Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):

Death and the Three Resurrections!

The Biblical teaching on the three resurrections provides hope, destiny and justice for all Israelites. There will be three resurrections for three distinct groups of people -- each in their own order, each in their own time through the power of a perfectly merciful and perfectly just God not willing that any Israelite should perish forever.

by HOIM Staff

Does the resurrection from the dead seem like a mystery to you? The apostle Paul brings clarity to this often-overlooked Biblical truth while acknowledging human mortality: "For just as in connection with Adam all die, so in connection with the Messiah all will be made alive. But each in his own order: the Messiah is the firstfruits; then those who belong to the Messiah, at the time of his coming" (I Corinthians 15:22-23 -- Jewish New Testament).

Paul here describes an order of resurrections commencing with "those who belong to the Messiah, at the time of his coming," which Revelation 20:5 refers to as "the first resurrection." An order of resurrections commencing with one called "the first" means that there are subsequent and sequential resurrections -- and indeed these are described more fully elsewhere in the Bible.

A First Resurrection for Those Israelites Who Are the Messiah's

Paul describes the first resurrection, of those Israelites who have been the Messiah's faithful servants at his coming, this way: "Look, I will tell you a secret -- not all of us will die! But we will all be changed! It will take but a moment, the blink of an eye, at the final shofar. For the shofar will sound, and the dead will be raised to live forever, and we too will be changed. For this material [body] which can decay must be clothed with imperishability, this which is mortal must be clothed with immortality" (I Corinthians 15:51-53, ibid.).

Have you ever thought that one resurrection might be better than another? The first resurrection is to immortality and RULERSHIP in the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God. YEHOVAH God has not required more of some Israelites and less of others to gain immortality -- but He has called some to HIGHER OFFICES in a better resurrection.

Read Hebrews 12, noticing in particular verse 23. Here we find mentioned the "Church of the firstborn." In ancient times it was the custom for the FIRSTBORN to receive the GREATER SHARE of the father's estate. YEHOVAH is to make us heir of all things; and yet WHO will receive the greater share? The FIRSTBORN! They will have greater opportunity for service. They will be in higher positions of authority in YEHOVAH's Kingdom. The one who has the highest office can more effectively help more people.

In verse 23 of Hebrews 12 the word "firstborn" is somewhat misleading. The word in the Greek is PLURAL -- in other words if we were to translate it correctly in English, we would say the "firstborn ones." They will have an earlier opportunity for service in the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God, and will have a greater opportunity of serving than those Israelites who come afterwards in the second resurrection.

In ancient times YEHOVAH called the firstborn of each family to serve Him. If the firstborn failed then YEHOVAH had to call others to do this service. In the Millennium YEHOVAH God will again use this same principle of using the firstborn for His special service in governing the world.

The duties and benefits of the firstborn rely on OBEDIENCE rather than natural inheritance. The Bible shows that a younger brother could replace the natural firstborn in a family if the elder was disobedient or could not perform the necessary duties.

This brings us to the Messiah as the firstborn. We read in Psalm 89:27 that YEHOVAH would make him (the Messiah) His firstborn. The KEY word in this reference is the use of the word "make" -- that YEHOVAH would "make" him His firstborn. By his natural, human birth the Messiah was not automatically the "firstborn" of all human beings. It was the Messiah's PERFECT OBEDIENCE to YEHOVAH's will that made him worthy of the position of the firstborn.

In I Corinthians 15:45 we have the Messiah referred to as the "last Adam." As the first Adam is the head of a race of people, so is the last Adam placed at the head of a race of people. We don't have the space here to consider at length the two federal heads, but we know that those who are connected to the first Adam are related to sin and death, while those related to the last Adam are related to life and eternal blessings (I Corinthians 15:22). The first Adam LOST his position of favor and likewise lost his position of the firstborn, while the Messiah GAINED the title and all its benefits by his obedience to YEHOVAH's commands.

Since the Messiah was raised to the status of firstborn, he naturally inherited the duties and benefits that go along with such a title. The duties and benefits are as follows:

1). He was set apart as belonging to YEHOVAH God. Luke 1:32: "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest..." John 8:28: "...I do nothing of myself; but as my Father has taught me, I speak these things."

2). He received a double portion of an eternal inheritance. Hebrews 1:4: "...having become so much better than the angels, as he has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they."

3). He acts as a priest. Hebrews 7:17: "...You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek."

4). He will be appointed ruler over part of YEHOVAH's Kingdom. Luke 1:32-33: "...and the LORD God will give him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob [Israel] forever..."

5). His name will be held in honor next to YEHOVAH's. Isaiah 9:6: "...and the government [of Jacob/Israel] will be upon his shoulders. And his name will be called the Wonder of the Counselor, the Judge of the Mighty everlasting Father -- the Prince of Peace."

An important point that we should remember is that before the Messiah could enjoy the benefits we have just mentioned, he had to become the FIRSTBORN FROM THE DEAD. Not only did the Messiah's obedience grant him all the glorious benefits that YEHOVAH wished to bestow upon him, but more importantly, his perfect obedience made it possible for YEHOVAH to raise him from the dead and grant him immortality. In I Colossians 1:18 we read: "Also he [the Messiah] is head of the body, the Ecclesia -- he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might hold first place in everything."

Those Israelites who have overcome the most, who have had the greatest experience, who have proved themselves more effective than the others will have the highest position. Maybe you can begin to realize why some must go through more in this life than others. They have been invited or CALLED to a higher office in YEHOVAH's Kingdom. YEHOVAH has not put a different price on immortality, but He does require more of some than of others to qualify for the high position that He has called them to.

Think how much more experience those in the FIRST RESURRECTION will have than those who will come after. They will have 1,000 years more experience in ruling in YEHOVAH's Kingdom than those to come later.

Those Israelites raised and changed to immortality at the Messiah's coming will live and reign with YEHOVAH God and the Messiah for 1,000 years: "Then I saw thrones, and those seated on them received authority to judge...They came to life and ruled with the Messiah for a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were over)" (Revelation 20:4-5 -- Jewish New Testament).

The glory of those who are "clothed" with immortality puts them permanently beyond the grasp of death: "Blessed and holy is anyone who has a part in the first resurrection; over him the second death has no power" (verse 6). These will be endowed with life in the likeness of the Messiah (1 John 3:2), attaining the destiny of those Israelites who remain faithful -- to "become a life-giving spirit" (1 Corinthians 15:45). This first resurrection, with those in it learning YEHOVAH God's way and being made immortal before the rest of the Israelites, is clearly a "better resurrection" (Hebrews 11:35).

Think how great a responsibility YEHOVAH God has offered to those of us of Israel -- the firstborn! By serving in a greater position of authority, we will be able to help and to serve more people more effectively.

Because of the joy that was set before him, the Messiah endured a hideous death on the tree. Maybe you too can now see better the joy that is set before you. YEHOVAH God will not require of you more than you are able to bear. You CAN endure to the end! The way may seem difficult and hard at times -- and yet you need not stumble! "Therefore, brothers, try even harder to make your being called and chosen a certainty. For if you keep doing this, you will NEVER stumble" (II Peter 1:10, ibid.). If you do the things Peter mentions in II Peter 1, you will never stumble or fall. You will endure to the end. You will be in that BETTER resurrection -- the FIRST resurrection!

A Second Resurrection for Those Israelites Who Never Knew YEHOVAH God Or the Messiah

What about those described in the book of Revelation as "the rest of the dead" who "did not come to life until the thousand years were over" (Revelation 20:5). Who are they? And what will become of them?

Comparatively few Israelites will be privileged to take part in the first resurrection to immortality. But untold millions will be surprised to find themselves rising up in a resurrection.

Many have made the mistake of thinking there will be only one resurrection -- when both wicked and righteous will rise in judgment to be either rewarded or punished. But Revelation 20:5 plainly brands this an error. As a matter of fact, NOWHERE does the Bible say that YEHOVAH God will resurrect ALL the dead Israelites in the same resurrection!

True, the apostle Paul affirmed "that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust" (Acts 24:15). And the Messiah said: "...For the hour is coming, in which all Israelites that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life [eternal]; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation [or, better translated, judgment]" (John 5:28).

Therefore, not thinking deeply, "Most Christians believe that on the last day of the world all the dead will come to life. They call the day Judgment Day, because God will judge everyone" (World Book Encyclopedia, 1972 edition). But let us not fall into the COMMON ERROR of assuming that Paul and the Messiah meant the "just" and the "unjust" would be resurrected at the same time.

"The rest of the dead" constitute all those Israelites who were NOT "raised and changed to immortality at the Messiah's coming" and fall into two broad categories -- those who died never truly knowing the Messiah, and those who have already willfully rejected him as their personal savior. These are two very different categories of people, facing two very different destinies.

The first group, who died without ever having known the Messiah, is described standing before the throne of YEHOVAH God in a second resurrection: "And I saw the dead, both great and small, standing in front of the throne [of YEHOVAH God]. Books were opened" (Revelation 20:12 -- Jewish New Testament).

Are the "unjust" ones -- "both great and small" -- merely to be resurrected so YEHOVAH God can fling them into the lake of fire to be burned up? What did the Messiah mean when he said that "they that have done evil [will be resurrected], unto the resurrection of judgment"? (John 5:29). Who are the "unjust" ones mentioned by Paul in Acts 24:15? Are those Israelites who died in sin really fully accountable for their actions in their "first life"? Have they ever had a chance for eternal salvation?

Astounding as it may seem to people who do not really know the Biblical teaching regarding the resurrections, countless millions are yet to be brought back to a mortal life to have their "first chance" to receive salvation.

Think for a moment. Could the untold millions of Israelites who have lived and died possibly have received salvation? Have the vast majority ever had a chance to understand the Bible? Have they, then, really rejected salvation? NO! Many individuals have lived their entire lifetimes without ever seeing a Bible or even hearing the name of Yeshua the Messiah. Are they forever doomed simply because they did not have access to the Word of YEHOVAH God -- and did not know that the Messiah is the savior of all Israel? What nonsense!

Could the countless millions of Israelites of the dispersion living in pagan societies throughout the world -- who have not known about the Messiah and salvation -- be held guilty or accountable to YEHOVAH God for not having received that VITAL knowledge?

Or, is it possible that they could receive salvation through some other person (Muhammad, perhaps), or by a different way? The apostle Peter EMPHATICALLY answers: "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is NONE OTHER NAME under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Israelites can ONLY be saved if and when they learn of the Messiah as their savior who died for them -- and then ACCEPT that supreme sacrifice in payment for their personal sins.

The Messiah said: "I am the DOOR: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture" (John 10:9). He made it abundantly clear that anyone who "enters not by the door [the Messiah] into the sheepfold, but climbs up some other way, THE SAME IS A THIEF AND A ROBBER" (verse 1). There is simply NO OTHER "DOOR" by which we can enter the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God.

The scriptures plainly reveal that the time is coming when YEHOVAH God will raise the "unjust" dead -- those Israelites who through no fault of their own were deceived and never understood the way of salvation -- and will at that time reveal His plan of salvation to them.

It is YEHOVAH's responsibility to grant His Israelite people the knowledge of the TRUTH. The vast majority who have ever lived and died were, through no fault of their own, deprived of this knowledge which could have made salvation possible in their first life-time. It therefore becomes imperative that YEHOVAH God give them their FIRST real chance to hear, understand and FOLLOW YEHOVAH's way of salvation. But how? By raising them from the dead to renewed physical life in a second resurrection!

The prophet Ezekiel was given a vision by YEHOVAH God in which he saw vast numbers of long-dead Israelites come back to life as flesh-and-blood human beings. In this vision, "breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army" (Ezekiel 37:1-10 -- NKJV).

"Then," YEHOVAH tells them, "you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it" (verses 13-14, ibid.).

A merciful God, not willing that any should perish, reaches out to all those Israelites to whom the "books" of the Bible had never been opened (in terms of understanding) and brings them back to life to offer them an intimate relationship with Him by putting His spirit in them -- a powerful demonstration of a merciful God so unwilling that any should perish that He reaches into the grave to offer life to the unsaved masses of Israel.

A Final Resurrection for Those Israelites Who Ultimately Reject YEHOVAH God

But a merciful God, to be perfect, must also be just. When the millions are resurrected in the second resurrection, YEHOVAH God will open up the Bible to their understanding. They will be given their first real chance to repent, accept the Messiah as their savior and receive YEHOVAH God's precious holy spirit. Their names will then be written in the Book of Life.

Now consider Revelation 20, verse 13: "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell [Greek: hades, grave] delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works." Here is pictured another resurrection period. Who are these dead? What resurrection is this?

Notice that there is NO STATEMENT that the "book of life" is opened up to them. Why is the "book of life" not "opened" in connection with those who rise up in this final resurrection? Simply because they must have ALREADY HAD THEIR CHANCE for salvation -- and have rejected it!

YEHOVAH God is not willing that any perish, yet it is not His will to force the truth on anyone. He will not force salvation down anyone's throat. YEHOVAH offers salvation freely to all those Israelites who will receive it (Acts 2:21). And he has made every Israelite a free moral agent -- with the power of volition, the power to choose. Those who do not voluntarily accept YEHOVAH's offer and follow the way of life necessary to receive life eternal will NOT receive it.

Those who come up in this third resurrection are the incorrigibly wicked. They are the LAST Israelites to be resurrected from their graves -- from "the sea" (where they may have perished in their first life), from death (without burial in their first life), or from "hell" (a hole or grave in the ground).

These miserable beings will be sentenced by YEHOVAH God -- and EXECUTED: "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:14-15). Lamentably, NONE who will be resurrected in this resurrection will have their names in the Lamb's (the Messiah's) book of life. THEREFORE THEY WILL ALL PERISH!

The Messiah said: "Struggle to get in through the narrow door, because -- I'm telling you -- many will be demanding to get in and won't be able to" (Luke 13:24 -- Jewish New Testament). Continuing with the context, the Messiah then goes on to picture himself as one who refuses to answer the knock of incorrigible sinners who have previously rejected salvation (as shown by other scriptures). In verse 28 he says: "You will cry and grind your teeth when you see Avraham [Abraham], Yitzchak [Isaac], Ya'akov [Jacob] and all the prophets inside the Kingdom of God, but yourselves [incorrigible sinners] thrown outside [not able to enter the Kingdom]."

When the time for the third resurrection arrives, everyone will have had his chance. Every Israelite's ultimate destiny will have been "fixed" eternally. It will be forever too late for anyone who -- after receiving his chance for salvation -- sinned willfully, thereby rejecting eternal life. Those Israelites who rejected YEHOVAH God and His way must then reap the consequences of that decision -- the SECOND DEATH, from which there will be NO resurrection.

From the time of righteous Abel until this very day, even righteous descendants of Adam have had to suffer the first death. But it is the SECOND DEATH that is FINAL -- not the first (Revelation 20:14-15).

Those Israelites who have knowingly and willfully defied the mercies and commandments of YEHOVAH God in their lifetime -- even after coming to know YEHOVAH God and His truth -- face a very different destiny in a final resurrection -- that of the second death. The unrepentant, incorrigibly wicked of past ages meet their Maker in a  resurrection to receive justice through a second death in the lake of fire, from which there will be no resurrection.

The Biblical teaching on the three resurrections provides hope, destiny and justice for all Israelites. There will be three resurrections for three distinct groups of people -- each in their own order, each in their own time through the power of a perfectly merciful and perfectly just God not willing that any should perish forever.

Israelite Destiny

The destiny of Israelites and their forebears is so great and awe-inspiring that few Christians have ever really grasped it. YEHOVAH God -- through His Word -- repeatedly speaks of Israelites becoming sons in the very family of YEHOVAH God. Even YEHOVAH's angels are servants of these heirs of divine sonship: "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?" (Hebrews 1:14 -- NKJV).

Realizing the "high calling" that YEHOVAH God has given us, the apostle Paul wrote that Christians should "pay much more careful heed to the things we have heard, so that we will not drift away" (Hebrews 2:1 -- Jewish New Testament). He then asked: "...how will we escape if we ignore such a great deliverance...? (verse 3, ibid.).

The book of Hebrews is filled with warnings to the Israelite believer not to get careless and lose out on eternal salvation. Paul warns Christians not to let a "root of bitterness" trouble and/or defile them (Hebrews 12:15).

But the sternest warning in the entire Bible is in the tenth chapter of Hebrews: "For if we [Israelites] deliberately continue to sin [breaking YEHOVAH's laws] after receiving the knowledge of the TRUTH, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but only the terrifying prospect of Judgment, of raging fire that will consume the enemies [of YEHOVAH God]" (Hebrews 10:26-27 -- Jewish New Testament).

The apostle Paul then speaks of the severe punishment that will befall that wicked person "who has trampled underfoot the Son of God; who has treated as something common the blood of the covenant which made him holy; and who has insulted the spirit, giver of God's grace!" (verse 29, ibid.). Truly, "It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God!" (verse 31).

It should be noted here that willful sin is NOT to be equated with sin by force of habit or under heavy temptation. "Slipping," making mistakes, or occasionally falling down spiritually do NOT constitute willful sin. A thorough exposition of this principle can be found in our articles What, Exactly, Is -- "The Unpardonable Sin"? and What, Exactly, Do you Mean -- CONVERSION?

But can a true believer draw back and be eternally destroyed? "But the person who is righteous will live his life by trusting, and if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. However, we are not the kind who shrink back and are destroyed; on the contrary, we keep trusting and thus preserve our lives!" (Hebrews 10:38-39 -- Jewish New Testament).

We have seen that YEHOVAH God is "not willing that any should perish." Furthermore, YEHOVAH has ordained that there will be three resurrections: the FIRST, to immortality at the arrival of YEHOVAH God and the Messiah -- immediately before the Millennium begins.

The SECOND is to take place shortly after the thousand-year rule of YEHOVAH God and the Messiah. Those Israelites who rise in the second resurrection comprise all the deceived multitudes who died without a saving knowledge of the truth.

The THIRD resurrection occurs at the very end of YEHOVAH's plan for His people Israel on this earth. Those who rise up in the third and final resurrection are those who had their chance for salvation and deliberately turned it down. YEHOVAH God will be forced to extinguish the lives of those who have obstinately chosen the way of death! Remember -- YEHOVAH God will NOT force eternal life down anyone's throat.

You should now be better able to understand what the apostle Paul meant by an "order" of resurrections mentioned in I Corinthians 15:23. He simply meant that there would be a succession of resurrections -- various ones rising at different times for different judgments.

The TRUE believer has a wonderful, eternal future ahead of him. "He who wins the victory will receive these things, and I will be his God, and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the untrustworthy, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who misuse drugs in connection with the occult, idol-worshippers, and all liars -- their destiny is the lake burning with fire and sulphur, the second death" (Revelation 21:7-8, ibid.).

Your eternal destiny -- your future -- is up to you! You can choose the way of YEHOVAH God and eternal life, or you can choose Satan's way of lust, greed, strife and sin -- which will lead to total perdition -- to the "second death" in a lake of fire.

Let each one of us make sure that we make the right choice.

(Be sure to read our articles, The "CHURCH" -- Called Out of What?, An Exclusive Israel and the Book of Galatians, Is Israel a Chosen Servant Race to "Save the World?" and The Bible, Race and Culture.)


Hope of Israel Ministries -- Preparing the Way for the Return of YEHOVAH God and His Messiah!

Hope of Israel Ministries
P.O. Box 853
Azusa, CA 91702, U.S.A.

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