Question: I was greatly troubled by statements in the April '08 article that only believers will be resurrected physically. Why then does it say "first resurrection" (Revelation 20:5)? If this is the "first resurrection," does that not imply a "second"? |

Question: I was greatly troubled by statements in the April '08 article that only believers will be resurrected physically. Why then does it say "first resurrection" (Revelation 20:5)? If this is the "first resurrection," does that not imply a "second"?

TBC Staff

Question [Composite of several]: I was greatly troubled by statements in April's article that only believers will be resurrected physically. Why then does it say "first resurrection" (Revelation:20:5)? If this is the "first resurrection," does that not imply a "second"? You mentioned John:5:29 and said, "but it couldn't be [that unbelievers] will be resurrected." But the verse says the dead "shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." Then there's Acts:24:14-15. "And have hope toward God...that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust." The Old Testament is also consistent in noting that "Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt" (Daniel:12:2).

What about Mat:18:8-9, which talks about cutting off the hand or the foot rather than the whole body being cast into hell? Revelation:20:13 very plainly says "the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works." This does not sound like scriptural support for only the saved having a physical resurrection. You have always been so consistent in upholding the Scriptures. Don't you think you should reevaluate your position?

Response: Neither biblically nor logically can it be argued that the term "first resurrection" necessarily implies a "second." In fact, the phrase "second resurrection" is not found in Scripture. In John:5:28-29, Jesus said, "All that are in the graves...shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation." The implication is certainly not that these resurrections are similar. Because the resurrection of life involves the body, that does not imply that the resurrection of damnation involves bodies at all. The term "first resurrection" is found only in Revelation:20:5-6. It is described there as including only "them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark" (Rev:20:4). This can't include "the dead in Christ" resurrected seven years earlier at the Rapture (1 Thes:4:13-18). Since that resurrection occurred prior to the one mentioned here, why is this called "the first resurrection"? It can only be to show that this is not a separate second resurrection but the culmination of the "first."

The "resurrection of damnation" is not even mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15. Wouldn't it seem odd, if you are right, that "the resurrection chapter," which provides the most detailed discussion in the Bible of a bodily resurrection, says nothing about a physical bodily resurrection of the damned? Everything this chapter says could apply only to the redeemed, not to the damned. For example: "So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body" (1 Cor:15:42-44). This "spiritual body" is the resurrection body of the redeemed, exactly like Christ's "spiritual body." It could be seen and handled and could ingest food, yet it could walk through walls and go anywhere, including heaven, in a moment.

Man is body, soul, and spirit--a triune being reflecting in part the triune nature of his Creator. The moment Adam sinned, he died ("In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die"-Gn 2:17). His body, soul, and spirit were instantly cut off from God, the Creator and only source of life.

Adam and Eve immediately knew that the Spirit of God had left them. The moral and spiritual image of God in which man had been created (Gen:1:26-27) was irreparably marred, a fact that quickly manifested itself. Adam blamed both Eve and God ("The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree"-3:12). Eve blamed the serpent ("The serpent beguiled me"- v. 13). The "don't admit guilt, excuse yourself, blame others" game continues to this day. The body also died instantly, though the process of dying that begins the moment we are born took much longer then than now.

You misquote me as saying, "but it couldn't be [that unbelievers] will be resurrected." In fact, I wrote, "Nothing is said in these passages about 'the dead' having bodies. How could those standing before God in judgment be described as 'dead' if they had been raised body, soul, and spirit?"

Another passage refers to the resurrection of the damned: "The sea gave up the dead that were in it...death and hell gave up the dead which were in them..." (Rev:20:13). This scripture says nothing about bodies. Certainly the rich man didn't have a body to come out of hell; there are no bodies in graves or in the sea. They've all been consumed. Then what came forth? The souls and spirits of the dead, which are all confined to Hades, no matter where they were buried. What about the bodies? Nowhere does it say that the bodies of the damned are raised. Ask yourself why this must be?

Obviously Matthew:18:8-9 do not refer to physical hands and eyes and bodies. Jesus is not suggesting that hands be literally cut off nor eyes literally plucked out. Therefore, neither is He saying that physical bodies are literally thrown into hell. That was not true for the rich man, and we know that there are no bodies in hell. Consequently, Christ's figurative language cannot provide the basis for saying that the physical bodies of the damned come out of the grave.

As for the bodily resurrection of the redeemed, that is as essential as Christ's bodily resurrection. Why? The wages of sin is death, the body dies, and "the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (1 Cor:15:26). Christ conquered death by paying the full penalty for our sins and rising triumphantly. If the bodies of the redeemed are left rotting in the grave, death has not been conquered. Would the damned also be physically resurrected because Christ conquered death? Do unbelievers share in the power of His Resurrection?

Of course not! They are still in death's grip as they are brought forth to judgment: "I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened...and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works" (Rev:20:12). "Dead" seems a strange designation for those who have been resurrected body, soul, and spirit. The resurrected redeemed are never called "dead"!

Christ conquered death for the redeemed, not for the damned! This "working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead" (Eph:1:19-21) was the greatest display ever of God's power. The redeemed share in Christ's triumph and therefore are raised bodily.

In contrast, the damned could not have been raised bodily, or death would not have conquered their bodies. Nor can death, the penalty for sin, ever release their bodies because they have rejected Christ, "the resurrection, and the life" (Jn:11:25).

The only possible argument for a bodily resurrection of the damned would be so they could be eternally tortured in physical flames. So say Islam and Catholicism, but that is not biblical. The torment of the damned will mean something that physical pain could not produce: the terror and guilt of being confronted with the "exceeding sinfulness" of their sin in the presence of Christ who died for their sins. Like Adam and Eve after they rebelled, the damned will have nowhere to hide from God's justice. The overwhelming moral and spiritual conviction of the exceeding wickedness of their hearts will burn for eternity in the conscience that God gave them and that they refused to heed but can no longer escape.

How could physical fire "try every man's work of what sort it is" (1 Cor:3:13)? It couldn't! Then how could the fire of God's holy wrath against sin be physical? Everyone knows that to spank teenagers would not bring correction but anger and resentment. Is that because teenagers can stand the pain? No, but it is because physical pain has no moral or spiritual benefit.

The damned will be eternally tormented by the conviction of the sin of trampling upon the blood of Christ, accompanied by the hopeless realization that their doom didn't have to be, that God and Christ did all they could to rescue them by paying the full penalty for sin and pleading with them to receive the pardon and salvation Christ purchased and freely offered--and now it is forever too late.

Nowhere in 1 Corinthians 15, the "resurrection chapter" (or anywhere else in Scripture) is there anything about bodies of the damned being raised. The bodily resurrection of Christ is offered as proof that the redeemed will be raised bodily: "they that are Christ's at his coming" (15:23). How could it be proof that the damned will also be raised bodily? Christ's resurrection signals the destruction of death, "the last enemy" (15:26). The damned have no part in Christ's triumph over death and are repeatedly spoken of as "the dead," never as "the living"!

What kind of triumph over death would Christ's resurrection have procured for the damned to be raised bodily so they might be tortured endlessly in physical flames? This doctrine gives occasion for those who hate God to denounce Him.

No one can complain against the justice of the damned being tormented eternally by the horror of what they have done, from which there can be no release. Otherwise, Hitler would have escaped the judgment by committing suicide. But what is either the purpose or justice of being tortured physically for eternity? I can't find a single biblical explanation.

I hope this answer has helped to explain what I believe the Bible teaches on this matter. As always, you must be as the Bereans and search these things out for yourselves and come to your own conclusions based on what the Lord shows you in His Word.