks of multiple resurrections. The only proper use of the phrase “The Resurrection” is in referring to Jesus Himself as in our memory verse for last time…
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.”
Jesus gives us a more thorough statement about resurrection in…
24“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. 25Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. 26For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, 27and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. 28Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
This is a complex passage. In fact, when I was looking into what the Bible says about resurrection, and ran across this passage, I was tempted to simply gloss over it, or ignore it. But it is very relevant to our study in Philippians, so let’s take a few moments to look at it carefully. Please note this is my own personal take on this passage, by no means a definitive Biblical interpretation. First, in verse 24, Jesus seems to be speaking of those who hear Him either during His earthly ministry, or during the present church age. Next, in verse 25 Jesus seems to indicate that those who died before His advent are presented the Word of Truth – the Gospel of Jesus Christ – and that some will hear and believe while others will not – only those who hear will live! Finally, in verses 28 and 29 the Lord clearly declares that some will be resurrected unto life and others unto condemnation. This falls right in line with other statements, e.g….
Matthew 25:31-34 & 41
31When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him[Revelation 19 & 20] then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:…
… 41Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:
The idea that there will be one form of resurrection for the elect believers, and another for those who die in unbelief is clearly stated here, but then in John 5:29, Jesus throws a curve. On first blush, Jesus seems to be speaking of justification by works! That doesn’t seem right. So how can we understand what Jesus is telling us here? We may be looking at a “chicken and egg” paradox here. Although Jesus seems to be saying that our works will determine which of two possible resurrections await us, what He is actually saying is that our belief or unbelief in the Gospel, will determine the works that we do, and thus which resurrection we will experience. We find support for this conclusion in…
28Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” 29Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Let’s take a closer look at the resurrection events described in the Word of God and try to match up the categories of people we’ve laid out with each of these events…
1. Jesus – The first to be resurrected…
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
2. The rapture of the church and the rise of the dead in Christ. The rapture is so called because in the Latin Vulgate translation, the word rapio is used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 to render the Greek word ἁρπάζω harpazō translated in English translations as “caught up.” The definitive passages relating to this event are…
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
13But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18Therefore comfort one another with these words.
1 Corinthians 15:51-52
51Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
Note that these two passages pertain to two of our classes of people – believers who remain alive when it occurs, and the dead in Christ who have “fallen asleep” after having believed in the Gospel of Jesus and confessed Jesus as their Lord. For those who remain alive, the rapture isn’t actually a resurrection per se, but an instantaneous transformation of our earthly bodies into our glorified resurrection bodies which will be similar to the body of the resurrected Jesus seen by hundreds of people before He ascended to His Father (1 Corinthians 15:5-8), and will then be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Also at that time, just before the living believers are caught up and transformed, the dead in Christ will have their corrupted bodies replaced by incorruptible resurrection bodies, and they will rise to meet the Lord first.
Jesus speaks of this event as “the last day”…
37All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
The rapture of the church will usher in the seven-year tribulation period prophesied in Daniel 9 and Matthew 24, and described in Revelation 6-18. Note that the tribulation can’t begin until the restraining Holy Spirit indwelling the saints has been removed at the rapture (2 Thessalonians 1-12).
3. Martyrs under the altar of incense. The timing of the resurrection of those martyred for their faith is not biblically clear. Although we don’t know when they were resurrected, we see them described in…
9When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. 10And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.
It is not completely clear (to me at least) exactly who these people are. It is clear that they are believers who have been killed for their faith (v.9), so clearly they do not include believers who lived out their lives and died of disease, accident, war, etc. Furthermore, we see in verse 11 that their number does not include all of those martyred during the tribulation, since their number is not yet complete. It is also important to note (v.11) that these are not disembodied spirits. Otherwise it would be pointless for them to receive a white robe to wear. I believe these martyrs are those who have been killed throughout history for professing faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, including – of course – those, beginning with Stephen, killed for their testimony of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, from the day of His earthly advent up until the time the fifth seal is opened.
4. Tribulation martyrs. It seems clear that there will be a huge revival following the rapture of the church, up until the opening of the seventh tribulation seal, and that many, if not all of those who come to faith during the tribulation will be martyred and resurrected…
9After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom,
Thanksgiving and honor and power and might,
Be to our God forever and ever.
13Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” 14And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. 16They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; 17for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Clearly, this vast multitude has received a bodily resurrection by the middle of the tribulation (the opening of the seventh seal), since they also have white robes, hands, and eyes. Furthermore, John can’t be describing them in their earthly bodies, since we’re told that they neither hunger nor thirst anymore. It seems that once the full number of the tribulation martyrs is fulfilled in the so-called “First Resurrection”, no one else will be resurrected until the end of the millennial reign of Christ.
4And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.
Among the tribulation martyrs are the two witnesses found in Revelation 11. Their martyrdom for their faith during the tribulation is described in…
7When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. 8And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. 9Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. 10And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.
Like the other tribulation martyrs, their bodily resurrection also takes place during the tribulation period…
11Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them.
Who are these two amazing characters? They are clearly not angels by the fact that their bodies may be killed. They are not types of Christ, because there are two of them, and Christ is One. Yet they are not ordinary people – at least not during the time of their testimony. They have been given special power, not found in ordinary people…
3And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” 4These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. 5And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. 6These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.
The reference here to two olive trees is a fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah 4. In the Word of God, olive oil is often symbolic of the Holy Spirit. Clearly, these witnesses have received a special anointing of His Spirit in which they have received the power by which they prophesy. Clearly, whoever they are, the two witnesses have already stood before God prior to the time of their testimony during the tribulation. We know this from Revelation 11, and from…
So he said, “These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth.”
Although the Word never names them, many believe that the two witnesses of Revelation 11 are Enoch and Elijah. Further credence is given to this idea because they are given the power to stop the rain, as Elijah did in 1 Kings 17. That would also mean that Enoch and Elijah are not exceptions to bodily resurrection after all, but their deaths and subsequent resurrection were merely delayed during the time that they stood before the Lord prior to their being returned to Earth to testify during the tribulation. Indeed, in that case, Enoch will have lived nearly the entirety of human history!
And so at last, following Christ’s thousand-year reign, we come to the final resurrection immediately before the establishment of the new Earth, the new Heaven, and the new Jerusalem which will last forever. First, Satan is released from the bottomless pit (ἄβυσσος abyssos) in which he was imprisoned during the millennial reign to once more deceive the nations (Revelation 20:7-8). After one final battle, he is cast forever into eternal torment in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10), and then the final resurrection takes place…
11Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
This is the final judgment Jesus spoke of in Matthew 25:31-41 when he used the analogy of a shepherd separating the sheep from the goats. The reference to Death and Hades here may be an allusion to two places in which the dead from the time before Jesus’ own resurrection await the final judgment. Jesus spoke of these two places in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, referring to them as “Hades” and “Abraham’s bosom”…
19There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’
27Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’
At the end of Revelation 20, we see that all of the dead in these two places, and in the sea are finally resurrected to face judgment. Those who died in unbelief, whose names are not found written in the Book of Life, are cast forever into the lake of fire to face eternal torment along with Satan, his demons, Antichrist, and the False Prophet. Those found in the Book of Life – e.g. Lazarus and Abraham – are resurrected unto eternal life with Christ. Presumably, their names are entered into the Book of Life in the same way our own are – by belief in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the confession of Jesus as Lord. I have heard some teach that Jesus Himself descended to Abraham’s bosom following His crucifixion and before His resurrection in order to preach the Gospel to the dead there, but I can find no Biblical basis for this.
Before we leave the subject of resurrection, we need to consider the special case, of Moses. It may be that Moses did not descend to Abraham’s bosom along with the other Old Testament saints. Either that, or Moses has already been resurrected or was transformed like Enoch and Elijah. Clearly, Moses is present in his glorified body at the Mount of Transfiguration…
28Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. 30And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, 31who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
The fact that Elijah was also present in glorified form at the Mount, lends credence to the idea that Moses’ body was transformed like Enoch’s and Elijah’s, rather than suffering corruption. Furthermore, we know that Moses’ body was never buried in the ordinary sense. God Himself buried Moses…
1Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is across from Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land of Gilead as far as Dan, 2all Naphtali and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, 3the South, and the plain of the Valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. 4Then the LORD said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have caused you to see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.”
5So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. 6And He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Peor; but no one knows his grave to this day.
Don’t we have an amazing, merciful God, abounding in grace? Even though God punished Moses for his sin at Meribah (Numbers 20:1-13) by not allowing Moses to enter into the promised land after 120 years of anticipation, God sneaked Moses into the land later at the Mount of Transfiguration!
Now we have thoroughly covered what the Word of God has to say about resurrection, noting that Jesus speaks of two forms of resurrection – unto life, and unto condemnation. Of course, when Paul speaks in Philippians 3:10-11 of attaining the resurrection from the dead, it is the resurrection unto life to which he aspires. Next time, God willing, we’ll revisit Philippians 3:10-11 before we “press on” in our study of this amazing letter. In the meantime, don’t forget to read 1 Corinthians 15 for a summary of the topic of resurrection.