Christian Churches of God

No. 143A




Heaven, Hell or the First Resurrection of the Dead


(Edition 1.5 20120428-20160929)


The First Resurrection of the Dead is the resurrection of the Churches of God at the Return of the Messiah.  On no other doctrine was the faith of the true Christian so clearly defined.



Christian Churches of God

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(Copyright ©  2012, 2016 Wade Cox)


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Heaven, Hell or the First Resurrection of the Dead


In what passes as Christianity in the modern age, the misconception of the Bible position on what happens when you die is profound. The majority of so-called Christians will emphatically tell the casual observer that when they die they go to heaven.  Those that they do not like or who disagree with them will invariably go to Hell, which they envisage as a place of eternal torment under Satan and the demons. So it is also with Islam in a corruption of the original texts. In no place is this misconception more firmly held than the Trinitarian Christianity of the West and most fervently among the Antinomian Gnostics particularly in the US. What the so-called Christians hold to be fervently true would have got them expelled in the Church of God of the First and Second Century, even in Rome where the false doctrines entered the Christian Church.


The entire Church believed that Christ would have two advents and on this faith of the Second Advent was pinned the hope of the Resurrection. Justin Martyr writing from Rome ca 154 stated the position most succinctly in his Dialogue with Trypho. In Chapter LII he said of the two advents of the Messiah.



"And it was prophesied by Jacob the patriarch that there would be two advents of Christ, and that in the first He would suffer, and that after He came there would be neither prophet nor king in your nation(I proceeded), and that the nations who believed in the suffering Christ would look for His future appearance. And for this reason the Holy Spirit had uttered these truths in a parable, and obscurely: for," I added, "it is said, 'Judah, thy brethren have praised thee: thy hands[shall be] on the neck of thine enemies; the sons of thy father shall worship thee. Judah is a lion's whelp; from the germ, my son, thou art sprung up. Reclining, he lay down like a lion, and like [a lion's] whelp: who shall raise him up? A ruler shall not depart from Judah, or a leader from his thighs, until that which is laid up in store for him shall come; and he shall be the desire of nations, binding his foal to the vine, and the foal of his ass to the tendril of the vine. He shall wash his garments in wine, and his vesture in the blood of the grape. His eyes shall be bright with wine, and his teeth white like milk.' Moreover, that in your nation there never failed either prophet or ruler, from the time when they began until the time when this Jesus Christ appeared and suffered, you will not venture shamelessly to assert, nor can you prove it. For though you affirm that Herod, after whose[reign] He suffered, was an Ashkelonite, nevertheless you admit that there was a high priest in your nation; so that you then had one who presented offerings according to the law of Moses, and observed the other legal ceremonies; also[you had] prophets in succession until John,(even then, too, when your nation was carried captive to Babylon, when your land was ravaged by war, and the sacred vessels carried off); there never failed to be a prophet among you, who was lord, and leader, and ruler of your nation. For the Spirit which was in the prophets anointed your kings, and established them. But after the manifestation and death of our Jesus Christ in your nation, there was and is nowhere any prophet: nay, further, you ceased to exist under your own king, your land was laid waste, and forsaken like a lodge in a vineyard; and the statement of Scripture, in the mouth of Jacob, 'And He shall be the desire of nations,' meant symbolically His two advents, and that the nations would believe in Him; which facts you may now at length discern. For those out of all the nations who are pious and righteous through the faith of Christ, look for His future appearance.

(Gen 49:5, 8-12, 18, 24)


The definitive position on the subject was stated most succinctly by Justin Martyr in his Dialogue with Trypho at Chapter LXXX f.:

CHAPTER LXXX -- THE OPINION OF JUSTIN WITH REGARD TO THE REIGN OF A THOUSAND YEARS. SEVERAL CATHOLICS REJECT IT. [Note the attempt at defending the later Trinitarian errors are attempted to be justified here by the comment “several Catholics reject it” in the title.  It is however the express statement of the Bible text in Revelation chapter 20 (Cox).]


“And Trypho to this replied, "I remarked to you sir, that you are very anxious to be safe in all respects, since you cling to the Scriptures. But tell me, do you really admit that this place, Jerusalem, shall be rebuilt; and do you expect your people to be gathered together, and made joyful with Christ and the patriarchs, and the prophets, both the men of our nation, and other proselytes who joined them before your Christ came? or have you given way, and admitted this in order to have the appearance of worsting us in the controversies?"


Then I answered, "I am not so miserable a fellow, Trypho, as to say one thing and think another. I admitted to you formerly, that I and many others are of this opinion, and [believe] that such will take place, as you assuredly are aware; but, on the other hand, I signified to you that many who belong to the pure and pious faith, and are true Christians, think otherwise. Moreover, I pointed out to you that some who are called Christians, but are godless, impious heretics, teach doctrines that are in every way blasphemous, atheistical, and foolish. But that you may know that I do not say this before you alone, I shall draw up a statement, so far as I can, of all the arguments which have passed between us; in which I shall record myself as admitting the very same things which I admit to you. For I choose to follow not men or men's doctrines, but God and the doctrines [delivered] by Him. For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this[truth], and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians, even as one, if he would rightly consider it, would not admit that the Sadducees, or similar sects of Genist, Geristae, Gelilaeans, Hellenists, Pharisees, Baptists, are Jews (do not hear me impatiently when I tell you what I think), but are[only] called Jews and children of Abraham, worshipping God with the lips, as God Himself declared, but the heart was far from Him. But I and others, who are right-minded Christians on all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built, adorned, and enlarged, the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and others declare.” (emphasis added); (Rev. 20: 1-15)


Note that anyone who said that when they died they went to heaven was a Godless and blasphemous heretic and was not accepted in the church. On no other point was doctrine so clearly divided.


CHAPTER LXXXI -- HE ENDEAVOURS TO PROVE THIS OPINION FROM ISAIAH AND THE APOCALYPSE. [Note that these modern Trinitarian translators attempt to make it the opinion of Justin rather than the doctrine of the Church of God (Cox).]

"For Isaiah spake thus concerning this space of a thousand years: 'For there shall be the new heaven and the new earth, and the former shall not be remembered, or come into their heart; but they shall find joy and gladness in it, which things I create. For, Behold, I make Jerusalem a rejoicing, and My people a joy; and I shall rejoice over Jerusalem, and be glad over My people. And the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, or the voice of crying. And there shall be no more there a person of immature years, or an old man who shall not fulfil his days. For the young man shall be an hundred years old; but the sinner who dies an hundred years old, he shall be accursed. And they shall build houses, and shall themselves inhabit them; and they shall plant vines, and shall themselves eat the produce of them, and drink the wine. They shall not build, and others inhabit; they shall not plant, and others eat. For according to the days of the tree of life shall be the days of my people; the works of their toil shall abound. Mine elect shall not toil fruitlessly, or beget children to be cursed; for they shall be a seed righteous and blessed by the Lord, and their offspring with them. And it shall come to pass, that before they call I will hear; while they are still speaking, I shall say, What is it? Then shall the wolves and the lambs feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent[shall eat] earth as bread. They shall not hurt or maltreat each other on the holy mountain, saith the Lord.' Now we have understood that the expression used among these words, 'According to the days of the tree [of life] shall be the days of my people; the works of their toil shall abound' obscurely predicts a thousand years. For as Adam was told that in the day he ate of the tree he would die, we know that he did not complete a thousand years. We have perceived, moreover, that the expression, 'The day of the Lord is as a thousand years,' is connected with this subject. And further, there was a certain man with us, whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, who prophesied, by a revelation that was made to him, that those who believed in our Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem; and that thereafter the general, and, in short, the eternal resurrection and judgment of all men would likewise take place. Just as our Lord also said, 'They shall neither marry nor be given in marriage, but shall be equal to the angels, the children of the God of the resurrection.'

(Isa. 65:17ff; Ps. 90:4; 2Pet. 3:8; Rev. 20:4-5; Lk. 20:35f).


Note: It is with this chapter that the allusion to the “days of the Tree of Life” is made and the doctrine began to emerge that the life in the Millennium would be a thousand years. It appears to rest on this assertion from Rome explaining a text, by supplementing it, and on no other basis. We will examine this aspect below.


The Resurrection of the Dead was the unanimous belief of the Reformation churches as shown by their confessions (see the paper The Relationship between Salvation by Grace and the Law (No. 082)).           


The Sequence of the Last Days and the First Resurrection

From the paper Resurrection of the Dead (No. 143) we discussed that fact that not all would be resurrected such as the Rephaim. It was however appointed to all men once to die and that all the sons of Adam would be resurrected to judgment. So also was it appointed to all the sons of God including the angelic host to attain salvation and thus God’s plan was complete and perfectly just. The doctrines developed from the Churches of God in the twentieth century from the USA were incorrect and corruptions of the Bible and accusations against the Justice and Goodness of God and of His Omniscience and Omnipotence. One such false doctrine was the doctrine of the Third Resurrection which has been examined in the paper The Fallacy of the Third Resurrection (No. 166).


From the Resurrection of the Dead (No. 143) we see the following:


The Resurrection

“God does work wonders for the dead and the dead rise up to praise Him (Ps. 88:10a), but the Rephaim do not rise. His steadfast love is declared from the grave (Ps. 88:11) when the dead are resurrected. Job knew that his Redeemer lives (Job 19:25) and at last he will stand upon the Earth. After Job had been destroyed, he knew that from his flesh he would see God, who would be on his side, and his eyes should see Him and not another[’s eyes] (Job 19:25-27).


Christ raised the dead that we might know that he is the Messiah (Mat. 11:4-5). Lazarus was an example of this power (Jn. 11:11). The other comment is that when he was crucified there were others raised from the dead at his death. The traditions of Israel at that time were that these resurrected ones were subsequently killed. The concept of the resurrection as attributed to the Messiah was well known and expected (Mat. 14:2).


It was understood that we should not all sleep, but that we should all be changed at the last trumpet (1Cor. 15:51). Thus the brethren will fall asleep and pass over generations, but at the Last Days the Messiah will come while others of the saints are still living. Hence all will be changed into immortal spiritual bodies (1Cor. 15:44ff.). Those who have fallen asleep will be raised. Those who are alive who are left until the coming of the Lord will not precede those who have fallen asleep (1Thes. 4:13-15). The Lord will descend from Heaven with the archangel’s call and the sound of the trumpet of God, and the dead will rise first and we who are alive shall be caught up together and thus always be with the Lord (1Thes. 4:16-17).


From the resurrection the millennial rule of the saints will commence. The saints will rule the nations with a rod of iron (Rev. 2:26-27). There are a number of symbols in the rod. The rod has power to smash the nations as vessels of clay and also does not bend or break as the reeds. Egypt was likened unto a reed, which snapped and speared the hand of Israel when Israel leaned on it. When they lean on us our rod will not snap.


In the resurrection there will be no marriage (Mat. 22:30). The saints are raised as spiritual entities. That is the day we will all be divorced. All who are married will simply be divorced. That is the only necessary divorce. We are all going to be divorced and married to Christ, each one of us. There is no sex, no male or female, just spiritual bodies who will all become spirit-begotten sons of God, all working with Christ in power. Christ died for us so that when we wake from sleep we might live with him (1Thes. 5:10).


It is important that we understand that only the righteous attain the First Resurrection. Righteousness and justice in Hebrew are the same word (tsedek) – they are understood to be the same thing. Thus the unrepented perversion of justice precludes the elect from the First Resurrection.”


The Sequence

There are a number of things that must happen prior to the coming of the Messiah. All of those things must be within the time frame of the age of the creation. The church has always understood that the age was six thousand years which was represented by the six working days of the Creation week. This period was then the first six days of the week and the Sabbath represented the Sabbath Rest of the Christ which was to be the thousand years of the Millennium under Christ. Thus Christ must return for the establishment of the Millennium. He will establish his throne from Jerusalem.


In this end sequence we will see the world warned as God does nothing except that He warns the people first through the prophets.


At the end of the Age we see the end of the Times of the Gentiles which has been explained in the papers The Fall of Egypt (No. 036) and Fall of Egypt Part II: The Wars of the End (No. 036_2).


According to God’s Calendar (No. 156), the sequence of the prophecies is completed in accordance with the Calendar as laid down in the jubilee system. This system was from the closure of Eden to the 120th Jubilee which ends with the Jubilee year in 2027, 6000 years after the earth was cursed.


The Last generation of 40 years began with the Measuring of the Temple which began in 1987 in accordance with Revelation 11:1. The last phase before Messiah is the Warning of the Nations by the Two Witnesses of Revelation 11:2ff as has been explained in the paper The Witnesses (including the Two Witnesses) (No. 135).


To achieve the standard by which the fallen Host are to be judged, Satan must be bound in the bottomless pit for the Millennium. To get a fair comparison we have to put Satan and the demons away at the very latest with the return of the Messiah. Thus Satan’s time is cut short with the coming of the Witnesses and the return of the Messiah. This act commences the millennial reign of Christ.


Revelation 20:1-4 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years were ended. After that he must be loosed for a little while. 4Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom judgment was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life, and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (RSV)


All these people were either killed or persecuted and placed under a system that requires them to resist. There is no absence of persecution. If we are in the First Resurrection, we have the judgment. We have been persecuted.


Revelation 20:5-10 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy is he who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and they shall reign with him a thousand years. 7And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be loosed from his prison 8and will come out to deceive the nations which are at the four corners of the earth, that is, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. 9And they marched up over the broad earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city; but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (RSV)


These will not die in the sense that they are judged now. The rest of the world is not judged now. Only those who will be raised in the First Resurrection are judged now. We go through that same process of measurement and correction. Then we go through the sequence of the Temple, the Jubilee system consisting of seven sets of seven years, and through the same cycle until we are brought to a position where God can put us into the First Resurrection. The rest of the world will be raised and corrected under supervision at the Second Resurrection (Rev. 20:11-13).


The Second Resurrection mentioned here is examined in the paper The Second Resurrection and The Great White Throne Judgment (No. 143B).


The Actual Resurrection

At the Resurrection of the two Witnesses we see that they are taken with the shout of the archangel to meet the Lord.  It is at this time that the Messiah comes to the Mt. of Olives; and it is cleaved in two.


The Mt. of Olives splits and the two halves move North and South creating a massive valley around Jerusalem some 66 km long.  Jerusalem remains aloft and the earthquake devastates the city. The valley created forms the nucleus of the new lands of the tribes and the Sinai Peninsula is moved south to do away with the tongue of the Red Sea (Zech. 10:11; 14:4).


Once the physical changes are effected the faithful elect, the patriarchs and prophets and those of the church that have been baptised as adults and received the Holy Spirit and judged worthy will be resurrected from the dead in the areas they were and those still alive will wait for them (1Thes. 4:15). Once all are resurrected the entire body of the elect which are the Churches of God over the Millennia will be translated, caught up in the air and taken to Jerusalem to be with the Messiah.


From there the Marriage Supper of the lamb will take place (see the paper Trumpets (No. 136)).


It is not sufficient to simply call on Christ and call him Lord.


To take part in the marriage Supper the individual must have qualified with the following things. They must have:

  1. Been baptised as a repentant adult by an accepted officer of the church of God (Acts 3:19).
  2. Have hands laid on them for receipt of the Holy Spirit after baptism (Acts 8:17).
  3. Be an effective member of one of the Churches of God over the Millennia and been tested in the faith.
  4. Have maintained their garments spotless.
  5. Have faithfully kept the Commandments of God and the Testimony or Faith of Jesus Christ (Rev. 12:17; 14:12).


The purpose of the Lord’s Supper is to re-cleanse the individual yearly and keep them prepared for the First Resurrection.


If these elements have not been faithfully kept and a person has not got their wedding garment on and has not obeyed the commandments of God and the directions of Christ then they are removed from the marriage supper by one of the following ways. If they are not in Jerusalem they will simply be:

  1.  Left standing while the rest are translated and taken to Jerusalem to ever be with the Messiah.
  2. If at Jerusalem they will remain physical humans and be denied access to the elect and removed.


In either case there will be a great weeping and gnashing of teeth by those denied the First Resurrection because there is no negotiation. It is not a matter of having called Christ Lord and kept the system of the sun cults rather than obey the laws of God.  Those that call Christ Lord and do nothing of what he says will be the greatest casualties and there will be no negotiation. The removal will extend into the Churches of God also as the Sardis and the Laodicaean systems will be removed and left to go into the millennial system as human beings because they were dead or lukewarm (see Rev. chapter 3).


Those of the Trinitarian Antinomian Gnostics will be removed from Jerusalem and sent to their tribal areas. Every single Trinitarian Antinomian and their apostate priests will be stripped from Jerusalem and sent to their tribal areas and brought under the Laws of God and in accordance with His Calendar in total as physical human beings (Isa. 66:23; Zech. 14:16-19).


Those who take the Mark of the Beast will be destroyed in the vials of the wrath of God. This is the Great Trial which comes upon the whole earth and from which the elect are kept or spared as they will be resurrected and their offspring able to be protected by them as the now ruling Loyal Host of the earth under Messiah as the priesthood of Melchisedek (see the paper Melchisedek (No. 128)).


The nexus of the law will have been restored from the Witnesses by Elijah and it will no longer rain on the just and the unjust but upon the nations keeping the Sabbaths, New Moons and the Feasts and Holy Days of God. The nations not keeping God’s Calendar and His Laws will get no rain in due season and suffer the plagues of Egypt.


The Millennial System

The next phase will be to set up the system with the Messiah in Jerusalem.


The 144,000 will form the nucleus of the Priesthood and the administration at Jerusalem. The Great Multitude will be divided up according to the Tribes and the nations and become their spiritual guides in place of the demons that will be removed to the bottomless pit for the 1000 years of the Millennium (cf. Rev. Chapter 7 and derived from Zechariah).


Those who do not take the Mark of the Beast but do not properly keep the commandments of God and the Testimony or Faith of Christ and who do not qualify for the First Resurrection will go into the Millennium as physical human beings. These people will fall into a number of categories.


The first category is that of the children of the elect that were too young to be baptised and were not in the First Resurrection. They will be taken to become physical kings and priests ruling from Jerusalem.


The next will be the elect of Physical Israel who will be part of the Great Exodus depicted in Isaiah 66:18-24.


The rest will be the entire people of the nations that were not part of the Beast system and who were spared as physical human beings who go in as part of the nations to be trained in the word of God and His Law Order.


One of the unfounded assumptions of some in the Churches of God has been to assume that the elect will live for the 1000 years of the Millennium and not die.  It has no basis in the assumptions regarding the millennial system and runs counter to the text that shows that the earth is harmed and the trees are placed on the banks of the river from Jerusalem for the healing of the Nations as we see in Zechariah 14:8 etc. The entire world has to be re-educated in terms of living and food and the structure of the Laws of God.  That will not happen immediately and the lifespan of man will not be restored immediately to an Eden scenario. There will simply be too much damage done to the earth.  That does not mean that life will not be prolonged but it is a false assumption to assert 1000 year life spans immediately.


The wars of the Vials of the Wrath of God will be dealt with in the papers Advent of the Messiah: Part II (No. 210B) and Wars of the Last Days and the Vials of the Wrath of God (No. 141B).


Jerusalem will then be rebuilt with the Temple restored and the system will reign from there for 1000 years until the period from what is now known as the year 3020-3027 when the demons will be again released from the pit and under Satan they will go out once again to deceive the nations and march against the camp of the Saints at Jerusalem to destroy the rule of God on the earth.  This will be the last seven years of the 140th jubilee of the earth’s system.


The restoration of Jerusalem will take place from the beginning of the Millennium until the end of the Great White Throne Judgment as we see from Isaiah 65:17-25. From that text we deduce the Judgment is 100 years in duration; hence from 3027 to 3127 at the Jubilee.  At that time we will see the coming of the City of God to the earth (see the paper The City of God (No. 180)).


If the 100 years of Isaiah 65 is millennial and continues on to the Great White Throne Judgment then a sinner will die at 100 years on a continual basis over the 1100 years so that the Judgment will end at 100 years and the sinners will die and their bodies are burnt. The extension of life in the Millennium to the righteous will extend as the Millennium progresses.


The actions of the elect will be the judgment of the demons over the millennial system.


After that rebellion is put down the demons are killed and then all beings that have ever lived will be resurrected into what is the   Great White Throne Judgment or the Resurrection of Krisis; the Second Resurrection of the Dead in which all beings, both Human sons of Adam and the Fallen Host under Satan, will be resurrected and given the opportunity of salvation as provided for by Christ and his leadership and sacrifice.


The false doctrine of the Third Resurrection by the followers of Herbert Armstrong has no precedent or place in the Churches of God. It has been examined in the paper The Fallacy of the Third Resurrection (No. 166).


The sequence of the Great White Throne Judgment will be explained in the paper The Second Resurrection and The Great White Throne Judgment (No. 143B).


See also The Golden Jubilee and the Millennium (No. 300) and The Second Death (No. 143C).