Yesterday was Easter Sunday, and Easter always gets any preacher onto the topic of resurrection. Actually, though, I had already been on that topic recently by way of a prophecy series I’d been preaching entitled “Things to Come.” As part of that series, I had devoted sermons to the topics of The Rapture, Christ’s Second Coming, and The Great White Throne Judgment. Each of these events will feature a whole lot of resurrections.
First, The Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:50-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) could take place at any moment, and when it does the bodies of all deceased Christians from what we call “the church age” will be resurrected and glorified. The church age began on the Day of Pentecost that is described in Acts 2:1-47, and it will end at the moment of the Rapture. Each person who places saving belief in Jesus Christ during that time period becomes part of “the church,” and “the church” is the “bride” of Christ (Ephesians 5:22-32; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 19:1-10; 21:9; 22:17).
Second, Christ’s Second Coming (Revelation 19:11-21) will take place at the end of the seven-year tribulation period that follows The Rapture. At the time of His Second Coming, Jesus will establish His 1,000 year reign upon the earth and the bodies of all the believers from the Old Testament era will be resurrected and glorified just prior to that reign (Daniel 12:1-3; Job 19:25-27; Revelation 20:4). Someone might ask, “Why aren’t the bodies of the Old Testament believers resurrected/glorified as part of The Rapture?” The answer is, The Rapture will be exclusively for “the church” and technically those believers aren’t part of that group. At one point in His earthly ministry, Jesus said, “I will build My church…” (Matthew 16:18). That wording proves that He hadn’t started building His church yet, a fact which excludes the believers from the Old Testament as being part of that church.
Third, The Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15) will take place following Christ’s 1,000 year earthly reign. This judgment will be exclusively for all of history’s lost people, and in order for this judgment to happen the bodies of all of history’s lost people will be resurrected. However, there will be a very important difference between these resurrections and all other resurrections. That difference will be that this round of resurrecting will not include the glorification of the bodies. In other words, whereas the bodies of all of history’s saved people will ultimately end up not only resurrected but also glorified, the bodies of all of history’s lost people will ultimately end up only resurrected. Immediately following the resurrection of the lost person’s body, that body will be reunited with the soul that once inhabited it — that soul having been called forth from “hell” (the site known in the Greek language as “Hades”). Each lost individual will then stand resurrected body and soul before Jesus to be sentenced by Him to eternity (body and soul) in the lake of fire (the site known in the Greek language as “Gehenna”). This sentencing will be the purpose of the Great White Throne Judgment.
While these three major prophetic events will account for most of history’s bodies in regards to resurrections, they won’t account for all of them. Here now are some other “mop up” details on this whole subject:
- The Bible doesn’t tell us how or when the bodies of children who were either miscarried or aborted will be resurrected. It does indicate, though, that the soul of any child who dies before reaching what is commonly referred to as “the age of accountability” goes to be with God (2 Samuel 12:21-23; Jonah 4:11). Presumably, then, the bodily remains of these children will somehow be resurrected and glorified to become bodies fit for eternity. These resurrections will take place as part of The Rapture, as part of Christ’s Second Coming, or perhaps even as parts of both events if God makes a distinction between such children from the pre-church age and the church age.
- The believers from the New Testament period prior to Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection will have their bodies resurrected/glorified at Christ’s Second Coming alongside the resurrecting of the bodies of believers from the Old Testament era. Like the Old Testament believers, these believers aren’t part of the church. John the Baptist is a prime example of this group. Even though he lived in the days when Jesus was walking this earth, John technically gets categorized with the believers from the Old Testament era because he died before the church age began.
- During the seven-year tribulation period, God will have two “witnesses” that will perform a tremendous ministry for three-and-a-half years of that period. These two men are described in Revelation 11:1-14. However, once their ministry is completed, God will allow the Antichrist to kill them and leave their bodies unburied in the streets of Jerusalem for three-and-a-half days. But then God will resurrect those bodies (presumably to glorification), and at that time they will ascend up to heaven immediately.
- At the beginning of the seven-year tribulation period, 144,000 Jewish evangelists will get saved by believing in Christ. These men will then go into all the world and preach the gospel in the first half of the tribulation period (Revelation 7:1-8), winning millions to Christ (Revelation 7:9-17). Once their ministry is completed, however, they will be transported to heaven in a mass event similar to The Rapture (Revelation 14:1-5). Since no mention is ever made of their deaths, it seems likely that the bodies of these living 144,000 Jewish evangelists will be glorified and caught up to heaven. If this is true, these 144,000 will be akin to the Christians who will be caught up to heaven alive at the moment of The Rapture, their bodies being glorified as part of the event.
- While it’s true that those 144,000 Jewish evangelists will win millions of people to Christ in the first half of the tribulation period, many of those new believers will get martyred for their faith at some point in the tribulation period (Revelation 6:9-11). These martyred believers will receive their resurrected/glorified bodies at Christ’s Second Coming alongside the resurrecting of the bodies of the believers from the Old Testament era (Revelation 20:4-6).
- Of those millions who will be won to Christ by those 144,000 Jewish evangelists, many of them will not be martyred but will, instead, live to see Christ’s Second Coming at the end of the tribulation period. Those believers will then go into Christ’s 1,000 year reign — i.e. “the kingdom age” — in their earthly bodies. Jesus will heal all of their bodily sicknesses and infirmities at the beginning of His 1,000 year reign, and this will allow those tribulation-period believers/survivors to live long lives in “the kingdom age.” Still, though, each of these believers will at some point die over the course of those 1,000 years and, presumably, will have his or her body resurrected/glorified immediately following that death. I use that word “presumably” because there is no specific Bible passage that actually addresses the resurrecting/glorifying of these bodies in any way.
While I realize that all of this information can be somewhat overwhelming and confusing, I’m passing it all along to you because I want you to understand one very simple fact. That fact is: By the time God is finished resurrecting bodies, there won’t be even one body left that isn’t resurrected (either to glorification or not to glorification). Of course, even this simple fact raises some oddball questions about all these resurrections. Here are a few examples of such questions:
- How can a body that has completely turned to dust be resurrected?
- How can a body that has been cremated, with the ashes being scattered, be resurrected?
- How can the body of an individual who lost a leg to a war, an appendix to an appendectomy, and a tooth to an extraction be resurrected in tact?
- How can a body that was eaten by a shark or a bear be resurrected at all?
- How can the body of a baby that was miscarried or aborted be resurrected?
In answer to these questions (and any other oddball ones that might get asked), let me mention something called “The Law of Conservation of Matter.” This is a scientific law that states that matter, once created, can never truly be annihilated or go out of existence. This means that all the matter associated with any human being’s body will always be in existence in some form somewhere as part of God’s creation. Obviously, the matter can change form, such as a human body turning to dust, but what the matter can’t do is fade away to complete nothingness. And what does this mean in regards to God resurrecting bodies? It means that whenever God is ready to resurrect a body, He will be able to scour every corner of His creation, find all of the matter that once made up that body, and bring all that matter back together to reorganize that body.
So, when it comes to every round of resurrecting that God will be doing in the future, we should just leave it all in His capable hands. We can rest assured that a God who can create matter out of nothing won’t have any trouble locating matter He has already created and getting it reorganized to suit Him. As the old saying goes, if you can get past Genesis 1:1 — which tells us that God created all of creation out of nothing — you shouldn’t have any trouble believing that God can do anything He wants to do at any time. And, yes, that includes resurrecting all of the bodies from all of human history.