PREPARING FOR THE RESURRECTION

PREPARING FOR THE RESURRECTION Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

Somehow we are going to have to switch our thinking from dying and going to Heaven, to the Day of Resurrection. The New Testament consistently points to judgment and rewards in the Day of Resurrection, not at the hour when we die physically.

We must turn our attention to preparing for the resurrection of our body.

PREPARING FOR THE RESURRECTION

Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice And come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:28,29)

Notice that all who are in their graves will hear His voice.

The Christian point of view, generally speaking, is that when we die our inward nature does not remain with our body. Our body is buried, or cremated, but our inward nature enter the spirit realm. This would agree with Paul’s statement that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

So when the Lord speaks of those who are in their graves, he must be referring to their bodies.

We would expect Him to say, "All who are in Heaven will hear His voice."

So immediately we have a mystery. Do the spirits in Heaven come down and rejoin their bodies in the Day of Resurrection? Probably so; for it does not seem likely that our body would come forth without our inward nature being in it.

So for the sake of this article, let’s say that our inward nature is sent to be with our body, and then we hear His voice and come forth.

"Those who have done good will rise to live."

It appears "to live" means to enter immortality in the body. This is what was lost in the garden of Eden. The promise of John 3:16 has to do with the resurrection. It means we will regain everlasting life in the body. Our body will not perish.

The current problem in Christian thinking is the expression "done good." We have cast out this thought as being irrelevant, now that we are "saved by grace."

My own opinion is that the Lord meant exactly what He stated, and that the words of His Apostles do not introduce a new "state of grace" such that "done good" no longer applies. I think every one of Christ’s injunctions can be found in the writings of the Apostles, and "done good will rise to live" is no exception.

For example:

God "will give to each person according to what he has done."  To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. (Romans 2:6-8)

Doesn’t the above passage say precisely the same thing as John 5:28,29?

Today’s Christian scholar was say, "This cannot apply to those who are saved by grace!"

But let’s think about Romans 2:6-8 for a moment.

Is this addressed to Christians (the saints in Rome), or to the unsaved people of Rome, or to "each person" regardless of his or her standing in Christ.

Let us say it is addressed to unsaved people. Then we are saying an individual apart from Christ can gain eternal life by persistence in doing good.

Christian scholars would never agree to this.

Let us say it is addressed to the saints in Rome. Now we are claiming that in order to gain eternal life the believer must persist in doing good.

Christian scholars would never agree to this.

I think, then, we must ignore Christian scholars at this point and say with the Apostle Paul: "God ‘will give to each person according to what he has done.’"

Therefore, we are stating an individual can gain eternal life by doing good even though he or she has never received Christ.

We know from the Scripture that if we reject Christ we bring ourselves under condemnation. No amount of good works on our part will bring us righteousness if we have rejected the atonement made on the cross. So the first step in doing good is believing in Christ and being baptized in water.

But what if we never have heard the Gospel? Then we will be judged according to whether we have practiced good or evil. Unsaved people have a conscience and common sense. They know when they are doing evil.

This reminds us of Peter’s statement in the house of Cornelius:

Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism But accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. (Acts 10:34,35)

"Who fear him and do what is right." God accepts such. All people know what it is to do right. Nature teaches us to fear God.

You know, the only people on the face of the earth who do not know what it is to do right are the religious people, especially Christians. Religion has a way of destroying conscience and common sense. The longer I live the more I realize how true this is.

I am not implying we can reject Christ and please God by doing good works. But I certainly am stating if we never have heard the Gospel we are guilty of the sins we have committed, but if it please God, as in the case of Cornelius who did good by giving alms, God will bring us to Christ that we may receive forgiveness and eternal life.

So we return to the Words of the Lord Jesus:

Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice And come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:28,29)

We must prepare ourselves for the resurrection from the dead by doing good.

What does it mean to "do good"?

First of all, when Christ is presented to us we must accept by faith the blood atonement and then be baptized in water. Then we must do good, just as all people must, if we expect to enter immortality in the Day of Resurrection.

Doing good:

Being honest in our dealings with all people.

Faithfully keeping our promises.

Keeping clean morally.

Keeping control of our anger.

Avoiding drunkenness.

Telling the truth.

Shunning profanity.

Forgiving those who harm us.

Refraining from gossip and slander.

Being generous.

Being merciful.

The Ten Commandments are a guide to doing good.

All people, saved or not, can do good. Their conscience directs them. They can choose to do good or to do evil.

The Christian can and must do good. He must be scrupulously honest in his dealings with other people. If he is weak in this or any other area of righteousness, holiness, and obedience to God, he can come to the Throne of Grace for help.

Many Christians, including ministers of the Gospel, are dishonest. Will grace save them? Yes, if they will confess their sin and turn from it. But if not, they will not receive immortality in the Day of Resurrection.

The Christian must faithfully keep his or her promises. This especially is true of marriage. Once we promise at the altar of God to be true to our spouse, then we must remain so.

There are times when a marriage becomes destructive. Then God will give wisdom.

Integrity is compounded from faithfulness and truthfulness. The person who does not practice integrity will never be raised into immortality. God will not clothe an unfaithful spirit with immortality, though the individual cry Lord! Lord! all the day long.

The Christian must be morally pure. Adultery and fornication are not permitted in the Kingdom of God. Homosexuality is condemned under both covenants.

God has given us a soul capable of making choices. When we yield to the lusts of the flesh, or to any other temptation, we lose control of our soul. Our soul no longer is making our choices.

We must pray fervently until we can refrain from yielding to lust. If we do not, we will lose our soul: lose our ability to make good choices. The person who loses his soul in this manner will never be raised into immortality in the body. Instead he or she will be clothed in the Day of Resurrection with a corrupt form that reveals the corruption of the inner nature.

If we would do good, Christian or not, we must keep control of our anger. In these days, at least in America, the demons of murder stand ready to take what ordinarily would be irritation or mild anger and develop it into rage and murder. How many people are in prison because a simple domestic dispute got out of hand and they murdered their wife or husband?

There are no murderers in the Kingdom of God—people who lose control of their soul in this manner. Such will never be given immortality in the Day of Resurrection.

Drunkenness, reveling, partying, the use of drugs, carousing, abandonment to the flesh, are evil practices. We don’t have to be a Christian to understand this. Conscience warns us that such behavior is not pleasing to God.

Any individual who indulges his flesh in this manner, even though he thinks he is "saved by grace," will not be raised to immortality in the Day of Resurrection. He does not use the soul God has given him to serve God. He always will defile the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Everyone respects a person who tells the truth. Man is to be formed in the image of God. The Lord Jesus Christ, who is in the image of God, is Truth personified.

What would life be like if God were untruthful?

All liars have their part in the Lake of Fire.

The Christian, of all people, must be meticulously truthful in speech and writing. Many business people of our day lie as they transact business. Yet, Christian or not, they know it is evil. When they are caught there is a scandal. They may go to jail.

We cannot practice lying and expect to walk with God. If we would be prepared for the Day of Resurrection we must be totally truthful in all matters.

Many unsaved people and some Christians use profanity in their speech. Sometimes the words are merely vulgar. Sometimes they invoke God or Jesus Christ. It is an evil practice. When we speak profanely we are under the influence of demons. We are speaking with the voice of Satan. This is how he speaks.

Let no individual, Christian or not, expect to be raised to immortality if he or she cannot control his or her tongue.

People, saved and unsaved alike, have a problem with forgiving those who harm them. With the unsaved this problem can be nearly insurmountable. The Christian, however, can go to the Lord and get the goodness and virtue necessary for him to overcome this evil with good

It is so easy to harbor revenge and bitterness. It is so difficult to forgive those who have harmed us. But it is possible through Christ, and it is absolutely necessary if we are to prevail in the Day of Resurrection.

As long as we are holding someone in judgment God will not forgive our sins.

Gossip and slander abound in the world and in the Christian churches. They are a form of murder.

Satan is the accuser of the brothers. When we speak evil of another Christian we receive assistance from Satan.

Even worldly people know it is wrong to gossip about another person, and slander can become a legal issue. Can you imagine Christ, in the Day of Resurrection, clothing a gossiper or slanderer with a body like His own all-powerful body?

It never shall happen!

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so they will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3:20,21)

But won’t He overlook my gossiping and by grace clothe me with glory anyway?

Never! This would be to bring destruction into His Kingdom.

The Lamb of God desires a beautiful bride, one without blemish of any sort.

Do you suppose the Bride of the Lamb is sinful but declared to be unblemished by grace? Do you truly believe God is so foolish as to form a Bride for the Lamb and sons for Himself who practice all manner of evil, and then view them as being acceptable by grace?

This is unscriptural.

But won’t we change when we die and go to Heaven? The rich man died but he did not go to Heaven. He went to Hell with the rest of the greedy people.

But won’t the Christian be changed when he or she dies?

There is no scriptural support for this.

But won’t we be changed instantly when He appears?

There is no scriptural basis for this, except for the change in the body.

When Christ appears, those who have wasted their talent will not be changed into faithful servants, they will be removed to the outer darkness.

If we are a greedy person, Christian or not, we will find ourselves in Hell with the rich man. We will not in the Day of Resurrection be brought forth from Hell and clothed with a body like that of the Lord Jesus.

Suppose we are unmerciful? God and other people will be unmerciful to us. In the Day of Resurrection we will not then be shown mercy!

If there is any truth that needs to be brought to the attention of Christian people it is that of the need for preparation for the Day of Resurrection. If we have done good we will be raised to immortality in the body. If we have done evil we will be raised to corruption in the body.

The purpose of grace is not to change what we reap but what we sow; for we always shall reap what we have sown.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7,8)

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (II Corinthians 5:10)

Notice, in the following verse, how the doctrine of eternal judgment follows the doctrine of the resurrection.

Instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. (Hebrews 6:2)

The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, and the doctrine of eternal judgment, have both been lost to the Christian churches, as far as I can see.

The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead has been set to one side by two forces, it appears. The first force that has set aside the doctrine of the physical resurrection has been the influence of Gnosticism. Gnosticism, which teaches that matter is evil and spirit is good, denies that Jesus Christ rose physically from the dead. Also, in Gnosticism, there is the emphasis on life in the spirit realm.

Christian teaching also emphasizes the desirability of making our eternal home in Heaven, in the spirit realm. We have departed from the biblical emphasis on the physical resurrection of the saints and the coming of the Kingdom of God to be installed permanently on the earth; first on the present earth and then on the new earth.

The second force that has obscured the doctrine of the physical resurrection of the dead is the recent error known as the "pre-tribulation rapture." Satan has managed to remove the blessed hope of the Church from the resurrection to the catching up of the saints to avoid tribulation. This is a grievous emphasis.

Satan is eager to move the attention of the believers away from the physical resurrection because it is in the physical resurrection of the believers that Satan’s kingdom is overthrown. He is not concerned about our going to Heaven but about our returning to earth to destroy his kingdom.

After the resurrection comes judgment. We are not rewarded in our body when we die but in the Day of Resurrection. Then all we have sown during our lifetime on the earth will be taken into account. If we have done good, then we will be rewarded with a glorious body of eternal life. If we have practiced evil, then we will be rewarded with the corruption we have sown. Some will be thrown into the Lake of Fire. Some into outer darkness. Some will be wandering stars in the blackest of night. Some will be objects of contempt.

The choices of our soul will be revealed in our body in that Day.

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. (Daniel 12:2,3)

The Bible is very clear that we will receive from the Lord what our conduct deserves.

And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. (Revelation 2:23)

It is obvious the above was directed toward the members of the church in Thyatira.

I can’t imagine how Christian scholars came up with the idea that if we chose Christ we can forget about being rewarded according to our behavior. Christ said He would give to each one of us according to our works.

This is in line with the idea that those who have done good will rise to live and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.

That we will be handed good or evil when the Lord returns, and not when we die, is clear from the following passages:

Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. (Revelation 22:12)

Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (II Timothy 4:8)

Our current emphasis on where we go when we die may be in need of modification. When we die we probably will go wherever there are people like ourselves. The problem is not where we go when we die, it is what we will be faced with in the Day of Resurrection. It is at that time that we either will be given immortality or will be condemned—not when we die, but when the Lord calls us forth from the grave.

Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice And come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:28,29)

Let us suppose the current unscriptural traditions were true. The Christian dies, he goes to his mansion in Heaven. There he reclines. We are not certain what he does there, whether he works, or plays, or just wanders about. The New Testament does not tell us.

However, we do know from the Scripture that when the Day of Resurrection comes he will be summoned to return to the earth to join his body. He will awaken to find himself alive once again on the earth.

"All who are in the graves shall hear His voice and come forth."

It is at this point that he will receive whatever he has earned by his behavior on the earth. We see from this that our concern should be focused on the Day of Resurrection, not on where we go when we die.

Paul brought judgment on a sinning Christian in Corinth in the hope in the Day of Resurrection the man’s spirit would be saved from destruction. Whether or not this implies he would gain immortality is hard to tell. In any case it would be salvation by fire. He probably would not be given a glorious crown of righteousness and life.

Hand this man over to Satan, so the sinful nature (probably his body, or flesh)  may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. (I Corinthians 5:5)

Today we would say that Paul was seeking to save the man from going to Hell when he died, but Paul was concerned about the man’s spirit on the Day of the Lord. This shows us our teaching needs to be brought more into line with the Scripture.

We notice that those who attain to the first resurrection do not experience judgment when they are raised to life. This is because they have been judged previously, and their sentence is to rise to meet Jesus when He returns and to then serve Him as kings and priests.

Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)

The inspired Word states that judgment follows the resurrection. How, then, do we account for the fact that those raised in the first resurrection do not experience judgment at that time but already are accounted as blessed and holy?

My explanation is as follows: When we are baptized in water we are to declare that we have died to the world and have been raised to walk in newness of life: that is, in the newness of the resurrection life of Christ.

I believe if we declare before the Lord that we indeed have died and indeed have been raised into newness of life with Christ, that God counts this as a true death and resurrection. It is just like being sprinkled with the blood of atonement. We have faith that this is so, even though nothing takes place that we can see in the material realm.

Because we have been crucified with Christ, have been resurrected with Christ, and have ascended with Christ to the right hand of God (all by faith), the work of eternal judgment can begin in our life. The Spirit of God leads us in putting to death our love of the world, the lusts and passions of our flesh and soul, and our self-love and self-will.

In other words, we are passing through the Judgment Seat of Christ right now.

Peter agrees with this when he states that God is judging the living and the dead. The fiery trials we experience are to save us from trust in the world, from lust, and from self-will and disobedience. I think this same fiery judgment is being exercised on those who have died and are in the spirit realm—those who, while living on the earth, had declared themselves to be dead to the world and risen with Christ. The Lord is judging the living and the dead—the dead as though they still were alive on the earth.

I believe to live the victorious life is to diligently put to death the deeds of our sinful nature, as the Holy Spirit leads us.

In this manner we prepare ourselves for the first resurrection from the dead.

When the Lord appears, He will bring with Him those who are asleep in Jesus. This means while their bodies are in the grave, they are in Christ and are being made ready to appear with the Lord when He returns. He is their life.

He will bring them with Him when He returns. They will descend into their bodies and then be called forth from the grave.

We believe Jesus died and rose again and so we believe God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. (I Thessalonians 4:14)

As for those of us who are alive on the earth when He returns, we will pass from mortality to immortality while standing on our feet.

They, and we, already have been judged. We all will now be immortal and will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air. We will be with Him forever.

We already had been dealt with concerning the sin in our personality. Our sentence and reward now is to return with Jesus and establish the Kingdom of God on the earth.

To attain to the first resurrection from the dead is a prize well worth pursuing. The Apostle Paul was setting aside all else that he might attain to the first resurrection, the resurrection which is out from among the remainder of mankind. This is the resurrection of the royal priesthood.

Everyone else will be called forth from their graves after the thousand-year Kingdom Age has taken place. At that time they will receive the good they have done and the evil they have done.

There are two more passages we need to consider:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, (Romans 8:11-13)

Now notice: "the wages of sin is death"; "you will die."

Both of these warnings are addressed to Christians.

We know numerous Christians sin frequently. Yet, they do not drop dead. Some sinful people, from among both the saved and unsaved populations, live to be quite old.

The meaning of the passages above is, rather, that if we continue to yield to our sinful nature we will prevent our resurrection to immortality in the body. This is demonstrated by the eleventh verse: "And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you."

The context of Romans 8:13 has to do with giving life to our mortal body.

Again, still in the context:

Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23)

In Romans 8:13 and 8:23, Paul is answering a question he presented previously:

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? (Romans 7:24)

Paul, a righteous Jew, was dismayed because of the compulsion to sin that was resident in his body. Paul was looking forward to the redemption of his body, that is, the redeeming of his body from the chains of physical death.

Paul is telling us that if we as a Christian choose to be the slave of sin our body will never be redeemed.

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:15,16)

There is no question but that the above passage is directed toward believers who have been baptized in water. Paul is telling them they are to count themselves dead and resurrected with the Lord Jesus Christ. Because of this, to continue in sin is unthinkable. In fact, to do so destroys their hope of immortality at the return of the Lord to the earth.

I think it is evident that God insists we choose to behave righteously and turn away from evil. The reward for doing so is to regain what was lost in the garden of Eden.

God has given us the gift of immortality. It is not a gift that is just handed to us but a gift that must be responded to diligently if we are to obtain the benefits it contains.

Who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, But it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (II Timothy 1:9,10)

Let us say someone gave us a field suitable for farming. If we are diligent and plow the field, sowing seed in it, being careful to irrigate and cultivate it, we soon will have a valuable crop. However, if we do not work hard to prepare the soil, plant it, fertilize it, remove the weeds when they appear, we will receive nothing of value from the gift of the field.

So it is with Christ. He is as a field. If we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him, He will show us what to do to prepare ourselves for the Day of Resurrection. We will have a fine harvest in that Day.

But if we neglect our salvation, do not deny ourselves, do not take up our cross, choosing instead to follow our own path in the world, in the Day of Resurrection we will have nothing to bring to the Lord to justify His trust in us.

God gives us talents. Our talents are all that we have received in life, including our spiritual and natural gifts, our family, our home, food, clothing, and all else. God wants us to apply all we have been given to building up His Kingdom.

If we do this, in the Day of Resurrection we will be entrusted with infinitely more wealth; infinitely more resources with which to serve the Lord.

But if we do not apply all we have been given to building up the Kingdom of God, then, in the Day of Resurrection, what we have been given will be taken from us and given to another who has been diligent in the things of God.

We ourselves will be placed in the outer darkness. There we may be able to see from a distance the light and glory surrounding the Lamb and His joyful families gathered around Him, the children playing happily in a wonderful setting of peace and joy.

But we ourselves will be confined in a cave in a land of darkness and gloom, there to wail in our misery with other believers who have neglected their salvation.

Instead of a glorious body like that of the Lord, our appearance will be repulsive, eliciting contempt from those who see us.

I know we have been taught such could never happen to someone who had at one time professed faith in Jesus Christ, to one of the Lord’s servants. But the Scripture maintains what I have written above. And I personally have seen a man who at one time was a buoyant Christian, active in the work of the Lord, who now is in a fearful, wretched condition because he realizes he has lost what was given him.

Let us not spend our days in the foolishness of the flesh, waiting to find out if what I have stated is actually true.

Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 25:28-30)