Rev. 20:6(KJV) says,

Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

In light of the scripture Revelation 20 about the first resurrection at the beginning of the thousand year reign how does this fit in with a dispensational hermeneutic if this is the first resurrection?

Am I to understand literally that this "First Resurrection" is the fulfillment of the "Parousia(Rapture)" described in 1 Cor. 15:52,

"In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

Or is it something else?

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    @guest Noting the -1 vote I received since I edited your question, it appears the 'close concerns' aren't going away. I chose "Dispensational Hermeneutic" because it is a recognizable hermeneutic with many scholarly references to chose from which embraces a "pre-trib" rapture viewpoint. I could have said "literal interpretation", but not ALL literal interpretations embrace a "pre-trib" stance(Dispensational vs Futurist). At any rate, if you wish to keep this question alive, you should 'weigh-in' regarding the edits and what specifically you are asking-Thanks!
    – Tau
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 23:41
  • I've looked at this question a few times and I'm still not sure what to think. Am I wrong in thinking it has little to do with dispensationalism and more to do with premillenialism. Yes, they are linked, but they are not exclusive. Perhaps the question should be edited to reflect that?
    – Joshua
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 17:33
  • @Tau Minor point: “rapture” is not really a plausible gloss of “parousia” (based on your answer I think you realize this), and neither of those words is in 1 Cor 15:52.
    – Susan
    Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 8:42
  • @Susan (Again-falling on my sword) You're right. However, the "parousia" or coming of the Lord is doctrinally seen as occuring at the same time as the Rapure(harpazo), depending whether you're Dispensational or Futurist. That's why I used the 1 Thess. 4 text, then summarized the OP's text-is that OK?
    – Tau
    Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 9:14

2 Answers 2


Dispensational Hermeneutic

“Consistently literal or plain interpretation is indicative of a dispensational approach to the interpretation of the Scriptures,” declared Charles Ryrie in 1965.

This statement by Charles Ryrie, prefaces an article by Thomas Ice, succinctly states the "Dispensational Hermeneutic". He(Thomas Ice) goes on in further explanation, quoting an article by Bernard Ramm,

This is sometimes called the principle of grammatical-historical interpretation since the meaning of each word is determined by grammatical and historical considerations. The principle might also be called normal interpretation since the literal meaning of words is the normal approach to their understanding in all languages. It might also be designated plain interpretation so that no one receives the mistaken notion that the literal principle rules out figures of speech. Symbols, figures of speech and types are all interpreted plainly in this method and they are in no way contrary to literal interpretation. After all, the very existence of any meaning for a figure of speech depends on the reality of the literal meaning of the terms involved. Figures often make the meaning plainer, but it is the literal, normal, or plain meaning that they convey to the reader.

The Parousia

Τοῦτο γὰρ ὑμῖν λέγομεν ἐν λόγῳ κυρίου ὅτι ἡμεῖς οἱ ζῶντες οἱ περιλειπόμενοι εἰς τὴν παρουσίαν τοῦ κυρίου οὐ μὴ φθάσωμεν τοὺς κοιμηθέντας·(1 Thess. 4:15-Textus Receptus Stephanus 1550)

The "παρουσίαν τοῦ Κυρίου"(coming of the Lord) or "parousia" has been a point of contention between Futurists and Dispensationalists. Both use a "grammatical/historical hermeneutic", but Futurists, such as George Eldon Ladd, see it as "one event", whereas Dispensationalists, such as John Walvoord, see it as "separate, distinct occasions" where

"At the time of the translation of the church, all believers go to the Father’s house in Heaven (John 14:3), and do not immediately return to earth after meeting Christ in the air as post-tribulationalists teach."(source here)

The reason for the disparity between the 2 views is the "Great Tribulation", whereas John Walvoord, Dwight Pentecost, Charles Ryrie, Thomas Ice, and other Dispensationalists call the "catching away" of the church the "Blessed Hope".

ἔπειτα ἡμεῖς οἱ ζῶντες οἱ περιλειπόμενοι ἅμα σὺν αὐτοῖς ἁρπαγησόμεθα ἐν νεφέλαις εἰς ἀπάντησιν τοῦ κυρίου εἰς ἀέρα· καὶ οὕτως πάντοτε σὺν κυρίῳ ἐσόμεθα(1 Thess. 4:17-TR Stephanus 1550)

"Then we the living remaining, together with them, will be caught away in (the) clouds for (the) meeting of the Lord in (the) air, and so always with (the) Lord we will be."(Interlinear translation)

"ἁρπαγησόμεθα"(harpazo, (catching away)) indicates the sudden, snatching away that comes from the Greek word ἁρπάζω a future passive indicative first person plural which is often used for a command, a Cohortative Indicative verb. This, in the view of John Walvoord and other Dispensationalists describes a separate, distinct action, and one that must be distinquished from the "Return of the Lord" which Dispensationalists and Futurists both agree as the Millenial Reign of Christ on earth.

Millenial Reign vs New Jerusalem

In John 14:3, the bridegroom, Jesus, prepares a place for His bride, the Church, so that she “may be where He is.”(John Walvoord-ibid)

In this view, the church is "harpazo" away from what will befall the earth in the last days, and will enjoy the "Marriage Feast of the Lamb". Also, the church "consummates" her marriage with the groom, who will then return in His Second Advent, restoring Israel to her proper covenant relationship with Himself. This means the third Temple accounts of Ezekiel can be fulfilled and all the OT prophecies concerning the reign of the "Son of David" will be fulfilled before the Final Judgement. Israel in this view will reign over the earth, but the church, caught up in Heaven, having attained the 1st resurrection, will await in the Heavenly Jerusalem, where both John Walvoord and Dwight Pentecost state:

(1) the heavenly Jerusalem is the eternal habitation of all resurrected and translated saints; (2) the heavenly Jerusalem is in existence in the millennium; (3) the Scriptures teach that there is some participation of these resurrected saints in the government of the millennium; (4) objections to comingling or resurrected with nonresurrected beings is unjustified.(From Doctrine of the Millenium-John Walvoord-taken from here)

This allows for the interaction of the saints during the Millenial Reign, who have "resurrected bodies", as opposed to the unresurrected ones of those who 'survived' the Tribulation and are on the earth to meet the Lord in His 2nd Advent-the Millenial Reign. They will also face "Gog and Magog", the final battle which will determine their future destiny in the New Jerusalem.

Futurist/Post-trib View

George Eldon Ladd says,

"The Blessed Hope is not deliverance from tribulation; it is not even the Rapture itself; it is the epiphany, the outshining of the glory of our great God and Savior. If this verse is any guide, the Blessed Hope is not a secret coming of Christ; it is not the resurrection of the dead; it is not the transformation of the living; it is not the catching up of the Church; the Blessed Hope is the glorious epiphany of Our Lord Himself, which occurs at the end of the Great Tribulation."(ibid)

In this view, ALL the saints on earth at the time will participate in the "Great Tribulation" and the Parousia/Millenial Reign will be 1 event. Therefore, unlike the Dispensational view the fulfillment of Rev. 20:6 and 1 Cor. 15:52 occur simultaneously. This is because, as Robert Gundry point out,

"Other things being equal, the word “descend” (καταβαίνω) indicates a complete, uninterrupted descent, like that of the Spirit of Christ’s baptism (Matt. 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32, 33) and that of Christ in His first advent (John 3:13; 6:33, 38, 41, 42, 50, 51, 58.) Where a reversal from downward to upward motion comes into view, a specific statement to that effect appears, as in Acts 10:11, 16 (“a certain object coming down, … and immediately the object was taken up into the sky.”) In the absence of a statement indicating a halt or sudden reversal of direction, we naturally infer a complete descent to the earth, such as will take place only at the post-tribulational advent."(ibid)

In regards to the issue of "ἀπάντησιν τοῦ κυρίου εἰς ἀέρα" (meeting of the Lord in the air), in the view of the author of this paper, it is evident that

The word ἀπάντησις has exactly the same meaning here that it has in the other two New Testament references, particularly in Matthew 25:6. Nothing in the comparative study of the word suggests a withdrawal of believers to some other place, as the pre-tribulational view seems to require."(ibid)


To answer the OP's question, the Dispensational view requires a separate "Parousia" from the Millenial Reign, the interim being "The Great Tribulation". Rev. 20:6 is reconciled with 1 Cor. 15:52 by allowing for resurrected and unresurrected individuals being on earth at the same time; albeit those that are 'resurrected' escape the 2nd death(judgment), whereas the unresurrected must face the "Gog and Magog" battle which will determine their final destiny.

The Futurist viewpoint 'sees' no contradiction; those that "meet the Lord in the air(Parousia), are with Him during the Millenial Reign, and consequently part of the New Jerusalem-having already been "resurrected".


Quotes from George Eldon Ladd are taken from: Ladd, George Eldon. The Blessed Hope. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956.

Except where otherwise indicated, Walvoord, John F. The Rapture Question. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House, 1979.

Quotes from Robert Gundry are taken from: Gundry, Robert Horton. The Church and the Tribulation. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 1973

  • I have nothing important to say, so I’ll nitpick about Greek verbs: future passive indicative first person plural which is often used for a command, a Cohortive Indicative verb - If that word is cohortative, then it's not compatible with “indicative”, and anyway, the only sort of “jussive” first person form I’m aware of in Greek is the “hortatory” subjunctive....
    – Susan
    Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 8:49
  • @Susan ****(blush)****** You're right, it is a "Cohort_A_tive(command tense. I guess I need to figure out who's on my side.....;>)
    – Tau
    Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 9:05
  • Very good overall treatment. Really answers the question well. Your distinction of post-trib and premillenial vs pre/mid-trib and premillenial helps a lot.
    – Joshua
    Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 14:28

The context of Rev 20:6 appears to make explicit contrast between the first resurrection and the second death as two distinct categories. That is, those participating in the first resurrection will not experience the second death.

For the classic dispensationalist, the second category occurs at only one point of time, whereas the first category of resurrection occurs at two points (the rapture and then end of the seven year tribulation).

Please click to enlarge.

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In other words, the emphasis is not only on the chronological sequence of resurrection events, but the kind of resurrection event. The "first" category of resurrection is unto eternal life. The "second" category of resurrection is unto eternal death.

Both are mutually exclusive events: the emphasis therefore is not only chronological, but categorical as well.

  • I'm not sure your conclusion that the second resurrection results in second death is implicit at all. It simply says the rest of the dead will rise in the second resurrection. It says the second death has no power over those in the first resurrection. It is actually a logical deductive fallacy to then conclude as a necessity that the second death does have power over all in the second resurrection. Also, v12 which is happening after the second resurrection, includes the book of life. Why? If all are going to the lake of fire (the second death) why have the book of life open?
    – Joshua
    Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 5:00
  • @JoshuaBigbee - how can "first" have any meaning when there is no such thing as the "second"? (There would be no contrast of meaning, unless the second existed.) Thus the "second" resurrection is not explicit, but has to be inferred by the reader. Another inferential leap is the last judgment, which is not about sinners, but concerns those who do not have eternal life. The Books of Dead Works is thus inferred (like the "second" resurrection), because those without eternal life lived lives demonstrating through their deeds that they were dead spiritually -- i.e., they never had eternal life).
    – Joseph
    Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 11:34
  • But in v12 the book of Life is opened, then we have it said in v15 that if their name was not found in it they are cast into the lake of fire, the second death. As long as we are inferring things, this infers there is a chance of their name being in the book of Life. So where does a physical resurrection of the dead happen in your model?
    – Joshua
    Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 11:52

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