The resurrection all started with Jesus Christ. Not only did He come to die for the sins of humanity, He also had the purpose of being the first to be raised from the dead so that we too would have the hope of obtaining new bodies to live in forever.
20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. – I Corinthians 15:20-24, NKJV
Notice in verses 23 and 24 that after Christ comes, then comes the end – the end of life as we know it and the beginning of Christ’s 1000-year long supreme rule on earth (Rev. 20:6). That is why He told a crowd of followers that “this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (see John 6:39,40). Martha already had that understanding as she spoke to Jesus another time about her brother Lazarus who had just passed away.
Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” – John 11:24,25, NKJV
The resurrection is what every believer hopes for. Because Jesus rose from the dead, Christians and Old Testament saints also will one day be raised from the dead. That is what this article is about…everything the Bible teaches concerning our future end-days resurrection just before the millennial reign of Jesus Christ.
One thing to think about first is this. The resurrection pertains to the eternal restoration of our bodies that have entered the decay of the grave. The death of our bodies is many times symbolized by the word sleep. However, the souls of believers who have died already enjoy eternal life (Luke 16:19-31; II Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23). But one day, every believer will be given new bodies in the resurrection when Christ returns.
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. – Philippians 3:20,21, NKJV
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. – I John 3:2, NKJV
Imagine having the kind of body that Jesus had when He rose from the grave. It is our promise. When Christ returns, whether we are alive or dead, our bodies will be transformed–changed for all eternity. Job even looked forward to this centuries before God sent Jesus on His mission to earth.
If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, till my change comes. You shall call, and I will answer You. – Job 14:14,15a, NKJV
Job was speaking of the last day of normal human history when Christ returns to earth at the seventh trumpet and calls forth the dead from the graves to join Him as He ushers in the new millennium.
Do not be amazed at this, because a time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come out—those who have done good things, to the resurrection of life. – John 5:28,29a, NKJV
49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. 50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. – I Corinthians 15:49-53, NKJV
The second coming of Christ occurs on the last day at the last trumpet. Then we will hear His voice. Then every believer from every age of time (including Job)–as well as every Christian still alive at the time–will be changed.
Those who are still alive when they are resurrected is commonly known as the rapture. It is not a term used in the Bible, but it simply means that those alive will be gathered or caught up with Christ when He comes at the last day. Many believers have been innocently led to believe that this rapture occurs before the tribulation of the end days, but I don’t believe that is correct if the resurrection occurs on the last day of human history.
13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. – I Thessalonians 4:13-17, NKJV
Paul was speaking to the believers of Thessalonica about the last day when Christ returns to resurrect the dead (John 6:39,40,44,54). He was encouraging them concerning their loved ones who have passed away, saying that they will rise again when Jesus comes in the clouds with His angels at the last trumpet. He also told them that immediately after the dead are raised, living believers will then also be caught up (referring to the rapture) to meet Jesus as He descends to the Mount of Olives to begin His earthly reign (Zech. 14:1-9; Acts 1:4-12).
Jesus also told His disciples that He won’t return again until the end of the tribulation.
29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. – Matthew 24:29-31, NKJV
So, everyone, dead and living believers alike, will be resurrected and changed after the tribulation on the last day. Daniel also saw a vision of this end days scenario.
At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. – Daniel 12:1,2, NKJV
Daniel was being shown a vision about the future period of tribulation that Jesus was referring to, “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation.” But then “those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake.” He was referring to the resurrection at the last day. Jesus had also described the great tribulation in practically the same way as Daniel, just a few verses before speaking of His return afterward. “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (Matthew 24:21)
Summing it all up, believers have a great day to look forward to. We will be resurrected (or raptured/caught away if still alive) on the last day, after a final time of tribulation (including Christian persecution). Our corrupt bodies will be changed and we will receive glorified bodies when Jesus Christ comes back to earth. Then begins Christ’s 1000 year reign upon earth.
4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. – Revelation 20:4-6, NKJV
I want to be a part of that first resurrection. How about you?
In the next few articles, I will go into more detail regarding the millennial reign of Jesus Christ.