Everyone ever born is consigned to physical death.
“…for dust you are and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:19b
“And as it is appointed for men to die once…” Hebrews 9:27a
However, everyone has a future because even though everyone has or will experience physical death, everyone will also be raised out of their grave. Exempted of course, are those who are alive when Christ removes His church prior to the tribulation.
“…for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” John 5:28-29
‘Those who have done good’ in the above context means trusting in the redemptive work of Christ while ‘those who have done evil’ means to reject Him. Doing good deeds has nothing to do with obtaining salvation.
“…those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Daniel 12:2
The future of those who reject God’s provision for redemption was discussed in the recent column entitled: Is Hell Real? The current discussion will focus on those who have or will accept God’s gracious provision. The latter are referred to as the ‘just’ inasmuch as they have been legally justified because of the vicarious death of Christ on the cross. The resurrection of the ‘just’ can only occur after the resurrection of Christ.
“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (physically died)…even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order…” I Corinthians 15:20, 22b-23a
The initial contingent of those resurrected after the resurrection of Christ occurred almost immediately following the resurrection of Christ and was witnessed by many.
“Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” Matthew 27:51-53
The remainder of the just will be raised in the future, some prior to the great tribulation and some after the tribulation. The description of the resurrection of the just preceding the tribulation is found in Paul’s writings.
“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. 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. 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.” I Thessalonians 4:15-17
The resurrection of the just who are martyred during the tribulation will be accomplished after the tribulation but prior to the millennial reign of Christ.
“…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.” Revelation 20:4
Note also that those resurrected prior to the tribulation will return to earth with Christ for that 1000 year period. The unjust will remain in their graves until after the millennium.
“…And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.” Revelation 19:14
“But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished…” Revelation 20:5
Just as Christ was/is the Passover Lamb, the Levitical feast of Firstfruits symbolized the future resurrection of Christ as a pledge of the complete harvest to follow.
Next we’ll look at several characteristics of the resurrected just.