Do you understand God's Plan of Salvation through the three resurrections? If you had a choice, in which resurrection would you choose to be? This article explains which resurrection God has chosen for us, and why it is a better resurrection!
"I WISH God hadn't called me in this age. I wish He had waited until the second resurrection when everyone will know the truth. It will be much easier then to qualify for God's Kingdom." Have you ever said that? Have you ever thought or silently wished that God had waited to call you? Some have! They feel the going is too tough in this age of unbelief, doubt, scorn and ridicule. Some of you have wished this because of severe trials and tests. Some who have unconverted mates or relatives have wished that God had waited to call them until He was ready to call the whole family! Brethren, if you have wished these things then you do not fully understand what it means to be called in this age just prior to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ! You could not possibly understand the fantastic, almost unbelievable goal and purpose set before you and then wish God hadn't called you! Possibly some of you do not understand God's plan and do not realize that He is going to call everyone to the knowledge of the truth and give everyone an equal chance for salvation.
Peter was inspired to write, "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (II Pet. 3:9). God wants all to come to repentance! And Paul added that God "... will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (I Tim. 2:4). It is God who calls us to the knowledge of the truth and God who grants us repentance (John 6:44, 65; Rom. 2:4). God is in absolute control and He is working out a plan. That plan involves adding spirit-born sons to His own divine Family! All human beings who have ever been born or ever will be born will have their chance to come to the knowledge of the truth. All will someday understand that they were born physically to be "born again" into the Kingdom of God as spirit brings. This is the real purpose in life — to qualify for the Kingdom of God. Matthew 6:33 says, "... seek you first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness..." Most human beings have lived and died without ever knowing their real purpose in life. So when will they have a chance to know God's plan and purpose and qualify for eternal life? At the time of the second resurrection, during the Great White Throne Judgment!
The Second Resurrection
The Bible does not use the term "second resurrection." But it does teach a resurrection of all the dead who have never known the truth. This resurrection comes after the resurrection of the saints, called the "first resurrection" (Rev. 20:6), and is, therefore, generally called the "second resurrection." When does the second resurrection take place? Exactly who will be in it and what will it be like? How long will those in this resurrection live? Let's answer these questions! The apostle John was given a vision into the future by God. He saw things which "must shortly come to pass" (Rev. 1:1). John wrote, "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ and shall reign with him a thousand years" (Rev. 20:4-6). Verse six should begin with the last sentence of verse five, "This is the first resurrection." Man, not God, divided the scriptures into chapters and verses. It is obvious by reading the context of verses 4 through 6 that the first resurrection (for the saints) takes place at the beginning of the thousand years and the second resurrection (for "the rest of the dead") occurs after "the thousand years were finished." So the second resurrection takes place shortly after the millennium — the one thousand-year rule of Christ and His saints on this earth. That answers the question, when?!
Next — Who?
The apostle John continued, "And I saw a great white throne and him that sat on it from whose face the earth arid the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works" (Rev. 20:11-12). The answer to the question who will be in the second resurrection is, "the dead, small and great" — who never "were judged out of those things which were written in the books [of the Bible!) according to their works." When does God begin to judge a person from the Bible? From the time he understands what it says and means! Notice I Peter 4:17 — "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?" The house of God is the Church of the living God (I Tim. 3:15). We in God's true church are now being judged according to our works (our obedience to all His laws and precepts)! Our judgment began when God first called us to the knowledge of the truth and it will continue until the day we die, or are "changed" (the flesh still dies) at Christ's return! Judgment, then, takes place over a period of time. Those who have lived and died without having this period of time to know the full truth and be judged according to their works, will be given that chance during the Great White Throne Judgment. Most of the kings, leaders and rulers who have ever lived will be resurrected then — great and important men in the eyes of this world! And the billions they have ruled over will also be in that resurrection! What will that resurrection be like and what will life be like during that judgment time? At the time of the second resurrection, people will be rising out of their graves, out of the sea or from wherever they died, back to physical life again on a beautiful earth (Rev. 20:13)! It doesn't matter how or where they died — God has the power to give them another physical body, breathe life into it and place them in a dry, safe, place! You can imagine how shocked some are going to be when they find they are not in "heaven" or "hell" but on earth! Ezekiel saw and heard the way it is going to happen! "... there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above... and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army" (Ezek. 37:7-8, 10). This is the time of the second resurrection! It is a resurrection to physical life. What a fantastic event this will be! Wouldn't you like to be there and have a hand in helping those people?! Some of them will be your own children, friends or relatives! How long will they live and what kind of world will they live in? God reveals this in the book of Isaiah — "... the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying. There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed. And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them... They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them...The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord" (Isa. 65:19-21, 23, 25). What a wonderful, happy, peaceful, productive life they will have! Families will be together. No broken homes! Everyone will work and enjoy life! There will be peace, happiness, and safety everywhere! Verse 20 indicates that everyone who is resurrected, those who died young and those who died old, will be resurrected and live a full 100 years more. No new babies will be born during this period. After the 100-year period all who have qualified will be born into God's Family as spirit beings and live forever! If they do not qualify after this period of time they "shall be accursed." They will be destroyed in the lake of fire and remain dead forever! This will happen at the third resurrection.
The Third Resurrection
Neither does the Bible use the term "third resurrection" but there is one final resurrection. Three is God's number of finality! There are more than three individual resurrections mentioned in the Bible. Christ was resurrected (Mat. 28:5-7) spirit-born (Rom. 1:4). Some Christians were physically resurrected at that same time for a special witness (Mat. 27:50-53). Christ resurrected Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43-44) and there are other examples. But Revelation 20 (and John 5:25-29) shows that there are three GENERAL resurrections through which God will accomplish and complete His plan of salvation for humans on this earth. Who then will be in the third resurrection? When will it happen? What will it be like? In relation to knowing and obeying God's Word there are three general categories of people on earth today — those who know and obey, those who do not know and consequently do not obey, and those who know but will not obey! The first resurrection is for those who have lived, known and obeyed God before and up to the second coming of Christ. They are called "saints" in the Bible. When people qualify during the millennium they evidently will be changed immediately from "flesh" to "Spirit." There is no resurrection from the dead mentioned in the Bible for those who qualify for God's Spirit Kingdom during the Millennium. The second resurrection is for those who have lived and died prior to the second coming of Christ without ever knowing the truth of God. This will include by far the vast majority of all human beings who have ever lived — billions and billions! If you are wondering how there will be room for them all on earth then read the question box article in the September, 1965, GOOD NEWS magazine, on page 23 (2nd Question). The third and last resurrection is for all who have known God's Way but who would not repent and obey! It is also for these who did repent, were baptized and started on the road of obedience to God but then gave up, quit, or just turned from God's Way and began to sin willfully after they had come to the knowledge of the truth. These people "sear their consciences" or "harden their hearts" and live in willful sin! This is the unpardonable sin (Heb. 10:26-27)! The third resurrection would include those in this category and those who will not repent and obey during the millennium. All will be resurrected and/or cast into the lake of fire to die the second death which is eternal death (Rev. 20:14-15)! This is what will happen to those brought up in the second resurrection who are still sinners at the end of the one-hundred-year period called the Great White Throne Judgment. They "shall be accursed" — burned up in the lake of fire (Isa. 65:20)! What will the lake of fire be like? The answer is hot! Very hot! It will be a literal "lake of fire burning with brimstone" (Rev. 19:20) — probably something like a hot burning sulphur pit! Those who rebel against God will be burned alive in this "lake of fire" which will spread around the entire earth destroying every vestige of man's physical achievement and environment with its "fervent heat" (II Pet. 3:10-12). Don't let this happen to you! This is the second death — ETERNAL DEATH!
Which Will It Be for You — the First or the Third Resurrection?
Brethren, do you realize that if you do not qualify to be changed into a spirit-born son of God at Christ's soon return that you will be in the THIRD resurrection?! Remember — the second resurrection is only for those who have never known the truth! If you are a converted member of God's Church there is no chance for you to be in the second resurrection. For YOU it must be the first or the third! If you are a baptized member of God's Church and are beginning to slip away, remember — there is no second chance for YOU! If you do not qualify to be "changed" at Christ's return you will be in the third resurrection — in the lake of fire or cast alive into it at Christ's return, along with the beast and the false prophet! (Rev. 19:20.) There is too much to lose to even consider "slipping away"! The "lake of fire" is for the "fearful and unbelieving" (Rev. 31:8). Get rid of fear ("perfect love casteth out fear" — I John 4:18) and believe the wonderful promises God has made to us! "... for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Heb. 11:6)! And remember II Timothy 1:7, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." God has given us the Spirit of power to overcome and qualify for the FIRST resurrection!
The First Resurrection
Now I want to show you why the first resurrection is a "better resurrection" — better than the "second" or the "third." The phrase "better resurrection" is used in Hebrews 11 — the faith chapter. Notice Hebrews 11:35, 39-40 — "Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better. Resurrection ... And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." Notice also that verse 40 says God has provided "some better thing for us." This chapter is telling us that many before us by their faith (demonstrated by works — James 2:17, 18, 22, 26) have already qualified for the "better resurrection" but that they have not yet received the promise. They are dead in their graves waiting for us to qualify! ARE you qualifying? Maybe some of these facts about the first resurrection will help you to strive harder!
A Resurrection to Eternal Life
The first resurrection is the only resurrection to eternal life! Did you realize that? Notice I Thessalonians 4:16-17, "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: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever he with the Lord." Let's put that together with I Corinthians 15:51-53, "Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." Those verses alone show that "the dead in Christ" — all true Christians who died before Christ's return — "shall rise first." They shall be "raised incorruptible." They will be immortal. They will be spirit-born Sons of God! Then we (true Christians) who will still be alive at Christ's return will be changed "in the twinkling of an eye" from physical, mortal, corruptible flesh to incorruptible, immortal spirit beings! We will have received the gift of eternal life! If you will build Godly character now in this present physical life, you will be given a glorified, powerful, Spirit body which will not die which cannot be destroyed! This will happen at the first resurrection. Remember that the second resurrection is a resurrection to physical life not spiritual life. Those in the second resurrection will be flesh and blood human beings who have not yet qualified for God's Kingdom. They will have to fight the same battle we are now fighting to qualify for eternal life. Satan and his demons will be bound, yes. It will be a peaceful world, yes. But they will still have the greatest enemy of all to overcome — their own human nature. It will not be easy for them to qualify for God's Kingdom. They will have to build the same Godly character then that you and I do now! They probably will have to fight the downward pulls of human nature a lot longer than most of us now living. How would you like to battle your human nature for 100 years before qualifying?! There isn't one tenth that much time left for us! We have only a few years left before Christ comes. Wouldn't you rather fight the battle now and be in the first resurrection — the one to eternal life? If you don't you will be in the third resurrection and suffer eternal death.
Kings and Priests of God
Those in the first resurrection will live and reign with Jesus Christ for a thousand years as kings and priests of God! This is what God revealed to the apostle John, "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years" (Rev. 20:6). We shall rule on this earth as kings and priests of God (Rev. 5:10)! Think about that! Meditate on it! Read again, study and understand Mr. Armstrong's booket on The Wonderful World Tomorrow - What It Will Be Like! Study very closely Mr. Meredith's series of articles in The PLAIN TRUTH on "Prepare Now To Be a King!" You will be ruling over people in the World Tomorrow. YOU will be helping, guiding, correcting, blessing, teaching them! Notice what God reveals through Isaiah about how we will teach them, "... yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers: And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left" (Isa. 30:20-21). We will be their teachers! As spirit beings we will have the power to manifest ourselves as human beings. They will see us and hear us. Whenever necessary we will appear to them and say, "This is the way, walk ye in it"! We will teach generation after generation God's way of life! Do you want to miss out on the opportunity to live and work with Christ a thousand years? He is coming soon to rule this earth, to bring God's government, to establish peace, happiness and prosperity! You can have a direct part in all this. God has called you to be in the first resurrection — to be a king!
More Promises and Blessings
In Revelation chapter two and three God says, "He that hath an car, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." The seven churches mentioned represent the seven "eras" or "stages" of God's true Church from the time of the apostles to the end of our present age. Let's notice the specific promise and reward to the Philadelphian era of God's Church — "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown, Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name" (Rev. 3:10-12). Brethren, I hope you do hear and understand! These blessings are for you! We are now in the Philadelphian era of God's Work. God has given us the open door of radio and the printing press right now to preach and publish the Good News of the coming Kingdom of God and to warn the world of the coming Great Tribulation — "which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." You and I can escape the Great Tribulation because we have been called now. We can also help others escape by being faithful and doing our part in God's Work today! If we will catch the vision, do our part in God's Work and overcome our sins, we have the very special promise that we will be "pillars" (strong supports, mainstays, leaders) in the very temple of God Almighty for all eternity! Read about that fabulous city where you can live and work — Revelation 21:10-21! You can be at the very Headquarters of the universe working with GI d the Father, Jesus Christ, Abraham, David, Paul and many, many others — if you are in the first resurrection!
Pleasures for Evermore
Many think that being a spirit being in God's Kingdom will not be much "fun." Some members have asked me if we will be able to see one another as spirit beings! Some don't really desire to be a spirit being because they think they are going to lose all the pleasures we enjoy as human beings. If only we could realize that this physical life is on a much lower scale than spiritual life. God, who is Spirit, gave us physical life and physical pleasures. What God has given us is only a small type of what He enjoys! Even a happy marriage and the right kind of love between husband and wife is only a type of the greater, deeper spiritual love, joy and happiness that God does experience. One of the songs we sing in church services has this stanza, "There are depths of love that I cannot know 'til I have immortality; there are heights of joy that I may not reach 'til I rest in peace with thee." This is what God's Word says, "... in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Psalm 16:11). David knew that he could not be completely happy — that he could not be satisfied until he was resurrected into God's Kingdom as a spirit-born son of God (Psalm 17:15)! The apostle Paul also realized that same thing. He said, "If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead... I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:11, 14)! Paul said that the physical pleasures of this life are like "dung" compared to what spiritual life will be like (Phil. 3:8) He was willing to give up anything, even his own life, to be a spirit being in God's Kingdom! How about you? Have you come to that point yet? Do you desperately want to be a spirit being in God's Kingdom? Are you sick and tired of your rotten human nature? Have you come to abhor yourself so much that you cry out daily for God's Kingdom to come? We certainly don't want to be selfish and just think of ourselves. We must serve and help others. But we also must "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12). While he was in a Roman prison waiting to die Paul wrote the epistle of II Timothy. He said, "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing" (II Tim. 4:6-8). Paul knew he had qualified. He knew he would receive a crown of righteousness at the time of Christ's return when the "dead in Christ" would be resurrected. Paul made it because he knew what his purpose was and came to desire that purpose more than he desired anything on earth! Paul knew that being born into God's Kingdom as a spirit being would be the most fantastically thrilling event that could ever occur. He realized that spiritual life is much superior to physical life.
Jesus Christ — Our Example
Jesus Christ is the only one who has experienced both spiritual life and physical life. The God of the Old Testament is the One who became Jesus Christ. If you don't understand this, then write for the article, "Is Jesus God?" Reading John 1, Hebrews 1 and I Corinthians 10, will prove it to you. Paul was inspired to write this about Christ — "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:6-7). The phrase "made himself of no reputation" could also have been properly rendered from the Greek as "emptied himself." In other words, one member of the Godhead, the God of the Old Testament, "emptied himself" or gave up divine power and glory to become a human being — Jesus Christ! God lived on this earth as a man and experienced every type of temptation, trial and test. He also enjoyed the pleasure. of physical life — all except marriage. Yet marriage and physical love between husband and wife is only a type of a much more glorious and pleasurable relationship — the deep, close, intimate, spiritual love that we will have with Jesus Christ when He returns (Eph. 5:22-32). Brethren, Jesus Christ was willing to forsake the love, joy and pleasure of a happy physical marriage in order to help us qualify for the most important marriage of all! Read about it in Revelation 19. Verse 9 says, "Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb." The marriage of the Church to Jesus Christ is the most important marriage of all! Christ has already qualified. You should be striving to qualify with all your might! After Jesus Christ had finished the work which His Heavenly Father had given Him to do on this earth, notice what He said, "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was" (John 17:5). He wanted to be back with His Father as a glorified spirit being! He did not want to remain in the flesh! Christ prayed for Himself — that He would receive divine power and glory again — and He also prayed for us, "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which you have given me: for you lovedest me before the foundations of the world" (John 17:24). Christ prayed that we would be with Him and also inherit glory, honor and power! Brethren, I hope you can begin to see that life in God's Kingdom as perfect spirit beings will be a lot greater than this present physical life. Lived according to God's laws, even this present physical life can and should be a happy, full and abundant one! God intended it to be so. But we need to realize that we were born physically to be born again spiritually into God's Family. And we need to understand that eternal, spiritual life will be even happier, fuller and more abundant with pleasures for evermore! To attain unto the God Family, you and I must be in the first resurrection — the best resurrection!