Resurrection to Judgment

The attitude of many people in the world is that the resurrection of Christ was not a literal fact. We might well ask with the Apostle Paul, "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?" (Acts 26:8) Is there a valid reason for believing that this is incredible? Would it be any more difficult for God to raise Jesus than for Him to create Adam?

The importance of the resurrection of Jesus is repeatedly emphasized in the Book of Acts and in the epistles. This subject matter had to be firmly established because it was a fact of vital importance. The apostle Paul said, "And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished." (1 Cor. 15:17-18)

Luke records in Acts 1:3 that Jesus "showed himself alive after his passion (or suffering) by many infallible proofs." Included in these proofs would be the eyewitness accounts of his followers who physically saw him, talked with him, ate with him, and in the case of Thomas, actually felt his wounds. There were no second hand rumors or speculation; these followers were eyewitnesses. There was no doubt there were many things that Jesus did that his followers saw during this 40-day period.

In 1 Cor. 15:5-8 we have testimony of eyewitnesses to the resurrected Jesus. There were more than 500 witnesses as testified in 1 Corinthians 15:6. This was written twenty years after the resurrection but it was still considered valid testimony. When we consider that the Scriptures say, "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established" (2 Corinthians 13:1), the credibility of 500 witnesses is staggering. It is difficult to imagine that this many witnesses could have been deceived. These witnesses had nothing to gain in a material sense by preaching this resurrection, but rather, many suffered persecution, even unto death (See Romans 8:34-39). On another occasion Jesus shewed himself to several of the disciples, and he appeared for the last time with his apostles just prior to his ascension, as recorded in Act 1: 4-9.

Now that we have examined the natural aspects of the resurrection, what is the spiritual import? In 1Corinthiams 15:35 Paul is asking some questions. "How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?" He then uses the analogy of the sowing of seed and its germination. This would be similar to the way Jesus used sowing in his parable of the Sower.

Sowing means to cast out, to scatter, as one today would broadcast grass seed. The dead then are to be cast out of their graves in a living but corruptible flesh and blood state; 1 Cor. 15:44 states, "It is sown a natural body" from the grave (a similar thought is expressed in Isa. 26:19). The apostle continues; that the natural body is then raised to a spiritual body, provisional on the grace of God at the judgment. This raising is a change to spirit nature, to immortality, even as Jesus was raised to his Father's nature sometime after his resurrection. As 1Cor.15:53 states, "For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality".

We realize that to be raised incorruptible will involve a change or a process, including an appearance at the judgment seat of Christ. According to Young's Concordance, there are 3 Greek words in the New Testament that are translated resurrection. They are egersis, anastasis, and exanastasis. Egersis and exanastasis only appear one time each: whereas the other 40 or so times the word is used, it comes from anastasis. Egersis means a rising and is found in Matt 27:53 where we read that certain saints arose after Christ's resurrection. Exanastasis means 'a rising from death' and is found in Phil 3:11, "If by any mean I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead". By virtue of baptism we are only guaranteed anastasis (a standing up again), should we fall asleep prior to Christ's return. The change then from the natural body to the spiritual body will involve exanastasis, (a rising from death).

One important aspect of the resurrection is, when will it take place for us? We can appreciate the time frame after reading Daniel 12:1-2. The resurrection is associated with a time of trouble among the nations. We read. "and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Jeremiah 25:33 tells us how difficult the trouble will be," And the slain of the LORD shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried...

The resurrection could easily take place without the nations being aware of it; the world is not expecting an event like this. Whether or not the graves of the brethren will be physically opened when the dead are raised is a matter of conjecture. Admittedly, we like the idea based on the account of Matthew that it will be a testimony to the world, but certainly Deity does not need to follow this procedure. When we think of all the grave sites in the past 6000 years that have been obliterated by time and the expansion of cities and highways, etc., we realize that it is through the power of Deity acting upon dust that brings those that are accountable to the judgment seat of Christ. As the apostles were eyewitness to the resurrection of Jesus, we are eyewitnesses in these last days of Gentile times when the nations of this world are about to become the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ.

Following our Lord's return to the earth, and the resurrection of the dead in Christ from their graves, the next event will be our appearance before our Lord at the Judgment Seat. When Christ was on the earth, many of his teachings were by parable. When he taught through parables about the judgment, he referred to two classes of people, i.e., - the just and the unjust, the faithful and unfaithful servant, the wheat and the tares, the sheep and the goats. At his return he will judge these two classes who are his faithful and unfaithful servants.

As we read on in Scripture it is evident that Christ is not referring to judgments of the nations at large, but of His people, His household, those who are "redeemed ... to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation." Those who appear first before Him will be those who have died in covenant and therefore are responsible to the judgment seat of Christ. "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom." (2 Timothy 4:1) "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." (2 Corinthians 5:10)

Paul says, "For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:" (1 Thessalonians 4:15-16), and "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." (John 5:28-29)

Jesus Christ is to be the judge as shown in the preceding verses. We are told," For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son." (John 5:22) We know that the judgment that is meted out to those appearing before him will be just. In Isaiah we get an insight as to the kind of reasoning this Judge will use: "And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. (Isaiah 11:2-5)

The purpose of the judgment is to make known, or bring out into the open the reasons why the servants are accepted or rejected. In Matthew we have:" But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. (Matthew 12:36-37) Also, "for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known." (Matthew 10:26) Paul exhorts the brethren: "judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God." (1 Corinthians 4:5) "In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel." (Romans 2:16) So we must all ask: "why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God." (Romans 14:10-12)

When we stand before the Judge of all mankind, the Book of Life is opened, which reveals all the things we have done or have not done. All our thoughts, our deeds, and actions, are carefully unfolded before us and there will be many things that we have forgotten about. We can only hope that our efforts in the Truth, coupled with the grace of God, will be sufficient to bestow upon us that precious prize. The question we must ask ourselves is will our probation be successful?

We must keep before us in our lives the choices we are given in scripture "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.' (Matthew 7:21)

May we live lives earnestly striving always to hear "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."(Matthew 25:34) What untold joy it will be to take our places with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the worthies of old!