It will probably be a long time before any further outwardly startling circumstance becomes obvious. A partially wrecked world containing over seven billion of partially or almost wholly wrecked human beings will take a good deal of hard work to get on its feet again, and before there can be talk of adding to earth’s millions from the ranks of the dead there is the matter of food and housing, and presumably clothing, to consider. There will therefore be a great setting of people to work, in the restoration of the earth, the reclamation of waste land, the irrigation of deserts, the preparation of homes not only for those then living who need homes but for those who are to come. All this will be an important part of the education that every man must have, but concurrently with this will be his spiritual instruction, his being made aware of the deeper principles that underlie his existence, the purpose for which God created him and the means by which that purpose is to be achieved. It is for the imparting of this instruction that God will have made ready the “Church”.
With the ending of the old Age—this present Age in which we live—the company of Christian disciples which began in the upper room at Pentecost and concluded its earthly career in the troubles that end the Age, is gathered as a united company into the spiritual world, made like the Lord Jesus Christ inasmuch as spiritual nature is concerned, as the Apostle John said “We shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3. 2). Being thus raised from the dead to participation in that spiritual realm, the powers and attributes appertaining to these are infinitely greater than anything known to man; but what is of first importance in the immediate connection is that these who have thus attained personal association with Christ in this work amongst mankind during the Millennial Age are to become the servants of mankind for their instruction in the higher things of life. It comes strange at first to think of those of whom John said “they lived and reigned with Christ” (Rev. 20. 4) and Paul “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world ?” (1 Cor. 6. 2) as being servants to men, but it was Jesus Who explained the seeming paradox when He said “Whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave,” (Matt. 20. 27 NKJV). Hence the outcome of a Christian life lived today in patience and integrity, in doing good and speaking the thing that is right, in emulating Jesus in all things despite the sneers or pity of the unsympathetic, in suffering grief or wrong in consequence of a firm stand for right principles, is the honour of serving mankind in spiritual instruction and turning the hearts of men to Christ that they may at last see the error of their ways and come fully into line with God’s purpose.
It will not be an easy task. The mending of men’s bodies and the improvement of their outward environment will be child’s play compared with that inward regeneration which is vitally necessary if they are to be delivered from death and confirmed in life, reclaimed from Satan and reconciled to God. It will only be because the members of the Church have passed through that same experience themselves in their past lives that they will be able to speak and teach and urge with authority and with conviction. The work of Christ in the hearts of men in the Millennial Age will be effected by these, working on the minds of men, counselling, teaching, urging, converting men to Christ and leading them to reconciliation with God.
There will thus be a two-fold work in progress, the rehabilitation of men’s bodies proceeding in step with the renewing of their minds. There is not much doubt that the latter will exercise a powerful effect upon the former; that in proportion as a man seeks intelligently and willingly to come into alignment with righteousness and yield himself more to the service of Christ, his physical organism will progress toward that perfection which empowers him to live everlastingly.
The world will therefore already be a much fairer place and mankind already happier and living measurably at peace, when the general resurrection of the dead commences. “All who are in the graves” said Jesus, “will hear His voice” (that of Jesus) “and come forth” (John 5. 28-29 NKJV). Some of those dead breathed their last thousands of years ago and not one atom of their earthly bodies survives in its original form, but God who formed the bodies of the first human beings and arranged the proesses of Nature to build the bodies of all who have lived since, is able to provide bodies for these resurrected ones, even in a moment of time, if need be. There can be no doubt about this: the dead shall return. “Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust,” cries Isaiah the prophet in ecstasy, “the for…the earth shall cast out the dead.” (Isa. 26. 19 NKJV).
The usual objection to the literal acceptance of these plain statements of Scripture is that the earth could not support the multitudes of men and women that have lived. It is not generally realised that only in the last few centuries has this planet housed any considerable number of human beings. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the population of the globe was less than half of what it is now, and a century earlier it was only one quarter. Professor Julian Huxley has estimated that in the days of the Roman Empire, two thousand years ago, there were less than one hundred million inhabiting the earth. From what is known of the subject it can be confidently stated that even if man has been upon earth for as long as eight or even ten thousand years—which is the longest period allowed by responsible anthropologists aside from the “missing link” enthusiasts, who still talk in terms of millions of years—all the men and women who have ever been born would, if they were raised from the dead at once, find the existing land surface of nearly sixty million square miles, afford adequate space for life and sustenance, especially when it is remembered that the earth is to be made far more fruitful and productive than it is at present. It does follow, of course, that the further propagation of the human species will cease: the purpose of God in endowing human beings with procreative powers is revealed in the Book of Genesis to be entirely and solely for the adequate peopling of the earth, and when that object has been achieved it is but reasonable to expect that those powers will atrophy and disappear. The force of God’s original declaration “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper (companion) comparable to him” (Gen. 2.18 NKJV), and His subsequent ordaining of the marriage relation to be the normal condition of perfect, ideal human life is not invalidated by the fact that children will no longer be born. The story of Eden enshrines the principles of Divinely ordained human society, and the ultimate completion of God’s purpose will surely witness the ideal companionship instituted in Eden, and so quickly marred and destroyed, restored in its fullness, never again to be disturbed.
By the time that the earth is ready to receive its dead back to life and to feed and shelter the myriads who have been sleeping in the grave, waiting for this day, men, in general, will have got much more accustomed to the idea. In all probability, it will not be necessary to ask, as did the Apostle Paul on a certain historic occasion “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?”. There will have been so many signal manifestations of Divine power at work in the world that there will no longer be any real denial of the possibility of such things. And without doubt there will be a great many who will have given themselves wholeheartedly over to the furthering of the interests of this new Kingdom upon earth, who will enthusiastically prepare for and receive the newcomers from the grave as they return, furnishing them with food and clothing, explaining to them the meaning of their re-awakening, how that the long nightmare of sin and death is past and that God now calls all men to righteousness and life. Every family, every individual, will have loved ones, relatives and friends, over whose death they have mourned or grieved in the past; it may well be that the resurrection will be in the reverse order to that of death, and that the coming back of individuals will be largely in response to the prayers of those living, so that the newcomers to the “Millennial” earth will find familiar faces to welcome them on their awaking to conscious existence, and well-remembered voices to explain to them the meaning of the new conditions in which they will find themselves.
In harmony with this presentation the Bible, rightly understood, is quite clear upon the present state of the dead, that they are asleep awaiting the resurrection, not spending the interim period between death and resurrection in a state either of conscious joy or conscious wretchedness.
Medieval theology has been seriously at fault here in failing to disentangle the plain teaching of Jesus and His Apostles, based upon the equally plain teaching of the Old Testament, from that mass of Greek philosophy which from the second century before Christ and onward, began to encumber men’s beliefs regarding the state of the dead. Modern theologians have done little to clarify this issue, largely, in all probability, from fear of disturbing established ecclesiastical tradition, although the recent pronouncement by the Established Church laying down that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul need no longer be considered an essential doctrine of the Christian faith, is certainly a step in the right direction. From the Bible standpoint the whole of the interval between death and resurrection is asleep, and for men in general, for all humanity with the exception of the Church, who themselves are resurrected to a spiritual sphere of being and are no longer confined to this earth, resurrection is to renewed and everlasting life upon the earth. Throughout earth’s ages men and women have died under a variety of circumstances, some of extreme tragedy and injustice, but the awakening of the resurrection will nullify all that has gone before, and in radiant expectation of future happiness and achievement in life, un-shadowed by fear, all who will may throw off the yoke of the past and move forward toward their glorious destiny.