Man was made for life, but death swallows up
the race. Is Death always to be the abject, heart-breaking end of life,
or will death some day be vanquished and its victims freed? The right
answer to this question reveals a triumphant Saviour, strengthens faith
in God, gives true comfort, and inspires worship, thanksgiving and joy.
The right answer is God's answer. it is direct and clear. Note it
To many this is an unexplored portion of God's Word. Its challenging statements should strengthen our determination to understand and believe the truth God has revealed in it. Let us consider some of its outstanding points.
The True Nature of Death
As in Adam all die. Death is the heritage
of all who are related to Adam, none escape it. Even those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Saviour, succumb to the sleep of death and are referred
to as "the dead in Christ" (1Thess.4:13-18); and as "the dead" that "shall be raised incorruptible" (1Cor.15:51,52). The fact that "those who are Christ’s" need to be "made alive at His coming" shows that they too are included in the All who died in Adam.
Three Resurrection Orders
But each in his own order. Not a "but" of exception, rather a "but" of order. ALL are to be made alive but at different times. "Each in his own order." Three orders are enumerated and located in relation to other events:
It is the third or "end" order that many overlook. A
thoughtful reading of this passage will enable most believers to see
clearly that the words "then cometh the end" refer to this end order to
be made alive. The subject the apostle is elucidating is: The order in
which all who die in Adam will be made alive in Christ (vs.22-24).
Christ the firstfruit (order one) and those who are Christ'’ at His
coming (order two) comprise only a small part of the all
who die in Adam. A third order is necessary to make all
alive. To refer the "end" to anything else is to ignore the context and
to introduce something foreign to the subject. It cannot possibly refer
to an end of the kingdom, for though the kingdom will be "delivered up"
to the Father (1Cor.15:24), it will never end (Luke 1:33).
Death, the Last Enemy
But the question arises, May not the making alive of this end order refer to "the resurrection unto judgment" at the time of the "Great White Throne" (John 5:29; Rev.20:11-15)? This cannot be the case for three reasons:
The Son does not deliver up the kingdom to God the Father until He has abolished all rule, authority, power, and death. Since death is the last enemy to be abolished, as long as rule, authority, and power remain, the end order has not been made alive. With these facts in mind let us glance at the outstanding events of the future which bear on this subject.
When Christ returns He will set up a kingdom upon earth (Rev.11:15; Dan.2:44). Together with His saints He will then reign for 1,000 years (Rev.19:11-20:6). When the 1,000 years are finished there will be a Satan-led revolt which ends in disaster for the revolters (Rev.20:7-10). This will be followed by the resurrection unto judgment (Rev.20:5,6 and 11-15). The present heavens and earth will then be dissolved (2Pet.3:7-13). Then will come the New Heavens and the New Earth upon which the New Jerusalem descends (Rev.21:1-22:5).
Why a Second Death?
Will rule, authority, and power still be present on the New Earth? If so, death has not yet been abolished. Let us see: "The throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein" (Rev.22:3). "And his servants shall serve him" and "they shall reign for the ages of the ages" (Rev.22:3-5). "The kings of the earth bring their glory into the New Jerusalem" (Rev.21:23,24). Yes, rule, authority, and power are still present on the New Earth. The Lord Jesus is still reigning, the saints are still reigning, and there are still kings on the earth. The end order has not yet been made alive. Since there will be no death on the New Earth (Rev.21:1-4), the only dead ones to be made alive in the end order are those who have suffered the second death. When these have been made alive, then indeed and in truth, death will have been abolished.
The question arises, When will these who are made alive
in the end order come to believe in Jesus Christ as their Saviour?
Another question answers this one. How can unbelievers experience
the resurrecting power of Jesus christ in saving them out of the first
death, be brought into His presence at the Great White Throne, and not
believe? The Judge is none other than the Saviour (Rom.2:16). "All
judgment has been committed unto the Son that all may honor
the Son even as they honor the Father" (John 5:22,23).
The Satisfied Saviour
The teaching of eternal punishment slanders the character of God and dishonors His Son. Failure to distinguish between the elective salvation of the ages (2 Tim.2:10), and the general salvation beyond (1 Tim.4:9-11; 2:3-6), has caused many to malign the God they seek to glorify. This distinction is clearly revealed in the types of the Old Testament. There was a redemption for some prior to Jubilee, and a deliverance for all at Jubilee (Lev.25:1-55). There is to be a grand Jubilee of Salvation. All are to receive "justification of life" and "be made righteous" (Rom.5:18,19). Jesus Christ is indeed a triumphant Saviour! "The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand, He shall see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied" (Isa.53:10,11).
– Joseph E. Kirk