What is the resurrection?

Some time in the future there will be a restoration to life and judgment of every person who has ever lived. Hebrews 9:27 says, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” All men will one day be resurrected to be judged by God.

First there will be a resurrection for the saved. That resurrection takes place during the rapture, an event made popular recently in the Left Behind series of books and movies. The Bible reveals to us in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 that the dead bodies of the saved will be restored to life and taken up to meet Jesus. The saved who are still alive at the time of the rapture will then be taken up to meet Jesus.

Those who have been raptured will be taken into heaven and judged by Christ for how they have served Him. As His servants, they will answer to Him for how they have used what He has given them and how they have worked for His kingdom. This judgment is not a judgment of sin, for the believers sin has been taken away. This judgment is a judgment of stewardship, in which the believer is rewarded or rebuked depending on the faithfulness of his service for Christ.

Eventually, the believer will enter into a perfect eternity in the New Heaven and New Earth. This perfect eternity has nothing to do with floating around on clouds and playing harps. The Bible tells us almost nothing about this eternity. What we do know comes from Revelation 21 and 22. For the believer, eternity will be completely free from all sin, sorrow and suffering. All who are saved will live on this earth in faithful service to God, glorifying and enjoying Him forever.

Long after the believer’s resurrection will be the resurrection of the unsaved. Just before God wipes out this universe He will bring before His throne for judgment all who have died without trusting Jesus. Revelation 20:11-15 gives a terrifying picture of this event. “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

All the unsaved will stand before God and be judged for their disobedience to His Word. Because they have not believed in Jesus, God finalizes their condemnation. This judgment is not a second chance at salvation, but is the final official declaration of their guilt before God. All those who have not believed Jesus for salvation, Satan and all the demons will be condemned and sent into the Lake of Fire forever. In the lake of fire they will suffer for eternity, paying the penalty of their rebellion against God.

The resurrection of the saved is a resurrection to life and eternal joy. The resurrection of the unsaved is a resurrection to death and eternal suffering. None have to endure the eternal suffering of the Lake of Fire. When He died on the cross, Jesus paid the consequences and suffering of sin. He extends salvation to all who will turn to Him and trust only Him for forgiveness of guilt and cleansing from sin. God promises eternal life to all who believe Jesus to salvation.

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