by Shawn Brasseaux
Is there life after death? Many cannot tell us with absolutely certainty, but the Bible says there is life after death! When you die, you spend eternity fully and completely conscious: in the Lord’s presence in glory (if you trusted in Christ Jesus alone for salvation), or in the torments of hell (if you chose to remain dead in your trespasses and sins).
The oldest book in the Bible, Job, indeed confirms a bodily resurrection: “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:25,26 KJV). The Apostle Paul even spent 58 verses discussing the doctrine of resurrection (1 Corinthians chapter 15).
There are two resurrections: the first one is for the people of faith from history, and a separate second resurrection for everyone else (the lost of the ages). The prophet Daniel wrote (12:2): “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.”
Jesus Christ said in John 5:28,29 KJV: “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 [that is, the people of faith], unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil [the people of unbelief], unto the resurrection of damnation.”
After Lazarus died, Martha told Christ that she knew Lazarus would rise again, but it would be on resurrection day (John 11:23,24). The Lord Jesus told Martha in John 11:25,26 KJV, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth [trusts] in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth [trusts] in me shall never die.”
When a lost person dies, his or her soul goes down to the flames of hell (Luke 16:22,23; Romans 2:5). However, when a believer in Christ dies, his or her soul goes to be with the Lord in glory. In 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 KJV:
“6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:
7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”
After death, the physical body goes into the ground, but the soul is fully conscious after death because it never sleeps. Resurrection refers to the physical body, not the spiritual body (soul and spirit). The spiritual body needs no resurrection.
Let us look now at the two general resurrections.
THE FIRST RESURRECTION: THE RESURRECTION TO ETERNAL LIFE
The first group of people to be resurrected is the saints, the people of faith from human history. The first resurrection is divided into three parts: the resurrection of the “first-fruits,” the “main harvest,” and then the “corners and gleanings.” Just as Israel in time past would harvest the crops in various stages, the Lord will collect the believers’ physical bodies from their graves on three separate occasions.
In Leviticus 23:9-11, Israel was instructed to pick the “first-fruits,” the first few ripened samples of the crop. These samples were to be taken and given to the priests. In Matthew 27:50-54, we learn that after Christ’s resurrection, a number of deceased Jewish saints also resurrected. Notice:
“50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”
Jesus Christ was the first person to resurrect, never to die again. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:20, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept [those who have died physically].” Furthermore, those few Jewish believers who resurrected at the time of Jesus’ resurrection were only a sampling of the resurrection of the believers. The firstfruits were the smallest portion of the crop; accordingly, these firstfruits of resurrection were few in number as well.
The main harvest contained the largest percentage of the total amount of crops. Similarly, the Church the Body of Christ is the main harvest of the believing souls of the ages. The largest number of all believers who will ever live has lived in this past 2,000 years of the Dispensation of Grace. The resurrection of the Body of Christ will occur at the rapture, where deceased Christians of the Church the Body of Christ will be resurrected, and the bodies of those Christians who are still alive at the rapture will be instantly transformed into glorious bodies (1 Corinthians 15:49-55; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). At that time, the Bible says that our physical bodies will be regenerated and transformed into a body like unto Christ’s resurrected body (Philippians 3:20,21).
The last resurrection of saints will take place after the Second Coming of Christ but just before the establishment of the millennial kingdom on earth (Daniel 12:11-13). This resurrection is for the Old Testament believers, believers from Christ’s earthly ministry, and the believers that were killed during the seven-year Tribulation. This resurrection ensures that they will also be present to rule and reign with Christ for the millennium (Revelation 20:4-6). On the whole, the total number of believing Old Testament saints, saints from the Four Gospels, and the Tribulation saints will be relatively small compared to the Dispensation of Grace, but greater in number than those first fruits resurrected with Christ. The Old Testament and Tribulation saints are represented by “corners and gleanings” in Israel’s harvest. Again, under the Law, the Jews were to harvest their fields, but commanded to leave a remnant of crops in the field for travelers and the poor (Leviticus 19:9,10).
So, the first resurrection is broken up into three components:
- First-fruits — Jesus Christ and the few Jewish saints who were resurrected 2000 years ago (these were the first saints resurrected)
- Main harvest — the Church the Body of Christ resurrected at the rapture (most of the saints of the ages)
- Gleanings and corners — the Old Testament saints and the Tribulation saints resurrected after Christ’s Second Coming but before the Millennial Reign (the last saints of the ages to be resurrected).
THE SECOND RESURRECTION: THE RESURRECTION TO ETERNAL DAMNATION
The second resurrection is one giant resurrection, and it will take place after the Millennial Reign of Christ (Revelation 20:5). Once the 1000 years of Christ’s earthly kingdom ends, each and every unbeliever from the ages past will stand before the Lord Jesus Christ, to give an account for their lives that they lived on earth at the Great White Throne Judgment. The Apostle Paul writes that they will be judged according to his Gospel, the Gospel of Grace (Romans 2:16). Each of these lost people will be given a body fit for eternity, and then they will be judged. After their judgment, they will each be cast into the lake of fire, to suffer for all eternity in a conscious state (Mark 9:42-50; Revelation 20:11-15).