Will the Dead Live Again?
Will the grave give up its dead like the Bible says? Will those who died thousands of years ago live again? How will they be raised - as flesh and bone, or in some spirit form? And when will this occur?
Resurrection is no mystery for those who are prepared to search the Bible for answers. Jesus Christ himself said, “Do not marvel at this: for the hour is coming in which all who are in the grave will hear his voice and come forth” (John 5:28). And the Apostle Paul said, “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised” (I Corinthians 15:52).
In the Beginning
When God formed man of the dust of the ground He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7). The word ‘breath’ in this verse has been translated from the Hebrew word ‘neshamah’ which simply means spirit. The spirit in man that gives life is not an immortal soul as some believe. The Hebrew word ‘nephesh’ translated as ‘soul’ just means a living being.
When God created mankind from the physical matter He added the ‘spirit of man’ to give the body life, “…the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.” (Zechariah 12:1). That spirit is our psyche which is the essential you. It is our nature, personality and intellect that enables us to comprehend the physical environment in which we live and distinguishes humanity from other creatures, “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?” (I Corinthians 2:11). It also differentiates humanity from God, “...even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” (I Corinthians 2:11 last part).
According to the Bible there is no consciousness after death, “For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?” (Psalm 6:5 and also Psalm 115:17, 146:4). There is no awareness at all, “…for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). When we die the spirit of man, our psyche returns to God, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). And there it remains until we are resurrected. It is as if we are asleep until Christ returns, “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. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” (I Thessalonians 4:13-14).
In a prophetic vision about the future resurrection of Israel, Ezekiel saw physical bodies being formed. They were lifeless until spirit, or intellect was added, “So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.” (Ezekiel 37:7-10).
The Hebrew word ‘ruwach’ is translated as ‘breath’ in this passage which actually means wind, or breath and is used to describe the spirit which cannot be seen. What Ezekiel saw being added to the newly formed physical bodies were the spirits, or psyche of the Israelites who had previously died. They will each be brought back to life in the future with their own individual personality and characteristics that were preserved by God when they died.
But in addition to their spirits which will give life to these new bodies God said that He would also give them His Spirit so they will be able to obey His laws, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27). Without God’s Spirit in their previous lives they had not been able to obey God’s laws to the same extent that they will in the future.
The Apostle Paul confirmed the existence of two different spirits when he said, “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God” (I Corinthians 2:11-12). He defined the difference between the spirit of man and the Spirit of God.
Spirit of Man
Not only does the spirit of man impart life, as we read earlier, according to Paul it also imparts the intellect that enables humans to understand the things of this world. It enables man to process and store knowledge; to reason and make choices, form opinions, attitudes and to experience emotions. The spirit of man is our conscious awareness, our individual persona - the very life and essence of who we are! This is what Ezekiel saw in his vision - the spirit of the Israelites being implanted in the newly formed bodies to give them life and individual characteristics.
Spirit of God
The second spirit that both Paul and Ezekiel mentionedhas a different purpose, “Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God” (I Corinthians 2:11). Clearly mankind does not have the capacity to understand the things that God must reveal through His Spirit, things that the “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those that love him” (I Corinthians 2:9). Things that otherwise seem foolish, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (I Corinthians 2:14 and see also I Corinthians 1:18, 21 and 25).
This second spirit is given by God to those whom He calls to repentance, “Repent and let every one of you be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you shall receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38 NKJV).
Receiving God’s Spirit begins a transformation of the mind, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2). It adds a spiritual perspective that gives us the wisdom, enlightenment and understanding of the things of God, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,” (Ephesians 1:17-19).
Our minds are spiritually renewed by God’s Spirit, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost (Spirit);” (Titus 3:5). When we receive His Spirit it begins to replace our carnal, self-centred and sinful human nature with a nature like God’s that is spiritually orientated, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6). It creates in us a more balanced mind that is based on love and hope rather than fear of death, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (II Timothy 1:7).
The transformation of the mind is the first step in the process of becoming a new creature, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (II Corinthians 5:17). By giving us His Holy Spirit God is implanting His own spiritual DNA within us. The Holy Spirit is the very essence, mind and divine nature that is in both Himself and Christ. He does this so we can be created in their image, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (II Corinthians 3:18).
Over time we will become more like Christ, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,” (Galatians 4:19). We can actually come to the fullness of Christ’s perfection, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:” (Ephesians 4:13).
Once Christ has been formed in us the next step is to receive eternal life and God has the power to do this, “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” (Romans 8:11). When raise to eternal life we will become His sons and daughters, “…I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (II Corinthians 6:18). And as sons and daughters we become heirs like Christ to the Kingdom of God, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Romans 8:16-17).
It is God’s intention to share His power and glory with His sons and daughters. Having the sort of power with which He created the universe means nothing will be impossible for us, “And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” (Matthew 17:20). But He must be sure that we will not use this power for evil purposes.
With the help of His Spirit we will come to recognise evil for what it is and reject it altogether from our lives. Evil manifests itself as sin and the end result of sin is death and destruction, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23). That is why we have been exposed to evil in this life. Overcoming sin is essential if we are to receive what God has prepared for us, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
It has been God’s plan from the beginning to reconcile mankind to Himself through His Son Jesus Christ, “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ…” (II Corinthians 5:18). He is the only one through whom we can be saved, “Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10-12).
The process of our transformation will continue until it is completed when Christ returns, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 1:6). That is when we will be changed to spirit, “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” (I Corinthians 15:44). And we will be resurrected in their image, “And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” (I Corinthians 15:49).
Unless we are resurrected to eternal life we cannot receive our inheritance, “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (I Corinthians 15:50).
Two Types of Resurrection
The process of reconciling mankind to God is to be done by Jesus Christ in stages.
Those who receive God’s Spirit in this age will become spirit beings with eternal life when Christ returns, “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”, (I Thessalonians 4:16). Those who are alive at that time will be transformed instantaneously.
Those with God’s Spirit who have already died will also be resurrected to spirit at the same time, “Behold, I tell you a mystery:We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (I Corinthians 15:51-52).
Christ has preparing a relatively small group throughout this age who have been called to assist it the future. They have not been called because they are better than anyone else. In fact quite it is the opposite, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.” (I Corinthians 1:26-29).
He has taken the foolish and weak to show the rest of the world what mighty things He can do for them. We are to become priests to assist Him in the future, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:” (I Peter 2:9).
The majority of the billions who have lived throughout the history of this world have not yet been called, “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 6:44). And unless they are called and come to repentance so they can be given His Spirit they cannot be raised to eternal life.
God plans to call them later. They will be resurrected one thousand years after Christ’s return. “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.” (Revelation 20:5). After that, during a time known as the White Throne Judgment they will be resurrected back to a physical existence to receive their calling, “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.” (Revelation 20:11-13).
They will be brought back to a physical existence just like Ezekiel described, “So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD.” (Ezekiel 37:10-14).
It would not be fair to condemn those who had not known God during their life time, or who never been called to receive the Holy Spirit. In any just judicial system judgment comes after a person has the opportunity to prove themselves. Those who have not been called in the past and given God’s Spirit have not had a true understanding of the things of God and cannot be judged fairly until they have been called by God and given a proper understanding of what He requires of them plus the opportunity to prove themselves once they receive this understanding.
During this Great White Throne Judgment period the Bible says “the books were opened” (Revelation 20:12) meaning that all those resurrected back to physical life will receive understanding of the books of the Bible and will be judged according to what they do with that understanding. They are to have the same opportunity as those who have been called in this day and age to prove themselves worthy of salvation, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (I Peter 4:17). Those of us called now in this day and age will be there to assist them.
In Revelation 20:12 it also says that another book called the “book of life” is opened to them which according to Revelation 21:27 is the book in which one’s name must written in to gain entry into God’s Kingdom. This means that the Book of life is still open to all those who are resurrected back to physical life and they will be given the opportunity to have their names recorded in it. They will be given understanding of the Books of the Bible at that time and if they repent and receive God’s Spirit so that the mind of Christ can be formed in them as well. It means that they can then receive eternal life and their inheritance in God’s Kingdom.
Everyone who has ever lived on this earth gets a fair chance to be in God’s Kingdom. But there is specific order in which this will occur “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” (I Corinthians 15:20-23). Christ was first, then those who have been called in this age. They will be followed later by the rest of the dead who have not previously been called. They will be resurrected back to physical life one thousand years after Christ’s return and given the chance to repent and obey God.
But not everyone will avail themselves of that opportunity for eternal life. Tragically the Bible indicates that there will be those who will be subject to a second death from which there is no further resurrection, because they refuse to accept God’s way, “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”, (Revelation 20:14-15). The spirit in them will be destroyed forever.
Hopefully, the majority of mankind will come to see the abhorrent consequences of evil and chose God’s way rather than suffer a permanent eternal death.
After all these things have been fulfilled comes the end. That is when Christ presents what He has achieved to His Father, “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” (I Corinthians 15:24-28).
The Dead Will Live Again?
What an incredible time it will be when the grave gives up its dead like the Bible says. And those who died without being called through the last six thousand years will live again. And they will receive the opportunity to become spiritual sons and daughters of God and live forever in His Kingdom just like those who have been called in this age.
There really is no mystery about life after death if we study and believe what the Bible says. Understanding these things can literally transform your life forever!