"I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die."—John 11:26.
These were Jesus' words of consolation to Martha. They state briefly man's future hopes in, and because of, the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Let us analyze the statement, and, if possible, gain its full import.
The first statement—"He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live," teaches that only believers shall be resurrected—made to "LIVE." This may appear out of harmony with other statements of our Lord to the effect that ALL in their graves shall "come forth," until we recognize the full force of the words RESURRECTION and LIVE. We have therefore shown that the word resurrect signifies to lift or raise up again to perfection, and that since man's fall was from perfection as represented in Adam, his resurrection would imply a bringing to perfection again. But many Scriptures indicate that while the gospel church will be lifted to the perfection of the new nature in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, the world will be resurrected or brought to perfection of their human nature gradually—the Millennial age being the times of resurrection or restitution.
By recognizing a similar fulness of meaning in the word "LIVE," we shall find that in the scripture under consideration we have the statement clear and easily understood, in harmony with all scriptures.
To LIVE means a great deal, in its full import. Adam and Eve lived, i.e., had life in perfect measure, before sin entered. When death entered, and the dying commenced, it was a process of ceasing to live. So death, the opposite of life, passed upon all men. From the standpoint of God's sentence all are dead (2 Cor. 5:14; Matt. 8:22). So then, though it is true that all in their graves shall "come forth," they will come forth with a small measure of life, such as men now have. [The most hale of the race to-day enjoy but a fragment of perfect life.] They will still be measurably in death. In this condition all shall come to knowledge, and whosoever believeth in the Ransomer, though dead, "yet shall he LIVE." Belief in the ransom will be necessary to the full acquirement of the favor purchased—LIFE.
In perfect accord with this view (and no other) is that peculiar statement of John 5:25: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall LIVE." [Sinaitic MS. omits "and now is."] According to the general conception this should read, they that live shall hear, but this would not have been true and in harmony with the plan; hence the peculiar and guarded expression used, which is only appreciable as we come to see more deeply into God's plans for that coming age. All are dead—under death's dominion; death has passed upon all. The Redeemer has come, the ransom has been paid, and in due time all the dead shall hear [be brought to a clear conception of it], and they that hear [receive or grasp it] shall [in due time] LIVE, reach perfection of life—perfection of being.
A few who were of the dead class have heard, more or less distinctly, in this age, of the ransom price given for our release. Those who have heard and accepted the glad message of pardon through Christ are told that by faith they may reckon themselves as being already alive—as having "passed from death unto life," although they are actually still imperfect and dying beings and will not be actually perfected and fully alive until our resurrection.
All thus by faith reckoned alive from Adamic death during the period of the gospel high-calling are privileged also to HEAR of a prize or high-calling offered during the Gospel age to believing sacrificers; and thus these have "access into THIS GRACE, wherein we stand and rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Rom. 5:2)—in hope of sharing the divine nature and kingdom power with our Lord [R1232 : page 5] and Redeemer, Jesus.
But the due time, in which the great mass of the dead shall hear, will be when the "little flock" has attained the promised glory, and as members of the great Prophet shall teach and bless the people, bringing them out of their graves and opening sin-blooded eyes and prejudice-stopped ears, as it is written.—Isa. 35:5.
While the first resurrection, the resurrection of the "little flock," will be an instantaneous perfecting in life at the beginning of the Millennial Age, the resurrection of the world in general will be a slow process. All will be believers then, for knowledge will be so clear and complete that none could be in ignorance, and such as become obedient may progress upon the highway of holiness to perfection at its end. (See M. Dawn, Vol. I., page 211.) The end of this way and the perfection of LIFE will be attained by all the obedient, by the end of the Millennium.
In the light of the previous statement, this one becomes very clear and simple. It is God's assurance that any who reach the condition of LIFE may retain it forever, if they shall forever continue to be believers. It is the promise of everlasting Life. He who becomes alive, actually, perfectly, by resurrection work completed, if he continues a believer in and a follower of Jesus shall never die—to all eternity.