Resurrection or Resurrections?
how many are there?
by Dr. Ken Matto
 
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: {17} Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Th 4:16-17 KJV)

Here is another clear doctrine which has been tampered with by those who follow the incorrect teachings of dispensationalism. There are those who teach that Christ will come back secretly for His church before the start of the Great Tribulation Period but in the same breath they teach that Christ will raise those who are in the tombs first. Don’t you think that millions of opened graves around the world would compromise the secrecy of such a return? We will look at what is so widely taught by many today. We will not concentrate on the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ but rather the resurrection of the believers.

 

The term "resurrection" is used 41 times in the New Testament and it is the Greek word "anastasis"" (anastasis) which is the root word for the medical term "anesthesia." If you have ever underwent surgery you were placed under anesthesia by an Anesthesiologist. This Doctor places you into a forced sleep and when the surgeon is done, he brings you out of it. As he brings you out of the sleep, you begin to regain consciousness and eventually full alertness. (If that doesn’t bring you to full alertness, wait till you get his bill.) This is what happens when a person is resurrected. They are dead and then brought back to a conscious life, like Lazarus was in John 11.
Some preachers teach there is going to be multiple resurrections. One Bible teacher told me personally that there was going to be three. I cannot remember exactly how he arrived at his conclusion but he had his rationale in favor of his position. As with any and all teachings, it is required that we test all conclusions against the mirror of Scripture to make sure we are on solid ground.
 
The Common Teaching
(1 Th 4:13-17 KJV) But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. {14} For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. {15} For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. {16} For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: {17} Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

 

(Rev 4:1 KJV) After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter.

 

Those that follow the dispensationalist teaching believe that the seven churches of Revelation 2 & 3 represent a specific time period in church history and as a result will link the above two passages of Scripture together. This is based on the erroneous belief that the book of Revelation is a chronological book. The reason that Revelation cannot be taken as a chronological book is because the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is mentioned several times in addition to many allusions to Judgment day which is the last day:
Revelation 6:12-20
Revelation 11:15-19
Revelation 19:11-21
At the end of the Church of Laodicea time period, the church on earth will be secretly raptured, then the world will be plunged into the Great Tribulation period with the rise of an Antichrist and then after the seven year tribulation period, the rest of the world will be raptured and all the saved dead that died in the tribulation period will be resurrected along with all the dead from the beginning of time. This then is the standard belief that there will be two resurrection events. The first will be the secret rapture and resurrection of the saints. The second will be the simultaneous resurrection of the unsaved and the tribulation saints who died under Antichrist. Now let us see if the Bible supports such a teaching.
 
The Biblical Resurrection
Now as we begin to investigate the resurrection of both the saved and unsaved, we will see plainly that the Bible gives us a totally different picture than do the prophecy books. So to make this study easy, I will post the passages of Scripture which deal with the resurrection of the believers and unbelievers and examine them on an individual basis and we will see if we attain biblical harmony.
 
John
(John 6:39 KJV) And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
 
(John 6:40 KJV) And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
 
(John 6:44 KJV) No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
 
(John 6:54 KJV) Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
 
Here are four verses which plainly teach that the resurrection of the believers will be on the last day. I have heard people say that the Lord is referring to the last day of the church age. Do we find that written here? The answer is no because they interpolate instead of interpret. God simply states that they will be raised on the last day. The phrase "last day" in the Greek is "escatos ermas"" (eschatos hermas) which means the farthest or most final day, the end. Eschatos does not make room for any more time afterward.
(John 11:24 KJV) Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
 
Here is an interesting verse concerning the death of Lazarus. Lazarus was a believer and if we follow dispensational resurrection theology, then Lazarus should be raised with the other believers at the secret rapture of the church. However, the verse is using the term "eschatos hermas" which we saw means the utter end. Lazarus is going to be resurrected on the last day and not with the secret Christians before any world event. How much plainer could this passage be as to when the believers are going to raptured.
 
(John 12:48 KJV) He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
 
Here is another passage which gives us insight as to when the unbelievers are going to be raised and that is on the last day, simultaneous with the believers and this is borne out in other passages of Scripture which we will look at.
 
Matthew 25:31-46
(Mat 25:31-46 KJV) When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: {32} And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: {33} And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. {34} Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: {35} For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: {36} Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. {37} Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? {38} When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? {39} Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? {40} And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. {41} Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: {42} For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: {43} I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. {44} Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? {45} Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. {46} And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
 
Now those who teach multiple resurrections claim dedicated resurrections. They say that in the first resurrection at the secret return of Christ that only believers will be raised from the dead and taken to heaven. Now if this is true, then why do we see in our passage of Scripture a separation of two distinct categories of people: the saved and unsaved? Here we see Christ separating the sheep (saved) from the goats (unsaved) at His Judgment seat. If the multiple resurrection theory was correct, then each resurrection would have a dedicated group of people and no separation would be needed, but as we see this is not the case as the Lord is making a separation of the single group of people. Now is this borne out anywhere else in the Bible?
 
John 5:27-28
(John 5:28-29 KJV) Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, {29} And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
 
Here are two verses which teach a single resurrection. Verse 28 tells us that ALL who are in the graves, not a portion, not only the believers, but ALL will be resurrected. Verse 29 goes on to tell us that there will be a separation of the unbeliever from the believer. The only one who does good in God’s sight are His children. (Gal 6:10 KJV) "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." The only ones that can do evil in God’s sight are the unbelievers. (Jer 13:23 KJV) "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil." So here we see biblical foundation for the separation of the believer and unbeliever on judgment day.
 
Even in the parables the Lord tells us to let the wheat and tares grow together. Why? Because on Judgment Day He will winnow the wheat from the chaff. (Mat 13:30 KJV) "Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn." Then the Lord goes on in Matthew Chapter 13 and gives a definite answer to the parable. (Mat 13:38-39 KJV) "The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; {39} The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels." So we have seen biblical proof that there will only be one resurrection on the last day when the Lord returns and then final separation of the unbeliever and believer will take place. I remember being at a prophecy conference at America’s Keswick with the Friends of Israel ministry and a question was posed to one of the speakers in an open forum concerning John 5:28-29 teaching a single resurrection. The speaker did not and could not answer the person who posed the question instead showed his blatant ignorance of Scripture and said, "That is how Harold Camping teaches it." If the Lord takes Harold Camping home, who will the prophecy preachers blame their inability to interpret Scripture on? Now then the question remains is where does the idea of multiple resurrections come from?
 
Where does it come from?
The idea of two resurrections come from two sources: Satan and wrong interpretation.
 
Satan
In 1830 in Port Glasgow, Scotland a woman named Margaret MacDonald at a prophecy conference went into a trance and channeled the entire scenario of a two stage appearance of Christ with His secret rapture. Trance channeling has long been associated with the occult as this is what mediums do. Channeling is akin to ouija boards and is also a great part of the New Age Movement where someone believes they are receiving wisdom from ascended masters and avatars. Before Christians accept any teachings they must check it out in Scripture.
 
Wrong Interpretation
(Rev 20:5-6 KJV) But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. {6} Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
 
With most church theology leaning toward the two resurrection theory, when this verse is happened upon in an eschatalogical discourse, it is always taken as a physical resurrection of the believer rather than the spiritual resurrection of the believer.
 
(John 5:24-25 KJV) Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. {25} Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.
 
(Eph 2:1 KJV) And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins:
 
(Eph 2:5 KJV) Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
 
(Col 2:13 KJV) And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
 
These four verses give us insight as to the nature of the first resurrection which is not a physical one but a spiritual one. The believer was once dead in their sins but because God had quickened (or made alive), the Christian is not subject unto the second death or eternal damnation. So the first resurrection is not physical, it is the moment when we receive our resurrected souls and now we are alive unto God whereas before we were dead to the things of God. When Revelation 20:5-6 is interpreted correctly as a spiritual resurrection, then it harmonizes with the rest of Scripture and we don’t have to twist any Scripture or fabricate a doctrine to make it fit.
 
Final Thoughts
We have seen that the Bible clearly teaches there will be one general resurrection on the last day. We can see this from the clear witness of Scripture. If I am to believe a two resurrection theory, then I must avoid all the Scriptures we looked at or twist them to fit my belief system. As you saw, we did not twist or force any meaning into any of the plain Scriptures concerning the teaching of a single general resurrection, it is the two resurrection believer who has to do that. Next time you read a prophecy book, see if they mention any of the six verses in John concerning "the last day." If they do, I could almost guarantee that they will add meaning to them which will make their case. The Bible does not say "last day of the church age" but the "last day" period.

 

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