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Eye and Ear of Faith Must be Trained in Order to Appreciate Spiritual Things with Distinctness—"As All in Adam Die, Even so all in Christ Shall be Made Alive"—The After Resurrection to Life—Anastasis—Re-standing or Resurrection—Not a Judgment, or Trial, for Past Sins, But Another Trial for Life—"Accounted Worthy to Attain Resurrection"—Punishment for Sins of This Life—"Some Men's Sins go Before to Judgment"—"Thus is the [Chief] Resurrection of the [Special] Dead"—"It Doth not yet Appear What We Shall be"—"We Shall be Like Him."
ONLY in proportion as the eye of faith and the ear of faith are trained through the divine Word, are the New Creatures enabled to appreciate with any distinctness the grandeur and glories of their future inheritance. They cannot even begin to appreciate these as natural men, nor can they do so until a full consecration has been made, and the holy Spirit has been received as an earnest of the future. Up to that time their knowledge of the future, even after they have come into fellowship with God by faith and justification, is represented in the Levites, who, though acceptable worshipers and servants of the Tabernacle, were not permitted to enter into it and offer incense at its golden altar, nor even to behold its grandeur. Whatever knowledge the Levites might have of the glories of the "Holy," its candlestick and the light therefrom, its table of shewbread, its golden altar and incense, was what he learned of these from the consecrated priests, who alone had access to it.
Addressing these Royal Priests of the New Creation the Apostle shows that, even with their fullest attainment of grace and knowledge and faith and spiritual sight, they will not in the present life be able to comprehend with clearness the things of the future, but must still accept them by faith. [F694] His words are, "It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2) This is satisfactory to the Lord's people, for though they might without impropriety be curious to know full particulars respecting their spiritual bodies, shape, size, elements, etc., they can well imagine that the new conditions will be so different from present conditions as to be beyond the power of human brain to comprehend, no matter how particular the description given. But the whole question is settled with the assurance that the Church shall be like her Lord, and see him—not as he was in the days of his humiliation, the man Christ Jesus, nor as he appeared to the disciples after his resurrection, robed in flesh in various forms, with various garments—but see him "as he is," behold his glory, and be like him, sharing his glory. This is sufficient.
However, we are glad that the Lord did lift the veil to some slight extent, permitting us a brief glance at the new conditions of our future inheritance in the description of the First Resurrection, as given us by the Apostle Paul. (1 Cor. 15:41-44) The entire chapter is deeply interesting to every member of the New Creation—not only the verses which relate to the First Resurrection, by which the Church, the little flock, the Royal Priesthood, will be perfected and enter into the joys of the Lord, but also by reason of its suggestions respecting the world's future hope. Indeed, although the Apostle addressed his epistle to the saints and not to others, nevertheless to have described the First Resurrection only might have justified some in supposing that no blessing worthy of mention remains for the world of mankind, or it might have justified others in the thought that the resurrection of the world would be similar and merely later on. The mention of the two resurrections is specially helpful, therefore, as corroborating the Scriptural testimony that God has a special portion reserved in heaven for the Church—a spiritual portion—and that he has an earthly portion which will in due time be revealed, and [F695] proffered to the world in general. Because of this relationship between the First Resurrection of the blessed and holy, the Church (Rev. 20:6), and the subsequent resurrection of all men who will eventually accept God's favor, it will be advisable for us to take this subject just as the Apostle presents it, and consider both resurrections.
"As All in Adam Die, Even so All in Christ
Shall Be Made Alive"
—1 Cor. 15:22—
This declaration is set forth as the conclusion of the Apostle's argument preceding it. He disputes with some disposed to deny the resurrection of the dead, which he affirms. He points out that their contention is irrational, because if the dead cannot rise, then is not Christ risen from the dead; and if Christ be not risen from the dead we have no Savior, no Advocate, no helper, and the case of both the Church and the world is hopeless. The penalty for sin being death, it was necessary that Christ should die for our sins, according to the Scriptures; but if he never arose from the dead, our case is as hopeless as though he had never undertaken our redemption, because, even if mankind were freed from the curse of Adam's transgression, freed from the death sentence, it still would be in a hopeless condition, needing restoration; and in order to obtain that, it would need the Great Physician, the great Restorer.
After laying the strongest imaginable emphasis upon the necessity of Christ's resurrection, as well as upon death, saying, "If Christ be not risen your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished"—the Apostle proceeds to deal with the subject as proven, as settled beyond all controversy, saying, "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept."
Having thus demonstrated his subject, and established the faith of his readers in the general truth that a resurrection is not only possible, but necessary, and that the proof of [F696] this lies in the fact that our Lord did not merely pretend to be dead, but really "died for our sins," and as really arose from the dead, he points out that it is on this basis of faith that we are privileged to think of our race as dead in Adam—not as extinct, not as really dead, but as sleeping. We are privileged to hope for them, according to the Lord's promise, that in the morning—the resurrection morning—they will all be awakened from their slumbers, and come forth to more favorable conditions than those of the present time—to a condition in which sin and death will not reign; to a condition in which Satan will not have the power of death, but will be bound; and in which the Redeemer will have full power, and will exercise that power to the releasing of the prisoners from the great prison-house of death. This uplifting will be for such of them as, under those favorable conditions, shall hear (obey) his voice, and walk in the highway of holiness, up, up, up, out of the valley of the shadow of death to the full perfection of life and peace and blessing originally provided for them by their Creator, but which they lost through father Adam's disobedience, and are to regain through the merit of the second Adam and by obedience to him. This leads the Apostle up to the proposition (verse 21) that it is God's plan that "since by man came death, by man should also come the resurrection of the dead." There is no mistaking the Apostle's meaning, that the first man through whom came death was Adam, and that the second man by whom comes the resurrection is "the man Christ Jesus," who declared in the days of his flesh, "My flesh I will give for the life of the world." And again, speaking of the intended results of this sacrifice, he said, "I am the resurrection and the life." John 6:51; 11:25
The declaration of our common version Bible, that "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive," is manifestly a mistranslation. Standing in that form it is in conflict with other scriptures, which distinctly limit the number of those who shall be made alive through Christ. The mistranslation favors the doctrine of universal salvation, [F697] in that it seems to imply that God's favor and blessing through Christ will not in any sense of the word take into consideration the characters of those to whom life shall be given. Other scriptures, however, make very clear that not all shall "enter into life," but only those who "do the will of the Father which is in heaven." A plain statement on the subject is found in the Lord's words, "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." 1 John 5:12
Many, in reading this text, fail to give proper force to the words, "Be made alive." They think of the passage as signifying merely an awakening from the sleep of death; but its meaning is much more comprehensive and more precious than this. The death that came through Adam was not merely the loss of the little fragment of life which the world possesses today; but the loss of life in its completest sense and fullest measure, in which Adam possessed it as the representative of the entire human family. As "die" meant the loss of all life, and Adam's dying began at once after his sentence, so to be "made alive" would mean not merely a start back toward perfect life and out of death, but would properly be understood to mean restoration to full perfection of life such as Adam had before sin—to be made alive in the sense of being lifted up out of death. It is proper that this full meaning of the word "life" should be apprehended in considering this text, and we should remember that from the Lord's standpoint the entire race of Adam is dead; not merely those who have gone into the tomb, but those also who are on their way thither. Our Lord's estimate of life and death is illustrated by his words, "Let the dead bury their dead; go thou and preach the Gospel." (Matt. 8:22) Here unbelievers are referred to as still dead, because of having no union with the Life-giver; while the believers are equally referred to as alive, though they are saved from death as yet only by hope, and cannot experience the actual delivery from the power of death until the resurrection. 2 Cor. 1:10; Rom. 8:24
We translate this text properly when we render it: "As all in Adam die, even so all in Christ shall be made alive." Only those vitally connected with Adam died because of his sin. Satan, although the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning, did not die on account of Adam's sin, because he was not in Adam when the latter was condemned to death; likewise the angels which kept not their first estate shared not in Adamic death, because they were not in Adam. The Apostle's point is that Adam was the father, or life-giver, of a race, and that by disobedience he, and the race which was in his loins as well, inherited death conditions which hurry them to the tomb more or less rapidly. Now, then, as all who were in Adam shared his sentence and condemnation, even so all in Christ will share divine favor through him.
Adam's race was in him actually and legally, without any choice or volition—in him by nature. Those in Christ come into him by grace—individually and on conditions. Under the divine arrangement the redemption of Adam from condemnation of death will ultimately affect all of his race, to the extent of releasing them from the sentence of death, and to the further extent of furnishing them the light, the knowledge and the opportunity of coming into Christ; but it will be only those who will avail themselves of this privilege, and come into Christ, that will be made alive, in the full, proper sense of that word—lifted up out of death completely. Adam's wife was of him and represented by him, as well as were his children in his loins: and so it is with Christ. His bride, or Church, is first developed and gets life of his life; and later on the world, awakened from the "sleep" of death and brought to a knowledge of the Truth during the Millennium, will be privileged to come into him, as their "father" by consecration (Isa. 9:6); and if they abide in this relationship it will mean their development to full restitution of human perfection—to all that was lost in the first Adam. Thus all in Christ will be brought to perfection of [F699] life—"made alive" in the absolute and complete sense. They were in the first life-giver by nature, and failed through his failure. They will shortly be granted the opportunity of coming into relationship with the second Adam, or life-giver, and if as proper children they will obey his voice they shall live—be made alive.
This interpretation, and no other, fits the text to the context. The Apostle progresses with the argument: After saying, "Even so all in Christ shall be made alive," he adds, "But every man in his own order." He mentions as the first order, the Church, the Bride, the body of Christ, "the Christ," "the first-fruits," the First Resurrection. (Phil. 3:10) These come into relationship with Christ during this Gospel age under its "high calling," and constitute Christ's "peculiar treasure," and are to be granted life on a special plane with the added glory, honor and immortality here seen, and later to be more fully shown.
"Afterward," declares the Apostle, as of a different order, the remainder of those found worthy of life shall be made alive, or lifted up completely out of sin and death. The lifting up of this second class will be the work of the Millennial age; their being "made alive" will be a gradual operation, attained by the close of that period. An exception—and therefore, perhaps, properly to be called another order or band—will be the overcomers of the period previous to Pentecost, the faithful ancient worthies, referred to by the Apostle. (Heb. 11:39,40) These having been approved of God, "having obtained a good report"—their trial having already taken place, it will be unnecessary that their restitution out of death and into life should be a gradual work. Their shortcomings went before to judgment. Their resurrection, therefore, will be an instantaneous one, yet of a different order or band or class from the Christ, Head, and body.
Following the resurrection of the ancient worthies to full perfection of human mind and body, as the first order of natural man, we may expect resurrection work to commence with the nations, or people of the earth, at the time [F700] of the establishment of the Kingdom—really nine-tenths dead, but by general usage called alive. Though not in their graves they will be from the divine standpoint dead, and the life-giving, or restitution, processes will at once begin with them. The Lord's Kingdom, operating in the world, and ruling it under laws of righteousness and love, will be clearly before them; and the knowledge of the Lord will fill the whole earth for their enlightenment. They will then have full opportunity of choosing righteousness, obedience and everlasting life; or of choosing unrighteousness, disobedience and Second Death. Only those who choose life by obedience to the voice of the Son of Man, and who become amenable to the requirements of the Kingdom for their uplifting, will ever attain to full restitution, full perfection, life.
After these shall have been started in the way of life, some of those in the great prison-house of death, the tomb, will be called forth, awakened, to be treated in precisely the same manner. As the world becomes ready to receive them, others, and still others, shall come forth from the tomb to enjoy those blessed opportunities of restitution, resurrection, provided for them by God's grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. But in every case the test will be the same: "He that will not hear [obey] that prophet [the Christ] shall be cut off from amongst his people [in the Second Death—"shall not see life "]. He who hears that prophet, on the contrary, shall be lifted up inch by inch, step by step, out of the death condition, until in Christ and fully subordinated to him, he shall attain to life in its fullness, in its completeness.
The question will arise with some, Will it not be necessary that every member of the human family shall go down into the tomb before experiencing the powers of that resurrection? We answer that it will be necessary for all those who will have part in the First Resurrection to go down into actual death before participating in that resurrection's blessings, because such was their covenant, and such was the Lord's promise to them: "Be thou faithful unto death, [F701] and I will give thee a crown of life." It was necessary that the Lord, the Captain of our salvation, should not only make consecration unto death as a living sacrifice, but necessary also that he should complete that consecration in actual death. And the same principle applies to the entire Church which is his body, and which must "fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ, in order to be participators with him in the glory and blessing of "his resurrection," the First Resurrection. But as concerns the world of mankind, it is not necessary that they should all go first into the tomb before participating in restitution, resurrection, uplifting.
As we have already seen, the whole world, from the divine standpoint, has been reckoned as dead ever since the condemnation came upon Adam because of disobedience. The whole world is in prison at the present time, shackled with weaknesses, mental, physical and moral. There are different wards in this prison, and those whom men call alive, but whom God calls dead (in trespasses and sins, and under divine sentence), are, so to speak, still walking in the prison-yard, and have not yet been shut up in their cells, the tomb; but they are in prison, and none of them can break away from the fetters of death which are upon them. If the order for release of all prisoners were sent to a jailer we would understand it to apply, not only to those who were shut up in their cells, but to all who were in any sense of the word behind the prison bars and under his power and control as the jailer. Just so it is with death, the great jailer. He has committed millions of the race to the tomb, and other hundreds of millions are still at partial liberty in the prison-yard, but firmly and securely kept, and doing service with groans and travailings, waiting for the deliverance.
The Lord does not explain the particulars of how those who have gone into the prison precincts of the tomb shall be brought forth, so that they may hear the voice of the Son of Man, and by obeying they may live. (John 5:25) We may not, therefore, arbitrarily decide just what the nature of the [F702] procedure will be. Evidently it is not necessary for us to understand the particulars of this matter. Nevertheless, it is interesting for us to think of it, and we may assume that it will not be offensive to the Lord that we should imagine a little respecting the procedure. Our conjecture has already been briefly stated,* that each one who is the recipient of favor, as he grows in knowledge and in love will be desirous of co-operating as much as possible in the blessing of others, especially those near to him of kin, and that the general channel of approach to the Lord on the subject would be by prayer and preparation, in response to which the awakenings will take place. We surmise that the world will then approach the "Royal Priesthood" for help in sickness, etc., even as the Jews typically applied to the Mosaic priesthood. Hence prayer will be the usual channel for blessings.
The real meaning of resurrection, as a promise set before us in the Scriptures, has been very generally lost sight of, partly because our English word resurrection is used in a variety of ways. For instance, it is not uncommon to speak of "resurrecting" an article of clothing which had been for a time laid aside; and when a graveyard is abandoned it is common to speak of "resurrecting" the corpses which had been buried therein for removal and reburial. Approaching more closely to the legitimate use of the word, many Christian people speak of the resurrection of Lazarus, the resurrection of the son of the widow of Nain, the resurrection of Jairus' daughter, etc., and carry the same thought in their minds when they speak of the resurrection promises of the Scriptures, to take place in the morning of the Millennial age. This grievous mistake has greatly beclouded all thought upon this important subject. It is not true that Lazarus and the others mentioned were resurrected; they were merely awakened, reanimated. There is a wide difference between [F703] a mere awakening and a full, complete resurrection out of death to perfection of life. To awaken signifies merely to start again the machinery of life—resuscitation—and this is all that was done for Lazarus or for the son of the widow of Nain, or for Jairus' daughter. They were still under the sentence of death, and merely experienced a little prolongation of the present dying conditions. They were not lifted up, raised up out of death into perfect life conditions.
The word "resurrection," as found in the English New Testament, is derived from the Greek word anastasis in every except one (Matt. 27:53, where it is from the Greek, egersis, and should properly be translated, resurgence, or reanimation). The word anastasis, which occurs forty-three times in the New Testament, signifies to stand again, or to raise up again. It is never used concerning the raising of a corpse to a standing position out of a tomb, nor does it mean the mere revivifying or starting afresh the machinery of life. It means something far more important. It is used as the antithesis, or opposite, of death—the recovery out of death. To get a proper view of the meaning of anastasis we must have first of all a proper view of what constitutes life from the divine standpoint. We must then see what constitutes dying and death; and with these two thoughts before our minds we may grasp the thought of resurrection, or raising up again out of death into the full perfection of life from which we all in Adam fell.
Only two men ever possessed life: first, Adam, before his transgression, before he brought upon himself the curse or sentence of death and its processes of dying; and, second, the man Christ Jesus. The moment the death sentence was pronounced against Adam his life was forfeited, the dying process began, and he was in death—hence no longer in life. He kept sinking lower and lower into death, until finally he was completely dead, as he was judicially dead from the moment of the sentence. Adam's posterity has never had life; the spark which flickers for a few years not being recognized of God, in view of the fact that the death sentence rests upon all, and in view of the fact that those born into [F704] the world do not receive life in the full sense of that word, but merely a dying condition. As already pointed out the whole world is already dead, from the standpoint of Justice; and God recognizes as having life (even reckonedly) only those who have become united to the Son of God, the Redeemer of men, the Life-giver.
If this thought of what constitutes life and what constitutes dying be kept in mind—if it be remembered from what a glorious height and perfection of life man fell into the present condition of degradation and death—then, and then only, can the meaning of the word anastasis be rightly appreciated as signifying a standing again, a raising up again to the condition from which the fall took place to the condition of perfection in which father Adam was created. It is to this condition of perfection that God proposes to bring all who will of the world of mankind through Christ. The condition is that when brought to the knowledge of the Truth they shall accept divine favor, and demonstrate their loyalty by obedience to the spirit of the divine Law.
This word anastasis is never used in connection with the mere resuscitation of the dead. A careful examination of the forty-three texts of Scripture in which this word anastasis occurs will find them all in absolute accord with the definition and signification here attached to the word—a re -standing, a re -covery from death, a re -entrance into perfect life. One text alone out of the forty-three might be considered obscure by some: it is found in Heb. 11:35. There anastasis is rendered "raised to life again." The entire statement reads, "Women received their dead raised to life again." The general supposition regarding these words seems to be that the Apostle referred to the two women whose sons were revivified, one by the Prophet Elijah and the other by the Prophet Elisha. (1 Kings 17:17-23; 2 Kings 4:18-37) We dissent from this view for two reasons:
(2) Because such an interpretation would not so well agree with the argument of the Apostle in Heb. 11. The argument set forth is the faith of the ancient worthies in God and in a future resurrection, which should be rewarded after the glorification of the Church, as specified in verse 40. The "better resurrection" which they might hope for, and which constituted the basis of their faith, is still future, as declared in verse 39—they "received not the promise"—they did not receive the reward; hence, any awakening of their sleeping ones was not the reward, not the promise for which they were seeking. The Apostle has been mentioning Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who accomplished wonderful things under the Lord's power and in accord with their faith, hazarding, and in many instances sacrificing, their lives in the Lord's service. The women had less opportunity in these respects, and yet the Apostle would have us know that the wives, mothers and daughters in Israel, whose faith in the Lord was such as to lead them to sympathize and cooperate with the men who engaged in these warfares and sacrifices, were participants with their husbands, sons and fathers; and by encouraging them to faithfulness became sharers with them in the sacrifices of faith, and by faith looked forward into the future and realized the better resurrection that would ultimately come to the Lord's faithful. Looking by the eye of faith down into the future, they in faith received their dead raised to life again, or "by resurrection." (R.V.) And who will dispute that if the faith of Abraham, when willing to offer up his son Isaac, was acceptable to God, the faith of wives, mothers and daughters in Israel, who fully entered into the spirit of the male representatives in the sufferings, wars, endurances, etc., would be equally pleasing to the Lord; and would it not indicate that if possessed of masculine powers they too would have been valiant in fight, faithful in trials of cruel mockings and scourgings and of bonds and imprisonment, etc? Such women (probably few, as were the men whom the Apostle described) were no doubt [F706] approved of the Lord also, and will doubtless be granted a part in the "better resurrection" provided by the Lord for these ancient worthies.
While anastasis signifies raising again, completely, out of death, it in no sense of the word limits the process so as to make it either instantaneous or gradual. As a matter of fact, we note that our Lord's resurrection was an instantaneous one from death to the perfection of life, while the world in general is to have a gradual resurrection, or raising up to life, which will occupy a large proportion of a thousand years, appointed for this resurrection, or restitution, work. Neither does anastasis change the nature of the being that shall be raised up, for the raised-up one will be of the same nature as when he died. The Apostle points this out in his discourse on the subject, assuring us that in the resurrection the Lord will give to every seed its own appropriate kind of body. (1 Cor. 15:35-38) A human being having gone down into death, resurrection processes would not change his nature, according to the meaning of this word anastasis. It simply signifies that the being that is in death is the being who is to be made to stand up in life again.
Here we note the harmony of the Scripture teaching that (1) our Lord Jesus changed his nature when he left the glory of the Father, and became a man, taking our nature; (2) that he changed his nature again when he sacrificed himself as a man, and was begotten as a New Creature at the time of his baptism at thirty years of age. It was this New Creature, no longer earthly, but heavenly, that was resurrected on the third day and received a body as it pleased the Father—a spirit body, a body of suitable kind. He was raised up completely out of death to perfection of life on the plane to which he was previously begotten. Similarly the Church, the New Creation, under and associated with her Lord, the Head, is to have part in the same resurrection; and because they are counted as members of his body they are said to have part in "his resurrection"—the First Resurrection (chief, most important). They, too, are "begotten again," [F707] "begotten of the Spirit" as New Creatures—therefore their different resurrection.
The natural man, who does not become a New Creature, who does not experience a begetting again to a new nature, remains a natural man, and his anastasis, or standing up again, will signify his uplift as a human being to the full perfection of the human nature, from which the whole race fell representatively in the person of Adam. The "better resurrection" for which the Apostle tells us the ancient worthies hoped, will not be the First Resurrection, which is limited to those called during the Gospel age—Christ the Head and the Church his body. The "better resurrection" which these ancient worthies will receive, superior to that of their fellow-creatures, will consist in its being an instantaneous resurrection to human perfection, at the beginning of the Millennial age, instead of a gradual resurrection "by judgments" during that age. This will permit them to be the honored servants of the Christ, the servants of the Kingdom, during the Millennium, and, as perfect men, to be made "princes [chiefs] in all the earth." (Psalm 45:16) It will be the privilege of these worthies to administer the laws of the Kingdom, as the agents and representatives of the spiritual Christ, unseen of men. Their blessing, therefore, above their fellows,* will be twofold; first, in that their trial is in the past, and that their reward of perfection will be instantaneous, giving them, by reason of this, nearly a thousand years of advantage over others; and second, because, under the Lord's providence, this will permit them to participate in the great work of restitution and blessing as the [F708] earthly phase of the Kingdom, the human agents, or channels, through whom the Christ will largely operate.
*The great company, although they cannot be counted in as participants of the First Resurrection, and sharers of its glory, honor and immortality, nor counted in with the ancient worthies, must, nevertheless, be counted as overcomers even though the overcoming be through great tribulation. And as overcomers, they must be esteemed to pass from death unto life, and, therefore, to be subjects of an instantaneous resurrection, and not a gradual one, as in the case of the world, whose trial is future.
The anastasis of the world in general will be dependent, in the case of each individual, upon his own progress on the "highway" of holiness.* As the Master explained, "All that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of Man, and shall come forth." But the coming forth is merely the awakening in the case of those whose judgment, or trial, shall not have been previously passed successfully; and as only the overcomers of this Gospel age will come forth to the First Resurrection, and the overcomers of the past ages to a better resurrection on the human plane, the remainder of the world will come forth, as the Lord has declared, to a resurrection by judgment. John 5:29 +
*Vol. I, p. 205.
+The rendering of our Common Version, "resurrection of damnation," is a serious error which has greatly assisted in beclouding the minds of many respecting the true import of this passage. Many seem to gather from it the thought that some will be resurrected merely to be damned or condemned again. The very reverse of this is the truth. The word rendered "damnation" in this verse is the Greek word krisis, which occurs repeatedly in the same chapter and is properly rendered judgment. It should be so rendered in this case, and is so rendered in the Revised Version.
In John 5:25, our Lord indicates how the passing from death to life is to be accomplished, saying, "The hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live." Bearing in mind that the whole world is dead from the divine standpoint, we see that the apostles and the early Church were called out of this dead world, and as members of it were granted the opportunity of hearing the message of life from the Son of God. In proportion as they gave heed they came into closer and closer vital relationship with the Life-giver: and so all who have become one with him from that day to the present have heard [obeyed] his voice, his message, and proportionally have come into his favor and will share his [F709] rewards. Similar will be the procedure of the coming age: "The knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth," and "There shall be no need to say to one's neighbor, Know thou the Lord, for all shall know him, from the least unto the greatest." "All that are in their graves shall come forth," shall be awakened that they may "hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear [obey] shall live."
As with the Gospel Church of the present time, the hearing of the voice of the Son of God is a gradual matter, line upon line, precept upon precept, so it will be with the world during the Millennial age. The obedient will gradually come to clearer and clearer appreciation of the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of divine love and justice and provision. But those who will obey that great Teacher's commands will not then receive persecutions and oppositions, as do those who seek to follow his Word now, for then Satan will be bound, and the laws of the Kingdom will be in force, and those who are in accord with righteousness will be blessed and uplifted, and those who would fight against the Kingdom and oppose its rule in any particular will, after reasonable trial, be esteemed despisers of the grace of God, and will be cut off from amongst the people. Acts 3:23; Isa. 65:20
We see, then, that the declaration of our Lord of a general awakening of the dead signifies a great blessing, the fruit of his redemptive work. We see that those who have done good, who shall come forth unto "the resurrection of life "—that is, who will come forth in the resurrection fully alive—can refer only to overcoming classes, the Church, the ancient worthies, and the great company. These alone can be said to have done good, done well in the Lord's estimation—passed divine approval. We should not understand the expression "done good" to mean done perfectly, up to the divine standard in thought, word and deed, because the Apostle expressly explains to us that "there is none righteous, no, not one," in all these particulars. The nearest approach to righteousness which is possible to any of us is purity of heart—righteousness of intention.
The remainder of the world are all included together in the term "they that have done evil"—who have not been acceptable to God. This includes not only those who have not been acceptable as heathen, because they have not known the great Redeemer, and, therefore, have not been privileged to approach the Father through him, but it includes, also, all those who have heard something respecting Jesus, and who have understood something respecting his reconciling work, and who, possessing this knowledge in various degrees, have not responded to the privileges and opportunities accorded them—have not consecrated themselves fully, completely. All these, from the divine standpoint, have "done evil"—they are disapproved.
It will be noted at once that this class includes many "highly esteemed amongst men," both in and out of nominal church systems—many of the noble, the wise, the rich, the great and the learned. It surely must cause our hearts to rejoice, then, that the Lord has provided for the awakening of these also, and that although they will not "come forth" unto the life-resurrection they will "come forth" to have the opportunities of participation in the gradual resurrection by judgments that during the Millennial age, the thousand-year day of judgment,* or trial, they may stand their tests under such favorable conditions as God's Word has indicated.
They shall hear the voice of the Son of God—not the jargon of conflicting creeds, as expressed by the different sects of Christendom and of the world. It will be a pure language, or a pure message, that will be given to them. (Zeph. 3:9) Their blind eyes shall all be opened; their deaf ears shall all be unstopped; they shall hear; they shall know; and it will be entirely their own fault if they do not profit by the joyful message and lay hold upon the favors of God extended to them through the Life-giver, the Christ, and thus step by step, inch by inch, gain victories over their weaknesses and imperfections, mental, moral and physical, until, [F711] in the close of their judgment, or trial time, they shall have attained to life-conditions—perfection—to all that was lost in Adam and redeemed by the precious blood of Christ.
We are to remember that the trials and testings which will then be upon the world in general will not be in the nature of trials to which criminals are subjected in the present time, when the Court and jury sift the evidence to ascertain whether or not the culprit is guilty, and, if so, what the punishment should be. There is no question respecting the guilt of our race, and no trial or judgment is proposed to ascertain whether man was guilty of disobedience to God, nor to ascertain whether or not God's penalty of death was a just one.
The judgment, or trial, of the Millennial age will be along totally different lines, and would correspond more nearly to the treatment of a child whom the parent had found guilty and worthy of stripes, and to whom the stripes had been administered, and who, after receiving his punishment would be asked by the parent: "Now, do you acknowledge your fault? Do you acknowledge the justice of the punishment you have received? and are you willing henceforth to be an obedient child?" Upon an affirmative answer the parent might say—"We will see! I will judge, or try, or test you during today, and if I find you sincerely repentant and earnestly desirous of doing my will, I will by evening bring you back into full fellowship, and grant you all the privileges which you had before the transgression." Such is the nature of the judgment, or trial, of the next age—a trial to ascertain which members of the guilty world, after having suffered the wages of sin, death, for six thousand years, with groans and travailings of pain shall have learned the lesson of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and the great blessing that attends righteousness, and shall desire to be conformed to the will of God in all things.
Obedience will be enforced from the beginning, and only those who positively refuse to make progress will be cut off even after a hundred years of trial; such as make even outward progress, and conform outwardly to the laws of the Kingdom, will be permitted to go on, and be granted opportunities of growing in grace, in knowledge and in love. But in the end of the Millennial age there will come a crucial test of all—not in respect to their outward conduct, which must have been good, else they could not have maintained their position, but would have been previously cut off from life, in the Second Death. This final test will be in respect to their heart loyalty to the principles of righteousness. All will be tested in this regard; and all not found thoroughly loyal and obedient to the Lord will be cut off in the Second Death—will be permitted to go no further in the enjoyment of the divine favors. But how gracious the divine provision thus made! How long-suffering does this divine plan show our heavenly Father and our Redeemer to be toward the children of men! Surely such patience and forbearance will attract to the Lord all who will be worthy of life everlasting; and as respects the destruction of others, all in accord with the Lord will be prepared to say, in the language of inspiration, "True and righteous are thy judgments, Lord God Almighty!" Rev. 16:7
From this standpoint we see a meaning in the Lord's words, "They that shall be accounted worthy to attain that world and the resurrection." (Luke 20:35) Extremely few, a "little flock" only, are counted worthy to attain that world and the "better" resurrection in advance of the Millennium. The great mass of mankind, including those to whom the Lord addressed these words, will come forth unto "resurrection by judgment," and then it will remain for them to prove themselves worthy of perfect life, which alone will be permitted to endure beyond the Millennial age into the everlasting ages of the future. The obedient [F713] only will be permitted to attain to resurrection, being lifted fully and completely out of death—a gradual progress, and gradual attainment. As we have already seen, those who will then walk on the highway of holiness must "go up thereon." It will be an upward, ascending path, and require effort and overcoming on the part of those who would retrieve all that was lost—human perfection.
As we closely scrutinize this feature of the divine plan, we are amazed at its reasonableness and consistency, and the advantages it will offer to those for whom it is provided. We can readily see, for instance, that any other plan would be to the disadvantage of those for whom the Millennial advantages are specially designed. Take for instance, Nero. Suppose that he were given an instantaneous resurrection to life—suppose that he should "come forth" from the tomb perfect, mentally, morally and physically: that would not be Nero. That perfect being could not in any sense of the word identify himself with the Nero of the past; nor could those who had been his associates identify him. Neither could we imagine him to "come forth" perfect as respects human organism, and yet imperfect in mind and character. All who have learned even the first principles of the laws of physiology, must see at once the absurdity of such a proposition. Those laws most distinctly teach us that character and organism are one; that a perfect organism would surely indicate a perfect character. But if we should, for the moment, assume either of these unreasonable propositions we would at once be met with the objection that a thousand years would be too long a period in which to test the obedience or disobedience of a perfect being. Adam, as a perfect being, received a very brief trial, so far as we may judge from the Scriptures.
Further, if we could imagine the world perfect and on trial, we would be obliged to imagine them also as subjected to the perfect law; and that being without imperfections they would also be without any screen, or covering of blemishes, and therefore in the very same position that [F714] Adam stood at the beginning, in his trial. In this view of things there would be no necessity for Christ's Mediatorial Kingdom and reign of a thousand years; because the perfect law represents divine justice, the same that dealt with Adam in the beginning, and the same that must pass upon mankind in the end—at the close of the Millennium, ere the world could be accepted by God to everlasting favor. Such views, we see therefore, are entirely at variance with the divine arrangement.
Let us now notice the beauty and harmony and reasonableness and consistency of the divine plan of a resurrection by judgments. (1) The world coming forth in practically the same mental, moral and physical condition in which they entered the tomb, would at once identify themselves personally and in relationship to others. "As the tree falleth there it shall be," and the awakening, or calling forth from the tomb, will be as the termination of a sleep, the very figure which the Lord uses not only in respect to the body of Christ, but to the world in general, whose future awakening, being a part of his plan, is spoken of as an arousing from sleep. As one awakening from a sleep finds himself in practically the same condition in which he lay down, plus a slight invigoration, and is able speedily to recall the events and circumstances that preceded his sleep, so we believe it will be with the world in general, when they shall "hear the voice of the Son of Man and shall come forth."
We do not mean by this that they will come forth in precisely the same physical condition as at the moment of dying, because this would involve an absurdity. For instance, the one whose lungs were decayed until the last breath was a gasp, we need not expect will come back gasping and without lungs; the one whose head had been severed from the body would not be awakened without a head, and likewise the one who had lost arms or feet or fingers or toes, could not reasonably be expected to "come forth" without these members. In the absence of anything definite in the Scriptures to guide our judgments, we must suppose [F715] that the coming forth of the world will be with what would now be considered average health and strength; such, for instance, as the Lord was pleased to grant to those whom he healed at his first advent. The healed ones were not made perfectly whole, else many of them might have lived for centuries, as did the perfect Adam. Rather, we are to presume that the restorations were to average health and strength, and that so it will be in the awakening time, when the same voice shall call them forth from the sleep of death, that they may hear his words and by obedience "attain unto" life everlasting and its perfections of mind and body, for which he has arranged the times of restitution and the Kingdom disciplines, judgments and blessings.
The threads of existence being taken up just where they were dropped in death, the weaving of experience will proceed and rapidly adapt itself to the changed conditions; and meantime the individual will neither lose his identity, nor be lost to the world and social circle of which he has been a part. Thus past experiences with sin and selfishness will constitute a valuable asset of knowledge, helpful in proper estimations in the future, enabling the revived one to appreciate the advantages accruing from the reign of righteousness and life as in contrast with the previous reign of sin and death. It will be to his advantage, too, that he must first of all accept Christ the King as his Redeemer, acknowledging his own imperfection and unworthiness—must lay hold upon the Life-giver before ever he can start upon the highway of holiness. It will be to his advantage, too, that he must take steps himself in the overcoming of his own weaknesses, and in the attainment of perfection set before him as the goal.
The lessons of experience thus gained will be deeply engraven upon his memory, upon his character, and will fit and prepare him for the final testing in the close of the Millennial age, when absolute heart-loyalty will be required. Meantime, however, his imperfections will not work to his detriment or hindrance, for in proportion to his weakness or [F716] strength of character will be the requirements of the judges—all of whom are being now prepared by their own experiences with sin and weakness to judge sympathetically and to be truly helpful. Such experiences on the part of the judges would not be so essential were not this the divine plan of gradual recovery—"resurrection by judgment."
This view is in full accord, too, with the divine statement by the mouth of Daniel the prophet respecting the resurrection: "Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting [lasting] life, and some to shame and everlasting [lasting] contempt." (Dan. 12:2) Here we see the same division of the awakened ones that our Lord more particularly explains. One class is awakened to life in its full, complete sense—lasting life; the other class is awakened, but not in life. When awakened it is still in death, because not approved of God—not vitally connected with the Son. "He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son shall not see life." The world in general, then, "come forth" that they may be brought to the knowledge of the fact that life and restitution have been provided by God's grace through the great atonement sacrifice; that the Life-giver has taken his great power and glory, as Prophet, Priest and King, and that by coming into him they may gradually, step by step, attain to life.
The prophet's statement respecting this second class—that they come forth to shame and lasting contempt—is significant. If they came forth perfect they would not be in a shameful and contemptible condition, for perfection is always admirable. These words, therefore, attest that they come forth imperfect, and our Lord's added explanation assures us that they come forth in their imperfection, that they may, if they will, attain resurrection, perfection, under the trials or judgments to which they will be subjected—rewarding their obediences and chastising and disciplining their disobediences.
We have already used Nero as an illustration; and as he surely will be one of those who will come forth to shame and [F717] to lasting contempt, we may as well use him in further illustration. When we remember that the awakening of the sleeping world will not begin until the present generation of the world shall have been brought under the Kingdom power, to a considerable measure of righteousness and intelligence, we will readily perceive that Nero, on coming forth, will find himself in the midst of very different social conditions from those prevailing when he died. He will find vices such as he practiced and cultivated very much discredited, and the virtues which he shunned and persecuted he will find installed in power and in general favor. He will be utterly out of accord with all of his surroundings, much more so than others less wilful, less profligate, less vicious, less contemptible. He will find himself well known through the pages of history, and in general contempt because of his abuse of his powers and opportunities—not only as the murderer of his own mother, but also as the persecutor and torturer of the Lord's faithful ones.
Every good and virtuously disposed person is bound to hold such a character as his in "contempt," and under such circumstances he will be bound to suffer great "shame." However, he comes forth unto a resurrection by judgment—for the purpose of being accorded an opportunity of rising up out of his shameful and contemptible condition to the full perfection of human nature; and to what extent he will attain unto life, to what extent he will attain unto resurrection out of death, will depend entirely upon himself. First of all, he must know the Truth; he must see himself in his true colors; he must see in contrast the perfect man—as represented in the ancient worthies, the "princes" of that time. He must see in operation the laws of righteousness in contrast with his previous knowledge of the operation of the reign of sin and death. If, then, he determinedly maintains an evil influence and hardens his heart and refuses obedience, he must die the Second Death—after having enjoyed and rejected the privileges and opportunities which the Lord has provided for him and all mankind.
But if, on the contrary, he shall humble himself, acknowledge his sin, and become obedient to the laws of the Kingdom, he will thus at once begin his upward course toward life—his resurrection, or rising up, toward complete recovery from the fall. If he shall thus "go up" on the highway of holiness, he will at the same time be purging himself from the "contempt" of his fellows, and correspondingly relieving himself of "shame." For we cannot doubt that if there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, there will be joy on earth amongst all right-minded people as they from time to time shall see sinners turning from the errors of their ways to obedience to the Lord; and the laudable contempt of the former for sin and its meanness must gradually give place to sympathetic appreciation of the efforts being put forth in the direction of righteousness. So that should Nero ever become fully obedient to the Lord, and attain unto life everlasting in the "resurrection by judgment," he will be highly respected and his past will be fully forgotten—just as now, when thinking of the Apostle Paul, we remember his noble self-sacrifices and faithfulness to the Lord, disassociating him from Saul, the persecutor whom he denominated "the chief of sinners."
Does someone ask, Will there not be punishments for the sins of the present time? We reply that Justice is sure to mete out a punishment for every sin. Adam's sin, as we all recognize, has been punished for six thousand years, and under that punishment the whole creation has groaned and travailed and sunk down into death. That sin and all additional sins influenced by the weaknesses and depravities resulting from Adam's sin, are all included in the atonement accomplished by the great sacrifice for sins. The sins needing additional punishment would be such as do not directly result from the Adamic fall and depravity—such as have been to some extent wilful. Such wilful sins must all be punished; but we are evidently not at the present time [F719] competent to judge what would be a right or reasonable penalty for such sins—wholly or partially wilful.
Doubtless this was one reason why the Lord instructed us to "judge nothing before the time." Eventually the judgment will be in our hands—as it is written, "Know ye not that the saints shall judge the world?"—our Lord Jesus being the chief of these judges. The Lord's declaration is that he who knew his Master's will and did it not shall be beaten with many stripes, while he who knew not and did things worthy of stripes shall be beaten with few stripes. (Luke 12:47,48) This indicates to us that the guilt of wilful sin is to be measured largely by our knowledge of the Lord and of his will. Hence the Church, and those who have during this Gospel age come under the light and influence of the Church, will be held responsible in a larger degree than others. Nero, although not of the Church, not begotten of the Spirit, and therefore, less responsible proportionately than the Church, had, nevertheless, considerable contact with the children of the light; and hence, we may presume, had a large measure of responsibility in connection with his crimes.
In considering the punishments of wilful sins on account of light enjoyed, we are not to forget the Apostle's statement, that "Some men's sins go before to judgment, and some they follow after." (1 Tim. 5:24) We know not to what extent Nero's sins have already received some measure of punishment; we know not to what extent he suffered mentally or physically; we know not, therefore, to what extent punishment for his sins will come after and overtake him during the Judgment age. For argument's sake let us suppose that he received no special punishments in the past, and that stripes for his sins will all follow after, and let us inquire what will be the nature of the record against him, and how will the stripes, or punishments, be inflicted upon him? We are not competent to answer these questions without [F720] reservations or provisos, but we all recognize a general principle already in operation in every man, recording the results of his own violations of knowledge and conscience. We see that in proportion as truth, light, knowledge and conscience may be violated, in that same proportion character is undermined; and to whatever extent this proceeds, restitution will be the more difficult for him.
We can reasonably judge that Nero must have undermined his character and conscience to a very large extent indeed. If, then, in the awakening he shall "come forth" as he died, merely to an opportunity for development, we can readily see that every downward step which he took in the past, every violation of conscience, every known opposition to righteousness, worked an injury to his character which, if ever overcome, will require proportionate effort to retrace his steps and to build again that portion of the character he wantonly destroyed. It is not for us to say that this and this alone will be the punishment for the sins of the present time; but that this should be the case seems reasonable to us. We are satisfied in any event, to rest the matter here, confident that the decisions of the glorified Church will have the full indorsement of all who have the Lord's Spirit. We cannot suppose that our Lord will take pleasure in rendering evil for evil, or in causing needless pain even to the most villainous, but that the decision of the great Supreme Court already rendered will stand, viz., "The wages of sin is death"—the Second Death.
"Thus Is the [Chief] Resurrection
of the [Special] Dead"
—1 Cor. 15:42—
The resurrection of the Church is designated the First Resurrection, not in the sense of priority (though it will have priority), but in the sense of being chief, best, superior. We have already seen that there are different orders in the resurrection—three of which are unto life, unto perfection, though on different planes of being; the Church occupying [F721] the first place, the "great company" and the ancient worthies following in order; and that subsequently, or last, will be the general resurrection of the world, open to the whole world of mankind, so many as will accept the divine provisions and arrangements—the resurrection by judgment to be completed only with the close of the Millennial age. In this sense of the word it will indeed be a fact that "the rest of the dead" will live not "until the thousand years are finished"—they will not have life in its full, proper, complete sense; they will not be raised up completely out of death until then. Thus viewed, the spurious clause of Rev. 20:5 * is found to be in full accord with the general tenor of Scripture. All these resurrections subsequent to the first, or chief one, will undoubtedly be under the power and control of the glorified Church, whose glorious Head has, to this end, received all power and authority from the Father.
*We have already drawn attention to the fact that the clause "The rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished," is without any support from ancient MSS of earlier date than the fifth century; nevertheless it is in full accord with what we are here presenting, for the term "lived not" should be understood to refer not to awakening but to full restitution to life in the perfect degree. See footnote Vol. I, p. 288.
Having considered the resurrection work of the Church for others, let us now consider what the Scriptures have to show particularly respecting the First Resurrection. With what bodies will the New Creation come forth? What will be some of their qualities and powers?
The Apostle declares, "As is the earthy so are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly so are they also that are heavenly." (1 Cor. 15:48) We understand these words to signify that the world in general, who will experience restitution to human perfection, will be like the earthly one—like the first Adam, before he sinned, and like the perfect "Man Christ Jesus" was before his begetting to newness of nature. We rejoice with the world in this grand prospect of again becoming full and complete earthly images of the divine Creator. But we rejoice still more in the precious promises [F722] made to the Gospel Church, "the called ones" according to the divine purpose, who are to have the image of the heavenly One—the image of the Creator, in a still higher and more particular sense—to be not fleshly images, but spirit images. "We shall be like him [the glorified "changed" Jesus], for we shall see him as he is." He is a spirit being, "the express image of the Father's person," "far above angels, principalities and powers, and every name that is named," and hence, far above perfect manhood. If we shall be like him and share his glory and his nature, it means that we too shall be images of the Father's person, "whom no man hath seen nor can see, dwelling in light which no man can approach unto"; but to whom we can approach and whom we can see as he is, because we have been "changed." 1 John 3:2; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16; Exod. 33:20
Lest any should misunderstand him, the Apostle guards the above language by adding, "As we [the Church] have borne the image of the earthly [one], we shall also bear the image of the heavenly [One]." It is not the Apostle's thought that all shall bear the image of the heavenly One, in this sense, ever. Such was not the design of our Creator. When he made man he designed to have a fleshly, human, earthly being, in his own likeness [mentally, morally], to be the lord and ruler of the earth, as the representative of his heavenly Creator. (Gen. 1:26-28; Psalm 8:4-7) The selection of the New Creation, as we have seen is wholly separate and apart from the earthly creation. They are chosen out of the world, and constitute but a "little flock" in all, called to be the Lord's Kingdom class, to bless the world during the thousand years of the Millennial age—subsequently, we may be sure, occupying some very high and responsible position, and doing some very important work, in the carrying out of further divine purposes—perhaps in connection with other worlds and other creations.
But the Apostle guards the matter still further, saying in explanation of the foregoing (verse 50), "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God." Thus he distinguishes between our [F723] present condition in the flesh and our future condition as spirit beings; most positively declaring that so long as we are in the flesh we cannot constitute the Lord's Kingdom in any actual sense, because that Kingdom is to be a spiritual one, composed of spirit beings. Our Lord himself, the Head, the chief, the leader, the example to his Church, is the glorious spirit being, a glimpse of whom was granted to the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 15:8), and a vision of whom was granted to the Apostle John in Apocalyptic vision. "We shall be like him"—not flesh and blood, like the remainder of the race from which we were selected, and whose restitution, or resurrection by judgments, will bring them back to the perfection of the flesh-and-blood conditions, as the same restitution times will bring the earth to the condition represented by the Garden of Eden in the beginning.
But the Apostle recognized the fact that it would be difficult for us fully to grasp the thought of so thorough a change of the Church from fleshly, earthly conditions to heavenly, spirit conditions. He perceived that our difficulty would be less in respect to those who have fallen asleep in death than in respect to those alive and remaining unto the presence of the Lord. It is much easier for us to grasp the thought that the sleeping ones will be resurrected in new spiritual bodies, such as the Lord has promised to provide, than to grasp the thought of how those of the saints living at the time of the Lord's second presence, will be accepted of him into his spirit Kingdom. The Lord, through the Apostle, makes this very clear to us, saying, "There is a mystery connected with this matter, which I will explain: we shall not all sleep, though we must all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump—the seventh trumpet." 1 Cor. 15:51,52
While the Lord, through the Apostle, did clear away a mystery to some extent by these words, nevertheless a considerable measure of mystery has since beclouded even this plain explanation; for many of the Lord's dear people have confounded the word "sleep" with the word "die," and [F724] have supposed the explanation to be that the saints remaining over until the presence of the Lord would be changed without dying, which is not at all the thing stated. Take the case of the apostles, for instance; they died, and from the moment of death they were reckoned as being "asleep" until the moment of the resurrection. The dying was a momentary act, while the sleep, or unconsciousness, continued for centuries.
This thought of the word "sleep" must be attached to the Apostle's words, in order that they may be understood, viz.: It will not be necessary that the Lord's people who remain over until his second presence shall sleep in unconscious death even for a moment. They will die, however, as is declared by the Lord, through the prophet, speaking of the Church: "I have said, Ye are gods, all of you sons of the Most High; yet ye shall all die like men, and fall like one of the princes." (Psa. 82:6,7) The world in general dies like Prince Adam, as his children, sharers of his sentence; but the faithful in Christ Jesus die with him—with Prince Jesus. (Isa. 9:6; Acts 3:15; 5:31) Justified through his sacrifice, they become dead with him, as joint-sacrificers. They "fall" under death sacrificially—like the second Prince. "If we be dead with him we shall also live with him." But, as the Apostle points out to us, the death of these will mean no sleep of unconsciousness—the very moment of dying will be the very moment of "change," or clothing upon with the house from heaven, the spiritual body.
The "change" to come to those of the Church remaining until the presence of the Lord is thus set forth as being in every sense of the word a part of the First Resurrection. In no particular does it differ from the death experience which must be common to all the members of the one body. The only point of difference between other members of the body and these will be that which the Apostle specifies; viz., they shall not "sleep." These last members of the body will not need to sleep—not need to wait for the Kingdom to come, for it will then be set up. They will pass immediately from [F725] the activities of the service on this side the veil in the flesh to the activities of service on the other side the veil, as perfected New Creatures, members of the Christ.
Respecting the powers and qualities of the New Creatures, perfected, the Apostle tells us that they will not all have the same degrees of glory, though they will all have the same kind of glory—will all be celestial or heavenly beings. There will be one glory common to all these celestial beings, and another glory common to the human, or terrestrial, beings. Each in its perfection will be glorious, but the glories of the celestial ones will be superior—transcendent. The Scriptures tell us that the Church as a whole shall "shine forth as the sun." (Matt. 13:43) This description by our Lord himself of the future glory is applied to all who are of the "wheat" class; yet in the light of the Apostle's explanation (verse 41) we perceive that individually there will be differences in the positions and honors of the church. All will be perfect, all will be supremely happy, but, as the Father is above all, and as he has exalted the Son to be next to himself, and as this indicates differences of glory, majesty and authority, so amongst the followers of the Lord, all of whom are acceptable, there will be differences of station, "as star differeth from star" in magnitude and brilliancy. 1 Cor. 15:41
Our Lord, in two of his parables, intimates the same difference amongst his glorified followers. He who had been faithful with five talents was to have special commendation at the Lord's return; while the other faithful ones who had a lesser number of talents, would be dealt with proportionately. He who had been faithful in the use of his pound, so as to gain ten pounds, was to receive rulership over ten cities; and he who was faithful over his pound to the gaining of five pounds would have proportionately increased talents, blessings, opportunities and authority. Matt. 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27
Nor need we wonder at this, for looking back we see that while the Lord chose twelve apostles and loved them all, there were three of them whom he specially loved, and who were on various occasions nearer to him and in still more confidential relationship than the others. We may be sure, too, that when the "Book of Life" is opened, and when positions closest to the Master in the throne are to be apportioned, those on the right hand and those on the left hand (nearest to his person), will be recognized by all as worthy of the honor and distinction accorded them. (Matt. 10:41) It would not surprise us at all to find the Apostle Paul next to the Master, with possibly John on his other hand. The thought is not that of location, or position, on a bench—throne—but closeness of relationship in power and majesty of the Kingdom. We may be sure that all who will constitute the "little flock" will be so filled with the Lord's Spirit as in honor to prefer one another; and we may know certainly that there will be no jealousies, but that the divine judgment respecting worthiness will be fully approved by all the New Creation. This is so in the present time, and much more may we expect it in the future. In the present time we read that "God has set the various members in the body as it hath pleased him," and all who are in accord with the Lord are continually seeking, not to change the divine arrangement, but to recognize it and to cooperate therewith. So also it will surely be in the future.
Describing the differences between present conditions and those of the future, the Apostle says, "It is sown in corruption: It is raised in incorruption." "It"—the New Creature, whose existence began at the time of consecration and begetting of the Spirit. The New Creature that has been developing and seeking to control the flesh and to make it its servant, in accord with the divine will—the New Creature that is said to have lived in the flesh, as in a tabernacle, while waiting for the new body. "It" was sown in corruption, in a corruptible body: "It" went down into death; and yet "It" is not represented as being dead, but as merely [F727] sleeping, while its earthly tabernacle was dissolved. It is the same "It," the New Creature, that is to be clothed upon with the heavenly house, the spiritual body, in the First Resurrection.
This spiritual body in which "It" is raised, the Apostle declares, will be an incorruptible one—one which cannot corrupt, which cannot die. The word here rendered incorruption is aphtharsia, and signifies that which is death-proof, that which cannot corrupt or die or pass away. It is the same word rendered "incorruption" in verses 50,53 and 54, of this chapter, and the same word which is rendered "immortality" in Rom. 2:7, and again in 2 Tim. 1:10.
The declaration, that our spiritual bodies shall be incorruptible, immortal, is a most momentous one, because we are distinctly informed that this quality of immortality belongs inherently to Jehovah alone; while it is declared of our Lord Jesus, that because of his faithfulness, his high exaltation consisted in part in his being granted life in himself, as the Father hath life in himself. The thought there is the same—that the glorious Head of the Church experienced just such a "change" to immortality, to incorruption, to participation in the divine nature. It does not amaze us that the plan of God should be thus liberal toward our dear Redeemer; but it surely does astonish us that this quality of the divine nature, given to none other than our Master, should be promised to the members of his body, who walk in his footsteps, and are seeking for glory, honor and immortality. 2 Pet. 1:4; Rom. 2:7
"It is sown in dishonor; It is raised in glory." Here again the New Creature is referred to by the word "It." During the present life the world knoweth us not; it realizes not that we are begotten of the Father, to be his children on the spiritual plane, and that we are only temporarily sojourning in the flesh, for the purposes of our trial, for the testing of our faithfulness to our covenant of sacrifice. "Now are we the sons of God." But, unrecognized, we are disesteemed by the world; and because of our consecration to the Lord we may [F728] not occupy even as honorable positions amongst men as we might have the natural talents to occupy were they devoted to worldly pursuits. In any event, both individually and collectively the Church in the flesh is now, as the Apostle here declares, "in dishonor," in disesteem; and, as he elsewhere declares, our body is at present a body of humiliation (misrepresented in our common translation as "a vile body"). (Phil. 3:21) But what shall be the condition by and by? Will the dishonor all be past? Will the Church (Head and "body") be such as both angels and men will appreciate and honor? Will the New Creation thus be "in glory?" Oh yes! This is the assurance.
"It is sown in weakness; It is raised in power." The New Creature is still referred to—the weakness mentioned being that of the present mortal bodies, their imperfections, which all New Creatures deplore, and which God graciously counts as not being the weaknesses of the New Creature, whose purposes, or intentions toward the Lord are pure, perfect, loyal and strong. That these weaknesses will not attach to the new resurrection bodies of the "elect" is most specifically stated. "It is raised in power"—the power of perfection, the power of the new nature, the power of God.
"It is sown a natural body; It is raised a spiritual body." The same It, the same New Creature. It is a natural body now—the only tangible thing is the flesh. Only by the grace of God are we permitted to reckon the new mind a New Creature, and to await the time when this new mind will be granted a spirit body, suitable to it. The spirit body will then be It, in the same sense that the natural body is now It. What a glorious prospect this is! Truly, it is incomprehensible to us who have no experiences except such as are common to the natural man—except as our minds have grasped by faith the promises and revelations of the Lord, and have entered into the spirit of "things not seen as yet."
But if the very thought of the coming glories has lifted us up above the world and its cares, its trials, its follies and its [F729] pleasures, how much more will the realities mean to us when we shall be perfect and like our Lord and share his glory! No wonder our Lord said to Nicodemus, "If I have told you of earthly things, and ye believe not, how can ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?" No wonder it declares that we must first be begotten of the holy Spirit before we can even begin to comprehend heavenly things. Unquestionably, therefore, our ability to run the race set before us in the Gospel, our striving to overcome the spirit of the world and the besetments of the Adversary, will be in proportion as we shall be obedient to the divine counsel, and love not the world, and lay aside every weight and the easily besetting sin, forgetting not the assembling of ourselves together, and searching the Scriptures daily, and in every sense of the word making use of the privileges and mercies and blessings conferred upon us as children of God. If we do these things we shall never fail, but so an entrance shall be ministered unto us, abundantly, into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." 1 John 3:2,3; Rom. 8:17; John 3:12; 1 Cor. 2:14; 1 John 2:15; Eph. 6:10-18; Heb. 12:1,2; 10:25; John 5:29; Acts 17:11; 2 Pet. 1:4-11