Two Resurrections - Part 1

Scripture: 2 Peter 3:10, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, Revelation 20:1-5
What will happen when Jesus comes again? What happens to the dead in Christ, the wicked who are dead, the righteous living, and the wicked who are alive? This broadcast talks about what the Bible says will happen to people when Christ comes again.
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Several years ago Robert Ripley of "Believe It or Not" fame was making a radio broadcast from the Japanese city of Hiroshima where the first atomic bomb exploded. He declared, "I am broadcasting today from the spot where the end of the world began!" The words were prophetic, for this is just how the world will end, with an earth-shattering, element-melting atomic explosion.

These are not human words, these are the words of God found in 2 Peter 3:10. "The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise. And the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and the works that are therein shall be burned up." You say, well, that seems like a strange thing for a God of love to do. Yes it is. That is exactly what the Bible calls it. Isaiah calls it God's strange work, his strange act. Isaiah 28:21.

Yes, a strange act for one who taught men to love their enemies. A strange act for one who refused to let His disciples call down fire on those who slighted him. A strange act for one who healed the ear of the man who had come to take His life. A strange act for one who prayed while they crucified Him, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." Yet so many thousands, yes, millions of people, misunderstand God's strange act.

God's plan is very simple, to make a complete and utter end of sin and sinners. As Nahum 1:9 says: "What do ye imagine against the Lord, he will make an utter end. Affliction shall not rise up again the second time." Virtually everyone who believes in the Bible at all believes that God will step in to end sin and establish His kingdom forever. But there is quite a bit of discussion as to which events take place, when they take place, and where they take place. Over and over again I hear people say, I think this, or I think that. You know, friends, it does not matter what I think. It matters what God says, and what He has revealed in His word. So let's open the Bible and examine the great climatic events of earth's history and get the facts.

God's final accounting with sin begins with one great and mighty event that suddenly changes the whole course of history. The Bible describes this event in 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17: "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall arise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord." Yes, friends, it is the second coming of Christ, the blessed hope that Paul wrote about. This is the first great landmark in the final eradication of sin. Let us notice carefully the events that transpire at the Lord's coming. First, the Lord himself descends from heaven, with power and glory. Second, the dead in Christ, or the righteous dead, are resurrected. Third, the righteous living are caught up to meet the Lord in the clouds to ever be with the Lord.

Immediately some questions come to our mind. What happens to the living wicked when Jesus comes? What about the wicked dead? Do the saints just hover in mid-air, or do they come back to earth, or go to heaven? Let's let the Bible answer these questions one at a time. The Bible gives us a very graphic picture of the wicked people alive at Christ's second coming. ln Revelation 6:15-17: "And the kings of the earth and the great men and the rich men and the chief captains, and the mighty men and every bondman and every free man hid themselves in the dens and the rocks of the mountains, And said to the mountains and rocks,Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb."

What a tragedy that this event of history which should be the most joyful, for so many will be a time of great fear, anxiety and desperation. The Apostle Paul finished the sad account in 2 Thessalonians 2.8. "And then shall that wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming." So the wicked living are destroyed by the brightness of Christ's second coming. What about the wicked who are already in their graves? The answer comes from Revelation 20.5. "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the 1,000 years were finished."

Evidently from this text, we can conclude that the wicked dead stay in their graves for 1,000 years after the saints rise to meet their returning Lord. The resurrection of the righteous is called the first resurrection. Now that is significant. If John had to identify this resurrection of the righteous by the qualifying word ‘first', there must be more than one resurrection, and this is in harmony with the rest of Scripture. Jesus Himself said in John 5:28,29, "Marvel not at this for the hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice and shall come forth, they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation."

So there are two resurrections, the first a resurrection of life, or a resurrection of the righteous, and the second a resurrection of damnation, that is a resurrection of the wicked. John also recognized this fact of the two resurrections because he said in Revelation 20.6, "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection," and he amplified this by going on, "on such the second death hath no power. But they shall be priests of God and Christ and shall reign with him 1,000 years."

Let's review for a moment, friends, the second coming of Christ. There is a first resurrection which Jesus called the resurrection of life. Those resurrected at that time are caught up to meet Jesus in the air. At the same time, the wicked living are slain by the glory of Christ's presence. And since the wicked "lived not again" until the thousand years are finished, it is obvious that they simply remain in their graves until the end of that period, when the second resurrection takes place.

In order to answer our remaining question, "Where does Jesus take the redeemed from the earth?" we need to examine more closely this 1,000-year period that theologians have called the millennium. The events of this millennium are clearly spelled out in Revelation 20:1-4. "And I saw an angel come down from heaven having the key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain in his hand, and he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into a bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season." This Scripture reveals that Satan is chained and cast into a bottomless pit for this 1,000-year period.

Where is this bottomless pit? The word translated "bottomless pit" here is found elsewhere in the Bible in Genesis 1:2. "And the earth was without form and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep." That word "deep" is the very same original word as "bottomless pit." The earth was still dark and disorganized, just as it will be during the thousand years. These verses establish beyond question that the bottomless pit is this earth in a state of chaos and ruin. Looking forward to the great day of God, the prophet Jeremiah declares in Jeremiah 4:23-26, "I beheld the earth, and lo, it was without form and void and the heavens and they had no light. I beheld the mountains, and lo, they trembled and all the hills moved lightly. I beheld, and lo there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled. I beheld, and lo the fruitful place was a wilderness and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the Lord."

This means then that for a thousand years Satan will be exiled and bound to this desolated planet earth. Since a spiritual being could never be bound with a physical chain, we can easily see that Satan is bound by circumstances that make it impossible for him to tempt a single soul for a thousand years. With all the righteous entirely removed from the earth, the great deceiver can "deceive the nations no more till the thousand years are fulfilled."

Satan's business is to tempt and deceive and to ultimately destroy. His work will be at a standstill for a thousand years because he is confined to this empty earth, bound by a chain of circumstances that he is powerless to break. Since all the righteous are with Christ and all the wicked dead, he has no one to tempt. He must wait in "death row," condemned to die, left to contemplate the part he has acted since first he rebelled against the government of heaven. With hopeless dread, he can only anticipate the final doom which awaits him at the end of the millennium when the sins he has instigated will roll back to crush him out of existence.

While Satan is exiled on the desolate earth, where are the saints? Are they also on this broken-down planet? Or do they remain suspended in mid-air after going up to meet Jesus? Let's get the facts from the Bible. The testimony of Jesus Himself will be sufficient. In a passage that many people consider the most beautiful one in the Bible, Jesus said this: "Let not your heart be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my father's house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am there ye may be also." Jesus said he was going to His Father's mansions to prepare a place for us. He also promised to come and take His people to that place where he is. But where is Jesus? Mark 16:19 tells us that Jesus at His ascension was received up into heaven and sat at the right hand of God. Jesus identified it further when He told the repentant thief on the cross that He would be with Him in Paradise. Thus the Bible identifies the place where Jesus takes the redeemed as Paradise, or heaven. It is not this earth; it is not mid-air; it is heaven.

So during the millennium the wicked are all dead. Satan is bound on the earth, and the saints are with Jesus in heaven. But you ask, why doesn't God finally destroy Satan and sinners now? Why does He wait a thousand years and resurrect them again? Simply this: God will not carry out His strange act until all the universe understands why He must do it, until you understand. There must not be a question in any mind regarding His justice. That is why Paul speaks of a time when "the saints shall judge the world." 1 Corinthians 6:2. This is what the righteous are doing during the millennium. In Revelations 20:4 John says, "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them...and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years."

The guilt of the wicked had already been decided before the millennium started. But the saints become a kind of jury, which confirms the guilt and innocence of those written in the books of heaven and which vindicate the judgment of God. They become a jury, not because their help is needed, but because they need to understand God's dealings, need to know why men and women, some of them perhaps their own loved ones, are shut out of the kingdom. They will understand the efforts of God to save the lost. The records will reveal the love, mercy, patience, and justice of God in His dealings with the wicked.

Perhaps now, as you listen to this message, your mind is troubled. Have you ever had the experience of having to move from a city or town where all your familiar, family ties have been? It is hard to move into a new, strange place, isn't it, friends?

And even though you may find happiness there and get to love the place, still, there is always something lacking and there is no place like home. Is that what is troubling you now? Are you thinking that even though heaven may be wonderful, still there is no place like the earth home you have known all your life? Perhaps the thought of your home being desolated is disturbing to you. If these are your thoughts now, I invite your attention to Revelation 21:2, 3: "And I, John, saw the holy city, new Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven, and I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them and they shall be his people and God himself shall be their God."

What a beautiful picture we have before us in this text! The saints of God coming home. During their pilgrimage on the earth they experienced disappointments and sorrows, but now, home sweet home, heaven on earth! At last the prophecy of Christ is fulfilled that the meek shall inherit the earth.

As a resurrection marked the beginning of the millennium, a resurrection marks its close. Like the sands of the sea, all the wicked who ever lived and died are called up in the second resurrection to face the God they rejected.

Friends, try to imagine the contrast between the two resurrections! The people of God in the first resurrection are raised with immortal bodies, with health and vigor and beauty. But the wicked, raised to life still bear the traces of disease and death and the same malignant character. Their doom is forever fixed and sealed. There can be no second chance.

Think what it would be like to wake up and find you had slept through the first resurrection! No man will ever know a greater tragedy. The most solemn fact in all the world today is that you are setting your own alarm, by your choices now, to wake up in either the first resurrection or the second.

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