THE GENERAL RESURRECTION
Samuel Davies (1723-1761)
"Marvel not at this: for 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
EVER since sin entered into the world and death by sin, this earth has been a vast graveyard or burying place for her child ren. In every age and in every country, that sentence has been executing, "Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return" (Gen 3:19). The earth has been arched with graves, the last lodgings of mortals, and the bottom of the ocean paved with the bones of men. Human nature was at first confined to one pair, but how soon and how wide did it spread! How inconceivably numerous are the sons of Adam! How many different nations on our globe contain many mil lions of men even in one generation! And how many generations have succeeded one another in the long run of nearly six thousand years!
LET IMAGINATION CALL UP THIS VAST ARMY: Children that just light upon our globe and then wing their flight into an unknown world; the gray-headed that have had a long journey through life; the blooming youth and the middle-aged—let them pass in review before us from all countries and from all ages. How vast and astonishing the multitude! If the posterity of one man (Abraham) by one son was, according to the divine promise, as the stars of heaven or as the sand by the seashore innumerable, what numbers can compute the multi tudes that have sprung from all the patriarchs, the sons of Adam and Noah? But what is become of them all? Alas! They are turned into earth, their original element. They are all imprisoned in the grave, except the present generation, and we are dropping one after another in quick succession into that place appointed for all living. There has not been perhaps a moment of time for five thousand years, but what someone or other has sunk into the mansions of the dead. In some fatal hours, by the sword of war or the devouring jaws of earthquakes, thousands have been cut off, swept away at once, and left in one huge promiscuous carnage.
The greatest number of mankind beyond comparison is sleeping under ground. There lies beauty moldering into dust, rotting into stench and loathsomeness, and feeding the vil est worms. There lies the head that once wore a crown, as low and contemptible as the meanest beggar. There lie the mighty giants, the heroes and conquerors, the Samsons, the Ajaxes, the Alexanders, and the Caesars of the world! There they lie—stupid, senseless, inactive, and unable to drive off the worms that riot on their marrow and make their houses in those sockets where the eyes sparkled with living lus ter. There lie the wise and the learned, as rotten, as helpless as the fool does. There lie some that we once conversed with, some that were our friends, our companions. There lie our fathers and mothers, our brothers and sisters.
And shall they lie there always? Shall this body, this curious workmanship of heaven so wonderfully and fearfully made, always lie in ruins and never be repaired? Shall the wide-extended valleys of dry bones never more live? This we know, that it is not a thing impossible with God to raise the dead (Act 26:8). He that could first form our bo dies out of nothing is certainly able to form them anew and repair the wastes of time and death. But what is His declared will in this case? On this the matter turns, and this is fully revealed in my text. "The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves," all that are dead, without exception, "shall hear his voice, And shall come forth" (Joh 5:28-29). And for what end shall they come forth? Oh! For very different purposes: some to the resurrection of life and some to the resurrection of damnation..."All that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resur rection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation."
THEY THAT ARE IN THE GRAVES SHALL HEAR HIS VOICE. The voice of the Son of God here probably means the sound of the archangel's trumpet, which is called His "voice" because [it is] sounded by His orders and attended with His all-quickening power. This all-wakening call to the tenants of the grave we frequently find foretold in Scripture. I shall refer you to two plain passages. "Behold," says St. Paul, "I show you a mystery," an important and astonishing secret, "we shall not all sleep" (1 Co 15:51); that is, mankind will not all be sleeping in death when that Day comes. There will be a generation then alive upon the earth. Though they cannot have a proper resurrection, yet they shall pass through a change equivalent to it. "We shall all be changed," says he, "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound" (ICo 15:52). It shall give the alarm! No sooner is the awful clangor heard than all the living shall be transformed into immortals, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible. We, who are then alive, shall be changed (1 Co 15:52). This is all the difference: they shall be raised, and we shall be changed. This awful prelude of the trumpet is also mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-16: "We which are alive and remain unto the com ing of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep," that is, we shall not be beforehand with them in meeting our descending Lord. "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God," that is, with a godlike trump, such as it becomes His majesty to sound. The dead in Christ shall rise first, that is, before the living shall be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. When they are risen and the living transformed, they shall ascend together to the place of judgment.