What Did Early Christians Understand About the Resurrections?

By COGwriter

Does the Bible teach that there will be an actual physical resurrection? Is there more than one resurrection? Is death like sleep?

What happens during the resurrections? What did early Christians teach after the last book of the Bible was written?

This article will look to the Bible and to the writings of early Christian leaders to answer these important questions.

But first, let us look at Merriam-Webster's online dictionary:

Definition of resurrection

1 a capitalized : the rising of Christ from the dead
b often capitalized : the rising again to life of all the human dead before the final judgment
c : the state of one risen from the dead
2 : resurgence, revival

Note that while the worldly definition sometimes indicates all human life is to have one resurrection, the Bible speaks of differing resurrections for humans.

Here is a link to a related sermon: Understanding the Resurrections.

Resurrection From the Hebrew Bible

The Book of Job is considered to be among the oldest books in the Bible.

Notice that Job understood about the resurrection:

14 If a man dies, shall he live again?
All the days of my hard service I will wait,
Till my change comes.
15 You shall call, and I will answer You;
You shall desire the work of Your hands. (Job 14:14-15, NKJV throughout)

Notice that Job realized that he would wait in the grave until he would be resurrected. Notice also that God had a plan for Job--God also has a plan for you (see What is the Meaning of Life?) and the resurrection is in your future!

The Old Testament spoke about the resurrection of Jesus according to the New Testament:

29 "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.

34 "For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself:

'The Lord said to my Lord,
'Sit at My right hand,
35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool."' (Acts 2:29-35)

So, David is dead and NOT in heaven, but David realized that Jesus would be resurrected (Psalm 16:10). Jeremiah specifically taught that David will be as well (Jeremiah 23:5-6).

Here is the passage in the Old Testament that Peter stated is pointing to related to the resurrection:

9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will rest in hope.
10 For You will not leave my soul in Sheol,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. (Psalm 16:9-10)

The New Testament says that the above passage was teaching the resurrection.

The Book of Daniel mentions the following prophetic event:

2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever. 4 "But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase." (Daniel 12:2-4).

The above passage shows that death is like sleep. It also refers to a resurrection to everlasting life and resurrection to shame and to everlasting contempt. Notice that those who are wise will shine and still, after they shall awake, turn many to righteousness. Since they cannot turn those who are raised to everlasting contempt to life, who are they turning to life?

God showed Ezekiel that the dead would physically rise and then have life. And the group that God raised felt that they had no hope, hence they were not true believers (the truly righteous). But God says that they still have an opportunity, hence these are not the ones who rise for everlasting contempt. These may be the ones who are shamed as they simply did not follow God's way of life.

Notice what God said and had done:

3 And He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?"

So I answered, "O Lord God, You know."

4 Again He said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: "Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. 6 I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord."'"

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them.

9 Also He said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, 'Thus says the Lord God: "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live."'" 10 So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.

11 Then He said to me, "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, 'Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!' 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God: "Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. 13 Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. 14 I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it," says the Lord.'" (Ezekiel 37:3-14).

Because these people claim that there hope is cut off, these are clearly not converted, Spirit-filled, believers--hence this has to do with what is sometimes referred to as the second resurrection. Since they are taking on flesh, this could, in that sense, be considered as a type of reincarnation. These individuals will be physical and live for one hundred years (Isaiah 65:20-25).

Isaiah noted that there would be a physical resurrection:

19 Your dead shall live; Together with my dead body they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; For your dew is like the dew of herbs, And the earth shall cast out the dead (Isaiah 26:19).

Although this seems clear that there is a physical resurrection, not all Jewish leaders believed this at the time (cf. Isaiah 26:14). And those in the dust would seem to include those that died, including those that may have been cremated. Cremation does not seem to have been biblically prohibited (cf. 1 Samuel 31:12; 1 Chronicles 34:2,5), though burial seemed to be preferable (1 Samuel 31:12-13).

Jesus Taught About the Resurrection

Even in Jesus' day, there were religious leaders who did not believe that the Bible truly taught a physical resurrection:

23 The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection (Matthew 22:23).

They thought they understood the Bible.

But look at what Jesus said to them:

29 Jesus answered and said to them, "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. 31 But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 32 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." 33 And when the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at His teaching. (Matthew 22:29-32).

Hence, Jesus confirmed the idea that Jewish leaders, just from the Old Testament, should have understood that there would be a physical resurrection.

Jesus Himself also taught about multiple resurrections:

14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just. (Luke 14:14)

24 "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. 25 Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, 27 and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come forth — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. (John 5:24-29).

25 Truly, truly, I say to you that an hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those having heard will live. 26 For as the Father has life in Himself, so also He gave to the Son to have life in Himself. 27 And He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming in which all those in the tombs will hear His voice, 29 and will come forth—those having done good to the resurrection of life, and those having done evil to the resurrection of judgment. (John 5:24-29, Berean Literal Bible)

Jesus specifically taught that there would be multitude resurrections (the term 'condemnation' is better rendered as 'judgement' which is how the BLB translates it). Notice that Jesus taught that the type of judgements would differ:

23 And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you (Matthew 11:23-24).

But Jesus also taught that this would be a hidden mystery to many:

25 At that time Jesus answered and said, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. 26 Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. (Matthew 11:25-26)

This remains a mystery to most today, even though it is biblically clear that those in Sodom were sinners:

13 But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD (Genesis 13:13).

But understand that Jesus said that there would be a time of judgment, more tolerable for them, than for those who in Capernaum rejected Him. Those in Sodom will undoubtedly be ashamed of their actions when they are resurrected, and they obviously must not be permanently condemned, or Jesus' statement about it being more tolerable for them would be meaningless. Jesus taught multiple resurrections.

Jesus also made it clear that physical death was like sleep (see also What Happens After Death?):

11 These things He said, and after that He said to them, "Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up." 12 Then His disciples said, "Lord, if he sleeps he will get well." 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him." (John 11:11-14).

Some have wondered about Jesus' teaching regarding the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. For details, please check out the article The Rich Man and Lazarus.

Paul Taught About the Resurrection

The New Testament lists the "resurrection of the dead" as one of the "elementary principles" (basic doctrines; see also Elementary Doctrines of the Church: Hebrews 6) for Christians (Hebrews 6:1-3), yet many Christians do not believe in the resurrections as taught in the Bible.

Paul also taught the same message that Jesus taught about death being like sleep as well as the resurrections (1 Corinthians 15:51-54). Notice also:

6 But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, "Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!" (Acts 23:6)

15 I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust (Acts 24:15).

Notice what Paul was mentioned as doing in Athens:

18 Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, "What does this babbler want to say?"
Others said, "He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods," because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. ...

32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, "We will hear you again on this matter." (Acts 17:18)

The resurrection was something he clearly was teaching about.

Paul wrote:

14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:14).

14 Therefore He says:

"Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light." (Ephesians 5:14)

The resurrection will be similar to awakening from sleep--although what happens to resurrected Christians will be different than for those who are not God's converted people.

Paul apparently ran into those that professed that they believed in Christ, but who, in spite of his and Jesus' preaching, did not seem to accept the truth about the resurrection:

12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up — if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19).

Paul was pointing out that the resurrection was a great thing.

Paul taught that all would be resurrected, but that there would be a specific order of resurrection, as all would not be resurrected at the same time:

20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).

Yet, when Christians are resurrected, unlike others to be resurrected (as shown in Ezekiel), they are resurrected immortal (which means that they are NOT now immortal; see also Did Early Christians Believe that Humans Possessed Immortality?):

50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." (1 Corinthians 15:50-54).

(More on what happens after death and death being like sleep is found in the article What Happens After Death? and the related sermon What really happens after death?)

Notice that Paul taught that being a Christian like him was not enough in this life, as even Paul had not attained the resurrection:

8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended (Philippians 3:8-13).

Thus, the immortality attained at the resurrection is not something that Christians have today.

But Paul also understood that God has a plan to save more than he was able to reach--the elect being given the opportunity now, but others later:

7 What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. 8 Just as it is written: "God has given them a spirit of stupor, Eyes that they should not see And ears that they should not hear, To this very day."

9 And David says: "Let their table become a snare and a trap, A stumbling block and a recompense to them. 10 Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see, And bow down their back always."

11 I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. 12 Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! 13 For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14 if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. 15 For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

16 For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17 And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, 18 do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.

19 You will say then, "Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in." 20 Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. 22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.

23 And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? 25 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; 27 For this is My covenant with them,When I take away their sins." (Romans 11:7-27).

Notice that many were blinded. God did not allow them to see in this age. And these include those that have long been dead. Are they doomed to eternal torment by a loving God because He allowed them to be blinded now?


Jesus explained, "If you were blind, you would have no sin" (John 9:41). (See also Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis.)

It should be noted that when Paul uses the term "all Israel," he seems to be referring to "spiritual Israel" (as opposed to physical Israel). For earlier in Romans he wrote, "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God" (Romans 2:28-29). Also, related proof exists in the Old Testament as God promises to "pour out My Spirit on all flesh" (Joel 2:28) and Isaiah 2:2-3 specifically shows that all nations and many people will come to learn God's ways.

James Reportedly Taught the Resurrection

According to Hegesippus c. 170:

James, the Lord's brother, succeeds to the government of the Church, in conjunction with the apostles. He has been universally called the Just, from the days of the Lord down to the present time ... Now some persons belonging to the seven sects existing among the people, which have been before described by me in the Notes, asked him: "What is the door of Jesus? " And he replied that He was the Saviour. In Consequence of this answer, some believed that Jesus is the Christ. But the sects before mentioned did not believe, either in a resurrection or in the coming of One to requite every man according to his works; but those who did believe, believed because of James (Hegesippus. Translated by Roberts and Donaldson. Concerning the martyrdom of James, the brother of the Lord, from Book V).

And what were the seven sects? Notice:

Thebulis it was who, displeased because he was not made bishop, first began to corrupt her by stealth. He too was connected with the seven sects which existed among the people, like Simon, from whom come the Simoniani; and Cleobius, from whom come the Cleobiani; and Doritheus, from whom come the Dorithiani; and Gorthaeus, from whom come the Gortheani; Masbothaeus, from whom come the Masbothaei. From these men also come the Menandrianists, and the Marcionists, and the Carpocratians, and the Valentinians, and the Basilidians, and the Saturnilians. Each of these leaders in his own private and distinct capacity brought in his own private opinion. From these have come false Christs, false prophets, false apostles-men who have split up the one Church into parts through their corrupting doctrines, uttered in disparagement of God and of His Christ...(Hegesippus. Translated by Roberts and Donaldson. Concerning his journey to Rome, and the Jewish sects).

In other words, while James taught the resurrection, it was those associated with early heretics who did not. Apparently, according to Hegesippus, any today who do not properly accept the resurrection are following the lead of those heretics.

Here is information on some of those, as well as other, early heretics:

Simon Magus, What Did He Teach? Sometimes called "the father early heretics" or the "father of heresies", do you know what early writers claimed that Simon Magus taught? Sadly, most who profess Christ still hold to versions of his teachings. Here is a link to a related sermon: Simon Magus and 'Christianity'?
Cerinthus: An early heretic What did he teach? What did the Apostle John do about him?
Marcion: The First Protestant? Considered to have been an organized heretic, he taught against the Old Testament, the law, and the Sabbath. Some have considered him to be the first Protestant reformer. But was he? Here is a link to a related sermon: Marcion: The first Protestant reformer?
Marcus of Jerusalem: Apostolic successor or apostate? Marcus is claimed to have been the 16th bishop of Jerusalem, but did he get his position from faithfulness or political compromise?
Valentinus: The Gnostic Trinitarian Heretic He apparently was the first Christ-professing heretic to come up with the idea of three hypostases.
Justin Martyr: Saint, Heretic, or Apostate? Justin is considered one of the first Christian theologians and scholars. But did he support a Gnostic version of Christianity? Do you know what he taught about souls going to heaven upon death? This article shows from his own writings, what Justin really taught.
Marcus, the Marcosians, & Mithraism: Developers of the Eucharist? Marcus was a second century heretic condemned for having a ceremony similar to one still practiced by many who profess Christ, as well as for promoting the 'eighth day' ogdoad. Might he also be in the apostolic succession list of the Orthodox Church of Alexandria? Where did the eucharistic host and IHS come from?

Information on heretics/apostates can also be found in the following free online book: Continuing History of the Church of God.

Temporal Resurrections

Before going further, perhaps it should be pointed out that the Bible shows several "temporal' resurrections. Meaning that people were brought back to physical life for a time until they later again died.

These are not to be confused with the three resurrections that Church of God Christians teach.

The old Radio Church of God answered a question about one of those temporal resurrections as follows:

Are Those Saints Who Arose About the Time of Christ's Resurrection Still Alive?

It is a common conception, often taken for granted, that the saints who arose shortly after Christ are still alive. But what does the Bible say?    First of all, let us get the picture clearly in mind. This incident is recorded in Matt. 27:52, 53 which reads as follows: "And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many."

These were not the first nor the only people to be restored to life from the dead. In II Kings, the fourth chapter, we read the story of Elisha and the Shunamnite's son, whom he raised to life through the power of God. This young man was resurrected many hundreds of years before Christ and yet Paul says in I Corinthians 15:22, 23 that Christ is the firstfruits or the first to be made immortal as the Son of God (Romans 1:4), and that there is a definite order, Christ first, then afterward - not those saints - but they that are Christ's at His coming. Now God is not the author of confusion. He would not set a definite order of resurrections and then violate that order.

And yet, what about the Shunamnite's son, and what about Lazarus (John 11:5), and the widow's son mentioned in Luke 7:14,15? These were all raised before Christ's resurrection. What happened to them?

If we cast out preconceived ideas, and merely take the Bible as it is, the answer is very clear. They were not made immortal because Paul states in I Timothy 6:16 that Christ alone, of all men who have ever lived, has immortality. I Cor. 15:22-21 says furthermore: "For in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firsrfruits; then they that are Christ's AT HIS COMING."    

NO ONE BUT CHRIST HAS BEEN RESURRECTED TO IMMORTALITY TO THIS DAY-but those in Christ will be raised NEXT at His second coming: Jesus said that as the Father raised the dead and made dive (quickened) whom He would, so also would the Son do likewise. (John 5:21). The answer is simply that these people, from the Shunamnite's son down to those raised at the time of Christ's resurrection were made physically alive, undoubtedly healed of the afflictions that might have caused their deaths prematurely, then they lived out their lives-human flesh and blood lives. Since they were only mortal, and now alive, they must have died.

THUS we conclude that those people merely lived out a natural human life which had been cut short, then died and are even now awaiting the resurrection. (Good News, May 1952)

I would add that I believe that God caused the physical resurrection in Matthew 27:51-53 to provide a further witness that Jesus was His Son.

That said, the physical resurrections recorded in scripture should not be confused with the coming furture three resurrections that are prophesied/

John Taught About Three Resurrections

Perhaps the most detailed account of the resurrections in the New Testament were written by the Apostle John. In the Book of Revelation, he was told to write about the first resurrection:

4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4-6).

The first resurrection, the resurrection of the saints, clearly happens at the start of the thousand year period known as the millennium (thus, there is no pretribulation rapture, see also Is There A Secret Rapture for the Church? When and Where is the Church Protected?). The Book of Hebrews (11:35) calls this first resurrection the "better resurrection."

The Apostle Paul wrote that resurrected Christians will have a "spiritual body" (1 Corinthians 15:44), but what will we look like?

Well, John gives us clues:

1 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (1 John 3:1-2)

Notice that John said how Christians would look had not yet been revealed. Later, John saw the Revelation and here is how he described Jesus' appearance:

12 Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. 14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; 15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; 16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. (Revelation 1:12-16)

Christians will shine like the sun! Like Jesus!

Does that seem far-fetched to you?

Well, Jesus Himself also taught that:

41 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear! (Matthew 13:41-43)

Resurrected Christians will look like Jesus!

The Apostle Peter wrote:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (1 Peter 1:3)

The hope of those who are begotten now is to be born again in the first resurrection (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:17-20).

In front of God's throne is a sea of glass (Revelation 4:6). Those of the first resurrection are shown to go to the sea of glass:

2 And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God. 3 They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying:

"Great and marvelous are Your works,
Lord God Almighty!
Just and true are Your ways,
O King of the saints!
4 Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy.
For all nations shall come and worship before You,
For Your judgments have been manifested."

5 After these things I looked, and behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened. (Revelation 15:2-5)

The sea of glass may also be the place the marriage supper with the Lamb takes place in Revelation 19:9.

Getting back to the Apostle John, he was also told to write about two other resurrections. The second and a third:

12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.

13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:12-15).

So from John's writings, we see that there was to be a "first resurrection" (Revelation 20:6), followed by a time when "the rest of the dead" physically lived again (Revelation 20:5, the second resurrection), and then followed by a time where the dead of the sea and "Death and Hades" (those part of the third resurrection) are to be judged and those not found in the Book of Life will die a second time--this time permanently--in the lake of fire.

Some Mentions of Three Resurrections

Perhaps it should be mentioned that according to Greco-Roman Catholic scholars, the Christians that kept closest to the Apostle John's practices (sometimes called Nazarenes or Judaeo-Christians) did understand that there were three resurrections.

Here is what the Roman Catholic scholar Bagatti wrote related to a late fourth century Greco-Roman bishop:

St. Gregory of Nyssa … he himself was not considered a true Christian by some who held the three resurrections, the millenarianism, the restoration of the Temple with bloody sacrifices; these are all doctrines of the Judaeo-Christians (Bagatti, Bellarmino. Translated by Eugene Hoade. The Church from the Circumcision. Nihil obstat: Marcus Adinolfi, 13 Maii 1970. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari, 14 Junii 1970. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 26 Junii 1970. Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, 1971, p.11).

Here is some of what the Greek Orthodox Gregory actually wrote:

And what means this opposing array of new Altars? Do we announce another Jesus? Do we hint at another? Do we produce other scriptures? Have any of ourselves dared to say "Mother of Man" of the Holy Virgin, the Mother of God : which is what we hear that some of them say without restraint? Do we romance about three Resurrections ? Do we promise the gluttony of the Millennium? Do we declare that the Jewish animal-sacrifices shall be restored? Do we lower men's hopes again to the Jerusalem below, imagining its rebuilding with stones of a more brilliant material? (Gregory of Nyssa. Letter 17 to Eustathia, Ambrosia, and Basilissa. Translated by William Moore. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 5. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1893)

So, near the end of the 4th century there were people that did not consider that the Constantinian Greco-Romans were Christians and they held to the doctrine of three resurrections. Like the Judea-Christians mentioned above, we in the Continuing Church of God do believe in the three resurrections, millenarianism, the restoration of bloody sacrifices (but we do not believe that a Temple has to be rebuilt in this age for that to occur--nor is it clear that was a required position by the Judaeo-Christians of the late 4th century), we do accept that sacrifices will occur in the millennium as per Zechariah 14:21, and we oppose the need for new altars in which the Greco-Romans believe that they are regularly sacrificing Jesus on (the Bible says Jesus only needed to be sacrificed once--Romans 6:10; Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 10:10). While we do teach that Mary was the mother of Jesus and that Jesus is now God, since Mary cannot grant divinity and Jesus emptied Himself of His divinity when He came in the flesh (Philippians 2:7) and did not retain it until after His resurrection (cf. John 20:28), we do not use the expression "Mother of God" to describe Mary (see also Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Apparitions).

There is an unusual writing known as the Testimony of Benjamin (likely between 1st and 2nd century A.D.--believed to have probably written by a Jew who professed Christianity) that tells of a sequence of three resurrections (two translations shown below):

Then you shall see Enoch, Noah and Shem and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob raised up at the right hand with rejoicing. Then we also shall be raised, each over our tribe (σχῆπτρν)...then all shall also be raised up some to glory and some to dishonor. (Chapter 10:6-8. As cited in Taylor JE. The Body in Biblical, Christian and Jewish Texts Volume 85 of The Library of Second Temple Studies. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014, p. 136)

Keep the commandments of God until the Lord shall reveal His salvation to all nations. Then shall you see Enoch, Noah, and Shem, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, arising on the right hand in gladness. Then shall we also arise, each one over our tribe, worshipping the King of heaven, who appeared upon the earth in the form of a man of humility. And as many as believed on Him on the earth shall rejoice with Him; and then shall all men arise, some unto glory and some unto shame. (The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. Translated by Robert Sinker. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)

The Testimony of Benjamin seems to possibly separate the first resurrection between God's converted people of the Old and New Testament and does not make a full biblical distinction about the other resurrections.

Before going further, it should be noted that some theologians do realize that the Bible teaches three resurrections. Here is something from the 19th century related to that:

Rev xx. ... In this chapter there are THREE resurrections mentioned. The first takes place before or at the Millennium, the second immediately after it, and the third not until the end of the season that succeeds the Millenninm. It is evident, from the language that these are distinct and separate resurrections. (The Original Secession Magazine. Publisher J. Maclaren, 1866. Original from the New York Public Library. Digitized Aug 31, 2006, pp. 274-275)

Here is something written about dispensationalist Protestants:

Dispensationalism teaches three resurrections: those before the Millennium, those after the Millennium and those at the Revelation. Older Premillennialists believe that only the righteous before the Millennium and the unrighteous after the Millennium will be resurrected. (Dispensationalism and United States Foreign Policy with Israel. Contributor The University of Texas at Arlington. Political Science. Publisher ProQuest, 2008 p. 12)

Interestingly, one 19th century writer claimed that if you take the Bible literally, you would have to accept that there are three resurrections:

The theorists of the literal school lose all the righteous except martyrs and confessors; else they must have three resurrections -- one for the martyrs and confessors; one a thousand years after, for the rest of the saints; and one some time later. (The Christian Messenger and Reformer. Churches of Christ, May 1843, p. 79)

And since we in the Continuing Church of God generally take the Bible literally (unless something allegorical is clearly being referred to), we do teach three resurrections, similar to that which was written above, except that we include the saints dead or alive at the time of the the first resurrection, will be in the first resurrection. The "rest of the dead" are in the second resurrection per Revelation 20:5.

The Resurrection From 2nd Century Church Leaders

Ignatius of Antioch, in the early second century, wrote:

Stop your ears, therefore, when any one speaks to you at variance with Jesus Christ, who was descended from David, and was also of Mary; who was truly born, and ate and drank. He was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate; He was truly crucified, and [truly] died, in the sight of beings in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth. He was also truly raised from the dead, His Father quickening Him, even as after the same manner His Father will so raise up us who believe in Him by Christ Jesus, apart from whom we do not possess the true life. (Ignatius. Letter to the Trallians, Chapter 9. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0106.htm>)

Polycarp of Smyrna was a disciple of the Apostle John, the last of the original apostles to die. He also knew Ignatius. Most professing Christian faiths consider that he was a saint.

Here is some of what Polycarp wrote:

But He who raised Him up from the dead will raise up us also, if we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved, keeping ourselves from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, falsewitness; "not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing," or blow for blow, or cursing for cursing (Polycarp. Letter to the Philippians, Chapter II. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885).

(More on the commandments is found in the free online booklet: The Ten Commandments: The Decalogue, Christianity, and the Beast).

Polycarp taught that the body and soul were to be resurrected, hence he taught against the immortality of the soul doctrine:

I bless you for because you have considered me worthy of this day and hour, that I might receive a place among the number of martyrs in the cup of your Christ, to the resurrection to eternal life, both of soul and of body, in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit (The Martyrdom of Polycarp, 14:2. In Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers, Greek Texts and English Translations. Baker Books, Grand Rapids (MI), 2004, p.239).

Upon death, the spirit of humans returns to God (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:8; Ecclesiastes 3:21). The human spirit is there, sort of like a saved computer file of your memory and character--in a sleep-like state (Psalm 13:3; 76:6)--and is saved for the resurrection (Ecclesiastes 3:21; John 3:13; Ezekiel 37:11-14; 1 Corinthians 15:50-54). (Note: verses like 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 do not negate what Polycarp wrote. More on death can be found in the article What Happens After Death?)

Theophilus of Antioch in the mid-late second century wrote:

But you do not believe that the dead are raised. When the resurrection shall take place, then you will believe, whether you will or no; and your faith shall be reckoned for unbelief, unless you believe now ... Moreover, you believe that the images made by men are gods, and do great things; and can you not believe that the God who made you is able also to make you afterwards? (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 1, Chapter VII. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

But the moon wanes monthly, and in a manner dies, being a type of man; then it is born again, and is crescent, for a pattern of the future resurrection (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book II, Chapter XV. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Notice that Theophilus is teaching that there will be those born again at the resurrection. And that he taught that unbelievers would be raised whether they believed him or not--which is a different resurrection.

Polycrates of Ephesus in the late second century wrote and told the Roman Bishop Victor that death is like sleep, and those sleeping Christians would be raised up:

For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the last day, at the coming of the Lord, when he shall come with glory from heaven and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who sleeps in Hierapolis, and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and moreover John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and being a priest wore the sacerdotal plate. He also sleeps at Ephesus (Eusebius. Church History, Book III, Chapter 31. Translated by Arthur Cushman McGiffert. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series Two, Volume 1. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1890. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius, or Melito, the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead? (Eusebius. Church History, Book V, Chapter 24).

Hence, second century Christian writers understood that death is like sleep and that there would be actual resurrections.

The Resurrection From Those Outside the True Church

There were other religious leaders, outside the true Church of God, who understood (though not perfectly) about the resurrections and God's basic plan.

One leader of influence was the heretic Justin. Notice that he wrote:

For I choose to follow not men or men's doctrines, but God and the doctrines [delivered] by Him. For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this [truth], and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians...But I and others, who are right-minded Christians on all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead " (Justin. Dialogue with Trypho. Chapter 80).

Interestingly, the Catholics of Rome, Eastern Orthodox, and most Protestant faiths claim Justin is a saint, but Justin clearly taught that those who believed they went to heaven upon death were NOT Christians.

Another non-Church of God leader was Irenaeus, who claimed to have met Polycarp. Irenaeus in the following passage, shows that in the second century, the idea that God would resurrect people and provide an opportunity for salvation was clearly known:

Then, too, Isaiah himself has plainly declared that there shall be joy of this nature at the resurrection of the just, when he says: "The dead shall rise again; those, too, who are in the tombs shall arise, and those who are in the earth shall rejoice. For the dew from Thee is health to them."

And this again Ezekiel also says: "Behold, I will open your tombs, and will bring you forth out of your graves; when I will draw my people from the sepulchres, and I will put breath in you, and ye shall live; and I will place you on your own land, and ye shall know that I am the LORD." And again the same speaks thus: "These things saith the LORD, I will gather Israel from all nations whither they have been driven, and I shall be sanctified in them in the sight of the sons of the nations: and they shall dwell in their own land, which I gave to my servant Jacob. And they shall dwell in it in peace; and they shall build houses, and plant vineyards, and dwell in hope, when I shall cause judgment to fall among all who have dishonoured them, among those who encircle them round about; and they shall know that I am the LORD their God, and the God of their fathers."

Now I have shown a short time ago that the church is the seed of Abraham; and for this reason, that we may know that He who in the New Testament "raises up from the stones children unto Abraham," is He who will gather, according to the Old Testament, those that shall be saved from all the nations, Jeremiah says: "Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, who led the children of Israel from the north, and from every region whither they had been driven; He will restore them to their own land which He gave to their fathers" (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book V, Chapter 34, Verse 1. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Irenaeus also seemed to understand the Church of God concept that the hundred year period in Isaiah had to do with one of the resurrections (the second) and calling those not now in the church:

Daniel also says this very thing: "And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of those under the heaven, is given to the saints of the Most High God, whose kingdom is everlasting, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him." And lest the promise named should be understood as referring to this time, it was declared to the prophet: "And come thou, and stand in thy lot at the consummation of the days."

Now, that the promises were not announced to the prophets and the fathers alone, but to the Churches united to these from the nations, whom also the Spirit terms "the islands" (both because they are established in the midst of turbulence, suffer the storm of blasphemies, exist as a harbour of safety to those in peril, and are the refuge of those who love the height [of heaven], and strive to avoid Bythus, that is, the depth of error), Jeremiah thus declares: "Hear the word of the LORD, ye nations, and declare it to the isles afar off; say ye, that the LORD will scatter Israel, He will gather him, and keep him, as one feeding his flock of sheep...

And yet again does he say the same thing: "Behold, I make Jerusalem a rejoicing, and my people [a joy]; for the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying. Also there shall not be there any immature [one], nor an old man who does not fulfil his time: for the youth shall be of a hundred years; and the sinner shall die a hundred years old, yet shall be accursed. And they shall build houses, and inhabit them themselves; and shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them themselves, and shall drink wine. And they shall not build, and others inhabit; neither shall they prepare the vineyard, and others eat. For as the days of the tree of life shall be the days of the people in thee; for the works of their hands shall endure" (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book V, Chapter 34, Verses 2-3,4. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

John, therefore, did distinctly foresee the first resurrection of the just, and the inheritance in the kingdom of the earth; and what the prophets have prophesied concerning it harmonize [with his vision]. (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book V, Chapter 36, Verse 1. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight)

Irenaeus also wrote that the soul has to be resurrected:

For such is the state of those who have believed, since in them continually abides the Holy Spirit, who was given by Him in baptism, and is retained by the receiver, if he walks in truth and holiness and righteousness and patient endurance. For this soul has a resurrection in them that believe, the body receiving the soul again, and along with it, by the power of the Holy Spirit, being raised up and entering into the kingdom of God (Irenaeus, St., Bishop of Lyon. Translated from the Armenian by Armitage Robinson. The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, Chapter 42. Wells, Somerset, Oct. 1879. As published in SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE. NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN CO, 1920).

Hence he also was aware that after the resurrection, there would be the Kingdom of God.

Irenaeus also wrote:

For all these and other words were unquestionably spoken in reference to the resurrection of the just, which takes place after the coming of Antichrist, and the destruction of all nations under his rule; in [the times of] which [resurrection] the righteous shall reign in the earth ... For after the times of the kingdom, he says, "I saw a great white throne, and Him who sat upon it, from whose face the earth fled away, and the heavens; and there was no more place for them." And he sets forth, too, the things connected with the general resurrection and the judgment, mentioning "the dead, great and small." "The sea," he says, "gave up the dead which it had in it (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book V, Chapter 35, Verses 1,2. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

John, therefore, did distinctly foresee the first "resurrection of the just," and the inheritance in the kingdom of the earth; and what the prophets have prophesied concerning it harmonize ... And in all these things, and by them all, the same God the Father is manifested, who fashioned man, and gave promise of the inheritance of the earth to the fathers, who brought it (the creature) forth [from bondage] at the resurrection of the just, and fulfils the promises for the kingdom of His Son (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book V, Chapter 36, Verse 3. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

The above passages clearly show that Irenaeus believed that there would be physical resurrections. And he even correctly knew when the first two resurrections would be.

Tertullian, the so-called "father of Latin theology," around the end of the 2nd century wrote:

We say that this city has been provided by God for receiving the saints on their resurrection, and refreshing them with the abundance of all really spiritual blessings, as a recompense for those which in the world we have either despised or lost; since it is both just and God-worthy that His servants should have their joy in the place where they have also suffered affliction for His name's sake. Of the heavenly kingdom this is the process. After its thousand years are over, within which period is completed the resurrection of the saints, who rise sooner or later according to their deserts there will ensue the destruction of the world and the conflagration of all things at the judgment: we shall then be changed in a moment into the substance of angels, even by the investiture of an incorruptible nature, and so be removed to that kingdom in heaven of which we have now been treating, just as if it had not been predicted by the Creator, and as if it were proving Christ to belong to the other god and as if he were the first and sole revealer of it (Tertullian. Against Marcion, Book III, Chapter 25. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 3. Edited by Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

Tertullian also noted that it was Marcion (a major heretic from the 2nd century) who did not except a physical resurrection:

For Marcion does not in any wise admit the resurrection of the flesh, and it is only the salvation of the soul which he promises (Tertullian. Against Marcion, Book V, Chapter 10. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 3. Edited by Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

Marcion was denounced by Polycarp of Smyrna around 155 A.D. when Polycarp visited Rome.

Hippolytus was one of the greatest early Roman Catholic theologians according to The Catholic Encyclopedia. Notice what he wrote in the early third century:

For concerning the general resurrection and the kingdom of the saints, Daniel says: "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." And Isaiah says: "The dead shall rise, and those in the tombs shall awake, and those in the earth shall rejoice." And our Lord says: "Many in that day shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live" (Hippolytus. On the End of the World, Chapter XXXVI. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

Notice that Hippolytus is showing that death is like sleep and the dead must be raised--and that many that are resurrected shall hear Christ and live.

Another early leader who seemed to have a partial grasp of God's plan was Origen in the late 2nd and early 3rd centuries.

The noted historian K.S. Latourette wrote that Origen "was, indeed, one of the greatest Christian minds." And while I cannot agree with that, it is of interest to note that Latourette observed:

Origen taught that ultimately all the spirits who have fallen away from God will be restored to full harmony with Him. This can come about only with their cooperation, for they have freedom to accept or reject the redemption wrought in Christ. Before full restoration they will suffer punishment, but that punishment is intended to be educative, to purge them from the imperfections brought by their sin. After the end of the present age and its world another age will come, so Origen believed, in which have been born again will continue to grow and the unrepentant will be given further opportunity for repentance (Latourette K.S. A History of Christianity, Volume 1, Beginnings to 1500. Harper Collins, San Francisco, 1975, p.151).

Origen was close, in that not all will repent, there will be those raised to "everlasting contempt", meaning that they will not receive salvation--but we in the Continuing Church of God consider them to be a small minority (this is documented in more detail in the articles Universal OFFER of Salvation, Apokatastasis: Can God save the lost in an age to come? Hundreds of scriptures reveal God’s plan of salvation and Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God differs from most Protestants).

Here is one quote directly by Origen:

...the good Father has not entirely deserted those who have fallen away from Him (Origen. Commentary on the Gospel of John (Book I). Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 9. Edited by Allan Menzies, D.D. American Edition, 1896 and 1897. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

While we in the Continuing Church of God would not word it quite that way, these quotes do show that the idea that God has a plan that will give the unrepentant an opportunity after this present age is not a new concept.

The third century North African Bishop Commodianus taught:

XLIV We shall arise again to Him, who have been devoted to Him. And they shall be incorruptible, even already living without death.

XXXV Adam was the first who fell, and that he might shun the precepts of God, Belial was his tempter by the lust of the palm tree. And he conferred on us also what he did, whether of good or of evil, as being the chief of all that was born from him; and thence we die by his means, as he himself, receding from the divine, became an outcast from the Word. We shall be immortal when six thousand years are accomplished.

LXXX This has pleased Christ, that the dead should rise again, yea, with their bodies; and those, too, whom in this world the fire has burned, when six thousand years are completed ... (Commodianus. On Christian Discipline, XLIV. Translated by Robert Ernest Wallis. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 4. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0411.htm>).

The idea that Christians would be resurrected to become immortal 6,000 years after Adam sinned was something that early professors of Christ taught and that we in the Continuing Church of God still teach (see Does God Have a 6,000 Year Plan? What Year Does the 6,000 Years End?).

The fourth century Bishop Ambrose of Milan taught:

But belief in the resurrection is inferred most clearly on three grounds, in which all are included. These are reason, analogy from universal example, and the evidence of what has happened, since many have risen. Reason is clear. For since the whole course of our life consists in the union of body and soul, and the resurrection brings with it either the reward of good works, or the punishment of wicked ones, it is necessary that the body, whose actions are weighed, rise again. For how shall the soul be summoned to judgment without the body, when account has to be rendered of the companionship of itself and the body? Rising again is the lot of all ... But it appears incredible to you that the dead rise again? (Ambrose of Milan. Book II. On the Belief in the Resurrection, verses 52-53,57).

Ambrose is considered to be a Roman and Eastern Orthodox Catholic saint. He taught that although some deny the resurrection, death is like sleep:

It is a cause for wonder that though they do not believe in the resurrection, yet in their kindly care they make provision that the human race should not perish, The immortality of the soul may be believed by those who deny the resurrection of the body, and was taught by many philosophers amongst the heathen. The resurrection of the body is a matter of divine revelation, and the very highest and best amongst the heathen seem not to have admitted it even as a speculation. and so say that souls pass and migrate into other bodies that the world may not pass away. But let them say which is the most difficult, for souls to migrate, or to return; come back to that which is their own, or seek for fresh dwelling places. But let those who have not been taught doubt. For us who have read the Law, the Prophets, the Apostles, and the Gospel it is not lawful to doubt. For who can doubt when he reads: “And in that time shall all thy people be saved which is written in the book; and many of them that sleep in the graves of the earth shall arise with one opening, these to everlasting life, and those to shame and everlasting confusion. And they that have understanding shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and of the just many shall be as the stars for ever.”Well, then, did he speak of the rest of those that sleep, that one may understand that death lasts not for ever, which like sleep is undergone for a time, and is put off at its time; and he shows that the progress of that life which shall be after death is better than that which is passed in sorrow and pain before death, inasmuch as the former is compared to the stars, the latter is assigned to trouble...We have seen, then, how grave an offence it is not to believe the resurrection; for if we rise not again, then Christ died in vain, then Christ rose not again (Ambrose of Milan. Book II. On the Belief in the Resurrection, verses 65-66,102).

Notice something reported in the 14th century by a group condemned by the Catholic inquisitor Bernard Gui, Bishop of Lodève:

Again, they say that after Antichrist's death these spiritual individuals will convert the entire world to the faith of Christ; and the whole world will be so good and benign that there will be no malice or sin in people of that period, except perhaps for venial sins in a few of them; and all things will be common as far as use is concerned; and there will be no one who offends anyone else or encourages another to sin. For there will be the greatest love among them, and there will be one flock and one pastor. According to some of them this period and condition will last for one hundred years. Then, as love fails, malice will creep back in and slowly increase until Christ is, as it were, compelled to come in universal judgment because of it.

Again, these insane heretics seriously and ignominiously rail against the Lord Pope, the vicar of Jesus Christ, calling him the mystical Antichrist, precursor of the greater Antichrist, preparing the way for his life (BERNARD GUI: INQUISITOR'S MANUAL, Chapter 5. Translated by David Burr, History Department, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA. http://www2.kenyon.edu/projects/margin/inquisit.htm 04/05/17).

In order to convert the entire world, the entire world would have to be resurrected. So, to some degree that that Bernard Gui reported about understood about the second resurrection and the 100 year period.

Scholars recognize that even Martin Luther understood that death is like sleep for souls and that they would be resurrected:

The immediate cause of Luther's stand on the sleep of the soul was the issue of purgatory, with its postulate of the conscious torment of anguished souls. While Luther is not always consistent, the predominant note running all through his writings is that souls sleep in peace, without consciousness or pain. The Christian dead are not aware of anything—see not, feel not, understand not, and are not conscious of passing events. Luther held and periodically stated that in the sleep of death, as in normal physical sleep, there is complete unconsciousness and unawareness of the condition of death or the passage of time.† Death is a deep, sound, sweet sleep.‡ And the dead will remain asleep until the day of resurrection (Martin Luther and William Tyndale on the State of the Dead pp. 571-572).

Despite this, the Catholics of Rome, Eastern Orthodox, and most Protestant faiths deny "soul sleep" and do not understand the truth about the resurrections.

What Do Modern Century Scholars Realize about the Early Church and the Resurrections?

Notice that even in the 21st century, non-COG scholars acknowledge that the early church taught about the resurrections and that the Bible supports the idea that death is like sleep:

Malcolm Jeeves, an honorary professor of psychology at the University of St. Andrews, is one of many believing scientists ... Jeeves says. "Furthermore, the original Christian view was not the immortality of the soul but the resurrection of the body." (Tolson J. Is There Room for the Soul? New challenges to our most cherished beliefs about self and the human spirit. US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT, October 23, 2006).

The following is from an interview with N.T. "Tom" Wright, a high-ranking bishop in the Church of England:

Wright: … St. Paul is very clear that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead already, but that nobody else has yet. Secondly, our physical state. The New Testament says that when Christ does return, the dead will experience a whole new life: not just our soul, but our bodies. And finally, the location. At no point do the resurrection narratives in the four Gospels say, “Jesus has been raised, therefore we are all going to heaven.” It says that Christ is coming here, to join together the heavens and the Earth in an act of new creation.

TIME: Is there anything more in the Bible about the period between death and the resurrection of the dead?

Wright: … Paul writes that … it will be like being asleep. The Wisdom of Solomon, a Jewish text from about the same time as Jesus, says “the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,” and that seems like a poetic way to put the Christian understanding, as well (Van Biema D. Christians Wrong About Heaven, Says Bishop (N.T. Wright). Time, February 7, 2008. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1710844,00.html viewed 02/08/08).

It is nice when prominent theologians sometimes come and speak out in favor of biblical, Church of God, doctrines (see also What Happens After Death?).

Perhaps it should be mentioned that some have suggested that perhaps Revelation 5 shows that saints are already alive in heaven and hence there is no need for a resurrection, for a detailed explanation, please see the article Did Early Christians Believe that Humans Possessed Immortality?


The Bible shows that there are at least three resurrections, and, in essence, at least three judgments.

In the 19th century, Sabbath-keepers who called themselves Church of God published the belief that the Bible taught three resurrections (Kramer IN. The Threefold Resurrection. Advent and Sabbath Adovocate, May 26, 1874, pp. 33-34).

The Bible shows that Church age Christians, those called, chosen, and faithful (Revelation 17:14), also called the elect (cf. 2 Timothy 2:10), are judged in this life and are resurrected first:

17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 Now

"If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?" (1 Peter 4:17-18)

4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4-6)

15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18)

Paul is pointing the first resurrection as something to look forward to.

Others will be resurrected one thousand years later and also judged:

5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished...

11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. (Revelation 20:11-12)

Although all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), most people were not incorrigibly wicked and have NOT committed the 'unpardonable sin' (What is the Unpardonable Sin?). What happens to them?

They will be part of the second resurrection. And although they will be found guilty of sin, the New Testament teaches:

13 ... Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13)

God is merciful (Exodus 34:6; Hebrews 2:17). Salvation will be offered to all that ever lived:

8 The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy. 9 The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works. (Psalm 145:8-9)

6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. (Luke 3:6)

10 And all the ends of the earth shall see The salvation of our God. (Isaiah 52:10)

Jesus rejoiced about this time when the rest of humanity would freely have their opportunity for salvation:

37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." (John 7:37-38)

The "Last Day" pictures a time that salvation will be available to all that did not have a true opportunity (see also The Last Great Day: Shemini 'Azeret and the free online booklet: Should You Observe God's Holy Days or Demonic Holidays?). Jesus looked forward to that time after the second resurrection.

Christians should look forward to the second resurrection as loved ones and family members who were not truly converted/did not truly have an opportunity in this age will be alive again!

Furthermore, those of the second resurrection who have not committed the unpardonable sin will be able to be part of another period of time that comes after the millennium:

20 "No more shall an infant from there live but a few days,
Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days;
For the child shall die one hundred years old,
But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed.
21 They shall build houses and inhabit them;
They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They shall not build and another inhabit;
They shall not plant and another eat;
For as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people,
And My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They shall not labor in vain,
Nor bring forth children for trouble;
For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the Lord,
And their offspring with them."

24 "It shall come to pass
That before they call, I will answer;
And while they are still speaking, I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
The lion shall eat straw like the ox,
And dust shall be the serpent's food.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,"
Says the Lord. (Isaiah 65:20-25)

So, there will be two types of people during this hundred year period--those who are condemned as sinners and those who are not. Those who are not are not accursed and would get their names listed in the book of life.

And this ties to the third and final resurrection:

13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:13-15)

So, while the incorrigibly wicked will be destroyed with the second death at the time of the third resurrection, those who would be written in the book of life at that time would not be. Death and Hades, but not the sea, were cast into the lake of fire. The "sea" seems to be a reference to holding the ashes/sand of the dead that are to be saved (cf. Romans 9:27; 11:26; Hebrews 11:12; Isaiah 10:22; Genesis 32:12; cf. Habakkuk 2:14), though this may be a speculative interpretation.

Here is something from the old Radio Church of God:

The third and last resurrection is for all who have known God's Way but who would not repent and obey! It is also for these who did repent, were baptized and started on the road of obedience to God but then gave up, quit, or just turned from God's Way and began to sin willfully after they had come to the knowledge of the truth. These people "sear their consciences" or "harden their hearts" and live in willful sin! This is the unpardonable sin (Heb. 10:26-27)!

The third resurrection would include those in this category and those who will not repent and obey during the millennium. All will be resurrected and/or cast into the lake of fire to die the second death which is eternal death (Rev. 20:14-15)! This is what will happen to those brought up in the second resurrection who are still sinners at the end of the one-hundred-year period called the Great White Throne Judgment. They "shall be accursed" — burned up in the lake of fire (Isa. 65:20)! (Luker DG. The First Resurrection Is a Better Resurrection! Good News, July 1967)

This final punishment comes after the third resurrection for those who truly reject the ways of God (Revelation 20:13-14). By the time of that resurrection, all will have had a chance for salvation (see also Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis). Dennis Luker tied this in with Isaiah 65:20, but did not address the what happens to the others.

Again, consider part of Isaiah 65:

20 "No more shall an infant from there live but a few days,
Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days;
For the child shall die one hundred years old,
But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed.
21 They shall build houses and inhabit them;
They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They shall not build and another inhabit;
They shall not plant and another eat;
For as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people,
And My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They shall not labor in vain,
Nor bring forth children for trouble;
For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the Lord,
And their offspring with them. (Isaiah 65:20-23)

Notice that the children and the labor during this 100 years is NOT in vain--hence these who die in Isaiah 65:20 must be resurrected/changed in order to be the descendants of the blessed Lord. Perhaps it should be mentioned that the late Herbert W. Armstrong taught at Ambassador College that the righteous after 100 years are to be changed into immortality. This sounds a lot like what happens in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18, which is also a resurrection (the first one).

Notice the following verses:

25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:25-26)

Related to those verse, Herbert Armstrong commented:

And then there will be no more death. Everyone will be immortal from that time on and everyone who is not made immortal will be put to death and burned up. Perished. Gone. As if they’d never been born in the first place. Just go back to dirt. (Armstrong HW. Bible Study on 1 Corinthians 15. October 3, 1980)

Having no more death (Revelation 21:4), happens after the THIRD resurrection (Revelation 20:13-15). At the third resurrection, repentent people are resurrected immortal and the wicked who refused to repent will arise and those wicked will then be burnt up and become ashes (Malachi 4:3).

In the late 20th century, the late evangelist Dr. Herman Hoeh wrote:

How, then, does one understand the expression that “the child shall die”? Because the righteous will not continue to live in the flesh. They shall be given immortality by becoming spirit beings, the eternal sons of God, just as the righteous who are alive when Christ returns at His Second Coming: “Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed-in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (I Corinthians 15:51-52). … The change from mortal to immortal is a  death of the cells of the natural body, but it will happen “in a moment,” as Paul said, so one will not even be aware of a  loss of consciousness! Isaiah 65:20 is describing this kind of momentary death, when one is changed to immortality; not the lake of fire, which is the second death, which the sinner who is accursed suffers. So the great purpose of the second resurrection will be finished in 100 years! (Hoeh H. The Resurrection at the LAST DAY. Sept-Oct 1988, p. 22)

For believers, the change at the “third resurrection” will be like what happens to living Christians at the time of the first resurrection. Hence the third resurrection is not limited to the incorrigible!

Those who accepted God during the Great White Throne Judgment 100 year period will be changed to immortality!

But at the time of this 'third resurrection' change, the wicked who will not repent and support God’s Kingdom will raised up be burnt up (Revelation 20:14), annihilated, totally destroyed.

Consider the following from a former minister in the the old Worldwide Church of God, Fred Coulter:

Now let’s pick it up here in Isaiah 65 ...

So let’s pick it up here in verse 20 and here’s a little more accurate translation: "There will not be an infant who lives but a few days, nor an old man that has not filled his days. For the child will die a hundred years old; but the sinner who is a hundred years old shall be accursed." Now the only thing that has always been a difficulty to reconcile has been, ‘for the child will die a hundred years old.’ When we understand that during the millennium, in all probability, those who are righteous we need to ask the question: Why would they die? Why would they not be transformed from flesh to spirit just like those who are still alive when Christ returns are changed from flesh to spirit? Is that change and transformation considered and instantaneous death? I don’t know. I’ve debated that back and forth in my own mind. Because it says, it’s given to once man to die (Heb. 9:27)—so is that considered an instantaneous death? Because they are changed in "a moment, in the twinkling of an eye." And this would be a great object lesson all during the millennium, wouldn’t it? Those who are righteous, those who overcome vanity, those who are faithful, live to be a hundred. And here, I don’t know how it would be, what would we have? One service a month where those who have reached a hundred years old would then have a ‘transformation party’ or service right at the church. I mean that would be spectacular, wouldn’t it? I mean you talk about showing that the way of God leads to life, there you’ve got it.

But nevertheless, the wicked have to die. So those who don’t are going to die, and it says and "the sinner who is a hundred years old shall be accursed." ... fleshly human beings cast into a lake of fire are burned up and they are no more, and they are ashes.(Coulter F. End of 1,000 Years. Sermon given October 3, 2007. https://www.cbcg.org/feasts-holydays/fhd/fot2k7-day7.html accessed 11/29/17)

Basically, he is stating that those who are truly converted will be changed, and those that refuse to will be destroyed. And that part of his understanding above is correct.

The late evangelist Raymond McNair wrote this for the old Worldwide Church of God:

After mentioning the second coming of Christ (Rev. 19:11-12), the Apostle John writes that a mighty angel will bind the devil and cast him into an abyss, where he will be unable to deceive the nations for one thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3).

But what happens immediately after this? The saints who have been caught up to meet Christ at His return (I Thess. 4:13-17) will then be given charge of this earth — ruling with Christ for one thousand years. "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded... and they lived [again] and reigned with Christ a thousand years" (Rev. 20:4).

Those who take part in this resurrection are greatly blessed by being privileged to take part in the "first resurrection" (verse 5).

"Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years" (verse 6).

When do the remainder of the dead rise? "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished" (verse 5).

This verse plainly shows that others are to be resurrected one thousand years later.

... verses 11-12 (of Revelation 20) describe a coming resurrection and judgment of that portion of the "rest of the dead" who never had their chance for salvation. Verse 12 reads: "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books [Greek: biblos, books of the Bible] were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life...."

When these billions are resurrected, God will open up the Bible to their understanding. They will be given their first real chance to repent, accept Christ as their Saviour and receive His precious Holy Spirit. Their names will then be written in the book of life.

Now consider verse 13: "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell [Greek: hades, grave] delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works."

Here is pictured another resurrection period. Who are these dead? What resurrection is this?

When the time for the third resurrection arrives, everyone will have had his chance. ... The Apostle John, after describing the destruction of the wicked (Rev. 20:13-15), immediately mentions "a new heaven and a new earth" (Rev. 21:1). ...

The righteous will then be made immortal. But in the third and final resurrection, the wicked will be made to see that they have scoffed at God's priceless offer for salvation. As a punishment, and as an eternal example, they will be annihilated in the "second death."

The third resurrection occurs at the very end of God's plan for mortal man on this earth. (McNair R. The Third Resurrection: Part V. Good News, May 1974)

Though Raymond McNair did not have a completely accurate understanding (or at least did not mention the fate of those not destroyed after the third resurrection), he was correct that there are the three resurrections and that the wicked who will not repent will be totally destroyed. Scripture clearly teaches that:

1 Do not fret because of evildoers, Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. 2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, And wither as the green herb. ...

9 For evildoers shall be cut off; But those who wait on the Lord, They shall inherit the earth. 10 For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; Indeed, you will look carefully for his place, But it shall be no more. ...

20 But the wicked shall perish; And the enemies of the Lord, Like the splendor of the meadows, shall vanish. Into smoke they shall vanish away. ...

28 For the Lord loves justice, And does not forsake His saints They are preserved forever, But the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off. ...

38 But the transgressors shall be destroyed together; The future of the wicked shall be cut off. (Psalm 37:1-2,9-10,20,28,38)

2 As smoke is driven away,
So drive them away;
As wax melts before the fire,
So let the wicked perish at the presence of God. (Psalm 68:2)

19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20 and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. 22 For Moses truly said to the fathers, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people. (Acts 3:19-23)

1 "For behold, the day is coming,
Burning like an oven,
And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble.
And the day which is coming shall burn them up,"
Says the Lord of hosts,
"That will leave them neither root nor branch.
2 But to you who fear My name
The Sun of Righteousness shall arise
With healing in His wings;
And you shall go out
And grow fat like stall-fed calves.
3 You shall trample the wicked,
For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet
On the day that I do this,"
Says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 4:1-3)

The Bible calls this the 'second death' (see also The Second Death).

That second death in the lake of fire is also consistent with what the Apostle Peter was inspired to write:

10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? (2 Peter 3:10-13)

Notice, also, an explanation of the timing of the lake of fire and other comments from the old Worldwide Church of God:

Many wonder about II Peter 3:10. Didn't Peter say this globe would be destroyed? Was Peter really talking about the total destruction of the earth? Notice what the context tells us: " But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men" (II Pet. 3:7).

This fire represents the final judgment of ungodly' men. This is the Lake of Gehenna Fire which is the second death (Rev. 20:14), the unquenchable fire that will burn up the unrepentant (Matt. 3:12).

Peter goes on to describe the effects of this unquenchable fire: "In the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up " (II Pet. 3:10). An unquenchable fire is one that cannot be put out. It burns until it has consumed all combustible material. Then it dies out for lack of anything else to consume. Everything will be burned up except for spirit beings who are not affected by physical fires.

He used the example of Noah's Flood as a type of the future cleansing of the earth by fire. "Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished" (II Pet. 3:6). Just as the earth continued to exist after the Flood, so it will continue to exist after the coming world­ wide Gehenna Fire.

Continuing with the context of II Peter 3 we find in verse 13 that: "We, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." In Revelation the new heaven and new earth are mentioned immediately after the account of the Lake of Fire. "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away [by fire]; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven... the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them [on the earth]" (Rev. 21:1-3).

The earth will still exist (Eccl. 1:4). The simple explanation of II Peter 3:10 is that the surface of the earth and everything on it, including the incorrigible wicked, will be destroyed by fire. God will then remake the surface of the earth for a habitation for Himself and the rest of the God Kingdom (Rev. 21, 22). (Is This the End Time? Ambassador College booklet, 1973)

This burning in the lake of fire is related to the second death and comes after the third resurrection. As does the change to immortality of those converted during the 100 year period.

Concluding Comments on the Doctrine of the Resurrections

The Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, clearly teaches that death is like sleep and that there will be actual resurrections.

Resurrections which have not yet happened.

There will be three future resurrections.

The Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God states:


“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Corinthians 15:22-23).

The Bible actually teaches that there are three future resurrections (What Did Early Christians Understand About the Resurrections?). The first for the saints at the time of Jesus’ return (Revelation 20:5-6; John 5:24; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:51-53), the second for others (Revelation 20:5a,11-12; John 5:25; cf. Matthew 11:23-24), and the third for the incorrigibly wicked and those who die at the end of the hundred years (Revelation 20:13b-14; Isaiah 65:20-23).

The Bible teaches at least three judgments and that “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). In this life, Christians are judged (1 Peter 4:17). A second judgment is the first part of the Great White Throne judgment (Revelation 20:11-12) which comes after the millennial reign of Jesus and His saints (Revelation 20:4-6). Later, in conjunction with it, one hundred years later (Isaiah 65:20) comes the final judgment including the dead in the sea and Death and Hades (Revelation 20:13-14), and anyone not found written in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15; Malachi 4:1-3; Psalm 37:38). Those whose names are found in the Book of Life will receive immortality and be part of God's family (Revelation 3:5, 21:22-27; Psalm 40:7-8; cf. Ephesians 3:14-15; Romans 8:9).

There will a resurrection of the just--the "better resurrection" (Hebrews 11:35).

There will be a resurrection of judgment, where those who believe they were cut off (or did not realize it as they were blinded) will have an opportunity for salvation.

There will be a third resurrection.

Most will be resurrected/transformed to immortal life and some resurrected to destruction and everlasting contempt.

Jesus taught multiple resurrections.

Jesus' disciples taught multiple resurrections

The second century church taught theses doctrines.

But many now teach against it.

Yet, these are doctrines that still should be taught today. And are so by the Continuing Church of God.

Christians should be looking forward to the resurrections.

Here is a link to a related sermon: Understanding the Resurrections.

Three articles of related interest may be Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God differs from most Protestants, Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis and Did Early Christians Believe that Humans Possessed Immortality?

Thiel B., Ph.D. What Did Early Christians Understand About the Resurrection? www.cogwriter.com (c) 2006 2007/2008/2010/2012/2013/2014/2015/2016/2017/2018/2019/ 2021 / 2022 / 2023 0103

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Third Resurrection Questions and Answers

In an email, I received some questions and provided brief answers in bold that some may find helpful:

Here are some additional questions that the answers to may help clarify the third resurrection.

At the second coming are any condemned to the second death at that time?  No Are any granted eternal life?  Yes.

Will God send any to the second death without them knowing God’s truth? No, all will receive an offer of salvation.

Will God give the gift of the Holy Spirit to everyone? All who accept.  If so, when?  When they accept, etc.

At the second coming there are still some that are alive – what happens to them?  They will live into the millennium.  When will the “books be opened” to them?  Most will get an opportunity then. Are they included in the 100 years? Those who do not knowingly accept or knowingly reject will be.

When God “opens the books” do all those that are resurrected understand God’s truth? They will hear it. Do they have the Holy Spirit?  Not necessarily if I understand what you are asking.  If they understand, are they able to repent at that time? Probably, if I understand this question correctly. If they are able to repent, and do, why must they live an additional 100 years?  To demonstrate that it is a real repentance, as well as to build character which will assist them after they are changed from mortal to immortal.

Other than the Unpardonable Sin, under what circumstances would one be sentenced to the second death? No other is stated.

Are the children born of the resurrected Saints (those given eternal life at the second coming) subject to the 100 years? Yes.

Are the children born of the resurrected “non-Saints” subject to the 100 years? Yes.

Are the children born of those that were living at the time of the second resurrection subject to the 100 years? Yes.

There are 7 billion people alive today, maybe 3.5 billion have already died (I’m guessing on that but I think it’s probably more). Of the 7 billion alive today many will die in the coming Biblical events. In the second resurrection of 10 billion will all those not of the “small flock” be subject to the 100 years? Basically yes. If not, what would be the determining factor in being subject to the 100 years? {committing the 'unpardonable sin'}

How does the Church know that it is not just those that are still alive at the second coming that are subject to the 100 years but also includes the billions resurrected at the second coming? We believe that is what the Bible teaches.  Please check out my article Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis.  While it does not have much discussion of the 100 years per se, it does explain the basis for why it fits. The hundred year period was also understood by the apostate Irenaeus--and since he claimed to learn a lot from Polycarp, it seems to me that (despite his limitations of certain matters) this is what the early COG believed that the Bible taught.

In the second resurrection there will be some whose name is not found written in the Book of Life. Isaiah says that the sinner, being 100 years old, will die accursed - therefore their name was not found written in the Book of Life. Why does God send someone from the second resurrection, whose name was not found written in the Book of Life, who is already accursed, to live an additional 100 years? He was not accursed at the beginning of the 100 years. He has became part of the incorrigibly wicked by the end of that time {he/she would have had an opportunity to change during that 100 years).