Daniel 056 – Resurrections in Review

Daniel 056 – Resurrections in Review
Daniel 12:2b • Dr. Andy Woods • March 25, 2018 • Daniel


Andy Woods

Resurrections in Review

3-25-18       Daniel 12:2b               Lesson 56

Good morning everybody.  Happy Palm Sunday to everybody.  I keep waiting for people to show up with their palms, I haven’t seen anybody yet other than these right here, I’ve got my palms out.  And of course next week is Resurrection Sunday and as  you know we go through the Bible verse by verse and I just find it very interesting that the Lord would have us in verse 2 today, which is probably your most graphic treatment of resurrection in the entire Old Testament.  So let’s open up our Bibles to the Book of Daniel, chapter 12 and verse 2.  The title of our message this morning is Resurrections (plural, you mean there’s more than one?  Yes there is) Resurrections in Review.

And as you know we’ve been working our way through the  Book of  Daniel.  Daniel, of course, is having, in these closing chapters, his final vision which he saw back in the sixth century.  There was a lot of warfare involved in bringing this vision to Daniel but he finally received it and he begins to record his final vision beginning in chapter 11 going all the way through the end of chapter 12.  And what a vision this is; all of the information that Daniel has received, information about empires of his own day, Persia to be followed by Greece, to be followed by the warfare within the Grecian Empire, to be followed by a really bad person that would come about 400 years after Daniel left the scene, Antiochus IV.

And then how Daniel has sort of leaped forward into the distant future.  Beginning around Daniel 11:35, verse 36, right in there, he begins to see information about the future antichrist who is still future even from our day.  [Daniel 11:35, “Some of those who have insight will fall, in order to refine, purge and make them pure until the end time; because it is still to come at the appointed time. [36] Then the king will do as he pleases, and he will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will speak monstrous things against the God of gods; and he will prosper until the indignation is finished, for that which is decreed will be done.”]

And then beginning in chapter 12 which we started last time we began to receive information from the Lord about the tribulation period yet future and the millennial kingdom to follow.  You can take the information there in chapter 12 and you can divide it into  two.  Number one, we have the description of the end times, that’s in verses 1-4.  And then that is followed by the duration of the end times, verses 5-13, a series of questions and answers that concern the end times.

But we are still there in chapter 12, verses 1-4 and we’re getting a lot of information here about the duration of the end times.  We’ve seen, number 1, last week, verse 1, suffering, how suffering is in store for the nation of Israel yet future.  We saw in verse 1 how the prince, Michael, would arise to protect Israel in the last days.  And of course I did make a mistake last week and a few people brought this to my attention, which doesn’t bother me at all, it certainly is not the first mistake I ever made nor will it be the last and I’m glad you brought it to my attention because it shows me you’re listening.  Amen!  But I did make a reference to Michael and I said this is the first time Michael, the prince, or the angel, is mentioned in the Book of Daniel.  That, of course, is incorrect; we already ran into Michael back in Daniel 10, I believe it’s around verse 13.  The problem is it’s been so long since we’ve been in Daniel 10 to me it seemed like the first reference to Michael.

But the prince was followed by the pain or a description of the tribulation period and you can think about the Book of Revelation which is describing that same time period but in greater detail.  And then the pain was followed by the perseverance, how God, through all of these things is going to preserve a believing remnant within Israel.  They will come to faith and through that remnant God will fulfill His end time program.  And then we moved from the suffering to the separation and this is the verse that we find ourselves is this morning, just one Sunday removed from… we call it Easter Sunday, probably better said Resurrection Sunday.

Notice again verse 2, it says, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.” [Daniel 12:2]  And we began last time to introduce the concept of resurrection and we, as Christians, throw this word resurrection around all of the time.  What exactly is a resurrection?  What are we even talking about?  Well, resurrection would be the opposite of death and briefly last time we talked about how when a person dies the material and the immaterial, the body and the part of you that’s designed to live forever, called the soul, the two separate.  The soul, as I’ll talk about, after death does not go out of existence but rather that soul is awaiting for the opposite of death, death being a separation; that soul is waiting for a reunion.  As that soul is placed back into their body but it’s the body that God intended with the curse  pulled out of it, what we call their resurrected body or their glorified body.

There are many, many references, at least sort of a little less clear than the one we read about here in verse 2, that talk about resurrection.  We mentioned Job 19:25-27.  We also mentioned Isaiah 26:19.  The concept of resurrection is not new.  [Job 19:25-27, “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. [26] Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God;  [27] Whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes will see and not another. My heart faints within me!  [Isaiah 26:19, “Your dead will live; Their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, For your dew is as the dew of the dawn, And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits.”]

But here for the first time we actually learn that not only will the righteous be resurrected but so will the unrighteous.  Other Bible writers come alongside and repeat the same truth.  We mentioned last time John 5:29, Acts 24:15.  [John 5:29, “and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.”  Acts 24:15, “having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.”]

And it’s not until we get to  the Book of Revelation that we discover that these two resurrections that Daniel is referring to here are separated by a thousand  years.  The thousand  year kingdom of Christ, the resurrection for the righteous at the beginning of that thousand year reign of Christ and the resurrection of the unsaved taking place at the end of that thousand  year reign of Christ.  You might recall that we actually read together Revelation 20:4-6 which clearly talks about the two resurrections and their separation by a thousand  years.

[Revelation 20:4-6, “Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. [5] The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. [6] Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.”]

And you say well  how come Daniel doesn’t tell  us about the thousand  year gap?  As we’ve been studying prophetic writings we observed that one of the things the Holy Spirit does is He will reveal two prophetic events in a back to back fashion without revealing the time period or the duration of the time period between those events.  It’s a lot like looking at two mountains in the distance; you sometimes see the furthest mountain raised slightly above the nearest mountain and  you cannot see the valley between those mountains.  In fact, if you become sensitive to this you’ll see that your Bible does this all of the time.  Isaiah 9:6, there’s a gap of at least two thousand years or more.  Isaiah 9:6 says, “For a child was born to us, a son will be given to us,” that’s the first coming of Christ, then the same verse goes on and says, “the government will be upon His shoulders, there will be no end of the increase of His government,” etc.  That’s a reference to the second coming of Christ.  And what the Holy Spirit did not reveal is the valley between those two prophetic references.

So to discover that there is a valley between those two prophetic references you have to  consult other sections of the Bible, [can’t understand word] Revelation and this is what we have to do with the Book of Daniel, chapter 2 and verse 2, we have to supplement it with the Book of Revelation and it’s there we learn that these two resurrections, one for the righteous, one for the unrighteous are separated by the thousand year duration of Christ’s earthly kingdom.

Now one of the things we want to talk about here is this word “forever.”  Let’s read again Daniel 12, verse 2, notice the repetition of “forever.”  “Many of those will sleep in the dust of the ground and will awake, these to forever” or some translations say “everlasting life but others to disgrace and” second repetition of forever, “everlasting contempt.”  And it is a biblical reality that everyone in human history, Christian or not, believer or not, saved or unsaved, will be resurrected.  The believer to experience eternal bliss with God in their glorified body,  the unbeliever to experience eternal retribution.

As a very young Christian there were two doctrines that I tried to look at very carefully with the hope of getting rid of, explaining away.  One of them was the whole concept of election versus free will.  I never fully understood that if I’m free to choose God why does the Bible keep saying God chose me?  And after wrestling with that doctrine for several decades here’s my answer.  My answer is I don’t know.  I used to get very angry over things like that in the Bible that I just couldn’t understand but you kind of reach a point where you begin to realize that His ways are higher than our ways.  God really never asked my opinion about anything, quite frankly.  He just reveals things and expects me, as His disciple, to believe what He has said.  And if there are things like this in the Bible that I don’t understand now it’s not a matter of irritation, it’s a matter of rejoicing because let me ask you a question: do you want a God that you can completely figure out?  I mean, if you can completely figure out God then God is no greater than yourself.  And we oftentimes try to make God in man’s image.  There are things in the Bible that are paradoxes, mysteries, which gives me further incentive to believe that this book obviously came from God, it came from a different time dimension.  I’m not sure man could have come up with this election versus free will idea.

But the second doctrine that always bothered me and it bothers me to this day is the doctrine of eternal retribution.  If after all God is a God of love then how can He allow people to be tormented in conscious torment forever and ever and ever and ever.  And there, like myself as a  young Christian there are a great many attempts today within evangelical Christianity to dismiss this doctrine, to act like the Bible is not really saying what it’s saying.

Now not if but when the Jehovah’s Witnesses show up at your door, Jehovah’s Witnesses we understand as a non-biblical cult, not adhering to the tenants of biblical Christianity, they will try to convince you that hell is really not forever, they call it the common grave.  And one of the tragedies that I’ve noticed in my lifetime is this doctrine of the common grave, where you just disappear and you cease to exist as an unbeliever is now making its way into evangelical Christianity.  There are many, many people that I could call your attention to that are flirting with this particular doctrine.  It’s called annihilationism.  The unbelievers, we’re told, don’t go on in conscious torment forever and ever and ever, they just explode, sort of like how the death star exploded in Star Wars, they have a laser beam [can’t understand word], the whole thing is destroyed and it’s gone.  I may be getting my Star Wars mixed up here, the death star did explode at the end, I remember that, but then the death star blew up another planet too, that’s what I was thinking of, as if that matters at all.  I’m up here trying to preach and teach the Word of God and thinking about Star Wars….

But a lot of people have this vision that you just explode, if you’re an unbeliever you cease to exist. That is called annihilationism.  So the idea is man is created immortal but his immortality is stripped of him or her if they are Christ rejecters.  Other people have a slightly different verbiage that they use, they call it conditional immortality.  And all these views that you hear, they sound so scholarly, annihilationism, conditional immortality, and it’s this idea that we are born not immortal but God gives us immortality at the point of faith in Christ, otherwise we remain mortal and can have our lifespans annihilated, we just disappear.

And such views, I believe, contradict what your Bible says about anthropology, the doctrine of man.  When God created man and woman He put something very unique in them called their status as image bearers.  Image bearers of who?  Image bearers of God.  How long does God exist for?  He exists forever.  How long do we exist for?  We exist forever… now we’re different than God, we haven’t always been around but from the point of conception God has given us a certain status whereby from that point of conception we will continue to exist forever.  Genesis 1:27 says, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”   That’s who we are by design.  The Book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 3 and verse 11 says this of man, of this doctrine of anthropology, “He has also set eternity in their heart….”   [Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.”]

All of these ideas that cause people to dismiss the idea of eternal retribution right out of the gate you know that they can’t be correct because they contradict how God has fashioned man.  Man, by definition, woman by definition, being higher than the animal kingdom itself, bears the image of God and as imager bearers of God we have tremendous capacities.  One of the most powerful capacities we have is the capacity for choice.  Why do I have an ability to accept God or reject God?  It goes back to how God manufactured me as a member of Adam’s race.  I have the capacity to reject God.  Think of that, think how awesome that is of a power.  Or I have the capacity to trust God.  God is not going to coerce Himself on me, He will draw me to Himself, He will convict me. But you see, at the end of the day I can reject even the ruling ministry of the Holy Spirit.  What a power we have!  And part of this ability or capacity in which we were made an image bearer involves our eternal existence.  Whether we like it or not every human being on planet earth will exist and be alive somewhere a hundred years from now, a thousand years from now, a million years from now, and a billion years from now as long as we want the number to exist.  Why is that?  Because that’s how we are designed.

And you’ll notice here what Daniel 12:2 says; it’s very interesting concerning these two resurrections. “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life,” that’s the resurrection at the beginning of the millennium, it’s the Hebrew word olam, and notice what the rest of the verse says, “but the others to disgrace and everlasting” that’s the word olam again in Hebrew repeated, “others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.”  So you ask people today, do you believe that heaven is forever, the kingdom is forever, eternal life is forever?  Oh yeah, we believe that.  Well why do you believe that?  Well it says olam as the qualifier.  Then you say well do you believe that hell is forever?  Oh no, we don’t believe that.  You can’t play that game linguistically because of the repetition of olam; the same word used to describe eternal life is the same word used to describe eternal damnation.

It is interesting that olam over in Psalm 90:2 is the same word used to describe God Himself who is forever.  Psalm 90:2 says this: “Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting” olam “to everlasting,” olam “You are God.”   And you say to people well, do you believe that God is forever?  Well, of course I believe that.  Do you believe that heaven is forever, and eternal life is forever?  Of course I believe that. Well do you believe that hell is forever?  No, I don’t believe that.  Well how can you play that game when the identical words used to describe retribution are the exact same words used to describe the existence of God and the existence of eternal life.

See, the Bible is not going to give us, and believe me I’ve tried, tried to find loopholes.  The Bible is not going to give you any wriggle room for this!  Now when we go over to Matthew 25:46 we see a parallel passage. It repeats the same idea but now it’s not in the Hebrew Old Testament language, it’s in the Greek, Koine Greek New Testament language.  And this is what Jesus says in Matthew 25:46, “These will go away into eternal” that’s the Greek word aiōnios, “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Now one of my seminary professors when I was taking some classes in California at Talbot Theological Seminary, a professor by the name of Dr. Alan W. Gomes makes a very basic but very important statement on this, concerning eternal punishment, because there’s a lot of people out there saying well you just get annihilated.  Well then how can punishment be eternal?  Gomes writes this: “A punishment” and by the way, backing up for a minute, the Greek word for punishment there is [can’t understand word] Gomes says, “A punishment [such as torment] that is not to be felt is not a punishment.”

In other words, the idea of punishment and ceasing to exist are two mutually exclusive concepts, especially when the punishment in the Scripture is called eternal punishment.  Gomes says, “It is an odd use of language to speak of an insensate state (i.e., unfeeling), an inanimate object receiving punishment.’  Gomes says, “To say, ‘I punished my car for not starting by slowly plucking out it’s spark plug wires, one by one,’ would invoke laughter, not serious consideration.”   [Summer 1991). “Evangelicals and the Annihilation of Hell” (Part 2).  In the Christian Research Journal. Page 11.]  You can’t punish something that’s not conscious.  You certainly can’t punish something eternally that’s not conscious.

So the very concept of eternal punishment brings with it a conscious state of eternal retribution, or else it is not eternal punishment.  And in the Matthew 25:46 passage  you’ll notice, just like in Daniel 12:2 a repetition of the word “eternal.”  Now is there a higher authority than Jesus?  In fact, if Jesus Himself hadn’t said this we may not even believe it’s true.  You don’t have a higher authority than Christ.  And by the way, I think that’s one of the reasons Christ spoke more about hell than He did heaven because if it came out of the mouth of somebody else we may not believe it.  But this is coming out of the lips of the incarnate Son of God.  Jesus Himself says, “These will go away into eternal” aiōnios “punishment but the righteous into eternal” aiōnios repeated, “into eternal life.”

So again you ask folks, do you believe that heaven is forever?  They say oh yeah!  Do you believe that hell is eternal?  No, I don’t believe that; language doesn’t allow that view.  Whatever you believe about heaven in terms of its duration, whatever you believe about eternal life in terms of its duration by definition controls linguistically what you believe about eternal punishment.  Now notice Romans 16:26, “but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God,” there’s aiōnios again.  Well, do you believe that God is forever?  Yes, I believe that.  Well do you believe that heaven is forever?  Yes, I believe that.  Well do you believe that hell is forever?  No, I don’t believe that.  How can you play that game when (aiōnios) is used to describe all three, just like olam is used to describe all three.  Whatever  your view of God in terms of duration, eternal life in terms of duration, has to also be your view of retribution in terms of duration.  There is no wriggle room on this.  And everybody that is trying to find some kind of loophole in this is selling you a bill of goods.

And the Bible goes on and it makes this even clearer; look what it says in Revelation 14:11, “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever;” now that’s aiōnios twice; and “they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”  It’s as if everything we’ve presented isn’t enough the Bible says let me take you a step further and show you a passage where aiōnios is repeated twice in reference to hell.

It’s interesting that in the Book of Revelation, chapter 19 and verse 20, at the end of the tribulation period with the Second Advent of Christ it says this: “And the beast” that’s the antichrist, “was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two” that would be antichrist and false prophet, actual human beings, literal people, “were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.”

So the two great enemies of God are defeated, they’re thrown into the lake of fire and then what launches is the thousand  year kingdom.  Now look what it says at the end of the thousand year kingdom, after this thousand year kingdom had run its course.  It says, “The devil who deceived them was thrown,” now the Satan gets his turn in the lake of fire, “The devil who deceived them” this is at the end of the thousand year kingdom because God has used Satan to… God uses Satan for His purposes, He’s used Satan to provoke a rebellion at the end of the kingdom, now that that purpose is finished God is finished with Satan.  “The devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet” what does it say, “are also;” they’re still in there, I mean a thousand years has passed and they’re still in there, I mean, they didn’t disintegrate, they didn’t evaporate, they weren’t annihilated, immortality wasn’t stripped off of them, they’re there in that same condition a thousand years later.  Why is that?  Because the beast and the false  prophet are human beings and a human being by definition bears a certain status as an image-bearer, not the least of which is the immortality of the soul and as we will see in a moment the body itself.  And if all of that weren’t clear enough, it says, “and they will be tormented day and night” now look at this, “forever and ever.” [Revelation 20:10]  There is aiōnios again, twice, just so we get the picture here.

Revelation 4:9 says this: “And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever,” how long is God going to exist?  “forever and ever.”  Well, do you believe hell is forever and ever?  No, I don’t believe that.  Well how can you do that when aiōnios is twice used to describe God and hell?

Revelation 11:15 says, “…”The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever,”  aiōnios twice.   You say is the kingdom forever?  Yes, I believe that. Is hell forever?   No, I don’t believe that.  Well how can that be when the same two Greek words describe both?  Revelation 4:10 says, “the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever….”  How long is God going to be worshiped for?  Forever.  Well, then you believe hell is forever too.  No, I don’t believe that.  Well how can that be when the exact same words used to describe the eternal worship of God, in fact the eternal existence of God, in fact the eternal kingdom of God, are used to describe this concept of retribution.

Believe me folks, if I could think of a way out of this I probably would have by now.  I don’t like it any more than you do but the reality of the situation is you reach a point in  your walk with Christ where you quit trying to take out your liquid paper and blot things out of the Bible you don’t like and you submit to the authority of God.  That’s called discipleship.  We are not here to sit in judgment on the Bible.  Do we realize how arrogant it is to look at an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God whose character is sinless and flawless, who has revealed Himself in this Book and we sit here with our liquid whiteout paper and we like this part but we don’t like that part.  What a laugh that is to God.   It’s like an ant hill critiquing what we’re having for lunch or something like that.  It’s just silly.  And the arrogance of us, the arrogance even as 21st century Christians where we think we can do this to God’s Word, frankly we ought to be ashamed of ourselves.  We ought to submit to the character of God, the holiness of God, God I don’t understand everything but you know what, at the end of the day You’ve been around a lot longer than I have and You understand things that I don’t understand.

Jesus Himself spoke of this, Matthew 18:8, “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire.” Jesus Himself calls the fire eternal.  Mark 9:43 says, “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire.”  If it wasn’t from the lips of Christ the reality of the situation is I probably wouldn’t believe it but it’s as clear as any doctrine you’ll ever study in the Word of God.

And here is why I’m concerned about this; theology is like a seamless tapestry.  Whatever you do in one area of theology at some point it’s going to mess up another area because this is how God has designed His Word; it’s like dominoes in a row.  We’ve got a lot of Christians today that want to play games with Genesis 1-11.  I’m not going to do that!  The reason I’m not going to do that is because it controls how you interpret other passages, particularly in the New Testament.  Whatever you’re doing in Genesis 1-11 is at some point going to affect your doctrine of the first Adam and the last Adam because it’s all based on the fact that there was a real Adam.  And if you’re playing games with the doctrine of eternal retribution at some point those dominoes start to fall and I’ll tell you one of the things that’s on the chopping block is the doctrine of missiology, missions, evangelism.  Missions and evangelism, what is taken out of them if the eternal retribution doctrine is eliminated is the whole urgency to shut down.

I mean, why in the world would you spend so much of your life trying to translate the Bible from Hebrew or Greek, from your language into some language of some foreign country?  Some area that we call the 1040 window where the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Scripture has never penetrated?  Why be uptight about that?  Why sacrifice to get that done?   Because of eternal retribution.  We’re trying to keep people out of hell.  Folks, people are dying every day and they’re going straight into hell.  And it is our obligation as God’s people to get to them the good news to reverse their condition.  And here we are at Easter time celebrating what Jesus did for us, how the Second Member of the Trinity, God the Son, stepped out of eternity into time to pay a price we could never pay.  Why would God do that if our circumstances weren’t so unfavorable?  I mean, why is the necessity, why is the gravity, why the sacrifice?  We all know what Christ went through physically, emotionally, spiritually?  Why do all that if something really bad was not lurking just around the corner.

And I’m afraid, in a sense, that the urgency of evangelism, the urgency of the death of Christ, the urgency of the resurrection of Christ, those are concepts that just don’t make any sense any more   in a church that’s rejected eternal retribution and has bought into some sort of idea that well, something bad could happen to you but it’s really not that bad.  May God help us to understand  this.  May God help us to understand what we have been given in terms of information.

See, there’s two resurrections here, Daniel 12:2, one unto life, one  unto damnation.  [Daniel 12:2, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.”]  The whole point of evangelism and gospel presentation is to get people out of the latter category and get them into the former category.  Everything else that we do as a church, everything else that we do on earth as God’s people pales insignificance to that task.  And I’m listening to pastors teach and preach today and you know what they’re talking about more than anything else?  Health care, global warming, gun control, as if those things are really the problem.  Have we lost sight of what the problem is?  I mean, are we so far removed from God’s truth and God’s Word that we don’t even see the urgency any more?

And you say well, this is all some kind of church you’ve got here.  I don’t know if I want to come back here next Sunday.  Well, let’s do a little good news, shall we?  The resurrection of life, the resurrection unto damnation, two great resurrections.  And you might be saying to yourself well, I’ve heard all this stuff about the rapture, and all of that, where does that all fit in?   And I’m glad you asked that question.  Thank you for asking!

Notice 1 Corinthians 15:20-23, resurrections in review, “But now” Paul says in his resurrection chapter, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. [21] For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. [22] For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”] Down in verse 23, “But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits,” what is Paul doing here?  He is taking the resurrection unto life for the righteous, the first of the two that Daniel referred to and he’s dividing it into parts.  He’s actually using an illustration that the Jewish mind could easily grasp because when he says “firstfruits” he is borrowing imagery from Israel’s harvest cycle.  That’s where “firstfruits” comes from.

And if you’re a student of the Word of God, particularly the Old Testament Hebrew Bible you know that the Jews collected a harvest, not in one wave but in three.  The first wave was firstfruits, Exodus 23 I believe that is, verse 16.  [Exodus 23:16, “Also you shall observe the Feast of the Harvest of the first fruits of your labors from what you sow in the field; also the Feast of the Ingathering at the end of the year when you gather in the fruit of your labors from the field.”]  The firstfruits came in, everybody was happy because if that harvest is good what’s going to happen with the rest of the harvest?  It’ll probably be good as well.

Number two is what is called the general harvest, Leviticus 23:10-12.  [Leviticus 23:10-12, ““Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land which I am going to give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest. [11] ‘He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD for you to be accepted; on the day after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. [12] ‘Now on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb one year old without defect for a burnt offering to the LORD.”]   That’s the big enchilada, or to use a Jewish analogy, the big shawarma comes in at that point, the bulk of the harvest.

And did you all know that there’s a third harvest?  Leviticus 19:9-10 called the cleanings.  [Leviticus 19:9, “’Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest.  [10] ‘Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God.”]  The Jews are specifically told don’t harvest everything but to leave some for the poor.  Now notice that God gave the poor dignity; He never gave them a handout, He allowed them to work just like anybody else for their harvest.  And if you know your Bible well you know that the gleanings is a big deal because that’s where God continued the Messianic line as Ruth met who?  Boaz, at the gleanings.

So three harvests: firstfruits, general harvest, gleanings.  Paul, the apostle, in describing resurrection uses the expression “firstfruits” meaning the same three phases will occur with resurrection as the believer’s soul is joined or reunited to their glorified body.  Firstfruits is the resurrection of Jesus Christ because just like firstfruits in terms of a harvest, that’s the initial sign that everything else is going to be okay.  If Jesus rose bodily from the dead then everybody else in the chain will bodily rise from the dead as well.

And I think this gets a lot of our Easter preaching we don’t fully understand this.   Your typical message on the resurrection of Jesus Christ is it proves He’s God.  And that’s all true but there’s more to it than that.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ furnishes our hope because we are in bodies which are decaying, falling apart, and what is my hope that I will be put in this body with the curse pulled out of it, the resurrection of Jesus Christ as firstfruits guarantees that to me.

Then number two will come the general harvest, that’s the rapture of the church.  Every person that has ever trusted in Christ from the day of Pentecost to the rapture, dead or alive, are placed in their glorified bodies at the point of the rapture.  And then what do you do with people in the Old Testament times who weren’t part of the church?  Noah, Abraham, Job, Daniel?  Beyond that what do you do with people that are saved in the Book of Revelation after the church has been removed?  They’re not part of the church.  God has an answer for them too; they’re resurrected at the beginning of the thousand year kingdom, Revelation 20:4-5.  [Revelation 20:4-5, “Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. [5] The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. [6] Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.]

Daniel 12:2 describes the resurrection of pre church age saints.  Revelation 20:4-5 describes the resurrection of post church saints.  [Daniel 12:2, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.”]  Well, here’s what the whole thing looks like; two resurrections, because Israel and the church are separate programs and because Paul was raised up by God to explain the church’s program Paul just explained to us how the church’s resurrection program fits into the blueprint of God.  The resurrection unto life has three parts: Christ’s resurrection which is firstfruits; general harvest which is the rapture, gleanings which is the resurrection that we read about in Revelation 20:4-5, for non-church age saints. Christ’s resurrection, rapture for the church and then a resurrection for non-church age saints at the beginning of the thousand year kingdom.

And then a thousand years pass and what we discover is a horrific resurrection at the end of those thousand years.  It’s all in Revelation 20:4-5, even verses 4-6, where all unsaved of all ages are summoned and their soul is placed in a glorified body as well.  In fact , the Book of Revelation, chapter 20:13 I believe makes a reference to this.  It says, “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; [and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.”]  These folks are coming out of a place called Hades, that’s where their souls are, they’re reunited in glorified bodies and they stand before the Lord for sentencing, and as their name is not found written in the Book they’re judged by the books.  What’s in the book?  The Book of life, the record of everyone that’s trusted in Christ.  What’s in the books?  I don’t know, I would guess a record of sins to determine what exactly?  Degree of punishment in hell, in a resurrected body throughout all eternity.  Hell is hell but it’s more hell for some people than others.

And we would expect that, would we not, if God is a God of perfect justice?  Why would Hitler be punished the same way as just a casual atheist?   And so you put all of these things together and you can see very clearly the whole resurrection program of God.  Jesus launching the whole thing two thousand years ago on Easter or Resurrection Sunday guaranteeing everything else in the chain.

You say well, I need another analogy.  Okay, glad you asked.  Back to 1 Corinthians 15:23, look at this, He’s given us the firstfruits analogy for the Jews, something they would understand from their own harvest cycle.  Now what does Paul do in verse 23, the resurrection chapter, 1 Corinthians 15, “But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits,” that’s the Greek word tagma, now a Gentile reading that… see a Jew reading about first fruits would think of the harvest cycle.  A gentile reading that “each in his own order” would think of a Roman parade because when the Romans conquered in Greco-Roman times they had a victory parade and this is the way the parade looked.  Out in front was the conquering general.  Following him was the lead officer; following him were the soldiers who had been victorious in battle and at the very back, sometimes in chains, sometimes in cages, came the captives, those that were defeated in battle.

So the conquering general out front would be who?  Jesus Christ, His resurrection guaranteeing all the other resurrections.  The lead officer would be the rapture of the church, that’s our resurrection, when we receive our resurrected bodies.  And then after that would be the soldiers victorious in the parade, that’s the resurrection of non-church age saints, Revelation   20:4. [Revelation 20:4, “Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”]

And then a thousand years pass, and you have the captives.  And what is that talking about?  That’s talking about Revelation 20:5 where unbelievers of all ages are resurrected only to stand before the Lord for sentencing.  [Revelation 20:5, “The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection.”]  So once again, first Christ’s resurrection, then rapture, then resurrection at the beginning of the millennium, and then resurrection at the end of the millennial kingdom.

Now I know what you’re thinking because when I was first exposed to this kind of thinking I thought to myself well if people are out there that have died that are waiting for their resurrected bodies, they’re waiting for the soul to reunite with the body, where is the soul now?  Have you ever asked yourself that question?  I mean, where do they go?  And this is an area that theologians call the intermediate state.  There are many Christian denominations that will argue something called soul sleep.  In other words, the soul just sort of takes a nap, it becomes sort of desensitized, it becomes unconscious and then it wakes up at the last minute to be resurrected—the doctrine of soul sleep.  An interesting teaching but beloved, I can’t find a single shred of evidence in the Bible to support it.  I do not believe there is such a doctrine as soul sleep.  The soul, whether believer or unbeliever, is conscious in the intermediate stage prior to the resurrection.

How do I know that? I know that because of what the Apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:8, “For we are of good courage, I say and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at” what? “home with the Lord.”  Paul says if I had my way I would rather just die, I’d rather the separation happen now because I know that my soul will go home. Where?  In the presence of the Lord.  Every Christian that has died in the last two thousand years of the church is at home with the Lord.  There’s no soul sleep concept there at all.

In fact, Paul, in Philippians 1:21-23 said, “For to me, to live is” what? “Christ and to die is gain. [22] But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. [23] But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better.”  If I had my way I would just check out of here because I’m going to a place that’s much better.   Yeah, the Lord is using me now as I minister to the church, He’s using me as an apostle, but if it wasn’t for you people I wouldn’t have to be here and I could go to be with the Lord.  There’s no soul sleep there at all; the soul goes right into the presence of God.  I mean, my goodness, it doesn’t even talk about a tunnel, you know, all these Sci-Fi’s, you go through some tunnel with the light at the end, I don’t even see a tunnel here.  I almost want my money back, where’s the tunnel.  You just go right on home with the Lord, instantaneously upon death, where your soul awaits that future resurrection.   That’s where the believers go.

Now what about the pre-church age saints, where do they go?  I believe, but what about post church age saints that die, where’s Daniel, where’s Noah, where are all these guys.  In my humble opinion you have an explanation for that in Luke 16:19-31 where Jesus, this is coming out of the mouth of Christ, talks about a poor man who died and then the rich man woke up in Hades, found himself in Hades.

And it talks about this, Luke 16:19-31.  Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. [20] And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, [21] and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. [22] Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom;” that’s where Old Testament saints go, “and the rich man also died and was buried. [23] In Hades he” rich man, “lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. [24] And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ [25] But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. [26] ‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ [27] And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house—[28] for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ [29] But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ [30] But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ [31] But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”

I have run into theologian after theologian after theologian telling me don’t worry about it, it’s a parable.  The interesting thing about this is when Jesus tells a parable He often says “learn the parable of…” whatever parable He’s talking about.  He never says that here.  Beyond that, I never have found personal names in any parable.  What I see here are three personal names.  Number 1, Lazarus; number 2, Abraham, number 3, Moses.  You don’t have personal names in parables like you do here.  I believe… I wouldn’t even believe this if Jesus hadn’t spoke of it.  Jesus is talking here about the intermediate state; He’s talking exactly about where believers prior to the church age go, they go to this place of bliss called Abraham’s bosom.  And He’s talking about exactly where unbelievers go awaiting their final resurrected body.

Now there’s sort of a debate amongst theologians, do you get a pre-body before you get the ultimate body?  And I’ve heard both sides of that and I really don’t have a view on it necessarily.  But what I do know is this: unbelievers go, in terms of soulish life, into a place of torment; they’re obviously alive, they obviously have capacities to remember.  I mean, this man is remembering back on his life, he’s remembering his brothers.  This is not annihilation, this is conscious torment of the unbeliever in Hades awaiting their final resurrection.  And this is the chasm Revelation 20:13, that’s opened up at the last resurrection, final resurrection, as believers are put in their glorified bodies.  [Revelation 20:13, “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.”]

So no non church age believers, I believe, go to paradise that’s described here in Luke 16:19-31.  You say well where is paradise now?  Is it the center of the earth, where is it.  The only clue I really have is 2 Corinthians 12:4 where Paul says he “was caught up into” what? “Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.” If I had to take a guess I would say that Paradise was somehow moved into the presence of God and that’s where non church age believers are.

But what about unbelievers?  Where do unbelievers of all ages go as they await their final judgment, their final resurrection, their guilty plea at the Great White Throne Judgment, and their transfer from Hades into the Lake of Fire, which Revelation 20:11-15 tells me about very clearly.  [Revelation 20:11-15, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. [12] And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. [13] And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. [14] Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. [15] And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”]

Where are they now?  They’re in the place where this unbeliever was, in Hades.  But one of these days, Revelation 20:13 and following the millennial kingdom will take place, “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades” I think that’s the same section or area that we read about in Luke 16, “death and hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.”

You see, the reality of the situation is the Bible has revealed to us the concept of resurrection, when the resurrection will occur, both for the believer and the unbeliever and it’s even gone so far as to give us information about the intermediate state.

You say well, is there a sermon application in here somewhere?  Well to me the sermon application is very easy—which resurrection are you going to go in?  I mean, our preference is that you would take the path of least resistance and trust in Christ right now and experience your resurrected body at the rapture of the church.  If the rapture happens in the next second and if you’re a believer in Christ you’re in that resurrected body.  If you die before the rapture happens as a believer you’re in the presence of the Lord, not a place of torments, a place that’s far better and you are reunited with your body but you’re going to look a lot better, so will I.  I mean, that would be my preference, for anybody within the sound of my voice.

And yet the decision concerning which resurrection you’re going to partake in, that one or going into this horrific intermediate state in torment consciously awaiting your summoning to be put in a glorified body only to be sentenced and transferred to the lake of fire at the Great White Throne Judgment… you can go that route. But whether you participate in one or the other is totally contingent upon whether a person trusts in God’s provision, which is Jesus Christ.  Which is what this week is all about, the suffering of Christ, who went through hell so I wouldn’t have to go to hell.  Isn’t that a good deal?

Well pastor, I want to hold out for something better.  You’re not going to get anything better than this folks!  Talk about a deal, this is the ultimate art of the deal.  And so our exhortation if the Spirit of God is in any way, shape or form convicting you as you listen to this to respond to the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit, who will not believe for you, He will convict  you to believe.  And He is very good at being a nuisance and He will keep being a nuisance until your dying day because He loves you that much.  He will keep convicting you over and over and over again of your need to do this.  Why not do it right now? Why not do it in the privacy of  your own mind and heart and thoughts?  Why not trust in what Jesus did?  Why would you gamble with your eternity.  The Bible is very clear that today is the day of salvation.  And the Book of James talks about people who say well tomorrow we’ll do this or that, I’ll go start a business and make this kind of prophet.  And what does James say, you don’t even know what you’re life is going to be like tomorrow.  Why would we be so foolish as to sort of postpone something when we’re not even guaranteed our next heartbeat or our next breath.  So trust in Christ now; trust in Him for your salvation so that you can participate at the great resurrection that He has for you.

And you say well the next Lord’s day we’re still talking about this?  Yeah, it’ll be slightly different though.  What exactly is going to happen immediately following the resurrection of the church at the rapture?  What is going to happen?  What can we expect to happen immediately following our resurrection?  And we’ll be using verse 3 to speak of that.  Shall we pray.

Father, we are so grateful that You love us so much that You’d didn’t just die and rise from the dead for us but You saw fit to spell out for us the future, a future we can’t see.  I ask, Father, that this week our hearts will be overwhelmed with thankfulness as we reflect upon Your death and Your resurrection so that our future can be very bright; we’ll be rescued from something so horrific that most of us don’t like to think about it and really don’t understand it.  So help us walk this out this week, with the Spirit of thankfulness for what You’ve done as we reflect upon Your death and Your resurrection.  We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory.  We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen!