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  • Writer's pictureDr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.

The Resurrection of All the Dead

I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept,

that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.

Acts 24:15

Question 87 of the Larger Catechism, asks, “What are we to believe concerning the resurrection?” It gives the answer, “We are to believe, that at the last day there shall be a general resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust: when they that are then found alive shall in a moment be changed; and the self-same bodies of the dead which were laid in the grave, being then again united to their souls for ever, shall be raised up by the power of Christ. The bodies of the just, by the Spirit of Christ, and by virtue of his resurrection as their head, shall be raised in power, spiritual, incorruptible, and made like to his glorious body; and the bodies of the wicked shall be raised up in dishonour by him, as an offended judge.” Two weeks ago we examined where the wicked go at death. This week we look at the doctrine of the general resurrection of all the dead.

This life is not all there is. Not just the one true faith of Christianity, but by the common grace of God many false religions understand and affirm the fact that one day the dead shall rise and live again. As the Scripture at the head of this article teaches, not merely the just, those whose sins have been washed away in the shed blood of Christ, but the unjust, which includes everybody else, will be raised from the dead. The Bible teaches that this event will happen “on the last day,” (John 6:39-44, 54), that means, the last day of this age, which is also Judgment Day.

On the last day Jesus will raise the bodies of the dead. These bodies will be reconstituted from the dust of the ground, into which they have decayed, and they will be reunited to their souls, never again to be separated from them. There is mystery here since we do not exactly know how this will take place or what it will look like. Scripture is clear, however, that our bodies will be in some sense the same, for they are “raised” and we will recognize them as our bodies, but in another sense they will be new, since they will no longer be corruptible or perishable, but they truly will be—as our souls currently are—immortal (1 Cor. 15:53-54). Never again will we know the separation of soul from body where the soul continues in conscious existence without the body, which is allowed to decay and dissolve back into the dust from which it came, which state we refer to as physical death.

In addition to the dead being raised, those human beings alive on the last day will be changed “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor. 15:52), and they will instantly become, as those whose bodies have been raised: immortal and imperishable forevermore. The power of Christ will perform every resurrection of the dead and every transformation of the living. Jesus Christ is God incarnate. As such He can call the dead to life at will. He is absolutely sovereign over all that He has made and His Word goes forth perfectly accomplishing His will. Thus, when Christ orders the final trumpet to sound (1 Cor. 15:52), the dead will be raised and the living will be changed and we will all be assembled to give an account of our lives to God.

As the Catechism notices, the just and the unjust will be raised to two different ends. The just will have their bodies raised in order to be “conformed to His glorious body,” (Phi. 3:21). Thus, the body of each believer “is raised in glory,” (1 Cor. 15:43). Notice how the Catechism is quick to point out that this glory will not be due to anything that the just have done in their lives by their works, but it will be entirely due to Christ’s virtue as the head of His church. Conversely the unjust will be raised up for the purpose of condemnation (John 5:29). Christ’s power will be extended toward them, not to give them the glory He has merited and which He will give to the elect by pure grace, but to pour out upon them the punishment their sins have deserved according to strict justice. The reward promised in the Garden for not sinning was life, the punishment threatened was death. At the resurrection the accounts will be fully settled. Those who in life believed in Christ will be given the reward He earned for them, those did not will be given the punishment that is their due. All of this will occur on resurrection day. The King is coming to settle accounts. Accept His offer of salvation today and be confident that you will rejoice on the day of resurrection!


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