“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.”
Jesus Christ’s statement supports the biblical teaching of the need for a resurrection of the dead. Nowhere does the Bible teach that immediately at death we either go to heaven or hell. Instead it talks about those who are dead waiting in their graves for a future resurrection when they will be brought back to life to receive their judgment.
When all the passages about the resurrection of the dead are put together, it becomes clear that there is more than one resurrection described in the Bible. The resurrection of Jesus Christ to spirit life was the precursor of all other resurrections into God’s family. Then Revelation 20:5 talks about a “first resurrection” of the saints when Jesus Christ returns to begin a thousand years of peace (verse 4). The saints will become immortal in this “resurrection of life.”
Then the “rest of the dead” will not be raised until “the thousand years [are] finished” (verse 5). In this second resurrection to physical life, people come before the judgment seat of God (verses 11-12). The Greek word translated “condemnation” in the New King James Version of John 5:29 is krisis, which means “the process of investigation, the act of distinguishing and separating” (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, “condemn, condemnation”).
In this time of judgment, all will be declared guilty of sin (Romans 3:23), but God will ensure that everyone has a full and complete chance to repent and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). God’s Holy Spirit will be offered to those who repent (Ezekiel 37:14) to prepare them for eternal life in God’s family.
The Bible has much more about resurrections, but it is seldom taught in churches today. Read what the Bible says in our section on “Life After Death” and our booklet The Last Enemy: What Really Happens After Death?