The Resurrection Hope of the
"This Is the [Chief] Resurrection
of the [Special] Dead." 1 Cor. 15:42
The resurrection of the Church is designated the First
Resurrection, not in the sense of priority (though it will have
priority), but in the sense of being chief, best, superior.
With what bodies will the New Creatures in Christ come forth? What
will be some of their qualities and powers?
"As is the earthy so are they also that are
and as is the heavenly
so are they also that are heavenly."
1 Cor. 15:48
The world in general will experience restitution to human
perfection. They will be earthlyĖlike the first Adam before he sinned. The
world has a grand prospect of again becoming full and complete earthly images of
the divine Creator.
But more precious are the promises made to the Christian
Church, "the called ones" according to the divine purpose. The
Christianís hope is to be resurrected in the image of the heavenly Creator in
a still higher and more particular sense. They are not to be fleshly images, but
"We shall be like him
for we shall see him as he is." 1 John 3:2
Christ Jesus is a spirit being, "the express image
of the Fatherís person." He is "far above angels,
principalities and powers, and every name that is named," and hence, far
above perfect manhood. If we shall be like Christ and share his glory and his
nature, it means that we too shall be images of the Fatherís person,
"whom no man hath seen nor can see, dwelling in light which
no man can approach unto"; but to whom we can approach and
whom we can see as he is, because we have been "changed."1 Tim. 1:17;
6:16; Exod. 33:20
"As we [the Church] have borne the
image of the earthly [one],
we shall also bear the image of the heavenly [One]."
1 Cor. 15:49
It is not the Apostleís thought that all shall bear the
image of the heavenly One. Such was not the Creatorís design. When God made
man he designed to have a fleshly, human, earthly being, in his
own likeness [mentally, morally], to be the lord and ruler of the earth, as the
representative of his heavenly Creator. (Gen. 1:26-28; Psalm 8:4-7)
The selection of the New Creation is wholly separate and
apart from the earthly creation. They are chosen out of the world.
They constitute a "little flock,"called to be the Lordís Bride
class, to bless the world during the thousand years of the Millennial Kingdom.
"Now this I say, brethren,
that flesh and blood
cannot inherit the Kingdom of God."
1 Cor. 15:50
Apostle Paul distinguishes between our present
condition in the flesh and our future condition as spirit beings. He positively
declares that as long as we are in the flesh we cannot constitute the Lordís
Kingdom in any actual sense, because that Kingdom is to be a spiritual one,
composed of spirit beings.
Our Lord Jesus himself was the Head, the chief, the leader,
the example to his Church. He is the glorious spirit being, a glimpse of whom
was granted to the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 15:8), and a vision of whom was granted
to the Apostle John in Apocalyptic vision.
"We shall be like him"
The Church will not be flesh and blood, like the remainder of
the race from which they were selected. The Apostle recognized the fact that it
would be difficult for us fully to grasp the thought of so thorough a change
of the Church from fleshly, earthly conditions to heavenly, spirit conditions.
He perceived that our difficulty would be less in respect to those who have
fallen asleep in death than in respect to those alive and remaining unto the
presence of the Lord.
It is much easier for us to grasp the thought that the
sleeping ones will be resurrected in new spiritual bodies, such as the Lord has
promised to provide, than to grasp the thought of how those of the saints living
at the time of the Lordís second presence, will be accepted of him into his
"There is a mystery connected with this
matter, which I will explain: we shall not all sleep, though we must
all be changedĖin a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at
the last trumpĖthe seventh trumpet." 1 Cor. 15:51,52
While the Lord, through the Apostle, did clear away a mystery
to some extent by these words, nevertheless a considerable measure of mystery
has since beclouded even this plain explanation. Many of the Lordís dear
people have confounded the word "sleep" with the word "die."
Many have supposed that the saints remaining over until the presence of the Lord
would be changed without dying. But this is not what is stated.
For example, the apostles died, and from the moment of death
they were reckoned as being "asleep" until the moment of the
resurrection. Their dying was a momentary act, while their sleep, or
unconsciousness, continued for centuries.
The thought of the word "sleep" must be attached to
the Apostleís words, in order that they may be understood. It will not be
necessary that the Lordís people who remain over until his second presence
shall sleep in unconscious death even for a moment. They will die,
however, as is declared by the Lord, through the prophet, speaking of the Church
in Psalms 82:6,7: "I have said, Ye are gods, all of you sons of the Most
High; yet ye shall all die like men, and fall like one of the
The world in general dies like Prince Adam, as his children,
sharers of his sentence. But the faithful in Christ Jesus die with Prince Jesus.
(Isa. 9:6; Acts 3:15; 5:31) Justified through his sacrifice, they become dead
with him, as joint-sacrificers. They "fall" under death
sacrificially just like the second Prince. "If we be dead with him
we shall also live with him." But, as the Apostle points out,
the death of these will mean no sleep of unconsciousness. The very
moment of dying will be the very moment of "change," or clothing upon
with the house from heaven, the spiritual body.
The First Resurrection
The "change" to come to those of the Church
remaining until the presence of the Lord is thus set forth as being in every
sense of the word a part of the First Resurrection. In no particular does
it differ from the death experience which must be common to all the members of
the one body. The only point of difference between other members of the body and
these will be that which the Apostle specifiesĖthey shall not "sleep."
The last members of the body of Christ will not need to
sleep. They will pass immediately from the activities of the service on this
side the veil in the flesh to the activities of service on the other side the
veil, as perfected New Creatures, members of the Christ.