Body of Divinity

By Thomas Watson

Death and the Last Day


"Don't be so surprised! Indeed, the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God's Son, and they will rise again. Those who have done good will rise to eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to judgment." John 5:28-29

Question 38: What benefits do believers receive from Christ, at the resurrection?

Answer: At the resurrection, believers being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoyment of God, to all eternity!

I. The BODIES of believers shall be raised up to glory. The doctrine of the resurrection is a fundamental article of our faith. The apostle puts it among the first principles of the doctrine of Christ. Heb 6:2. The body shall rise again; we are not so sure to rise out of our beds—as we are to rise out of our graves. The saved body shall rise again. Some hold that the soul shall be clothed with a new body; but then it were improper to call it a resurrection, it would be rather a creation. "Though worms destroy this body—yet in my flesh shall I see God." Job 19:26. Not in another flesh—but my flesh. "This corruptible must put on incorruption." I Cor 15:53.

By what arguments may the resurrection be proved?

(1.) By Scripture. "I will raise him up at the last day." "He will swallow up death in victory." That is, by delivering our bodies from the captivity of the grave, wherein death for a time had power over them. "Those who sleep in Jesus, will God bring with him."

(2.) Christ is risen; therefore the bodies of the saints must rise. Christ did not rise from the dead as a private person—but as the public head of the church; and the head being raised, the rest of the body shall not always lie in the grave. Christ's rising is a pledge of our resurrection. "Knowing that he who raised up the Lord Jesus, shall raise up us also by Jesus." 2 Cor 4:14. Christ is called the first-fruits of those who sleep. 1 Cor 15:20. As the first-fruits is a sure evidence that the harvest is coming, so the resurrection of Christ is a sure evidence of the rising of our bodies from the grave. Christ cannot be perfect as he is Christ mystical, unless his members are raised with him.

(3.) In respect of God's justice. If God is a just God, he will reward the bodies of the saints, as well as their souls. It cannot be imagined that the souls of believers should be glorified, and not their bodies. They have served God with their bodies; their bodies have been members of holiness; their eyes have dropped tears for sin; their hands have relieved the poor; their tongues have set forth God's praise; therefore justice and equity require that their bodies should be crowned as well as their souls; and how can that be—unless they are raised from the dead?

(4.) If the body did not rise again, a believer would not be completely happy; for, though the soul can subsist without the body—yet it has "a desire of reunion" with the body; and it is not fully happy until it is clothed with the body. Therefore, undoubtedly, the body shall rise again. If the soul should go to heaven, and not the body, then a believer would be only half saved.

But some say, as the Virgin Mary to the angel, "How can this be?" How can it be, that the body, which is consumed to ashes, should rise again?

It does not oppose reason—but transcends it. There are some resemblances of the resurrection in nature. The corn, which is sown in the ground, dies before it springs up. "When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn't grow into a plant unless it dies first." 1 Cor 15:36. In winter the fruits of the earth die; in spring there is a resurrection of them. Noah's olive-tree springing after the flood, was a lively emblem of the resurrection. After the passion of our Lord, many of the saints which slept in the grave arose. Matt 27:52. God can more easily raise the body out of the grave—than we can wake a man out of sleep!

But when the dust of many are mingled together; how is it possible that a separation should be made and the same identical body arise?

If we believe God can create, why not distinguish the dust of one body from another? Do we not see that the chemist, out of several metals mingled together, as gold, silver, alchemy, can extract one from the other, the silver from the gold, the alchemy from silver, and can reduce every metal to its own kind? And shall we not much more believe, that when our bodies are mingled and confounded with other substances, the wise God is able to reinvest every soul with its own body?

Shall only the bodies of the righteous be raised?

All who are in the grave shall hear Christ's voice, and shall come forth. "There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust." "I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God." But though all shall be raised out of their graves—yet all shall not be raised alike.

(1.) The bodies of the wicked shall be raised with ignominy. Those bodies which on the earth tempted and allured others with their beauty, shall at the resurrection be loathsome to behold; they shall be ghastly spectacles. "They shall be an abhorring unto all flesh." But the bodies of the saints shall be raised with honor. "It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory." The saints' bodies then shall shine as sparkling diamonds. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun."

(2.) The bodies of the saints shall rise out of their graves with triumph; but the bodies of the wicked with trembling. The one, as about to receive their fatal doom; the other, awake from the dust too, shall sing for joy. "Awake and sing, you who dwell in the dust." When the archangel's trumpet sounds, the bodies of believers shall come out of the grave to be made happy—as the chief butler came out of the prison, and was restored to all his dignity at the court; but the bodies of the wicked shall come out of the grave—as the chief baker out of prison, to be executed.

Use one: Believe this doctrine of the resurrection; that the same body that dies shall rise again, and with the soul be crowned. Without the belief of this, all true religion falls to the ground. If the dead rise not, then Christ is not risen, and then our faith is vain. I Cor 15:14.

Use two: The body shall rise again. This was Job's comfort. "Though worms destroy this body—yet in my flesh shall I see God." Job 19:26. The body is sensible of joy, as well as the soul; and indeed, we shall not be in all our glory, until our bodies are reunited to our souls. Oh consider what joy there will be at the reuniting of the body and the soul at the resurrection! Look what sweet embraces of joy were between old Jacob and Joseph, when they first saw one another; such, and infinitely more, will there be when the body and soul of a saint shall meet together at the resurrection. Gen 46:29. How will the body and soul greet one another! What a welcome will the soul give to the body! "Oh, blessed body! When I prayed, you attended my prayers with hands lifted up, and knees bowed down; you were willing to suffer with me, and now you shall reign with me; you were sown in dishonor—but now are raised in glory. Oh, my dear body! I will enter into you again, and be eternally married to you!"

Use three: The resurrection of the body is a cordial when a Christian is dying. Your body, though it drops into the sepulcher, shall revive and flourish in the resurrection. The grave is a bed of dust, where the bodies of saints sleep; but they shall be awakened by the trumpet of the archangel. The grave is your long home—but not your last home. Though death strips you of your beauty, at the resurrection you shall have it restored again. As when David found Saul asleep, he took away his spear and cruse of water—but when Saul awoke he restored them again, so, though at death all our strength and beauty be taken away, at the resurrection God will restore all again in a more glorious manner.

But how shall we know that our bodies will be raised to a glorious resurrection?

If we have a part in the first resurrection. "Blessed is he who has a part in the first resurrection." What is meant by this? It is rising by repentance out of the grave of sin. He who lies buried in sin, can have little hope of a joyful resurrection; his body shall be raised—but not in glory. O then, ask conscience, have you a part in the first resurrection? Has the Spirit entered into you, and lifted you up? Has he raised you out of your unbelief? Has he raised your hearts above the earth? This is the first resurrection; and if your souls are thus spiritually raised, your bodies shall be gloriously raised; and shall shine as stars in the kingdom of heaven. Regeneration makes way for a glorious resurrection.

Use four: Seeing you expect your bodies shall rise to glory, keep them unspotted from sin. Shall a drunken body rise to glory? Shall an unclean body rise to glory? Shall a thievish body steal into heaven? O keep your bodies pure! Keep your eyes from unchaste glances, your hands from bribes, your tongues from slander. Defile not your bodies, which you hope shall rise one day to glory. Your bodies are the members of Christ. Hear what the apostle says: "Shall I take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid." Keep your bodies unspotted; let them be instruments of righteousness. "Glorify God in your body." If your bodies glorify God, God will glorify your bodies!

But seeing our bodies must be laid in the grave, and may lie many years rotting there before the resurrection, what support and comfort have we in this case?

(1.) That God will not leave his people in the grave. Our friends bring us to the grave and leave us there—but God will not. He will go to the grave with us, and watch over our dead bodies, and take care of our ashes. Rizpah watched over the dead bodies of the sons of Saul, and guarded them against the ravenous fowls of the air. 2 Sam 21:10. Thus the Lord watches over the dead bodies of the saints, and looks to it that none of their dust be missing. Christian, you have a God to watch over your body when you are dead.

(2.) The bodies of the saints in the grave, though separated from their souls, are united to Christ. The dust of a believer is part of Christ's mystic body.

(3.) When the bodies of the saints are in the sepulcher, their souls are in paradise; the soul does not sleep in the body, "but returns to God who gave it." The soul immediately partakes of those joys the blessed angels do. When the body returns to dust—the soul returns to rest; when the body is sleeping—the soul is triumphing; when the body is buried—the soul is crowned. As the spies were sent before—to taste of the fruits of the land; so at death the soul is sent before into heaven—to taste of the fruit of the holy land. Numb 13:20.

(4.) When God's time is come, the "graves shall deliver up their dead." Rev 20:13. When the judge sends, the jailor must deliver up his prisoners. As God said to Jacob, "I will go down with you into Egypt, and I will surely bring you up again;" Gen 46:4, so the Lord will go down with us into the grave, and will surely bring us out again.

(5.) Though the bodies of the saints shall rot and be loathsome in the grave—yet afterwards they shall be made illustrious and glorious. The bodies of the saints, when they arise, shall be lovely and beautiful. The body of a saint in this life may be deformed; those even whose minds are adorned with virtue, may have misshapen bodies; but those deformed bodies shall be attractive and beautiful. This beauty consists in two things,

(1:) Perfection of parts. There shall be a full proportion of all the members. In this life there is often a defect of members: the eye is lost, the arm is cut off; but in the resurrection all parts of the body will be restored again; therefore the resurrection is called the time of restoring all things. Acts 3:21.

(2:) Splendor. The bodies of the saints shall have a graceful majesty in them; they shall be like Stephen, whose face shone as if it had been the face of an angel. Acts 6:15. Nay, they will be made like Christ's glorious body. Phil 3:21.

The bodies of the saints, when they arise, shall be free from the necessities of nature, as hunger and thirst. "They shall hunger no more." Rev 7:16. Moses on the mount was so filled with the glory of God, that he did not need bodily nourishment. Much more in heaven shall the bodies of the saints be so filled with God's glory, as to be upheld without food.

The bodies of the saints, when they arise, shall be swift and nimble. Our bodies on earth are dull and heavy in their motion; then they shall be swift, and made fit to ascend, as the body of Elijah, in the air. Now the body is a clog; in heaven it shall be a wing. We shall be as the angels. Matt 22:30. And how nimble are they? The angel Gabriel in a short time came from heaven to the earth. Dan 9:21. As the helm turns the ship instantly where the steersman wills, so the body in an instant will move which way the soul wills.

The bodies of the saints, at the resurrection, shall be firm and strong. "It is raised in power." Through frequent labor and sickness, the strongest body begins to languish: but at the resurrection we shall be of a strong constitution; there will be no weariness in the body, nor faintness in the spirits. This may comfort you who now conflict with many bodily weaknesses. This weak body shall be raised in power; the body, which is now a weak reed, shall be like a rock.

The bodies of the saints, at the resurrection, will be immortal. "This mortal shall put on immortality." Our bodies shall run parallel with eternity. "Neither can they die any more." Heaven is a healthful climate, there is no bill of mortality there. If a physician could give you a recipe to keep you from dying, what sums of money would you give! At the resurrection Christ shall give the saints such a recipe. "There shall be no more death!"

II. They shall be openly acquitted at the day of judgment.

[1] This is to be laid down for a proposition, that there shall be a day of judgment. "For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ." This is the grand assize; the greatest appearance that ever was. Adam shall then see all his posterity at once. We must all appear; the greatness of men's persons does not exempt them from Christ's tribunal; kings and captains are brought in trembling before the Lamb's throne. Rev 6:15. We must all appear, and appear in our own persons; not by proxy.

How does it appear that there shall be a day of judgment? Two ways.

(1.) By the testimony of Scripture. "For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing." "For he comes, for he comes to judge the earth." The reduplication denotes the certainty. "I beheld until the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow. . . The judgment was set, and the books were opened." Dan 7:9-10.

(2.) It appears from the petty sessions kept in a man's own conscience. When a man does virtuously, conscience excuses him; when evil, conscience arraigns and condemns him. Now, what is this private session kept in the court of conscience—but a certain forerunner of that general day of judgment, when all the world shall be summoned to God's tribunal?

Why must there be a day of judgment?

That there may be a day of retribution—in which God may render to everyone according to his work. Things seem to be done very unequally in the world: the wicked to prosper—as if they were rewarded for doing evil; and the godly to suffer—as if they were punished for being good. Therefore, for vindicating the justice of God, there must be a day wherein there shall be a righteous distribution of punishments and rewards to men, according to their actions.

Who shall be judge?

The Lord Jesus Christ. "The Father has committed all judgment to the Son." John 5:22. It is an article of our creed, that "Christ shall come to judge the living and the dead." It is a great honor put upon Christ; he who was himself judged, shall be judge. He who once hung upon the cross—shall sit upon the throne of judgment! He is fit to be judge, as he partakes of both the manhood and Godhead.

(1.) Of the manhood. Being clothed with the human nature, he may be visibly seen of all. It is requisite the judge should be seen. "Behold, he comes with clouds, and every eye shall see him."

(2.) As he partakes of the Godhead. He is of infinite knowledge to understand all causes brought before him; and of infinite power to execute offenders. He is described with seven eyes, Zech 3:9, to denote his wisdom; and an iron rod, Psalm 2:9, to denote His power. He is so wise that he cannot be deceived, and so strong that he cannot be resisted.

When will the time of judgment be?

The time of the general judgment, is a secret kept from the angels. "Of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven." But it cannot be far off. One great sign of the approach of the day of judgment, is, "That iniquity shall abound." Sure then that day is near at hand, for iniquity never more abounded than in this age, in which lust grows hot, and love grows cold. When the elect are all converted, then Christ will come to judgment. As he who rows a ferry-boat, stays until all the passengers are taken in, and then rows away; so Christ stays until all the elect are gathered in, and then he will hasten away to judgment.

What shall be the manner of trial?

(1.) The citing of men to the court. The dead are cited as well as the living. Men, when they die, avoid the censure of our law-courts; but at the last day, they are cited to God's tribunal. "I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God." This citing of men will be by the sound of a trumpet. 1 Thess 4:16. This trumpet will sound so loud, that it will raise men from their graves. Matt 24:31. Such as will not hear the trumpet of the gospel sound "repent, and believe," shall hear the trumpet of the archangel sounding, "arise, and be judged!"

(2.) The approach of the judge to the tribunal.

(1.) This will be terrible to the wicked. How can a guilty prisoner endure the sight of the judge? If Felix trembled when Paul preached of judgment, Acts 24:25, how will sinners tremble when they shall see Christ come to judgment! Christ is described, sitting in judgment, with a fiery stream issuing from him. Dan 7:10. The Lamb of God will then be turned into a lion, the sight of whom will strike terror into sinners. When Joseph said to his brethren, "I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into Egypt," "they were troubled at his presence." Gen 45:4. How did their hearts smite them for their sin! So, when Christ shall come to judgment, and say, "I em Jesus, whom you sinned against; I em Jesus, whose laws you have broken, whose blood you despised. I am now come to judge you." Oh, what horror and amazement will take hold of sinners! How they will be troubled at the presence of their judge!

(2:) The approach of Christ to the bench of judicature will be comfortable to the righteous. Christ will come in splendor and great glory. His first coming in the flesh was obscure. Isa 53:2. He was like a prince in disguise; but his second coming will be illustrious; he shall come in the glory of his Father, with the holy angels. Mark 8:38. Oh, what a bright day will that be, when a vast number of angels, those morning stars, shall appear in the air, and Christ the Sun of Righteousness shall shine in splendor above the brightest cherub! He will come as a friend. Indeed, if the saints' judge were their enemy, they might fear to be condemned; but he who loves them, and prayed for them, is their judge; he who is their husband is their judge, therefore they need not fear but all things shall go well on their side.

(3.) The trial itself, which has a dark and a light side. A dark side. It will fall heavy on the wicked, when the judge being set, the books shall be opened, the book of conscience, and the book of God's remembrance. Rev 20:12. The sinners, charge being read, all their sins laid open, their murder, drunkenness, and uncleanness, Christ will say, "What can you plead for yourselves, that the sentence of death should not pass?" Then, being convicted, they will be speechless. Then follows the dismal sentence: "depart from me, you cursed ones, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." Matt 25:41. He who said to God, "Depart from me," Job 21:14, and to true religion, "Depart from me," must now hear that word pronounced from his judge, "Depart from me"—a dreadful, but a righteous sentence. Psalm 51:4. The sinner himself shall cry, "Guilty!" Though he has a sea of wrath, he has not one drop of injustice. When once the sentence is passed, it is irreversible; there is no appealing to a higher court. The trial has also a light side. It will increase the joy and happiness of the righteous. The day of judgment will be a day of jubilee to them.

[2] At that day Christ their judge will own them by name. Those whom the world scorned, and looked upon as madmen and fools, Christ will take by the hand, and openly acknowledge to be his favorites. What is his "confessing of men," but his openly acknowledging them to be precious in his eyes? Luke 12:8.

Christ as judge will plead for them. It is not usual to be both judge and advocate, to sit on the bench and plead; but it shall be so at the day of judgment.

(1.) Christ will plead his own blood for the saints. "These people I have purchased; they are the travail of my soul; they have sinned—but my soul was made an offering for their sin."

(2.) Christ will vindicate them from all unjust censures. They were strangely misrepresented in the world—as proud, hypocritical, factious; as Paul was called a seditious man, the head of a faction. Acts 24:5. But at the day of judgment Christ will clear their innocence; he will "bring forth their righteousness as the light." Ps 37:6. He will wipe off tears from their eyes, and dust from their names. When Moses was charged with taking too much upon him, he comforted himself with this, "Tomorrow will the Lord show who are his." Numb 16:5. So the saints' when reproached, may comfort themselves with the day of judgment, in which Christ will say who are his, and they shall come forth as the wings of a dove covered with silver.

(3.) Christ as judge will absolve his people before men and angels. As Pilate said of Christ, "I find no fault in this man." Just so, will Christ say of the elect, "I find no fault in them, I pronounce them righteous." Then follows, "Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom." As if Christ should say, "O you happy ones, the delight of my soul, the fruit of my sufferings, stand no longer at the bar. You are heirs to the crown of heaven—enter and take possession!" At the hearing of this sentence, with what ravishing joy will the saints be filled! This word, "Come, you blessed!" will be music to their ear, and a cordial to their heart.

(4.) Christ will mention before men and angels all the good deeds the saints have done. "For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home." Matthew 25:35. You who have wept in secret for sin, that have shown any love for Christ's name, that have been rich in good works; Christ will take notice of it at the last day, and say, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" He himself will be the herald to proclaim your praises; thus it shall be done to the man whom Christ delights to honor.

(5.) Christ will call his saints from the bar, to sit upon the bench with him to judge the world. "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all." "Know you not, that the saints shall judge the world?" The saints shall sit with Christ in judgment as justices of peace with the judge; they shall applaud Christ's righteous sentence on the wicked, and, as it were, vote with Christ. As it is a great honor to the saints, so it must needs add to the sorrows of the wicked, to see those whom they once hated and derided, sit as judges upon them!

(6.) The saints shall be fully crowned with the enjoyment of God forever. They shall be in his sweet presence, "in whose presence is fullness of joy," and this shall be forever. The banner of God's love shall be eternally displayed. The joys of heaven shall be without intermission and expiration, "and so shall we ever be with the Lord."

Use one: It is dreadful news to the wicked, that they shall "not stand in judgment," that they shall come to judgment—but shall not stand in judgment; they shall not stand acquitted, they shall not stand with boldness—but sneak and hang down their heads, and not be able to look their judge in the face. But it is great consolation to the godly. When the apostle had said, "The Lord shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet of God," he presently adds, "Therefore comfort one another with these words."

(1.) The day of judgment is comfort in respect of weakness of grace. A Christian is ready to be troubled to see his grace so minute and imperfect. But, at the last day, if Christ find but a grain of true grace, it shall be accepted. If you have true gold, though it is very little, Christ will put his merits into the scales, and make it pass current.

(2.) What a comfort is it to such of the saints who have met with unrighteous judgment in the world, who have been wronged of their estates in lawsuits, or had their lives taken away by an unrighteous sentence: Christ will judge things over again, and will give a righteous sentence. If your estates have been taken away wrongfully, you shall be restored a thousandfold at the day of judgment. If you have lost your lives for Christ, you shall not lose your crown; you shall wear an unfading garland made of the flowers of paradise.

Use two: Meditate much upon the day of judgment. Feathers swim upon the water—but gold sinks into it; so, light, feathery people float in vanity; they mind not the day of judgment; but serious spirits sink deep into the thoughts of it.

(1.) The meditation of this last day should make us very sincere. We should labor to approve our hearts to God, the great judge and umpire of the world. It is easy to look good before men—but there is no dissembling or prevaricating with God. He sees what the heart is—and will accordingly pass his verdict.

(2.) The meditation of Christ's coming to judge us, should keep us from judging our brethren. We are apt to judge the final state of others; which is for men to step into Christ's place, and take his work out of his hand. "Who are you that judge another?" You who pass a rash sentence upon another, you must come yourself shortly to be judged, and then, perhaps, he may be acquitted, and you condemned!

Use three: So live, that, at the last day of judgment, you may be sure to be acquitted, and have the glorious privileges with which the saints shall be crowned.

How is that?

(1.) If you would stand acquitted at the day of judgment, then

(1:) Labor to get into Christ. "That I may be found in him." Faith implants us into Christ, it engarrisons us in him, and then "there is no condemnation." There is no standing before Christ—but by being in Christ.

(2:) Labor for humility, which is a kind of self-annihilation. "Though I am nothing." Christian, have you great abilities? Can you cover them with the veil of humility, as Moses, when his face shone, put a veil over it? If you are humble, you shall be acquitted at the day of judgment. "He shall save the humble person." A humble man judges himself for his sins, and Christ will acquit those who judge themselves.

(2.) If you would stand acquitted at the last day, keep a clear conscience. Do not load yourself with guilt, and furnish your judge with matter against you. "The Lord," says Paul, "has appointed a day in which he will judge the world." How would Paul fit himself for that day? "Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men." Be careful of the first and second table; be holy and just. Have hearts without false aims, and hands without false weights. Keep conscience as clear as your eye, that no dust of sin fall into it. Those who sin against conscience, will be shy of their judge; as such as take in prohibited goods cannot endure to see the searchers that are appointed to open their packs. Christian, your pack will be opened at the last day, I mean, your conscience (and Christ is the searcher), to see what sins, what prohibited goods you have taken in; and then he proceeds to judgment. Oh! be sure to keep a good conscience; which is the best way to stand with boldness at the day of judgment. The voice of conscience is the voice of God. If conscience, upon just grounds, acquits us, God will acquit us. "If our heart condemns us not, then have we confidence toward God."

(3.) If you would stand acquitted at the last day, trade with your talents for God's glory; lay out yourselves for him; honor him with your substance; relieve Christ's members, that you may be acquitted. He who had five talents traded with them, and made them five talents more; "His Lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant!"

(4.) If you would stand acquitted at the day of judgment, get a sincere love to the saints. Love is the truest touchstone of sincerity. To love grace for grace, shows the spirit of God to be in a man. Does conscience witness for you? Are you perfumed with this sweet spice of love? Do you delight most in those in whom the image of God shines? Do you reverence their graces? Do you bear with their infirmities? A blessed evidence that you shall be acquitted in the day of judgment. "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren." 1 John 3:14.