Which Resurrection?


Walk in Wisdom – Gleanings from the Scripture

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John 5.28-29 Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; Those who did good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.

In earlier days it was fashionable (among Church folk) to say “there is a Heaven to be won, and a Hell to be shunned.” I wonder if we have forgotten that very real, all important reality.

All sound theology, forces us to consider eschatology. That is, when we come to grips with who God is, and what He has revealed both about Himself and the sinfulness of man – once we have grappled with these sound theological foundations -we are then forced to inquire as to what difference it all makes. What is the plan? IS there a plan? Do we just live and die, and that’s it? Or is there life after death? And if there is, how is that life impacted by who we are and what we do in THIS life?

These are central questions to human existence. Questions some would rather simply avoid.

The problem with avoiding questions like the ones we’ve asked here, is that no matter what we do – life as we know it WILL come to an end. It is the unbroken testimony of humanity from its inception. Everyone dies. Everyone. Then what? Jesus is answering and drawing us into that very question in the text above. By virtue of which, He posits two, and only two possible alternatives.

Each one of us, sometime after the time of our passing from this world, will be resurrected. Life as we know it will come to an end. And what of this resurrection? Well, you and I will either be raised up for the purpose of entering into what the Bible terms a “resurrection of life”, or eternal life. Unending life with our God. Or, we will be raised up and enter into a “resurrection of judgment”. An eternal state of remaining unreconciled to God, and enduring the just penalty for our “evil” deeds while in this life. Our theology has forced us (as I said above) to deal with eschatology – end things.

Truth, especially truth about eternal things, will not allow us to remain complacent. We must face the full force of the inevitable.

So, how about you? Which resurrection will be yours? And why do you think so? If you are anticipating a resurrection unto life – why? And, do you really think you would want it? I mean, is your idea of Heaven, living eternally in the glorious presence of God? If not, Heaven is not for you. For Heaven is what He is – or rather, He is what makes Heaven, Heaven. The glory, the joy, the pleasure and wonder of Heaven, is that we are with Him. That we get to “see Him as He is” (1 John 3.2).

Might I say dear one, if that thought does not thrill you, you really need to think about why you would want to be there. If it is simply not to be in Hell – that is insufficient. “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to ALL who have loved his APPEARING.” (Emphasis mine)

Do you love the idea of His appearing? Is that your notion of the consummation of all things? Of the highest good and joy to be had? For it is only such who will receive that “crown.”

How then can a man be so ready, so excited over the thought of Christ returning to judge all mankind? I mean after all, aren’t you and I sinners too?

Indeed we are.

So where can such a joy come from when all sin is to be judged this way? By one means only, if we will be counted righteous, so that we will not be judged for all our sin. And how can that be? Oh beloved, that is the Gospel! Let us just hear it from the lips of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians:

“If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Php 3:4-11)

Here is the only way dear one – faith in Christ’s substitutionary, atoning death at Calvary. Seeing God pouring out His wrath on Jesus Christ, that all who put their faith in Him as taking the guilt of their sin, might be counted righteous with His righteousness.

This is the great exchange.

This is deliverance from Hell.

This, brings a resurrection unto life.

This, and this alone.

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8 thoughts on “Which Resurrection?

  1. Hi Reid. I’ve been thinking about this recently, particularly when trying to understand Rom 2v6-11 (does it include the Christian, or is it just the “works standard” for inheriting life?), and other passages that mention Christians standing before the Judgement seat….Rom 14,2Cor 5v10. What does a “judgement according to works” look like for the Christian? Is it just a vindication of the believer before Christ on account of the imputed righteousness of Christ? I take from your post that that’s what you mean. I really need to sort this out in my head…

    Phil

  2. Excellent question Phil. Let me say a few things on that, AND, make a few comments on your other note to me on the atonement issue – which by the way, I have enjoyed a great deal.

    If one were to read this section of Matthew without the greater context of the Word, one could come away with a works salvation concept. What happens over and over is that the unbreakable tie between works and justification is reiterated. But thankfully other passages help us put them in right order. It was a rubric of the Reformers and the Puritans that we are not saved by our works, but nor are we saved apart from them. One Divine put it (I think very well) by saying that works are the “necessary” fruit of salvation. Sort of like a vital sign of physical life. Does one breathe in order to become alive? Or do we breathe because we ARE alive, and no one is alive who does not breathe? Breathing and life go hand in hand, though life is more than breath, there is no life where there is no breath. So with us, we are not saved in any way shape or form by our works, but once saved, they are part of the new life we now have. Eph 2:10 puts it in the proper frame: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” So while they are inseparable, works are the proper fruit of salvation ,and never its cause.

    On another note, will final judgment be only affirmation of rewards? I don’t think so. Loss of rewards is an actuality I believe. Edwards again develops this above anyone else I know of. So we will be both pronounced “JUST” before the Cosmic hosts, and, we will be rewarded for our good works, and have some sense of our worthless works being burned up – not making the grade ala 1 Cor. 3.

    Back to you comments on the atonement things – and I apologize for not getting back sooner: I struggle more and more with trying to set and order in the decrees. Calvin really avoided trying to go there, and I am realizing more and more why. What we are in effect asking is – “What was in God’s mind?” And apart from revelation, every theoretical approach will always be lacking. For Calvin, we were inquiring above what we have a right to. I mean, God exists out of time in His native state. We are trying to bring His thought process into our natural order, as beings bound in and by time. The “logical” order we try to construct – I think – will fail to fully comprehend God’s own being successionless. I would imagine we are better off saying He conceived of all at once – though the things played out in time and space had an order to them. As far as that goes, my preaching and studying through Romans convinced me that 1. Election is mere designation, and makes no qualitative difference in the creature by itself, and b. If I am understanding Paul’s argument sin Rom. 9 & 10, that Election is an act of mercy – considering mankind as a unified, fallen mass, a lump of fallen clay altogether, and taking from that lump, portions which He makes vessels and objects of mercy, and others which He leaves in their fallen state. Edwards used that basic plan, though I find his work on it very difficult to decipher.

    Bunyan’s approach was to remind us that reprobation and condemnation are not the same thing. That ALL men, elect and non-elect in Adam, were upright and holy. And that it is not reprobation which causes condemnation. Men perish eternally not because they were non-elect, but because of the Fall. And mercy intervenes according to God’s sovereign choice (again) out of the fact that elect and non-elect stood together condemned and lost.

    Hope that helps some.

  3. Thanks, Reid, that was helpful. I’ve understood the salvation-works connection as making works “the necessary fruit of”-just I worry about the temptation to think of it as an addition, and then the legal striving/nomism comes in, I think. What you said about rewards for the believer reminds me of a Q&A of John MacArthur’s here

    http://www.biblebb.com/files/macqa/70-9-9.htm

    Though I know His eschatology is a bit different in that He’s a dispensational pre-mil…also, I think your sense of “worthless” things being burned up is a bit more than that of things that are just unrewardable, like mowing the lawn!?

    Rom 2v6-11 is really an important passage for me to get, as it sets up Rom 3‘s discussion of “righteousness”, and will help me understand the content of that imputed. I’ve read through Moo here, and he says most commentators (he cites e.g. Hodge, Murray) go for Paul referring to any non-Christian…particularly, Paul’s setting out the condition, apart from Christ, for justification-perpetual, perfect obedience.

    Am I right to think that you think Paul’s referring to judgement en toto, for Christians (those who live in patient continuance in well doing), and non-Christians (those who do not obey the truth), in reference to the outcome of their lives that accompany their (prior) justification/condemnation? Rom 6v22,23 seems to carry the same thought. Such that (with respect to bare justification/condemnation) ALL people will be judged in ACCORDANCE with their works, but not on the BASIS of them (the justified don’t merit heaven through their good works, but through Christ’s work, and compound their reward through good works…the condemned don’t merit hell through their evil works, but through Adam’s sin, and compound their judgement through their evil works)? I can strongly see that possibility, but I wonder if the non-Christian view is right in the context, in that Paul seems to be setting forth the impartiality of God’s judgement, and is referring to the standard of justification by works which proves Him impartial, and leaves Jew and Gentile outside of Christ both in the same boat, condemned, before he moves on to the solution…gospel righteousness….which he hasn’t yet introduced. That’s Steve Lehrer’s understanding…I can’t jump for either view too quickly, but they seem the strongest to me.

    Yeah, I reckon your right with the decrees…How can we ask what was in God’s mind? I just thought in my last post on the “ex-highper” that, with such a qualification, the “logical order” may serve to clarify certain things that become apparent when we once state them one way or another. For example, that the “supra” view (if I understand it right)in man’s mind, puts an exact symmetry on election/reprobation, has God designating persons for hanging before he has convicted or has reason to convict, thus making the conviction ultimately about His sovereignty rather than His justice, collapsing the whole of salvation onto the hidden decree, thus disassociating His sovereignty from His other attributes, etc…so the tendency is not to look for the full and final revelation of God being in the (revealed) person and work of Christ, and election being for reason of love for intent to love, but the full and final revelation of God is subordinate to a hidden, disassociate purpose…I just think it pulls God’s sovereignty apart from His other attributes…I don’t know whether that’s possible….a perfect sovereign rightfully acts as a king because of all the attributes that make him a king which He kingly exercises…if I make sense! Maybe, unlike Bunyan (if I understand him right from your comments), I don’t see the ramifications of reprobation not equalling condemnation. But it seems that if reprobation is the flip side of election, in exact symmetry, reprobation signifies intent to condemn, which doesn’t seem a million miles away once the circumstances are in place to fulfil it. (Even if it’s qualified by saying “God does it in a way that doesn’t make him the author of sin”-we just have to assume that as a final recourse to protect the argument, while it surely doesn’t look like it according to the way our minds are set up to think according to Christ’s revealed attributes.…and again the recourse on THAT point would have to be “well, its because our minds are sinful that we can’t see it”, rather than it’s because we’re not meant to see it-we don’t understand it that way because God’s tailored revelation to suit the way human faculties operate).

    I like your view, that preserves election as belonging to love and mercy, and would leave reprobation as a “passing over” of others (in the sense of love and mercy not extending to all in the same way as it does to the elect), while earnestly desiring that they, too, would repent and believe. (I hope I’ve not put words in your mouth!).

    I enjoyed the discussion, too. I have to say, though, it’s “easy” for me to trot out what I’ve picked up without much understanding. I can ramble. Feel free to be much briefer than me, but throw me something on the Rom 2v6-11 bit especially!

    Much appreciated,

    Phil

  4. Hey Phil – Lots of things to comment on. Whew! I wish we could do this in a more efficient manner. It is great.

    In terms of Romans 2 – I see this as working through a both/and construct. While his main thrust seems to be dealing with the universal guilt and judgablenss (to coin a word) of all men, he is dealing both with the reality that the whole of mankind stands under judgment now, and that final judgment is yet to come. Your construct on the difference between how the lost and the redeemed face it is a good one to me. I’ll think about it more. But the lost need to know that they are experiencing the sure tokens of a final judgment yet to come, and the redeemed need to know they continue to experience it, but that Christ will save us from “the wrath to come” – which we will “go through” – like Noah went through the Flood, and all that is not within the Ark of safety (lets say sanctified in Christ – our works considered as what we have built into our own and other’s lives on the foundation of Christ) – will be burned up. This is serious business for the Christian. How have we handled the talents delivered into our hands? We must reckon with it.

    Here the the link to my first sermon of three on this passage. If you listen, it might give you a better handle on what I am trying to say than I can squeeze in here.

    Back to the order of the decrees – you’ve put your finger on a problem i have in the entire discussion. Actually – 2 things.

    a. Trying to reason back to a secret decree in God is such pure speculation that it simply can’t be indulged in. I am shocked at how much I used to do it myself, and how so many otherwise exceedingly sound theologians I admire have don it. Calvin warned us all, but we wouldn’t listen. It cannot yield a right view. We must force ourselves to build our constructs only out of what is revealed rather than becoming theoretical theologians. It might not be as sexy, and it might leave us with holes we don’t like – but it throws us back on Him and preserves a necessary humility.

    b. We HAVE to suffer from SOME kind of disconnect when trying to understand the time and space interaction God has with finite creatures, while He Himself remains timeless. He interacts with us as though it is a genuine action and reaction relationship. While Scripture says that known unto Him are ALL His acts from the beginning, nevertheless, there is an “if you do this, I’ll do that” dynamic that is real and not imaginary. Failure to recognize this disconnect for instance has led many a sound Calvinist into a very fuzzy concept of whether or not prayer actually does anything. Yet James can say “you have not because you ask not”. Do you mean things MIGHT be different somehow than what they are? Then what does that do with God’s absolute sovereignty? And once again I believe we are forced to a both/and dynamic, refusing to absolutize either side of the issue. But I’ll grant you, it can leave you with a brain cramp.

  5. Phil – Sorry, I forgot to include the link. Actually that worked out great, since the second sermon is closer to what you were asking about.

    [audio src="http://www.ecfnet.org/mp3s/Ro.2_1-16_(b).mp3" /]

  6. Hi Reid…I know that brain cramp…constantly thinking as I am, and writing posts while my brain won’t work properly with M.E….I really have to crank the cogs, and often feel shattered after spending some time on the computer. I post on ids.org too, and recently there there’s been discussion on God’s sovereignty and free will…have a look if your interested.

    I listened to your sermon. It was good to hear your voice. What you said about Christ being the thrust of the believer’s life, and not just the piece of the pie that helps the other pieces is very true. It’s definitely lordship gospel. I’m going to have to think more about the judgement/rewards stuff. I have to see the whole picture…that’s what I want a grasp of…I want to understand things clearly and love them. I just feel so cold that I am still thinking…am I in? Am I saved? I think a Christian should be able to forget their sins, as God does…Heb 8v12, the heart of the New Covenant…I think that’s a more positive theme than God just “not taking action against us concerning them” like John MacArthur said…and forget what’s behind. And if he does remember, that they should not fill him with shame, but with joy in God’s grace and forgiveness. I don’t (at the mo) think a judgement where the Christians’ sins are paraded before the universe is in keeping with that. 1Cor 3 and 2Cor 5 definitely have a judgement with a burning up of what’s unrewardable for the believer, but I don’t think that has to include any negative sense with respect to evaluation of the believer’s life. The negative stuff’s been dealt with on the cross. When you were talking me through your arguments on the imputation if Christ’s life of obedience, you told me that having that meant one could stand at the judgement without their head hung feeling “yeah, I’m forgiven, but I’m really guilty.” While I’m not there with you on the need for the “active” part (at least yet), I think that sentiment is right, but also isn’t contradicted by any sense of the “burning up.” But I don’t really know.

    On Rom 2v1-16, I’ve thought that Paul was directing his discussion towards the Jew. I thought Rom 1 was the “gentile pagan”, and that chapter 2 was directed at the Jew who looked at the gentile pagan and judged him condemned of God, while excusing himself, who had the covenant, and the “great guarantee of holiness”, the Mosaic Law, and hence was the best candidate for acceptance with God on the basis of his works. And that Paul’s polemical thrust was to show that the Jew
    1) Was not shielded from judgement by his national, Old Covenant status
    2) Was condemned by the Law on the very ground he built his hope for salvation (it seems Jesus…e.g. rich young ruler…and Paul always prove someone’s condemnation on the same ground as rests their hope for the opposite!)
    3) The Gentile “sinners” (those without the Law code) DID actually have a measure of the law in their consciences, and so the Jew could not argue they were “first in salvation” on account of their contention that the Law was “the strength of holiness”(Paul comes to that in full in chapter 6 and especially chapter 7), nor “last in judgement.”
    4) That, in conclusion, the Jew and Gentile were in the same boat by “first birth.”

    I suppose I’m repeating Moo and Steve somewhat.

    I know your dead right on the fact that without works, one’s faith is not saving faith. But as I’ve thought about it, I’m uncomfortable with the idea that they are “necessary” in this sense…that they become a “condition for final salvation” (not your words…but I have seen, e.g. John Piper write that). It’s essential that they are “certain” for that faith to be real, for sure. And sanctification is a result and fruit of justification…just I think justification is a lot more positive than some reformed theology would make it. I think “sanctification by the works of the law”…a conscience under the bondage of law as a “rule of life” would put Christians under Paul’s address to the Galatians, if he were here. I think a Christian should be able to enjoy the full assurance that they are eternally justified without works, and not to have to live (because of their view of works’ “necessity”) of having (or trying) to validate their faith by their works-their justification by their sanctification, their hope of heaven resting (at all) on the work of grace IN them, rather than FOR them. I don’t think a Christian’s meant to live in that tension, nor that that’s apparent in Rom 7. I think he should be able to know (like when he first believed) that heaven is his, apart from works, and be engaged in gracious holy living, for THAT reason. He goes on the same way he started. I don’t think progressive sanctification is a “condition” for heaven. Paul, in Rom 8v30, having described the way of the Spirit that the justified live, on account of their being set free from the Law (the strength of sin while in unredeemed bodies)-that pedagogue dismissed and replaced by the eternal Spirit working out the blood-bought gift of the second half of the “I wills” of the New Covenant promise-misses out sanctification in his sequence. He just states “…whom he justified, them he also glorified” I think that’s significant in a passage that grounds a believer’s hope for the fullness of his redemption…including the gift of “the willingness and ability to put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit” consummated with a resurrection body that can behold his Lord as he is with no separation….on his freeness from condemnation…on his justification. He should be able to have that unshakable hope now…with no “yes buts.” He should be able to live with joy and peace in believing, where to live is Christ (that’s great!) and die is gain (that’s even better!). And suffering that he experiences is more of the nature of external persecution than introspective struggle. More of a heaven on earth, without any “higher life” blessing that implies his non-completeness in Christ before and implicitly denies the gospel…it’s all a fruit of a more positive view of justification. What do you think?

    Well, I’m writing this up on my laptop before I can get back to a library computer to post it.

    Your comment a) on the decrees sounds wise to me, as much as I understand it. I’m afraid I don’t really understand what you meant in the part b), but it reminds me of something I read in Carson’s book “the difficult doctrine of the love of God” on a discussion of “impassibility” and the dismissing of God’s emotional expressions as anthropopathisms. He mentioned, I think, about God choosing to change and respond (in some sense) to external events as he interacted in human time and space. God can feel such and such if he chooses to feel it as a response in language we can know and feel, without renouncing his sovereignty. Or something like that.

    I must quit. Please don’t feel a duty of obligation to answer me. I don’t want you to have to spend time that you’d rather spend otherwise, or need to spend otherwise, writing to me. I like it, and I like you, but this is a lonnnnng post!
    Much love (I hope)
    Phil

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