The First Resurrection
Some of the justified, through sacrifice of their assigned “bodies” as new creatures, are chosen by God to be kings and priests with the Lord Jesus. (Romans 8:11; 21:1; Revelation 5:10) This call for participants in the Kingdom with the Messiah began with the death of John the Baptist. (Luke 16:16; Romans 8:17) However, many are called, but few are chosen. (Matthew 22:14) These few chosen ones are those who finally reach the mark of their high calling in this age. (Philippians 3:13,14) They are numbered as 144,000 who are sit upon the heavenly Mount Zion with the Lamb, our Lord Jesus. (Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 14:1-3) In Revelation 7:1-4, we see that the selection of these joint-heirs with Christ comes to and end at some point in time.
Those who are “dead in Christ” who obtain this prize do so by reaching the mark of their high calling in sacrificing their assigned “living bodies” of flesh. — (Romans 12:1; 1 Corinthians 15:37,38; 2 Corinthians 5:1) In 1 Thessalonians 4:16 we read: “The dead in Christ will rise first.” And in Revelation 20:6: “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of the Messiah, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” In Romans 8:17, these are told that they must joint-suffer with Christ before they can be joint-heirs with him. If such obtain the perfection of which Paul wrote, they will be counted as having passed from glory to glory, so that, in effect, their faithful until death — a sacrificial death after the Messiah’s likeness, then these receive the crown of life, and then, when they are reigning with the Messiah they are like Him, for they will be raised in the likeness of His glorious spiritual body. They are pictured as standing on the Mt. Zion in heavenly Jerusalem — Revelation 2:10; I John 3:2; Philippians 3:21; Revelation 14:1.
The Rest of the Just
But what about those of the justified that fail to obtain the prize of their high calling? Those who are called but fail to make the mark of the high calling still retain their justification, except those that commit the sin unto death from which there is no repentance. (I John 5:16; Hebrews 6:4-6) If they remain faithful in the blood of the Christ, they are still reckoned alive in God’s sight. Thus, we believe that when they come forth in the resurrection, it will be not to be to rule in the heavenly realm, as the 144,000, but to the earth, and not in a spiritual body but a glorified earthly body. (I Corinthians 15:35,47; Hebrews 2:7) They retain what was purchased by the blood of the Lamb, but fail to attain the prize of their high calling. We believe that this will be the lot of all the “justified” who lived before the Messiah as well as those who lived after the Messiah that do not become of the 144,000 chosen ones to reign on the throne with the Messiah.
The Resurrection of the Unjust
But what about the rest of mankind? The Bible tells us that there will a resurrection, not only of the just, but also of the unjust. (Acts 24:15) Why are the unjust to be raised? Traditional theology says they are to be raised simply to be condemned again. That is why the translators of the King James Version of the Scriptures translated the Greek word krisis in John 5:29, by the word “damnation,” whereas the proper rendering is “judgment” as in the American Standard Version and many other translations. The King James Version does render krisis as “judgment” in John 5:22 and John 5:30, as well as many other places: Matthew 10:15; 11:22,24; 12:20,36,41,42; Luke 10:14; 11:31,32,42; John 7:24; 8:16; 2 Peter 2:4,9; 3:7; 1 John 4:17; etc. What Jesus said was: “Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice and shall come forth: they that have done good [the justified before the Messiah came, as well as those justified through belief in the Messiah] unto the resurrection of life [their trial is past; they have proved themselves worthy of life by means of their faith]; and they that have done evil [the unjust], unto the resurrection of judgment.” Krisis means a trial or testing followed by a sentence, which sentence will depend on the person’s innocence or guilt. The English word “crisis” is derived from the Greek krisis. It is used in reference to any condition of affairs in which the issue is as yet undecided; and those who are interested are in anxious suspense, watching whether the result will be success or failure, life or death.
After a judicial sentence has passed, the person is no longer being tried; his judgment is over. The world in general, the unjust, have never been on trial as individuals. The trial of their federal head took place at the beginning in the Garden of Eden, and the sentence or condemnation was passed then. The whole race has been born under the sentence of condemnation, born in sin and shapen in iniquity,’ (Psalm 51:5) and the vast majority have died without having escaped from that condemnation, and therefore, without any individual trial. Unlike those who have died in the Messiah, of whom Paul wrote: “there is therefore now no condemnation (Greek, katakrima, judgment against – Strong’s 2631) to them that are in the Messiah Jesus” (Romans 8:1), the unjust died without any real faith, or without any faith at all “in that only name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) That is why they are called unjust; they have not been justified. Comparatively few of earth’s inhabitants have heard of the Messiah. Think of the millions who died before the Son of God came to give himself “a ransom for all,” and concerning whom Paul wrote that they had “no hope,” and were “without God in the world”! (Ephesians 2:12) Think of the millions upon millions of people living in so-called heathen lands today, who, without having heard the name of Jesus, are dying at the rate of more than 100,000 every day! Then again, think of the vast multitude who, though they have heard something about the message of the Bible, have never understood the Glad Tidings of great joy, which the angel said would be to all people! None of these have had an individual trial, because the condemnation to death was passed upon them on account of Adam’s disobedience.
They are coming forth from the death-state in order to be judged, to undergo a crisis for determination for their fitness life or death. We are assured of this, because we are told that Jesus “by the grace of God tasted death for every man” (Hebrews 2:9), that “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for our’s [the believers’] only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2:2) The teaching of the Scriptures is clear that Adam sold the whole race under sin to death (Romans 7:14), and that the Messiah bought the whole race with His precious blood, and that “to this end the Messiah both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and the living.” (Romans 14:9) It is clear, also, that the only way by which any can get eternal life is through faith in the death and resurrection of the Messiah. We are told by Jesus himself: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6); and again, Paul tells us that neither Jews nor Gentiles could justify themselves by works, and it was for this reason that God sent forth His Son the Messiah Jesus “to be a propitiation [satisfaction] through faith in his blood [death].” (Romans 2:14,15; 3:9,10,25) It was because of this that God our Savior has arranged that all shall come to a knowledge of the truth. (I Timothy 2:4) That which enables Him to do this, to be “just and [still] the justifier,” is the fact that the man the Messiah Jesus, the mediator between God and men, “gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified [to all] in due time.” I Timothy 2:5,6.
Remember that we are not the judges as to who have had, and who have not had a full opportunity for salvation in the present lifetime. It is a good thing for men are prone to be severe in their judgment of others. You would think that if any have had an opportunity for salvation, the Jews who impaled the Messiah surely had. They did not merely go to a church and hear a minister preach about the Messiah; instead they actually saw the Messiah himself, they heard the gracious message from His own mouth, and they saw the wonderful works that He did, and yet they cried for his execution! Why, you will say, if anyone had responsibility those Jews had, and if any suffer eternal condemnation those Jews must. Yet what did the apostle Peter say: “I know that you did it in ignorance.” (Acts 3:17, New King James Version) And Paul said: “Had they known it, they would not have [impaled] the Lord of Glory.” (I Corinthians 2:8) And Jesus said: “If any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not; for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge [Greek, krino, Strong’s #2919] him in the last day.” (John 12:47,48) The “god of this world,” Satan, “hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of the Messiah, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” — 2 Corinthians 4:4.
If God sees that anyone has full knowledge of his responsibilities now but who will not obey the good news, He will not give such a person a further opportunity. What would be the use? We must remember, however, that God is full of loving-kindness, “for his mercy endureth forever.” In Hebrews 6:4-6, He has given an indication as to what He regards as a full opportunity. If Yahweh sees that an individual has never heard or never sufficiently understood the glad message of salvation, that individual will get an opportunity in the resurrection of judgment.
This does not mean, however, a license for sin or indifference in this lifetime, for we are told that there will be a measure of future punishment according to the measure of present responsibility. As a man sows, so shall he also reap. (Galatians 6:7) In the last day it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah than for the people of Palestine, for the Sodomites sinned in much greater ignorance than the Jews. (Matthew 11:23,24) We can leave the matter quite safely with out loving God, Yahweh.
We have, however, this assurance, that as all men were condemned in the one man, Adam, and not one of them was asked whether he wanted to be condemned in Adam or not, so all men, either in this lifetime or in the resurrection, will get the free gift of justification to life because of the one Savior, Jesus the Messiah. “As by the offence of one judgment came upon ALL men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon ALL men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” (Romans 5:18,19) “As in Adam all die, even so in the Messiah shall all be made alive.” — 1 Corinthians 15:22.