FIRSTBORN FROM THE DEAD
“… as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment…” Hebrews 9:27.
I think all of us wonder what will happen to us after our physical death. What will happen to our body and what happens to our soul? The Apostle Shaul claimed that the resurrection of the Messiah from the dead is an example to be followed by all people: “Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.” 1 Corinthians 15:20-22.
King David, in the prophetic Psalm, says about the path of life: “No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety. For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave. You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.” Psalm 15:9-11.
It is obvious that David here was not talking about himself, as his body was buried, and disintegrated. Obviously, he was talking about the body of Yeshua. It was His body that did not know corruption, and He showed us the path that each of us will go through. When Yeshua was executed and died on the cross, his body was placed in a stone coffin, and He, being in the spiritual body, entered hell, where he preached to people who died during the flood. Thus, Yeshua testified to both worlds, where sinners were, about the possible ways of saving their lives. After having fulfilled the whole plan of redemption, Messiah returned to the earth and His spirit reunited with His body. In the same way the spirits of people will also leave their place of residence in the underworld, and return to the ground and reunited with their resurrected bodies. However, the fate of people after their physical death is different. Until the resurrection of Messiah, the spirits of dying saints were sent to a special place of the underworld, which was called the womb of Abraham. After the full atonement of sin by the blood of the Messiah, a path was opened that led to the presence of God Himself for the spirits of the righteous. This is clearly written in Scripture: “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Yeshua standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand… As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Yeshua, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.”Acts 7:55,56,59,60.
In the letter to the Philippians, Apostle Shaul wrote that for him the real life is the life after the death of the physical body; life, which will start after it connects to the Messiah in the heavenly Kingdom. However, realizing that this privilege must be earned, he says: “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.”Philippians 1:21-24.
The righteous must fulfill his mission on the earth, and only then can he be reunited with the Messiah in his kingdom. Nothing could stop Shaul from fulfilling his mission, neither attacks from people, nor death. His daring service was based on a firm belief that God would restore his body entirety, no matter what happened to him on earth. A man may die, his body may be damaged by an explosion, or have other mechanical damages, but the wisdom and the power of God can restore a man’s body into the form of his previous condition. The body of Yeshua did not change after resurrection: “Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.” As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet.”Luke 24:39, 40. Yeshua showed His disciples that after the resurrection, He had a real body, the same one that was crucified. Externally, the body remained the same, but it was no longer limited by abilities of the mortal body. Yeshua could appear and disappear by His will. He could enter into a closed room. He could move between the sky and the earth. Yeshua promised His disciples that their bodies will rise the same way as His body, ” Even those closest to you—your parents, brothers, relatives, and friends—will betray you. They will even kill some of you. And everyone will hate you because you are my followers. But not a hair of your head will perish…”Luke 21:16-18.
Scripture demonstrates four stages of the resurrection from the dead:
1 – FIRSTBORN MESSIAH AND MANY SAINTS
The first who rose from the dead was Messiah himself, and together with him the saints resurrected, who lived before the end of the New Testament: “Then Yeshua shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. They left the cemetery after Yeshua’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people”Matthew 27:50-53.
It is interesting to notice that not all the saints rose, but many. What was the privilege of the saints to rise first, if it were not their devotion to the Lord in the performance of their service to Him.
2 – TWO WITNESSES OF THE GRIEF PERIOD
In times of trouble God will send two witnesses who will show the great power of God. They will be martyred by the hands of the beast, and God will raise them from the dead in front of the whole world: “And for three and a half days, all peoples, tribes, languages, and nations will stare at their bodies. No one will be allowed to bury them. All the people who belong to this world will gloat over them and give presents to each other to celebrate the death of the two prophets who had tormented them. But after three and a half days, God breathed life into them, and they stood up! Terror struck all who were staring at them. Then a loud voice from heaven called to the two prophets, “Come up here!” And they rose to heaven in a cloud as their enemies watched. “Revelation 11:9-12.
3 – TRUE MESSIANIC BELIEVERS
The third episode of the resurrection from the dead will occur when Yeshua will appear in heaven. The saints who have died during the 2000 years period will be raised to meet the Lord on the cloud. Along with them, the Messianic believers who are still alive will be raised who have prepared themselves to meet the Lord and recognized holy by Him: “And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Yeshua died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Yeshua returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have die will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.”1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
All of these described episodes of the resurrection; John refers to as the first resurrection. First resurrection ends with the resurrection of the holy Messianic believers, who, were raised to reign with Messiah 1000 years: “Then I saw thrones, and the people sitting on them had been given the authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony about Yeshua and for proclaiming the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his statue, nor accepted his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They all came to life again, and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years. This is the first resurrection. (The rest of the dead did not come back to life until the thousand years had ended.) Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. For them the second death holds no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him a thousand years.” Revelation 20:4-6.
Once again here the Scripture emphasizes that only those whom God has declared holy will take part in the first resurrection.
4 – OTHERS FROM THE DEAD
At the end of the 1000 years of kingship, Satan will be released: “When the thousand years come to an end, Satan will be let out of his prison. He will go out to deceive the nations—called Gog and Magog—in every corner of the earth. He will gather them together for battle—a mighty army, as numberless as sand along the seashore…” Revelation 20:7-8. This war will be ended in total defeat of Satan and his followers. The fire of God descending from heaven will destroy all the enemies of God. Then the last resurrection of the dead will take place. Everyone who ever lived on the earth will be resurrected and be judged in front of the great white throne of God the Father: ” And I saw them as they went up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded God’s people and the beloved city. But fire from heaven came down on the attacking armies and consumed them. Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.”Revelation 20:8-15