Study 4: God and Death
The Nature of Man | The Soul | The Spirit | Death Is Unconsciousness | The Resurrection | The Judgment | The Place of Reward: Heaven or Earth? | Responsibility To God | Hell | Digressions (Purgatory, Ghosts And Reincarnation, With What Nature Are We Raised?, The "Rapture") | Questions

Digression 13: With What Nature Are We Resurrected?

We have shown that eternal life and being changed to God's nature are granted to the faithful after the judgment. Christ will firstly resurrect those responsible to his judgment, and then judge them after they have been gathered to him. Seeing that the reward of immortal nature is given at the judgment, it follows that all those who are resurrected have mortal nature first of all. If they are resurrected with immortal bodies, then there is no reason for a judgment seat at which to dispense the rewards.

We enter the Kingdom of God straight after the judgment seat (Matt. 25:34); the faithful are therefore not in God's Kingdom before the judgment. "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God (so)...we shall all be changed...For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (1 Cor. 15:50,51,53). It follows that this change of nature, from mortal to immortal, occurs at the judgment seat, seeing that is where we enter the Kingdom.

However, the inspired apostle Paul often speaks of "the resurrection" in the sense of "the resurrection of life" - the resurrection of the righteous, who will then receive eternal life after judgment. He understood, of course, "that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust" (Acts 24:15). He would have been aware that the responsible "shall come forth (from the grave); they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:29).

In his positive way, Paul seems to have often referred to this "resurrection of life" when he speaks of "the resurrection". The righteous come out of their graves "unto the resurrection of life" - after emerging from the earth they will be judged and then given eternal life. This whole process is "the resurrection of life". There is a difference between their "coming forth" from the grave, and "the resurrection of life". Paul speaks of his striving to live the Christian life, "if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead" (Phil. 3:11). Because he was responsible he will be resurrected to give account at the judgment in any case; that he strove to "attain unto the resurrection" must therefore mean that "the resurrection" here refers to the "resurrection of life".

Other examples of "the resurrection" meaning the "resurrection of life" (cp. Luke 14:14) include Luke 20:35; John 11:24; 1 Cor. 15:21,42; Heb. 11:35; Rev. 20:6. In Ps. 17:15 David speaks of receiving his reward the moment he "awakes". He had the same view of the resurrection, although he knew there would be a judgment. The usage of this phrase, "the resurrection", like this in 1 Cor. 15 helps explain 1 Cor. 15:52 - "the dead shall be raised incorruptible". It is noteworthy that the phrase "the dead" sometimes (and especially in 1 Cor. 15) refers to the righteous dead, who will be resurrected to receive eternal life at the judgment: 1 Cor. 15:13,21,35,42; 1 Thess. 4:16; Phil. 3:11; Rev. 14:13; 20:5,6.

1 Thess. 4:16,17 lists the events associated with Christ's return:-

1. Christ visibly returns
2. The dead are raised
3. The responsible who are alive at the time will be snatched away to judgment

The granting of eternal life is after this gathering together (Matt. 25:31-34; 13:41-43); therefore immortality cannot be given at the resurrection, seeing that this precedes the gathering together. We have shown that all the righteous will be rewarded at the same moment (Matt. 25:34; Heb 11:39-40). This would be impossible if immortality were granted at the resurrection, seeing that the resurrection precedes the gathering together of the living responsible.

It should be noted, however, that our conception of time is very human; God is not bound by it at all. It is possible to go too far in trying to work out a specific chronology of events which will occur around the time of Christ's return. The resurrection and our change to immortality at the judgment seat are described as occurring "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye" (1 Cor.15:51,52). Of necessity, time will go into a different dimension at the moment of Christ's return, at least for those who are to be judged. It is a common Biblical principle that each of those responsible to the judgment will give an account of their lives at the judgment seat, and will have some degree of discussion with their judge, the Lord Jesus (Mt.25:44 etc.; Ecc.3:17; 12:14; Lk.12:2,3; 19:23; Ez.18:21,22; 1 Tim.5:24,25; Rom.14:11,12). Given the vast numbers of the responsible, we have to assume that the meaning of time will be suspended or vastly compressed so that all of us are judged immediately, and yet also individually. Seeing that time will be compressed at this stage, so that the whole process of resurrection and judgment occurs "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye", it is understandable that the resurrection is sometimes spoken of as the means by which the righteous will be given eternal life. However, this is because of the speed at which we will be transferred from the grave to the judgment seat, and then, by God's grace, into the immortal state. The fact still remains, from the verses discussed earlier, that the Bible teaches that eternal life will be granted at the judgment seat rather than the resurrection. For this reason 1 Thess.4:17 speaks of the righteous being called away to the judgment by a trumpet blast, whilst 1 Cor.15:52 speaks of the same trumpet being associated with their being given immortality. This also explains why Paul thought of the resurrection as identical with acceptance at the judgment seat (e.g. Phil.1:23).