Chapter 43 - The Final State of the Righteous and the Wicked


this chapter we shall concern ourselves with the location and condition of both the righteous and the wicked in eternity. And inasmuch as the resurrection and judgment of both classes are involved in their final states, we have chosen to consider these subjects in this chapter also.

I. THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD

1. THERE IS TO BE A RESURRECTION OF BOTH RIGHTEOUS AND WICKED.

This is unmistakably and undeniably taught in Daniel 12:2; John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15.

2. BUT THE TWO CLASSES ARE NOT TO BE RESURRECTED TOGETHER.

(1) The Scriptures teach that there will be a separate resurrection for the righteous.

The passages which teach this fall into two classes:

A. Passages which speak of a resurrection "from" the dead. There are two such passages. Luke 20:35; Philippians 3:11.

The first passage reads: "But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world and THE RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD, neither marry, nor are given in marriage." That this verse refers to a resurrection in which the righteous dead alone will participate is shown in two ways.

(a) The phrase, "resurrection from the dead," is the same as that which is always used to designate the resurrection of Christ (Acts 17:31; Rom. 1:4; 1 Cor. 15:20; 1 Pet. 1:3) and is manifestly different in meaning from the generic phrase, "resurrection of the dead." The former phrase is never used when the resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked is alluded to. On the other hand, the resurrection of Christ is never said to be a "resurrection of the dead." He was resurrected out from among the dead, and so it will be with the righteous according to the passage under consideration.

(b) This teaching is confirmed by the context of the passage. The verse following the one under consideration tells us that those who participate in this resurrection cannot "die any more, for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection."

The author was once confronted with these verses as an argument against the resurrection of the wicked. His reply took the form of the present treatment. Frankly, if he had believed in a general resurrection, he would have been wholly at loss for an answer to the argument.

The second passage finds Paul saying: "If by any means I might attain unto THE RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD" (Phil. 3:11). The theory of a general resurrection renders these words meaningless. Certainly Paul would not have needed to be concerned with participation in a general resurrection, for he believed tenaciously in the resurrection of both righteous and wicked. See Acts 24:15. Also the language here is very strong, employing the double ek, ten exanastasin ten ek nekron, meaning when translated fully, "the out-resurrection which is from the dead." Language could not more strongly convey the meaning that we are here insisting on.

B. Passages which describe a resurrection of the righteous only. Such passages are found in 1 Corinthians 15:21-23; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-16.

The first passage here treats the subject of the resurrection as though only the righteous will be resurrected.[1] This is understandable on one ground only, and that is that there is a resurrection in which the righteous alone participate.

The second passage speaks of the resurrection of the righteous only and leaves no place at the time for the resurrection of the wicked. The righteous dead are to be brought forth in immortal bodies and are to be caught up immediately with the translated living saints to meet the Lord in the air. There is no indication that Christ comes to the earth at this time, as would be necessary if the wicked dead are to be raised and judged at this point.

Revelation 20:5, 6 speaks of the "first" resurrection, in which only the righteous participate. Our opponents, of course, as already noted, seek to rob these verses of their manifest meaning. But let it be noted that our interpretation of them fits in exactly with the simple meaning of other passages already cited, while our opponents must try to explain the verses away with no specific scriptural support.

(2) The Scriptures also describe a resurrection in which none but the wicked are spoken of.

The description here referred to is found in Revelation 20:11-15. And note that the statement that "death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire" can mean nothing less than that all the occupants of death and Hades were at this time cast into the lake of fire; distinctly implying that the righteous will not be found among the dead at the time, having been resurrected previously.

The presence of the book of life at this judgment gives no evidence whatsoever that any written therein will be there. It will be there as evidence that the wicked have not their names there.

(3) The Scriptures relied on by our opponents as teaching a general resurrection are inconclusive and yield to the passages already cited without suffering violence.

The Scriptures relied on by our opponents are: Daniel 12:2; John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15. On these passages we remark:

A. The association of the righteous and unrighteous together in their resurrection does not prove that they will be resurrected simultaneously. The Bible often associates similar things that are separated as to time. As a case in point we may refer again to Christ’s quotation of Isaiah 61:1, 2, where He stopped in the middle of verse two because the rest of the verse had not to do with His current ministry, but with His second advent. See Luke 4:18, 19. Thus, in one brief verse, we have an interval that has extended already more than nineteen hundred years.

Again we may cite Malachi 3:1-5 as referring to both advents of Christ, notwithstanding their separation as to time. As John A. Broadus aptly says, the purification mentioned in these verses "does not simply mean that He would purify individuals by consuming what was faulty in them, but Malachi 4;1-3 shows it to mean that he would purify the nation by consuming the wicked individuals like ‘stubble,’ and then the truly righteous of the nation would rejoice and prosper." Thus the passage cannot be applied wholly to Christ’s first advent. Furthermore, in Matthew 3:11, John the Baptist associated baptism "in the Holy Spirit and in fire," where the next verse shows that the baptism in fire does not allude to the tongues of fire on the Day of Pentecost, but to the fire of judgment. Thus again two things separated by centuries are mentioned together as though they would occur at the same time.

B. The translation of Dan. 12:2 by Tregelles completely relieves this passage of its supposed allusion to a general resurrection—"And many from among the sleepers of the dust of the earth shall awake, these that awake, shall be unto everlasting life, but those—the rest of the sleepers who do not awake at this time—shall be unto shame and everlasting contempt."

C. John 5:28, 29 can be understood as referring to two resurrections as easily as it can be understood as referring to one. These verses mention "the resurrection of life" and "the resurrection of judgment." And the use of "hour" in vs. 28 cannot be insisted on as proving simultaneousness since the "hour" of spiritual resurrection, mentioned in vs. 25, covers this whole age. "Hour" here simply means time—the time is coming, etc.

Alvah Hovey remarks very fairly concerning these verses: "Whether the resurrection of the two classes here mentioned will take place at the same time, or at different times, is not made perfectly certain by this language; but if there is nothing elsewhere in the New Testament inconsistent with the view that the resurrection of both will be at the same time, this is, certainly, the most obvious interpretation of the language here used." We agree; but we insist, and believe we have shown, that there is that in the New Testament that is inconsistent with a general resurrection.

D. To interpret Acts 24:15 as teaching a general resurrection is to set Paul at variance with himself. Twice he describes the resurrection of the righteous without mentioning the wicked. And once he speaks of his earnest desire to "attain unto the resurrection from the dead" (Phil. 3:11), using the strongest possible language to indicate that he was thinking of a selective resurrection.

3. THE TIME OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE RIGHTEOUS.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 Paul makes it clear that the righteous will he resurrected at the time of Christ’s appearance in the air—the first phase of His coming; at which time the living saints will be translated and raptured also. However the same writer, in 1 Corinthians 15:23 connects the resurrection with the parousia or second phase of Christ’s coming. This is due, we believe, to the fact that Paul, according to a scriptural custom already alluded to, associates together the two phases of the Saviour’s coming, notwithstanding their separation in time.

In the light of other such instances of association, no argument can be found here against our position as to the temporal separation of the two phases of the second advent. This association becomes even more natural, if, as we believe, the first resurrection is a continuous one, beginning with the appearance of Christ in the air and continuing as saints die throughout the great tribulation and on through the millennium. Note in Revelation 11:11 the resurrection of the two witnesses after three days. Note also, as already pointed out, that none of the righteous will be found in Hades at the time of the resurrection of the wicked. Revelation 20:14.

II. THE JUDGMENT OF THE LIVING AND OF THE DEAD

All men are to stand before Christ in judgment in some manner and at some time, but not all in the same manner and at the same time. Note:

1. THE JUDGMENT OF LIVING GENTILES.

Matthew 25:31-46. This is to take place when Christ comes to reign. It will mark the end of this age, and the beginning of the millennial age. There will be three classes present at this judgment—sheep, goats, and brethren, but only sheep and goats will be involved in judgment. These will be separated on the basis of how they have treated Christ’s brethren, not on the basis of how they have treated each other.

The only sensible view is that these brethren of Christ are believing Jews, who will preach the gospel during the great tribulation period. Under the beast none can befriend these Jewish missionaries except at the risk of death, and none dare to do it except believers. Thus it will be possible to make an infallible separation on this basis; not that good treatment of the Jews is that which will save the Gentiles, but rather that which will indicate that they are saved. The sheep here are those who are to be saved during the great tribulation. This judgment is manifestly of nations as individuals and not in the aggregate. A nation as such, apart from the individuals that compose it, cannot be cast into "everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (vs. 41). For Old Testament reference to this judgment see Joel 3:2,11-14.

2. The JUDGMENT OF THE JEWISH NATION.

Above we pointed out that the "brethren" are not judged with the Gentiles. Thus a separate judgment is implied for them. To this judgment the Scriptures make definite allusion. See Isaiah 1:2, 5, 27, 28; 4:4; Zechariah 13:8, 9; Malachi 3:3. This judgment will take place in connection with the conversion of Israel.

3. THE JUDGMENT OF THE GLORIFIED BELIEVER’S WORKS.

See 2 Timothy 4:8; Philippians 2:16; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 22:12. The believer’s sins have been judged already. He can never come into condemnation for them. But his works are to be tried. 1 Corinthians 3:13-15. There is nothing penal about this judgment. The believer either receives reward or loses it according to what he has done and the quality of his work.

4. THE JUDGMENT OF THE LOST DEAD.

Revelation 20:11-15. This will take place at the end of the little season during which Satan will be loosed following the millennium. Just before this judgment the wicked on the earth will be killed. Revelation 20:9. Then all the wicked including perhaps those judged in Matthew 25:31-46, will be resurrected, judged, and cast into the lake of fire. Try as they may, our opponents cannot point to a single real hint that this is to be a general judgment. They try to identify this judgment with the one described in Matthew 25:31-46. But let us note:

5. CONTRASTS BETWEEN THIS JUDGMENT AND THE JUDGMENT OF LIVING GENTILES IN MATTHEW 25.

 

Every one of these contrasts fits beautifully into the premillennial system, while every one of them is dead against the view of our opponents. Most of them they ignore. A few of them they try to explain away. Now what shall be said of the logic of those who reject a view into which these contrasts enter, and then adopt a theory that is at variance with every one of them?

Furthermore, we find the beast and false prophet are already in the lake of fire before this judgment begins. Our opponents have no explanation of this fact, since the beast (being manifestly the same as the man of sin) is to be destroyed at the second coming of Christ. If this judgment occurs at the second coming of Christ, how account for the fact that the beast and false prophet are already in the lake of fire?

6. SCRIPTURES THAT ARE HELD TO TEACH A GENERAL JUDGMENT.

The passages used as proof texts by the advocates of a general judgment are: Matthew 7:22; John 5:28, 29; Acts 17:31; Romans 2:5-9; 2:16; 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Timothy 4:1; 4:8; 2 Peter 3:7; Revelation 11:18. Concerning these passages we remark:

(1) Matthew 7:22; Acts 17:31; Romans 2:5-9; 2:16; 2 Peter 3:7; and Revelation 11:18 all refer to the judgment of the nations as described in Matthew 25:31-46.

If it be objected that Rom. 2:9 mentions the Jew, we reply that the judgment of the Jewish nation will occur in close connection with this judgment, probably just before or just after. Both will come as a part of God’s "day of wrath and revelation of righteous judgment." If it be said that Romans 2:5 implies that the people then living would be in the judgment alluded to, which will not be the case according to our view, we reply that this is on the basis of the fact that the second coming of Christ is commonly represented as an event that might occur during that generation.

Note in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 how Paul uses "we" in connection with the appearing of Christ. The words, "the time of the dead that they should be judged," in Revelation 11:18 do not mean that the wicked dead will be resurrected and judged at the time referred to. This verse finds its simple explanation in Revelation 6:10, where the souls of martyrs under the altar cry, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not JUDGE AND AVENGE OUR BLOOD ON THEM THAT DWELL ON THE EARTH." The slain martyrs are at this time to be judged in the sense of being vindicated in the wrath of God upon the nations of the earth.

(2) As for John 5:28, 29, we have shown already that this passage is not conclusive in teaching a general resurrection.

The same, therefore, is true of it with reference to a general judgment.

(3) Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10; and 2 Timothy 4:1, we believe, may be properly grouped together as teaching that all—saved and lost, living and dead, are to be judged, as we said in out opening statement under the head of judgment.

But neither these passages, nor any others, teach that all these are to be judged at the same time and in the same manner.

(4) 2 Timothy 4:8 refers to the judgment of the believer’s works.

We have dealt with this judgment already. It is to come, according to this passage, at the appearing of Christ—the first phase of His coming.

III. THE FINAL PUNISHMENT OF THE WICKED

1. IT WILL BE ETERNAL.

Matthew 25:41; Revelation 14:11. The plain meaning of these passages is that the punishment of the wicked will be endless.

2. IT WILL CONSIST OF CONSCIOUS SUFFERING.

In the last Scripture given above we are told that the wicked shall "have no rest day nor night." That involves conscious suffering.

It is contended by some that the final punishment of the wicked will consist only of annihilation. The foregoing passage denies this. Nevertheless we shall examine the grounds of this contention. They are:

(1) Malachi 4:1-3.

This passage refers only to the physical destruction of the wicked just previous to the setting up of the millennial kingdom.

This passage, in substance, is parallel with Isaiah 24:17-22; 26:20, 21; 34:1, 2; 66:15, 16, 24; Zechariah 14:12-15; Matthew 25:41-46; 2 Peter 3:7. This destruction will take place in connection with the battle of Armageddon. But there is here no annihilation. This is plain from Isaiah 24:22 and 66:24.

(2) The description of this punishment as the "second death."

The "second death" corresponds to the death of the race in Adam, and not to physical death. By this death man was unfitted for God’s fellowship and brought under the wrath of God, but was not put beyond hope or the reach of God. The "second death" brings the execution of the wrath of God through "the continuation of spiritual death in another and timeless existence" (E. G. Robinson); a complete banishment from God’s presence.

Thus the "second death" no more implies non-existence than does the sinner’s present state of spiritual death. Mark 9:48, 49 shows clearly that the wicked in Gehenna retain conscious existence. "Salted with fire" may mean that the fire will have a preserving quality like salt.

(3) The declaration that unbelievers are to perish.

Luke 13:3; Acts 8:20; 1 Corinthians 1:18. But that this perishing does not denote annihilation is proved by the fact that the Greek word in Acts 8:20 is the same word used to describe the perdition of the Beast (Rev. 17:8), and we find that the Beast is still in the lake of fire a thousand years later (Rev. 20:10). An annihilated being can never afterward be anywhere. The Greek word in the other two passages is the same word used for "lost" in Matthew 10:6; Luke 15:24; 19:10; 2 Corinthians 4.3, where annihilation can not be the meaning.

(4) The representation of the final punishment of the wicked as destruction.

Romans 9:22; 2 Thessalonians 1:9. The Greek word in Romans 9:22 is the same as the one for perdition in Revelation 17:8, which does not express annihilation, as we have just pointed out above. And the Greek word in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 is the same as the one used for the destruction of the carnal nature in 1 Corinthians 5:5; and we know that the carnal nature is not annihilated in this life.

Finally, the fact that there are to be degrees of punishment, because of which it will be "more tolerable" for some than for others (Matt. 11:20-24), shows that the final punishment of the sinner is not annihilation; for in such a case all sinners would suffer the same penalty, and it would be nonsense to speak of annihilation as being more tolerable for some than for others.

(5) The scriptural representation of immortality as something to be sought by man (Rom. 2:7), revealed by the gospel (2 Tim. 1:10), and attained only in the resurrection of the righteous (1 Cor. 15:54, 55).

See discussion of these passages in chapter on The Present State of the Dead.

3. IT WILL BE ACCORDING TO THEIR DESERT.

Matthew 11:21-24; Luke 12:47, 48; Romans 2:6, 12; Revelation 20:13. These passages teach that there will be degrees of punishment based on the light possessed by the individual and according to his deeds.

IV. THE FINAL BLISS OF THE RIGHTEOUS

This is described in Revelation 21, where New Jerusalem is seen descending out of Heaven into the new earth. The saved will make up this heavenly city. There will be for them complete satisfaction. All annoyance and cause of sorrow will be gone. In the likeness of their Saviour the saved will bask in the sunlight of God’s love forever, worshipping and serving Him, and rejoicing in His fellowship and that of one another.

Perhaps "glory" is the one word that best describes the eternal bliss of the righteous. See Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Colossians 1:27; Hebrews 2:10; 1 Peter 5:1. This glory will consist of being "glorified together" with Christ, sharing equally with Him all His acquired glory, that is, the glory that will accrue to Him because of His obedience here on earth and His redemptive work. We are joint-heirs with Him to this glory. See Romans 8:17.


ENDNOTES:

[1] It is impossible by sound exegesis to make the clause, “even so in Christ shall all be made alive,” embrace the wicked. The wicked will not be made alive “in Christ.” Their resurrection is a matter of justice and not something that accrues from the atonement. If there had been no atonement, the same justice that now demands their resurrection would have demanded it just the same. The language of the entire verse has its parallel in Rom. 5:18, where the “all men,” upon whom the judgment came, are all descendants of Adam; while the “all men,” upon whom the free gift unto justification of life came, are all believers.