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Romans Under New Light
Resurrection of the Just and
The first verse in the Bible that speaks of the resurrection is in Isaiah 26. Isaiah yearns for the coming of the Lord. This happens at the time of the resurrection. When the Lord comes and judges (rules over) the world, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. So Isaiah is talking about the Messianic reign of Christ. But in the meantime, evil rulers have ruled over Israel. There are several more important points to learn from this passage.
Isaiah 26:9-14 ESV My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. (10) If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly and does not see the majesty of the LORD. (11) O LORD, your hand is lifted up, but they do not see it. Let them see your zeal for your people, and be ashamed. Let the fire for your adversaries consume them. (12) O LORD, you will ordain peace for us, for you have indeed done for us all our works. (13) O LORD our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone we bring to remembrance. (14) They are dead, they will not live ; they are shades, they will not arise; to that end you have visited them with destruction and wiped out all remembrance of them.
According to these verses in Isaiah, not everyone is resurrected. Evil people are not resurrected. But who exactly are the evil? The evil are those who know about God but ignore God. God's hand is lifted up, but they choose to not see it. They are God's adversaries, which means they are specifically enemies of God. Some of them have ruled over Israel and were against the God of Israel. These evil men will not be resurrected. "They are dead, they will not live; they are shades, they will not arise" (verse 14.) God has "wiped out all remembrance of them." The evil are not to be resurrected. But the strong implication here is that most people will be resurrected.
Isaiah 26:15-16 ESV But you have increased the nation, O LORD, you have increased the nation; you are glorified; you have enlarged all the borders of the land. (16) O LORD, in distress they sought you; they poured out a whispered prayer when your discipline was upon them.
God has taken care of Israel even during the hard times when ruled over by evil rulers. God has expanded their borders. But God disciplines those he loves.
Isaiah 26:17-18 ESV Like a pregnant woman who writhes and cries out in her pangs when she is near to giving birth , so were we because of you, O LORD; (18) we were pregnant, we writhed, but we have given birth to wind . We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth, and the inhabitants of the world have not fallen.
Take careful note about the symbolism of the woman in labor. The actual birth is the resurrection. This symbol is used throughout Scripture in reference to the resurrection (Isaiah 26:17, 66:6-16, Hosea 13:12-14, Matthew 24:8, Mark 13:8, John 3:3-10, 1 Thessalonians 5:3, Revelation 12:1-5). But if one is not familiar with these first verses about the resurrection, this important symbol can be misinterpreted. For example, in John 3, to be "born again" refers to the resurrection. Israel is the woman in labor. In Old Testament times, Israel tried to bring righteousness to the world. But the dead remained dead. Israel only gave birth to wind. (This is Isaiah's poetry.) And Israel has not brought righteousness into the world.
Isaiah 26:19 ESV Your dead shall live ; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.
But God will provide a way. The dead will rise and the Messiah will reign over the nations. The world will learn righteousness under the reign of the Messiah. But the Bride of the Messiah, which is Israel, must first become righteous. Gentile believers are grafted into Israel, which is the Bride of the Messiah.
Isaiah 26:20-21 ESV Come, my people , enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by. (21) For behold, the LORD is coming out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no more cover its slain.
After the resurrection is the wrath of God, poured out on the world. When God returns, the dead are raised. Then the wrath of God is poured out on the world after the resurrection. Obviously God will not pour out his wrath on those he has raised from the dead.
There are several other references to the resurrection in the Old Testament. But the next major verse about the resurrection is in Daniel 12. The climax of this long vision in Daniel 10-12 is the resurrection. The entire vision is an historic roadmap to the resurrection and the events of the age to come after the resurrection.
Daniel 12:1-3 ESV "At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. (2) And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (3) And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
The resurrection verse of Isaiah 26:19-21 refers to the dead, about to be resurrected, as "you who dwell in the dust." Likewise, this verse in Daniel 12:1-3 refers to the dead, about to be resurrected, as "those who sleep in the dust of the earth."
Both of these two major verses in the Old Testament about the resurrection say the dead are raised from the dust of the earth. Yet somehow Christians believe this changed in New Testament times. Most Christians today believe the dead are either in heaven or hell. Most Christians today believe that everyone, whether in heaven or hell, will be resurrected. Of course for those in hell, they get a new resurrected body in order to be judged. For some reason, those in hell are already judged from the standpoint that they go to hell, and not heaven. But apparently they must be resurrected for the very short amount of time that it takes to get judged again, even though they have already been judged because they are already in hell.
Of course it's just as confusing as to why those in heaven need to be resurrected. Apparently they are rejoicing in heaven but do not as yet have a body. Why doesn't God just go ahead and give them a body? Of course none of this confusion existed back in the Old Testament. People were simply dead in the dust of the earth. Their only hope of life after death was the resurrection itself.
Martha believed that she would see Lazarus "in the resurrection on the last day" (John 11:24). Martha had hope in the resurrection because that's what the Old Testament teaches. She didn't expect to see Lazarus in heaven before the resurrection. And apparently Christ taught the same. Christ told Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die" (John 11:25-16). Isn't it rather anticlimactic for Christ to be the "resurrection and the life" if the righteous are already in heaven before the resurrection?
The Old Testament clearly teaches the dead will be raised from the dust of the earth. But did the Old Testament prophets get it wrong? Will they really be raised from heaven and hell? If the traditional Christian view of heaven-or-hell when you die is correct, then the dead are not raised from the dust of the earth. They are raised from heaven and hell. But of course if these Old Testament prophets were really God's prophets, then they must have been correct. The dead really are still asleep in the dust of the earth. They will sleep until the time of the resurrection.
At this point, many will think of several points in the New Testament that are used to argue the dead are not asleep and all of them are either in heaven or hell. What about the thief on the cross? What about the souls under the altar? What about the souls coming out of hades in Christ’s train? What about the parable of Lazarus? There are a number of other arguments as well. These issues are outside the scope of this small book. But these issues are addressed in chapter 2 of my book titled, New Wine for the End Times. This is a much larger book and has a lot more details about the New Wine System of hermeneutics.
Then there is the point that Isaiah seemed to say not everyone will be resurrected. Remember Isaiah 26:14 spoke of evil rulers and said, "They are dead, they will not live; they are shades, they will not arise." The verse in Daniel seems to agree. Daniel 12:2 says, "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake." Notice it does not say everyone will be resurrected. Many, but not all, are resurrected. The new point being revealed to Daniel is that within the many who are resurrected there are two different groups. Some are resurrected to everlasting life. Others to shame and everlasting contempt. And of course some are not resurrected.
There is another interesting point that should not be overlooked. The verse says, "But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book." In other words, not everyone is resurrected. But those who are resurrected are those whose names are in the Book of Life. And of those in the Book of Life, there are two groups.
Of course some will say this sentence is referring to those who are delivered from the "time of trouble." But does being in the Book of Life really keep us from this "time of trouble?" Dispensationalists might argue it's talking about the pre-tribulation rapture. But that doesn't work either. We know there will be believers during the great tribulation. Dispensationalists call them the "tribulation saints." If their names are written in the Book of Life, then why aren't they delivered along with the rest of the Church? The only explanation that works is to say that those in the Book of Life are resurrected. Those not in the Book of Life are not resurrected. And those resurrected are in two groups. Both groups are in the Book of Life.
All this may sound a bit confusing because there is a strong tendency to force one's New Testament beliefs back onto the Old Testament. This is called "reinterpreting the Old Testament in the light of the New Testament." But it's very doubtful that Old Testament authors would have agreed with these interpretations. In the Old Testament, both the righteous and the wicked went to "Sheol." This is translated as "hell" in the King James Version. But it simply means "grave." It was the place for all the dead, for both righteous and unrighteous. In the Old Testament, the only hope of life after death is the resurrection.
A better approach is to interpret the New Testament in the context of the Old Testament. In other words, if one has grown up with the Old Testament as being one's Bible, then how would one interpret the New Testament? This method of interpretation is called "progressive revelation." When reading any passage of Scripture, we must purposefully forget what was written later. Later comes new revelation. But it will not alter what was believed by the older prophets. And those prophets wrote in a way that explained what they understood to the audience of their day. So we must interpret older Scripture strictly in the way that the audience of that time would have understood. Then later Scripture should only add more details to what as previously written. That's why it's called "progressive revelation."
But, one will argue, what about what the New Testament teaches? Doesn't it say those who don’t know Christ will be raised to a resurrection of damnation (KJV)? Actually, in the Greek, John 5:28-29 says they are raised to a resurrection of judgment. This has been traditionally translated as a resurrection of condemnation or as a resurrection of damnation. Let's go back and take a closer look at John 5. But this time let's interpret it more along the lines of progressive revelation. In other words, let's interpret it from the framework of Isaiah 26 and Daniel 12:1-3, where most but not all are resurrected. And those who are resurrected are in two groups.
Acts 24:15 ESV having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.
In the above verse, those who complete their journey of sanctification would be the just. Those who do not, would be the unjust. There are two types of resurrections.
In the following passage, remember that Jesus is speaking to those who do not hear his voice. He is speaking to the wicked Pharisees and teachers of the law. They do not hear his voice. Christ’s sheep hear his voice. Even Christ’s lost sheep hear his voice. But most of the Pharisees and teachers of the law did not hear Christ's voice. This is important to remember.
John 5:21-23 ESV For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will . (22) The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, (23) that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.
The wicked are those to whom Jesus is speaking. They do not honor the Son. They do not hear his voice. So they will not be raised from the dead. This is clear to see when interpreted in the Old Testament context of Isaiah 26.
John 5:24 ESV Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life . He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
Those who hear and believe will not be under judgment after the resurrection. They will have eternal life. The point here is that they hear and believe. The foolish lost sheep hear, but do not believe. Or they believe intellectually. But they do not really believe to do Christ's commands, which leads to the overcoming of sin. Since the foolish lost sheep hear Christ’s voice, they will be resurrected. But they still have sinful habits. So they will still be under judgment.
John 5:25 ESV "Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
Notice that not everyone will live. Only those who hear will live. Only those who hear Christ’s voice will be resurrected. The Pharisees do not hear Christ’s voice. They did not hear the Logos or Word (John 1:1-2), when the Word became flesh. But even the lost sheep hear Christ's voice. Those who are still his are his sheep. They are in his book. They have not been blotted from the Book of Life. These sheep belong to Christ even if they are still lost.
John 5:26-27 ESV For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. (27) And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.
The Son was also resurrected. It is only because the Son was resurrected that we can be resurrected. We belong to Christ if we hear his voice. His sheep hear his voice.
John 5:28-29 ESV Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice (29) and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
Both of these resurrections happen in the same “hour”. It’s not two different hours. And it’s not an hour that has been stretched into a thousand years. Both of these resurrections are at the start of the age to come, which is Christ's millennial reign. The “hour” can mean “time”, which can be over the course of several years. Or it can mean the start of a time when resurrections happen. But it can’t mean two resurrections separated by a thousand years, which is more like an age.
We have already seen that only those who hear his voice will be resurrected. Verse 25 speaks of this same "hour" and says, “Those who hear will live.” Only those who hear his voice will be resurrected. But verse 28 says that, “all who are in the tombs will hear his voice.” The word “tombs” cannot be literal. Only the rich could afford tombs. Jesus is not saying that only the rich will be resurrected. I believe “tombs” is a metaphor for those who await the resurrection. They are buried in tombs because of the belief in the resurrection. But as Jesus said, the “meek will inherit the earth.” The “tombs” must be a metaphor for those who await the resurrection because they hear Christ’s voice.
There are two types of resurrections here. “Those who have done good” are those who have completed their journey of sanctification. They no longer have sinful habits. They hear and believe to overcome sin. For them it's a resurrection of life. They are no longer under judgment (verse 25).
Those who hear Christ’s voice but continue to sin are also resurrected. They have not as yet overcome all their sinful habits. So, it’s a resurrection of judgment. After the resurrection, the wise will no longer be under judgment. The foolish, however, will still be under judgment. That means they will not as yet have eternal life. They could die the second death during the age to come. Or, they could mature and later inherit eternal life. So they are still under judgment. It’s a resurrection of judgment, not a resurrection of damnation. (The Greek word used here is the word for “judgment.”)
Is this how the Jewish audience of that time would have interpreted these words of Jesus? Their presupposition, based on Isaiah 26, was that most, but not all, will be resurrected. If most, but not all, are resurrected, then we have three types of people. The wise are resurrected to a resurrection of life and are no longer under judgment. The foolish are resurrected to a resurrection that is still under judgment. The wicked will not be resurrected. But they will “come to life” at the end of the thousand years for judgment and to be thrown into the lake of fire. Remember that Jesus was addressing the Pharisees and teachers of the law. These are the wicked to whom Jesus was warning. They did not hear Christ’s voice. They were in danger of being blotted from the Book of Life, so that they will not be resurrected.
What does it mean to be resurrected? It means you are being brought back to life. It means you are given the opportunity to live again. The grave is defeated. Condemnation or damnation is death. It's not resurrection. The idea of a resurrection of damnation is an oxymoron.
Acts 24:15 ESV having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.
At this point, amillennialists will object by disagreeing with the clear and literal interpretation of the Old Testament. They generally reinterpret the Old Testament to make it fit their presuppositions of what the New Testament says. In the second century, much of the Church began to distance themselves from the Old Testament. There was even a movement to exclude the Old Testament from the canon. It was considered too “Jewish” and too barbaric.
The Old Testament was not excluded from the canon. But over the centuries, amillennialism was predominate for all Christians, both Catholics and Protestants. Amillennialism says that when Christ returns, the final judgment for all people takes place at that time. There is no millennial reign. So everyone's destiny is determined at the time of death.
When dispensationalism came along, the amillennial way of reading the New Testament remained firmly in place. The Church still went to heaven in the rapture when Christ returns. For the Church, there is no earthly reign. The more literal interpretation of Revelation 20 was allowed for by saying it is in fulfillment of God's promise to the Jews. The Old Testament could be interpreted literally because future Bible prophecy was assumed to be talking only about Israel. And the Church was excluded from Israel. With regard to the Church, dispensationalism is really the same as amillennialism. But Paul seems to say we are grafted into Israel.
The amillennialists will object to this interpretation of John 5 by reinterpreting the Old Testament. And yet they will admit that the Jews, the very audience of Christ, would not have interpreted the Old Testament like they interpreted it. The dispensationalist will object by saying the hour is a thousand years, and pointing to Revelation 20. But did the audience of Jesus have Revelation 20? Would they have understood this hour to be a thousand years? The only thing they had as a frame of reference was the Old Testament passages about the resurrection.
Isaiah 26 and Daniel 12:1-3 is about all the Jews had at the time of Christ. We must interpret these words of Jesus in the context of those Old Testament passages, and not in the context of Revelation 20. This is what is required if we are to be true to the hermeneutic of progressive revelation.
The question is, how well does our system harmonize with Scripture? Do we have Scriptural difficulties such as election vs. free will? How about grace vs. works? Does salvation require fruits of the Spirit, as in Lordship Salvation? Or do the dispensationalists have it right when they argue free grace salvation? Does God have a plan that includes those who die having never heard about Christ? Is salvation a one-time decision or a journey? If it's a journey, then what about purgatory?
Do children who die young go to hell? If not, then what about the children of Pagans? Is amillennialism correct? Or is it premillennialism? What is the purpose of the millennial reign? What is the purpose of Old Testament prophecy? If everyone's eternal destiny is decided at death, then why not just let eternity begin when Christ returns? Why does the New Testament have so many verses that we must spend hours in explanations in order to try and make these verses fit our system? Why did Jesus and Paul seem to disagree on so much, when we know they didn't?
The application of Old Testament Jewish eschatology to the New Testament Church solves these seven major problems of Scripture, which have divided the Church over the centuries. The New Wine System literally interprets Scripture along the same lines as the Jewish eschatology system of that day.
The Jewish New Testament authors applied Old Testament prophecies about Israel to the New Testament Church. If we do the same, then seven major problems of Scripture are solved. In addition, many verses of other topics that have been hard to understand start fitting the system and become easily understood. For more information, refer to my book, New Wine for the End Times.
Now that we have looked at Isaiah 26:9-21, Daniel 12:1-3, John 5:21-29, and Acts 24:15, we can look at Revelation 20. Revelation 20 is to be read literally. But even then, it's not easily read. We don't want take hard-to-interpret apocalyptic language, written years later, and force our interpretation of that language back onto simpler text written years earlier. I'll do this by going through a few verses of Revelation 20 in order. First, I will establish the context. Then I will follow John's flow of thought.
The context of Revelation 20 is right after Armageddon (from chapter 19.) The broader context is that of the great tribulation. John sees the souls of the elect, who will rule with Christ over the nations.
Revelation 20:4a ESV Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed.
Then, the focus of what John sees narrows. The focus becomes people who have died during the great tribulation. More specifically, John sees those who have been beheaded for refusing to take the mark of the beast.
Revelation 20:4b ESV Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands.
They all come to life in order to reign with Christ. But the focus is still on those who refuse to take the mark.
Revelation 20:4c ESV They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
The "rest of the dead" do not as yet come to life. Who are they? It depends upon the group in focus. Yes, John had noted that many will reign with Christ. But his focus has been narrowed to those who refused to take the mark of the beast. John has focused on those who die in the tribulation. Therefore, the "rest" are those who took the mark. They are now dead because of Armageddon and God’s wrath after the resurrection. Taking the mark of the beast is an unpardonable sin. It's the rejection of Christ. The wicked are not resurrected. They must sleep until the thousand years are completed.
Revelation 20:5a ESV The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.
John is still talking about these souls coming to life. He has noted that those who took the mark have not, as yet, come to life. Now, John tells us this resurrection is the first resurrection. We already know there are two resurrections in the general resurrection. The first resurrection, from John 5:28-29, is those who have done good. They hear Christ's voice and believe. The second resurrection is those who still have sinful habits. They hear Christ's voice. But they still do evil.
So John is telling us that the coming to life that he sees is in fact the first of these two resurrections in the general resurrection. John waits and tells us this after he has told us about the "rest of the dead" to make it clear that the context of the souls he sees has not changed. He then associates this first coming to life with the first resurrection.
When these two sentences of this verse are read with traditional premillennial views, the two sentences seem to be out of order. The reading becomes awkward. John is not saying that the "rest of the dead" come to life in the second resurrection. But when it's understood that the first and the second resurrection are both part of the general resurrection, then these two sentences read more naturally.
Revelation 20:5b ESV This is the first resurrection.
John is still talking about the first resurrection. They are no longer under judgment. They cannot die. But those who are raised in the second resurrection are still under judgment. They can die the second death.
Revelation 20:6 ESV Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
The "rest of the dead" are those who take the mark of the beast during the great tribulation. The mark of the beast is an unpardonable sin. It's rejecting Christ. We can generalize from this and say the "rest of the dead" are representative of anyone who rejects Christ. They will die the second death. When you die the second death, you are no longer covered by the blood of Christ.
The millennial reign of Christ is all about bringing righteousness and salvation to the world. Anyone and everyone, from all generations, will have the opportunity to put their faith in Jesus Christ for the overcoming of sin. For the nations, this happens after the general resurrection for which Christ was the ransom. Christian perfection prior to the resurrection is required for inheriting the kingdom.
We need to go back to the basics of salvation and faith in Christ to completely overcome sin. Without holiness, no one will see the Lord. And then, when people argue that very few will make it, remember that doesn’t mean they will die and go to hell if they are not perfect when they die. But we must become perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect in order to inherit the kingdom. Without the millennial reign, the argument that very few will become perfect wins out. And people start convincing themselves that they are really on the path of the narrow gate when they are not.
Overcome Sin, for the