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The Covenantal Kingdom

by Rev. Ralph Allan Smith

Chapter One:

The Biblical and Theological Issues

Biblical Answer: Second Coming and Resurrection

By answering Bahnsen's second question we have already demonstrated that the Biblical witness points to postmillennialism. Nevertheless, it is important to consider Bahnsen's first question also -- "Is the church age inclusive of the millennium?" (In other words, does the second coming of Christ bring the end of history?). If the church age includes the millennium, then premillennialism, the most popular millennial position today, is proven doubly wrong.

Teaching of Jesus

There is a wealth of New Testament evidence that there is one general resurrection at the end of history. [20] Jesus says four times in John 6:38-54 that He will resurrect His people on the last day. He had already stated in a previous encounter with the Jews that the resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous would occur together: "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (Jn. 5:28-29). In a single time period ("the hour") the entire human race will hear Christ's voice and come forth from the grave ("all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth"). After the resurrection, the people will be divided on ethical lines between those who have done good and those who have done evil. There is no dispensational division of Jews, Gentiles, and the Church. Neither are there two resurrections as the dispensationalists teach. There is only one resurrection -- but with two different destinations.

Teaching of Paul

Paul referred to the same single resurrection when he confessed his faith that "There shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked" (Acts 24:15). In another place the apostle Paul taught that all the dead in Christ would be raised and the living would be translated at the sound of the last trumpet (1 Thes. 4:13-17; 1 Cor. 15:52-58). This is the final defeat of death and the end of its reign (1 Cor. 15:54-58). It is also the end of history and the beginning of eternal life in heaven, for Paul teaches that the last enemy that will be defeated is death (1 Cor. 15:25-26). [21]

Perhaps the most lucid statement of the time of the resurrection is Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 15:20-28. [22] Here Paul states that the resurrection of the dead takes place in two stages, the first being the resurrection of Jesus Christ Himself. Then, the resurrection of those who are Christ's (1 Cor. 15:23). Paul speaks of the resurrection of God's people as the defeat of their great enemy death (1 Cor. 15:26). He expressly states that Christ, who is ruling now, "must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet" (1 Cor. 15:25) [23], including the last enemy which is death itself (1 Cor. 15:26). Death is defeated at the resurrection of Christ's people at the end of history when Christ delivers the kingdom to God (1 Cor. 15:24, 27-28). [24]

The implications of this passage are inescapable. The language is clear and free of symbolism. The only real question this passage raises is this: Why do premillennialists ignore the straightforward teaching of the central New Testament chapter on the resurrection and build a doctrine of the resurrection on what they consider to be the implications of figures of speech?


The explicit teaching of Jesus and Paul points to a single resurrection at the end of history. It is a principle of interpretation that we must use the simple and clear passages of Scripture to aid us in understanding the more difficult figurative language. We have in the Gospels and the Epistles the simple but seldom-used key to the book of Revelation and the "secrets" of Biblical eschatology.


[20]. See the very interesting explanation of the day of the Lord and the resurrection in David Chilton, Paradise Restored, pp. 133-48.

[21]. Dispensationalists deny the plain and straightforward implications of these and other passages by introducing numerous distinctions. The basis for the dispensationalist distinctions between the various judgments and resurrections, however, is grounded in their theological presuppositions, not in sound exegesis of the passages themselves. Their main text is Revelation 20. Distinctions introduced into the teaching of Jesus and Paul are clearly based upon their interpretation of Revelation. For an extended discussion of the interpretation of Revelation 20, see: David Chilton, Days of Vengeance. I believe that in the New Testament teaching about the final judgement and resurrection we see another example of postmillennialism being more "literal" than dispensationalism.

[22]. For an extended discussion of 1 Cor. 15:23-28 that compares the premillennial and amillennial/postmillennial interpretation, see: Geerhardus Vos, The Pauline Eschatology (Grand Rapids: Baker, [1930] 1979). Cf. also Paradise Restored, p. 145f.

[23]. Cf. Acts 2:34-35 where Peter also refers to this verse.

[24]. Pentecost's extensive discussion of verses 20-24 is conducted as if verse 25-28 do not exist. But verse 25, beginning with the word "for," is Paul's exposition of the previous verses. It can hardly be ignored! A later discussion of verses 24-28 is conducted as if the passage did not begin with a discussion of resurrection. Pentecost, Things to Come, pp. 402-7 and 492-94.

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