Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Salvation and Eschatological Topics

 

The two resurrections

The issue of resurrection confuses many people who are not familiar with the teaching of the Church.  They read in the Holy Bible about a first and a second death, or a first and a second resurrection, and the views that they formulate are many and various.  In this article, we shall attempt to explain this issue in brief, with the aid of the experience of the saints throughout time.

Spiritual Death and Spiritual Resurrection

When God made man “in His likeness”, He had also warned man that he must not eat the fruit of a specific tree.  God had said to him:  “On the day that you eat from this (tree) you shall die, without fail.”  (Genesis 2: 17).
And yet, Adam lived on, for many more years after he had eaten from that tree. (Genesis 5: 5).
So, what happened?  Did God lie to Adam? Or was God perhaps referring to a different kind of death, and not the biological death that we are familiar with?

In Genesis 2: 7, it says about the creation of man: “And He (God) blew into his (Adam’s) nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.”  Now, why does it say “living soul”?  Is there such a thing as a “dead soul”?  And if there is, when is a soul “dead”?

The holy fathers teach us that the above verse does not describe how God gave life to a dead body, but that He gave Adam the Holy Spirit, which vitalized him spiritually.  So, when Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, he lost the Holy Spirit that kept him spiritually alive and he thence became “spiritually dead” – a “dead soul”.

This is where we identify the meaning behind the Christian baptism, which makes man a living soul again, just as Adam was, prior to his downfall. We see this phrased in Ephesians 2: 5,6 also:  “And while we were dead on account of sins, it vitalized us through Christ….and it resurrected us with Him..”

These words are spoken by the apostle Paul, without him being biologically dead yet.  So he is obviously not speaking of a physical resurrection here, but a spiritual one.

Or are you unaware that those of us who were baptized in Christ, were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried along with Him, through this baptism into His death, so that –just as Christ arose from the dead through the glory of the Father- so shall we walk in a newness of life. For, if we became conjoined to the likeness of His death, so we shall also be (conjoined), to His resurrection.   Knowing this, that our old person was co-crucified in order to abolish the body of sin; that we shall no longer be enslaved to sin…. so, if we die along with Christ, we believe that we shall (one day) live with Him.” (Romans 6: 3 - 8).

With Holy Baptism therefore, man is resurrected Spiritually.  This also appears in the verse of Acts 2: 38: “Repent, I say, and be baptized, each one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the absolution of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

So, that which Adam lost when he sinned - which rendered him Spiritually Dead – can be attained by man, through Holy Baptism. It is the “gift of the Holy Spirit”; it is the “rebirth”, of which the Lord Jesus Christ had spoken to Nicodemus, in John 3: 3 - 8: “if one is not born of of water and Spirit, he is not able to enter the kingdom of God.”

Spiritual Death, therefore, is when someone loses the Holy Spirit, and Spiritual Resurrection is when he re-acquires it.

 

Bodily Death and Bodily Resurrection

As for the death of the body, there is no need to go into much detail, as we are all familiar with it. So, just as Spiritual Death is the separation of the soul from the Holy Spirit, in the same sense, “the body without spirit is dead”.  (James 2: 26).

The word “resurrection” means “setting upright again”. But, for something to be set upright again, it must have previously fallen. In this resurrection, that which falls and “returns to the ground” is the body. (Ecclesiastes 12:7). This is what is “set upright again” during the “resurrection”.  This is why Protestantism (mainly) is incorrect in waiting for something it calls “resurrection”, yet not believing that this will regain their bodies. They give a vague description of a certain “celestial Paradise” and of their ascent to heaven, but without ever clarifying any of these.

But for Christians, the Spiritual resurrection through baptism is not enough; in fact, they await “the redemption of their body”: “..and we, who have our beginning in the Spirit, we too sigh within ourselves, awaiting the adoption, the redemption of our bodies…..” (Romans 8: 23).

For Christians, a paradise of souls is not enough; because, as God had intended it from the moment of man’s creation, the physical body will also be a part of that paradise.  It isn’t only the souls of people that suffered and struggled in their lifetime; the bodies of Christians also participated. Similarly, it wasn’t only the souls of the irreverent that sinned, but their bodies also. Thus, whatever the soul is going to receive, the body must also receive, be it a blessing or a curse.  And, just as God created the earth for man to live on, it is on this same earth, only renovated, that man shall live on, forever. (Revelations 21: 1,2).

“…creation itself shall also be liberated from the bondage of deterioration, into the freedom of the light of God’s children”. (Romans 8: 21). “According to the promise of God, we await new skies and a new earth.” (Peter II, 3: 13).
Just like the rest of creation, the resurrected body will also be imperishable: “the dead will be resurrected imperishably, and we (the living) shall be transformed”.
(Corinthians I, 15: 52).

Then, just as the Lord Jesus Christ was on earth but simultaneously in heaven, (John 3: 13), so will be the resurrected Saints; while they shall be on earth, they will also live as denizens of heaven – which is something that already occurs, even now. (Ephesians 2: 6;  Hebrews 11: 16, 12: 22,23; Revelations 20: 4 - 6).

 

First resurrection and second death

In Revelations 20: 4 - 6, three groups of people are described as seated on thrones and reigning together with the Lord Jesus Christ. They are the Christians who died during various persecutions, the Christians who will die under the beast, and a group that is mentioned first of all, but is not described in detail. These three groups of people constitute the whole Church, which will eventually receive the kingdom along with the Lord Jesus Christ.

In these verses we read:
´´4. And I saw thrones. And they sat upon them, and (the authority of) judgment was given to them; and the souls of those slaughtered for testifying for Jesus and for the word of God; and those who did not bow in worship to the beast or his image, nor received his engraved mark on their forehead and their hand; and they lived and reigned together with the Christ for a thousand years.

5. The rest of the dead did not live until the thousand years were finished.  This is the first resurrection.

6. Fortunate and blessed is the one who has a place in the first resurrection; the second death shall have no power over them, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ and they shall reign with Him for those one thousand years.

These verses are naturally not referring to a future situation in a 1000-year interim kingdom per se, as certain Adventist religions wrongly teach. The verse speaks of current situations : even at the time the Book of Revelations was being written. That is why verse 6 says: the one who HAS a place in the first resurrection”.  

It is a fact, that the apostle Paul was referring to this same resurrection -as we saw above- when writing his Epistle to Ephesians 2: 5,6: And we, who were dead on account of sins, were vitalized by it through Christ….and it raised us along with Him, and it seated us in the heavens in Jesus Christ..”

The apostle Paul - and the others who were like him – were already a part of the first resurrection. In this same resurrection, every person has a part who receives the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and, being a new man, walks in a new life.

So, the first resurrection is the Spiritual Resurrection. It is first, because it precedes the bodily resurrection:

“..and we, who have our beginning in the Spirit, we too sigh within ourselves, awaiting the adoption, the redemption of our bodies…..” (Romans 8: 23).
Consequently, the second resurrection is the bodily one.

The verse of Revelations 20: 6 however, says of those who partake in the first resurrection: “the second death has no authority over them”.

Here it cannot be speaking of bodily death, because both the apostle Paul as well as the others who partake of the first resurrection are already physically deceased. It is therefore referring to the Spiritual Death: that same death which, as we saw above, is the separation from the Holy Spirit, which was Adam’s case.

When we therefore speak of the First resurrection, we imply the Spiritual resurrection that occurs when Christians receive the Holy Spirit. The Second resurrection is the Bodily resurrection, which will take place during the Coming of the Lord, for all the deceased. (Corinthians I, 15: 23). Finally, the First death is the Physical death, and the Second death is the Spiritual death: the separation from the Holy Spirit.

 

N. M.

Translation by A.N.

Greek text

Article published in English on: 19-9-2005.

Last update: 19-9-2005.

UP