To the believer, beloved friends, "resurrection" is one of the brightest words in Scripture. You know the Lord Jesus declared himself to be "the resurrection and the life;" and such a blessed reality was it, that death could not reign in His presence. Search the Scriptures, and you will find that death never showed itself where the Son of God was. So emphatically was He "the resurrection and the life," that whether it were a little girl of twelve years in a house, a young man on a bier on the way to the place of graves, or one who was dead and stinking in the grave, it mattered not who it was or where it was, at the word of Jesus they lived again. And so important did the apostle Paul think the truth of the resurrection of the body, that his heart was on fire when he said, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." When certain persons at Corinth attacked this grand fundamental truth of the gospel, we find him at once grappling with it in the most decided and peremptory manner. He declares that if there be no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not raised; but that as Christ is risen (this one Man who was dead and buried in the sepulchre), He is risen as the firstfruits of others that were to follow. And so weighty did he feel this foundation truth of Scripture to be, that he asserts that there is no salvation, that we are yet in our sins, that all who have fallen asleep in Christ are perished, if Christ be not raised from the dead. He also sternly insists upon it as the truth of the living God, that "as by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead." Beloved friends, the resurrection of Christ from the dead is like the brightest and most glorious light rising upon the dark shades of Golgotha and the sepulchre wherein Jesus lay. It sheds its rays forward and backward. Backwardly this divine light reveals the perfect satisfaction that God Himself found in the sacrificial work of Him who bare our sins in His own body on the tree; of Him from whom God had to hide His face because our sin was upon Him, so that He cried out, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" It tells us of Him who on the third day was raised from the dead, — God accounting it a righteous thing to loose the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be holden of it; it tells us of the man Christ Jesus who had been dead, that He is alive again, and that for evermore. And, beloved friends, in connection with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead, He is invested by right with all power in heaven and in earth: He is Lord over the dead and over the living. "To this end," says the apostle in the fourteenth of Romans, "Christ both died and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living." So that the Lord Jesus Christ, now seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high, has the right to unlock the grave, as well as the power to raise every inhabitant out of it. And part of the work, at least, before the blessed Lord is this, to spoil death and empty every grave, and then to cast death and lades into the lake of fire; so that death will be subdued: for the testimony of both Old and New Testament Scriptures is, that "He shall swallow up death in victory." I lay these thoughts before you, beloved friends, at the very outset tonight, before we consider what the Scriptures teach about the first and last resurrections.
In the twentieth chapter of the Revelation, we have twice in the verses I have read, the words "first resurrection." This of itself ought to be enough for any one to conclude that there must be more than one resurrection of the human family. Otherwise why should it be called "first"? Some, I am aware, would feel a difficulty in receiving this, because their minds are prejudiced against this glorious truth. I propose tonight, before entering on our subject, to examine those Scriptures on which some suppose there is warrant for the idea so common, that there will be only one general resurrection and one general judgment. And I trust, before we conclude our search, that it will be clearly seen, not only that such a doctrine is without a vestige of Scripture authority, but that it is dishonouring to the Lord, injurious to souls, and opposed to the written word of God.
The passage which strikes me as calculated to have the greatest weight with a person desirous of defending the idea of one general resurrection, is found in the first and second verses of the twelfth chapter of Daniel. I will therefore refer to it at once. "And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people:" [observe "thy people;" that is, "the Jews" — Daniel's people. There were no others known in those days who would be associated with Daniel:] "and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. 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." Now observe that the words "thy people" are mentioned twice in the first verse. The period referred to is the period of the great tribulation, which I cannot now detain you to enter into; and what is brought out in the first verse in connection with it is, that some will be delivered out of it. We find this fact referred to over and over again in Scripture. Then mark the second verse; for this is the verse that I wish specially to examine at this time. "Many of them," not all of them, but many of Daniel's people; so you see, instead of it being a general resurrection of all nations, the circle includes only Daniel's people, and that not all, but many of them. "Many of them shall arise from the dust of the earth, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." Observe also that the time when this takes place is not when the wicked dead are judged; for that, as we shall see by-and-by, will be at the close of the millennium. Instead of that, it is immediately in connection with the great tribulation, which precedes the millennium. This proves that it takes place at least a thousand years before the judgment of the great white throne. Then there is another point, which is very important, in connection with the examination of this passage; viz., what we find in the twentieth chapter of Ezekiel. This shows that when the tribes of the children of Israel are brought back, (which they will be at the sounding of the great trumpet) that some will be purged out as rebels (put to shame), and others brought into the blessings of their land. "As I live, saith the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you: and I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face. Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord God. And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant: and I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I am the Lord. As for you, O house of Israel, thus saith the Lord God: Go ye, serve ye every one his idols, and hereafter also, if ye will not hearken unto me: but pollute ye my holy name no more with your gifts, and with your idols. For in mine holy mountain, in the mountain of the height of Israel, saith the Lord God, there shall all the house of Israel, all of them in the land, serve me: there will I accept them, and there will I require your offerings, and the firstfruits of your oblations, with all your holy things. I will accept you with your sweet savour, when I bring you out from the people, and gather you out of the countries wherein ye have been scattered: and I will be sanctified in you before the heathen. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall bring you into the land of Israel, into the country for the which I lifted up mine hand to give it to your fathers. And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled; and ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have wrought with you for my name's sake, not according to your wicked ways, nor according to your corrupt doings, O ye house of Israel, saith the Lord God." The point here is, that there will be a purging of those tribes that are brought back. They will all arise, as it were, from the dust of the earth, where they have been hidden. Some (the rebels) will be purged out, and others will experience the blessings of the millennial reign of the Messiah. The passage then in the twelfth of Daniel shows, first, that it is an action confined to Daniel's people; not all of them, but "many" of them. Secondly, that it occurs in connection with the great tribulation, which Scripture clearly teaches to be pre-millennial. Thirdly, the prophet Ezekiel speaks of a special judgment cutting off some, when the scattered tribes of Israel are gathered back into their own land. The prophet Amos also shows us that this purging or sifting of the ten tribes will take place before they reach the land; the result being that "all the sinners" are cut off in judgment, and others brought into blessing. "For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth. All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, which say, The evil shall not overtake nor prevent us." I ask then, Is there a shadow of evidence from these verses in Daniel to warrant the idea of a general resurrection?
In the thirteenth chapter of Matthew passages are found which are also considered by some to favour the view of a general resurrection. I refer, for instance, to the parable of the tares and the wheat. The explanation given of it by our Lord is, "The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world (age). The Son of man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear." In the first place, observe that there is not one word here about resurrection; and in the second place, that the ministry spoken of is that of angels. Whereas when we Christians are raised, we are told that it will be by the special and direct action of the Lord Himself. Remark also that the action here consists of taking all the bad away and leaving the good — taking out of His kingdom "all things that offend, and them which do iniquity." This is exactly the reverse of what will take place when Christ comes for us. The true exposition, I doubt not, is, that when the Lord Jesus Christ comes to introduce millennial blessings He will find abundance of wickedness on the earth. You know He is spoken of as coming "to judge the quick [that is, the living wicked] and the dead [that is, the wicked dead] at His appearing, and His kingdom." This is an action in relation to the living. The living wicked are taken away. Being only Satan's workmanship (tares), they are removed in judgment. And those who are God's true people on the earth at that time (when the Lord Jesus Christ comes with us at the beginning of the millennium,) will have their place of blessing on the earth. I ask then, Is there the slightest ground whatever for treating this passage as containing any warrant for a general resurrection of believers and unbelievers?
In the 25th chapter of Matthew, our Lord's well-known description of the sheep and the goats appears at first sight to favour the idea of a general resurrection. On considering the passage, however, you will find there is here also the entire absence of resurrection; not a single person judged is raised from the dead. Next, observe, there are four parties — the king, the sheep, the goats, and the king's brethren. So that, without proceeding further, we see there is nothing to favour the doctrine attempted to be deduced from it, of a simultaneous rising of the saved and unsaved to be judged at the great white throne. The chief person presented in this prophetic instruction is the Lord Jesus Christ, occupying His throne as King on the earth, having all nations before Him, and judging them for the manner in which they have treated the special ministry which He, the King, had sent forth. The judgment passed upon those who had not received the testimony of the King's brethren is a very summary one; they are consigned at once to everlasting punishment. But the righteous, those who believed the testimony, and therefore loved and treated His brethren who brought it kindly, go into life eternal. It is a sessional judgment which the Lord will hold in relation to the nations, and His "brethren" will be present. Observe also that the Lord says, "Come, ye blessed of my Father" — He does not say, "Blessed of your Father" — "inherit the kingdom prepared for you from" He does not say before, but from — "the foundation of the world." The Church, we know, is spoken of in Scripture as chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world; but these are blessed in the kingdom, as it is stated, prepared "from the foundation of the world." They inherit the kingdom. We shall be with Christ at that session; for, after the rapture, we shall be "for ever with the Lord." To sum up then the characteristics of this judgment, it is in connection with "the gospel of the kingdom," which a remnant of Jews will be stirred up by God to publish, after we have been caught up to meet the Lord in the air. They are Christ's "brethren" after the flesh. The "gospel of the kingdom" will consist of the glad tidings that Messiah is coming to establish on earth the kingdom so long prophesied of, when "the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea." All nations will then be blessed, according to God's promise to Abraham. They will therefore publish these glad tidings as a witness in all nations, as we are told in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, and the fourteenth verse. Some persons will receive their testimony, and, consequently, treat them kindly. Others will persecute, kill (as we find in the ninth verse of the sixth of Revelation), imprison them, and the like. When the King actually comes, He will judge accordingly. We have seen the results. Observe that the Lord fulfils His promise to Abram in His judgment — "I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee," as recorded in the twelfth chapter of Genesis and the third verse.
I will now, beloved friends, pass on to another Scripture, which is sometimes used as favouring the thought of a general judgment. In 2 Peter 3:10 we read, "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; 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." The reason why some persons misunderstand this passage is, they take it for granted that one day must be in prophetic language a period of twenty-four hours. This is not so. We are told just before, "that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." Now, if you connect this with what we read in the 20th of Revelation, you will find that the reign of the Lord in the millennium is to extend over a period of a thousand years. In the day of the Lord certain things are to take place. The elements will melt with fervent heat; the earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burned up. This is to take place, according to the 20th of Revelation, at the end of the thousand years. Thus we see how all these things can occur in the day of the Lord. There is, therefore, nothing in the passage that favours the thought of there being only one resurrection. The 31st verse of the 17th of Acts is also to be understood in a similar way. It is quite true that God "has appointed a day in the which He will judge the world in righteousness;" but when we see that the day will extend over a thousand years, it leaves ample room for Christ to judge the living at the beginning of that day, and to raise the wicked dead, and judge them at the close.
There is only one passage more on this point to which I will call attention. It is found in the first chapter of Revelation, 7th verse, "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen." I once heard this preached from by a servant of the Lord as the day of what he called the general resurrection and judgment. But, in the first place, observe that there is not one word about resurrection in it; and, in the second place, it speaks of the Lord's coming. And if you examine the passage regarding the judgment of the wicked dead at the great white throne, you will find that it says nothing about the coming of the Lord. There will be no coming then; and for this reason, — Christ will have been reigning over the earth for a thousand years, and this judgment will be held at the end of that period.
As I do not remember any other passage of Scripture which is advanced to favour the idea of what is called the general resurrection — that is, of believers and unbelievers, I will now endeavour to examine those texts which decidedly touch on the subject before us the first and last resurrections.
In the ninth of Mark the disciples were somewhat perplexed because the Lord had spoken of some rising from, the dead. They understood it to mean a rising from among the dead ones; for that is the true sense of the passage. They did not question the doctrine of a resurrection of the body. You know the Pharisees held that to be a part of their creed, although the Sadducees did not. We read in the tenth verse, "And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean." They evidently distinguished between the resurrection of the dead, and the rising from among the dead ones. It implied that some of the dead would rise, while others still remained in their graves. It was a rising from among the dead ones. In the twentieth of Luke the Lord gives an explanation of it. He is speaking on the subject of resurrection, and says in the thirty-fifth verse, "But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection." Now observe that it is those only who shall be accounted worthy to obtain the resurrection from among the dead ones who are referred to here. I call particular attention to this, because it at once sets aside the idea of there being a general resurrection of the saved and lost. These are clearly persons who shall be accounted worthy to obtain a resurrection from out of the dead ones; and the Lord speaks of them as children of God, children of the resurrection.
In the fourteenth chapter of Luke this doctrine is brought out still more clearly. In the fourteenth verse, after speaking of making a feast, and calling to it the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind, and not their rich neighbours, He says, "For thou shalt be recompensed" — When? "at the resurrection of the just." My beloved friends, let me intreat you to allow these words of the Lord to have their due weight upon your hearts and minds. They are not my words; they are the Lord's. He said, "Thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just." And, I ask, does that favour the idea, or is it not directly opposed to the idea of a general resurrection? If there is to be, as some say, and as I was taught for many years, a general resurrection of the saved and lost, a kind of general assize, what would be the meaning of the saying, "Thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just"?
But let us turn to another passage in our Lord's ministry — the fifth chapter of the gospel by John, and examine it carefully. In the twenty-first verse Jesus says, "For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth [that is, makes alive] whom He will;" and afterwards we are taught that He makes them alive first in reference to he soul, and secondly in reference to the body. In his part of the chapter He speaks of two things quickening and judging. "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which sent Him. Verily, verily, I say unto you [mark this; it is the Judge Himself who here speaks, — the very One who is going to judge the world], He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me [that is, the Father], hath [not shall have, but hath], everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation [or shall not come into judgment, as the word might be better rendered]; but is passed from death unto life." Oh the blessedness of these words of Jesus! And then the Lord goes on to say, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live." Now observe, the Lord here speaks of Himself as quickening, or giving life, to whom He will, and the action is what He is now doing — giving life to dead souls by His word. "The hour cometh, and now is — now, tonight, all through this dispensation. But some may say, "This is an hour." True; but it is certain that this hour has extended over a period of more than 1800 years. Further down in the same chapter He says, "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation." Be careful to mark that Jesus is here speaking of Himself as having power to empty every grave, and that He will do it by His word. Every dead person in the grave shall hear His voice, and shall come forth — every person, without exception. But at what time will they come forth? Will it not be at different times? What are the words? "They that have done good, unto the resurrection of life;" this is certainly one resurrection; "and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation [or judgment];" this is another resurrection. Well, indeed, may it be said in the twentieth of Revelation, "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection." The question may be asked, If there be two resurrections, does Scripture teach us how long the period will be between the resurrection of life and the resurrection of damnation, or judgment? The twentieth of Revelation gives the answer: "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished." This is the period, then, that will intervene between "the first resurrection" — "the resurrection of life," or "the resurrection of the just" and the resurrection of those who are raised to damnation or judgment. But some one, perhaps, will refer me to the fact of both the actions in this verse occupying only an "hour:" "The hour cometh." But when we remember that "the hour" mentioned in the twenty-fifth verse has already extended over 1800 years, no difficulty will remain as to the extent of "the hour" in this verse.
Nothing then, beloved friends, I think, can be clearer, than that our blessed Lord, during His ministry in the days of His flesh, taught that there would be more than one resurrection. He speaks distinctly, in the passage to which I have just referred, of two resurrections; and this perfectly agrees with what we find in the twentieth chapter of Revelation, where we have the "first resurrection," and the living again of the rest of the dead a thousand years after. It is true we have not the expression, last resurrection; but we know this will be the last, because when it takes place the heaven and the earth flee away, the elements melt with fervent heat; and this is followed by "a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."
With regard to the passage in the twentieth chapter of the Revelation, the fourth verse begins by saying, "I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them;" . . . and then we get at the end of the next verse, "This is the first resurrection." This is the only place in Scripture in which the first resurrection is defined; and I entreat your attention for a few moments while we consider the passage.
It is marvellous that some should have thought that the "first resurrection" is merely a resurrection of principles. But when we find "souls" that have been separated from their bodies by death spoken of, and then living again, and reigning with Christ a thousand years, no question can be left on the mind in concluding that they are persons.
The first resurrection, observe, is not one simultaneous rising. This is where some have made a mistake. You do not therefore find, when Paul speaks of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that the dead in Christ shall rise first, and those in Christ who are living upon the earth shall be changed, and go up to meet the Lord in the air, — you do not find him saying this is the first resurrection. No. It clearly forms part of the first resurrection; but the apostle is careful that he does not call it the first resurrection. In fact, as I have said, you get the first resurrection defined nowhere else in Scripture, except in the twentieth of the Revelation. There we have certain classes of persons put before us, then a short parenthesis, and then the words, "This is the first resurrection." The fourth verse, therefore, in the twentieth chapter sets before us the first resurrection, and in it there are three distinct companies of persons embraced. First we have, "I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them." This is one company. Those of you who are familiar with the book of Daniel will remember, that in the seventh chapter, when the Ancient of days comes, the thrones, as we read there, are cast down. But I believe all critics are agreed that it means the thrones are set, for that period introduces us to the beginning of the establishment of the kingdom — the reign of Christ. Taking it to mean, therefore, that the thrones are set, we find (in Daniel) there is not any person upon them; they are represented as being vacant, just because it was not within Daniel's province to prophecy about us. But you find in the Revelation that they are occupied; there is a company of persons sitting upon them, and they are judging. Who are those people? If you turn to the fourth chapter of the Revelation, you will see a company of people there sitting upon seats, or thrones; they have crowns; they are clothed in white raiment; and are worshippers. This precisely describes those who will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air — those who can sing, "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father." I apprehend then that this first company consists of the heavenly saints — those who are caught up to meet the Lord in the air when He comes. With regard to judgment being given to them, you remember the apostle, in the sixth chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians, says, "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?" And again, "Know ye not that we shall judge angels?" So you see that those who are translated to meet the Lord in the air are associated with Christ when He comes, not only in His reign, but also in judgment.
After we are translated, we find in the sixth chapter that the seals are opened; and when the fifth seal is opened, we have mention of the "souls under the altar," — those who were "slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held." These, I doubt not, are the people who will come upon the scene after the saints have been caught up to meet the Lord in the air; for God has not given up the earth. He will have another testimony after we are gone. A remnant of Israel, to which I was referring just now when examining the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, will next be brought out as God's witnesses. They will go forth with the gospel of the kingdom. You will say, How do you know they are Jews? Because the language of those "souls" who have been martyred, and are under the altar, is, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" They do not ask the Lord how long before He is coming, but they ask for vengeance upon their enemies. Now no Christian — mark! — would be warranted in indulging a spirit like that. It would be a wicked thing for him to do so. The Christian is commanded to follow Christ, — to love His enemies. But it was quite consistent for a righteous Jew (and so it will be by-and-by) to deal in righteousness in this way, "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth," as referred to by our Lord. These martyred people are evidently in this spirit, and therefore on Jewish ground. White robes are given them, and they are told to rest for a season, till their brethren also shall be killed as they were, because "the man of sin" is coming upon the scene, when many more will be slaughtered. We read then in this fourth verse of the twentieth chapter, "And I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God." This is precisely what we have in the sixth chapter with reference to the "souls under the altar," and I have sought to show that these come upon the scene after we are gone, and that though they lose all their expected blessings in the earth, God in His mercy will give them a place in the reign with Christ.
This, however, leads me to another point, which may be a difficulty to some. The inspired writer says, "I saw the souls of them," etc. He speaks of them as "souls." But the subsequent language clears up any difficulty on this point. We are told that they "lived and reigned;" that is, they "lived again," giving us quite the idea of their having bodies given to them — living again, and reigning with Christ, as persons. But this is not all. There is another company in this resurrection, and the reference to them in the fourth verse of the twentieth of Revelation commences after those we have just considered. It should be read in this way — "And those which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived [or lived again] and reigned with Christ a thousand years." But I should be anticipating the subject of the next lecture if I were now to dwell upon this passage. Suffice it to say that this third company consists of those who will be slaughtered under the oppression and diabolical wickedness of "the man of sin" on account of their faithfulness to God. They will lose everything on the earth in fidelity to the living and true God, and they too will have a place in the first resurrection. They will live again, and reign with Christ a thousand years. After this we have a passage intervening — a parenthesis which says, "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished;" and then we have, "This is the first resurrection." So that this includes those who shall have died in the faith of Jesus up to the time of His appearing. It embraces all saints who will be with Christ when He comes in flaming fire taking vengeance. The Lord Jesus will not come with His saints till the man of sin is in the full tide of popularity, and Satanic power, and wickedness; for that consummation of diabolical iniquity upon the earth will bring the Lord personally from heaven to hurl this monster of impiety alive into the lake of fire for ever.
We have thus considered the Scripture definition of "the first resurrection." We marvel not that it is added, "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection." There is not a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation who will not be there. I do not mean those who so unmeaningly use the common expression, "Of course I believe in the Saviour." But what I mean is, that there is not a self-condemned sinner who has believed with the heart on the Son of God, who died on the cross to save sinners, but will be there. And for this reason. He has received God's gift of eternal life now, and that life is Christ; and where Christ is there he must be; for Christ is his life. Therefore, "when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory."
Hence, "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection." To be associated with Christ in the reign for a thousand years is the point that is spoken of here; but we know from other Scriptures that we are to be "for ever with the Lord." Only think of that! For ever like the Lord! for ever with the Lord! No more sorrow, not another tear Nothing but unclouded joy! Uninterrupted peace, and rest, and blessing, for ever and ever! So much for the first resurrection.
In the fifth verse we read, "The rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished." The eleventh and following verses give us the details of the last resurrection. We read, "I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." This is what our Lord calls the resurrection of damnation, or judgment. Every dead sinner will be there — those who have died without Christ, who were dead in trespasses and sins. These are the dead, small and great. Those who have received Christ as their Saviour will have been raised before. But you find here the dead without exception. I cannot see that there is a single saved person standing before our Lord in this resurrection of judgment: they are called the dead. They have died without Christ, and therefore they will all be judged, and judged too according to their works.
It is a grand and glorious truth of Scripture, that the true believer will not be judged about salvation. This is plainly taught in the ninth chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews. In the two last verses we read, "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many." We thus see that Christ took our sins, and consequently death and judgment, upon Himself so that what is set before those who are in Christ is not judgment but glory. "To them that look for Him shall He appear the second time, without sin unto salvation." There is no question now as to the believer's security. We know that he is already saved. Yes, as much as he can be, except his body. He has the present possession of eternal life. He has the divine nature. He has Christ in him. He has received the gift of the Holy Ghost. He is one with Christ in heavenly places, seated in Christ but he has not the redemption of the body. Therefore what the believer looks for is (thank God) not to be judged; but he looks for Christ to come and give him the redemption of the body. Was not Christ judged for him? Did not Christ die in his stead? Was not the untold suffering of Christ unto death, when hanging on that tree, God's judgment and condemnation of sin? Were not his iniquities laid upon Christ, that they might never be brought to light again? And does not God say, "Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more"?
How can there be, then, another question about them? God never even brings them to remembrance. They are gone — judged, put away by the death of Christ. A person who understood what the death of the Son of God upon the cross was would never dream about being judged for his sins. If Christ's sacrifice were clearly apprehended, such a thought would never enter his mind. Who was it that hung there? Was He not the spotless Son of the Father, in truth and love; who knew no sin; who was in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin? Was He not a Lamb without spot or blemish, who had nothing against Him personally for which He could be judged? Was He not indeed the beloved Son, in whom the Father was well pleased? And just because of this, was He not a suited person for a sacrifice for sin — a fit substitute for sinners? Blessed be God, He once and for ever settled salvation for us on Calvary; settled it through that one sacrifice for sins which was once offered — the substitute for the sinner that believes. Therefore our sins have been judged, and the wrath of God has spent itself upon Jesus for them upon Jesus His beloved Son, that we might be saved from all our guilt, from all our iniquity, our secret sins, open sins yea more, from ourselves. Jesus Christ was condemned and put to death on the cross for it all. He who knew no sin was made sin for us. And God raised Him up again on the third day, as One "not possible to be holden of death" — in the infinite glory, perfection, and spotlessness of His blessed person because the whole question of sin and condemnation as to the believer had been once and for ever met, for ever judicially and righteously settled. I say therefore that it brings in question the whole value of the atoning work of Christ, for a believer to suppose that he is going to be judged for his sins. I entreat you to banish such a thought from your minds. I beseech you to consider how it dishonours the Lord, how it takes away from the glory of that divine work which He has wrought for us, and how it tarnishes the brightness of that blessed truth expressed by "It is finished," when Jesus bowed His head in death. Think also how it refuses the truth of the living God, who says, "Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." Consider too how it sets aside the testimony of the Holy Ghost — "As it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation." It is for Christ that you, dear believers, are called to look, with death and judgment behind you. Look back on the cross then, dear friends, and see your sins completely judged and blotted out, and the whole question of condemnation once and for ever settled. Look up to the throne of heaven, and see how God, instead of turning away and hiding His face from His blessed Son, as He did upon the cross, has since crowned Him with glory and honour, and looks upon Him with ineffable delight, as the one in whom He finds perfect satisfaction, and changeless rest.
Beloved, think of these things, I beseech you. We know that the unbeliever is to be judged. It is certain too that he will be judged according to his works. Who can bear that? It is also quite certain that there is not a single unbeliever in this room, if he goes on in his sins, rejecting Christ, no matter what he professes, or what his position may be, but must go to judgment, and appear before the great white throne. Whether "small" or "great," if he trusted not in Christ, he must stand before Him when the books will be opened. The resurrection of damnation — the resurrection of judgment — must take place. The body may have mouldered to dust in the grave, so that no human eye may be able to trace a particle of it, worms may have fed upon it, still He who by His word raised up the stinking Lazarus from the tomb, saying, "Lazarus, come forth!" will raise up that person, whoever he may be, out of the grave; because the purpose of God is that the works of the devil may be destroyed by the Lord Jesus Christ, and that death be swallowed up in victory. Not only is God the God of all grace, but He is the God of truth, the God of holiness, the righteous God; a just God, and no respecter of persons. He hates sin. Every sinner who has continued in unbelief must come up at the resurrection of judgment. And oh, beloved friends, do you see where you are hurrying? How can you bear to think of that awful time? Some of you may have been scoffing, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming?" We are not surprised to hear of people scoffing. We are not surprised at hearing persons say, "What do these people mean by preaching the coming of the Lord?" It is not uncommon to hear scoffing. What saith the Scripture? "There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, [that is, doing their own wills,] and saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." But I trust if there are any such here tonight, that God in His mercy will meet with them, as He met with a dear woman many years ago. "They tell me," she said, "that these people are preaching about the Lord coming on the earth again." She doubtless thought it was all nonsense. She said, "I will go and hear them." Accordingly she went. The testimony that night was to the value of the blood of the Lamb, as to the perfect peace and security it gave. It was pointed out that when Christ came those sheltered beneath that blood would be caught up to meet Him in the air. That night God blessed His word to her soul, so that instead of scoffing, from that time she loved and served Christ, and delighted to think of His coming. And I do trust that these lectures may not only be helpful and profitable to the dear children of God, in leading them to examine more carefully what the Scripture says with regard to these things, but that any who come into this Hall unsaved may hear the sweet voice of Jesus, believe on Him, and obtain eternal salvation.
Dear friends, you see you cannot escape the resurrection of judgment, if you reject Christ. If you still grasp the world, if you still refuse salvation through the Saviour's precious blood, you must appear before the great white throne and be judged. But may God in His infinite mercy so touch your precious souls, that you may be led to enquire from this moment whether you will be in the resurrection of life, or in the resurrection of damnation or judgment.
Some time ago I was asked to visit a schoolmistress who had been a professor of Christianity for many years. She said, "I wanted to tell you that I was much struck the other night with the two resurrections. I thought over the subject when I came home, and asked myself the question, In which of these resurrections shall I be found? And," added she, "I was forced to conclude that being such a wicked sinner I must be in the resurrection of damnation; and I have been very unhappy ever since." And so she continued, until she was enabled to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as her Saviour. When God, by the power of His blessed Spirit, brought her to look to Jesus and trust in Him, she found peace. Then she could rest upon the precious assurance, that "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." We soon heard that she had peace with God; and some of us walked with her as a Christian for several years, until she was called to fall asleep in Jesus. When the Lord comes, and we are caught up to meet Him in the air, we expect to find her in the first resurrection. May God bless His own word and lead you, dear souls, to examine the Scriptures, and see whether the things you have heard tonight are according to the unalterable word of God!
Let me, in conclusion, say one word to the dear children of God. In the first epistle of John we read; Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things;" and in a subsequent verse it is stated, "Ye need not that any man teach you." I have a reason for putting these Scriptures before you. Since these lectures were commenced a person said to me, "We need to have a certain class of gifted persons to explain the Scriptures to others, in order to have the true meaning of them." But this Scripture shows that we need no such thing; so that, supposing you never had another teacher, you have the all-sufficiency of the word of God, and the all-sufficiency of the Holy Ghost, who dwelleth in you. The Lord has certainly gifted some as teachers, and He uses them; but you are not absolutely dependent on them. "Ye need not that any man teach you." Believing that teachers are absolutely needed is where many dear children of God go wrong, and why they make no more progress in divine things. They depend upon their minister, or their teacher; upon this man's commentary, or that man's book. I am thankful to be taught anything of God through any person or channel He pleases. Observe, through, but not from, any person. The distinction is obvious. If God sends a teacher, let us thank Him; if He speaks to us through, any one, let us receive the teaching from God. But having His Spirit, the unction of the Holy One, we are told that we do not need any man to teach us. That is, we are not absolutely dependent on man — "any man;" for if we were shut up in a prison, or did not see another face, as we have the Bible and the Holy Ghost, we "have an unction from the Holy One, and know all things." We do not, therefore, positively need any man to teach us. But because dear Christians do not see this, they look so much to what men say, and try to satisfy themselves with the thoughts, opinions, and writings of good men. They say, "This is a good commentary; we can depend upon it;" or, "He is a very popular writer, and is very safe." Because, I say, they look so much to what men say, and rely upon such things, they get more or less away from communion with God, and the teaching of the Holy Ghost, and do not make real progress in divine truths. Do not mistake me. I am most thankful for all preachers and teachers that the Lord sends, and glad to hear them when I have the opportunity; but when I hear, I feel I ought to judge by the word of God how far what is advanced is according to God's mind. We can do this, because we have "an unction from the Holy One" to "know all things;" and having this, I repeat, we are not put into the place of being absolutely dependent upon any man to teach us. Our responsibility is to the Lord. He has given us His word. He has given us too the Holy Ghost; and those will be intelligent and devoted Christians who can look above men's heads — who look straight up to the blessed Lord, and, opening His written word before Him, can from their hearts thank Him for it; and, relying upon the teaching of the Holy Ghost, expect from Him an understanding to understand the Scriptures. I have never yet seen one who has taken this humble and child-like ground who has not received much blessing from the Lord.