There’s a great day coming in which the Lord will return to judge the living and the dead (Matt. 25:31-46; Acts 10:42, 17:30; 2 Tim. 4:1; 2 Thess. 1:7-10). The nature of this second coming will be
- visible (Acts 1:11),
- audible (1 Thess. 4:16),
- sudden (Mk. 13:32-37),
- final, in that there is no mention of a third coming, and
- glorious (2 Thess. 1:7-8).
When this finally occurs, there will be one general resurrection of both the righteous and unrighteous (cf. Daniel 12:2; John 5:28,29; Acts 24:15). At this point, the discarnate spirits of the dead will once again be housed in their bodies, albeit immortal spiritual bodies (1 Cor. 15:44, 53, 54), and will appear at the judgment bar of Christ (Rom. 2:5-6) to give an account of their lives (Rom. 14:10-12), “whether it is good or whether it is evil” (Eccl. 12:14). Those “in Christ” will be vindicated and all others will be condemned. In other words, all true believers will be rewarded with their heavenly home, but all the non-believers and unfaithful, along with Death and Hades, will be cast into Hell, which is the second death (Rev. 20:14). Those who experience this second death will be eternally separated from the presence of the Lord (2 Thess. 1:9). Oh, what a terrible place Hell will be. But on the other hand, oh, what a wonderful place the new heavens and new earth will be (2 Pet. 3:13)!
Finally, it must be understood that when the Bible speaks of death in connection with human beings, whether it be physical, spiritual, or eternal, it is always speaking of separation; namely,
- physical death takes place when the spirit of man separates from his body (Jas. 2:26);
- spiritual death occurs when man’s sins separate him from God (Isa. 5:9-12; Eph. 2:1,5; Col. 2:13);
- and eternal death takes place when one is separated eternally from God in Hell (Matt. 10:28; 2 Thess. 1:7-10).
Therefore, in developing a biblical worldview, we must never think of any of the deaths that can be experienced by humans as a “ceasing to exist. Death, for man, is not a ceasing to exist, for Jehovah is the God of the living, not the dead (cf. Mk 12:18-27). In John 11:25, Jesus told Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die [physically], he shall live [i.e., be resurrected physically].” But in verse 25, going beyond physical death and resurrection, the Lord said: “And whoever lives [i.e., is spiritually alive] and believes in [i.e., trusts in, relies on, and is of the disposition to obey] Me shall never die [i.e., he will have eternal life].” He ended by asking the question, “Do you believe this?” By faith, we, along with Martha, say, “Yes, Lord, I believe…”
Knowing that God will one day transform our bodies of humiliation into glorified bodies (Php. 3:20-21) so that we will be like Him (1 Jn. 3:2), we are not able to make friends with the enemy — Death (1 Cor.15:26, 53-57). But we are able to face our mortality with the firm confidence that there is abundant and glorious life beyond the grave.
12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable (1 Cor. 15:12-19, KJV).