..To ancient SDA's ............ To "What's New?"
My initial response to this question is simply to quote what Jesus has to say on the subject.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.
When Jesus says, "Verily, verily" He is directing our attention to a very important truth, and here He is telling us that the dead will make the choice by responding to His call. If they were dragged out of their graves by the power of God then He would be using force on any of those who do not want to wake up at that time. This He cannot do, and although He misses His children deeply, He will patiently wait until they are ready.
But, as we know, Bible statements often need to be qualified by other statements, for, "precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little" for our complete understanding. Isaiah 28:10. And maybe this one does too.
Let us look at some of the verses describing death.
First, it is brought about by the power of the devil through temptation into sin. Our heavenly Father has no hand in this.
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same [flesh and blood]; that through [His] death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
It is also called a "prison house", a place for sinners to be set free from, as in the commission given to Jesus.
I the LORD have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand, and will keep You, and give You for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.
In a very clear description of what it is like in the grave, the wise man wrote:-
This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event [or situation common] to all. Yes, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.
For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they shall die [and can ask for forgiveness and cleansing before that happens]: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward [or the gift of grace]; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.
No portion in anything done under the sun. That means they do not know what is going on in this world. They "know not any thing" in this world because they are asleep, the long sleep of the dead. Those Scriptures which give the impression that we die and go straight to heaven or to be with the Lord, are based on the principle that we never know how long we have been asleep. Often we think we have just fallen off when it has been many hours. In the same way, when we die we will not know of the passage of time and will think we have just died and then woken up to the Lord immediately. So it will appear to us to be instantaneous.
But the Lord will know of the long time! He will experience the heart-breaking absence our death has caused to Him and His Father. He does not like being separated from His friends.
These things said He: and after that He said to them, Our friend Lazarus sleeps; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.
Then said His disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. However, Jesus spoke of his death: but they thought that He had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus to them plainly, Lazarus is dead.
So He went to call him back. And that is what He did. He stood at the door of the cave and called.
And when He thus had spoken, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus said to them, Loose him, and let him go.
He had called two other people before this episode with Lazarus. The first was the young daughter of Jairus and the other was the grown son of the widow of Nain.
And He took the damsel by the hand, and said to her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say to you, arise. And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment.
And when the Lord saw her [the widow], He had compassion on her, and said to her, Weep not. And He came and touched the bier: and they that bore him stood still. And He said, Young man, I say to you, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And He delivered him to his mother.
In both of those cases He had spoken to the dead expecting them to hear His voice. And they did!
In the physical world, we normally wake when we have had enough sleep, although those of us who burn the candle at both ends have to have an alarm clock. Or a friend who gives us a call!
And that brings us back to the original verse. Jesus told us that He will do just that - give us a call. If we love Him it will be no problem to roll out of bed and see what He wants.
In that first verse we looked at, did you notice that Jesus said, "the hour is coming, AND NOW IS, when the dead shall hear..."? He was explaining that when He came forth from the tomb on His resurrection morning there would be others with Him. He knew from the Old Testament that He would stand at the entrance to His tomb and call. Here are the words He was to use:-
Your dead men shall live, together with My dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, you that dwell in dust: for your dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.
And we are told that many, but not all, of the dead saints in that area heard His call and came forth to eternal life. They spent the next six weeks or so speaking (singing) with the living around Jerusalem and then went with Jesus into heaven at His ascension.
Jesus, when He had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost [and died]. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened [at 3pm on Friday]; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after His resurrection [on Sunday morning], and went into the holy city, and appeared to many.
Wherefore He says, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive [the margin says, A multitude of captives], and gave gifts to men.
It is a fact that the dead can hear the voice of God (because it is not of this world) and choose to respond to it. Not all the dead in that area or at that time were resurrected, nor will all the dead be resurrected in the resurrection which takes place just before the second coming.
And many [but not all] of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Here we have an interesting thought. Both good and bad will come out of their graves! Why? Because both groups want to see His second coming. They have an intense interest in that event and the knowledge given in the call that it is happening soon will be enough to drag some, and make others leap out with joy, from their dusty beds.
Jesus said to him, You have said: nevertheless I say to you, Hereafter shall you see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He has spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now you have heard His blasphemy.
So Caiaphas will be one of the rejecters there to see it. When the second coming does take place a little while after this special resurrection, ALL the remaining Christians will jump up from their graves, but no more of the rejecters. None of them want to meet Him. In fact, the last sinners alive on earth actually choose to die rather than see His face, and this will include those who have lately come up in that special resurrection. Having seen enough, they will willingly die again!
And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
Jesus continued His thought in John with the words:-
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, to the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation.
There are two resurrections being spoken of here. The first when all the saints of God rise to join Him and the other when all the "wicked" shall do likewise. They are not at the same time for these resurrections spring from different motives. It is written:-
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.
This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.
And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations [who have come up in the second resurrection at the end of the thousand years and] which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
Even at the very end of time, Jesus does not force the rejecters of His grace from their graves. He will call again and they will reluctantly crawl from their beds to see what He has told them about. Then they will be taken over by the deception that Satan has planned for them.
So the question is answered. It is the response of the dead that brings them out of the graves. As they hear the voice of the Son of God they must either decide to rise or turn over and resist. If they do the latter, then they may stay asleep until there is a call in which they are interested. At the final call they will come out to face the final deception.
Some comments by E G White on this point
To ancient SDA's ............ To "What's New?"