Gain new insights on the hope we have in Christ for the life now and for eternity.
ARTICLE OF FAITH XVI: RESURRECTION, JUDGMENT, AND DESTINY
“We believe in the resurrection of the dead, that the bodies both of the just and of the unjust shall be raised to life and united with their spirits—“they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”
16.1. We believe in future judgment in which every person shall appear before God to be judged according to his or her deeds in this life.
16.2. We believe that glorious and everlasting life is assured to all who savingly believe in, and obediently follow, Jesus Christ our Lord; and that the finally impenitent shall suffer eternally in hell.
(Genesis 18:25; 1 Samuel 2:10; Psalm 50:6; Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2-3; Matthew 25:31-46; Mark 9:43-48; Luke 16:19-31; 20:27-38; John 3:16-18; 5:2529; 11:21-27; Acts 17:30-31; Romans 2:1- 16; 14:7-12; 1 Corinthians 15:12-58; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; Revelation 20:11-15; 22:1-15).”
(Manual Church of the Nazarene 2013-2017)
As humans, we want to know details about life after death and our final destiny. And as Christians we would like to find the information and explanation of these matters in the Scriptures and to understand the reasons for our beliefs. Christ’s second coming is associated with the resurrection, the judgment, and the final consummation of time. This is the topic of the final Article of Faith in the Church of the Nazarene’s Manual.
This article of faith is an important one, but in some ways it is difficult to respond to all the questions that we may have about the final resurrection, judgment, and destiny of humankind.
When we read about Old Testament prophets such as Elisha, who in God’s power restored people to life, or the New Testament story of Jesus when He raised Lazarus and others from the dead, we sense the excitement in knowing the person who was dead was brought back to life. We identify with the sorrow reflected in those situations.
Also, we are surprised by the faith of someone in the story who does not give up hope in the midst of the pain, but runs to look for God’s prophet or asks Jesus to do something about it. Then, emotions change. Faith, hope, and expectation exist.
In the account of Jesus’ resurrection, we identify with the disciples’ emotions after His death. We identify with the women who get up early the first day of the week to go to Jesus’ tomb but discover that He is not there. The angel tells them Jesus has risen from the dead just as He said He would do. We experience a great joy in our hearts. Christ is risen!
- Jesus has defeated death by returning to life.
- Jesus has a body and is not a ghost.
- Jesus looks as He did before He died, but radiant in glory.
- Jesus speaks, feels, and even eats with His disciples.
God will raise us too, just as God raised Jesus. This is our hope. This is why the resurrection of Jesus Christ is an important event in human history and for the Christian faith.
Since 1907, this article of faith has appeared in our Manual, then under the title of Destiny. Our statement came from the Methodism and the Anglican Church’s articles of faith. It was a short paragraph and was repeated in Manual editions up through 1919, with only a slight variation. In 1923, the statement expanded to include new paragraphs on the Second Coming and on Resurrection (Articles XII, XIII and XIV). Later, these became one article of faith.
Believing in the resurrection of the body is part of the Christian faith (creeds and traditions) and is important because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the history of humanity. Throughout Scripture, we find stories and teachings of the writers about the immortality of the soul (Ecclesiastes 3:21; Job 19:25-26; Psalm 90:10; Matthew 10:28, 17:3, 22:31-32; Luke 12:4-5, 16:22-23, 23:43, 46; Acts 7:59) and the resurrection (Psalm 49:15; Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2; 2 Timothy 1:10; John 5:26, 28-29; 11:25-26; Philippians 3:21; Acts 24:15; Luke 20:34-36).
All Jews believed in the resurrection except the Sadducees. They denied any resurrection of the dead (Matthew 22:23; Mark 12:18-27; Acts 23:8) and any afterlife, holding that the soul perished at death, and therefore denying any penalty or reward after the earthly life.
In the Bible, we find pieces of information here and there about the “last things” told by different people set in various contexts and using both clear and metaphorical language. Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 stated two important truths about this, “We do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” First, Christians are not to grieve as others who do not have hope. Second, Christians believe that because of Christ’s death and resurrection, God will raise the dead, too. This makes a difference in the way we understand death.
What is going to happen with the body after a person dies?
The earthly body dies and becomes dust, “For dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19). It doesn’t matter what happens to the “natural body” as Paul calls it. This body is not going to enter the other side because as the apostle also says, it is a “perishable body” ((1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 50).
How are the dead raised? What kind of body will they have?
God will give us a new body, a “heavenly body.” Paul explains this is a spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15:44), this mortal body must put on immortality (1 Corinthians 15:53). It is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). In the resurrection, transformed bodies will be raised to life and be united to their spirits (1 John 3:2; Philippians 3:21). Resurrected bodies will be free from illness, pain, suffering and death, and will be glorious bodies like Jesus’ (1 John 3:2).
When will the dead receive their new body?
Paul’s writings indicate this transformation could occur as soon as they die (2 Corinthians 5:1-7 and Philippians 1:21-24), or perhaps not until the final resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:23 and Philippians 3:20-21).
The resurrection of the dead in the final day means that everyone will be raised, whether they are just or unjust. They will be judged according to their faith, actions, thoughts, words, intentions, and beliefs as well as what was left undone in their lives. Judgment will be both revelatory and thorough.
Where is the soul after dying?
John Wesley believed that at death, the immortal soul enters “Hades” (Acts 2:27) or “Sheol” for the Jews. This is not hell but a state of consciousness (Romans 8:38; Revelation 14:13; 2 Corinthians 5:8) where all spirits, both the just and the unjust, will abide separately. It is a kind of antechamber where souls go to await the coming judgment. But the redeemed are growing in grace and progressing in righteousness (Revelation 14:4, 7:15, 9:10).
In Sermon XV “the Great Assize,” Wesley preached about aspects of the final judgment. He presented a series of events that will happen before, during, and after the judgment. Wesley invited his listeners to pay attention to what Scriptures say, and the clues it gives, of what this great event will be like.
What will be the signs that Jesus is coming again? What will happen before the judgment?
Wesley spoke of the circumstances which will precede the judgment and are related to drastic changes in heaven and on earth (Acts 2:19, Isaiah 24:19-20, Luke 21:11, Revelation 16:20); waters (Luke 21:25); air, storms, fire, tempest (Joel 2:30); sun, moon and stars (Luke 21:25-26, Joel 2:31, 3:15, Revelation 6:13). Next, there will be a sound of angels and trumpets (1 Thessalonians 4:16) announcing Christ’s coming and the calling of the dead from the graves on earth and from the sea (Revelation 20:13), as well as from Hades (Revelation 20:13). They will be raised with transformed bodies (1 Corinthians 15:53). Everyone who lived and died since God created the human race will be raised.
Christ’s angels will gather His elect (Matthew 24:31). Jesus will come with clouds, along with His saints and angels, to sit on His throne. Everyone from the nations will gather and He will separate them, some on His right hand (the good) and others on His left hand (the evil), (Matthew 25:31-33; John 5:28- 29; Revelation 20:12).
What will the judgment look like?
Wesley referred to the judgment itself (Revelation 20:11- 15). Jesus Christ is the judge. Why? Because he knows all the hearts of people. He understands their actions their deeper thoughts and motives. He is the Son of God and He is God (Hebrews 1:3). But Jesus Christ is also the Son of Man (John 5:22-23, 27) who became like humans (Philippians 2:6-7); and after He died, was exalted by God and given the authority to judge both the living and the dead (Acts 17:31, 10:42).
When and where will the judgment take place? How long is it going to last?
Humanity’s judgment is known as the Day of the Lord (Acts 17:31, Romans 2:5, 16; 2 Peter 2:9, Jude 6, Revelation 6:17). No one knows when it will be, how long it will last (2 Peter 3:7-8), or where it is going to be. Where will this judgment take place? Wesley mentions that some writers believed that it will be on earth, because it was on earth where their works were done.
How will the people who have never heard of Jesus be judged?
Nazarene theologian H. Orton Wiley suggested there will be certain principles and standards upon which the judgment will be based. These have been defined by Christ (Luke 12:48), and Paul mentioned them in Romans (2:7-11). The standard by which all will be judged on the last day will be based on the light or truth revealed to them. That is to say, pagans will be judged according to the “law of nature” or conscience (Romans 2:14- 15). The Jews will be judged by the Law of Moses, the teaching of the prophets, and Jesus Christ’s words (John 12:48). Gentiles or Christians will be judged by the Word (Hebrews 10:28-29).
Who will be present at the judgment? Are children going to be judged?
The people to be judged will be numerous (Revelation 7:9, 20:12). They will come from all nations and races, speak many languages and dialects, reflect various social and economic backgrounds, and have lived in different periods of history. All will have descended from Adam and Eve since the world was created by God.
What will people be accountable for before Jesus in the judgement?
People will be accountable for their own lives on earth before this great assembly; whatever they did or didn’t do, whether good or evil. This includes actions, words, thoughts, hearts’ intentions, passions, affections, temper, appetites, inclinations, dispositions, and stewardship (Matthew 12:36, 87), all of which is part of the person’s character.
Christ the King will recognize those on His right hand before the assembly and will announce all the good actions or good works done, and words that were said in His name or in His love while they were alive on earth. All their good intentions, desires, thoughts, holy dispositions, and their sufferings for the name of the Lord will also be remembered.
Then the unrighteous will be judged. The sentence will be pronounced for both groups with an eternal absolution given for the righteous and eternal condemnation for the unrighteous.
After the judgement is done, what is going to happen?
Wesley refers to the circumstances after the judgment for the good and for the evil. According to him, the first group will shine like the sun, drink from eternal waters, and enjoy their reward forever. The second group will be in hell (the place created for the devil and his angels) and will suffer anguish, pain, shame, rage, despair, malice, and horror. They will curse God, will not have rest, but live continually in torment.
Regarding creation, we have the promise for a new heaven and a new earth (2 Peter 3:13, Isaiah 65:17, Revelation 21:1, 3-4, 22:3-4). A place where holiness reigns, everyone is happy, there is no more curse, and everyone will have access to Christ the king.
Destiny: What will be the destiny for the good?
The good and the evil will have everlasting life but will experience it differently. Those who believed in Jesus and obeyed Him (His Word, walked in the Spirit, Faith in actions):
Will live in communion with Jesus and other believers for eternity.
Will experience joy, happiness, and peace, and will praise and worship the Lord forever.
Heaven will be the place where the just will abide in their final state of glorification. Jesus refers to “my Father’s house” (John 14:2-3) and Paul calls it the “third heaven.” No sin (Revelation 21:27), death, nor pain exists there (Revelation 21:4).
The just will serve the Lamb (Revelation 22:3-5) and enjoy fellowship together with the Lord (Hebrews 12:22-23; Matthew 8:11). They will recognize those they loved (1 Corinthians 13:12), glory in Christ's presence (1 Thessalonians 2:19). They will see their Lord (Revelation 22:4; 1 John 3:2-3).
Above all, heaven will be inhabited by the church (Revelation 21:2, 9, 10).
What will be the destiny for the evil?
They rejected Jesus and His salvation, walked away from the Light, and followed their own hearts. Therefore, they will die in their own sin and will live separated from God forever (Revelation 21:8, 20:14-15; Matthew 25:41).
They will live lonely and sad in the darkness, tormented by hatred, shame, pride, blasphemy, fear, and so on. They will be exposed to the corruption of their own souls (Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 25:30-46).
Many other topics exist around the main theme of the second coming of Christ such as the millennial reign, the great tribulation, the apostasy, the rapture, the binding of Satan, and related topics.
We do not know the time, precise order, or all of the details of the events. (Although there are few printed charts that some Christians have created to try to explain the events of the second coming of Christ). We’re not sure when all these events will happen or how long they will last, because the biblical references to these events are not in chronological order, or the language used in the passages is figurative or metaphorical.
For example, Paul places the second coming of Jesus during the time of the resurrection of the just and before the rapture of the living. Peter places the second coming with the coming of the Day of the Lord. Even Jesus described a list of signs and events of His coming.
Christians of Wesley’s time also were interested in when, where, and how the “last things” would happen. But he reminded them that it was important to be sure of their salvation first, and to live holy every day. He made a direct connection between salvation and the events of the last things because “the destination has been already defined for us ‘back there’ in the past, particularly in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ” (Rob Staples, p. 247, The Second Coming).
The truth is that Jesus Christ is coming and the time is unexpected. He is King, Ruler and Conqueror. Are we prepared to meet our Creator and Judge? (Mark 13:32-37)
The bodily resurrection of the dead is a truth that tells us that there is life after death.
All human beings will be raised and continue living forever. This is possible because of Jesus’ resurrection (Romans 8:11; Hebrews 2:14-15).
The judgment is a real truth. At the end of our lives we will be judged by our Creator. It will be a time of joy or regret resulting from the opportunity given to us to know God and His Word, and to live like Jesus and do good on earth while we were alive. It is a privilege to administer justice by defending the afflicted and reflecting God’s love and mercy.
Sin is very serious before God. As Christians, we need to be constantly mindful of this. As H. Orton Wiley said, “We try to understand the scope of God’s love by giving His only Son to redeem man” (p. 486). Jesus died for the unrighteous in order to take us back to God, and even with that, some willingly reject God (1 Peter 3:18).
We live knowing that every word, action, thought, intention, disposition, and desire counts in our judgment. Am I modeling Jesus’ love and holiness? Am I drawing others to God? Am I using my abilities and resources to advance God’s kingdom? We need to walk in perfect love and not be found lacking in such love.
Ruthie I. Cordova is a missionary in Guatemala, serving as a professor of theology, Bible, and pastoral courses at the Nazarene Seminary.
Wesley, John. Sermons. Volume I. Casa Nazarena de Publicaciones. Kansas City, Missouri. s/f.
Collins, Kenneth J. The Theology of John Wesley. Abingdon Press. Nashville, Tennessee. 2007.
Dunning, H. Ray. Editor. The Second Coming. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City. Kansas City, Missouri. 1995.
Manual Church of the Nazarene 2009-2013
Wiley, H. Orton and Paul. T. Culbertson. Introducción a la Teológia Cristiana. Casa Nazarena de Publicaciones. Kansas City, Missouri. Second edition. 1992.
Holiness Today, March/April 2017