Under the Old Covenant the majority of Israelites in Jesus day believed in a resurrection from the dead for judgment...and Jesus confirmed this in many places. They believed that the dead would first go to the grave (sheol) and wait for a resurrection at which time they would be judged and rewarded for their adherance to the Law by being with God where He himself would rule on earth.
Deut 30:19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death , blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; 20 that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them." NKJV
The failure of Israel as a nation under the Law was that most focussed on the WORKS they had to do ...and FAILED to seek GOD Himself. (Rom 9:30-33, Rom 10:3-4). Soon these apostacised and served false gods but God always had a 'remnant' of believers loyal to Him in the nation (Rom 11vs 4-6) ...those who were sealed and came out of the great tribulation after forming the base of the early church (Rev 7:14)
Those who sought and found God by faith such as Moses, Joshua and David, the prophets and all who believed we are told looked forward to a city whose builder and maker was God (Heb 11:10), a heavenly country (vs 16), the riches of Christ (vs 26) and believed that they would obtain a better resurrection (vs 35)
David the king prophesied this hope in the Psalms
Ps 16:9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will rest in hope.
10 For You will not leave my soul in Sheol,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
11 You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. NKJV
Also other prophets promised it
Isa 26:19 Your dead shall live;
Together with my dead body they shall arise .
Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust;
For your dew is like the dew of herbs,
And the earth shall cast out the dead. NKJV (Rev 20:13)
Dan 12:1 "At that time Michael shall stand up,
The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people;
And there shall be a time of trouble,
Such as never was since there was a nation,
Even to that time.
And at that time your people shall be delivered,
Every one who is found written in the book.
2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,
Some to everlasting life,
Some to shame and everlasting contempt.
3 Those who are wise shall shine
Like the brightness of the firmament,
And those who turn many to righteousness
Like the stars forever and ever. NKJV
The Prophets spoke of a coming tribulation (aka ..the time of Jacobs trouble) which would be followed immediately by a resurrection of the dead, judgment and reward of the righteous AT THE SAME TIME.....a time Jesus described as "THE END OF THE / THIS AGE"
Jesus confirmed this would happen as he quotes the prophets in the following parable
Matt 13:36 And His disciples came to Him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field."
37 He answered and said to them: "He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. 39 The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. 40 Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. 41 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear! NKJV
Please note that under the Old Covenant Jesus said that there were many 'sons of the kingdom' who would be CAST OUT of the kingdom.... they had not found the righteousness of God but had sought to establish their OWN righteousness instead. (Mat 5:28, Mat 13:47-50, Mat 22:1-14, Luke 13:23-30)
Paul preached the imminent expectation of God's day of judgment which would be preceded by the resurrection ...
Acts 24:14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. 15 I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will (SOON = mello) be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. NKJV
Brethren, please get this LOUD AND CLEAR.....it is the LAW and the Prophets (of the Law) that would bring about the resurrection for JUDGMENT of the just and the unjust! (as was fulfilled in AD 70)
The timing being soon was because JESUS had said that ALL things that were written in the Law and in the prophets would be fulfilled WITHIN THAT GENERATION
Luke 21:32 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place. NKJV
Luke 24:44 Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me." 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. NKJV
Does something different happen to people at death today under the New Covenant?
Do all who die today still go to the grave and wait for a future judgment? Well firstly we need to know that what the Law says, does NOT apply to us today. We are not 'under the Law' but under a NEW covenant of GRACE. (Rom 6:14)
Rom 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law NKJV
In the Old Covenant one became an Israelite by PHYSICAL birth and circumcision. Today God has no grandchildren....we all personally need to find Him and have a faith relationship with Him. The kingdom is now IMMATERIAL, INTANGIBLE and INVISIBLE. The Kingdom does not equate to 'church world'. Our parents can arrange for us to be baptised and sign us up for church membership but only our personal pursuit of God and His righteousness will result in us entering the kingdom (John 1:12-13, John 3:3-7). Today we are ADOPTED by God as His children when we are born of the spirit.
Those who do not believe in Jesus have NO covenant with God. They have nothing that would enable them to live beyond this life.
Rom 5:14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. NKJV
According to the scriptures those who do not believe in Jesus are already dead spiritually (ie separated from relationship with God). When they perish or die physically and return to dust UNLESS they find LIFE in Christ while on earth.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. NKJV
We as believers, do NOT have to wait to have to wait to see if we have been good enough to be rewarded with eternal life.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. NKJV
Condemnation is that those who have chosen NOT to seek for life ... get what they want. At the end they PERISH...they are not tormented forever.
We as believers, do NOT have to wait for a judgment at the end of the world.
John 5:25 "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. NKJV
If we do not believe, we are DEAD spiritually already.... but just waiting for the batteries to run out (death scripturally is a result of separation from our life source...i.e. relationship with God)
John 5:21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. NKJV
Eph 2:1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins NKJV
John 16:8 And when He (the Helper or Holy Spirit) has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment : 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. NKJV
The only sin which keeps mankind dead today is the failure to believe in Jesus....who was sent to reveal God's love for us by his death for us.
Those who die today BELIEVING IN CHRIST, live on in Him ETERNALLY
John 11:24 Martha said to Him,"I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" NKJV
John 10:27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand. NKJV
Rom 8:38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. NKJV
Brethren, there is no judgement awaiting believers....IF you believe in Jesus you HAVE eternal LIFE. If you don't believe you remain dead and perish when your time on earth is done.
Do you believe Jesus?
So now when we look at Revelation 20:13 and we see that the judgment for each one was 'according to works' ...we can conclude that this passage applies to the Old Covenant.
Rev 20:14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. NKJV
Hades ...the place of waiting for the dead under the Old Covenant ...was emptied and destroyed in AD70. Death was destroyed when the Old Covenant....came to an end because it was the LAW which caused sin to be imputed....and it was SIN which bought death.
Brethren for us, as NEW Covenant believers, DEATH is over....yes we physically pass from this temporal world into eternity but according to Jesus we do NOT DIE.... ie we will NEVER be seperated from His presence.
Do you believe Jesus?
Does Revelation 21 and 22 describe 'Heaven'....or the New covenant?
Some look at the world today and say that this cannot be 'the New Jerusalem' thinking that this refers to heaven iteself. The scriptures tell us that it was the kingdom of Heaven which was ushered in and that this IS THE NEW COVENANT..
In the resurrection or when we pass from this world into what many refer to as heaven itself, we are told by Jesus that we will all be 'like the angels'.
We are clearly not there yet.
Brethren, the kingdom of heaven is 'not of this world' ... it is in the spiritual realm... the realm of God, where He dwells in the hearts of His children throughout the generations.
Rev 21:2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. NKJV
Brethren, the Bride is the Church... (Eph 5:25-32)
Paul tells us that the Jerusalem above, which is free, IS the New Covenant (Gal 4:22-26). Hebrews 12 tells us what the heavenly Jerusalem is...
Heb 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. NKJV
Brethren in the New Covenant, we as believers have direct access to God...in His new heavenly city. We are now part of the church UNIVERSAL...that which is registered in heaven.....and we have Jesus as our High Priest IN THE NEW COVENANT today.
Brethren in the Kingdom of heaven itself, today on earth, there is no sin. Yes there are sinners all around BUT some have their robes washed in the blood of the Lamb and have been made perfect in Christ...and then there are those who choose to remain outside.
Rev 22:14 Blessed are those who do His commandments (NU 'wash their robes'), that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. 15 But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie. NKJV
The Kingdom of Heaven is NOT a physical place on earth (like a church organisation)....it is the SPIRITUAL reality of the New Covenant. (Gal 4:23-26) (Heb 12:22-24)
Those who follow God's commands and accept Jesus death for their righteousness are those who have 'washed their robes'...and can partake of the TREE of LIFE
But OUTSIDE there are sinners and those who love and practice a lie.
Gal 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. NKJV
1 John 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. NKJV
John 3:18 "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God." NKJV
This is the world in which we as believers live today. It does not matter if we belong to any worldly church organisation. What matters is that we have our names written in the Lamb's Book of LIFE...and our robes washed in His blood...and that the fruit or the reality of our new birth is manifested in our lives.
2 Tim 2:19 Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity." NKJV