The Resurrection of the Dead
Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:28-29).
Hebrews 6:1-2 states that the Resurrection of the Dead is an elementary principal of Christ. However this doctrine is taught on very little in the modern church. It is extremely important that we have the elementary foundations of Christ in place. Only when the right foundations are in place, can we build on them with more complex doctrine. One cannot skip elementary school and go straight into a college level masters program.
The scripture states that upon the return of Jesus Christ, believers who have died will be raised from the dead (1 Thessalonians 4:13-16). This concept is basically understood by most of the church. What much of the church does not understand, is that there are levels of the resurrection. Not all believers will be equal in the Millennium. One of the greatest lies that Satan has promoted, is that all believers will be equal in Heaven. The scripture certainly does not teach this.
An Order in the Resurrection
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 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)
The Greek word used for order, also means a series or succession. Order is defined as: a number of persons or things following one another in order or sequence. The above scripture could be indicating that there will be a certain order in the resurrection of the dead at Christ's coming.
Different Degrees of Glorified Bodies
But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body. All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. (I Corinthians 15:35-44 NKJV)
When a Christians' body is raised from the dead, a powerful change will take place. The dead natural body will become a glorious spiritual body that is incorrupted. Every believer will be given a new glorified celestial body. This scripture indicates that these glorified bodies will vary from one degree of glory to another. Some believers will have glorified bodies that are as bright as the sun. Other believers will be given bodies that are as bright as the moon. Yet some believers will receive bodies that are as the stars (and stars vary in brightness as well).
Those believers who made Jesus their first love will receive glorified bodies that are as bright as the sun. These are the ones who spent much time in the presence of the Lord. These believers knew the Lord and spoke to Him face to face as a man speaks with his friend. Intimacy with the Lord was always on the hearts of these Christians while they were on the earth. They were transfigured by the glory of the Lord into the image of Christ. The likeness and maturity of Christ was transparent with these disciples on the earth; whose bodies will shine as the sun for eternity. These who will shine like the sun, are the overcomers. The Lord's remnant bride.
It is extremely important to make this our goal. My desire is to have a resurrected body as the sun for eternity. I desire to be closer to Christ, and to have more of His light emanating from me. Being closer to Christ and having more of His glory is a healthy desire to have. Anyone who has been in His manifest presence knows that more is better. He is so beautiful and amazing. Words are useless in describing Him. We must long to be with Him above our next breath. The Holy Spirit is capable of bringing us into this level of relationship with Christ.
The High Calling
That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. (Philippians 3:10-16 NKJV)
Paul was clearly a believer in Jesus Christ. All believers will be resurrected from the dead. Yet Paul says, "if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected." Paul states that he has not yet attained to the resurrection of the dead. He is not speaking of the basic resurrection that everyone who is born again will be apart of. Paul is speaking about a better resurrection, or the highest level of the resurrection from the dead (bodies that shine like the sun).
A key word that Paul uses is "perfected." Apparently, a believer must reach a certain level of perfection, in order to attain to the high calling of God in Christ. The upward call is this resurrection that Paul is referring to. We can all attain to this high calling if we allow The Holy Spirit to bring us to completeness.
In order to know the power of this better resurrection that Paul is speaking of; we must know Him, the fellowship of His sufferings, and we must be conformed to His death. There is no possibility of reaching the high calling without the cross of Christ working in our lives. We will only experience this resurrection if we embrace the sufferings, rejections, misunderstandings, and persecutions of Christ. The crucified lifestyle will put to death our self-centeredness and self-will, and bring us to a place of perfection.
The Better Resurrection
Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. (Hebrews 11:35 NKJV)
The early church understood that there was a better resurrection (or a higher level to the resurrection). Believers who were being tortured to death (as the Greek word implies), would not deny Christ even when their captors offered deliverance. The believers held strong because they wanted to attain to a better resurrection. The Greek word used for better also means best or nobler. Nobler is defined as: distinguished by rank or title. The better resurrection mentioned in this scripture is one of a higher rank.
The captors of these believers would most likely offer them freedom if they would deny Christ. The believer could have avoided torture unto death by denying Christ. Then the believers could have repented of their sins, just as Peter repented of his sin of denying Christ. These believers could have avoided a horrible death while still receiving forgiveness of sins. They would have went to Heaven just as Peter did. However, they knew that if they accepted deliverance from torture unto death by denying Christ, they would not attain to the better resurrection. They could have been apart of the basic Christian resurrection from the dead, but they chose the better resurrection. May we follow their example in faith and make the same choice.
The First Resurrection
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. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 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)
It's interesting to note that this scripture only mentions that martyrs and overcomers will live again and reign with Christ for a thousand years. The Bible is clear that only the overcomers will rule with Christ on the earth in the millennium. Mediocre Christians may be raised from the dead and dwell in Heaven, but they will not be apart of the millennial rule on the earth.
The first resurrection will take place at Christ's return to the earth. The second resurrection from the dead will occur a thousand years later. Those who partake of the second resurrection never knew Christ. They will be resurrected unto eternal damnation. They will suffer in the torments of Hell forever and ever.
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15 NKJV)
In ourselves, we are completely incapable of attaining to the fullness of the resurrection of the dead. The Lord desires all of us to take hold of the high calling. Christ living through us is the only way that we will reach this high goal. I have no better words to close with, so I will leave you with the words of Paul, "but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."