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Bible Q

What happens in the resurrection to those who are not circumcised or baptized?

It first needs to be said that what happens in individual cases is very much something that is best left to God. Only in the case of a few individuals – the list of holy men and women in Hebrews 11, the thief on the cross – do we have either a positive or negative indication.

They shall not rise

Isaiah 26 is typical of the Old Testament default position that the dead are dead, and gone forever. But also that God’s dead, will rise:

14 They are dead, they will not live;  they are shades, they will not arise; to that end you have visited them with destruction and wiped out all remembrance of them.

19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.  You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light,  and the earth will give birth to the dead. (Isaiah 26)


This is paralleled in the New Testament examples of reference to the resurrection of just and unjust.

 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. Acts 24:15



What about the resurrection of those outside of covenant?

A related point to this is what about those who are not “in Christ” but are still raised. The three classic examples from the Bible raised in this context are:

(1) Those from Adam to Abraham the first to be circumcised. – There is confusion about how generations before Abraham who were not circumcised nor baptized could be in a covenant with God. Yet the sacrifices of Cain and Abel, and then the presumed first priest, Enosh son of Seth show that “At that time men began to call upon the name of the LORD (Genesis 4:6) There was still an agreement, or covenant of sorts, between at least some men and women and God.

(2) The men of Nineveh (Matthew 12:41) – There is sometimes confusion about the Ninevites, since this group of people are after Abraham but there is no mention in Jonah that after their repentance they were circumcised. In fact Jesus’ use of the example confirms that they were not circumcised. But there is no real problem here, since the same relationship as Enosh, Enoch, Noah or even Abraham pre-circumcision had with God still applies.

(3) The Gentile mockers of 1 Peter 4:5. – Another unique passage in the New Testament implies the resurrection of a number of unbaptized Gentile mockers, purely for the purpose of judgement. Again, there is no limit in the Bible as to whom God can raise and judge. Although mocking Christians is not truly a relationship with God in any positive sense like Enosh or Noah, it is not a case of having zero contact with God. Mocking Christians, in Peter’s view, opened them up to God judging them.

Alongside these there is an additional sincere question about the person who requests baptism but dies before it can be administered. This sadly is not a theoretical example. All that can be said here is that there is a big difference between a decision to be baptised cut short by something unplanned by a traffic accident and the person who delays for decades waiting for ‘the right time’. But really this is in God’s hands.

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