Chapter 23: "The Resurrection of the Just"


The doctrine of the Resurrection of the Just, even when held with but little apprehension of the events connected with that time, has always kept alive, as a fact, the reality of the coming of the Lord in power and great glory; for the expectation has not been some idealistic thought of Christ secretly taking His people to himself, but His visible appearing-the visible opening of the graves, when "the dead shall lie raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." Is the hope of resurrection a mere personal expectation? Few, I suppose, would say this; for it is that in which the family of faith have a common hope and a common interest. But of which should we think most, in connection with it, the glory of Christ, or of our own blessedness? Surely the former: and this puts secrecy out of the question.

Even, too, as to ourselves, publicity is an essential part of the hope of resurrection; for in the resurrection of Christ’s people, they shall be fully declared to be His, in body as well as in Spirit; and until then their triumph cannot be a manifested thing. The resurrection of Christ was His own personal vindication, as the One in whom the Father was ever well pleased-it defined and marked Him out as the Son of God, the Lord of all glory. But He shall yet be publicly vindicated. Up to this time, His believing people die and lie in their graves apparently as do others; their bodies are "sown in corruption," "in weakness," "in dishonor;" it seems, as to the bodies of the saints, that Satan has a triumph over them, and as if he could still dishonor Christ in His members. Whatever a secret resurrection might do for the blessedness of the saints themselves, it would not vindicate Christ in them; and He comes "to be glorified in His saints." Even if there could be a secret resurrection "in incorruption," yet a secret resurrection "in glory" (and it is in glory that the just shall be raised) would be a contradiction.

The death of a believer is great gain to him personally, for he departs to be with Christ, which is far better; but still it leaves him with an unconsummated hope; and in each case Christ has one more whose resurrection is needful for His own glory to be vindicated. We need feel no surprise at the prominence which the New Testament gives to resurrection; for although a part of the Church shall be alive and remain at the coming of the Lord, yet, as a fact, the great majority of Christians-the believers of long-succeeding age after age have fallen asleep; and thus, as to the Church in general, —it is not change, but resurrection which is the point of expectation. It may be said, that both these classes, the saints living when the Lord comes, and those in their graves, are needful for the manifestation of Christ as "the Resurrection and the Life." If all believers were to die, it would seem as if Christ had not so overcome death and Satan (who had the power of death) that He might lead His redeemed into glory without their passing through death. The change of the living saints when He comes shall show how in this He is "the Life." If all His people had lived on till His coming, it might have seemed as if theirs was : but some protraction of existent natural life, and not the power of resurrection ministered to them. Christ died and lived, "that He might be Lord both of the dead and living" (Rom. 14:9). As Lord of the dead, He receives into blessing in His own presence (how joyful who can tell?) the spirits of His departed people: He cares for their moldering bodies, and He has pledged himself to raise them in "the last day." Then it shall be seen that He is "the Resurrection;" that of all the Father gave Him He hath lost nothing; and that His glory shall be manifested in the triumph of His members as sharers actually in that promised hope of resurrection which He set before them.

I have already shown, from Scripture ("The Hope of Christ’s Second Coming"—Chapter 12), that the resurrection of the just shall take place at the time when the Lord again puts forth His hand to bless His ancient people Israel; and also ("The Hope of Christ’s Second Coming"—Chapter 7) that the first resurrection cannot be until the last form of anti-Christian evil shall be ended by the coming of Christ in glory.[1] The order of resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 teaches the same thing: "Every man in his own order: Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming. Then [i.e. afterwards, at a subsequent period in order] cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father .... For He must reign until He have put all enemies under His feet" (1 Cor. 15:23-25). "They that are Christ’s at His coming" are all saints up to that time-those who share in the first resurrection. "The end," spoken of as subsequent, is the period of the resurrection of Millennial saints, and of all others (though the just are only specifically treated of in this chapter). Thus, there can be no resurrection of "those that are Christ’s" until the coming at which He restores Israel, and raises His believing people "in glory." "Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."

Thus does the hope of resurrection in glory at Christ’s appearing lead to true Christian service.


ENDNOTES:

[1] Christ remains at the right hand of God the Father until the time when the Father puts all enemies to be His footstool: “Jehovah said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” (Ps. 110:1) Jehovah shall then send the rod of Christ’s strength out of Zion: “Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.” He does not leave His place at the right hand of glory above (Matthew 26:64) until the Father has prepared the enemies to be His footstool: then Christ comes forth to act on the commission thus received; and then He puts forth His authority in subjecting all enemies to himself, as set for that purpose by the Father. Then He reigns in bringing all into subjection. Those who hold that Christ will leave the right hand of God to receive His Church secretly, before the Father has prepared the foes to be His footstool (thus contradicting His words before the high priest), have sometimes tried to render the passage in Psalm 110, and the citations of it in the New Testament, as though they meant “until I do set, or am setting,” as if it were what He is about to do. Some have even gone the length of asserting that critically the notion is not that of the future perfect. A passage from Genesis, which was said to show this as to the Hebrew, was some years ago quoted and circulated in print; but for the sake of any puzzled by this, I mention, that the words quoted from Genesis were not his sentiment, but an opinion, the incorrectness of which he was showing, as any Hebrew scholar might do! It is wonderful that any one can say that the Greek in the New Testament can mean anything except “until I shall have placed thine enemies.” The words “until He have put” are a similar construction, and any one can see that this is not “until He is putting;” the whole force of the argument turns on the thing having been done.