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The Resurrections and Eternal Judgment

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The Resurrections and Eternal Judgment

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The teachings on the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment are listed as two of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity leading to perfection and eternal life (Hebrews 6:1-2 Hebrews 6:1-2 1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
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). Without the resurrection of the dead, Christ would not be risen and our faith would be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:12-19 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 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 Yes, 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; you 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.
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). Human beings are mortal, with no inherent immortality. Furthermore, man is incapable of giving eternal life to himself —thus necessitating a resurrection. Moreover, we must understand that God is the final Judge and determiner of a person’s eternal fate.

The Bible makes clear that there is no conscious awareness in death (Ecclesiastes 9:5 Ecclesiastes 9:5For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
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; Ecclesiastes 9:10 Ecclesiastes 9:10Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, where you go.
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; Psalms 6:5 Psalms 6:5For in death there is no remembrance of you: in the grave who shall give you thanks?
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). Death is repeatedly compared in the Bible to sleep (Job 3:11-17 Job 3:11-17 11 Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly? 12 Why did the knees prevent me? or why the breasts that I should suck? 13 For now should I have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept: then had I been at rest, 14 With kings and counsellors of the earth, which build desolate places for themselves; 15 Or with princes that had gold, who filled their houses with silver: 16 Or as an hidden untimely birth I had not been; as infants which never saw light. 17 There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest.
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; John 14:10-12 John 14:10-12 10 Believe you not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak to you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwells in me, he does the works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake. 12 Truly, truly, I say to you, He that believes on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to my Father.
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; Psalms 13:3 Psalms 13:3Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;
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; Isaiah 57:1-2 Isaiah 57:1-2 1 The righteous perishes, and no man lays it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come. 2 He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.
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; Daniel 12:2 Daniel 12:2And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
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; John 11:11-14 John 11:11-14 11 These things said he: and after that he said to them, Our friend Lazarus sleeps; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. 12 Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. 14 Then said Jesus to them plainly, Lazarus is dead.
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; 1 Corinthians 11:30 1 Corinthians 11:30For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
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; 1 Corinthians 15:51 1 Corinthians 15:51Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
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; 1 Thessalonians 4:14 1 Thessalonians 4:14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
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). No conscious immortal soul leaves the body at the moment of death, whether to go to dwell in bliss in heaven or to suffer unending torment in hellfire. These concepts come from false pagan religion and a misreading of Scripture.

We find in 1 Corinthians 15 that the resurrection is the hope of all mankind. Resurrection means a raising up or rising. Biblically, it refers to the raising of the dead to life again. The Scriptures teach the resurrection of “all who are in the graves” (John 5:28 John 5:28Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
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), but there is an order in which all the dead will be resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:23-24 1 Corinthians 15:23-24 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. 24 Then comes the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
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). The Bible reveals that some will be resurrected to everlasting life and others are to be sentenced to eternal death (Daniel 12:2-3 Daniel 12:2-3 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.
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; Revelation 20:13-15 Revelation 20:13-15 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
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).

Resurrections are possible because God has the ability to give life. God, through the One called the Word, who became Jesus Christ, gave life to the first man, Adam. Jesus has the same power to give life to a human being a second time (John 5:21 John 5:21For as the Father raises up the dead, and vivifies them; even so the Son vivifies whom he will.
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; John 6:44 John 6:44No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
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; John 6:54 John 6:54Whoever eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
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). Both the Father and the Son have life within themselves (John 5:26 John 5:26For as the Father has life in himself; so has he given to the Son to have life in himself;
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).

This inherent power of God can produce both physical and spirit life. God has power to resurrect one from the grave in physical or spirit form (1 Corinthians 15:35-38 1 Corinthians 15:35-38 35 But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? 36 You fool, that which you sow is not quickened, except it die: 37 And that which you sow, you sow not that body that shall be, but bore grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: 38 But God gives it a body as it has pleased him, and to every seed his own body.
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). Indeed, God has demonstrated that He has the power to resurrect to physical life (John 11:43-44 John 11:43-44 43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. 44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus said to them, Loose him, and let him go.
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; Matthew 27:52-53 Matthew 27:52-53 52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, 53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared to many.
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) and to spiritual life (Matthew 28:6-7 Matthew 28:6-7 6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goes before you into Galilee; there shall you see him: see, I have told you.
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).

Resurrections are also possible because Christ Himself has been raised (1 Corinthians 15:20-22 1 Corinthians 15:20-22 20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. 21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
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). His resurrection as a living Savior made possible the salvation of all people. Thus, mankind would die and perish forever were it not for Christ’s resurrection (Romans 5:10 Romans 5:10For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
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; 1 Corinthians 15:26 1 Corinthians 15:26The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
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; 1 Corinthians 15:55 1 Corinthians 15:55O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?
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).

God’s plan for mankind’s salvation requires the resurrection of all who die (John 5:28 John 5:28Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
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). The apostle John referred to three resurrections in Revelation 20—one to eternal life (Revelation 20:4-6 Revelation 20:4-6 4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark on their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
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), one to physical life (Revelation 20:11-12 Revelation 20:11-12 11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
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) and one to death in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:13-15 Revelation 20:13-15 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
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). (Although the last verses cited here do not mention a resurrection specifically, the incorrigibly wicked of past ages, who have rejected God’s offer for salvation, will need to be resurrected to be cast into the lake of fire.) Let’s consider each of these in turn.

The first resurrection is called by that name: “…They lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years…Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4-6 Revelation 20:4-6 4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark on their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
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).

This resurrection will take place at the second coming of Christ when the righteous dead will be resurrected to immortality (1 Corinthians 15:50-52 1 Corinthians 15:50-52 50 Now this I say, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 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.
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; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
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). Called “the resurrection of life” in John 5:29 John 5:29And shall come forth; they that have done good, to the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation.
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, it is also referred to as a “better resurrection” (Hebrews 11:35 Hebrews 11:35Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:
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) because it is to immortality and rulership with Christ during the Millennium.

Then Christ “will reward each according to his works” (Matthew 16:27 Matthew 16:27For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
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). While salvation itself is a free gift of God not based on works, one’s works demonstrate how much a person has grown in God’s way of life and will be a factor in determining each person’s degree of responsibility in God’s Kingdom (see Matthew 25:14-30 Matthew 25:14-30 14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered to them his goods. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. 16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. 17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. 18 But he that had received one went and dig in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants comes, and reckons with them. 20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, you delivered to me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. 21 His lord said to him, Well done, you good and faithful servant: you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your lord. 22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, you delivered to me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. 23 His lord said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your lord. 24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew you that you are an hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not strewed: 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the earth: see, there you have that is yours. 26 His lord answered and said to him, You wicked and slothful servant, you knew that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strewed: 27 You ought therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received my own with usury. 28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it to him which has ten talents. 29 For to every one that has shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that has not shall be taken away even that which he has. 30 And cast you the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
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; Matthew 19:11-27 Matthew 19:11-27 11 But he said to them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. 12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it. 13 Then were there brought to him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come to me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. 15 And he laid his hands on them, and departed there. 16 And, behold, one came and said to him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17 And he said to him, Why call you me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments. 18 He said to him, Which? Jesus said, You shall do no murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and your mother: and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 20 The young man said to him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? 21 Jesus said to him, If you will be perfect, go and sell that you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. 23 Then said Jesus to his disciples, Truly I say to you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 25 When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? 26 But Jesus beheld them, and said to them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. 27 Then answered Peter and said to him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed you; what shall we have therefore?
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).

The second resurrection will take place at the end of the 1,000-year reign of Christ and the saints. “But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished” (Revelation 20:5 Revelation 20:5But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
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).

This resurrection, also known as the general resurrection or Great White Throne Judgment (see Revelation 20:11 Revelation 20:11And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
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), is further described in Revelation 20:12 Revelation 20:12And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
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: “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened [evidently meaning the books of the Bible now opened to their understanding]. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life [meaning opportunity for being listed with the saved]. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.” That is, they are evaluated over time—according to how they live by what they then learn—not instantly condemned.

John 5:29 John 5:29And shall come forth; they that have done good, to the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation.
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calls this “a resurrection of judgment”—not “of condemnation,” as some Bible versions render the words here.

The Judge here and in all such judgment, it should be mentioned, is Christ: “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22 John 5:22For the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment to the Son:
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). This is because Jesus experienced life as a human being (John 5:27 John 5:27And has given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.
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; Hebrews 4:15 Hebrews 4:15For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
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).

The second resurrection is a resurrection back to physical life (see Ezekiel 37:1-14 Ezekiel 37:1-14 1 The hand of the LORD was on me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the middle of the valley which was full of bones, 2 And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, see, they were very dry. 3 And he said to me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, you know. 4 Again he said to me, Prophesy on these bones, and say to them, O you dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 5 Thus said the Lord GOD to these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live: 6 And I will lay sinews on you, and will bring up flesh on you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD. 7 So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. 8 And when I beheld, see, the sinews and the flesh came up on them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. 9 Then said he to me, Prophesy to the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus said the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live. 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up on their feet, an exceeding great army. 11 Then he said to me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them, Thus said the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, 14 And shall put my spirit in you, and you shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall you know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, said the LORD.
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). It will include the vast majority of all people who have ever lived—people who never knew God and His great purpose for them. It will be an exciting time when billions of people from all periods of history will come back to life (Matthew 11:20-24 Matthew 11:20-24 20 Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: 21 Woe to you, Chorazin! woe to you, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say to you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, which are exalted to heaven, shall be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in you, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say to you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.
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; 12:41-42).

While these people will have a second opportunity for physical life at this time, it will be their first opportunity for salvation and glorious immortality in God’s family. They will be given ample time for learning and growing in God’s way of life. Truly, God’s plan includes everyone. He is not willing for any to perish but that all should come to repentance and salvation (2 Peter 3:9 2 Peter 3:9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
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; 1 Timothy 2:4 1 Timothy 2:4Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
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). Yet some, even with sufficient understanding and opportunity, will still refuse to comply.

The third resurrection will take place near the conclusion of God’s revealed plan for mankind. This will be a resurrection to physical life of all those throughout past ages who, though fully aware of God’s truth and purpose, have willfully chosen to reject His offer of eternal life.

They will be brought back to be justly punished by death in the lake of fire along with those who are unrepentant at the end of the second resurrection period. “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire … which is the second death” (Revelation 20:15 Revelation 20:15And whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
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; Revelation 21:8 Revelation 21:8But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
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; see also Hebrews 10:26-29 Hebrews 10:26-29 26 For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins, 27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. 28 He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: 29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose you, shall he be thought worthy, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant, with which he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and has done despite to the Spirit of grace?
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; 2 Peter 3:10-12 2 Peter 3:10-12 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 12 Looking for and hastening to the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
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).

This is not a presently burning place of torment, but a fire that will burn on the earth in the future for only a time. As mentioned, our loving God gives everyone an opportunity to have eternal life and wishes no one to perish. But if people ultimately refuse to repent, the punishment is the second death—utter annihilation through incineration, ending their lives and existence quickly and forever (Malachi 4:1-3 Malachi 4:1-3 1 For, behold, the day comes, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yes, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that comes shall burn them up, said the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But to you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and you shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. 3 And you shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, said the LORD of hosts.
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; Matthew 10:28 Matthew 10:28And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
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; Matthew 25:46 Matthew 25:46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
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).

This is an eternal judgment and punishment—not because the torment goes on forever, as it certainly does not, but because the effects of the punishment are permanent. Those who die the second death will forever remain dead, having no possibility of a subsequent resurrection.

The three resurrections reveal the order of God’s awe-inspiring plan for all humanity. “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27 Hebrews 9:27And as it is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment:
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), and that requires a resurrection for everyone who has ever lived.