|Topical Bible Study||December 1961|
God’s Plan for Man—Lesson XXI
The General Resurrection
THE Bible speaks of those who have died as being prisoners of death. (Job 3:17-22) In this illustration of death, the resurrection of the dead is referred to as a releasing of prisoners. (Isa. 49:9) The hell of the Bible is the state of death, and Jesus informs us that he has the keys of hell and of death, (Rev. 1:18) and we are assured by the Bible that the gates of hell, the great prison of death, will be opened, and that hell will give up its dead.—Matt. 16:18; Rev. 20:13
In keeping with the idea that the dead are prisoners of death, the Bible speaks of their awakening from death as a “return” from their “captivity” Sometimes the expression, “bring again,” is used in this connection.—Ezek. 16:53; Jer. 48:47; 49:6,39
The resurrection of the dead is to be brought about through Christ, (I Cor. 15:21,22) and in keeping with the thought of captives being released from prison, the Apostle Paul speaks of Christ in his own resurrection as leading a multitude of captives. (Eph. 4:8, margin) This “multitude of captives” will be awakened from death as humans to live as humans on the earth.
The “little flock” of the present Gospel Age who will share in the “first resurrection” to “live and reign with Christ,” and the Ancient Worthies who will be restored to life as perfect humans to be the earthly rulers in Christ’s kingdom, will all have passed their tests of worthiness for everlasting life. This is why they will at once be rewarded with perfection of life, either on the spiritual plane or the earthly plane.
But it will be different with those who participate in the general resurrection. These, we believe, will be awakened from death in much the same condition as when they died. They will not at once be given perfection of life, but will have to prove their worthiness of a full raising up to life by their acceptance of God’s grace through Christ, and their obedience to the laws of the messianic kingdom.
But every provision will be made for their enlightenment and help. No longer will the deceptive influences of Satan, the Devil, be permitted to blind their minds and hearts.—Rev. 20:1-3
The road to perfection of character and life is described in the Bible as a “highway” in which no one will need to lose his way, and from which all hindrances to progress will be removed. (Isa. 35:8,9) However, the Bible indicates that even in that “day of uprightness” there will be some who will display willful disobedience to the laws of the kingdom; and these, of course, will make no progress toward perfection of life, but, continuing in their incorrigible attitude, will ultimately be destroyed, suffering the penalty of the “second death.” (Isa. 26:10; Rev. 20:14,15) The Apostle Peter refers to these and informs us that they will be destroyed from among the people.—Acts 3:23
So, at the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ, all the dead will have been awakened from death, and those desirous of learning and obeying God’s laws will have been restored to perfection of life as humans. These will then enjoy everlasting life in an earth made perfect, a world-wide paradise.
Are you assured that there is to be a resurrection of all the dead? To have such a hope makes the burdens of the present life much lighter.
Explain how the word “prisoner” is used in the Bible with respect to those who have died.
How do we know that hell will give up its dead?
In what sense will Jesus lead “a multitude of captives”?
Explain the difference between the resurrection of the Ancient Worthies and the “little flock,” and those who will come forth in the general resurrection.
In what ways will the conditions be made favorable for those who are awakened from death in the general resurrection?
What is the “highway” mentioned in Isaiah 35:8?
What will be the destiny of those who do not make progress over the “highway”?
Describe the condition of the human race at the close of the Millennium.
“The Atonement Between God and Man,” page 378, paragraphs 1-3, and page 379, paragraphs 1 and 2.
SUMMARY OF IMPORTANT THOUGHTS
The awakening of the unjust dead from the sleep of death will not constitute a full raising up to perfection of life. Those who then attain to perfection of human life will need to prove worthy of it.