The Word of truth teaches in the clearest and most positive terms that all of the dead will be raised. No doctrine of the faith rests upon a more literal and emphatic body of Scripture authority than this, nor is any more vital to Christianity. "But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen. And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain." (1 Cor 15:13-14)
But it is important to observe that the Scriptures do not teach that all the dead are raised at one time. A partial resurrection of saints has already occurred. "And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many." (Mat 27:52-53)
Two resurrections, differing in respect of time and of those who are the subjects of the resurrection, are yet future. These are variously distinguished as "the resurrection of life", and "the resurrection of damnation", "the resurrection of the just and the unjust", etc. The following Scriptures refer to this important subject.
"Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the 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." (John 5:28-29) If it be objected that the word "hour" would indicate a simultaneous resurrection of these two classes, it is answered that the "hour" of verse 25 has already lasted eighteen hundred years. [Editor's note: This article was originally published in 1896.] (See also "day" in 2 Pet 3:8; 2 Cor 6:2; John 8:56.)
"But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just." (Luke 14:13-14) In this passage our Lord speaks of the first resurrection only. In 1 Corinthians 15, the distinction still further appears: "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming." (1 Cor 15:22-23)
"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep. 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." (1 Thes 4:13-16)
This "resurrection of life", of "the just", of "the dead in Christ" is that of which Paul speaks in Philippians 3:11 (RV): "If by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead." Not "of the dead", as in the Authorized Version (KJV). The resurrection of the dead would imply that all the dead were raised simultaneously but "from the dead" necessarily implies a selection -- that some of "the dead" remain. Literally, it is "the resurrection out of the dead ones". The Emphatic Diaglott has "from among the dead", Rotherham [translates it as] "the out-resurrection, that from among the dead."
If the apostle had in mind a resurrection of all the dead, how could he speak of attaining it "by any means", since he could not possibly escape it?
In Revelation 20:4-6 the two resurrections are again mentioned together, with the important addition of the time which intervenes between the resurrection of the saved and of the unsaved. "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto 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 upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years." Verses 12 and 13 describe the second resurrection - that "unto damnation".
The testimony of Scripture, then, is clear that believers' bodies are raised from among the bodies of unbelievers and caught up to meet the Lord in the air a thousand years before the resurrection of the latter. It should be firmly held that the doctrine of the resurrection concerns only the bodies of the dead. Their disembodied spirits are instantly in conscious bliss or woe. (Php 1:23; 2 Cor 5:8; Luke 16:22-23)