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THE RESURRECTION, THE BETTER RESURRECTION
AND THE FIRST RESURRECTION

Desiring to follow brother Ker on the subject of the resurrection, that our readers may see and know that we stand together, I have decided to republish the following article, which was first published October 1st, 1915. The views therein set forth are what we believed then, and what we believe now, and we doubt if we could make ourself clearer should we attempt to write an article now on the subject. Brother Ker and our self have long been persecuted and ridiculed by some who differ with us, in expression at least, if nothing more, but we have borne it in silence. Now, however, we feel that we must defend ourselves, and the many subscribers of the Signs of the Times who agree with us, that the Bible declares plainly and positively that “the body sown natural” “is raised spiritual,” that “mortality is swallowed up of life,” and that “he who hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God.” We have so affirmed always, and shall continue to affirm exactly what the Bible says about the resurrection, and leave it to our brethren generally to decide whether the Bible is right, or the views of a few men of this day who seem to have set themselves up as judges in Israel. We are willing to, and verily shall, take the word of God as the man of our counsel, let others do and say what they may.

H.H.L


The faith of God's elect viewing the resurrection, as described by the apostle Paul in I Corinthians xv., your views in connection therewith, on a better resurrection, as in Hebrews xi. 35, and the first resurrection as in Revelation xx. 5, 6, are solicited through the “Signs of the Times.

A brother who lives in Texas sends the above request to us. This is not the first request of this nature we have had, but have deferred complying with any of them until we felt more at liberty to write upon this subject of the resurrection. The brethren, we feel, have a right to such views as we have upon any subject, and such views as we have we hope we are willing to share with the brethren. If any one has sent us a request for views upon any subject with which we have not complied, it is because we have no views to give them. It is not worth while for us to try to write about something that we know nothing about. As to the resurrection, it is a most glorious subject, and one that we love to think and to talk about, always to edification, never for the sake of argument or controversy. As to our having any cast-iron, unbending opinions or views to lay down upon this subject for the consideration of our readers, we have none. It is comforting to walk round about this glorious truth of the resurrection and to survey it in its various aspects, but to plunge into the depths of it and to fathom its mysteries, no mortal ever has done it, nor ever will this side of eternity. So much of the resurrection as we have already experienced, we are thereof a witness and are free to talk about; so much of it as is yet beyond our present experience we know nothing, except as it is set forth in the Bible. Right here we want to say that we positively do believe all that the Bible says upon the subject of the resurrection, but we do not claim to understand it all nor to be able to explain it all. In speaking or writing of this matter we have wanted to adhere closely to the Scriptures and the scriptural manner of expression. One of the things about Old School Baptists that first drew us to them in our early experience, was that we saw they were the people that adhered strictly to the Scriptures in all matters of doctrine, faith and practice. Thus it has always been our desire to reject anything in the way of doctrine that did not have a “thus saith the Lord” for it. When we endeavor to clothe scriptural truths in phraseology of our own, we very often change the import of a text by using our own modes of expression instead of quoting the exact Scripture language. This often leads to confusion in the minds of the hearers as to just what this or that preacher means upon any given subject.

We would like our readers to know just how we feel about this matter of the resurrection, and shall try to be clear in our expression, but if any one reads this expecting to have the “mystery” solved for them, they will be disappointed before they read very far. We deem it is a mistake to think that nothing is known of the resurrection until after we pass out of this life, that it begins simply with the ending of mortality. If we know nothing of heaven while here in the flesh, what assurance or hope have we that we shall ever hereafter know anything about it? Upon what is our hope based if not upon the earnest of the Spirit, that earnest which the Spirit brings to the subjects of grace of that inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, reserved for the elect of God? It is a heaven below the Redeemer to know, and when the knowledge of Christ and his salvation is revealed to our faith it is a foretaste of glory. It is then that heaven comes down our souls to greet. These revelations which God brings by the Spirit unto his people, afford the basis of their hope. Therefore it seems to us that the hope of heaven is based upon heaven itself, the hope of the resurrection is based upon the resurrection itself. Jesus says, I am the resurrection and the life. This being so, then every manifestation of Jesus in the lives of his people is a manifestation of “the power of the resurrection,” and just as we can never know all about Jesus until we see him face to face, without a veil between, just so we shall never know the fullness of the resurrection until then. The life that we now live in the flesh, we live by the faith of the Son of God. This life of the christian being the manifestation of the life of Jesus in his mortal body, then it must follow that God's people, even while in this world, live the life of the resurrection. “You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” With what did he quicken them? He quickened them by the Spirit and with the life of Christ. This quickening of the Spirit is the entrance of eternal life. Is not this eternal life the very life of Christ, and is not Christ the resurrection? Then that which quickens those who were dead in sin is the power of the resurrection. If we may be permitted to speak of such things having a beginning, we would say that the resurrection life begins with each individual subject of grace the very moment he is quickened by the Spirit, and from that moment it continues on and on and on through all the travel of the believer, until it is consummated, or shall be consummated, in the full revelation of the infinite glory of God beyond the bounds of mortality. Belief itself is a manifestation of the power of the resurrection. Does not Paul say we believe according to the working of the mighty power which raised Christ from the dead? (See Ephesians i. 19, 20.) Thus, it takes the same power to make one a believer that it took to raise Christ from the dead. Is not, then, belief an effect of the resurrection power? What did God do with those whom he quickened from the death in sin? He raised them up together and made them sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Are not these heavenly places all the privileges and the blessings of the gospel covenant? It seems so to us. Then to enjoy the gospel in any sense whatever, and to whatever extent, there must be a raising of the subject up from death in sin and from under the curse and dominion of the law of sin, and what is this raising up but a further manifestation of “the first resurrection?”

The more we think about this matter the more we feel the impossibility of setting bounds to the resurrection, and saying it begins here and ends there, it includes this or does not include that. The whole life of the believer as a believer and as a manifest child of God is based upon the fact that Christ is risen from the dead, and not only risen himself but came forth bringing his sheaves with him; that is, all that the Father gave unto him before the foundation of the world. The head did not rise without the body, but both the head and the body, so Christ rose from the dead with all his church. “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise.” “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ.” Had Christ not risen from the dead there never could have been the gospel, the church, faith, hope, love, prayer or praise. All these things have their roots in “the first resurrection,” and the very resurrection life maintains them. Peter never could, at the day of Pentecost, or any other time, have interpreted Joel's prophecy and the Psalms of David had he not been partaker of the life of the resurrection. Read the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, and the list there given of all the trials of the people of God. These things they never could have endured except they had that victory that overcometh death. This victory Jesus is, so by faith in him they counted not their lives dear unto themselves. It seems that here must have been a sense, at least, in which mortality was swallowed up of life, since they lost their interest in their mortal lives through the measure of the Christlife given unto them. We have derived great comfort in cloudy days from being able to think that even now Christ is with and within his people, and that having Christ in them they are already the “children of the resurrection.” But we must not lose sight of the fact that there is a future aspect of the resurrection. As regards this futurity of the resurrection we must let the Scriptures bear witness. God has left on record by the pen of inspiration such information concerning what is yet ahead of us as he deemed necessary for us to know, and what God has not disclosed in his written word regarding this matter it is not worth while theorizing or speculating about. We can now know no more about it than the Scriptures declare. “But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool! that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: and that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.”

Note how all through this language the Spirit is all the time distinguishing between the earthly and the heavenly, the natural and the spiritual. Never are the two confused or mingled, but always kept separate and distinct. The same “it” that is sown a natural body is raised a spiritual body. Then in the forty-fifth verse we are told what these two bodies are: “The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.” “The first man is of the earth, earthy [the natural body]: the second man is the Lord from heaven [the spiritual body].” “And as we have borne the image of the earthy [the first man Adam], we shall also bear the image of the heavenly [the Lord Jesus Christ].” The same “we” that bear the first earthy image shall bear the second heavenly image, but there are two distinct images. “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” No need to cavil over these words, for nothing could be more distinct than the separation made by the spirit in this fifteenth chapter of first Corinthians between flesh and Spirit. Now comes the mystery which no man on earth can ever explain: “Behold, I shew you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed,” &c. All of this language we do most certainly believe with all our heart, but as Paul did not go on and explain it, neither can we. John says, “It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” What more can we wish to know than this: that we shall be satisfied, when we awake, with His likeness? Whatever it takes to make up that complete and in finite satisfaction we are assured God will give us. But as to what that spiritual body is, how it looks, how it is made, who knows? We do not, and we do not care for any one to try to tell us. Why try to pry into that which God has not seen fit to disclose? The time is coming when we shall know as we are known and see as' we are seen, when that which is in part shall be done away and we shall see face to face. Until then, let us wait. “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” Very often brethren in quoting this, say “vile bodies,” instead of “vile body.” We do not know why they persist in doing this, for the Spirit doubtless used the right word in saying “body” instead of “bodies.” “Our vile body,” signifying many members, but all one body. Something like it occurs in Ephesians iv. 13: “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Notice that the “all,” meaning many, are to be conformed to the one end: the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, the perfect man. Nothing is said about their ever becoming perfect men or perfect women, but coming unto the “perfect man.” This agrees with Romans viii. 29: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.” Here, again, the all or many are to be brought forth in the one image. Again, in Romans viii. 23, we have: “Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” Here it is also “our body,” not “our bodies,” as is so often quoted.

It sets forth the many in one, the many members of the one body. As to the “better resurrection” in Hebrews xi. 35, the connection is, “And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection.” To be delivered from torture meant that they would have to die again at some later time, and they preferred to have it all over with at once in hope of that “better” or real resurrection in all its fullness which can never be broken. Lazarus was raised from the dead, but he was simply brought back to natural life, and had to die again at some later day, therefore his resurrection was not unto eternity, and was not spiritual. The “better” resurrection is the resurrection of the spiritual body which Paul talks about in Corinthians, which is unto eternal glory, and which death can never end. Thus these martyrs for the faith described in Hebrews xi. 35, who were delivered over to be put to death for the truth's sake, did not wish to be delivered from that torture at the hands of men, and thus receive a temporary resurrection, but preferred to depart and be with Christ, which is far “better.” As to the “first resurrection” in Rev. xx. 6, this reads, “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power.” Christ was the firstborn from the dead, the first to rise from the dead to die no more. The resurrection of Christ is, therefore, the first resurrection. Those who have part in this resurrection are those who were chosen in him before the foundation of the world, and for whom he died and rose from the dead. These are risen with Christ and cannot die any more, because he has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. Those for whom Christ died cannot die, they have everlasting life. The second death, the death of the mortal body, has no power over them, for while their mortal bodies do die and return to dust, the spirit, or life, cannot die. He that liveth and believeth in me shall never die, but hath everlasting life. When the earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved, they shall be clothed upon with that building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Two different houses, but the same child of God that now lives in this earthly house shall also dwell in that other house not made with hands, the building of God. “But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.” - Matt. xxii. 31, 32. Thus we see that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, while dead to us as men, are living unto God, and are not really dead at all. All God's people are just this way: none of them die. Christ having risen from the dead, and they being partakers of this “first resurrection,” the second, or corporeal death, can have no power over them.

Elder H.H. Lefferts
Signs of the Times,
August. 15, 1920