The First Resurrection – or The Resurrection of the Just. – Summary by Sosthenes
The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner. Luke 20:17.
In the earlier lectures, Darby spoke of Christ as the Heir of all things, of the church as co-heir with Him, and of the coming of Christ to reign before the thousand-year millennium.
In this lecture, Mr Darby distinguishes between the resurrection of the just and the resurrection of the wicked. The first takes place before the millennium; the other afterwards. The first resurrection, the resurrection from among the dead was a thing that really gripped the early church.
The truth of the resurrection of the church should become bound up in our minds, with the precious truths of our salvation.
The two Resurrections
The Lord says, ”The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5:28)
Paul says, “There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust” (Acts 24:15) But they are not the same, though accomplished by the same power.
The resurrection of the just (or the resurrection of the church apart) is altogether distinct from the resurrection of the unjust. The resurrection of the just, which we await, precedes the millennium. The church will participate in the coming of Christ to reign. This is the subject of the first resurrection.
We must not confuse the resurrection of the just with that of the unjust, and the judgment before the great white throne. Between the resurrection of the faithful and the wicked a thousand years elapse. The resurrection of the unjust will not take place until after the millennium.
In the passages concerning the resurrection, not one speaks of a simultaneous rising of just and unjust; and those which refer to the resurrection of the just always speak of it as a distinct thing. All will rise. There will be a resurrection of the just, and a resurrection of the unjust, but they will not take place together.
The Resurrection of the Dead
When it says that Jesus Christ was declared to be the Son of God with power . . . by the resurrection of the dead.” (Romans 1:4), it is not exclusively by His own resurrection, though this was the first and most important proof. The expression, “from among the dead,” is employed elsewhere. It is an expression that does not just relate to the present, and indicates a divine power in the realm of death. [Note from JND’s Synopsis – It is by His resurrection,” but “by resurrection” abstractly. His own was the great proof, but that of every man is a proof likewise”.]
The word of God is simple, clear, and convincing; but preconceived ideas often rob us of its natural sense. We have habits of thinking apart from Scripture.
The resurrection links our hopes to Christ and the whole church, in one word, to the counsels of God in Christ. We are entirely set free in Him, united to Him by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is also the source of all strength for glorifying Him, sustaining our hopes now. Finally, resurrection expresses all our salvation, since we are introduced into a new creation. The power of God places us, in the second Adam, beyond the sphere of sin, of Satan, and of death.
The resurrection was the foundation of the preaching of the apostles, Acts 1:22, they said, “One must be with us a witness of his resurrection“. Peter said “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.” (v.32).
The soul in departing goes to Jesus, but is not glorified. It does not say that the soul in dying goes to heaven, but that the dead shall live again.
In the expression “Brought life and immortality to light” (2 Tim. 1:10), ‘immortality’ signifies the incorruptibility of the body, and not the immortality of the soul. The Saviour adds, ”Neither can they die any more . . . for they are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.”
What the Greeks Taught – Resurrection vs. Reincarnation
In Athens, Paul announced, among the learned Gentiles, the doctrine of resurrection (Acts 17:18-30). This was the stumbling-stone of their carnal wisdom. Socrates and other philosophers believed, after a fashion, in the immortality of the soul (metempsychosis or reincarnation). About the time of Origen (d. c253), the coming of Christ was denied, or at least lost sight of, and the doctrine of the immortality began to displace that of the resurrection.
When these scientifically minded men heard of the resurrection of the dead, they mocked. An unbeliever is able to discuss immortality; but if he hears about the resurrection of the dead, he turns the subject into derision. And why? Because, in talking of the immortality of the soul he may exalt himself and elevate his own self importance and power.
A body that has been reduced to dust can be reconstituted by God into a living and glorified man, because nothing is hid from His power. The leading truth, however, is the resurrection of the body, not the immortality of the soul.
The Resurrection of the Church Apart
God is the “God who raiseth the dead” (2 Cor. 1:9) – or “quickeneth the dead” (Romans 4:23-25). We are called upon to believe that the resurrection of Jesus is the power, or the efficacy, of our justification. The resurrection of Jesus was the great proof.
In Colossians 2:12, it says “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” The church is raised now, because Christ is raised as its Head.
The justification of the church is, that it is risen with Christ. Evidently the resurrection from among the dead was a thing that concerned the church exclusively.
It is on Account of the Holy Spirit who is in us, that we shall be Raised
The presence of the Holy Spirit in the church is that which characterises our position before God.
“Our body is the temple of the Holy Ghost” (1 Cor. 6:19). Therefore our soul is filled, or at least it ought to be, with the glory of Christ. Our body will be raised through the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. This can never be said of the wicked.
Judgment of the Wicked
“All who are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall go forth; those that have practised good, to resurrection of life, and those that have done evil, to resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28 JND)
Two acts of Christ are presented as the attributes of His glory; one, to make alive; the other, to judge. All judgment is entrusted to Him, in order that all, even the wicked, should honour the Son, as they honour the Father.
Jesus was treated shamefully down here, so as to the wicked. Therefore, the way of obliging the wicked to recognise the rights of Jesus, is to judge them; and this judgment is in the hands of Jesus Himself. But the Father does not judge, because it is not He that has been wronged, but the Son. For the wicked, the time of the judgment – the judgment both of the living and of the dead – will be at the great white throne. The wicked will own Jesus Christ in spite of themselves when they are judged.
In the work of making alive, or vivification, the Father and Son act together. Those to whom life is given are put into communion with the Father and Son. At what epoch will these things be accomplished for the just? At the resurrection of the just, when the bodies of the children of God participate in the life that has already communicated to their souls (the life of Christ Himself).
Because Jesus said, “The hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice.” (v.28) it may be alleged that the wicked and the just will rise together. But three verses earlier it said, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.” So evidently, there is a time of quickening and a time of judgment; there is a period during which souls are quickened, and a period when bodies shall be raised.
There will be a resurrection of life for those who have been already quickened in their souls; and a resurrection of judgment for those who have rejected Jesus.
Those who Sleep in Jesus
”Christ has become the firstfruits of them that slept…. They that are Christ’s [shall rise] at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father” (1 Corinthians 15:23). When He comes, He will take the kingdom, but at the end He will deliver it up. The appearing of Christ will therefore take place before the end; it will be for the destruction of the wicked. He will come to purify His kingdom.
“Them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him”; “and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” (1 Thessalonians 4:14-16). It is the fulfilment of our hopes; the fruit of our justification, and the consequence of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.
This resurrection from among the dead is just this first resurrection which Paul had before his eyes. I am willing, he says, as it were, to lose all, to suffer all, if, cost what it may, I arrive at the resurrection of the just: such is my desire. I might say, like the apostle, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
The resurrection of the just will be the consummation of our happiness; after having given life to our souls, He will give life to our bodies. We never read in the word of God of glorified spirits, but always of glorified bodies. There is the glory of God, and the glory of those who will be raised.
The knowledge of this truth, by the power of Christ, will strengthen us in our hearts. For this knowledge is that to which the scripture applies the word “perfection.” [i.e. being fit, or qualified for an office]. Christ was thus made perfect as to His state and position before God; so we, ourselves, are now made perfect by faith.
May our bodies, souls, and spirits, be preserved blameless until the coming of our Well-beloved! May the truth of the resurrection of the church become bound up, in our minds, with all the precious truths of our salvation.