The Dead Rising
I know that the people dead in Christ will be called up first. When will the other dead people rise?
The topic of death is on our minds lately. I’ve received numerous questions about Judgment Day and “the end” as we’ve tragically watched a global virus destroy our loved ones, friends and fellow citizens. Then, adding insult to injury like he always does, the Devil visited our nation with a wave of deathly, racial crime so heinous, it brought a simmering topic to full boil. The Prince of Peace, our Jesus, knows exactly what to do and how to heal our nation as we pray, repent and choose a Kingdom mindset in the place of our raging emotions about a killer virus and a killer cop. What is a Kingdom mindset? We are all dying sinners, made from the same, human bloodline and we suffer alike. We need a savior. Every single one of us. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest,” said Jesus in Matthew 18. His powerful statement is completely colorless and no respecter of persons.
Since my readers are well-read individuals both biblically and academically, I made sure I referenced your scriptures to evaluate the declaration that dead Christians rise from the grave first. Sure enough, that is exactly what the Bible says: “We who are alive in him and remain on earth when the Lord appears will by no means have an advantage over those who have already died, for both will rise together. For the Lord himself will appear with the declaration of victory, the shout of an archangel, and the trumpet blast of God. He will descend from the heavenly realm and command those who are dead in Christ to rise first. Then we who are alive will join them, transported together in clouds to have an encounter with the Lord in the air, and we will be forever joined with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, TPT.) Now that we have that settled (Christians will rise with Jesus), I have a question for you: Why would it matter when everyone else is summoned? Simple curiosity notwithstanding...the distraction of a detail like that is similar to James and John arguing over where they will sit in Christ’s heavenly kingdom (Mark 10.) On the other side of glory, when we all get to heaven, I’m pretty sure we won’t care about who rose when and what happened next. We’ll just be glad we made it!
I’m not a spectacular theologian, as my haters love to remind me endlessly. And my job as a pastoral columnist is often made difficult by questions that have no answers—questions the Bible does not address. I choose not to connect the dots when Scripture does not. I work hard not to fill in the blanks when God leaves things blank. If God isn’t speaking, in other words, I’m not at liberty to put words in his mouth. Your question is one of those unanswerable areas. Nobody knows when those who reject the Savior will rise for their judgment. The Bible is silent.
We do know, according to Acts 24, that every soul will be summoned forth for evaluation; both dead and alive; Christian and non. Everyone who ever lived will account for how they did it. Christians will present themselves before the Judgement Seat of Christ mentioned in 2 Corinthians 5, and the unbelievers will turn up at the Great White Judgement Throne of Revelation 20.
In that last passage, the Bible mentions many books. These are the records of our lives being kept in perfect detail in a heavenly courthouse by an angelic clerk of courts. I say this not to wield a heavy hand of religiosity or threat. It is simply a reminder to us all that every life has value and meaning. Such meaning, in fact, that teams of heavenly scribes and a God who cheers us on, directs the recordings of our every victory, our moments of success and the long chapters when we struggled yet overcame. The point is, if you know someone who won’t be raised from the dead with all the Christians, pray for them, speak to them and love them as best you can into the knowledge of the Savior. It’s harvest time!
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