Have you ever wondered why, if the righteous go to heaven when they die, that the Bible speaks of a resurrection of the dead?
Many preachers never talk about the resurrection of the dead. It makes no sense if the righteous immediately go to heaven when they die! But Jesus reveals this amazing truth in the Gospel book of John! There will be a resurrection of the dead, and it will not take place until “the last day”! It hasn’t happened yet!
Only Jesus Christ has been resurrected from the dead, and now sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven. No saint of God is now up in heaven. Shocking, but true!
In John 6, Jesus distinctly and repeatedly states when the resurrection of the dead takes place. Notice: “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (v. 39–40). “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day” (v. 44). “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (v. 54).
The early followers of Christ well understood this. In John 11 is the story of the brother of Martha and Mary, Lazarus, who had died. Christ did not arrive until a few days later. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (v. 21). Jesus responded, “Your brother will rise again” (v. 23). Martha said, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (v. 24). But Jesus explained that He was the resurrection and the life, and raised Lazarus to physical life only at that time (v. 43–44).
The Apostle Paul explains the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. He describes a resurrection of the saints, not to physical life, but to immortal life: “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (vv. 50–52).
Are you still skeptical? Consider Paul’s first epistle to the Thessalonian church. “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep [a metaphor for death].… For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.… we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep [dead]. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout [the first resurrection!], with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:13–16). Not until the return of Christ will the resurrected saints “be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (v. 17).
Why do so many claiming to follow Christ not believe the very words of Jesus Christ? Or of Paul? Can it be any plainer that the resurrection of the dead does not take place until the return of Jesus Christ, at the last day, at the last trumpet?
This resurrection of the saints is called in Revelation 20:5 “the first resurrection” and in Hebrews 11:35 “the better resurrection.”
For more on this topic, watch the telecast: “The Power of the Resurrection.”