is the first resurrection?
Rev. Charles Cooper
rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years
were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy
is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these
the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God
and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years."
words in Revelation 20:5-6, the apostle John introduces a new conceptthe
first resurrection. A natural implication in the mind of some is
the notion that if there is a "first resurrection," there
must be at least a "second resurrection." Scholars are
divided over what constitutes the resurrection. In other words,
is there one general resurrection or is there a multi-phased resurrection
of the righteous separated by a thousand years from a final resurrection
of the wicked? Revelation 20:5-6 clearly indicates a separation
between those raised at the beginning of the 1000-year period and
those raised at the end of it. What, then, is the first resurrection?
Testament does not have a single term for the resurrection. John
5:28-29 indicates that there will be a resurrection to life and
a resurrection to judgment. However, no indication is given that
these two events will not happen at the same time. It is the apostle
Paul who delineates stages or groups of the resurrection. He writes,
by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.
But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those
who are Christs at His coming, then comes the end
Cor. 15:21-24a)." It is clear that Paul saw the resurrection
of Christ and "those who are Christs at His coming"
as two distinct aspects of the resurrection.
the Lords resurrection as "first fruits." This is
important. The term fruits in the Greek is a singular term,
but represents a plural number (what is called a collective noun).
The concept of a "first portion" or "first fruit"
is a familiar one. In the natural order, the first fruit of any
crop would involve more than one, thus, the NASBs translation
first fruits. Interestingly, Matthew 27:52-53 states, "and
the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen
asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection
they entered the holy city and appeared to many." These individuals
should be included in the first fruits of the general resurrection.
point that we can deduce from 1 Corinthians 15 is that the separation
of one phase of the resurrection from another does not nullify the
designation the general resurrection. Therefore, the indication
in Revelation 20 that a resurrection will occur in close proximity
to the beginning of the millennium is consistent with the teachings
of the apostle Paul. John limits this particular resurrection to
those beheaded for refusing to actively participate in the worship
of Antichrist. Killed for their faithfulness to Christ, the beheaded
faithful are blessed because they have "a part (literally,
to experience along with others [Louw/Nida, § 90.83]) in the
first resurrection." Only by spiritualizing this passage and
ignoring the textual details can this group be made to represent
all believers of all the ages. John clearly intends a smaller group,
every single one of them, beheaded.
we are able to posit that Johns resurrection to life
and his first resurrection both refer to a general multi-phased
resurrection of the righteous. It stretches from the resurrection
of Christ and those raised with Him (Mat. 24:52-53), to those raised
at the Rapture/Parousia (1 Cor. 15:23), to those beheaded martyrs
raised in close proximity to the beginning of the millennium (Rev.
20:4-5). This is the first resurrection.
not designate the resurrection that will follow the millennium as
the "second resurrection." Probably the reason John does
not do this is that the resurrection after the millennium will be
distinctively different from the first. In Revelation 20:5, John
records that "The rest of the dead did not come to life until
the thousand years were completed." This by definition must
involve the wicked that have not been raised to this point in biblical
chronology. Revelation 20:11-15 describes the resurrection unto
judgment, which John alluded to in John 5:38-39. This judgment is
generally called the white throne judgment. John states that
anyones whose name is not found in the book of life such a
one will be thrown into the lake of firethe second death.
book of life would be consulted at this point highlights the fact
that both believers and unbelievers will be present at this judgment.
Isaiah 65:17-25 supports this conclusion. There, Isaiah indicates
that those who enter the kingdom in physical bodies will live long
lives during the temporal kingdom on earth. However, he also indicates
that these people will die. While the resurrected saints will not
die, those Jews and Gentiles who survive the sheep and goat judgment
of Matthew 25:31ff will enter the kingdom, but will not live the
entire 1,000 years. Thus "the white throne judgment" will
involve all the wicked dead of all the ages with the exception
of Antichrist, the false prophet (Rev 20:10) and the goats from
the sheep and goat judgment of Matthew 25:41 and the righteous
dead who died during the 1000 years.