2 Cor. 5; John 5
Judgment is never properly understood in its real depth, as well as its comprehensiveness, unless salvation be also rightly apprehended. A great effort of the enemy, working on the unbelief of man, is to confound these two things. The object is evident. Man in flesh, i.e., in his natural state, never trusts God, who on His part, it is clear, cannot trust man. The gospel calls upon man to confess that his condition is such that God cannot trust him; it claims in the name of the Lord Jesus, because of God’s love displayed in giving Him, and by virtue of the efficacious work He has accomplished, that man should trust God — in a word, that he should repent and believe the gospel, that he should believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. There is immense force in the words, “be saved.” There are many even of God’s children who have most imperfect thoughts about salvation. Were we, instead of this expression, to insert the words, “be pardoned,” or “reconciled to God,” I apprehend that the mass of Christians at the present moment would see but little difference; but salvation includes a great deal more than pardon, precious as it is. Salvation takes in the whole scope and result of Christ’s work; and whether you look at salvation in its complete sense and heavenly light, as shown us in Ephesians, or add to the work of Christ His priesthood and coming again in glory, either goes far beyond forgiveness of sins, and both are certain and scriptural. The mass of God’s children at present on the earth have not only scant but dim perceptions about it, which is proved by the fact that they are under the impression that those saved must be judged like man in general — that all men, saints or sinners, must equally pass through the judgment, the eternal judgment of God. This prevails even in the minds of pre-millennialists, who suppose the saints before, and sinners after, the millennium. If they asserted that all men, saints or sinners, must alike be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; if they maintained that every one, without exception, must surely give an account of the things done by the body; if they held and taught that God will magnify Himself, not only in the judgment of those that have despised Christ, but in the distinct appraisal of the character and conduct of every saint, just as much as of every sinner, they would assert nothing more than in my judgment the word of God most clearly propounds. To me, I confess, it seems an evidence, not of strength but of weakness of faith, where real Christians shrink from the truth of being manifested before the judgment-seat of Christ, and vote it a strange doctrine and virtually a raising of questions as to personal acceptance again. But not so; Scripture is most explicit as to present and eternal acceptance, and as to our future manifestation before the Lord Jesus. Let none, then, imagine that the doctrine I trust now to prove, surely and plainly, from God’s words, weakens the manifestation of every soul, at some time and for one object or another, before our Lord.
In 2 Cor. 5 we have a weighty, full and unambiguous statement of God’s mind upon this matter. Here the apostle, when bringing out the rich blessing of the Christian in the power of the life of Christ communicated to the soul, shows that this life is such in its own character that Christ, the source of it, has only to come, and at once every vestige of mortality in the believer is swallowed up of life. Hence there is the strongest expression possible of assurance; but in this the apostle puts himself on common ground with all other saints, and acknowledges, as a matter of common Christian knowledge, that “if the earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” At the same time he shows that what the believer earnestly desires is not to be “unclothed,” that is, to pass through the article of death, as if death were a necessary step in the way of the saint to glory. It is not so at all. “Earnestly desiring to be clothed upon” is the word, the very reverse of being unclothed. When the saint dies, he quits the bodily tenement, he is unclothed, he departs to join Christ. Instead of waiting in the body till Christ comes for him, he goes to be with Him. In this case there is no such thing as mortality being “swallowed up of life.” He is “absent,” as it is said, “from the body, present with the Lord.” But let the Lord come, and instantly there answers to His call and presence the life that He gave to all the Christians upon the earth, and not only to those then found alive, but to such as are dead — to those that slept in Christ. “The dead in Christ shall rise first;” but, more than that, in the case of the living, “mortality is swallowed up of life.” These not only do not necessarily die, but death can have no possible dominion over them. Even now and till then mortality is in them; but for such saints as live till Christ comes, there is no death at all. A tendency to death, of course, there is now in the natural body of the believer, like anyone else; but in him, until the actual act of death if he die, it is only mortality. Christ comes, and at once every trace of mortality is swallowed up of life. This, then, so far above natural thoughts, was what the apostle speaks of all earnestly desiring then. “For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened; not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.”
Lower down he insists that “we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ.” And here I would point out that there is a slight difference in the form but important enough in the sense, which shows that “we all,” in the tenth verse of 2 Cor. 5 differs essentially from “we all” in the eighteenth verse of 2 Cor. 3. In the third chapter, “We all ( ἡμεῖς δὲ πάντες), with open face beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord,” means all Christians, and Christians exclusively. But in the fifth chapter there is a specific difference ( τοὺς γὰρ πάντας ἡμᾶς) which has not been noticed, as far as I am aware, proving that a larger thought is in the mind of the Holy Ghost, and that while Christians, of course, are included, the expression embraces more than Christians, in fact, all men without exception. It seems to me there need be no hesitation whatever in affirming this; it is, at any rate, my conviction. It is well known that some have restricted 2 Cor. 5:10 to Christians; but they have overlooked, in my judgment, the comprehensive character of the passage that follows, which they are obliged to pare down and even alter unwarrantably, even then presenting a lame and impotent conclusion, and failing to give value to the distinct phrase alluded to, which appears to me expressly calculated, and, indeed, framed to intimate a different truth. For it is not the way of the Spirit of God to vary the language after this manner, unless He have some different sense to convey by it. In 2 Cor. 5 the Greek article, thus inserted, gives all possible breadth — “the whole of us;” whereas in 2 Cor. 3 it is simply “we all.” What confirms this is, as was said, the effect produced and stated immediately after in verse 11, which shows that the apostle had more in his mind than believers and their portion. “We must all be manifested before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in [by] his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”
Now, this is clearly applicable either to a believer or an unbeliever. An unbeliever has nothing but what is bad; and when God enters into judgment with him, all will be made manifest, whatever may have been his own thoughts, or those of others, in this world: he is judged and cast into the lake of fire. There had been no love for the will of God, but hatred to it: there had been no faith in God’s testimony to his soul, but wilful rejection of it, there had been no clinging to mercy in the person of Christ, but on the contrary all was scorned, or at least done without. Judgment takes its course. There had been nothing but unmingled evil, as will be proved before the judgment-seat of Christ, whose name and precious blood had been despised. In the believer the crop has a mingled character: there is good and there is bad. The Lord will fully own and reward whatever has been the fruit of the Holy Ghost working in the believer’s soul and in his ways; but as to the bad, it will be his own deep and thankful satisfaction, while himself owning it all fully, not merely to know it blotted out as a matter of guilt against his soul, but to find himself brought into perfect communion with the Lord about it; he will thoroughly see and judge according to God respecting it all. If there were a single thing offensive to God that self-love or haste or will had blinded him to in this life, he will then know it even as he is known. So far from causing a single waver in his affections, so far from raising any doubt or question of God’s perfect grace to his soul, it would be positive loss if the believer were not thus brought into oneness with God’s mind and judgment about all that he has here done. Even in this life we know something analogous. Who that has passed any time in the Lord’s paths has not experienced what it is to be laid aside for a season — to have the Lord speaking to him and calling up before his soul that which he had too lightly thought of, or wholly passed by? Much, it may be, in the very energy of his service had been easily forgotten, when carried along with delight in the work of God, though I am supposing there was also what is sweet and of God in the midst of all. But still, surely there is not a little of nature, not a little of unjudged and unsuspected nature, in the ways and testimony of those that love the Lord.
Now, would it be for the Lord’s glory if these mistakes, and even wrongs, were noticed by Him at no time? Even in this life He does often send circumstances of sorrow, want, sickness, disappointment, it may be a prison, shutting out from the activity of work, to raise needed questions for the soul’s health - not as to God’s saving grace nor as to the believer’s standing. To doubt either is inexcusable: no trial will ever rightly lead to it. Nothing questions God’s grace or faithfulness but flesh, and flesh acted upon by Satan. The truth is, there is not in all God’s word a single ground, or even excuse, given to a believer for doubting divine grace or his own blessing in Christ. But assuredly one is convicted of feebly holding God’s grace, if one regards this perfect manifestation before Christ’s judgment-seat as the smallest contradiction, or even the least possible difficulty. In the end it is a part of God’s necessary ways with His children; its principle is true of them even now: for we are expressly told by the apostle Peter that the Father judges now. Is this opposed to His love? Surely not! Neither will it be so then. Perfect love will have brought us into that place; for in what condition shall we stand there? Before we are manifested at the judgment-seat of Christ, He will have come for us, and presented us in His Father’s house in pure, simple, absolute grace. We shall appear there already glorified: our bodies being like that of Christ, we shall be incapable of that natural shame which might be a pain to us here in this life. We shall then feel entirely with Christ, and consequently be thoroughly above that which will be disclosed there. All will justify His ways, though it be humbling to us; but we shall only rejoice in, only exalt, Him. And I see no ground at all to doubt that not merely what we have been as believers, but the whole life from first to last, will be brought out. And what will be the effect of it? An infinitely deep appreciation of the grace of God; profound delight in all His ways and ends, and above all in Himself; and an equally deep sense of what the creature, and we ourselves, have been, in every form or degree in which self wrought here below. God forbid that any one should count such a manifestation a loss, grief or danger to be dreaded. Even here the measure of it we know is gain: what will it be then and there?
Further, it appears to me that this is the reason why the Spirit of God uses the remarkable language found here; for there is nothing expressed about being judged in the passage. It would not be true, as may be proved by other Scriptures, to say, “we must all be judged before the judgment-seat of Christ.” None but the unjust, the unbeliever, will ever come into judgment; but every soul, good or bad, believer or unbeliever, must be equally and perfectly manifested before His judgment-seat. And what makes this still more evident is not only the choice of the language, “we must all appear,” or “be manifested;” and then again that which follows — “knowing therefore the terror of the Lord” (which there is no ground whatever to weaken) — “knowing therefore the terror of the Lord we persuade men.” This is the strongest possible proof of the large scope of the preceding verse 10, because we are here shown the effect of that future final manifestation upon the spirit as regards not ourselves but others. Thus, properly understood, this portion of Scripture supposes the fullest rest in the grace of God, even when we contemplate solemnly the judgment-seat of Christ. There is no question of perturbation about our own souls; but it fills us with anxiety about “men” as such. Why about men rather than about saints? Evidently and only because the judgment-seat of Christ will not in the smallest degree jeopard the safety of a single saint. The language is therefore changed, and instead of adopting the word “we,” or continuing the former phrase “us all,” or anything that would either present the believer alone, or the believer with the unbeliever to a certain extent, we have the word changed — “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” That is, we go forth animated with the deep feeling of what that judgment-seat must be to the unbeliever. We know that it is a solemn, though a most blessed, thought to a believer. We know nothing but the mighty grace of God in Christ could have made it to be a happy prospect for us. But the deeper and more solid the conviction, that only His grace gives us stable peace in presence of the judgment-seat, the more in proportion do we feel what that judgment-seat will be to those who have not Christ.
Hence, then, the apostle proceeds to speak of it as the common feeling of himself and other Christians, from the awful import of the judgment-seat to the unbeliever, to “persuade men,” as he calls it; i.e. to seek to bring them to the knowledge of Christ. “But we are made manifest to God,” he carefully adds here. In other words, even now the spirit of the judgment-seat is true of the believer; not that he will not appear there by and by, but that now also we are made manifest unto God. This is most true, and important too. “We are made manifest unto God, and, I trust, also are made manifest in your consciences.” He could speak in an absolute manner of being made manifest to God; he could speak but in a hopeful way of being manifested to the consciences of believers, because there might be disturbing influences in their case. After all, this could only be a comparative thing, while to God, I repeat, they were already made manifest absolutely. Thus the passage contains the most weighty truth, fully asserting the present manifestation of the believer to God, while it also insists on what is future and perfect before the judgment-seat of Christ for the believer by and by, and intimates the effect of grace on his heart to seek unbelievers, knowing, as we do, the terror of the Lord for them by and by; for we shall all be made manifest there; not only the unbeliever, but the believer. He presumes in the strongest manner the peace of the believer, even in contemplating the judgment-seat. On him the effect of this disclosure is to awaken not a single alarm as to himself or his brethren. What a witness of a full, and a present, and eternal salvation! All his soul’s energies are thrown out in behalf of men who are living for the present and for the earth, little thinking that they must stand before Christ’s judgment-seat, ignorant of its real character, and heedless of its issues.
This will be sufficient, I trust, to convince any Christian open to conviction, that, far from denying, I think we cannot too strongly insist on, the extent as well as the certainty of the manifestation of every man, believer or not, before the judgment-seat of Christ. But then, observe well, it is their manifestation. The moment we come to speak of judgment, the Lord has decided for the Christian already. In John 5 will be found clear, unmistakeable evidence, which proves the separation, even in this world, between believer and unbeliever, through the Lord Jesus. This real present separation is simply by faith, but it is not the less according to the eternal truth of God. I do not speak, of course, of external circumstances. The Lord introduces it thus in verse 21 “For as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will: for the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son; that all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father that sent him.” Hence, it is evident that as two glories meet in Christ, so two actions are attributed to Him. One of them is in communion with the Father; the other is confined to Himself alone. In communion with the Father, He quickens or gives life. The reason is manifest. The communication of life flows from His deity. None but a divine person can quicken the dead. The Father raises the dead: so the Son quickens not only those whom the Father will, but whom He will. He is sovereign, therefore, as being the Son, equal with God. Whatever may be the language of His lowliness as man, He never abrogated, though He might hold for a season in abeyance, His full rights. as a divine person, one with the Father. But then the Father does not judge. How is this? The Son judges, and He alone. No doubt it is the judgment of God, but it is His judgment administered by the Son. The Father has committed all judgment unto the Son. Wherefore this difference as set forth in so marked a change of language? Why, in the one case, the quickening whom He will, and in the other, the judging by that authority that is given Him of the Father? Because the Lord Jesus here lets us know that His judgment is in the closest connection with His assumption of human nature.
The moral ground is evident. Why do men, despise the Son, who ostensibly pay homage to God the Father? They take advantage of the humiliation of the Son, because He was pleased to empty Himself, to take the form of a servant, to, be made of a woman, to become man. Wretched man, led of Satan, dared to spit in the face of the Lord of glory, and to crucify Him between robbers. His matchless and all-lowly love gave the opportunity to man, who was too madly base to lose it. The unbelieving way of every soul demonstrates the same sad truth. It is the history of the race from the beginning, and will be so to the end. God notices and will avenge it, when He makes inquisition for blood. But, besides, He commits all judgment to the Son. In that very nature in which He was set at nought He will judge. He will judge not merely as God, though He is God, but as Man, once thoroughly despised and rejected, because, though the Son, He deigned to partake of flesh and blood, and thus become Son of man. Man will be judged by the Man he hated unto death. Man will stand and tremble before the exalted Man, the Lord Jesus Christ. And so it is treated here: “The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son; that all [men] may honour the Son even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father that sent him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word and believeth him that sent me hath everlasting life, and cometh not into judgment but is passed from death into life” (vers. 22-24).
The believer, of course, does not require judgment to compel him to honour the Son. There is nothing, first of all, that so honours the Son as faith; therefore, in hearing Christ’s word and believing Him who sent Christ, the believer does honour the Son in that sort which is so sweet to Himself, and most acceptable to the Father, who refuses all homage at His expense. He bows to Him as Saviour; he owns his sins, seriously and truthfully; he receives life and propitiation in Him and through Him. He confesses Him as Lord; acknowledges Him to be his Lord and his God. He does not need, therefore, the judicial pressure of Christ to make him unite the Son with the Father in coequal divine honour. Well he knows that none but a divine person, one with the Father, could give him that life which he has received in the Son of God. “He that heareth my word,” as He says, “and believeth him that sent me, hath everlasting life.” Even now to the believer the Son of God gives life, and the highest form of it — eternal life. How can he then but bow down and bless the Lord Jesus? The consequence is that he needs nothing to enforce it, as the unbeliever does, who rejects Him, does without His cross, denies therefore His word and His work, and therefore has to be forced to honour Him in some other way, if he with all men must honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.
It is said here further for his comfort, not only that he “hath eternal life,” but that “he shall not come into judgment.” It in well known, and must be insisted on, that this word κρίσις means judgment, and not “condemnation.” There is no Greek scholar who does not know that there is another word ( κατάκριμα) whose function it is to express “condemnation.” Remarkably enough, it stands correctly represented in the common Popish version, though we all know the Roman Catholic version is too often inaccurate, and otherwise faulty, because it follows the common text of the Vulgate, even in its blunders not a few; yet for all that, the Vulgate being right as to this particular passage, the Romish version is therefore much nearer the truth of God in this chapter than the Authorised version of our Protestant Bible, though now given correctly by the Revisers of 1881. The Roman Catholic version, faithful to the Latin, which is here faithful to the Greek, allows and maintains throughout the whole context that there are two dealings in opposition one to the other, life-giving and judging. This contrast is kept up in every case. The Son has life because He is God; the Son judges because He is man. Being the only person in the Godhead who became man, but still in no way forfeiting His rights as God, He is ordained of God the judge of quick and dead. His resurrection proved what God thought of Him and means to do by Him, and what is the character, position, and doom of the world which put Him to death. The Son — the Son of man — will judge man. On the other hand, the believer owns Him, not only as the Son of men, but as God, on, and according to, His word; he consequently receives life eternal through honouring the divine glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. The unbeliever, stumbling more particularly over His deity, refuses Himself, rejects, as we know, His work in atonement, or manifests a guilty indifference about it, even if he do not openly deny it — has no real sense of his sins, and consequently no fear of God, nor appreciation of His eternal judgment. In one or other form, men, unbelievers, slight, if not oppose, and in all cases do without, the Son of God, and, as far as they can in this world, dishonour the Father in thus dishonouring Him. And how, then, are they to honour the Son? They must be judged by Him. They have disclaimed eternal life, because they received not the Son of God. Now, they may avoid stooping to, the humbled Son of men; but they must stand before Him as the glorious Judge, to be condemned for ever. But as for those who in this world received Him, followed Him, adored Him, through faith in His name, — they have everlasting life now, and therefore they need not to come into judgment. In truth, He was judged in their stead on the cross.
Let me repeat that it is not merely life and condemnation which are contrasted, but life and judgment. The word used here throughout means simply “judgment.” Unquestionably the effect of judgment is condemnation. But this very result, which is otherwise scripturally certain, necessarily excludes the believer! Herein lies the importance of the truth before us. It crushes the vain hope of unbelief; it demonstrates the absolute need of grace. No guilty soul can enter into the judgment of God without being laid bare in his sins. Impossible that God should not deal with them according to His own holiness. No matter who it is the man may be, if he be judged he is judged for what he has done and is; he is put on his trial for his sins; and if it be so, what is more certain than that he must be lost? In vain, then, to talk about God’s mercy! His mercy is now manifested and proclaimed in Christ, who is the Saviour Son of God, but will shortly prove that He is also the Judge of men. You cannot mingle the two things. The unbeliever has avowedly no part in Christ’s salvation; he believes not, he ridicules or loathes the testimony of life eternal in the Son of God. On the other hand, and equally, the believer has no part in the judgment which the glorified Son of man will then execute. The two things are kept perfectly distinct. There is no mingling them in the smallest degree.
Therefore, we may note, the statement of the Lord Jesus is the strongest the language He employed could afford: and where is the tongue more admirably accurate than the Greek? and by whom is it wielded with such precision as by the writers of the New Testament? The Lord’s words here recorded show that it is decided for ever between the believer and the unbeliever. The truth is, that for man all turns upon Christ. Do I make light of Him? Then I give the lie to the testimony of God. I insult the grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ, and prove myself to be at war with God. This I cannot do, save to my eternal judgment: “He that believeth not is judged ( κεκριται) already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God; . . . shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:18, 36). If I receive Him by faith, I have eternal life in Him on the warrant of the living word of God: “He that heareth my word and believeth him that sent me hath everlasting life, and cometh not into judgment” ( κρίσιν). It is a verbal noun formed from, and alluding to, the same word that was rightly translated “judge” in verse 22. It is essential to the context that the same sense should be preserved intact throughout. Weigh what comes afterwards: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.” Manifestly we have life again as the effect of hearing His voice — and this, too, going on now. The dead, the spiritually dead, are being awakened to hear the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ, then heard when the great salvation began to be spoken by Him, but still continued “by them that have preached the gospel unto you by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.” And they that hear shall live — as He said. Such is the declared effect: He that believes “hath everlasting life:” “For as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.” The reason why the Father is said to give this to the Son is, I apprehend, because Christ the Son so completely takes the place here of a sent One in humanity upon the earth, though even He does not so speak till He had betrayed, as it were, His own intrinsic glory, as One personally entitled to quicken whom He would. Here, however, true to the place He had been pleased to accept, as man in subjection to God the Father, whose glory He upheld above all things, He only speaks of the Father as having given to the Son to have life in Himself. It is part of His perfection as man, that He did not claim as a present thing all or any of the rights attached to His essential dignity, but that He entered fully into the humiliation by which alone God could be retrieved in His moral glory here below, by which alone the counsels of grace to the lost could be made holily efficacious.
Hence the Lord says that the Father hath “given to the Son to have life in himself, and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.” Life is in Him; He also is the appointed Judge. Then we have the final result: “Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall bear his voice, and shall come forth.” Here it is an hour, not “that now is,” but wholly future; and it is no question of faith called for, or unbelief proved, but “all that are in the graves shall hear his voice.” Before, the only part expressly treated was the believer with his blessing; dead indeed as to his state by nature, but quickened by hearing the voice of the Son of God. It was an individual personal thing for the soul; but when we come to this future hearing of His voice, there is no question of faith any longer. It is the mighty power of the Son of God that is put forth absolutely and universally. Therefore, “all that are in their graves,” it is said, “shall hear his voice, and shall come forth.” Does this mean all at the same moment, so that they all form a common class? Not only is there no such doctrine anywhere else in the Bible, but this passage, rightly understood, excludes it. Popular as it may be, the idea of a general resurrection is wholly without foundation — nay, contrary to all Scripture. No doubt two or three passages in the word of God have been construed to speak of an indiscriminate rising from the dead, and none more commonly or more constantly than the verses before us.1 Yet it is not merely a mistake as to the force of the text, but a fundamental error, which will be found to obscure and weaken salvation by grace; for it confounds the ways of God, and blots out that present difference which it is God’s manifest desire to render specially distinct now to faith, as it will be by and by in fact, when confusion is no longer possible.
They were not, then, to wonder that even now dead souls receive life in hearing Christ; for a more manifest wonder was coming when the voice of the Son of God sounds forth in a day that is future. Then, “all that are in the graves,” (that is, not the dead morally, but all literally dead,) “shall hear His voice, and shall come forth.” These are thereon not viewed as a common category, which as lying in the graves they were, but are by resurrection divided into two distinct classes — “They that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of [not ‘damnation,’ but] judgment” — the very same word throughout. It cannot be denied. It is in vain for learned or unlearned to attempt glosses, clever or clumsy, over the expression. The word of God is too strong for man to bend it. No doubt, the truth is too bright for those that uphold the error of the A.V. in this particular case. This or other reasons may have influenced the English translators from Tyndale: the motive I do not pretend to judge; but the fact is plain. And I affirm that “condemnation” or “damnation” is a wrong rendering of κρίσις, for which there is no tenable ground. The verb means, and is rightly translated, “judge” (verses 22-30); the substantive means, “judgment,” or “the act of judging,” and should have been so translated throughout, as is now done by the Revisers of 1881. (Vers. 22, 24, 27, 29, 30).
But this makes the distinction of the two classes that are raised from their graves manifest and complete. As to the first, they are those that have practised good (for they are no longer characterised as believers only); it is a life-resurrection. As bowing to Christ in this world, they had life in Him, the Son; their resurrection is simply the consummation of the life. For the body will be quickened as well as the soul. It is Christ, as the Son of God, who gave them life through faith, even now and in this world; it is Christ who will shortly call them out of their graves; and the power of the life they possessed in Him will be then manifest for ever.
As to unbelievers, they contemned the Son of God. They saw not His glory; they felt not His grace. They consequently lived, or rather they lay, in unremoved death, moral or spiritual death before God. They had no life even while they lived, because they had not the Son of God; and the consequence is that they, summoned from their graves, know not a resurrection of life according to the mould of Christ’s own, but simply rise to be judged. They come forth in due time (solemn thought!) that they may be compelled in judgment to honour that Son whom here they spurned to their own everlasting shame and ruin — to honour Him who, when they were alive, met them with gracious words of life, had they but hearkened to His voice of quickening grace. But, alas! He was definitively rejected. They had done nothing but evil or worthless things here; they are called up by Christ’s power. It is a judgment-resurrection.
Thus, beyond all controversy, there remains the patent fact that we have two resurrections distinguished here by their character — resurrections, not merely separated by time (which is stated expressly elsewhere, but after all it is quite a subordinate question), but in their own nature and issues as different as can possibly be. A difference of character is a far more important feature than a difference in point of time. For my own part, so far from thinking so much of the long space between them, I believe that were it but a minute which separated the resurrection of life and the resurrection of judgment, the eternal and essential features would remain; that the one is a resurrection of life which is given by the grace of God in His Son, and always distinguishes those who have received Him here; the other is a resurrection of judgment for those who would not have Him in this world, but are finally compelled by divine power, when His voice is heard in glory, to honour the Son even as the Father.
1 The other Scripture chiefly rested on is Daniel 12:2; but it needs little exegetic skill to see that the rising in question is bound to the deliverance of the Jews at the end of this age, and therefore must be figurative (like Isa. 26 and Ezek. 37). It would, if literal, involve both just and unjust rising before the millennium, which contradicts the plainest Scripture. Besides it is here “many,” not the many, still less all, contrary to the hypothesis.