T H E
By J O H N.B U N Y A N,
A Servant of the Lord's Christ.
Written from Bedford Prison.
OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD.
"BUT THIS I CONFESS UNTO THEE, THAT AFTER THE WAY WHICH THEY CALL HERESY, SO WORSHIP I THE GOD OF MY FATHERS, BELIEVING ALL THINGS WHICH ARE WRITTEN IN THE LAW AND IN THE PROPHETS: AND HAVE HOPE TOWARD GOD, WHICH THEY THEMSELVES ALSO ALLOW, THAT THERE SHALL BE A RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD, BOTH OF THE JUST AND UNJUST"–(Acts 24:14,15).
y discourse upon this text, will chiefly concern the resurrection of the dead: wherefore to that I shall immediately apply myself, not meddling with what else is couched in the words.
You see here, that Paul, being upon his arraignment, accused of many things, by some that were violent for his blood; and being licensed to speak for himself by the then heathen magistrate; he doth in few words tell them, that as touching the crimes wherewith they charged him, he was utterly faultless, only this he confessed, that after that way which they call heresy, so he worshipped the God of his fathers; believing all things that are written in the law and the prophets, and that he had the same hope towards God, which they themselves did allow, that there should be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.
Whence note by the way, that a hypocritical people, will persecute the power of those truths in others, which themselves in words profess. I have hopes towards God, and that, such a hope which themselves do allow, and yet I am this day, and that for this very thing, persecuted by them.
But to come to my purpose, "There shall be a resurrection of the dead," &c. By these words, the apostle sheweth us what was the substance of his doctrine, to wit, that there should be "a resurrection of the dead;" and by these words also, what was the great argument with his soul, to carry him through these temptations, afflictions, reproaches, and necessities he met with in this world, even the doctrine of a resurrection. I have hope towards God, saith he, and there is my mind fixed; for there shall be "a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust." The reason why I cannot do what these Jews would have me; also why I cannot live as do the Gentiles, it is, because I have in my soul, the faith of the resurrection. This is the doctrine I say, which makes me fear to offend, and that is as an undergirder to my soul, whereby I am kept from destruction and confusion, under all the storms and tempests I here go through. In a word, this is it that hath more awe upon my conscience than all the laws of men, with all the penalties they inflict. "And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men" (verse 16).
Now here, seeing this doctrine of the resurrection of the dead hath that power, both to bear up and to awe; both to encourage and to keep within compass, the spirit and body of the people of God; it will be requisite, and profitable for us, to inquire into the true meaning and nature of this word, "the resurrection of the dead."
And for the better compassing of this matter, I shall briefly enquire,
First, What in this place is meant by the dead.
Secondly, What is meant by the resurrection.
Thirdly, Why the apostle doth here speak of the resurrection of the dead as of a thing yet to come–"There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust."
First. The dead in scripture go under a five-fold consideration; as,
1. Such as die a natural death, or as when a man ceaseth to be any more in this world, as David, whom Peter tells us "is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us to this day" (Acts 2:29).
2. There is a people that are reckoned dead in trespasses and sins, as those are, who never yet were translated from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God. Such, I say, who yet never felt the power of the Word and Spirit of God, to raise them from that state, to walk with him in the regeneration; making a life out of Christ, and his present benefits (Eph 2:1,2; John 5:25).
3. There is a death seizeth men often after some measure of light received from God, and some profession of the gospel of Christ. These, for the certainty of their damnation, are said to be dead–dead, twice dead, and plucked up by the roots (Jude 12).
4. There is in scripture mention made of a death to sin, and the lusts of the flesh; this death is the beginning of true life and happiness, and is a certain forerunner of a share in Christ, and with him in another world (Rom 6:6-8; 2 Tim 2:11).
5. Lastly, There is also in the word, a relation of eternal death. This is the death that those are in, and swallowed up of, that go out of this world Godless, Christless, and graceless; dying in sin, and so under the curse of the dreadful God; who, I say, because they have missed of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour in this day of grace: are fallen into the gulf and jaws of eternal death and misery, in the fire that never shall be quenched (Mark 9:43,44; Luke 16:23-26).
Now then, seeing there is death, or to be dead, taken under so many considerations in the scripture; it is evident, that to be dead in Christ, the text is not meant of them all: I then must distinguish, and inquire which of these deaths it is, that here the apostle did look for a resurrection from. (1.) then, It cannot be meant a resurrection from eternal death, for from that there is no redemption (Psa 49:8). (2.) Neither is it a resurrection from that double death; for they that are in that, are past recovery also. (3.) And as for those that are dead to sin, it is nonsense to say there shall, or can be a resurrection from that: for that itself is a resurrection; which resurrection also, the apostle had then passed through: and also all the brethren, as he saith, You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins (Col 2:12,13,20). And again, "If ye then be risen with Christ" (Col 3:1), and again, "Wherein also ye are risen with him, through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead" (Col 2:12). (4.) The dead therefore in this scripture, must be understood of those that have departed this life, that have body and soul separated each from the other; and so the resurrection, a resurrection of the body out of the grave; as Daniel saith, "Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake" (Dan 12:2). And again, "The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth," &c. (John 5:28,29).
Second. [What is meant by the resurrection.] The resurrection of the just, then, is the rising of the bodies of the just, and the resurrection of the unjust, the rising of their bodies, at the last judgment. This also is the meaning of that saying of Paul to Agrippa, "I stand," saith he, "and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers" (Acts 26:6), which promise at first began to be fulfilled in the resurrection of the body of Christ (Acts 13:32,33), and hath its accomplishment, when the dead, small and great, are raised out of their graves. Wherefore, though Paul saith in the 13th of the Acts, it is already fulfilled; yet here he saith, he hopes it shall come. "Which promise," saith he, "our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come" (Acts 26:7). As God told Daniel, saying, "go thy way, till the end be: for thou shalt rest and stand in thy lot at the end of the days" (Dan 12:13).
Christ is already risen, and therefore so far the promise is fulfilled; but his saints are yet in their graves, and therefore that part of the fulfilling of it is yet to come, as he saith, "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?" (Acts 26:8).
Again, That it is the resurrection of the dead bodies of both saints and sinners that is here inserted, it is further evident; because the apostle saith, it is the resurrection, that the very Pharisees themselves allowed. I have hope towards God, saith he, which themselves also allow; then what that hope is, he in the next words sheweth, namely, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, &c. Now we know, that the Pharisees did not allow of a resurrection from a state of nature, to a state of grace, which is the same with the new birth; but did confidently allow and teach, that they were the children of Abraham, according to the flesh. Yea, when any of them began to adhere, or incline to Christ's doctrine in some things, yet the doctrine of the new birth, or of being raised from a state of nature, to a state of grace, they would very much stick at; though in the meantime, they utterly were against the doctrine of the Sadducees, which denied the resurrection of the body (John 3:1-9; 8:51-56; Acts 23:6-8).
Further, the resurrection here spoken of, must needs be the resurrection of the body, because it is called, "a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust"–that is, of both saints and sinners, according to the saying of Christ, "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).
Third. [The resurrection spoken of is a thing yet to come;] the resurrection here mentioned, is a resurrection to come, not already enjoyed, either by saints or sinners–"There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust." Now, I say, the resurrection here being yet deferred by the just, and counted also the resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust: it must needs be the same resurrection that is spoken of by Job, who saith, "So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep" (Job 14:12).
Having thus, in few words, opened this scripture unto you, I shall in the next place, for the further satisfaction of those that are yet wavering, and for the refreshment of those that are strong and steadfast, lay down before you, several undeniable scripture demonstrations of the resurrection of the dead, both of the just, and unjust.