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The idea of resurrection is uniquely a Hebrew idea, though some later reinterpreted it incorrectly to mean the immortality of the soul. In the years of the Grecian Empire (prior to the birth of Jesus) the Jews came increasingly under the influence of Greek thought.
Greek religion, along with many others, believed that the body was inherently evil and that the soul was inherently good. Greek theology declared that the demiurge (a devil figure) created all physical matter, and that man “fell” out of the heavens through various stages (represented by the planets) until he came to be trapped in a physical body. To them, man was a good spiritual being until he became tainted by an evil material earth that had been created by the devil.
Out of this arose the concept of dualism, where good and evil, light and darkness, God and the devil, heaven and hell were all eternal. To God belonged all spiritual things; to the devil belonged all material things. The problem came—so they taught—when light and darkness, good and evil, and flesh and spirit mixed together. The solution, they said, was for them to be separated again into their separate spheres. In other words, the Greek solution to the problem of evil was for good and evil to coexist forever and that neither can exist without the other.
The Hebrew view, as seen in Genesis 1, tells us that God created all things and pronounced everything “good.” As the Creator, He owns all matter. The earth was created to glorify God in this newly-created dimension. Heaven and earth were in unity at the beginning.
Scripture shows that sin and darkness entered later, and so these are temporary. In the end, all evil and disharmony will be eradicated. In the end, all things will be put under the feet of Christ, and God will be “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28). Creation is not destined to be partitioned between heaven and hell or between God and Satan. God does not take back all spiritual things and leave all material things to the devil. No, all things will be filled with God (Eph. 1:23). Darkness will be overcome by light. All things will be reconciled to Jesus Christ.
Whereas the Greeks believed that the unity of heaven and earth was the problem, the Hebrew view believes that the unity of heaven and earth is the solution. God will recover all that is His by right of creation.
The Greeks were horrified at the idea of a resurrection, for their goal was to escape this evil body. They had no understanding of a glorified body, for in their view God would never taint Himself by inhabiting human flesh. The idea that the Holy Spirit would indwell human flesh was anathema to a Greek.
When the Gnostics tried to adopt some Christian views and tried to reconcile these with their Greek views, they perverted the Scriptures and came into conflict with the apostles in the early church. They tried to change the definition of resurrection to mean the immortality of the soul. Instead of being raised into a good body on earth, they changed it to the separation of the immortal soul from the body.
As I said, the difference between Greek and Hebrew thought is rooted in their opposite views of creation. This sharp contrast forms the background of all disputes regarding the resurrection of the dead. We cannot take the time to expound upon all of these disputes, but we certainly must show how the idea of resurrection is uniquely a Hebrew idea, based on the Hebrew view of a good God creating all things “very good” (Gen. 1:31) and upon the principle of God’s ownership.
Job is the oldest book of the Bible, for Job himself was elderly when Moses was born and was already dead when Moses wrote the books of the law. Job 14:13-15 is translated in Dr. Bullinger’s notes:
13 Oh! that in Sheol Thou wouldst cover me; conceal me, till Thine anger turn away; fix me a time; and then remember me. 14 If a man dieth, will he live again? Then—all my days of service I will wait, until the time of my reviving come; 15 Then shalt Thou call, and I will answer Thee; for Thou wilt yearn toward Thy handiwork.
Here the man ponders his time in Sheol (the grave), covered and concealed on account of divine judgment for Adam’s sin. He then asks, “If a man dieth, will he live again?” Yet he knows that if he waits long enough, “until the time of my reviving come,” then God will call him forth, and he will answer—that is, he will be raised from the dead.
This is reinforced and clarified later in Job 19:25-27 (Bullinger’s translation),
25 I know that my Redeemer [ever] lives, and at the latter day on earth shall stand; 26 and after [worms] this body have consumed, yet in my flesh I shall Eloah see; 27 whom I, e’en I, shall see upon my side. Mine eyes shall see Him—stranger, now, no more; [For this] my inmost soul with longing waits.
His resurrection, then, is seen as a bodily resurrection, for he expected to see God in his flesh, even though the worms had already consumed his body after death.
The idea of a bodily resurrection is seen again in the book of Daniel. The eleventh chapter of Daniel prophesies of the time of judgment upon Judah from his time to that of Antiochus Epiphanes (163 B.C.), and then skips to the end of the age, where he sees a resurrection for judgment. Dan. 12:2, 3 says,
2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. 3 And those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
This brief view of the great judgment was revealed in greater detail earlier in Dan. 7:10, where the prophet saw the Ancient of Days sitting upon the throne in the divine court, judging humanity. The Concordant Version of Dan. 7:10 reads,
10 Streaming is a flame in front and issuing from before Him; a thousand thousands are irradiating Him, and ten thousand ten thousands are rising before Him. Adjudication sits and the scrolls are opened.
In other words, the prophet sees the majority “rising” (from the dead), while the minority “are irradiating Him,” that is, they are transformed by the light of His presence. In Dan. 7:9 the great Judge is pictured as “the Ancient of Days” (NASB) or as “the Transferrer of Days” (CV). The Hebrew word attiyk is from the word athak, which means “to move, proceed, advance, move on, become old, be removed, transferred,” and it includes the idea of “advancing in years.”
I believe that both the NASB and the CV are correct, but they show different aspects of the same Judge. He comes to transfer jurisdiction to the saints of the Most High, but He is also pictured as an old man with white hair in order to draw upon the law of resurrection in Lev. 19:32,
32 You shall rise up before the grayheaded, and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the Lord.
Whereas this was a command under the Old Covenant, it was a prophetic promise under the New. At the Great White Throne, all will “rise up,” not by their own will, but by the will of the Judge who summons them to the court. He calls; we answer, as Job says.
However, Daniel saw only a single resurrection at the end of the age, where all are raised for judgment at the throne. When we come to Revelation 20, we find that there are actually two resurrections, the first being limited to the few, and the second being universal. It is the universal resurrection at the end of the thousand years that Daniel saw.
The two resurrections, however, did not originate with John, but with Moses. It was hidden in the feast of Trumpets, and this was made clear by the Apostle Paul, who linked resurrection with the blowing of a trumpet (1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:16).
The feasts of the Lord were divided into two groups. The spring feasts (Passover, Wave-sheaf offering, and Pentecost) were fulfilled in Christ’s first work on earth; the autumn feasts (Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles) are to be fulfilled in Christ’s second coming. Because “the dead in Christ shall rise FIRST” (1 Thess. 4:16), we understand that the resurrection is the first event to fulfill the autumn feasts. It occurs, then, at the feast of Trumpets.
Here is where it is helpful to go back to the law and learn how the feast of Trumpets originated in the story of Israel in the wilderness. Num. 10:1-4 says,
1 The Lord spoke further to Moses, saying, 2 Make yourself two trumpets of silver, of hammered work you shall make them; and you shall use them for summoning the congregation and for having the camps set out. 3 And when both[trumpets] are blown, all the congregation shall gather themselves to you at the doorway of the tent of meeting. 4 Yet if only one [trumpet] is blown, then the leaders, the heads of the divisions of Israel, shall assemble before you.
A single trumpet was blown to assemble the leaders, while both trumpets were blown to assemble the entire congregation. According to Josephus,
“Moses was the inventor of the form of their trumpet, which was made of silver” (Antiquities of the Jews, III, xii, 6).
In the context of Israel’s wilderness journey, the trumpets were used to summon the people, but in the greater sense, it prophesied of the resurrection, where the dead will be summoned. This is the origin of the feast of Trumpets, and the two trumpets prophesy of two kinds of resurrection.
Paul spoke of both resurrections, though he was not as clear as John in distinguishing them. John clearly speaks of two resurrections, showing how the first was limited and the second universal. But when Paul spoke to the believers being raised, he spoke of a single trumpet. 1 Cor. 15:52 says, “the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised.” 1 Thess. 4:16 says,
16 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 shall rise first.
This “trumpet” is used to summon the leaders, or rulers, not the entire congregation (church). It is the time of the first resurrection, for John tells us in Rev. 20:4-6,
4 … and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. 6 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.
This agrees with Num. 10:4, where we read that the leaders, or rulers, were summoned by the single trumpet.
The passage in Rev. 20:11 and 12 pictures the second resurrection in terms of the Great White Throne. This is the same scene that Daniel saw. Daniel saw men rising from the dead for judgment, and John makes it clear that all of the dead are raised. In fact, Rev. 20:5 calls this group “the rest of the dead,” showing that no one is left unraised.
John must have remembered Jesus’ words, recorded in John 5:28, 29,
28 Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, 29 and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.
Clearly, this “hour” is the occasion of the general resurrection, wherein both trumpets are to be blown at the end of the thousand years. We know this, because “all who are in the tombs” are raised, and not just the few. Yet perhaps the most important revelation in Jesus’ statement is that both believers and unbelievers are raised for judgment. Believers are rewarded with “a resurrection of life,” while the evil ones are given “a resurrection of judgment.”
This tells us that there are believers in this resurrection, as well as in the first resurrection. The difference is that the leaders are summoned at the first resurrection to reign with Christ, while the rest of the believers must await their turn a thousand years later.
Did the Apostle Paul know this? Yes, for when his beliefs were called into question, he gave testimony to Governor Felix in Acts 24:14, 15,
14 But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law, and that is written in the Prophets; 15 having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.
Though Paul does not explain this further, he makes it clear that he believed in a future resurrection that would include “both the righteous and the wicked.” He refrained from testifying of a resurrection that would include only those who would reign with Christ, because his accusers did not believe in such a resurrection. His purpose was to show the similarity of his beliefs, not the differences.
Yet when Paul wrote to the Corinthians and to the Thessalonian believers, he spoke of the first resurrection, wherein a single “trumpet” would be blown to summon them. It was assumed in those days that all believers were aspiring overcomers who cherished this hope.