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Resurrection And Accountability


A review of the references to resurrection and accountability in the Old Testament Scriptures gives us an appreciation of the state of knowledge that was current among godly Israelites when the Lord became incarnate. This is illustrated by Martha who, in her conversation with the Lord after the death of Lazarus, showed that she believed in resurrection and that she associated it with a future time which she described as the "last day" (John 11:24). The Lord revealed to her that He was the Resurrection and the Life, and effectively demonstrated the truth of this by calling Lazarus forth from the tomb.


Man's knowledge is limited to the confines of his earthly experience. An understanding of what lies beyond this life can only come to him by revelation. The Lord's knowledge was not limited. He could and did speak to men of heavenly things as well as of earthly things for He had come from heaven and had brought with Him a knowledge of things beyond the bounds of human experience (John 3:11-13). His authoritative teaching illuminated truths that had been seen only in shadowy form in the dimmer light of Old Testament revelation. The twin truths of universal resurrection and universal accountability figured prominently in His teaching. He taught unequivocally that "all that are in the tombs shall hear His voice and shall come forth" (John 5:28). He revealed that not only is He the One who will effect their resurrection, but He is also the One to whom they are accountable, for the Father "hath given all judgement unto the Son" (John 5:22). So when men stand before the bar of God, as assuredly they must, the One who will preside at all the various judgements will be the Son of Man, uniquely fitted for the work of judging men because He is both human and divine (John 5:27).


Men may in their own lifetime reap the reward of their evil doing, for God judges men here and now in respect of certain sins (1 Pet. 1:17), and the principle of sowing and reaping is frequently seen operating in a person's lifetime (Gal. 6:7). Often, however, wicked men seem to prosper and their lawlessness is apparently unchecked, but they will ultimately be accountable to God. There is for them a solemn day of reckoning. The Lord Jesus solemnly warned

men that in the day of judgement they will give an account of every idle word they have spoken (Mat. 12:36). The divine strategy in deferring judgement until the end of the age is clearly set out in the parable of the tares and the wheat and the parable of the drag net (Mat. 13:24-30, 36-43, 47-50).


The resurrection of the dead will be a phased operation. Paul describes it as "each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; then they that are Christ's, at His coming" (1 Cor. 15:23). The Lord in resurrection, is viewed as the firstfruits of a great harvest yet to be reaped from among the dead. The first group to be raised will be the "dead in Christ", the believers in Christ during the present dispensation. They will be raised in incorruptible bodies to join with believers alive at that time whose mortal bodies will put on immortality, for both must experience a change to fit them for being eternally with the Lord (1 Cor. 15:51-54). The Lord, in His Upper Room ministry, promised that He would return to claim His own and take them to be with Himself (John 14:2,3). The powerlessness of death to invalidate the fulfilment of that promise was indicated in the precious truth He uttered prior to the raising of Lazarus, "He that believeth on Me, though he die, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth on Me shall never die" (John 11:25,26).

The themes of resurrection and judgement were linked together in the Lord's teaching because they are closely related in the outworking of divine purposes. After their resurrection believers will appear before the Judgement Seat of Christ to give an account of the things done in the body and to have their lives and service assessed. The principles of accountability of the servant to his Lord and of reward for faithfulness are aptly set out in the parable of the pounds (Luke 19:11-26). The reckoning the Lord had with his servants resulted in reward or loss of reward. In the parable of the talents, punishment as well as loss is experienced, for this parable is more directly related to the time of the Lord's return to set up His kingdom on earth (Mat. 25:14-30;16:27).

The nations of the earth will be gathered together for judgement prior to the setting up of the Lord's kingdom. With unerring discrimination the Lord will segregate them into two classes, righteous, and unrighteous, with the precision of a shepherd separating sheep from goats (Mat. 25:31.46). Those accounted righteous will enter into His kingdom but the unrighteous will then be consigned to the place of eternal punishment that was specifically prepared for Satan and his angels. These facts were plainly delineated by the Lord in His teaching. At that point in time the resurrection, which is described as the "first resurrection", will be accomplished. It will be essentially a resurrection of the just only, but not encompassing all who will eventually be raised to share in eternal blessings. Those raised will include Old Testament saints and the martyrs of the tribulation period that was terminated by the Lord's return to earth. The life and service of those raised will be reviewed and assessed by the Lord and appropriate rewards given (see Rev. 11:18; 20:4-6). Some will be rewarded by being given places of honour and responsibility in the administration of the Lord's world-wide kingdom. The administrators will apparently be drawn from the various preceding dispensations. The Lord referred to the role of different persons and groups participating in that kingdom (Mat. 8:12; Luke 22:28-30).


Of the first resurrection John wrote, "Blessed ... is he that hath part in the first resurrection: over these the second death hath no power"(Rev. 20:6). It is a selective resurrection and those not affected by it will be raised at the end of the thousand-year reign to appear at the Great White Throne judgement and witness the present earth and heaven being rolled up and removed like a worn-out garment (Heb. 1:10-12; Rev. 20:11-15; Mat. 24:35). This dramatic climax was before the Lord when He uttered the sober words of John 5:28,29. The

solemnity of the terminal judgement day defies description. Then the eternal destinies of countless thousands will be made known and justice will be clearly seen to be done. The God-appointed Judge will have all the facts in His possession and the heavenly archives will provide a complete record of the works of all who will be arraigned before that judgement throne (Rev. 20:11-13). For some the degree of punishment in that awful place of eternal torment, the lake of fire, will be severer than for others, for God holds men responsible to respond appropriately to the enlightenment given to them. That day will reveal the repentance displayed by some in a day of limited opportunity and the impenitence of others in a day of great opportunity. These principles were enunciated by the Lord in reference to Chorazin and Bethsaida, Tyre and Sidon, the men of Nineveh and the Queen of the South (Mat. 11:20-24; 12:38-42). Special notice is taken of one book of crucial importance that will be opened at that final judgement scene - "the Book of Life" (Rev. 20:12). In that reference volume the names of all who are destined to enjoy eternal blessedness are recorded (Rev. 20:15). The Lord's words in John 5:28,29 and the account in Revelation 20 clearly infer that there will be some from among those raised in that final resurrection whose names will be found recorded in the Book of Life. The confidence that Abraham expressed in divine justice when he uttered those memorable words, "shall not the Judge of all the earth do right"? (Gen. 18:25) will be fully vindicated in the judgement of that great day.

The One who presides at all the various judgements is also the one and only Saviour, and all who eventually enjoy eternal happiness will do so because of the merits of His crosswork and not through their own merits.