The General Resurrection 

adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 1 Oct 2010


2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 12:2-3). 

The prophecy of Daniel is a well-loved book which is at the same time extremely challenging to interpret. We believe that it was written by Daniel in exile shortly after the capture of Babylon by Cyrus in 539 B.C. 

But some of the more liberal commentators believe that the author could not be Daniel, as they felt that the prophecy about the Greek ruler Antiochus IV Epiphany contained in the Book is too detailed and accurate. So they say it must have been written by someone who lived during the lifetime of Antiochus Epiphany around 170 B.C. But this would contradict our Lord’s assertion that the prophecies were “spoken of by Daniel the prophet” (Mt 24:15). 

We have no doubt that Daniel wrote the prophecies. The Book of Daniel essentially has two parts. The first six chapters of the Book contain narrative accounts of the experience of Daniel and his three friends during the reigns of Nebuchednezzar and Belshazzar. They contain the children’s favourite stories of Daniel and his three friends in the royal school; Daniel’s three friends in the Furnace and Daniel in the Lion’s Den. 

The next six chapters contain a series of visions that God revealed to Daniel. These include the Vision of the Four Beasts; the Vision of the Seventy Weeks; and the Vision of the Man together with an elaborate prophecy of Israel up to and including the reign of Antiochus Epiphany. 

There is no shortage of promises in this Book to pick for our series on the Great and Precious Promises of God. However, I must say that there are very few promises in the prophetic portion of this Book whose meaning is generally accepted by almost everyone. 

But Daniel 12:2-3 comes close! I am sure that most of us reading the two verses would almost immediately understand what these two verses are about. Most of us will agree that it has to do with the General Resurrection of the just and unjust at the Last Day. Yes, even in these verses, there are some commentators who hold to a different view altogether. But I have no reason to fault the commonly accepted view. 

With this in mind, let us consider three thoughts from this promise. First, let us note that this prophecy and promise will affect everyone who ever lived. Secondly, let us understand that the righteous will be raised to everlasting life and glory. Thirdly, let us understand that the wicked will suffer everlasting contempt.


1. Multitudes Will Be Raised

The man in the vision who spoke to Daniel (Dan 10:18) says: 

2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 

We must not misunderstand the use of the word, “many” as if it means not everyone. Take note that the contrast is not between all or many, but between many or few. The man in the Vision is not saying that a certain number of them that sleep will awake. He is saying: “Multitudes who sleep will awake…” 

At the Last Day, all who died will arise; and it will be a huge number. 

Why will it be so? It will be so because God has appointed human nature to include a body and soul. Man, unlike angels, is incomplete unless we have our bodies. 

When a person dies, his soul returns to the Lord, whereas his body goes to the ground. Animals are different. Human souls are appointed an immortal subsistence, whereas animal souls are only temporary. Solomon notes this difference in Ecclesiastes 3:20-21— 

20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. 21 Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” (Ecc 3:20-21). 

The human soul will go upwards in the sense that it will go to the Lord for judgement, and then it will either be sent to heaven or to hell. The Lord Jesus said to the penitent thief, “Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise” (Lk 23:43). Conversely, we are told that when the rich man who knew Lazarus died, he went to hell immediately (Lk 16:22-23).

Now, it appears from these passages that both the believer and the unbeliever will have a conscious existence in heaven and hell. But we must understand that they are incomplete in that state. Even if as some suggest, they are given temporary bodies, they are still incomplete. 

I am not sure what the feeling will be, but I suspect that it will be a rather dreamy state because we don’t have our bodies. But in case, it is necessary that we be raised from the dead not only for completeness’ sake, but for justice’s sake—for righteous deeds done in the body can properly be rewarded only when we have our bodies again; and likewise, wicked deeds done in the body can properly be punished only when we have our bodies again. 

Therefore it is essential that every person has his or her body restored one day. That day is the day of the General Resurrection. 

On that day, … 


2. The Righteous Will Rise into Everlasting Life & Glory 

Job was looking forward to that day when he says: 

25 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: 26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:25-26). 

Job was not satisfied to see the Redeemer with spiritual eyes. His hope was that he would see Him with the eyes of flesh. Therefore he was looking forward to the Resurrection of the Just. 

David expresses the fullness of the joy that the saint will experience at the Resurrection in the words: 

10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption. 11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps 16:10-11). 

The New Testament puts a lot of emphasis on this Resurrection of the just. The Lord Jesus says: “I am the Resurrection, and the Life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). 

The apostle Paul waxes eloquent to speak about the Resurrection of the Just in 1 Corinthians 15: 

51Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52In 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. 53For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 

And as if the joy that we will have at the resurrection is not enough we are promised in our text that those who walk in wisdom and serve the Lord by turning many to righteouness (v. 3), will glorified with a glory that the Lord will appoint for them. 

They will be like the stars of heaven—differing in brightness and glory according as the Lord would reward them for their obedience and labours in His Name. 

Beloved brethren and children, we can say a lot more about the Resurrection of the Just, but I trust this is enough to whet our appetites so that we may walk cheerfully before the Lord and serve Him with gratitude for all that He has done for us. The Lord Jesus says: “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Rev 22:12). 

So, beloved brethren and children, do not be discouraged if you find your life fraught with pains and sorrows due to bodily affliction and separation from loved ones. Do not give up even if it appears that nothing you do for the Lord seem to be appreciated or to bear fruit. 

Remember, that if you love the Lord and walk in His ways today, you will one day be given a new and perfect body fitted for everlasting joy. You will in that day, enjoy perfect fellowship with all others who love the Lord including your loved ones today. And not only so, but you will be rewarded for your labours of love. 

Therefore brethren and children, let us encourage one another to labour on despite all the difficulties and limitations that we face today. “For [we] reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom 8:18). 

But let us also not forget the converse of the promise, which is really a warning that… 


3. The Unrighteous Will Rise unto Everlasting Contempt 

The man in the Vision said to Daniel: 

2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 

Just as the righteous will be resurrected, so too the wicked. It is part of God’s system of justice. Those who serve the Lord in this life in their body and soul will be rewarded with the fullness of joy in their body and soul. Conversely, those who sin against the Lord in their body and soul and remain in sin in this life will be punished with the fullness of God’s wrath affecting their body and soul. 

The wicked therefore will be raised. But they will be raised with a body fitted for destruction and punishment. It is with this understanding, the Lord repeats over and over again that Hell is “Where [the] worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mk 9:44 etc). 

I’ll not say more: Suffice to say that hell is a terrible place. In hell the wicked will experience God’s wrath and everything will be put right. Those who misuse the body to enjoy sin today will one day suffer pains in their body. 

And do not take it for granted that the Lord does not know. He knows everything. Unless your sins are forgiven, you will have to pay for them. If your sins are forgiven, you will not continue to walk in sin for gratitude and love will motivate you to seek to please the Lord day by day and to confess your sins humbly before Him each time you fail. 


Conclusion 

Beloved brethren and children, remember: we are creatures of dust with an eternal future. 

Take heed to the promise of the Word of God that there will be a Resurrection of the Just and the Unjust at the last day. 

The Resurrections mark the beginning of the fullness of joy of God for all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and therefore walk with Him and serve Him and His people. 

But at the same time, the Resurrection will also mark the beginning of the fullness of God’s wrath against those who reject His Son and refuse to love Him or to walk in His ways. 

Will you, beloved brethren and children, be standing at the right hand of the throne of Christ as His sheep and lambs to receive His commendation and reward; or will you be standing at His left hand to await your eternal sentence in the Lake of Fire? 

May the Lord grant that none of us may be lost due to hypocrisy, complacency or apostasy. Amen. Ω