Foundations of the Faith
the elementary teachings in Hebrews 6
that prepare disciples in Yeshua to move on to maturity
The Resurrection of the Dead
The resurrection of the dead is not a simple subject, since there are several categories of death and resurrection. We must understand what kind of death(s) will be reversed in each kind of resurrection, and what the consequences will be if we do not share in them.
The resurrection of an individual's physical body is a miracle which Yeshua (and some of the prophets and apostles) performed on several occasions, such as with Lazarus. A person raised to life in this way may be brought to repentance, or he may continue in the same spiritual state as before, but either way his body will eventually die again. This sort of resurrection from the dead is therefore temporary and physical, and best serves as an illustration to help us understand spiritual death and resurrection.
The vast majority of people, including the Lord's most precious saints, will never experience this kind of resurrection. Missing it is of little consequence, for Messiah taught us not to fear physical death. "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul."
What Scripture calls "the first Resurrection" is the reward of the Lord's saints who overcome the evil one by following this command. "And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Yeshua and because of the word of G-d. They had not worshiped the Beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Messiah a thousand years.... This is the first Resurrection." These will be joined by others who had also laid down their physical lives deliberately for the Lord's sake. "Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection."
Unlike an individual's temporary resurrection, these will not be restored to their physical bodies; they will receive new and different bodies. "So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable...it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body." In these bodies which are immune to sickness, injury and death, the resurrected will reign with Messiah on the earth. Besides being imperishable, their bodies will also function like the body Yeshua received after His own resurrection: "And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly Man." The Lord's heavenly body does not belong to this creation, but is capable of appearing, disappearing and changing its appearance, like the bodies of angels. And as with angels, when the Lord was visible, He could choose to interact with the physical world in a way similar to when He was in His human body (eating and walking with His disciples), or He could choose to ignore physical laws (walking into the locked room where His disciples were).
In the context of the first Resurrection, Scripture also tells us about a "second death": "Blessed and holy are those who share in the first Resurrection. The second death has no power over them." Over whom, then, does this second death have power? "But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars - their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."
The second death is not a condition of being wiped out of existence, but rather an ongoing lifeless existence that causes suffering. "Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt." This state will be observable by those who were saved from the second death through submission to G-d: "All mankind will come to bow down before Me, says the LORD. And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against Me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind."
It is not cowardly to fear the second death; on the contrary, we should do whatever it takes to escape it. "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." Our Lord makes it clear that all will have to choose a lesser death (which may also lead to physical death) in order to avoid this greater death. "Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life." Physical life and death are nothing in comparison with their spiritual equivalents.
The Lord's thousand-year reign (the Millennium) will be followed by a second Resurrection, which will involve all who died and did not "share in the first Resurrection." Even though these souls are resurrected with bodies, they are still referred to as "the dead", and the purpose of their rising is to receive judgment for their deeds. "And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the Throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done."
The second Resurrection will result in either the second death or in eternal life, depending on whether or not they are written in the Book of Life. "The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire." We see that this search in the Book is made at the second Resurrection, whereas those from the first Resurrection were already declared beyond the reach of the second death.
The Lord warns us that being written in this Book is not a once-for-all-time event: a lack of faithfulness toward G-d in our actions will cause our name to be removed from it. "I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent.... He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the Book of Life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels."
In contrast to those future events, spiritual life, death and resurrection are conditions which already apply to us here and now. They overlap earthly life and death of the physical body, or the life and death of the soul, in different ways.
We who believe and were immersed into Yeshua are resurrected from spiritual death to spiritual life, while we are also physically alive: "…having been buried with Him in immersion, in which you were also raised with Him through your faith in the working of G-d, who raised Him from the dead." "And G-d raised us up with Messiah and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Messiah Yeshua."
It is also possible to be spiritually alive while physically dead. "He [Yeshua] was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. After being made alive, He went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits, to those who were disobedient long ago when G-d waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built." It is even possible to be spiritually resurrected while physically dead. "For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the Spirit according to the will of G-d."
There is a kind of ongoing death process in our earthly bodies and souls, which we must bear in order to live in the life of God. "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Yeshua, so that the life of Yeshua may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Yeshua's sake, so that His life may be revealed in our mortal body." This willingness to die is the price of passing on spiritual life to others: "So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. "
Just as we can be spiritually alive while physically dead or dying, Scripture gives examples of people who, although physically alive, are spiritually dead."Your corpses will fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me." "But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives." "I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead." Notice that the ultimate definition of "alive" or "dead" is based on the spiritual state, showing this to be the most important. The first group were the sons of Israel who lost their promised inheritance in the Land. The last group were the saints with "incomplete deeds", mentioned earlier, who were in danger of having their names erased from the Book of Life.
What kind of repentance keeps our names in His Book? Faith/faithfulness in the Word of God is what causes us to cross over from death into the life of God: "Very truly I tell you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be judged; he has crossed over from death to life."
However, our "believing" and "crossing over" are not confirmed except by our love. "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death." "Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love." "God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him."
Our love, in turn, is not confirmed except by sacrificial action that includes dying for one another. "This is how we know what love is: Yeshua the Messiah laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters." "Dear children, let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth."
If we are doing this faithfully, then the foundation of resurrection from death into life has been solidly laid in us.
Scripture references, in the order that they appear:
1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 49
Revelation 3:2-5 (NASB)
1 Peter 3:18-20
1 Peter 4:6
2 Corinthians 4:8-12
Numbers 14:29 (NASB)
1 Timothy 5:6
1 John 3:14
1 John 4:7-8, 16
1 John 3:16, 18
Back to the Spiritual Foundations index