No. Both those “in Christ” and those who have died without being reconciled to God will be physically resurrected. Death is not the end for either the believer or the unbeliever. However, the Bible does encourage/warn all of us toward godliness by revealing some important differences in the resurrection of those who are in Christ and those who are not.
The first thing we all need to understand is that what we do in this life determines the nature of our resurrection. Jesus said in John 5: 28-29,
Indeed, the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God’s Son, and they will rise again. Those who have done good will rise to experience eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to experience judgment.
Those in Christ as well as unbelievers will rise from the dead, but they will do so during different events. The Bible teaches that the dead in Christ will rise from the dead when Christ returns.
Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-16,
We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from Heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves.Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.
Then John writes in Revelation 20:5–6,
This is the first resurrection. (The rest of the dead did not come back to life until the thousand years had ended.) Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. For them the second death holds no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him a thousand years.
So the first resurrection will involve Christians rising from the dead at the return of Christ, and the unbelieving dead will not be resurrected until the end of the thousand years (often called the millennium, see Revelation 20 and 21).
We all die when we leave our bodies and step into eternity, which all of us will experience if we die before the second coming of the Lord. Believers, though, will never experience a second death. Unbelievers, however, will experience a second death. Revelation chapters 20 and 21 both vividly describe it.
Revelation 20:11 says,
And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.
Revelation 21:8 also describes the second death,
But cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers, and all liars – their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.
Since everyone who rejects Christ’s redemptive work on the cross (which is available to all of us) continues to live in disobedience to God, which is sin, they will be thrown into the lake of fire. Believers, however, have received God’s forgiveness and are victorious, which means we have overcome the grip of sin. So when Revelation 21 describes the fate of believers, it says in Revelation 21:3-6,
I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.’
And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’ And then he said to me, ‘Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.’ And he also said, ‘It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega – the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.
We human beings never cease to exist. Instead, we all will continue exist past our initial death, so we should understand that the quality of our everlasting life will be decided according to our actions that reflect our relationship with Christ or our actions that reflect no relationship with him. In Daniel 12:2-3 the Bible says,
Many of those who bodies lie dead and buried will rise up, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting disgrace. Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever.
Eternity continues the trajectory of our lives here on the Earth.If we love God, his people, and his purpose, we continue on that path in eternity. But those who resist God, reject God, and refuse to seek him, will have a very different experience in eternity—they will be separated from God and everything good.
So, in answer to your question, everyone will be resurrected. Those who have been reconciled to God through belief in Christ’s suffering, death, burial, and resurrection will be resurrected to eternal life; while those who do not believe in Christ will be resurrected and enter into eternal damnation.
Jesus came to save all of us. His will is that we all believe that truth, repent of our sins, give our lives to Christ, and live forever with him. However, he will respect our choice not to spend eternity with him should that be our decision.
6 replies on “Will Only Those “In Christ” Be Resurrected?”
What a load of bullshit.
Well, I think this probably means you are not a believer. I’m glad you read the blog so nothing will be surprising to you in your future.
Thank you for sharing with such clarity, a subject that can be very confusing! I’m grateful you put this together in way that’s easy to understand.
Thank you Ted for this! As a believer I really needed a refresher. People need to hear this as this salvation message gets watered down a lot!
I am still confused about the part where First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves.” Every time I think I have it straight I here something opposite. Some people say as soon as you die you are in heaven with Christ but I have also heard you sleep until the day when all rise but that sleep seems like only seconds. Could you clarify this for me.
You are a spirit, so for believers, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Then, those who are with the Lord will receive their resurrection body at the second coming of Christ.