As we celebrate the Resurrection, let’s take a look at what the Resurrection means in time.
With over three hundred prophecies centered on Christ’s first coming, over four hundred speak of his Second Coming. This is for some, the most well-understood event of the ages. For others, it is cloaked in mystery. I was mentored in this subject at an early age, by my sainted mother and various pastors I met along the way.
The prophecies themselves, delivered over time, means God is sending a clear message to mankind, that God lives outside of time and controls it for his own glory.
Some believers fully accept the notion of a Second Coming, but balk at the notion of a pre-visit (called the Rapture). Jesus himself aligned it to the Jewish Wedding protocol. Here, the groom leaves, builds a new family home, returns when everything is ready, takes his bride to the wedding chamber, has a wedding supper, and whisks his bride to the new home. We see the imagery of the wedding generally matched the imagery associated with Christ’s ascension, his promise to prepare mansions (John 14:2), his return to receive his bride (Rapture – 1 Cor 15:51-52)), taking her to the wedding chamber for the supper (Revelation 19:9), and whisking her to the new home (which includes mansions in heaven and Earth in the millennial period).
God has always intended for Christ to come, die and be resurrected. Jesus is the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev 13:8) – Jesus Christ is the purpose for which the creation was made. “By him and for him” (John 1:1-5).
And if this is the case, the Resurrection was always on the fabric of time, we just hadn’t experienced it yet. Abraham was commanded to kill Isaac, even after God had promised the Redeemer would come from his progeny, and Abraham was so confident in God’s promise he believed God would either stop him or raise Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19). The concept of resurrection was not foreign to Jewish believers.
In fact, by the time of Christ, the religious leaders had split into groups based on their belief (or lack thereof) in the resurrection (Matt 22:23). Martha believed Lazarus would be raised from the dead, in the resurrection (John 11:24). Jesus challenged the religious leaders with a trick question, with the presumption of the fact of the resurrection (Luke 20:33). Jews had a belief that God would perform a resurrection in the end of days.
To recap prior essays, God created time, is outside of time, is sovereign over time, and sits at the beginning of time, the end of time, and every nano-second in between, all at once. This means even as he was helping Noah prepare the Ark, the second-per-second clock of time was marching toward the Resurrection, an event already on the timeline, waiting for us to experience it.
As noted in the essay on the Outrageous Myth of Good Friday, the day after the regular Sabbath after the Passover is called the Day of Firstfruits. Jesus Christ is called the “firstfruits” of the “first Resurrection” – and says this “First Resurrection” is the Resurrection of the Saints, an event still in our future.
See, not even Christ’s Resurrection is the first one – it is the first fruits of the first one.
I find it amazing that God could lay out an event (the Passover), establish a feast (The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened bread) and cap it with the Day of First fruits – all as a template of Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection, which would not happen for another fifteen hundred years?
Isn’t this proof that God lives outside of time?
I sat down with a group of young men and the topic was “ask anything”, so they asked, “what happens when a person dies?”
This goes straight to the heart of Resurrection, because believers are promised everlasting life. Death has no power over a believer. Fear takes on a different meaning, but not the fear of death (1 Cor 15:55).
A friend’s mother is a hospice worker, and was asked, “Do people die like they live, or do you get a lot of ‘deathbed confessions’?”
She said, Here’s something interesting. When a Christian was told he was near death, he got agitated and ranted. It reduced to a false alarm. An atheist under the same false-alarm scenario was calm and collected. But when the real time-to-die came along, the Christian was at peace, and the atheist got agitated and ranted. In both cases, they took their convictions to the grave.
And this, she said, was how it went for everyone. She could not recall a single deathbed conversion because the people had lived their lives, had made peace with their beliefs, and saw no compelling reason to change them. What would death change? One even said that his death would prove one right and one wrong. But again, the consequences of being wrong, for the atheist, are catastrophic. Almost like putting all of our money into the hands of Bernie Madoff, even while people are warning us away, and we defiantly say – “We’ll see who’s right in the end.”
What happens when a person dies? Physiologically, the body ceases to function. All of the necessary chemicals are present, but life isn’t. Science cannot re-inject the force of life into those chemicals, because life arrived with the chemicals, from the parents at conception, and continued the passing-of-the-torch of life from all their predecessors. Once the flame goes out, it can’t be restored. This is physical life.
But if we look deeper into physical life, we see three categories the Bible uses. One is the basic force of life, what biology call life. Two is the breath of life, what the Bible centers on breathing land animals with blood (blood is the life of the flesh). Three is the living soul, or what God breathed into Adam. This is a conscious, rational soul with an awareness of time. The other creatures have no awareness of time (apart from instinctive circadian rhythms). This means a dog cannot tell you what it did at three PM today, nor can it tell you if it’s Winter or Summer on a calendar.
In the movie The Lion King, the Mufasa character is killed in a stampede of wildebeest. He manages to save his son, Simba, and crawl up the rocks. But the wildebeest are roaring past below. Scar casts him into the herd and he is trampled. Moments later the stampede is over. If Mufasa had been human, he would have crawled upon the rocks and waited a couple of minutes for the stampede to end. Animals don’t think in terms of the passing of time, and what waiting could mean. They instinctively wait for food, and may understand light and dark, but could not tell you which day of the week is better for hunting. Or if holidays have any play in it.
Mankind is obsessed with time because there’s so little of it. Our awareness of time is acute.
When my mother was dying of cancer, she would only take a Tylenol, but no harder drugs. As a young woman, some nefarious things happened to her where drugs were administered and she lost control of her faculties. Delirium, bedspins, and it frightened her. She never again ate, drank, or took anything that would alter her perception of reality. I still recall those last months. Mom would call me (and I was her designated caregiver) and be in a fit of pain. I could order, without her permission, any drug I saw fit. But she was strong and resisted any attempt to help her. And she was in such pain. A CT-scan showed that not only was she in pain, but the pain itself was so severe it was likely altering her perception of reality. I discussed this with her, but she would not budge. I had them administer the pain medication with a needle against her wishes (I had power of medical authority, so she had to do what I said). A half hour later, she thanked me. The drug they gave her killed the pain but did not affect her mind.
Point being, I saw other people in the nursing home who had already lost their minds, some of them decades prior. They had no perception of reality. I could not bear the thought of Mom having to live one-second-at-a-time with pain so severe, such that each tick of the clock itself is brutal. The drug they gave her smoothed the pain and made her final time more bearable.
Humans have an acute sense of the passing of time. Einstein put it this way – When your finger is on a hot iron, one second can seem like an hour. But when a pretty girl is sitting on your lap, one hour can seem like one second. In both cases, time is passing, but our perception is altered.
For a believer today, the Bible says we are absent from the body and present with the Lord. It’s an immediate transition from Earth to Heaven for our spirit. Our body stays behind and does what the Lord called “sleep”. This is not “soul sleep” as some might believe. This is merely a Christian euphemism for the temporary span of time between physical death and resurrection.
But it was not always this way. Jesus said to Nicodemus that no man had entered heaven. This means all believers prior to the Crucifixion went somewhere else. Where would this be?
When Jesus was on the cross talking to the thieves, one of them asked to be remembered and Jesus said he would meet him in Paradise. Not heaven, which Jesus spoke often about, but Paradise. Where is Paradise?
Jesus gives the account of Lazarus and the Rich Man, where upon death both men arrive in Sheol, which contains two chambers. Lazarus is taken by angels to Abraham’s Bosom, or what Jesus would later call Paradise, and one landed in Gehenna, the place for the wicked dead. Interesting – the only way to get to Abraham’s Bosom is being couriered by angels. We can safely presume this also applies today when we transition to heaven.
There is a lower chamber – Abaddon, also called Tartarus, the abyss, the bottomless pit. It hosts fallen angels reserved in chains until final judgment. Abaddon is a bottomless pit – it’s at the geometric center of the Earth, where every wall is a ceiling, and there is no bottom.
We read where Jesus descended and “preached to spirits”. This spirit is the pneuma, or the name for a human spirit, not the name for the angelic spirits in Abaddon.
What would Jesus preach to these spirits, and which group of spirits is he preaching to? We can presume he’s preaching to the group in Abraham’s Bosom, because all the others (in Gehenna) did not die in the faith. This means Gehenna continues to hold the souls of the wicked dead before Christ, and all those afterward. It currently hosts such malefactors as the second thief on the cross, Cain, Lamech, Nimrod, Hitler, along with anyone else who didn’t die in the faith.
What did Jesus preach to them? The same thing he says we should preach to others (the foolishness of preaching pleases God). He preached his Lordship, that he is the promised Redeemer, and all who believed would come with him to heaven. Abraham’s Bosom is empty today.
Another group of spirits are worth mentioning, the “unclean”. These are the disembodied spirits of the Nephilim (giants of Genesis 6), which do not belong in Heaven or Sheol, so roam the earth in search of bodies to inhabit. Their Scriptural name is “unclean spirit” and modern name is “demon”. But these are not the fallen spirits hosted in Abaddon. In Revelation we read where “death and hell” gave up the souls in them. What souls are hosted in “death” that aren’t hosted in hell? The spirits of the dead Nephilim.
Interestingly, these spirits were disembodied by the Flood of Noah, and their death was the primary purpose of the Flood. Jesus later says these spirits, when cast out of a host, “wander in dry places.” Recall when Jesus cast them out of a man and put them into swine, the swine ran for water, as though instinctively knowing the water would free them of the demon. We could then ask – is water a type of “phobia” for them?
In one scene, Mia protects herself with a line of water, and the spirit doesn’t cross it.
We often hear a question like – what about babies – or the “man on the desert island” – where do they go when they die?
The Bible says that babies of believers go to heaven. The word “holy” is the same Greek word for “saint”. It offers no promises to babies of unbelievers. This continues the theme of “peace” for believers and “urgency” for unbelievers. In other words, if you as an unbeliever are concerned about it, why don’t you cover them by becoming a believer?
One man said he was in a car accident before he became a Christian, and the accident killed his wife and two infant children. He believes they all three went to hell that day, but when he became a believer, his babies were removed from hell and put in heaven. No record or account of this circumstance is addressed in Scripture, but the man’s faith led him to this conclusion.
One faith system places babies in “Limbo” where they float around for eternity. There is no doctrine of Limbo in Scripture. And why would God do this? The Bible says we are born sinners, and cannot come into the presence of God. Jesus, in covering us with his own blood, “hides” our sin from God. “We are hid with Christ in God” (Col 3:3). The question is – what does God do with the babies of unbelievers?
But in both cases, the desert island and babies – or any other “hard case” – here is the operant principle: God is good. He has taken gigantic steps to see to it that nobody perish. I’m not one to add to Scripture, so I will speculate only on God’s goodness. I don’t believe anyone in heaven, upon such folks coming before God, he didn’t have a plan in place to get the Gospel to them before they died, even if it was an interaction with the soul in the twilight of death. Likewise for babies – I just don’t think anyone will be pointing a finger at God for being unfair, unjust, etc. God is big enough, loving enough, and good enough to work it out. If I’m part of it, all the better.
What is death?
On two occasions, Jesus raised people from the dead. Before doing so, he claimed they were asleep (Matt 9:24, John 11:11). When he raised the girl, it says “her spirit came again.” Keep in mind that both the girl and Lazarus were not “resurrected” they were “resuscitated” – they did not rise from the dead as immortal. They eventually died again (and it is appointed to die only once (Hebrews 9:27).
So Jesus had it right – they were both sleeping, but clinically dead. In short, they were beyond what any doctor could do to help them.
Concerning death, the Bible speaks of a silver cord (Eccl 12:6). People in near-death experiences sometimes confess they have an out-of-body moment where they hover over their body, even the whole scene around it. They sometimes report the presence of a silvery cord attached to their spirit and their body.
Death in Scripture has a more constrained meaning than in biology. Death in Scripture is cessation of life in a blood-borne creature with a beating heart (Gen 9:4, Lev 17:11,14, Deut 12:23).
Death is the penalty for sin (Rom 6:23)
Blood is the price for sin (Lev 17:11,Heb 9:22)
Follow this: The Bible says that death came into the earth after Adam sinned:
1Co 15:22 “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
1Co 15:21 “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.”
Rom 5:12 “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:”
Can we see the progression in the above? Sin brought death into the world. Sin preceded death. Why is this important?
Death is not natural, and is the “last enemy that shall be destroyed” (1 Cor 15:26). If death is not natural, what is? Eternal life is natural. The couple in the Garden were told to eat from the tree of life, which meant they would live forever – as long as they kept doing it.
There’s even a law tying sin and death together:
Rom 8:2 “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”
Important point: If death came after sin, what does this say of evolution’s narrative and its compatibility with Christanity? Evolution claims death reigned the earth before mankind ever showed up. Remove the relationship between sin and death, we remove the very meaning of the Cross. Evolution is an attack on the Cross.
“Christianity has fought, still fights, and will fight science to the desperate end over evolution, because evolution destroys utterly and finally the very reason Jesus earthly life was supposedly made necessary. Destroy Adam and Eve and the original sin, and in the rubble you will find the sorry remains of the son of god. Take away the meaning of his death. If Jesus was not the redeemer who died for our sins, and this is what evolution means, then Christianity is nothing!”
Bozarth, G. Richard, The Meaning of Evolution, American Atheist (February 1978), p 30
What is Resurrection?
If Jesus is the firstfruits (1 Cor 15:20) of the first resurrection (Rev 20:5), we can look to his description for insight. He could walk through walls, was hungry, had the scars attained in life, and remembered earthly life. He was also immortal, and uncorrupted from sin. This means the resurrected body has similar biological function to our body today, but little distinction otherwise.
All people are resurrected in body, soul, and spirit. Some to everlasting life, and some to eternal damnation (John 5:29). Jesus said to fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt 10:28). So the body goes with us to heaven, or it goes with us to hell. If to hell, soul and body are destroyed (Greek apollymi – perish, lost, ruin, destroy).
In the account of the dry bones (Ez 37), Ezekiel sees a bunch of bones go into upright skeletons, and flesh forms on them. We can imagine this process took at least five minutes, maybe less, but it’s described as over a duration.
In the account of the Rapture, the dead precede the living, but all are transformed at the same time (1 Cor 15:51,52). This simply means, if we’re still alive, we’ll be transformed into our new bodies, and will remain this way until the dead believers are brought from the graves and reconstructed. How long before this is complete and we join them? Minutes, it seems. The verses are given as a way to set our expectation for a duration. In the book series, the Rapture events are always depicted this way. They transform, linger for a short duration, and vanish.
Concerning dry bones above, recall Adam was made from dust of the ground. When we eat or drink, the chemicals in our body are swapped out with the incoming chemicals. All over our body, the cells are replaced with new ones based on the type of food consumed. Each cell is comprised of water, chemicals, and information – the information in the DNA. While the cell dies and is replaced with a new one, the DNA transfers from the old to the new. The information in DNA is preserved even though everything about the cell is transient.
Moreover, the soul is not part of the physical body (silver cord above). So as chemicals are swapped-out and cells replaced, the soul remains intact as well.
In fact, with all the activity for maintaining physical swap-out of chemicals, we may forget the only two things that remain, are both eternal – the information in our DNA and our souls.
If God has access to dust (he does) and access to our genetic information (he does) and access to our spirit (he does), then it’s a short leap to resurrecting a long-dead person into a living one.
When is resurrection?
Jesus said no man knows the day and hour, but also said we can know when the season has neared.
He likened it to the Jewish wedding protocol. The groom promises, goes to build a house, returns for the wedding when he’s ready. She is to wait with her lamp trimmed, with plenty of oil to see her to the bridal chamber. She knows “about” the time he will come but not the exact day nor hour. She’s prepared.
He also said he would come as a thief in the night, surprising those unprepared.
The “when” also goes to timing (mentioned above). But in our case, it also includes a racing clock. Getting things done before a deadline. Working while it’s daylight. A field “white unto harvest”, but lacking workers to reap it. The time of salvation is now. Urgency, urgency.
All this leads to a future point in time, an event popularly called the Rapture, which is described in numerous places in Scripture. We are encouraged this is the “blessed hope” of the church. (Titus 2:13).
I recall a debate/discussion in our office cubicles where a dear saint was poorly defending the Lord’s Second Coming. The nay-sayer said (per Hollywood renditions) that Jesus would return as a baby – as he did the first time. And if so, how will you know it’s him. The dear saint pulled snippets of Scripture, what she knew, but could not withstand the tsunami of logic coming from this rather rabid atheist.
The Scripture says Jesus Christ will appear “in the clouds, with power and great glory” (Matt 24:30). I shared this with the atheist, and simply said, “If someone shows up floating in the clouds, with power and great glory, he’s got my vote.” The atheist was stunned that he’d missed something so simple.
Another nay-sayer, who wasn’t familiar with Scripture, told me “the Bible says believers sleep, but we know they are dead.”
I told him the Scripture says when we die, our spirits are immediately in the presence of the Lord (2 Cor 5:8). He told me this is not the case. I said – “you mean, you don’t think it happens, or it’s not in the Bible?” He said it wasn’t in the Bible, so I showed it to him. His answer – “that’s not my understanding.” So I challenged him – how do you reconcile this verse with your understanding, without changing your understanding in light of new information? He said he’d think about it.
This same nay-sayer had another thing to say. I walked from our lunch area with a new believer and we were talking about all kinds of Biblical events and concepts. When we walked past his cubicle, he sprang from his seat as though electrocuted. “What are you guys talking about?”
My cubicle was near, and my phone rang, so I had to take it, but I listened with the other ear as this nay-sayer hammered the new believer. When I returned, he said “I was just telling him, what does it matter? Whether we believe in God or not, as long as we think we’re doing the right thing-”
So I said – “You told me once that you don’t like seafood. If we were walking past just now, and going on about the best seafood restaurants, you wouldn’t care about the conversation at all. But just now, you jumped out of your seat and injected yourself. Clearly it does matter – to you.”
Going too far
Some friends and I traveled by car to Kansas city for a wedding. We were all to be groomsmen. The groom gave us instructions using landmarks, and said, if you see thus-and-so, you’ve gone too far.
Everybody in the car but me thought this was a goofy thing to say. Sort of like, when you get to the last stop sign, turn left.
True to form, we were engrossed in conversation and missed the turn. We passed thus-and-so, and I pointed it out. Everyone looked around and laughed, and we turned around.
The Apostle Paul did something similar for us concerning the Rapture event. He warned us about the “son of perdition” what end-times-prophecy writers call “the Antichrist” in 2Th 2:1-12.
In this passage, Paul offers comfort to those who fear the Rapture may have passed them by. Apparently someone sent them a letter (v2) and Paul told them the Antichrist had not yet arrived.
Many people have asked me over the years, “Is so-and-so the Antichrist?” And the answer is of course, no, because the Rapture hasn’t happened yet. In (v5) Paul says he’s already discussed all this with them, so he’s offering a summary in this text.
Also, God’s Spirit is on the earth (v7) differently than before Christ. In prior time, God’s spirit would fall on a prophet, but not all the believers. After Christ, God’s spirit indwells all believers and His influence radiates from the believer. All this stops when the believers are Raptured. Moreover, the power of God’s spirit to abate evil goes with them, too. Evil has full sway.
In (v10,11) we see when people reject the “love of truth”, God will send “strong delusion”. I would argue this strong delusion is already underway. And will be more so after the Rapture.
The word “Rapture” does not appear in Scripture. It is derived from the Greek word for the phrase “caught up”. In plain terms, being “caught up” is transitioning from one place to another in an instant of time.
And just as we can know flight is possible from watching birds, we can also know space-folding is possible based on it demonstrated in Scripture.
Let’s look at how God uses time-related metaphors to describe his return:
1 Cor 15:51-53- “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In 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. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”
“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye…” What happens? We shall all be changed.
Phase One – Trumpet sounds
Phase Two – Every believer transformed
Phase Three: dead are raised, living people follow
What is the time differential between the two phases? A noticeable duration. Here’s more:
1 Thess 4:14-18 “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 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 rise 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
The takeaways here –
Phase One – The Lord descends with a shout, and the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God.
Phase Two: Dead are raised
Phase three: Remaining living are raised and “caught up” together with them in the clouds.
This passage contains more detail, but the same basic model.
Luke 17:34 “I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.”
1 Th 5:2 “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.”
“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”
In the above, the Rapture appears suddenly and without warning of any kind. The days leading up to it are routine, everyday, nothing special or out-of-the ordinary.
If we look at Revelation, we see some extraordinary things. Angels preach to mankind. The two witnesses are causing devastating plagues worldwide. A megalomaniac has taken over the world as its emperor. These are not routine, everyday things.
The Rapture transpires in phases.
First, the Lord arrives, announced, and in the clouds.
Second, all living humans are transformed, in the “twinkling of an eye”. Faster than a blink.
Third phase commences, that of resurrecting the dead. The valley of the dry bones could approximate the duration of this phase. Meantime, all living believers are still on the ground, in transformed bodies. The clock is ticking, so what will they do with the time? Plea to those watching? Call a loved one? Say goodbye to those around them?
Keep in mind the resurrected dead are still on the ground, too. They are being reconstructed in real-time, before the eyes of any onlookers.
Fourth, all believers, the resurrected dead and transformed living, join the Lord in the air.
One could say a last phase commences, that of what happens next?
God says he will keep things consistent (Gen 8:22) “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”
God says he upholds the entire creation with the word of his power (Heb 1:3).
So we can know things will hold together. This event will not unravel physics. It was planned for.
It’s important to place each portion of the prophecy into its “timeline” context, and not jumble them together as if their sequencing doesn’t matter. It is our resurrection after all.
Jesus and the Apostles gave us enough information to know and to “comfort one another with these words.”
“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
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:
Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”