What Does the Bible Say About Resurrection?

Throughout history, man has been fascinated with death and the afterlife. Will you and your loved ones live again? Do you have an immortal soul? The biblical teachings on life and death have been prime targets of Satan the devil from the beginning. The first recorded lie was that man would not die (Genesis 3:4).

Eve was deceived by this lie. Eve and Adam subsequently chose to reject the truth God had revealed to them. To this day, man refuses to accept God’s revelation about death and resurrection. Modern “Christianity” commonly accepts the “immortal soul” lie without evidence, and with plenty of proof to the contrary!

Genesis 2:7 says that “God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” This word soul in no way implies immortal life. The word in Hebrew is nephesh and means “a breathing animal.” It is used throughout the Old Testament to describe creatures such as cattle, fowl, whales—and man. Ecclesiastes 3:19 shows that man dies just as the animals do.

The soul is physical, composed of matter, and can die (Ezekiel 18:4, 20). We see this point emphasized throughout the Bible (e.g. James 4:14; 1 Peter 1:24; Psalm 103:13-16).

The Bible shows that all who die—which is everyone—will eventually be resurrected. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order …” (1 Corinthians 15:22-23). The question is not if a person will be resurrected, but when.

Jesus Christ was the first to be resurrected. He is the “firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29) and has made the resurrection of everyone who has ever lived possible. A careful study of God’s Word reveals three resurrections yet to come.

The first resurrection is for the “dead in Christ” and believers who are alive when He returns (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). These people have repented and have received and are led by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9, 14). They will be resurrected as spirit, will live forever and reign with Christ throughout the Millennium (Revelation 20:5-6).

Revelation 20:5 describes the second resurrection: “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.” Most of humanity will be brought back to life in this resurrection at the end of the Millennium. They will then have God’s truth revealed to them and be given their first opportunity to become part of God’s Kingdom. This period is called the Great White Throne Judgment (verses 11-12).

Only one passage indicates the duration of the Great White Throne Judgment: Isaiah 65:17-25. In verse 20, we read, “There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed.” During this period, there will be two classes of people: “the child” and “the sinner.”

“The child” here refers to a child of God—a person who is striving to live God’s way. We are to enter the Kingdom of God as a little child (Luke 18:17). Why does Isaiah say that the child will die? Because it is given to all men to die once (Hebrews 9:27). The temporal, physical existence of the righteous will end. Those who fall into the category of “the child” will become the Spirit-born sons of God, just as those who were alive at Christ’s coming will have in the first resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). They also will be changed “in the twinkling of an eye.”

The third resurrection is a resurrection to the second death. The Prophet Daniel spoke of this resurrection: “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2). Jesus Christ calls it the resurrection of “condemnation” (John 5:29; New King James Version).

Everyone will be given the opportunity to repent and become a part of God’s Family, but not everyone will accept it. Those not found in the book of life will be cast into the lake of fire, ending their existence forever (Revelation 20:13-15). Malachi 4:3 adds that in the end, the ashes of the wicked will be under the feet of the righteous. The incorrigibly wicked will have died the second death, from which there is no resurrection. This is a merciful act on God’s part. If these people had immortal life, they would be miserable eternally, so God compassionately ends their lives, leaving only the “smoke of their torment” to ascend forever (Revelation 14:10-11).

After these resurrections, those left alive will be immortal—composed of spirit. The resurrections are, in fact, the fulfillment of our incredible human potential. In his book The Incredible Human Potential, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote about this awesome future: “When born of God, we shall be spirit, no longer human flesh and blood. We shall be given power! As Daniel revealed, the saints then shall take the kingdoms of Earth’s nations and rule them for the first thousand years—establishing world peace and divine government under Christ.

“And after that? The passage in Hebrews 2 shows that then, again under Christ, we shall be given power to rule over the entire vast universe—literally all things. For that is the power that has been given to Christ and will be ours as joint inheritors with Him!

“Yes, there is a life after death for those obedient to God—a spirit life of incredible potential beyond our wildest dreams! Can we humans grasp the awesome portent of these astounding truths? Attaining immortal life should be our all-encompassing goal. For that is the gift and desire of our merciful Father and His Son Jesus Christ.”

What a glorious vision of the future! For more information, read Mr. Armstrong’s book The Incredible Human Potential.