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The Second Coming of Christ

The Resurrection – l

Outline XIII

From your Bibles read John 5:19–30

When Jesus returns, he will raise the dead (I Cor. 15:52). We now him to a paragraph in which this resurrection is discussed, namely, the paragraph which you read just now.

I. MEANING, IN BRIEF, OF THIS PARAGRAPH

It was on the Sabbath that Jesus had healed the invalid at the pool of Bethzatha (Bethsaida). The Jews had accused the healed man (and, by implication, also the Lord) of sabbath desecration. Jesus had answered their criticism by saying, “My Father is working until now, and I too am working.” The Jews had charged that, by saying this, Jesus was making himself equal with God. They had plotted to kill him. But the Lord now defends himself by means of an argument which may be summarized. as follows:

a. In attacking me, the Son, you are attacking the Father himself, for what the Son is doing the Father is also doing.

b. Are you amazed because I healed this sick man? Greater works win follow, namely, imparting life to the dead and judging all men.

c. Do you question how it is possible for me to raise the dead and to execute judgment? I can do the former because the Father has given me to have life in myself, and the latter in my capacity as Son of man.

d. The proper reaction to my words and works is not base unbelief and hatred, nor even the attitude of mind that fails to rise above amazement, hut faith which honors the Son even as it honors the Father.

e. Those who exercise this faith do not come into condemnation but have even now passed out of death into life.

f. In the final day, they—together with all the other dead—will also rise physically. But though all will be raised, there will be a great difference in the character of their resurrection. Those who have done good will come out of their tombs for the resurrec-of life; the others, for the resurrection of condemnation.

                             

2. WITH RESPECT TO THE TIME WHEN IT WILL OCCUR, THERE WILL BE ONLY ONE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY

For our present purpose our interest is centered in two verses, which can be rcndered as follows:

“Stop being surprised about this, for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out; those who have done good, for the resurrection of life, and those who have practiced evil, for the resurrection of condemnation” (verses 28 and 29).

How many resurrections will there be? Some say, “Clearly two, for in this passage Jesus even names them. He calls the one the resurrection of life, and the other the resurrection of condemnation.”

Now we grant immediately that if the attention is riveted upon the great contrast between the body with which the wicked will arise and the body with which believers will arise, then there are, indeed, two bodily resurrections. But is that really all that is meant when dispensationalists talk about two or more resurrections? Indeed not. What they mean is that there wiII be a time-interval between the resurrections. It is in that sense that some speak of two resurrections (or resurrection-periods), some three, and some four. Blackstone, in his book Jesus Is Coming, pp. 72–74, accepts (l resurrection of the just at the moment of Christ’s “Parousia” (first second-coming), then a resurrection of the tribulation-saints at Christ’s “Revelation,” seven years later, and finally, one thousand years after that, a resurrection of judgment. Among Premillennialists this idea of three resurrections, separated from one another by intervals of time, is rather popular.

But this idea is clearly contrary to what we read in the verses which we are studying. We are distinctly told that all. both believers and unbelievers, will be raised together, that is, in that one hour. To be sure, no one knows just how long that hour will last. But one thing is important: absolutely no time-distinction is introduced either here or anywhere else in the Bible. When the hour strikes, all come forth. The one general resurrection comprises both the just and the unjust (see Acts 24:15). Martha of Bethany knew of onIy one, general bodily resurrection. She said, “I know that my brother will rise again in THE resurrection.” She is, in fact, even more specific, for she cans it “the resurrection at the first day,” and not “the resurrection that will occur one thousand years before the last day.” And our Lord Jesus Christ, no fewer than four times in one discourse, tells us that he will raise believers “at the last day” (John 6:39,40,44,54). As to time, therefore, there will be one, general resurrection, not two, three, or four resurrections or resurrection periods.

3. THE DEAD ARE GOING TO ARISE. BUT HOW WILL THIS BE POSSIBLE?

Have you ever tried to imagine what this will mean: all those who ever lived on earth rising again? Also those martyrs who were devoured by lions, and those who were burned alive? The human mind can never fully penetrate this mystery, at least not on this side of the grave. A few elucidating remarks can be made, however. A resurrection is not the same thing as a restoration of all the elements that once belonged to our body. A seed or kernel of each body will be preserved, however. Now, out of and around this “seed” and in harmony with its pattern the Lord will build a body, exactly as I Corinthians 15:38 teaches, “To each seed God gives a body of its own.” Thus every human body retains its own identity. If that were not true, it would be foolish to speak about “the resurrection” of the body. The Belgic Confession, article 37, is entirely correct when it states, “For all the dead shall be raised out of the earth, and their souls joined and united with their proper bodies in which they formerly lived.” God Almighty can and will do this!

A. Questions Answered in the Outline

1. In what sense is it true that there are two bodily resurrections?

2. In which sense is it true that there is only one bodily resurrection?

3. Prove that, as concerns time, there will be only one bodily resurrection in which all, believers and unbelievers, will be raised.

4. Is resurrection the same as restoration of all the particles that once belonged to the body?

5. What does the Bible mean when it says, “To each seed God gives a body of its own”? What does article 37 of The Belgic Confession say about this?

B. Additional Questions

1. When Revelation 20:5,6 mentions “the first resurrection,” and accordingly implies a second resurrection, does this mean two bodily resurrections? What does it mean?

2. Does the expression “the resurrection of the body” imply that between our present body and that which we shall inhabit at Christ’s return there will be identity of material substance?

3. Is the idea that a seed, kernel, or germ of each body will be preserved contrary to what science teaches with respect to matter and its disintegration?

4. How would you answer this argument: Scripture does not teach that of each human body a seed will be preserved, for that statement “To each seed God gives a body of its own” (I Cor. 15:38) pertains to the realm of vegetation (note the context), not to the realm of human bodies?

5. Is it more difficult to believe that God will raise our bodies than to believe that in the beginning ha created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them?

The Resurrection — II

Outline XIV

From your Bibles read Daniel 12:1–3 and I Corinthians 15:3, 5–49

1. THE FIRST CONTRAST: THE RESURRECTION UNTO DAMNATION CONTRASTED WITH THE RESURRECTION UNTO GLORY

Scripture says little about the resurrection body. This is true especially with respect .to the bodies with which the souls of the lost will be reunited. Such passages as Daniel 12:2, Isaiah 66:24, Matthew 8:12, and Revelation 20:10b, are sometimes quoted as descriptions of the physical appearance of the reprobate after their bodies have been raised. But it cannot be proved that all of these passages refer only to the body and its appearance.

Some of them would rather seem to tell us something about the agonies to which both soul and body will be subjected. Also. it is difficult to determine just how much in these lurid descriptions must be taken literally and how much figuratively. One fact can be affirmed without hesitation, however; namely, that these bodies will be a horrible Sight, indeed. They will cause even the damned to shudder! Directly or by implication this horrible condition of the bodies in which the wicked wiII have to dwell forever can be inferred from the passages to which we have referred; especially when these are read as if they were one paragraph; as follows:

“Some shall awaken unto shame and everlasting contempt. Their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh. The wicked shall be cast into outer darkness. There shall be the weeping and the gnashing of the teeth. They shall be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

Now read what is said about the redeemed and their resurrection bodies:

“They shall shine as the brightness of the firmament and as the stars forever. We shall bear the image of the heavenly. We shall be conformed to the body of Christ’s glory. We shall be like him” (Daniel 12:3; I Corinthians 15:49; Philippians 3:21; I John 3:2). What a tremendous contrast! On the one hand, sin and agony written all over the faces, and on the other nothing but holiness and glory!

2. THE SECOND CONTRAST: OUR PRESENT BODIES CONTRASTED WITH OUR RESURRECTION BODIES

This contrast concerns the bodies of believers only. The contrast is indicated in I Corinthians 15:42–44. Four points are stipulated:

a. “It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption.”

From conception to the moment when we breathe our last our bodies are subjected to the power of death. ‘When we begin to live we also begin to die. And, in fact, even in the grave that process of corruption continues. But our resurrection bodies will be completely free from decay. They will be characterized by a freshness, vigor, and charm which will never depart nor even diminish! And since they will not be subject to death, it stands to reason that reproduction will not be necessary for the perpetuation of the race, Hence, the marriage-relation will cease. This does not mean, however, that the spiritual sex-characteristics which distinguish men from women will be eliminated. There is nothing in Scripture to show that the soul of a woman will cease to be exactly that. But as to physical relationships, we shall be like the angels who neither marry nor are given in marriage.

h. “It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory.”

If we had the opportunity to compare our present bodies with those of Adam and Eve before the entrance of sin, we would understand what Paul means when he says that our present bodies lack glory. And if that is true even now, while we are still alive, how much more true this will be when our bodies are “sown” in the dust of the earth!

By contrast our resurrection bodies will be glorious, for they will actually resemble Christ’s own glorious body (Philippians 3:20, 21). We shall be like him! Consider for a moment that body of Christ: its effulgence, its beauty, its Power. It was able to ascend straight into the sky, being carried up into heaven. And do we not sing: “When I rise to worlds unknown, See thee on thy judgment-throne”?

c. “It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.”

The bodies in which we now live are weak from the cradle to the grave. But our resurrection bodies will be strong. We shall have eyes that never grow dim, ears that will never be in need of a hearing-aid, knees that will never grow feeble, hands that will never tremble. We shall run and not be weary; we shall walk and not faint.

d. “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.”

At present our bodies are soul·con· trolled bodies; that is, they are dominated by our invisible essence, viewed as the seat of sensations, affections, desires, all of these polluted by sin. But in the future our bodies will be spirit-controlled bodies I that is, they will be willing instruments of our invisible essence viewed as the recipient of divine influences and as the organ of divine worship. By means of these bodies we shall glorify God forevermore.

A. Questions Answered in the Outline

1. What does Scripture tell us about the raised bodies of the lost?

2. How is this contrasted with whet Scripture tells us about the bodies of the redeemed?

3. What is meant by, “It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption,” and by, “It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory”?

4. What is meant by, “It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power”?

5. And what is meant by, “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body”?

B. Additional Questions

1. Should ministers ever preach about the condition of the lost al Christ’s return? Should they enlarge on this—going into great detail or should the emphasis be placed on the condition of the blessed?

2. According to Daniel 12:3, what kind of people will take part in the resurrection unto life? Is there a mission-sermon in that text?

3. Why does Daniel 12:2 say, “And MANY of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake”? Why not, “And ALL”?

4. Will the bodies of those who died in their infancy be raised in their immature condition, and will they remain in thaI condition everlastingly?

5. How does I Corinthians 15:58 fit in with the rest of the chapter?

Armageddon (Har-Magedon)

Outline XV

From your Bibles read Judges 4:12–16 and also Revelation 16:12–16

1. THE QUESTION WHICH HAR-MAGEDON ANSWERS

In the preceding Outline we saw that the souls of those many unbelievers who perished in their sins will re-inhabit their bodies, becoming reunited with them in the resurrection unto damnation. In addition, there will still be many wicked survivors (Luke 21:26), that is, reprobates who are still living on earth when Jesus returns. Under the leadership of Antichrist these have “just now” been subjecting the true Church to the most fearful persecution of all time. Just what will happen to these hosts of evil? It is to this question that Har-Magedon (or Armageddon) supplies the answer.

2. THE MEANING OF HAR-MAGEDON IN THE LIGHT OF ITS OLD TESTAMENT BACKGROUND

I n order to arrive at the correct interpretation of the battle of Har-Margedon, we should first review the story in which this symbol is probably rooted. We find that story in Judges 4 and 5, especially in the paragraph which you just read from your Bibles. Accordingly, let us retrace the course of history and mentally travel back to the period covered by the Book of Judges. This was a long time before Christ’s coming into the flesh. What do we see? Israel is in misery again. This time King Jabin, the Canaanite, is the bitter oppressor. The spoilers go out to ravage the fields and to plunder the crops of the Israelites. So numerous are those spoilers that the Israelites have gone in hiding and are even afraid to appear on the highways (Judges 5:6). Wage war against the Canaanites? Ah, you do not understand. King Jabin and General Sisera are strong. They have nine hundred chariots of iron. And Israel? It has not even a spear or a shield (Judges 5:8). Must the people perish?

In the highlands of Ephraim dwells Deborah (Judges 4:5). Ask her whether Israel can defeat King Jabin and General Sisera. She will answer: “No, Israel cannot, but Jehovah can and will!” One day she tells Barak, the judge, “Up, for this is the day in which Jehovah is to deliver Sisera into your power. Is it not Jehovah who has gone forth in front of you?” A battle is fought. Where? At Me-giddo (on a Bible map you can easily locate it near the brook Kishon, a considerable distance southwest of the Sea of Galilee). For the name of the place see Judges 5:19. In this battle Israel’s foe is routed. And it was Jehovah himself who defeated Israel’s foes: “Bless thou, my soul, the might of Jehovah…From heaven fought the stars, from their courses they fought against Sisera. The river Kishon swept them away, that ancient river, the river Kishon. O my soul, march on with strength.”

Hence, Har-Magedon is the symbol of every battle in which, when the need is greatest and believers are oppressed, the Lord suddenly reveals his power on behalf of his distressed people and defeats the enemy. But the real and final Har-Magedon coincides with the time of Satan’s little season. When under the leadership of Antichrist the world is gathered against the church for the final battle, and the need is greatest; when God’s children, oppressed on every side, cry for help; then suddenly, dramatically, Christ wiII come, to deliver his people. That battle of deliverance after tribulation is Har-Magedon. It is for this very reason that in the paragraph which you read from the book of Revelation, and which describes this battle, you read, “Behold, I come as a thief.” Also, in confirmation of our interpretation you will notice that Har-Magedon is the sixth bowl. The seventh is the final judgment. For a further explanation of Revelation 16:12–16 we refer you to the book More Than Conquerors, pp. 197, 198.

3 . WHAT HAPPENS TO THE HOSTS OF EVIL IN THE DAY OF HAR-MAGEDON?

a. Antichrist is discomfited (II Thess. 2:8) and, having been condemned, goes into perdition (cf. Revelation 17:11).

b. By means of the angels, the hosts of wickedness will be gathered unto the throne of judgment, where the wrath of God will be poured out upon them (Matthew 13:41; 25:41–46; cf. Revelation 14:17–20). They will suffer everlasting punishment with respect to both body and soul.

The devil that great deceiver, will be “cast into the lake of fire and brimstone.” That “lake of fire and brimstone” is hell viewed as a place of suffering for both body and soul after the judgment day (though Satan himself has no body).

Questions Answered in the Outline

1. To what question does the bailie of Har-Magedon supply the answer?

2. What story from the Old Testament furnishes the key to the understanding of the symbol Har-Magedon?

3. What, then, is meant by the battle of Har-Magedon as that symbol is used in Revelation 16:12–16?

4. What happens to Antichrist to his hosts, and to Satan as a result of his battle?

5. What is meant by “the lake of fire and brimstone”?

B. Additional Questions

1. Who said, “We stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the Lord”? Did he use the term Armageddon properly?

2. Can you mention a bailie hymn which seems to be based upon the Biblical symbol of Har-Magedon?

3. How do dispensationalists explain Har-Magedon?

4. Just what is the relation between Har-Magedon and Gog and Magog (Rev. 20:8)? See More Than Conquerors, pp. 232–235.

5. What comfort do you derive from Har-Magedon, and of what duty does this symbol remind us?

The Rapture – I

Outline XVI

From your Bibles read Genesis 5:21–24; John 14:1–3; and I Thessalonians 3:11–13

I. INTRODUCTION

When Jesus returns, not only unbelievers but also believers will still be living on earth (1 Thessalonians 4:15, 17). What will happen. to these believcrs and to those who will already have died?

Among those who love the Lord there is a sharp difference of opinion with respect to this subject. In attacking the views of dispensationalists we want it to be understood that we are attacking their view, not their persons. As to the people themselves, they are our brothers and sisters in the Lord. It is not with them but with their views that we have a quarrel. Moreover, as far as the present Outline is concerned, we shall simply present their views, and do all our attacking by means of the second set of questions at the bottom of tho Outline. What we shall have to say about the views of the dispensationalists will be objective. Nevertheless, we hasten to add that among dispensationalists there is such a wide difference of opinion that any attempt to understand their views on the basis of our explanation of these views will be very unsuccessful unless it is constantly borne in mind that what is presented is the view of many—but by no means all—of these people.

2 . NOTES ON THE THREE PASSAGES WHICH YOU HAVE JUST READ

Dispensationalists appeal to Genesis 5:21–24; John 14:1–3; and I ‘Thessalonians 3:11–13, in defense of their peculiar theories concerning the Rapture.) (Yes, they also appeal to I Thessalonians 4:13–18, but that passage will be discussed in the following Outline.)

Hence, a few words about each of these three passages will be in order. Genesis 5:21–24 comes as a surprise. Six times in succession we read, “And he died.” Then suddenly there follows a brief biography of Enoch. For 365 years this man lived in dose communion with his God. Nevertheless, he was no real use or ascetic. “He walked with God and begat sons and daughters.” And then after these 365 years on earth, “God took him.” Enoch never died at all. He was simply received up to heaven.

In John 14:1–3 our Lord is with his disciples in the Upper Room during the night of the Last Supper. Jesus comforts his disciples, telling them not to worry but to trust. He assures them, moreover, that though he is leaVing them, he is not forgetting them, but that his very departure is in their interest: he will be preparing a place for them in the Father’s house with its many mansions. He adds, “And when I go and prepare a place for you, I come again and will take you to be face to face with me, in order that where I am you may be also.” This undoubtedly refers to Christ’s second coming, at which time he will receive his own into his loving presence to abide with him forever.

I Thessalonians 3:11–13 contains Paul’s prayer that he may be able to return to the Thessalonians. And he expresses the fervent wish that whether or not this desire be granted, the Lord may at any rate fin the Thessalonians with such an overflowing measure of love that their hearts may be strengthened so that there may be fruit for the day of judgment, when Jesus comes with all his saints, that is, with all his redeemed.

3. HOW THE DISPENSATIONALISTS USE THESE PASSAGES IN THE INTEREST OF THEIR PECULIAR VIEW WITH RESPECT TO THE RAPTURE

Dispensationalists distinguish between at least two second comings. Hence, as they see it, there will be a first second coming, to which they give the name the Rapture, and a second second coming, to which they give the name the Revelation. In support of the first second coming they appeal to Genesis 5:21–24 and to John 14:1–3; and in support of the second second coming they appeal to I Thessalonians 3:11–13. Hence, they speak of a coming of Christ for his saints (the Rapture), and a coming WITH his saints (the Revelation). These are supposedly separated by an interval of seven years.

Dispensationalists tell us that the Rapture will be both invisible and inaudible (as far as men in general are concerned). One dispensationalist projects his thoughts into the future, and produces a newspaper—that is, an EXTRA—such as he thinks will come from the press the day after Christ’s first second coming. This paper describes a man who, upon awaking, discovers to his horror that his wife is not beside him in bed! His daughter, too, has mysteriously disappeared. All over the city the story is the same: people of every social position have simply vanished without leaving a trace. These are the true believers who have been snatched up in order that for seven years they may revel in spasms of supreme delight with their Lord in the sky. This is called the Wedding of the Lamb.

Now on earth during these same seven years the Lord begins to deal with the Jews again. They are brought back to their own country. Though at first many of them serve Antichrist, they (or many of them) subsequently see their error and accept Christ. But this means great tribulation for them. (Some of them will even be slain by Antichrist, so that when the seven years are over, there has to be a resurrection of tribulation-saints.)

When the seven years—that is the seventieth week of Daniel 9:27—are over, Christ and his redeemed come swooping down from the sky for the battle royal, namely, Armageddon (as dispensationalists conceive of it). This is the coming WITH the saints (I Thess. 3:13). They swoop down upon Antichrist and his hosts, for the deliverance of those who during the seven years of tribulation have become converted. One author, himself not a dispensationalist but one who is thoroughly at home in their writings, says that according to the dispensationalists this battIe will be one “in which are mingled saints, sinners, Jews, devils, discarnate demons, holy angels, glorified saints, Satan, and Christ, all fiercely striving amid blood, sweat, filth, dirt, dust, guns, swords, poison gas, tanks, and airplanes.”

A. Questions Answered in the Outline

1. Do you regard this Outline an attack upon people or upon error?

2. Explain Genesis 5:21–24; also John 14:1–3.

3. What use do dispensationalists make of these passage?

4. Explain I Thessalonians 3:11–13. To what purpose do dispensationalists use this passage?

5. According to dispensationalists what follows hard upon the seven year Wedding of the lamb?

B. Additional Questions

1. Does Scripture teach two second comings, separated by time-interval of seven year,?

2. Just where lies the difficulty in accepting the idea that people will be converted on earth during the seven year period?

3. Prove that Christ one end only second coming will be both seen and heard.

4. What is wrong with the dispensationalistic explanation of Daniel’s seventieth year-week?

5. Why is the dilpensationalistic view with respect to the battle of Armageddon hard to accept?