Surprised by Hell: Who Will Be Resurrected?

In Surprised by Hope, N. T. Wright argues extensively that “resurrection” refers exclusively to a bodily resurrection. First Century Greeks, for example, believed in the immortality of the soul (our disembodied selves) but had no concept of a resurrection.

I’ve earlier noted that the New Testament teaches that we are not, by nature, immortal. Rather, immortality is gift from God for those in Christ. But does that mean only those in Christ will be resurrected? I think not.

Some passages seem to suggest that only the righteous will be resurrected, such as —

(Luke 14:13-14) “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

But when we go looking for explicit teachings, we find that, in fact, both the wicked and the righteous will be resurrected —

(John 5:28-29)  “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out — those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.

(Acts 24:14-15) However, I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, 15 and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.

But this only makes sense. After all, this fits well with —

(Mat 10:28 ) “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Jesus certainly seems to say that that the body of someone outside of Christ will be destroyed in Gehenna, not just their soul. That’s not really possible absent a bodily resurrection.

In 1 Cor 15:35ff Paul explains the nature of the resurrection body, but he is clearly speaking of the bodies of the saved.

(1 Cor 15:42-43)  So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;

Surely, it’s only the bodies of the saved that receive glory rather than dishonor, power rather than weakness. If so, then it’s only the bodies of the saved that are raised imperishable.

This means, I think, that the lost will be raised, will have perishable bodies, and will be destroyed and so will perish.

Beyond this, I really can’t say much for sure. I mean, I have no idea how the bodies of the lost and the saved will differ, other than the fact that the saved will have glorious, imperishable bodies and the lost will have something quite different. They will perish in the Second Death.

Now, this surely seems a bit inefficient. Why give someone a new body or go to the trouble to resurrect their old body, just to destroy them? But God isn’t subject to the rules of efficiency that humans must contend with. We have finite resources and finite time and so must not waste what we have. God, however, has infinite resources and time. He has no reason to be efficient. (It must be nice!)

Besides, I have no idea why the scriptures describe a bodily resurrection for the saved. I just know they do.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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10 Responses to Surprised by Hell: Who Will Be Resurrected?

  1. Donald Newton says:


    "Besides, I have no idea why the scriptures describe a bodily resurrection for the saved. I just know they do."

    If one leans to a rapture view (not to be confused with Christ's second coming, which is later) (1 Cor 15:51-58; 1 Thes 4:13-18) and an actual earthly millenial kingdom, then a body is needed.

    I always got the feeling that there was not just one judgement. Christ's second coming also confused me as there seemed to be different accounts. The first judgement is when the righteous are judged at the judgement seat of Christ and must give an account –not for condemnation, but for rewards accordingly. This is sometime after the rapture. We meet Christ in the air and he doesn't come all the way to earth. (I understand the scriptures to prophecy that Christ's second coming will be at the Mount of Olives) The final judgement is at the great white throne, when non believers are judged and deemed unworthy based on the merits of their own works.

    You may have hit on this already, so forgive me. I think we've wrongly equated rapture in the CofC with the second coming of Christ, when in fact there are two separate events.

  2. Jay Guin says:


    I'm not persuaded on the Rapture theory.…. You might check out the entire Surprised by Hope series.

  3. Donald Newton says:

    Have been looking at your link regarding the rapture. I'm still forming my opinion. I should have said in my opinion (it may be different tomorrow) that the rapture is slightly different, but a part of the second coming. I've read up a little on the term "parousia" and there is another term "apentesis": Historically, "When a dignitary paid an official visit or parousia to a city in Hellenistic times, the action of the leading citizens in going out to meet him and escorting him on the final stage of his journey was called the apentesis…" (F.F.Bruce, in New Bible Commentary, ©'70, p.1159)

    In harmony with this historical picture, Paul states in 1Thess.4 that the resurrected and transformed saints will be caught up (raptured) to "meet (apentesis) the Lord in the air" (v.17), in order to escort him on the last little portion of his arrival to earth at the Parousia, which is the glorious Second Coming.

    In 1 Thess. 3:13, it is because of Christ's catching up of believers into the air, followed by their meeting and escorting (apentesis) of him as he finishes his arrival to earth, that Paul says the parousia (coming & arrival) of our Lord Jesus is "with all his holy ones," as he descends to the earth. I understand the "all his holy ones to include the righteous dead and the translated alive believers.

    So I understand it really to be a post tribulation rapture, whereas most evangelicals are pre-trib people. I guess most CofC understand the tribulation to be this whole time time since the establishment of the church and I can understand why.

    I get squeamish when I hear people like NT Wright mention allegory so much. I understand that allegories are a part of the bible– that literary devices are tools of the writers of the old and new testament and such, but I think we are too quick to use these terms to explain away things too hard for us to wrap our minds around.

  4. This means, I think, that the lost will be raised, will have perishable bodies, and will be destroyed and so will perish.

    Well, what about these scriptures:

    Rev 14:9 And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a great voice, If any man worshippeth the beast and his image, and receiveth a mark on his forehead, or upon his hand,
    Rev 14:10 he also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of his anger; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
    Rev 14:11 and the smoke of their torment goeth up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, they that worship the beast and his image, and whoso receiveth the mark of his name.

    It is not that I like these verses or that I rejoice in the torment ofthe wicked, but these words don't speak of perishing in the sense of disappearing or ceasing to exist.

    David Pawson explaines in a booklet about John 3:16 that to perish means to be destroyed, to be made unuseful, but not to disappear (I just read it yesterday, that's why I refer to him). And he challenged us to check whether his understanding of the Greek is correct.

    OK, according to Strong's (very short definitition):

    apollymi From apo (off, away from something near) and the base of olluymi (= to destroy). To destroy fully (refl. to perish or lose), lit.or fig.: to destroy, die, lose, mar, perish

    So the basic idea is complete destruction. But it is broad enough to mean disappear also, so it is the context, that decides.

    Back to Rev 14: Does this prophecy indicate, that the wicked cease to exist? Not really.
    a) There will be ceaseless tormentation
    b) There will be no rest for them both day and night

    What else did our Lord say?

    (Mat 8:12) but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast forth into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.

    (Mat 13:42) and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.

    (Mat 13:50) and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.

    (Mat 22:13) Then the king said to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and cast him out into the outer darkness; there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.

    (Mat 24:51) and shall cut him asunder, and appoint his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.

    (Mat 25:30) And cast ye out the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.

    (Luk 13:28) There shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and yourselves cast forth without.

    Does this sound like perishing or like a conscious state? They will be in this darkness, they will weep and gnash their teeth, they will be aware of the great feat in heaven where they are excluded from for eternity.

    Or a bit stronger:

    Mat 18:34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due.
    Mat 18:35 So shall also my heavenly Father do unto you, if ye forgive not every one his brother from your hearts.

    Not very appealing … but that's what our Lord said. He said even more:

    Mar 9:43 And if thy hand cause thee to stumble, cut it off: it is good for thee to enter into life maimed, rather than having thy two hands to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire;
    Mar 9:44 where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
    Mar 9:45 And if thy foot cause thee to stumble, cut it off: it is good for thee to enter into life halt, rather than having thy two feet to be cast into hell;
    Mar 9:46 where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
    Mar 9:47 And if thine eye cause thee to stumble, cast it out: it is good for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell;
    Mar 9:48 where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

    Now, why won't the fitre be quenched? Because it is not about persishing but about punishing. If it were just about making the wicked disappear once and for all, the fire would burn for a day or two at maximum. But not only that: The worms won't die either. I know it is a gross metaphor to pictur, but it means, that the worms who eat our dead bodies will live forever, because these dead bodies won't be eaten up in eternity.

    Christ had these imagery from Isaiah:

    Isa 66:22 For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith Jehovah, so shall your seed and your name remain.
    Isa 66:23 And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith Jehovah.
    Isa 66:24 And they shall go forth, and look upon the dead bodies of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.

    As David Pawson noted, living a wicked life and then simply cease to exist wound be no punishment at all. But the concept of an eternal punishment and torment is actually scriptural and straight out of the mouth of our Saviour.

    Besides, I have no idea why the scriptures describe a bodily resurrection for the saved. I just know they do.

    Maybe simply because we are to live on a new earth under a new heaven. Eternity will be a material place to dwell in, and the uidea of having a body was by no means a mistake in God's creation. Our bodies are good, and we are not complete without them.

    And we could not sit down and eat with Lord at the heavenly banquet without a body. The bodily resurrection confirmes (against all Gnostic tendencies) the fact, that this world and creation is neither a mistake nor an inferior concept (even by an inferior God), but something to praise God for. There will be a glorified and purifeid new heaven and earth, however, and our new bodies will fit into this New Creation harmoniously. But the smoke, the torment and the rememberance of the wicked in the lake of fire will be ever present as well …

    The struggles of modern commentators to deal with a bodily ressurction has – in my opinion – to do with such Gnostic influences.

    In Christ

  5. Jay Guin says:


    I understand, but I think 1 Thes 3:13 is more accurately characterized as a metaphor. There have been efforts to explain away much of biblical history as extended allegory — which is generally a mistake, I think — but this is of a different kind from saying that Abraham is all allegory.

    In fact, Wright wouldn't necessarily dispute that we'll literally meet Jesus in the air — the question is where we go from there. Most assume we keep on going up — presuming that Jesus descends to meet us and escort us up to heaven. Wright says it's backwards — we ascend to meet him and escort him down to earth. And that fits the Prophets and Rev much better than the former interpretation and also fits the Roman practice for meeting emperors who visit a city.

  6. Jay Guin says:


    Neither Fudge nor I deny that the damned will suffer once they've been judged. They will indeed — and it will be conscious suffering. The question is for how long will they suffer? Your verses show what we already agree with — that the damned will suffer for their sins.

  7. laymond says:

    Jay, does the bible describe the suffering, just not the length.?
    If a child in school is told "if you don't stop what you are doing, you will be removed from school" and he ignores that warning, and is expelled, does he suffer, yes, they will be left behind in almost everything, how long ? until they repent, and go back to school.I am a true believer some people go to hell, right here on earth, look at some of the most devout believers. If you were lost in the depths of despair, whether it be health, drugs, any addition, any despicable situation, and someone told you God can save you, and he does, wouldn't you be true a believer. Jesus said he didn't come to save the righteous he came to save the lost. (look at the discussion on Tentpegs)

  8. laymond says:

    Patrick Mead’s Tentpegs– is in your sidebar.

  9. Jay Guin says:


    Take a look at

    I understand Patrick agrees with Edward Fudge's The Fire that Consumes — which means he and I agree. And I always feel affirmed when I discover I agree with Patrick Mead.

    PS – I'm an avid reader of Tentpegs and find myself largely in agreement with Patrick — and I've richly enjoyed his Hidden History series, although it has no theological implications. What a fascinating man!

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