We’re going to return to 1 Corinthians, chapter 15; 1 Corinthians, chapter 15. This is the great resurrection chapter. Now when we think about the resurrection of the dead we are talking about something that is reality, reality. And I think reality like this, miraculous, transforming reality like resurrection somehow loses its sense of significance in our culture, because we are drowning in a sea of fantasy that is basically depicted for us in very sophisticated ways on television screen and movie screen, things that are not real, cannot be real, do not really happen, cannot happen; people being transformed from one thing to another, when in reality that never happens, until the resurrection. The resurrection needs somehow to rise up in the middle of all the ridiculous fantasy. We need to remember that it is reality. Every human being who has ever lived will be raised from the dead. Some will receive a body fit for hell, and some a body fit for heaven; but all will rise from the dead.
One of my favorite theologians in Germany, he’s a man named Eric Sauer. Eric Sauer said this: “The present age is Eastertime. It begins with the resurrection of the Redeemer and ends with the resurrection of the redeemed. Between lies the spiritual resurrection of those called into life. So, we live between two Easters, and in the power of the first Easter we go to meet the final Easter.” The final Easter is the final resurrection. It is the final resurrection, yet the Bible calls it the first resurrection, the first resurrection. The first resurrection will occur in the future at the coming of our Lord, and it launches three great eschatological realities: the judgment seat of Christ, the marriage supper of the Lamb, and the earthly kingdom of Jesus Christ.
Just to remind you of those three very important events, look for a moment at 2 Corinthians, chapter 5; 2 Corinthians, chapter 5. This describes for us the resurrection unto the judgment seat of Christ. Verse 1, “We know that if the earthly tent which is our house” – that is our body – “is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.
“Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord – for we walk by faith, not by sight – we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be rewarded, recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or useless.”
At the time when we are gathered into the presence of the Lord at the resurrection, we will come before the Lord for the judgement seat of Christ. Please notice that what happens at the judgement seat of Christ is that we are rewarded, we are rewarded. There’s a sifting. Now that which was good and that which was phaulos, which is useless.
The apostle Paul talked about this very same reality in his first letter to the Corinthians. He said that, “We build our lives on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day” – the day of the judgment seat of Christ – “will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. That which survives the fire will be the basis of a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved.”
This is not about salvation. This is not about sin; sin has all been judged already in Christ. This is about an assessment of the life of a believer as to what has eternal value. Nothing wrong with wood, hay, and stubble, it just don’t survive the fire. This is where your life is sorted out, not the sins, but the non-sinful behaviors, some of which have no eternal value at all. And if you spend much of your life engaged in what is essentially useless – wood, hay, and stubble – you suffer loss, the loss of a full reward.
At the resurrection the first event that’s going to happen when we are caught up to be with the Lord in our resurrected bodies is this judgment of our works. Not our sins, they were judged in Christ on the cross. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ,” – Romans 8:1 – will never be condemned, we will be saved. But the judgment is a test of the eternal character of our works, a test that will burn up useless things.
Following that there will be a second event. It is described, and you can look at it in Revelation, chapter 19. It is the marriage supper of the Lamb. The Lamb is the Bridegroom, and the church and the redeemed saints are the bride. We already are identified as the bride of Christ, Christ our Bridegroom; and when we are raised from the dead, we will be taken to a great marriage supper.
Revelation 19:7, “Let us rejoice and be glad and give glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” After the judgment all that will remain is the righteous deeds that we have done. That along with the righteousness imputed to us through Christ will be our clothing, and we will join together in heaven for a great celebration called the marriage of the Lamb, the marriage of the Lamb.
Verse 9 even indicates that it’s the marriage supper. “Write” – John is told – ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God.’” When we get to the marriage supper of the Lamb we’re going to be in our resurrected bodies.
There is a third great event that will occur after the resurrection of the saints and it is the coming of Christ and the establishment of His earthly kingdom. While you’re in Revelation 19, go down to verse 11. This is the picture of the coming of Christ: “I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.” This is the second coming of Christ; and, of course, at that time, He judges all the ungodly in the world.
“His eyes are like a flame of fire. On His head are many diadems,” – crowns – “He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood. His name is called the Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen,” – we know who that is, because we were just defined by that back in verse 8, all of those who are the bride of Christ. We are the ones clothed in fine linen. We come back with Him in our resurrected bodies, in our final form. “And we come with Him dressed in fine linen, white and clean, following Him on white horses.” Now that obviously is a vision. The horses indicated that triumph, power.
“From the mouth of the Faithful and True One, the Word of God, from the mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.’”
When the resurrection occurs, we will receive our bodies to go with our already glorified spirits. We will then take on the very form of the resurrected Christ. We will immediately arrive at the judgment seat when we will be rewarded for what we have done that has eternal value. We will then have a celebration. We will rejoice that our marriage with our blessed Bridegroom has arrived. And then we will be with Him when He comes back to earth to set up His kingdom.
Go over to chapter 20 and verse 4: “The I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. The first resurrection is the resurrection of believers. The rest of the dead come later in what is the second resurrection and the second death” – as it’s called down in verse 14.
Verse 6 says, “Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years,” – and that’s on earth. If you’re a believer this is your future. When you die your spirit goes to be with the Lord immediately – absent from the body, present with the Lord.
Far better to depart and be with Christ – no purgatory, no holding place, no waiting, you’re with the Lord. In the future when He comes, He will create for all saints, both alive and dead, a body, a body fit for glory. In that body you will come before the judgment of your works, and then you will be ushered into the celebration of the marriage supper of the Lamb, because you’re part of His bride. And then you will be gathered to come back with Him to establish His kingdom on earth. You will be here in your glorified form. The resurrection brings all this, all this final plethora of events into full and complete conclusion. And then after the kingdom, Revelation 21 and 22, the entire universe is destroyed, and the Lord creates a new heaven and a new earth where we will all live in our glorified bodies forever. God’s plan then for believers requires bodily resurrection, and that is the promise of God, and that is why the apostle Paul is so committed to explaining it to us in this wonderful chapter.
So let’s go back to chapter 15 again. Greek philosophy, remember, denied bodily resurrection. That was a horrible thing to those who were dualists, who thought that spirit was good and matter was evil. The idea of a resurrection was a horrendous concept, and they rejected it fully. So the Corinthians basically came up in the world that denied resurrection. Resurrection was a critical part of the gospel and the plan of God, so Paul writes this chapter to explain to them that there will be a resurrection. If you look at verse 12 he says toward the end of the verse, “How do some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead?”
They had a hard time shaking off their philosophical background, and they were rejecting the resurrection. There were a lot of issues in the Corinthian church. One of them was that there was a significant number of people rejecting the idea of bodily resurrection. So Paul wants to clarify that, because resurrection is critical to absolutely all that God is planning and purposing to do.
He opens up in the first eleven verses by saying, “You already believe in resurrection or you wouldn’t even be a Christian, because if you’re a Christian, you believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That was preached to you.” Verse 1, “You received it. You stand in it. You were saved. You hold fast to it. And what was that gospel by which you were saved that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried, raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. And after that He appeared at various people.
“Christ is preached then that He rose from the dead, you believe that He rose from the dead. You have confessed that He rose from the dead, that’s how you were saved. Now how are you saying there’s no resurrection? If there is no resurrection, then Christ didn’t rise. And if Christ didn’t rise, all gospel preaching is useless, our faith is empty, apostles are liars, we’re yet in our sins, dead Christians are damned. In fact, Christians are the most pitiful people in the world, if there’s no resurrection.”
But with that he comes to verse 20: “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, Christ has been raised from the dead. You know it, you believe it, you believed it unto salvation; Christ has been raised from the dead. So there is resurrection, and resurrection is a good thing. It is a plan from God.”
Some of them might say at this point, “Well, okay. It’s true, we do believe Christ rose from the dead, but it doesn’t have any bearing on us. It’s not necessary for us to rise from the dead. Christ rose from the dead, but then He was perfect and sinless. He had a body without sin, a life without sin. He didn’t experience the corruption of that which is flesh. It really doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re going to rise from the dead.”
So at that point Paul begins to show them God’s program. Look back at verse 20: “Now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.” This is not an isolated resurrection. It is the first fruits. He was raised from the dead. That tremendous, undeniable fact is true. He was raised. He wasn’t raised like Jairus’ daughter, whom He raised. He wasn’t raised like the widow’s son, whom He raised. He wasn’t raised like Lazarus, whom He raised. They all died again. But He was raised to glory never to die, never to die. But His resurrection is not an isolated event, it is the first fruits of those who are asleep.
Now as he begins to unfold this argument from verse 20 to 28 he’s going to point to three things: the Redeemer, the redeemed, and the redemption; the Redeemer, the redeemed, and the redemption. It starts with the Redeemer. Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.
What are first fruits? Well, if you know anything about the Old Testament you know exactly what they are. First fruits were the first part of a crop that came in. Fields were sewn, gradually obviously, and the first fruits were the first of the plants that actually bloomed, that actually produced fruit or grain. And the first fruit was not an isolated reality, but it was essentially the guarantee of what was going to come. Whatever was the character of the first fruit would be the character of the rest. This is the beginning of the harvest.
In Leviticus 23:10 we read, “You shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest and give it to God.” How interesting. Why? Why did God want the first fruits? Because He wanted the first and the best. Why would they be willing to give it? Because when the first fruits came in, that was a guarantee that the rest was on the way. In a sense, it guaranteed the rest of the harvest. The resurrection of Jesus Christ then is a sign or a pledge of the resurrection of all who belong to Him. His resurrection is a first fruits. It’s just the first of the ongoing harvest of bodies. The first fruits demonstrated the quality of the rest of the harvest, and the reality of the rest of the harvest. And Christ raised from the dead is the first fruits and the guarantee of the reality and the quality of the resurrection to come.
Again, Christ was not the first to rise from the dead. People in the Old Testament rose from the dead. Enoch didn’t die, Elijah didn’t die, but there were a few folks who did and were raised. But they died again. But in the case of Jesus, He rose never to die again, and He is the first fruits of our harvest; we will also rise, never to die again.
It is His resurrection that guarantees the quality of our resurrection, that’s why Paul in Philippians 3 says, “We’ll have a body like unto His glorious body, a body without decay.” This is known obviously to anyone who studies the New Testament, that the resurrection of Christ becomes the resurrection of those who are Christ’s.
Listen to what it says in Romans 6:9. “Knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again.” What a great statement. “Knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again, never.” This is the first such resurrection.
Another way to hear that said from Scripture is Revelation 1:18 where the Lord Jesus says, “I was dead, behold, I am alive forevermore, never to die again.” This is a new kind of resurrection. That is why in Colossians 1:18 and Revelation 1:5 He is called the firstborn from the dead. Now firstborn isn’t talking chronologically, and He’s not the first person who was raised.
As I said, He raised some, and there were some raised in the Old Testament. Firstborn is the word prōtotokos, it means the premier one. It was a term applied to the son that was to receive the inheritance. It is not so much to say that He’s the first chronologically, but He’s the best, the highest, and the noblest.
So back to 1 Corinthians 15, the Lord Jesus Christ then is the premier one who has ever been raised from the dead, because His resurrection is a resurrection unto everlasting life, never to die again, never to die again. And that is the character of our resurrection. Notice at the end of verse 20, “He is the first fruits of those who are asleep.”
Asleep is just a gentle way to refer to the body, not the soul, the body. When you die, you don’t sleep in your soul, you go into the presence of the Lord immediately. There’s no such thing as soul sleep; you’re with the Lord. Just read you 2 Corinthians 5:8, “Absent from the body, at home with the Lord.” But the body sleeps, the body sleeps.
This terminology was familiar as I read in 2 Corinthians, because that’s the way they referred to people who were dead bodily waiting the resurrection – the body, not the soul. Our body waits a resurrection, the character of which has been established by Christ. Now Paul wants to make this very clear to us, so he chooses an analogy that’s familiar. Look at verse 21: “Since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.”
Why does he say that? Because somebody’s liable to say, “How can one man’s resurrection have such a great impact? How can one man’s resurrection be the guarantee of the resurrection of all who sleep, all believers? How can there be such connection? How can it be that because He rose, we rise also? What’s the connection?” So he goes back to Adam: “For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.”
Everybody gets this. Adam sinned and the whole human race fell. He was a kind of first fruits – bad first fruits, toxic first fruits – and the harvest of humanity that followed is corrupt. Some of the Corinthians may have been saying, “Okay, we accept the resurrection of Christ. We accept that it was unlike any other resurrection. But how does that have any affect on us?” And his answer is, “All those who were in Adam died because of his sin. All who are in Christ live because of His righteousness.”
There was a direct relationship between the death of Adam and the death of humanity, and there is a direct relationship between the life of Christ, the resurrection life of Christ, and the resurrection life of humanity. All those who possess Adam’s seed die; all those who possess Christ’s seed live. And, again, Paul is talking here about the body, about the body. There was never really a question, even in the ancient philosophies about the spirit. Everybody believed that the spirit went somewhere – maybe to the happy hunting ground; or the Greeks used to sometimes bury a person and put a coin in their mouth so they could pay the fare across the mystic river of life into the next world. Indians even in America sometimes buried a pony with a warrior so he could ride in the next life.
Paul is talking, however, now about the spirit, but about the body, and his point is that the act of one man, one very significant man can have implications to all who are connected to that man. And since we’re all connected to Adam, we all die; and all who are connected with Christ will live. Maybe about a year later after writing this, Paul wrote more about this. Turn to Romans 5. I think it’s an important truth.
Let’s go back to Romans 5 and just see the comparison again, verse 12, “Just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned – for until the Law of sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
“But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation; on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.”
He sums it up in verse 19: “Through one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One many will be made righteous. Again, verse 21: “Sin reigned in death; grace reigns through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Paul again making the same argument that he’s making in 1 Corinthians 15, that there is solidarity, and the Jews understood that. That’s a good argument for the reasoning of Jewish people, because they understood solidarity. They had a sense of solidarity. The Jew knew that his behavior influenced others. He knew that he was bound up in a bundle of life among the covenant people of God.
So Adam sinned as our representative. He sinned as a kind of bad toxic first fruit; and when he sinned, he died. It took him awhile, but death began to work. That was the first fruits of his harvest, and all the remainder of the human harvest is marked by death.
On the other hand, Christ rose from the dead, conquered death to live forever, and all those who are in Christ are part of that eternal harvest of life. Look at verse 22, summing it up: “As in Adam all die; so also in Christ all will be made alive.” One by natural descent and one by supernatural descent. One by physical descent and one by spiritual descent.
Now you look at that and you say, “Wait a minute; as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. Does that mean that everybody is going to be saved?” No. The first all includes all who are in Adam; the second all includes all who are in Christ. All who are in Adam die; all who are in Christ are made alive. That’s resurrection. That’s resurrection.
So it all starts with the resurrection of the Redeemer, the resurrection of the Redeemer. His resurrection is the first fruits, the guarantee, the demonstration of the character of the resurrection of all who are in Him. He rose bodily, literally, in a glorified form that had marks from His previous body: nail prints, spear print. He could eat, walk, talk. That is the first resurrection in the first resurrection.
There is then the second aspect of the first resurrection, the redeemed. Look at verse 23: “Following Christ, then but each in his own order,” – the rest of the harvest, the rest of the harvest. The word “order” tagma originally was a military term. It referred to a detachment of soldiers, but it eventually came to mean anything that’s in sequence, anything that’s lined up, because that’s what military men did.
So Paul first separates Christ out. His resurrection was the first resurrection in the first resurrection. Then in order, Christ the first fruit; after that, those who are Christ’s at His coming. If you are Christ’s – if you believe in Him and you belong to Him – it’s speaking about you. He’s the first fruit, and the rest of us will all be harvested when He comes.
The second coming of Christ triggers this at His coming, at His parousia, very important word parousia. Literally means at His presence, at His presence. That is when the resurrection happened, okay, just want you to know that. The resurrection has not happened yet. It hasn’t happened for the church, it hasn’t happened for the Old Testament saints either.
Well you say, “Who’s in heaven?” Hebrews says the spirits of just men made perfect. Their spirits are there. The resurrection hasn’t happened yet. Again, the people who were raised were not raised forevermore, they were raised only to die again, because the resurrection awaits the parousia, the presence of the Lord, His arrival, His second coming.
And no doubt about His second coming, by the way, He is coming back, and Scripture has a lot to say about that. That is such a huge subject that it begs for another time and its own consideration. But I know you remember things like our Lord’s words in Matthew 24:30, “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, then all the tribes of the earth will mourn.” Why are they mourning? Because He’s coming back in judgment as we saw Him described in Revelation, chapter 19, with a sword coming out of His mouth, and fire and fury coming out of heaven. “The tribes of the earth will mourn.”
The book of Revelation says, “They’ll cry for the rocks and the mountains to fall on them to hide them from His face, and the whole world will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And then the resurrection. He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.” The resurrection happens when He returns and He gathers His elect from everywhere. The sea gives up the dead, the land gives up the dead, and they all in their glorified bodies come flying through the sky toward Him.
First Peter 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again unto a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” This is our living hope. Now the New Testament talks a lot about it. In Luke 14, it is called the resurrection of the righteous, or the resurrection of the just. In Philippians 3 it is the resurrection from the dead – speaking of believers. In Hebrews 11 it is called the better resurrection. In John 5 it’s the resurrection of life. And in Revelation 20 it’s the first resurrection.
Now there are several movements in this resurrection. The first one comes at the rapture of the church. Turn to 1 Thessalonians, chapter 4; 1 Thessalonians, chapter 4. And this is where we will be raised. This is where we will be raised. Verse 13: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep.” That’s believers whose bodies are still in the grave, what’s left of them, if anything. “We don’t want you to be uninformed, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. You don’t need to grieve over people who died before Jesus returned.”
They were so eager for Jesus to return, so anxious for Him to come. There were people telling them that He was going to come, He was going to come immediately. There were actually people who suggested they might have missed His coming. He doesn’t want them to be ignorant about those who are asleep, those who die and their bodies go into the grave.
No need to grieve. “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again,” – Romans 10:9-10 – “confess Him as Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead,” – if you believe the gospel and are saved – “even so, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.” When Jesus returns, when He returns, He will collect those who have fallen asleep.
Well, how is that exactly going to work? Verse 15, Paul says, “This we say to you by the word of the Lord. The Lord gave me a revelation about this. We who are alive and remain,” – those of us who haven’t died when Jesus comes in what we call the rapture of the church – “those of us alive and remain until the presence of the Lord” – there’s that word parousia again.
This is the first phase of the presence of the Lord, it’s the next event, it’s the next event. No prophecy needs to be fulfilled before this event happens. This is that even where the Lord comes out of heaven and gathers up His saints in a resurrection.
Here’s how it’s going to happen: “Those who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will not proceed those who have fallen asleep.” Oh, the ones who are in the grave, the bodies in the grave, they come first. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.”
And someone suggested that’s because they have six feet further to go. But the resurrection occurs first and then the gathering of the living saints. “The dead in Christ rise first.” Their spirits are already with the Lord. In fact, they came with Him. “He brought them with Him” - verse 14. And then they are raised.
“Then” – verse 17 – “we who are alive and remain,” – we’re still in our physical bodies – “will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” Notice He doesn’t come to earth. “We meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.”
Did you notice the absence of something in this text? No judgment, no fury, no wrath, no punishment. His feet don’t come down to the earth, they don’t touch the Mount of Olives. He doesn’t come in judgment. In fact, verse 18 says, “Comfort one another with these words.”
The first event in the coming of Christ is the gathering up of living saints, and the resurrection of the bodies of those who are already in His presence. That has been called the catching up or the rapture of the church. This, of course, is a mystery as to its time. It is an event that is imminent. It means near. But we don’t know when; there’s no sign prior to it. There are all kinds of signs prior to His return to judge; they’re laid out in the book of Revelation in detail. But this is the signless event, the only sign here will be the immediate disappearance of all living Christians in the world, caught up and transformed.
Now go back to 1 Corinthians 15 and we’ll see more about this. I’ll come back to it later. But I want you to go to the end of the 15th chapter for a minute, I’ll give you a preview. Verse 50 says, “Flesh and blood can’t inherit the kingdom of God, and that the perishable can’t inherit the imperishable.” So we have to have a new kind of body to go into the heavenly kingdom.
“I tell you a mystery, we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed” – that’s the famous verse they put in the nursery. “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed.” Not all of us are going to have our bodies in the grave, because He’s going to come to gather us.
Some of us will be alive. “But those of us who are alive will be changed. Our bodies will be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet. The trumpet will sound,” – here we go again – “the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”
It has to be. “This perishable must put on the imperishable; this mortal must put on immortality. When this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this moral will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’”
That also describes that same event. There’s no judgment here, there’s no threats, there’s no fire, there’s no wrath, there’s no vengeance, there’s no punishment of the ungodly. These two passages describe an event in which the Lord does not return to earth, but He comes down toward earth to gather His own to Himself. At that point then we go up in our resurrected bodies if we’re alive at the time.
If He were to come tonight we’d all be changed on the way up. We’d follow up those that came out of the graves in their new glorified form, and we would go right to the judgment seat of Christ, and our useless things would be erased, and we would be rewarded eternally for what has eternal value, and then we would be ushered into the great marriage between the bride and the Bridegroom.
When we go up, something begins to happen on earth. The war machine of God begins to grind, like you see it in Ezekiel 1 or in Revelation 4, and God begins to judge the world. He judges the world, according to the book of Revelation. The book of Daniel for a seven-year period. It’s called the time of tribulation.
For seven years judgments are poured out on this world, described as the opening of seals, the blowing of trumpets, and the pouring out of bowls, all wrath – fierce, devastating, deadly judgment in which the sky begins to collapse, the earth and all of its functions is dramatically altered for the worse. Business is ground to a halt, music stops. A third of the world dies, a fourth of the world dies, water turns to blood; all of those are described in detail in the book of Revelation in the time of tribulation.
All during that tribulation people will believe in Christ. They will be listening to the gospel. The gospel will be preached by an angel flying in heaven. It’ll be preached by the two witnesses coming out of Jerusalem, Revelation 11. It’ll be preached by 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes is Israel. The world will be evangelized; many will believe. Those who believe will refuse to take the mark of the antichrist, and they’ll be massacred. That period of time, the ungodly will be judged and the believers will be martyred. Believers will be martyred.
At the end of that time – turn to Revelation 20. At the end of that time, the end of that tribulation, Christ returns. The tribulation is described – that seven years is described from essentially Revelation 6 to 19. That whole section describes that period of time. Then when you come into chapter 19, you have the return of Christ. And I want you to go over to chapter 20 and remind you again, when He comes back at the end of that tribulation all hell has been breaking loose, demons have been running all over the world. Demons have been released from the pit where they’ve been bound, Antichrist runs wild – Satan.
But at the end of that seven years when Christ returns there’s massive judgment of the ungodly, massive. It is a kind of judgment described in 1917 where our Lord calls the birds that fly in mid heaven to come assemble for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of commanders, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses, those who sit on them, the flesh of all men – free men, slaves small and great. It is a slaughter.
By the way, just a footnote: more birds migrate over the land of Israel than anyplace in the planet, leaving the winter in the north for the south. Israeli Air Force has to know their flight patterns and their altitude for their own safety. They’ll be assembled to eat the flesh. The beast, the Antichrist, the kings of the earth, their armies, tried to make war against him; that was useless. The beast, the Antichrist sees the false prophets who aids and abet him, also performing signs. They’re thrown into the lake of fire. The rest are killed with the sword that came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. All the birds were filled with their flesh.
We’ll be there coming back with Him, dressed in fine linen. And when that occurs, then comes the resurrection of those who died during that seven-year period. Verse 1 of chapter 20, “An angel coming from heaven holds a key to the abyss, a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, bound him a thousand years, threw him into the abyss, shut it, sealed it over him, that he wouldn’t deceive the nations any longer till the thousand years were competed.
After these things, he will be released for a short time. Then” – verse 4 again – “I saw thrones. They that sat on them” – this is the kingdom – “I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus, and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead or on their hand.” Those are all characteristics of that time of tribulation. “And they came to life.”
There is the resurrection. The first resurrection involves the resurrection of Christ, which is the first fruit. The resurrection of the church which occurs at the rapture, then the resurrection of the tribulation saints who have died during that seven-year period. All of that, according to verse 5, is the first resurrection. And having been raised, “They will be priests” – verse 6 – “priests of God and to Christ; reign with Him for a thousand years.”
Now there’s a missing group here, there’s a missing group. Remember what Job said? He said, “Though He destroy me, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” Job believed in a bodily resurrection, and Job lived back in the patriarchal period.
What about them? What about the resurrection of the Old Testament saints? Do they have a resurrection? Is there a resurrection planned for them? There is in Isaiah, chapter 26 and verse 19: “Your dead will live; their corpses will rise.” That’s pretty clear, isn’t it? “You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, for your dew is as the dew of the dawn, and the earth will give birth to the departed souls.”
You will rise. When? Verse 20: “Come, my people, enter your room, close your doors behind you, hide for a little while until indignation runs its course, until the end of the indignation, the tribulation.”
Now look at Daniel. During the time of the tribulation Israel will be persecuted. Daniel 12 is telling us what’s going to happen at the end: “At that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time.” That’s the time of tribulation, the indignation, the time like no other time, a time of trouble.
“And at that time, your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground” – there’s that sleep, the body sleeping – “will awake these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.”
There is a resurrection of the unjust, but there is a resurrection of the just, a resurrection of the saints, a resurrection of the Old Testament believers, but it comes after, after the terrors of the tribulation, which Daniel describes in detail in chapter 11, describing the rule of the beast, the willful king, who is the Antichrist.
So there are stages in the resurrection of the redeemed. First, the resurrection of Christ, then the resurrection of the church at the rapture, then at the end of the seven years of tribulation, the resurrection of the tribulation saints and the resurrection of the Old Testament saints. Why would they be raised together? They’re raised together because the seven years is the seventieth week of Daniel, and the sixty-nine prior weeks were all fulfilled in the history of Israel. In that seven years of tribulation God sets about to punish the ungodly and redeem Israel. So the resurrection of Old Testament saints, tribulation saints, occurs at the same time.
So Paul – let’s go back to 1 Corinthians – Paul says, “First, Christ; first, Chris. Then each in his own order. Christ the first fruit, and after that, those who are Christ – and there’s an order here: first the rapture of the church and then the resurrection of the tribulation saints and the Old Testament saints. So the resurrection of the Redeemer and the resurrection of the redeemed. And that’s the end of the first resurrection, Revelation 20: “This is the first resurrection.” But that’s not the end of God’s program, verse 24, the redemption. We saw the Redeemer, the redeemed, the redemption.
Here’s the final culmination: “Then comes the end.” Pretty clear. Then comes the end. And what happens at the end when He, Christ, hands over the kingdom to the God and Father when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power, for He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death, for He has put all things in subjection, under His feet. But when he says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is accepted, who put all things in subjection to Him.
What does that mean? We have to be careful here. When it says, in Psalm 8, “All things will be put in subjection to Christ.” We have to remember, it doesn’t include the One who put all things in subjection to Him, the Father. The Father will never be in subjection to Him.
Verse 28: “When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the one who subjected all things to Him so that God may be all in all.” Just an unbelievable consummation. This is where the resurrection of the Redeemer and the resurrection of the redeemed leads, leads to the end, the finale, the consummation of all things. No more death, no more death. When Christ comes He comes to reign a
king of kings and Lord of lords.
Psalm 2 describes it: “Ask of Me, and I’ll thee the nations as Your inheritance, the ends of the earth as Your possession. You will break them with a rod of iron. You will shatter them like earthenware. Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the Lord with reverence, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son that He not become angry and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. Now blessed are all who take refuge in Him!”
He’s going to come and establish His kingdom on earth. And when He has established His kingdom and all enemies have been defeated, and He is now Kind of kings and Lord of lords, verse 24, “He has abolished all rule, all authority and power at every level, both the level of spirit beings and the level of humanity – all is abolished; He reigns, having put all enemies under His feet.”
That’s a graphic picture. Kings were always elevated in the Ancient World, and when you came before a king you were always under their feet – symbolic of their sovereignty. Everything will be subject to Him, everything, everything – every being, everything in existence. “All things put in subjection to Him,” – Psalm 8:6.
But having said that, it is evident that He, God, is the exception. He’s the one who put all those things under Christ; and when they’re all subjected to Him, the Son turns around and gives them all to the Father, that God may be all in all. That you ought to underline, because that’s the purpose of absolutely everything in redemptive history: the glory of God, the glory of God. “All things made by Him and” – what – “for Him.”
Every enemy, human or demonic, every authority, every power, every ruler, crushed under His sovereignty. Satan bound for a thousand years. At the end he brings about a little rebellion, and then he is taken and thrown into the eternal lake of fire with the beast, and the false prophet, and all unbelievers. This is where resurrection is leading. It’s leading to the final glory of God. The Son hands over to the Father everything that He has subdued. He delivers the kingdom to His Father.
You say, “Well, does this mean that He is subject to His Father?” It does, it does. That doesn’t mean He is less in nature. It does not mean He is less in attributes. But it does mean that in the purposes of the Trinity, the Son came as a slave to the Father, to take back the world and man from the usurper, Satan, and all those who ruled with Satan. And when that is done, and He has conquered death and conquered all the enemies, and brought about the final resurrection of all believers, and brought all believers to glory, He will present all of them in their resurrected form to the Father and declare Himself everlastingly a willing and faithful and submissive servant. And that’s the end, that’s the end.
Expect that even though He is subject to the Father, because He was made man and will everlastingly be man, He is no less than the Father, and Revelation 11:15 says, “He will reign forever and ever.” It fits His humanity. He became a man to accomplish the task. He took on a certain subjection in becoming human, and that aspect alone He submitted Himself to the Father, and everlastingly that submission will be recognized and exalted.
The son of a king is of the nature of the king. The son of the king may be the equal of his father. The son of the king may have every attribute of his father. The Eternal Son is equal in every way. He is equal, and yet He is lovingly submissive; for in that, He finds His own glory, because His delight was always to do the will of the Father. This is where the world is going; this is the divine program.
Father, we are again grateful for Your Word and its power and clarity. So many people would like to know the future. They can if they read Your Word; we’ve seen it again tonight – so incredible. This is what You have prepared for those that love You.
Thank You, thank You for making us a part. Thank You for giving us eternal life, for the promise of resurrection, that we will one day rise, be changed, come back with You in fine linen white and clean, to reign with you for a thousand years on earth, and then forever in the new heaven and the new earth in resurrected form. Thank You for the gift of grace, making us a part of the first resurrection.
Lord, I ask that You would open the hearts of all who are here to grasp Your truth, to embrace Christ as Lord, and to obey Him with joy. Thank You, in His name. Amen.
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