RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD
T. PIERCE BROWN
As a result of a study in Hebrews 6:1-2, I came to a tentative conclusion that I trust some more capable person may be able to amend or correct if my conclusion is invalid. The passage reads, “Wherefore leaving the doctrine of the first principles of Christ, let us press on unto perfection; not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the teaching of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” I noticed that the expression, “resurrection of the dead” was from the Greek, “anastaseos nekron” which simply means “resurrection of dead persons.” Checking every reference in the New Testament that relates to the resurrection, I found some different expressions. It is my judgment that the Holy Spirit generally, if not always, used different expressions to express different ideas. Seldom, if ever, are different words completely synonymous.
Whenever I found the expression “anastaseos nekron” or “anastasis ton nekron” it seemed to me that the speaker was referring to the fact that one or more dead persons would be raised. Whether they were righteous or unrighteous was not at issue, but the reference was to a general or universal resurrection. I noted something interesting about which I found nothing in any Greek textbook. In every case where “ek nekron” (out from the dead) was used, an additional thought was apparently involved. In Luke 20:35, “They that are accounted worthy to attain to that world, and the resurrection from the dead (tas anastaseos tas ek nekron–the resurrection, the one out from among the dead), neither marry, nor are given in marriage.” Note that this resurrection is something special that they are accounted worthy to attain. It must be a special kind of resurrection. Then in Acts 4:2, “being sore troubled because they taught the people, and proclaimed in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” McGarvey and others apparently assume that “tan anastasin tan ek nekron” meant no more than that Jesus would arrange a general resurrection. My tentative conclusion is that they were proclaiming more than a general resurrection. It was a special resurrection related to being “in Jesus.” It would not have grieved the Jews for Paul to simply proclaim a general resurrection, for they believed in that, but when he proclaimed a special resurrection of the righteous ones (those in Jesus), that troubled them.
In 1 Corinthians 15:12-13, he uses both expressions. “Now if Christ is preached that He hath been raised from the dead (ek nekron egagertai), how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead (anastasis nekron ouk)? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither hath Christ been raised.” I think part of his point is this, “If Christ be preached that He arose out from among the dead (the expression which always involves the resurrection of the righteous), how say some among you that there is no resurrection at all (the terms used for the general resurrection)? For if there is no general resurrection of dead persons, then it is certain that there is no resurrection of Christ out from among the dead (“ek nekron”–that which pertains to righteous persons).
This conclusion is strengthened by every verse where I find the expression “ek nekron” such as Philippians 3:11, “If by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead.” Why would Paul need to do anything to attain unto a resurrection from the dead if “ek nekron” referred only to the general resurrection, which included both righteous and wicked? In Hebrews 11:35, we find that some wanted to obtain “a better resurrection.” We already knew that Jesus said in John 5:29, “Marvel not at this: for the hour cometh, in which all that are in the tombs 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 judgment.” So it should not be startling if we find that although there is a resurrection, there is a better resurrection. My conclusion is that the expression “ek nekron” always refers to the better one — the resurrection of the righteous. Jesus’ resurrection not only was a resurrection OF the dead (ton nekron) but also was a resurrection FROM the dead (ek nekron).
This does not mean that there will be two separate times of resurrection when the righteous shall be raised first, then after a thousand years (or some other period) the unrighteous will be raised, as some assume 1 Thessalonians 4:16 means. When he said that the dead in Christ shall be raised first, he was not saying it would happen before the resurrection of the unrighteous dead, but before the meeting the Lord in the air. All resurrections will be at the same TIME, but will not be of the same KIND. The resurrection “ek nekron” (out from the dead) is always connected with the resurrection of the righteous.