If we are to accept as literal all the prophecies contained in the Bible, we must be convinced of the possibility that, at the Second Advent of the Lord, the physical bodies of all the saints that were buried and decomposed will come back to their original state of life one more in flesh (I Thess. 4:16, Matt. 27:52). Since this prophecy is from God, men of faith must accept it. However, this prophecy cannot satisfy the intellect of modern men; our faith has, after all, fallen into great chaos. Therefore, it is a matter of paramount importance to elucidate the true nature of this problem.
Resurrection means to come back to life. It is because we once died that we need to come back to life. To know the true meaning of resurrection we must understand the Biblical concept of life and death.
In Luke 9:60, we read that Jesus told a disciple who wanted first to go and bury his father to “Leave the dead to bury their own dead.”. In these words of Jesus, we find two different concepts of life and death.
The first is the concept of life and death concerning death of the physical body, which is the expiration of physical life; this was the case of the disciple’s father, who was to be buried. The life which is opposite to this kind of death is the state in which the physical body maintains its physiological functions.
The second is the concept of life and death concerning the persons–whom Jesus called “the dead”–who were gathered together for the burial of the father. Why then did Jesus indicate that the men who were actually alive were “dead”? It was because they were in a state cut off from the love of God; that is, they were under the dominion of Satan. Therefore, death does not mean the expiration of physical life, but rather the state of Satanic dominion, apart from the bosom of God’s love. Accordingly, the meaning of life opposite to this kind of death is the state of actively living in the dominion of God’s infinite love. Therefore, however active one’s body may be, while man remains in the dominion of Satan, separated from that of God, he is dead in the true sense according to the standard of the original value endowed at the creation.
Our understanding may be further enhanced by reading Revelation 3:1, words to the people of the church in Sardis, saying, “…You have the name of being alive, and you are dead.”. On the other hand, even though one may have died physically, if his spirit abides in God’s dominion in the Heavenly Kingdom of God, he is alive in the truest sense. When Jesus said, “…he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25), he meant that he who believes in Jesus and lives under God’s dominion is still alive, though he has physically died and turned to dust, because his spirit man remains in the dominion of God.
Jesus went on to say, “whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.”. This does not mean that those who believe in Jesus will never die physically, thus enjoying eternal life on the earth. Those who believe in Jesus in life remain alive not only while on earth, but even after physical death will transmigrate to the world of spirit, living there forever in the bosom of God’s love, without tasting death. Jesus’ statement here is an indication that man’s physical death does not affect his eternal life in the spirit world.
Again, he said, “whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it.” (Luke 17:33). He meant that those who betray God’s will in order to preserve their physical life, though they may be physically active, are dead. On the other hand, the spirit men of those who sacrifice their lives for the sake of God’s will, though they may be physically dead and decomposed, will live forever in the bosom of God’s love, thus remaining alive through eternity.
We have learned that there are two concepts of death, each with a different meaning. Which of the two, then, would be the death brought about by the fall of the first human ancestors?
God created man to grow old and turn to dust; this would occur even if man had not fallen. Therefore, when Adam died at the Biblical age of 930 and turned to dust, this was not the death which was caused by the fall. According to the principle of creation, our flesh is like clothes to our spirit; and it is natural for us to discard our flesh when it is old and exhausted, just as we would discard worn-out clothing. Then our spirit man goes to the invisible world to live there forever. There is no single material being that can perpetuate its physical life. Man is no exception to this principle of creation; the human body cannot live forever.
If men were to live eternally on the earth, there would have been no need to create, in the beginning, the invisible world where spirit men are supposed to go after physical death. The invisible world was not created after the human fall, so that the spirits of fallen men might go there to live; rather it had been created before the creation of men, so that their spirits, after having accomplished the purpose of creation, might go and live there forever, once they had discarded their flesh, after their physical life on earth.
Fallen men are strongly attached to their physical life on earth because, due to the fall, they became ignorant of the fact that they had been created to go to live eternally in the beautiful invisible world after discarding their flesh. Our physical life on earth and our spiritual life in the invisible world may be compared to the phases of a caterpillar and butterfly. If a caterpillar living in the soil had consciousness, he would also be reluctant to die, from attachment to his life under the earth, just as man is attached to his physical life on earth. This is because the caterpillar does not know that there is another new world after his death where he can enjoy fragrant flowers and sweet honey.
The relationship between an earthly man and a spirit man is similar to that between a caterpillar and a butterfly. If man had not fallen, he would have known that discarding his flesh does not mean eternal separation from his loved ones, because the earthly men were created to communicate freely with spirit men, just as they do among themselves. Besides, if men knew what a beautiful and happy place the spirit world is, they would look forward to the day of departure from this world into the next.
If, among the two kinds of death, the physical one is not a result of the fall, we must conclude that spiritual death, signifying the degradation to Satanic dominion, is the real death caused by the fall.
Let us inquire into the question in more detail, centering on the Bible. The death caused by the fall means the death brought about by the first human ancestors’ eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. What kind of death must it have been? Genesis 2:17 says that God, after creating Adam and Eve, told them not to eat the fruit, because on the day they ate of it, they would surely die. Therefore, we must conclude that they did die on the day they ate the fruit, if we are to believe what God said. However, the “dead” Adam and Eve continued their physical life on earth, just as we do today, multiplying their children and finally producing a corrupted human society.
From this fact, we can clearly understand that the death caused by the fall does not mean the expiration of physical life, but the state of having fallen from the good dominion of God, to the evil dominion of Satan.
Let us then draw examples from the Bible. I John 3:14 says, “…He who does not love remains in death.”. Love here, of course, means God’s love. It means that those who do not love their neighbor with God’s love are dead, no matter how actively they may be living on the earth. Again, in Roman 6:23 we read, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life.”, and in Romans 8:6 it says, “To set the mind of the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the spirit is life and peace.”.
Man has hitherto entertained the wrong idea that the expiration of man’s physical life is the death brought about by the fall. Consequently, we have believed that the resurrection of the passed away saints would be realized through the restoration of their once corrupted and decomposed physical bodies to their original state.
According to the principle of creation, this kind of death was not brought about by the fall of the human ancestors. From the beginning, man’s body was created to turn to dust after it ages and dies. Therefore, the human body, once it is dissolved into dust, cannot be resurrected to its original state. It is not necessary for the spirit man to resume his flesh, when there is a vast spirit world where he is supposed to go and live forever.
Therefore, “resurrection” means the phenomena occurring in the process of man’s restoration, from the state of having fallen under Satanic dominion back to the direct dominion of God. Accordingly, when we repent of our sins, making ourselves better and better day by day, we are coming closer to resurrection.
To draw examples of resurrection from the Bible, we read in John 5:24, “…He who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”. This signifies that resurrection means to leave the bosom of Satan by believing Jesus and to return to the bosom of God’s love. Again, I Corinthians 15:22 says, “As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”, signifying that resurrection means to return to the Heavenly lineage through Christ, leaving the death of the Satanic lineage caused by the fall of Adam.
As God predicted in Genesis 2:17, Adam and Eve, who had eaten the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, died as a result (spiritual death). Nevertheless, there appeared to be no external change. If any, there must have been only a momentary change in their countenance, caused by fear and uneasiness from their guilty conscience. Therefore, even after fallen man has been resurrected to the original state, which existed before he ate the fruit, there will be no external change whatsoever in him. Those who are reborn through the Holy Spirit are men of resurrection to a certain degree, compared to what they were before. Let us compare a man of resurrection to a burglar. The former, being in the state of resurrection in proportion to the degree of his rebirth, belongs to the side of heaven; while the latter, being in the state of death, belongs to Hell. There is, however, no external difference between the two.
As previously proven by examples, those who believe in God, in obedience to the words of Jesus, have surely passed from death into life. Nevertheless, there would be no detectable physical death before his belief in Jesus from the same person after resurrection, through which he was transformed into life by believing in Jesus.
It is true that Jesus came as a man who had himself accomplished the purpose of creation (cf. “Christology” 205). However, Jesus, from his outward appearance, was no different from ordinary, fallen men. If he had any such difference, all his associates at that time would have surely followed him. Man leaves the Satanic dominion through resurrection, and by becoming one with God’s heart he can enjoy deity. When fallen men thus come into the dominion of God through resurrection, spiritual changes necessarily occur. The spiritual changes, in fact, would sanctify the human body, transforming it from the abode of Satan to the temple in which God may dwell. In that sense, it may be said that the physical body also is resurrected. It is similar to a building which has been used for evil purposes; when used as the temple of God, it would be turned into a sacred building, although there may be no change whatsoever in its external appearance.
Resurrection means the phenomena occurring in the course of fallen men’s restoration to their original nature, endowed at the creation.
Therefore, the “providence of resurrection” means the providence of restoration. In other words, since the providence of restoration is the providence of re-creation, the providence of resurrection is also the providence of re-creation. Consequently, the providence of resurrection is worked out in the following way, according to the principle of creation.
First, in the history of the providence of resurrection, the figures who took charge of certain responsibilities in their respective missions, though they could not fully carry out their portions of responsibility, loyally offered their best for the sake of God’s will. In proportion to their accomplishments, they were able to broaden the base on which fallen men could open their relationship to God. As time goes by, people of succeeding generations can enjoy more benefit from their ages, according to the providence of restoration. The providence of resurrection, therefore, is carried out according to the benefits of the age.
Second, according to the principle of creation, man, who was created as part of God’s portion of responsibility, was made to be perfected by believing in God’s words and practicing them, as his own portion of responsibility. Therefore, in carrying out the providence of resurrection, there must be “words” from God for the sake of the providence, which is God’s portion of responsibility. Only by believing in and practicing these words as man’s own portion of responsibility, is God’s will accomplished.
Third, in light of the principle of creation, the spirit man was made to grow and become perfect only through the physical body. Thus, the resurrection of the spirit man, according to the providence of resurrection, is also to be accomplished only through physical life on earth.
Fourth, man was created to be perfected by going through three orderly stages of growth, according to the principle of creation. Therefore, the providence of resurrection for fallen men is also to be accomplished through the three orderly stages of the providential period.
God began His providence of resurrection with Adam’s family. However, the providence was prolonged due to the failure of central persons, who were in charge of God’s will, to accomplish their portion of responsibility. 2,000 years later, God set up Abraham as the father of faith, and through him, the will began to be accomplished. Consequently, the 2,000-year period from Adam to Abraham resulted in the establishment of the foundation for the providence of resurrection which was to be completed in the ages which followed. We call this period the “providential age for the foundation of resurrection”.
During the 2,000 year period from the time of Abraham when the providence of resurrection commenced, to Jesus, God carried out the “providential age for the formation stage resurrection”. Earthly men of this period could enjoy the benefit of the age in accordance with God’s providence of resurrection in the formation stage. God carried out the providence of resurrection in the formation stage in such a way that people were justified by believing in and practicing the Law of the Old Testament, which God had given them for the sake of the providence of that age, and by accomplishing their respective portions of responsibility. Therefore, we call this age the “age of justification by deeds”. People of this age could attain the form-spirit stage by having their spirit men go through resurrection in the formation stage by their practice of the Law. When a man who has attained the form-spirit stage on earth leaves his physical body, his spirit goes on to live in the spirit world at the form-spirit stage.
Due to the crucifixion of Jesus, the providence of resurrection has been left unaccomplished and has been prolonged until the time of the Second Advent. The 2,000-year period of prolongation is called the “providential age for the growth stage resurrection”, because it is the age in which the providence of resurrection in the growth stage is carried out through spiritual salvation. Earthly men belonging to this age can receive the benefit of the age in accordance with the providence of resurrection in the growth stage. God carried out the providence of resurrection in the growth stage in such a way that the people of that age were justified by believing in the New Testament Words, which God had given them for the sake of the providence of that age, and by accomplishing their portions of responsibility. Therefore, that age may be called the “age of justification by faith”. People of that age can attain the life-spirit stage by having their spirit men go through resurrection in the growth stage, through their faith in the Gospel. When a man who has attained the life-spirit stage leaves his physical body, he goes to Paradise, which is the spirit world for those who have attained the life-spirit stage. (4) The Providence of Resurrection in the Perfection Stage
The age in which we complete the providence of resurrection through the resurrection of both spirit and body, through the Lord of the Second Advent, is called the “providential age for the perfection stage resurrection”. Earthly people of this age can enjoy the benefit of the age through the providence of resurrection in the perfection stage. The Lord of the Second Advent is the one coming with the new Word for the fulfillment of the Old and New Testament Words (cf. Part I, Ch. 3, Sec. V, 1 –129). Therefore, God carries out the providence of resurrection in the perfection stage in such a way that people will be justified by believing in the new Word (the Completed Testament) which is given to them for the fulfillment of the Old and New Testaments, and by serving the Lord in p