Resurrections Aplenty

Resurrection from the dead is a core component of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Early departures from the faith included some who denied resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:12) and others who said it had already occurred (2 Timothy 2:18). Premillennialism makes neither of these mistakes, but it does err considerably in its depiction of resurrection.

How Many?
Jesus Christ is the first fruits of those who are asleep (1 Corinthians 15:20). In ancient Israel, the offering of first fruits consecrated the harvest (Leviticus 23:9-14), becoming the guarantee for it. So it is with Jesus. He was not the first to be raised, but He was the first to be raised never to die again (Romans 6:9). His resurrection is therefore the assurance of ours.

In premillennialism, no less than three resurrections follow Christ’s. First comes that of Christians, who will be raised at the beginning of the tribulation. Seven years later is another, that of Old Testament saints, along with those who during the tribulation become Christians but die. Finally, at the end of Jesus’ thousand-year reign is the resurrection of the evil.

The Bible, in contrast, identifies one bodily resurrection, that of everyone. Jesus said, “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29).

Premillennialism says at the rapture the “church age saints” (Christians) will hear Jesus’ voice, but not Old Testament saints or the wicked. When He calls again seven years later, more will hear, but still not all. Not until the third call do the wicked rise. Are they hitting the snooze button? Does a lifetime of not listening to Jesus make them slow to hear Him in death? No, Jesus said all will hear and rise at once. Premillennialists say not so. Whom do you believe?

Paul made a similar observation in Acts 24:15: “having a hope in God . . . that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.” How many does that sound like, one or three?

Three times in John 6, Jesus promised to raise up all who belong to Him “on the last day” (vv. 40, 44, 54). Martha looked forward to the resurrection of her brother Lazarus “on the last day” (John 11:24). But look at what else will happen that same day. Jesus warned, “He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day” (John 12:48). The judgment of the wicked is at the last day, the same day as the resurrection of Jesus’ followers, not a thousand years later.

2 Thessalonians 1:9-10 presents the same time frame. Paul says the wicked “will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed. . .” The day that Christ is glorified in His saints is the day the wicked will pay the penalty of eternal destruction. There is no thousand years in between.

Does It Matter?
Is all of this just a theological debate about what will happen when Jesus returns? Does it make any practical difference? At the very least, it should make adherents of premillennialism reconsider. If the theory is wrong on this matter, could it not be on others too?

Looking more closely, there is something fundamental at stake. Resurrection relates to Jesus’ reign. The theory’s multiple resurrections are necessary to enable Christ to reign with His saints on a utopian earth for a thousand years prior to the final judgment. That misses both the time and nature of Jesus’ reign.

Jesus reigns now, not beginning at some future date (Revevelation 3:21). His throne is in heaven, not on earth (Acts 2:33-36). His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). It is a spiritual one in which we have forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14). If He were not reigning now, where would that leave us? No king, no priest, no forgiveness, no hope. No thanks!

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