Three Reserrections | John J. Malone Sr

There are three different phrases for “resurrection of the dead” used in the King James Bible, and a careful review of each of them will lead the serious Bible student to “appreciate things that differ”and yield helpful results in Bible understanding.

These three phrases each offer progressive, further detail as pertaining to the future state of those who believe in Jesus Christ.

Resurrection of the Dead: The A Definition of Terms.

“Resurrection” has such a strong connotation in the English language, due to the influence of Christian thought, that it immediately implies the return of the dead to life. In the Greek language of the Bible, the word translated commonly to “resurrection” is anastasis [Strong's #386]{anastasis} and denotes “standing up.”

In its common connotation in the Scriptures, the word always references the future state of the dead, as they are brought back to life, bodily.

The context of “Resurrection” always has to do with “the dead,” but the details of the word in its use can determine “which dead” to which it is referring.

Resurrection #1: The General Resurrection: “OF the Dead.”

The first reference to “resurrection” in the New Testament is in the context of the notable disbelief in the resurrection of the body by the Sadducees:

Matthew 22:23 The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him ...

A great controversy inside Judaism at that time – and even today – had to do with that which is invisible: whether in space or time.

The sect of the Sadducees differed from the Pharisees in that:

Acts 23:6...the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.

The Sadducees were not merely passive disbelievers, but actively hostile toward those who held the belief in a bodily resurrection, especially, of course, after the Lord's Own resurrection demonstrated the futility of their disbelief.

Acts 4:1 And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, 2 Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide.

The Sadducees marked that group in Israel that was most thoroughly “Hellenized” by the insidious Greek philosophies that permeated the Roman empire. These philosophies – gnostic, with their attendant stoic and epicurean practices - later crept into the churches.

We get an inkling of this thinking when we observe Paul at Mars Hill (the University of Athens at Mars Hill, as I like to call it) remonstrating with the bigoted, arrogant - and lazy - occupants of the Aereopagus.

Acts 17:32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. 32 So Paul departed from among them.

But those Jews who had not departed from the faith held firmly to the “resurrection of the dead” as a real hope to be fulfilled at some uncertain future time. In fact, this faith is referenced in:

Hebrews 6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection;not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead { anastasewv te nekrwn } , and of eternal judgment. 3 And this will we do, if God permit.

The phrase, highlighted above, actually means “not overthrowing” the foundation that is already in place. Part of the doctrinal foundation in place in the faith, upon which is built a doctrinal superstructure matching Christian maturity is “the resurrection of the dead.”

Martha, the sister of Lazarus, demonstrated this understanding in:

John 11:23 Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. 24 Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. 25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? 27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.

Martha, as all devout and expectant Jews who received Christ after his introduction by John the Baptist, had a foundational understanding of the general resurrection, and considered it to be once-for-all at “the last day.” The apostles had the same understanding, but were in for some further instruction.

Resurrection #2: The Lord's Resurrection:“FROM the Dead.”

Mark 9:7 And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. 8 And suddenly, when they had looked round about, they saw no man any more, save Jesus only with themselves. 9 And as they came down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead. 10 And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean.

Holding a firm faith in and understanding of the general resurrection, the apostles are taken by the Lord to the Mount of Transfiguration. There is a great amount to be learned in this episode, and it is significant that there is a record of it in each of the gospel accounts.

In the English version, we might not understand the puzzlement of Peter James, and John in verse 10. And yet, they DID wonder at what the Lord said when He referred to his resurrection. And that is because He used a different phrase, one perhaps lost on us if we are not careful readers: “risen from the dead” {tou anyrwpou ek nekrwn}.

What must have troubled them was the thought that resurrection could occur “out from” the dead, leaving some in the grave. This is not something they comprehended until the Lord's resurrection made matters consummately plain:

Romans 1:3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; 4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead {ex anastasewv nekrwn}...

The Lord's resurrection began what is known in the New Testament Scriptures as the “First” resurrection, on that extends over a period of time and includes three groups of believers at different times: Church of God, Jews, and Gentiles. The Lord Jesus Christ is the first of the First fruits of this resurrection.

Within the context of this “first” resurrection, there is a further delineation.

Resurrection #3: The “Out” Resurrection: “ OUT FROM Out From the Dead.”

One of the more intriguing portions of Scripture is Paul's proclamation:

Philippians 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead {thn exanastasin twn nekrwn}. 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

Within the context of this “first” resurrection, there is a further delineation. We have to come to terms with Paul's motivation here, and determine what his hope is, in comparison to his assurance. We can be sure they are not the same. So if we discover what he is assured of, at least we can know what he DOESN'T mean when he says he wants to attain this particular resurrection.

So, we can approach a discussion of this meaning in the following manner:

What exactly the apostle says.

What he is already assured of.

What is left for his attainment.

Many “problems” and difficulties” in the Scripture disappear once we discover what the Scripture actually says. Due to the prevalence of many popular misconceptions, it also helps if we point out, at times, what the Scripture DOES NOT say.

In the passage cited above, the apostle turns a phrase that is nowhere else found in the Scripture. It is the phrase “the out-resurrection from the dead.” This is something he hopes to attain, and is something he has “not already attained”

Furthermore, due to his insecurity about his attainment, he declares

Philippians 3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

The apostle IS NOT saying that he hopes to be raised from the dead or that he hopes to attain to the first resurrection. These are matters already clearly settled in his faith.

The same apostle who wrote

1st Corinthians 15:51Behold, I shew you a mystery;We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,52In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

did not suddenly become one insecure in his assurance of participating in the very thing he taught others.

The very language he uses in Philippians 3:11 is that he hopes for something different: he hopes to attain an “out-resurrection” and it is related, not to the gift of God – eternal life, with its necessary complement, the resurrection from the dead – but to the prize of the high calling of God.

This prize is something to be “won” or attained. This does not mean it is on a principle of works-for-wages, because even a prize implies a gracious benefactor in the award.

So, what is left for the attainment by the apostle is to be “selected out” at the resurrection from the dead, wherein he is assured to participate. In order to understand this “selection,” it's important to consider what happens to every believer in the resurrection.

As 1 st Corinthians 15 above states, all Christian (Church of God) believers will be taken in the first resurrection, some having not died, but all being changed into having new glorified bodies. In that moment – the twinkling of an eye – we will be transported to the grand convocation known in Bible terms as “the judgment seat of Christ.”

2 nd Corinthians 5:8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.9 Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

This scheduled rendezvous with Christ at His judgment seat was the focal point of the apostle's life. It was also the focal point of John the apostle's life.

1 John 2:28 And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear,we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.

1 John 4:17Herein is our love made perfect,that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.

This is the one hope of the calling of every Christian. It is the desire to hear from the Lord Jesus, “Well done, though good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of thy master.”

It is the “out standing-up out from the dead.”

It is the reason to lead an “outstanding” Christian life.