There is a false doctrine that professes that every human being will be present to stand before God at a general resurrection in the future. This doctrine concerns the white throne judgment mentioned in Rev 20:11-15. However, while there is certainly a resurrection of the dead to appear at this judgment, it is not a resurrection that will include everybody. By the time the white throne judgment comes around, there will have already been six other resurrections.
Simply stated, the reason for this false doctrine is to make you believe that God is going to raise everybody at the same time and judge them based upon their “good” works. After all, the white throne judgment is a judgment of works. Men that preach this doctrine believe that they are good enough to pass this judgment along with the people that have been following them. But they are wrong. And the way you can tell is by what the Bible says concerning resurrection.
The first resurrection in the Bible (not a temporary raising of a dead man as in the case of Lazarus, Jn 11) is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. His resurrection is recorded in Matt 28:1-6. It took his disciples by surprise (Lk 24) because they didn’t believe Jesus’ preaching and the words of God. If it had not been for this resurrection, there is no way that any of us could have been saved (1 Cor 15). His resurrection was literal, visible and physical, unlike the heresies professed by many of the denominations and cult religions (Jn 20:27-29).
The second resurrection in the Bible is the resurrection of the Old Testament saints. Their resurrection is recorded in Matt 27:50-53. Their souls came up out of Abraham’s bosom where they had been held captive from the time of their death until the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (Lk 16:22-23; Eph 4:8-9). In the Old Testament, saved people did not go directly to heaven after they died because Jesus had not yet been raised. So, as soon as Jesus came up and ascended to heaven, they went up with him (Jn 20:17; Matt 28:9). Their bodies are still in their graves (Acts 2:29). The appearance of some of their bodies after the resurrection of Jesus was temporary.
The third resurrection in the Bible is the resurrection of the New Testament believer. Our resurrection is recorded in Eph 2:1-6. It may surprise you to know that you have already been raised with Christ and seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Your soul has been made a literal part of the body of Christ, a member of his flesh and of his bones (Eph 5:30-32). And since his body is seated next to the throne of God (Heb 12:2), you are seated there in him. However, your body is not there yet.
So, the fourth resurrection in the Bible is the rapture of the New Testament saints. This “resurrection” is recorded in 1 Thes 4:13-18. It is the resurrection of our bodies which will be raised in the likeness of Jesus Christ to live eternally with him (1 Jn 3:1-3). Once our bodies are raised, then we will go through the judgment seat of Christ to be judged for everything done in the body, whether it is good or bad (Rom 14:10-12; 2 Cor 5:10; 1 Cor 3:11-15).
The fifth resurrection in the Bible is the rapture of the Tribulation saints. This “resurrection” is recorded in Matt 24:31; Rev 11:12; Rev 7:9-14. After Tribulation saints die, their souls will be in heaven waiting on their bodies to be raptured (Rev 6:9-11). It is very important to see the difference between this rapture and the rapture of the Church. That way you won’t get messed up with the false doctrine of believing that the Church will go through the Tribulation.
The sixth resurrection in the Bible is the physical resurrection of the Old Testament saints. In other words, this will be the eternal resurrection of their bodies (Jer 30:9). This resurrection is recorded in Eze 37:1-14. They will come up at the Second Advent and inhabit the earth forever.
And finally, the seventh resurrection in the Bible is the resurrection of the unsaved dead at the white throne judgment. This resurrection is recorded in Rev 20:11-15. Without getting too complicated, there are actually some saved people that come up at this judgment (Jn 5:28-29; Dan 12:2). They are the ones who will be saved during the millennial reign of Jesus and who were, therefore, unable to come up at any resurrection prior to the white throne. The rest of those who are raised will be damned, for they were not saved.
So, the next time you here a preacher referring to a general resurrection of the dead in the future, you will know that he has missed a tremendous amount of doctrine in his Bible. It is for this reason that many who have attended church for many years are still babes when it comes to understanding God’s words. If they could only grasp this doctrine and many others like it, imagine how many would grow and become productive and fruit-bearing Christians (Eph 4:11-16). Imagine how many more who attend church would actually be saved, because they would not be waiting on God to judge them for their “good” works (Eph 2:8-9).
Hope this helps,
Pastor Bevans Welder