In these bulletin articles, we’ve been going through a list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism, published in the 17th Century. In previous weeks we’ve seen what immediately happens to both Christians and non-Christians at death. They both go into an intermediate state: Christians go into paradise, unbelievers go into torment. But what happens at the end of the intermediate state?
The Bible teaches us that one day there will be a general resurrection of the dead, of both believers and unbelievers. When this happens the intermediate state will conclude and people will be raised with resurrection bodies to be judged.
Whilst on trial, the apostle Paul affirmed this general resurrection to the court: ‘I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked’ (Acts 24:14-15).
The prophet Daniel also spoke about this general bodily resurrection of all mankind. He wrote: ‘Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever’ (Daniel 12:2-3).
And Jesus himself said: ‘Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out–those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned’ (John 5:28-29).
But notice the distinction that is made between believers and unbelievers at the resurrection of the dead.
The believers awake to everlasting life. Thus Paul says that Christians will be raised with perfect bodies: ‘Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed–in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.’ (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).
We also learn that believers in God will go to be with Christ: ‘15 According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.’ (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).
Whereas the wicked will be raised to torment. In the quotes above, Daniel calls their lot ‘shame and everlasting contempt’. Jesus says that they will ‘rise to be condemned.’
So what are you looking forward to? Are you going to be raised to live with God for eternity? Or are you going to be raised to be punished for eternity? Trust in Christ and live with him forever.