26. (a) What was Christ’s “own proper place” with regard to the resurrection? (b) How does 1 Thessalonians 4:16 show that there will be a resurrection of others in order of rank or of place or of importance?
26 So there had to be the death and resurrection of the “redeemer” before there could be a resurrection of mankind that needed to be redeemed. Thus the resurrection of the Redeemer Jesus Christ proved to be of the first rank. He was resurrected “in his own proper place” as regards place of importance. Moreover, there will be a resurrection of others in order of rank or of place or of importance, before the resurrection of Job, the slaughtered babes of Bethlehem and others of dead mankind. This is called to our attention by the inspired words written in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, which read: “And the dead in Christ shall rise first.” (American Standard Version)
2. How does 1 Corinthians 15:22, 23 show that God observes order with respect to the resurrection?
2 Jehovah God follows a certain order with regard to the resurrection of the dead. This is called to our attention by the apostle Paul, who himself saw the glory of the resurrected Jesus and talked with him. About 18 years after that, Paul wrote to the Christian congregation in Corinth, Greece, and raised this question: “Now if Christ is being preached that he has been raised up from the dead, how is it some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Cor. 15:12) Following upon this question, Paul went on to develop the inspired answer. As he goes along, he says: “Just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive. But each one in his own rank: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who belong to the Christ during his presence [Greek: parousia].” (1 Cor. 15:22, 23) God alone was responsible for Jesus’ resurrection.
3. How did Jesus become “first” in the matter of resurrection?
3 Jesus Christ was resurrected on Nisan 16, 33 C.E., the day when the Jewish high priest offered up the firstfruits of the barley harvest. This fits in accurately with Jesus’ being the “firstfruits” in the resurrection of the human dead. (1 Cor. 15:20) This put Jesus Christ in the first “rank.” Just as in the Jewish barley harvest there were afterfruits to be reaped, so too there must be afterfruits in the resurrection of the dead. But since Jesus Christ ranks first, Paul called him “the firstborn from the dead, that he might become the one who is first in all things.”—Col. 1:18.
4. The resurrecting of even the first ones of the human dead had to wait until what official event begins, and when did this begin?
4 By his sacrificial death Jesus Christ bought back or redeemed all the human family who are dying “in Adam.” Hence, they all “belong to the Christ.” However, the resurrecting of even the first ones of the human dead must wait till after the “presence,” or parousia, of Jesus Christ begins. This official presence begins with his second coming. According to the “sign” that Jesus foretold and also according to certain Bible time measurements, his invisible “presence,” or parousia, began in autumn of 1914 C.E.—Matt. 24:3.a
5, 6. How does 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 show that God will observe order and “rank” in harvesting those who die “in Adam”?
5 Jehovah God will observe order and “rank” with regard to the resurrection of those who are dying “in Adam” and who are harvested as afterfruits of the resurrection. Especially to comfort first-century Christians who were bereaved of “those who have fallen asleep in death through Christ,” the apostle Paul wrote:
6 “This is what we tell you by Jehovah’s word, that we the living [spirit-begotten Christians] who survive to the presence of the Lord shall in no way precede those [spirit-begotten Christians] who have fallen asleep in death; because the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call [with a loud command, NIV],b with an archangel’s voice and with God’s trumpet, and those who are dead in union with Christ will rise first. Afterward we the living who are surviving will, together with them, be caught away in clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we shall always be with the Lord.”—1 Thess. 4:13-17.
7. About which particular dead was Paul there speaking, and how does Revelation 14:12, 13 indicate a special time for them to be resurrected?
7 Here the apostle Paul is speaking, not of the dead of mankind in general, but of “those who have fallen asleep in death” through Christ, “those who are dead in union with Christ.” In the last book of the Bible the apostle John has something to say about when such dead Christians will be raised from their sleep in death. In Revelation 14:12, 13 John writes: “‘Here [in connection with the world organization for international peace and security] is where it means endurance for the holy ones, those who observe the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.’ And I heard a voice out of heaven say: ‘Write: Happy are the dead who die in union with the Lord from this time onward. Yes, says the spirit, let them rest from their labors, for the things they did go right with them.’” So, now, from when on is “from this time onward”?
8. Why would “from that time onward” mean during the presence of the Lord in spirit, and does their dying then terminate their deeds?
8 In the light of what the apostle Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17, it must be during the “presence,” or parousia, of Jesus Christ, not before it begins, but after. Even during his being invisibly present in spirit there will be spirit-begotten Christians on earth who will “die in union with the Lord.” These especially are to be “happy” in dying during his “presence.” Their death in the flesh does not terminate their ‘deeds,’ for any length of time. Why not? Because “the things they did go right with them,” or, literally, according to the Greek text, ‘follow with them.’
9. Why, then, are the “holy ones” who die at that time “happy,” according to Revelation 14:13?
9 This requires a transfer of operations, from works in the flesh on earth, to works in the spirit in the heavenly realm. As regards those “who die in union with the Lord,” the apostle Paul says: “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption, it is raised up in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised up in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised up in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised up a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual one.” (1 Cor. 15:42-44) So these “happy” resurrected ones follow up their earthly “labors” with works in spirit bodies in the spirit realm. They do not have to sleep in death waiting for Christ’s presence.