The resurrection of the dead is something we assume happens at the end of the world....but what does the scripture say? Please note that this event also occurs scripturally at the same time as "our gathering together to the Lord" and the "day of the Lord" or the 'time of Jacob's trouble"
"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
It should be noted that Jesus quoted from this and other passages in Daniel and these and other verses are also quoted in the book of Revelations.
The resurrection is something many of the prophets spoke of and Jesus quoted them and taught about. This same teaching was then preached to the early church by the apostles.
According to Daniel the resurrection was to occur at the end of the time of the tribulation....and before the total destruction of Jerusalem and the temple which were to herald the end of the Old Covenant age (Dan 9:26-27)
Dan 12:6 "How long shall the fulfillment of these wonders be?"
7 Then I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever, that it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished. NKJV
Please note that the Old Testament saints were waiting in Sheol or the grave UNTIL Jesus blood was shed to redeem them. At that very moment that Jesus shouted 'IT IS FINISHED'... and gave up his spirit...the scripture records...
Matt 27:50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. NKJV
(Please note that these saints had visible INDIVIDUAL bodies at the resurrection here and specifically that they were identifiable and able to appear to people)
Brethren, allow me the indulgence to refer to this as " The First Resurrection".... that of the OLD Testament saints ..including those who were prophets who had been martyred and who were waiting in Sheol for the sacrifice to be made and the redemption price to be paid...without which there could be no remission of sin. This is also the specific and detailed fulfillment of Jesus prophetic words in the following verse.
28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come forth — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. NKJV
Jesus was not speaking of an event that was 2000 years in the future.. 'the hour is coming' speaks of a fairly imminent event to those hearers of the teaching.
There certainly was no other general resurrection before this in the scriptures so calling it the first resurrection is quite appropriate. This was prohesied about by numerous prophets and then spoken of by Jesus and then RECORDED AS HISTORY in our sacred text for us. The saints were raised with recognizable BODIES...though it is likely that 'mortality had put on immortality' as Paul speaks of in 1 Cor 15 ... they were not just 'spirits'.
Please note that the distinction between a first and second resurrection is only ever referred to specifically in Revelations chapter 20. (and doctrine should generally not be framed around apocalyptic and prophetic passages)
Please note that while the graves were opened and the saints were raised, that they only came out of the graves AFTER Jesus resurrection. Jesus was the FIRSTFRUITS AMONG the dead....ie this clearly indicates that the resurrection was to apply to OLD Covenant Israel. It is highly unlikely that Mat 27 refers to New Testament saints as there were NONE recorded in the scriptures as having died before Jesus resurrection ('of those whom thou has given me I have lost none') ...except perhaps Judas who is highly questionable to be regarded as a 'saint'.
Rev 20:4 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. 5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 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. NKJV
Brethren this passage shows that the first resurrection ALSO applies to ALL the saints who were martyred after Jesus death and up to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70. This is indicated in the above passage as it includes the souls of those who did not worship the beast...ie mainly Jewish believers who were killed by their fellow Jews and Romans prior to AD70 for preaching Christ and refusing to worship Caesar. These were raised immediately on death to join the the first saints to be in heaven awaiting the 'judgment and vengence' of God to be poured out on apostate Israel. (Rev 6:9-11 and Rev 9:14)
ALL believers today are 'priests and kings' with Christ. (1 Pet 2:9, Eph 2:6 and Rev 1:6) We are called to serve and minister to others as Christ did...i.e. to rule on our knees by washing feet. All believers (post AD 70) live and reign with Christ on earth for the duration of our physical lives... and then in eternity and not just a thousand years.
For us as New Testament believers today (all who were saved after AD 70) the scriptures say that we were RAISED from the dead when we are BORN AGAIN...(refer to the scriptures under a separate heading below). We today who die as believers do not have to WAIT in the grave until Jesus has paid the price for our sins because he already did this on the cross in AD 33.
And yes ...over all who take part in the first resurrection now the second death has no power...(refer scriptures below)
(Please note that the phrase...'the dead' ... refers to those who died under the Law and are in sheol awaiting resurrection....Rev 20:5, 1 Cor 15:12-17, Mat 22:31)
(Please also note that the phase ...'those who have fallen asleep in Christ'...applies to those who as New Covenant believers prior to AD 70 were aleady united with Christ. They were already with Him and were awaiting His triumphal return in AD70)
So when does the second resurrection of Revelations 20 occur? Well according to Daniel 12:2 and 7 it MUST be before the destruction of Jerusalem...
"How long shall the fulfillment of these wonders be?" 7 Then I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever, that it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished. NKJV
Jesus confirms in Mat 24:29 below that IMMEDIATELY after the tribulation of those days...the elect would be gathered. Before this happened they would need to have been resurrected!.
The angel tells Daniel that the Tribulation (aka the time of Jacob's trouble) in Dan 12:1 will last for three and a half years...just as Revelations 11:2 and 13:5. Co-incidentally Josephus and other historic records confirm that both the persecution of believers by Nero Caesar and the seige of Jerusalem lasted approx. 3 and a half years.
So what other scriptural support is there that the "second resurrection" applied only to Israelites under the Law? (other than Dan 12:1 and Dan 9:24 which refers to Israel as 'your people')
Rev 20:11 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. 12 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. 13 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. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. NKJV
Under the Law Israelites were judged according to their works... i.e. of OBEDIENCE to the Law of Moses....and ALL who rely on the Law will BECOME GUILTY (Rom 3:19-20). The Law was a choice between LIFE (for obedience) and DEATH (for sin) Deut 30:15. The Law eventually brought DEATH to all (Rom 5:12 and Rom 8:2) ...other than to those who THROUGH FAITH found life.
ONLY those who believed in God however were made righteous, had their names written in the Lambs Book of Life and are part of the "first resurrection" (Rom 10:3, Mat 27:50-53)
The SECOND Resurrection is a transitional arrangement required only for Israel who HAD a covenant relationship with God under the Mosaic covenant which required that they would be JUDGED according to their WORKS...i.e. their obedience to the Law (Deut 27 and Deut 28:1-68). Prior to the Law of Moses being given there was NO imputation of SIN. The Law was only ever given to ISRAEL...the Gentiles were NEVER under the Law.
Rom 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned — 13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 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
Jesus gives a time frame for the resurrection...at the end of THIS age (Mosaic Age)....and links the resurrection by quoting from Dan 12:3. This shows that the 'end of the age' is the 'time of the end' referred to by Daniel (Dan 12:4)...and that this was to happen when the temple was destroyed...(Dan 12:7 and Dan 9:26) and all before the 70 weeks (of Dan 9:24) had expired.
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
Brethren the kingdom prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple revolved around PHYSICAL Israel. Between AD 33 and AD 70 the Old Covenant and the New Covenant overlapped. After AD 70 the kingdom is ONLY in the spiritual realm (John 4:21-24, John 18:36). The kingdom now centers on Christ who dwells in HIS church ...the hearts of the children of God (both Jew and Gentile) who are born again of the Spirit of God. (Eph 2:11-22)
Eph 2:22 ... in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. NKJV
Before the judgment where the wheat and the tares are gathered and SEPARATED, they would need to be RAISED from sheol....this is also the process in Revelations ...
Rev 14:13 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 I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, (Daniel 7) having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. 15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud,"Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe." 16 So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped. 17 Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. 18 And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying,"Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe." 19 So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. NKJV
The vine of the earth is unregenerate Israel. There is also a distinction to which Jesus refers in Matthew.
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. NKJV
The elect are the remnant of Israel (including the 'lost sheep of the house of Israel'...(Mat 10:6, 15:24) who believed in and received Jesus as Messiah. These became the foundation members of the new testament church (Acts 2:5-41)...and many of these were scattered and preached the gospel all around the world and were martyred (explaining why they had to be gathered from the four winds).
Isaiah also speaks of the resurrection happening at the time of tribulation (Isa 26:21 'the indignation'... and Is 27:1 'the day of the Lord with His severe sword')
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
Tie this together with Revelations description of the same event...
Rev 20:13 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. NKJV
Jesus makes a statement in regard to resurrection that is very relevant but that few fully comprehend as regards to the timing.
John 5:25 Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.
This refers to the fact that ALL who believed in Jesus received eternal Life from the time the gospel was first preached. Brethren, WE in the New Covenant do not have to wait for a 'future' resurrection as we are RAISED from the dead when we are saved. (See the scriptures in section below)
But there was another great event coming soon after the time that Jesus spoke of as 'the time that now is' which related to those already 'in the grave'...
John 5:28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come forth - those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. NKJV
Jesus indicates that the resurrection He was talking about was an event which would happen soon....something the people He was addressing should not marvel at as it was in accordance with what the prophets like Daniel had promised would happen TO ISRAEL within the 70Weeks...(and not a separate event happening up to 2000 years later to the world generally). He also shows that it is in the context of a resurrection and judgment of people according to their works as per Revelations 20. Jesus KNEW the timing of Daniel's prophecies, that they were to be fulfilled BEFORE THE TEMPLE WAS DESTROYED in AD 70.....and He confirmed more than 3 times that it would happen before AD 73. (i.e. before the end of THIS generation ...ie before those He was adressing right there had passed away) (Mat 23:36, Mat 24:34, Luke 11:47-51).
Brethren, read these passages in the light of the TRANSITION which was happening...and the end of the age which was about to come!
So what about the 'millenium' some will counter?
Firstly neither Jesus nor the prophets nor the apostles taught anything about a literal 1000 year period which was to come. So we should not build our theology around a single chapter on this issue...especially one which occurs only in a one chapter of a book of 'revelations'.
Secondly the whole of the Book of Revelations from chapter 4 to 21 is steeped in strong apocalyptic prophetic language and imagery...why then should the 1000 year period be assumed to be literal in this context? Satan being a dragon bound by a chain is surely figurative. A thousand almost everywhere else is used for a large number or long time. (Deut 1:11, Deut 7:9, Psalm 50:10, Ps 84:10, Ps 90:4)
The key scripture which supports that this is not necessarily a literal 1000 year period...one which also addresses the SAME TOPIC being the delay in and the timing of the return of Christ is ...
2 Peter 3:3 ... knowing this first; that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation." 5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. NKJV
Is Peter not saying that to them as apostles and the church being persecuted while waiting for the return of Christ, it seemed like a 1000 years BUT to those who reject Jesus the time passed like any other day? ...or just that time from God's perspective and ours are not the same?
Ps 90: 4 For a thousand years in Your sight
Are like yesterday when it is past,
And like a watch in the night. NKJV
Peter however gives the one reason we ALL would accept for the delay in the time....the fact the God in His mercy and grace kept the door open for the Jews to repent as long as possible. Jesus had powerfully and prophetically assured the apostles that His coming would be BEFORE their generation passed away (Mat 24:34) ...and they were somewhere around year 37 (out of 40) at that stage. Jesus also spoke in parables of this issue...Mat 24:48...'My master has delayed His coming' suggests that this was possible... as does Mat 25:5... 'The bridegroom was delayed' ... indicating that the return would be closer to the END of the time range.
AND this then matches the timeline given by Daniel 12:2 and 7 of the resurrection having occurred BEFORE Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed.
Is there any indication that the 'gathering together to Christ' at His coming was 'spiritual'?
....let us look at Paul's statements in 2 Thessalonians
2 Thess 2:1-2
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. NKJV
Note firstly that Paul had clearly taught them to expect the return of Christ in THEIR lifetime. (ie OUR gathering together to Him)
Now secondly how could the Thessalonians believers possibly conclude that the coming of our Lord, and our gathering together to Him and that the day of Christ HAD come already and that they were 'left behind' IF as many believe today these events were supposed to be the 'end of the world' and 'world-widely visible' events? (2 Pet 3:10). Paul did not say 'look out of your windows ...the heavens and the earth are still here'. Paul had clearly taught the Thessalonians that these events were NOT GOING TO BE the end of the world NOR visible to all...and that is why they could be and were shaken by the claims that IT had happened. BUT there is another missing key....
2 Tim 2:17 And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, 18 who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. NKJV
Paul tied the coming of the Lord, the gathering together, the day of Christ ...and the resurrection as event all occurring together at one time.
The fact that some could have believed that they had been "left behind" again demonstrates that the early church had not been taught to expect a visible world-wide cataclysmic event that many today assert is still coming 'soon' (almost 2000 years later?).
The reason this false (at that time) claim impacted the Thessalonians was because Paul had taught that the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple would happen as part of Christ's return in judgment of Israel....and because THIS EVENT had not yet happened they were still under the Jewish inspired Roman persecution. This was the challenge to their faith, 'If the day of the Lord has come, why are we still being persecuted by the Jews?' (2 Thes 1:5-11). The Thessalonians as believers were not expecting to be 'raptured physically into heaven'... but they were certainly expecting a powerful change in the heavenly realm to occur as a consequence to God's judgment on Israel.
So when we look at 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 and see what Paul had taught earlier (Note also how this passage is the fulfillment of Mat 24:30-31)
Please note that in this passage Paul again addresses his fellow believers of that time... 'WE who are alive and remain'. This event was expected to be in their very own lifetime....not something 2000 years later for other people.
1 Thess 4:15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. NKJV
Being caught up together to be with the Lord who IS SPIRIT and who descends from heaven is NOT referring to a physical event.....
Being caught up into the clouds in the air refers to the spiritual REALM in which we fellowship with God....not material clouds and air (Eph 2:2)
Being caught up (for those who were alive and remained) referred to them receiving the fullness of salvation and eternal LIFE Jesus died for them to have.
Being with the Lord always is not a physical event but a spiritual reality which all New Covenant believers now experience in part...and will experience fully when we go to be with the Lord at death when our mortality is swallowed up by immortality.
Brethren Paul here is describing THE FIRST resurrection...for those who lived in the transition from 'their present age" to 'the age (that was then still) to come'. The Jews and Gentiles who had believed SAW Jesus coming as GOD and FULFILLING His detailed prophetic words...including the judgment on Jerusalem. They were awesomely transformed by this experience ...put yourself in their shoes (this is the key God put in my heart at night as I was wrestling to understand this matter). They would have been walking around for days saying simply .... "OH MY GOD...YOU ARE AWESOME" ...the rest of their lives would never have been the same. This reminds me a bit of my own salvation experience and subsequent encounters with God. (even today almost 40 years later they sweep me away in the spirit)
Imagine now the Jews scattered throughout the Roman empire who had been behind the new believers being persecuted....they would KNOW that God's wrath had been poured out on THEM and their nation (by Jerusalem's destruction) and also on behalf of the church. I think many would have done some serious repentance (Acts 2:37-38).... and turned to the Lord for forgiveness.
Rev 3:9 Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie — indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. NKJV
Imagine the early church now witnessing to their fellow Gentiles... 'The God who did THAT to His (and our) enemies, is the the GOD I SERVE' ....'You need to get to know HIM'
This event explains why the early church EXPLODED in growth at that time...everybody in the Roman Empire KNEW who the real God was! And every Jew of that day knew that Mosaic Judaism was finished. God had terminated His Old Covenant with Israel and had now also divorced Judah!
For those who cannot accept this, what is required is a rational alternative explanation of Jesus's words about the IMMINENCE of the resurrection and His coming... one which is cohesive with all the old testament prophets and Jesus words along with the apostles teaching in the Epistles and Revelations and along with recorded HISTORY and the physical reality we today LIVE IN.
It is also important that any alternative explanation address ALL the closely associated events such as 'the day of the Lord', the tribulation, the falling away, the destruction of the temple, the coming of the Lord, the resurrection and the judgment.
IF such an explanation exists I certainly have never heard it, seen it or read it in 40 years of walking with Jesus.
(The other great challenge for those who still teach the 'imminence of the return of Christ' today is the FACT that there HAS BEEN AND STILL IS NO TEMPLE for almost 2000 years. Most of the furturist prophecy 'experts' say this HAS to exist before Christ can return.....and that sacrificial Judaism has also has to be restored. At the best this means that the approx 5 years it would take to re-build the temple would need to happen BEFORE Christ could return!
Surely this fact alone eliminates the possibility of real imminence having existed at all any time SINCE the temple was destroyed in AD 70?) (Ezek 37-40, Zech 12-14)
Further scriptures supporting the belief that the first resurrection for believers today in the New Covenant IS SPIRITUAL
Resurrection is the raising of the dead or making the dead alive.
1 Cor 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive NKJV
Brethren being 'alive in Christ' is NOT a physical state.
Eph 2:1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins NKJV
Eph 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus NKJV
Brethren we were spiritually dead...not physically.
Col 2:11 ... In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. NKJV
Rom 8:11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. NKJV
These scriptures are directly speaking about our RESURRECTION as New Testament believers.
Brethren our 'rebirth' did NOT change us physically.
John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." NKJV
John 3:5 Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. NKJV
John 3:8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit. NKJV
Brethren we are NOT speaking of a "visible kingdom"....but one in which Christ rules and reigns in the HEARTS OF HIS SUBJECTS.
1 Tim 1:17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. NKJV
Brethren, if the King is INVISIBLE (to the natural man) and eternal...then so is HIS eternal Kingdom INVISIBLE.
2 Cor 4:18 we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. NKJV
Now for the clincher...the verse that PROVES that the Old Testament resurrection IS different to the New Testament future for believers.
(The Old Testament is a type which is fulfilled by Jesus... 1 Cor 15:20-22)
23 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
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
Martha knew only of the resurrection which would come at the last day. She believed as most Jews did that under the Old Covenant people DIED and had to wait till the last day to be resurrected to be with God. This could only happen AFTER Jesus had died to pay the price for their SIN.
Jesus however tells her the HE is the resurrection....the resurrection is NOT an event...it is JESUS. Jesus said simply...'If you have ME you HAVE RESURRECTION AND LIFE'
Brethren, today for us as believers after AD 70, there is NO waiting and NO separation and NO second resurrection and NO judgment... Jesus HAS already paid the price and we get EVERYTHING when we get Jesus.
John 5:24 "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
1 John 5:12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. NKJV
WE in the New Covenant ARE united with Christ AND NEVER DIE ... and we are NEVER separated from Him
1 Cor 6:17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. NKJV
2 Cor 5:8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. 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
Our reconciliation is a DONE deal...
Rom 5:11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. NKJV
2 Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ NKJV
Brethren, the new creation is NOT physical.
John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. NKJV
1 John 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. KJV
1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother
abides in death. NKJV
So do we get a physical body in the New Testament after death?
In the 'first resurrection' spoken of in Mat 27:52-53 we see that the Old Covenant saints were indeed given new recognisable bodies....so it is reasonable to conclude that when we die we too will be given new recognisable immortal 'bodies'.
1 Cor 15:42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45 And so it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. NKJV
The other passage of scripture which supports the assumption of us having a spiritual body after death, is the alternate scenario which God had offered to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. What would have happened if they had not sinned by eating fruit from the wrong tree? They would have lived on earth in mortal bodies and enjoyed fellowship with God and got to know Him. They would, after years of experiencing the love and provision of God for them, eventually have found faith to eat of THE Tree of Life. The outcome would then have been that their 'mortal' bodies would have become eternal or 'immortal' bodies.....and they would have LIVED FOREVER with God as His children.......just as we today can now that God has restored the way for all to come to Him.
Gen 3:22 Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever" — 23 therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. NKJV
This is the eternal life we today can now also share in. God has restored the access for mankind into the Garden of Eden and the access to the Tree of Life ....where we receive and believe in Christ and put our trust in HIS sacrifice for us....rather than relying on our own abilities and works...or self righteousness. (Rev 2:7, 22:2 and 22:14)
The clearest teaching however of what we shall be like in the resurrection, is from Jesus words on the matter ...
Luke 20:35 But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; 36 nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. NKJV
Brethren, angels and sons of God are SPIRIT...not flesh. We will not have continued 'marital relationships'...contrary to what Mormons and Muslims are taught. All of the angels were individually recognisable...but they are SPIRITUAL beings ...not mortal or physical beings!
So what about Acts 1:11 some will ask?
Acts 1:9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven" NKJV
To those who have preached sermons on 'This SAME Jesus' (from Acts 1:11) claiming this referred to a PHYSICAL BODY... it would be appropriate to check the Greek before taking people on a false rabbit trail. The word 'same' is NOT in the Greek text in the first part of this verse. (Good translations today do not include the word same ...or at least have it in italics to show it is NOT in any of the Greek manuscripts)
So all that we know from this text is that JESUS himself will return....and that the manner would be ON or with CLOUDS.
Some base their opinions of what body Jesus has now on the fact that after the resurrection from the grave, Jesus was able to appear and re-appear at will. This is not something however without scriptural precedent by mere mortals...such as demonstrated by Elijah (1 Kings 18:11-12). Jesus also did this in his earthly ministry (Luke 4:30) ...and Phillip did also (Acts 8:39-40)....all done as 'mere' spirit filled mortals.
Luke 24:36 Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, "Peace to you." 37 But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. 38 And He said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have." NKJV
Brethren, this was still Jesus IN HIS HUMANITY. Yes, he was raised from the dead BUT He was not yet GLORIFIED ...
John 7:39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. NKJV
The day of Pentecost PROVED to the apostles that Jesus was NOW glorified because the Holy Spirit was then poured out! Jesus was NOW again in the form that was revealed to the apostles in the TRANSFIGURATION... his glorified self.
John 17:5 O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. NKJV
Luke 9:26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels. NKJV
Brethren Jesus is NOT coming back in 'bodily form' as a 1.7 m tall man of middle eastern appearance...but in His full Glory!
This is the glory which was revealed to three apostles in the 'tranfiguration' (Daniel 7:9 ... 'the Ancient of Days' ...Dan 7: 13 ...'one like the Son of Man coming on the clouds' ... Mat 17:2...'face shone like the sun' ... 1 Pet 1:16-17 ... 'eye witnesses of His majesty'... Rev 1:16 ... 'His countenance was like the sun shining')
This glorification was manifested to the world and His enemies in AD 70 as Paul shows...
2 Thess 1: 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed. NKJV
In THAT Day the world KNEW Jesus was God... both Jews and Gentiles.
Now there is a fair consensus among scholars that returning on CLOUDS refers to coming in JUDGMENT in prophetic language just as Daniel prophesied...and Jesus promised
Dan 7:13 "I was watching in the night visions,
And behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.
14 Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
Which shall not pass away,
And His kingdom the one
Which shall not be destroyed.
30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. NKJV
Jesus first came in the disguise of a man (Phil 2:5-8)...He was later revealed in the clouds as God himself. (Phil 2:9-11) (the book of REVELATIONS is the Revelation of JESUS himself...as the ALMIGHTY Rev 1:7-8)
Brethren, this was prophesied to happen prior to AD 70...by Daniel and Jesus and most of the apostles...and HISTORY records that it did. (Flavius Josephus - Wars of the Jews)
Now as to the question of what 'body' Jesus has now in heaven?
The Jesus I know is Spirit (John 4:24) ...I have only ever encountered Him as Spirit...and when He speaks my world changes. Brethren the spiritual world IS REALITY... this visible world is only temporal (2 Cor 4:18). Those who claim to have seen HIM as a man in my humble opinion are deluded....or cannot tell the difference between imaginations, dreams and reality. Scriptures are all that we should believe...not the words of men.
1 Tim 6:14 ... that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ's appearing, 15 which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. NKJV
When in future I see Him face to face, I will know Him...just as I am known. This is something I still cannot conceive...and I am sure that it will take me all eternity to gaze on in AWE as I try to absorb it.
1 Cor 13:12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. NKJV
Brethren there are some things we need to accept that even the apostles did not know..
1 John 3:2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. NKJV
John who SAW Jesus raised from the dead states... 'WHEN he is revealed..' John saw this in Revelations chapter 1...and
Rev 1:17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. NKJV
Jesus in ALL His Glory today is NOT walking around as a normal human being in a body of flesh and blood today.
Revelations chapters 4 and 5 give us a hint of what eternity in God's presence will be like.
And I am sure I will forever know Him as the God who loved me so much that He was prepared to become a man and suffer and die for me...so that I could know HIM.
(PS I personally can find no scriptural grounds to expect a 1.7 m man of middle eastern appearance to return physically on a cloud sometime in the future at Jerusalem to world-wide human accolades on global TV... but if you find your hope and solace in this belief then feel free to hold to your opinion... and if you can please let me know what scriptures I may have missed)
It is when we learn to listen only to the scriptures and the Spirit of Truth rather than the teachings of men that we find TRUTH.