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Finishing up the year in the Bible, I heard this passage:

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.—Revelation 20:4-6 (ESV)

Surprisingly, this seems to be the only use of "resurrection" in that book. It sounds like there will be one resurrection at the start of the thousand years (of those who had been beheaded and remained faithful) and that everyone else will be resurrected at the end of the thousand years.

On the other hand, the immediate referent of the phrase is "The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended." That would imply that, while the martyrs did come to life and reign with Christ, that event was not properly a "resurrection".

Can we know from the text (and not from any particular doctrine of eschatology) whether there are multiple resurrection events or if there is a distinction between coming [back] to life and a proper resurrection?


To clarify: the Jewish conception of resurrection at the time was that God would bring people back to life once and for all to reward them so they could enjoy life forever. (Most likely, the wicked would be returned to life in order to face justice, but the sources are less clear about them.) The event was to occur just once in all of history in the same way that creation only happened once. The rare cases of people being raised from the dead weren't considered resurrections since there was no judgement and the people would die once again.

Paul also speaks as if there will be just one resurrection:

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.—1st Corinthians 15:51-52 (ESV)

So one way we can interpret the Revelation passage above is to see what happened to the martyrs at the beginning of the thousand years as a simple revival from the dead. The pattern would be the Shunanite child revived by Elisha or Lazarus.

But the literal reading of the passage is that the martyrs are a sort of first wave of the resurrection. Hence the possible contradiction and the question.

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14 Answers 14

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How many resurrections are there?

The immediate referent of "first resurrection" is not, "The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended." Instead it is those that came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. This is made clear by the fact that the author restates that those who participate in the first resurrection are those who "will reign with [Christ] for a thousand years." The first half of 20:5 is therefore better read as a parenthetical remark as the NET has it:

They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were finished.) This is the first resurrection.

Notice also that in these verses there are two separate instances of people who "come to life" (εζησαν). The author uses the same word in both cases. Moreover, he distinguishes between the two using a temporal reference (before or after the thousand years). Lastly, he denotes one as the "first" resurrection, numbering it. It seems to clear to me that the author intends to identify to his readers two resurrections.

The second resurrection, though not specifically named, seems to transpire in verses 11-15 of the same chapter.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

(Revelation 20:11-15 ESV)

The first highlighted portion is what I think could be referred to as the second resurrection, which happens at the end of the age as compared to the first resurrection which occurs before then (cf. 6-7). The reason I bold the "second death" reference is to point out the textual link to the fact that those who participate in the first resurrection do not participate in the second death. Thus if there is a second resurrection, it must be of those who may participate in the second death (i.e. it cannot be people raised after the second death). Therefore, I conclude that the people raised to be judged in verse 13 in regards to the second death are part of what would be called the second resurrection.

What kind of resurrection is the "first resurrection"?

While some attempt to connect the first resurrection to John 5:25 and therefore insist that the first resurrection referred to here in Revelation 20:5 is a spiritual resurrection, I think there is good evidence to suggest otherwise.

First, as noted above, the same Greek word (εζησαν) is used to describe both those who "come to life" in order to reign with Christ for a thousand years as well as those who "come to life" after the thousand years. It seems to me that the burden of proof lies on anyone who denies that they refer to the same kind of resurrection. If I have correctly identified the second resurrection above, it seems impossible for that also to be the kind of spiritual resurrection that Jesus refers to in John 5:25 of those who have crossed over from death to life so that they will not be condemned. After all, at least some in the second resurrection are condemned to the lake of fire, the second death.

Second, note that at the beginning of your excerpt, the author says "I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded." These souls then "come to life." This suggests also a bodily resurrection rather than a spiritual one. In John 5, the opposite dynamic is in effect: there are people with living bodies who have dead souls, and these souls Jesus raises to life by his "voice." In Revelation 20:4, however, we have living souls with dead bodies, who "come to life."

Lastly, while there is much to recommend the connection of Revelation 20 to John 5:24-29 (e.g. in both passages there are seemingly two resurrections the second of which leads to a final judgment) - a connection made more likely if one accepts common authorship - yet, there are two differences that I find difficult to reconcile:

  1. In Revelation 20:4, those that participate in the first resurrection are identified as "those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God." Especially unusual is the word "beheaded", which is used nowhere else in the Johannine literature, and therefore has no precedent with which to link this passage elsewhere. This identity of martyrs does not seem to be in play in John 5; instead those who come alive are "the dead who hear the voice of the Son of God."

  2. In John 5:25, there is a realized component to the resurrection that Jesus speaks of: "a time is coming and has now come." But in Revelation 20:6, the blessings of the first resurrection all seem future oriented: "they will be priests" and "will reign." There is little to recommend a realized component.

For these reasons, I think it is best to understand the first resurrection as a bodily resurrection.

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  • The connection to John 5 is stronger if you include verses 25-29 or even more context. I'm not sure I agree with the answer, but you make a very strong case, so +1. Thanks for taking the time to refine your answer.
    – Jon Ericson
    Jan 19 '12 at 17:03
  • @JonEricson I agree about the connection being stronger; I didn't mean to remove the context and hopefully addressed that a little better with my latest edit. Also, I'm not sure I agree with my answer either. :) Anyway, good question; one I hadn't really thought through before.
    – Soldarnal
    Jan 19 '12 at 18:43
  • @Sold I refer you to Jesus explanation in Cor 15:44 and Phil 3:21 speaking of the new body that Jesus has and we will also. God doesn't have a body, but we will, even though we are spiritual in the resurrection. Also Luke 24:36-9
    – steveowen
    May 20 '20 at 9:58
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The "first resurrection" refers to a spiritual resurrection in which the martyred saints come to life in heaven to reign with Christ during the present age. (It's possible that all the saints participate in this, but that the author's purpose is to give encouragement especially to those to whom he is writing facing a possible martyrdom.) I believe this can be demonstrated from the text.

Where do the martyrs reign?

To see this, first we need to understand where the beheaded saints reign. There are several clues from the text: 20:4 begins with a vision of thrones (θρονους), there are strong parallels to the martyrs in 6:9, and they are describes as "souls".

Thrones are a common feature throughout the book. In three cases where they are associated with the beast/Satan, they don't seem to have a location (2:13, 13:2, 16:10); but in every other instance, whether the throne of God, or the throne of the twenty four elders, thrones appear in one place: heaven.1

In 6:9, John says he "saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained." Here in 20:4, he says, "I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God." Where are these martyrs in chapter 6? Under the altar in heaven (cf. 8:3,5).

Lastly, we note that John says he saw "the souls of those who had been beheaded." Their spiritual existence again suggests that they are in heaven. Now, we must deal with the objection from my previous answer - that these souls "come to life", which must mean a bodily resurrection. The problem with this interpretation is that it assumes a temporal flow to this vision - first there are souls on thrones, then they come to life and reign. But this interpretation ignores that the thrones are already meant to constitute the substance of the reign. It is not as if souls on thrones in heaven leave their thrones for new thrones on earth. Rather, these souls "come to life" in order to reign on the thrones there in heaven.

This accords well with the rest of the book too. In 3:4, we read, "The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white." And those who were slain in 6:9 receive their white robe in 6:11. Likewise, in 3:21 we read, "To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne." Christ was victorious through his death and so ascended into heaven to be seated at the right hand of the Father. Likewise, the martyrs are victorious over the beast through their deaths, and so are raised and seated with Christ in the heavenlies.

When do the martyrs reign?

The other thing helpful in understanding this resurrection is to see when it happens. The proper interpretation of the visions in chapter 20 hinges on a right understanding of its relationship to the visions at the end of 19. It's my understanding that chapter 20 is best seen as a recapitulation of the visions before it rather than a chronological continuation. Most relevant is that I take the battles depicted to be one and the same battle, one at the end of the age at Christ's return. If this is so, then it seems best to understand the one thousand years as constituting the present age and the reign of the seated martyrs as happening in the present as well.

I conclude then that John's vision is one of the martyrs being raised to life in heaven in order to reign with Christ during the present age. John's Revelation, therefore, does not contradict previous understandings of a single resurrection, whether found in Jewish tradition or in 1 Corinthians 15 and elsewhere. There is still only one resurrection of bodies at the end of the age, in preparation for a final judgment before the great white throne.


1 One might quibble that there are instances of thrones on earth in 21 and 22, but these are thrones in heaven come down upon the earth.

All quotations taken from 2011 NIV, with emphasis mine.

Further reading: Sam Storms on Revelation 21:1-15 Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

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  • 1
    Thank you for providing an alternate answer. It does my heart good to know that my question caused so much thought! I especially like it when a question spawns other questions I hadn't considered. :-)
    – Jon Ericson
    Mar 16 '12 at 16:03
  • @JonEricson Well, it's been good for me too; eschatology has always been a topic I just kinda avoided. And really, both this answer and the one I linked are highly indebted to Sam Storms. But thank you for precipitating a lot of my inquiry.
    – Soldarnal
    Mar 16 '12 at 22:48
  • Jesus always seemed to speak of a single ressurection and Revelations is too shaky to me as a single source for introducing new doctrines, that do not seem to fit the rest of scripture. This is why I think this view has a lot of strength.
    – Mike
    Jun 28 '12 at 5:04
  • @ Jon Ericson, Is this Question still open for answer?
    – Bagpipes
    Sep 11 '13 at 18:54
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    @user2572: Absolutely. "Old [Stack Exchange questions] never die; they just fade away." ;-)
    – Jon Ericson
    Sep 11 '13 at 19:10
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Based on the comments above, I will try the, "most simple answer":

The first resurrection is for believers, the second you mention in your question. This second resurrection appears to be for judgement.

The first death is natural death. The second is final death after the second resurrection; this second death is apparently hell.

Christians, from the first resurrection, are not subject to the second death, according to the text. Whether everyone in the second resurrection undergoes the second death is not clear from the text.

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What is the “first resurrection”?

Answer: From a New Testament perspective, it is baptism into Christ.

The Book of Revelation is remarkably symbolic throughout. Rarely is it relating to literal occurrences, other than perhaps chapters 2-3 regarding the seven churches. Even then, metaphorical language appears in those chapters as well (seven stars, seven lampstands, etc.). Of course the pervasive symbolism correlates to actual, historical events. It is the interpretation of those events that leads to controversy.

Since the natural man/woman is dead to God, the "first death" should be understood as our condemnation as sinful human beings. The only means by which we may obtain life in God is through the blood of His Son and our faithful obedience to His Word.

At least two passages speak directly to this remedy:

  • Colossians 2:13: "When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions"
  • 1 Corinthians 15:22: "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive" (cf. Col. 2:13).

Here is an extract from the passages in the OP:

  • Revelation 20:6a: "Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power..."

If we are "dead," how then can we be "made alive"? Clearly, since we are "made alive in Christ" it naturally follows that this constitutes a form of resurrection, that is, our "first resurrection." Most understand that the "second resurrection" occurs when we are transformed, bodily, into imperishable immortality:

1 Corinthians 15:51-53: "Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the [physically] dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality" (emphasis added).

Paul is describing our transcendence into the paradise of God. The faithful will, therefore, never encounter spiritual death. This is not true of the faithless and disobedient whose destiny is too horrific to contemplate. However, we will definitely be changed — although we may not now understand what that means:

1 John 3:2-3: "Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure" (emphasis added).

Spiritual death is the "second death" of Revelation 20:6a. Here, suppose we consider the surrounding text at this point in the chapter for context:

Revelation 20:4-6: "4Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

5The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed 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."

What does this mean? Before we dissect these passages, let us observe another verse of great significance:

1 Peter 2:9: "But [the saints] are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies [Scripture] of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light"

With this is mind, let us examine Revelation 20:4-6 step-by-step with bracketed notation and commentary:

I. 4a"Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them." The ones on the thrones appear to be the saints, those who constitute the "holy nation" in 1 Peter 2:9. Additionally, let us not miss the fact that the saints are to judge the world: 1 Cor. 6:2: "Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?" That is what this clause seems to be conveying.

II. 4b"And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God" Again, this is speaking of all saints. Over the past 2,000 years the saints have been persecuted including beatings, torture, beheadings and so forth. Who among the faithful has not watched the news and put their head in their hands asking themselves: "How long, Sovereign Lord, until you avenge the injustices of the world?" (cf. Rev. 6:10).

III. 4c"[Those] who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand" It is a well-known fact that Roman Caesars expected to be worshipped as gods. This became so widespread that those without the proper identification, whatever that may have been, no one was allowed to buy or sell in the Roman marketplaces without it.

IV. 4d"[They] came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years." We have already demonstrated that we are "made alive in Christ". There should be no mystery that saints are priest of God and of Christ just as 1 Peter 2:9 tells us. The faithful are a "chosen race", a "royal priesthood", etc. Note that all Christians are royalty. This verse is merely stating that Christians — in their entirety — will reign with Him throughout His Dynasty.

[NOTE: The expression "reigning with Christ for a thousand years" represents the the holy, royal nation of saints (1 Pet. 2:9) of all periods until the end of the world, priests of God at this very moment. Unfortunately, this figure is often stretched well beyond its intent. Some recognize that this period is merely an indeterminate amount of time until the end.

It represents the totality of "this age", one that will cease upon Christ's reappearance at the end of the world, the end of time. Many hermeneutics simply cannot, or will not accept this as a figurative duration. Suppose we consider a passage from Psalm 50 to underscore the point:

Psalm 50:10: "“For every beast of the forest is Mine, The cattle on a thousand hills."

It this a literal 1,000 hills? Obviously, God is declaring that every beast on all hills — everywhere, belong to Him. It is surprising how many will claim that this reference in Psalm 50 is symbolic, whereas the 1,000 years in Revelation must be literal. This is terribly unfortunate, because the Book of Revelation is a treasure trove of O/T symbolism.]

V. 5"The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed." Again, outside the saving blood of Christ we are dead. "The rest of the dead" in this clause merely represents those who have rejected God's offer. Their eventual "coming to life" occurs at the end of time — which simply means they will rise to face God's judgment. They never experienced the "first resurrection" due to their faithlessness. Again, the "thousand years" looks toward the conclusion of the material universe (2 Pet. 3:10ff.).

VI. 5-cont"This is the first resurrection." It is unfortunate that this tiny clause appears where it does because the "first resurrection" does not apply to "the lost" whatsoever: it only applies to those who have accepted the free gift of Christ. This is believed to instead be applicable to those in the next verse: Rev. 20:6.

VII. Here, I will paraphrase the verse using bracketed notation:

6Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection [baptism into Christ]; over these [Christians] the second death [spiritual death] has no power, but they [Christians] will be priests of God and of Christ [all Christians are priests of God and of Christ] and will reign with Him for a thousand years [until the end of the age, the end of time]" (emphasis added).

Once this occurs, we are reigning with Christ now, on earth, as the saints of God in His Kingdom:

2 Timothy 2:11-12 "It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; 12If we endure, we will also reign with Him" (emphasis added).

Conclusion

If we are willing to put aside our preconceived ideas and accept the interpretation of the symbolism in the Book of Revelation (allowing Scripture to explain itself), we may then gain a much greater understanding of this enigmatic text. The celestial imagery of a dozen books in the O/T appears throughout this Book. It is only when we put those pieces together that we can begin to comprehend the great meaning being conveyed to us by God.

As one studies many O/T prophecies on the subject, it should become evident that the "first resurrection" is baptism into Christ, the "second resurrection" is the transformation of the saints into their imperishable, immortal form (1 Cor. 15:50+), while the "second death" is spiritual separation from God: first in Hades, and ultimately, the Lake of Fire.

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  • "Do not be amazed at this; for a time is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, 29and will come out: those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the bad deeds to a resurrection of judgment." One has to be dead to be in a tomb, then raised to life (spirit) which is the first res. Is there no end to imagination and speculation when the scripture is already quite clear? And then, "Martha says to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection, in the last day."
    – steveowen
    Aug 3 at 12:39
  • @user48152 Respectfully, residing in a tomb is death. Dead physical bodies reside in tombs, not spirits. 1) John 8:51: "Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death.” 2) John 11:26: "[Everyone] who lives and believes in Me will never die." Is the Son of God lying to us?
    – Xeno
    Aug 3 at 16:05
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There are essentially two resurrections coming in the future:

  1. The resurrection of the righteous saints at Jesus' coming when they hear the trumpet sound and rise to meet Him in the air--called the "first resurrection"; and

  2. The resurrection of the unrighteous at the end of the millennium in Heaven, as Jesus and the New Jerusalem descend upon the Mount of Olives.

However, there is to be a special resurrection before Jesus' coming in which those who crucified Jesus will be raised to see Him coming. This is to fulfill Jesus' promise to them where he said:

Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. (Matthew 26:64, KJV)

And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. (Mark 14:62, KJV)

This prophecy of Jesus will be fulfilled in that special resurrection of those who crucified him. Those in this special resurrection will again die and be resurrected again at the end of the thousand years. These are the only ones who will be resurrected twice.

Two Major Resurrections

Both the resurrection of the saints and the resurrection of the wicked are foretold by Christ.

And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. (John 5:29, KJV)

The First Resurrection

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 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. (Revelation 20:5-6, KJV)

The Second Resurrection

And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations 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. (Revelation 20:7-8, KJV)

Satan's "prison" is being here on earth for a thousand years with no one to tempt, left only to his thoughts to reflect on all the evil he has done and what lies ahead for him as a result. When the wicked dead are resurrected, his "prison" time is ended--he has people to tempt again! He will try to marshal them into a great army in an attempt to take the city, New Jerusalem, by force. But, as the Bible tells us...

And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. (Revelation 20:9, KJV)

They will be unable to fight against God. This will be their last stand. After the last of the wicked has perished in the flames, God will make the earth new, and the saints, those who had been raised in the so-called "first" resurrection, will inhabit it.

Summary

Three resurrections are coming:

  1. The special resurrection of those who crucified Christ which takes place before He comes.

  2. The "first resurrection" or "resurrection of life" which is for the saints and takes place at Christ's coming.

  3. The "resurrection of damnation" which is for the unrighteous and takes place at the end of the millennium in Heaven, at which time these wicked are raised to meet their judgment.

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  • +! - excellent summary of the Bible data. Good answer.
    – Dottard
    Aug 8 at 21:37
  • "a special resurrection" a bizarre conclusion without any scriptural basis. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will be the first to rise
    – steveowen
    Aug 8 at 22:56
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    That is all fine, but the exception is to your odd premise first noted. "This "rise first" is not talking about resurrection", is nonsense - b/c they are dead!
    – steveowen
    Aug 8 at 23:27
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    @Polyhat, that the final condemnation involves permanent destruction, not torture, I agree with. That there will be so few that are saved seems wrong. What is the point of the Millennium if no one else is going to be saved after the first resurrection? Aug 9 at 1:22
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    @Polyhat. Do you have verses to support your comment " The Millennium has at least two major purposes: 1) To give Satan time to think about all he has done. Remember, the sin conflict is about more than just us humans. 2) It gives time for the saved to review the books of record in heaven, mourn the loss of loved ones who are not there--and see, from the records, the reasons for it." Aug 9 at 8:18
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THE CONTRAST:

One of the chief things to notice about the reference to ‘the first resurrection’ in Revelation 20, is that it is contrasted, not with a ‘second resurrection’, but with ‘the second death’ (Rev 20:6). Therefore, understanding how the ‘second death’ is presented in this passage, may throw some light on how the phrase ‘the first resurrection' should be understood.

SOULS, NOT BODIES:

The subjects of ‘the first resurrection’ references in this passage are clearly the martyred saints (v 4). The vision is of souls, not bodies, and appears to take place in Heaven, not on earth (20:4). The point being made is that these saints, though they are among those who have died bodily, nevertheless they lived (i.e. continued to live – as Jesus had promised in John 11:26) and reigned with Christ for a very long period of time, pictured in this passage as ‘a thousand years'. In this they are clearly distinct from the rest of those who have died a physical death (20:5). The scripture then states: “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power (v 6).

'THE SECOND DEATH':

We read that the ‘second death’ is the destruction of death itself and of all that falls within its territory and dominion (e.g. death, the grave, those not found written in the book of life – v 14-15). The reason the ‘second death’ has no power on those who have a part in 'the first resurrection’ is that they have already “passed from death to life” and that the life they now experience is eternal (John 5:24). In addition, Jesus connects this idea, of believers being raised spiritually from death to life, with the bodily resurrection of all who are in the grave, at the close of the age (v 26-28).

The contrast, therefore, is between 'the first resurrection' (which is temporary - awaiting the bodily resurrection and reuniting of the Spirit with the newly resurrected body) and 'the second death' which is a permanent state. As with 'the first resurrection' so too, 'the first death' is also a temporary state, often likened to 'sleep' (e.g. 1 Thessalonians 4:13).

RAISED WITH CHRIST:

In the same way, Paul refers to believers as having been already ‘raised with Christ’ and sharing in both Jesus’ resurrection and his ascension (Col 3:1; Eph 2:6). However, Paul also reveals that this state of being ‘raised with Christ,’ though a genuine spiritual state, is not fully realised until we are absent from the body (“this body of death” Rom 7:24) and at home with the Lord (2 Cor 5:1-8); raised up spiritually, out of the body, to reign with Christ in Heaven, as are the martyred saints pictured in the Revelation passage.

VICTORS NOT VICTIMS:

The vision in Revelation 20 of the martyred saints reigning with Christ presents them as victors rather than victims and provides hope, reassurance and encouragement for those yet facing similar martyrdoms; especially given that a long period of time awaits (pictured here as a thousand years) between these first century martyrdoms and those that will immediately precede the return of Christ (Rev 13:7).

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  • Saints. a, Mytrys b, Dead Saints, c, Saints who are alive at the coming of Jesus.. How are they are Ressurected. In what order? May 12 at 20:37
  • Saints who are alive at the coming of Jesus aren't resurrected (since they don't die) but are transformed (1 Corinthians 15:51 NLT) - so the question 'in what order?' doesn't apply
    – Richard
    May 16 at 8:19
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It might be helpful to read this passage in the light of Matthew 5:28-29 Acts 23:6, 24:15 and Daniel 12:1-4. There will be two and only two resurrections, "The JUST and The UNJUST." The JUST being on the LAST DAY of this Age, Jn.6:39, 40, 44, 54 and Matthew 13:39. The UNJUST 1000 years later, Revelation 20:1-6...

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    Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics! I encourage you to edit the answer to be a little be more full. For instance, you could quote one or more of the supporting passages and show the textual links to Revelation. Daniel 12 only mentions the Resurrection of the righteous, as for as I can tell. The connection to the other passages is less then clear (other than dealing with eschatology in some manner).
    – Jon Ericson
    Apr 11 '12 at 15:59
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This parenthetical part of Revelation 20 Vers 5 'the rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were over' is actually missing in some of the extant manuscripts:

Codex Sinaiticus, Syriac Peschitta, Manuscripts Nrs. 2030, 2053, 2062, 2077 (the majority texts of Koine, siglum M {k}). It is further missing in two early commentaries to the Apoc: Victorinus von Pettau (3rd cent.) and Beatus. (Nestle-Aland)

It was very likely a glossary remark that originated in a (until today widespread) misunderstanding of this book: it is prophetic, indeed, but not to be understood as a prophetic timetable to the event that chapter by chapter a new millennium has to be revealed. The chapters 19, 20, 21, 22 reveal perspectives to the age to come. Not a chronology that is running head over heels through the ages.

The first resurrection is for a kingdom and priesthood. It is the people that is sanctified to the Most High, like Daniel the prophet saw it. When John writes 'and after this I saw' he introduces what he saw next (in the following vision), not: What will happen a thousand years later. Just because something new is mentioned and shown, it does not mean that it would be superfluous within that same age told about a couple of verses before. And a new chapter does not necessarily mean the same as: A new page (and age) in the Pastor's handbook of timetables. (That medieval monks invention of numbers to verses and chapters is sometimes misleading and too often annoying as is the custom to throw everything into one book to have it all handy (as if being the word of God were a matter of handiness.) )

Are priests supposed to serve themselves? Or kings to lord it over each other? Not so with God. (Even if their bibles would try to talk Him into.)

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    Could you provide a source for the textual criticism you present in the first paragraph? It isn't noted in the NET Bible. I also don't find it in this list of variations.
    – Jon Ericson
    Apr 16 '13 at 18:35
  • Hi Jon! The Nestle-Aland shows this part of the verse as missing in the Syriac Peschitta and Sinaiticus and in an early commentary, which author's name I can't recall right now. Thanks!
    – hannes
    Apr 17 '13 at 11:23
  • This part is missing in a whole lot more manuscripts than I remembered: Codex Sinaiticus, Syriac Peschitta, Manuscripts Nrs. 2030, 2053, 2062, 2077 (the majority texts of Koine, siglum M {k}). It is further missing in two early commentaries to the Apoc: Victorinus von Pettau (3rd cent.) and Beatus.
    – hannes
    Apr 21 '13 at 6:24
  • An interesting part of this is that early church writers like Justin Martyr and Papius seem to clearly be Chilliastic, that is, pre-millenial, two resurrections. It's not until the next generation and beyond of more Greek minded theologians like Origen and eventually Augustine that this idea was pushed out of orthodoxy. So regardless of texts, early (AD 100-180) church fathers knew of it and accepted it. Assumed it even. @JonEricson
    – Joshua
    May 27 '15 at 17:15
  • This isn't necessarily true, Papias by his own admission was 'a collector of oral opinions' and, although Justin Martyr takes a pre-millennial position in his dialogue, he argued differently in the earlier First Apology: "He shall come from heaven with glory, accompanied by His angelic host, when also He shall raise the bodies of all men who have lived, and shall clothe those of the worthy with immortality, and shall send those of the wicked, endued with eternal sensibility, into everlasting fire with the wicked devils." He also interprets Isaiah 2:3 and Micah 4:2, as present Kingdom activity.
    – Richard
    Sep 2 '20 at 15:26
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1 resurrection or 2? How many resurrections are there going to be?

There are going to be two resurrections." The Earthly Resurrection" and "the Heavenly Resurrection".

The first resurrection--The Heavenly Resurrection

The apostle Peter wrote that God resurrected Jesus not as a human but as a spirit:

1 Peter 3:18 NASB

18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all time, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;

Just before ascending to heaven, Jesus told his faithful followers that he would prepare a place for them there. In Luke 12:32 Jesus referred to those going to heaven as "little flock" meaning that a relatively small number of faithful Christians will be chosen.

Luke 12:32 NASB

32 Do not be afraid, little flock, because your Father has chosen to give you the kingdom.

John 14:2 NASB

2 In My Father’s house are many [a]rooms; if that were not so, [b]I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you.

How many will be chosen: According to Revelation 14:1 John says :

Revelation 14:1 NASB

The Lamb and the 144,000 on Mount Zion

14 Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him 144,000 who had His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.

What will they do in heaven, according to John Rev. 20:6 they will reign for a thousand years with Jesus over the earth as priests of God.

Revelation 20:4-6NET

4 Then[a] I saw thrones and seated on them were those who had been given authority to judge.[b] I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. These[c] had not worshiped the beast or his image and had refused to receive his mark on their forehead or hand. They[d] came to life[e] and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were finished.)[f] This is the first resurrection.6 Blessed and holy is the one who takes part[g] in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them,[h] but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand

Footnotes NET: [f] Revelation 20:5 sn This statement appears to be a parenthetical comment by the author.

The Earthly resurrection: The Second resurrection.

Jesus said that the meek will inherit the earth (Mt 5:5) and that all those in the tombs will hear his voice and come out.

Matthew 5:5 NET

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

John 5:28-29 NASB

28 Do not be amazed at this; for [a]a time is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, 29 and will come out: those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the bad deeds to a resurrection of judgment.

Similarly, Revelation 20:13 reads:

Revelation 20:13 NASB

13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them; and they were judged, each one of them according to their deeds.

Paul says that there is going to be a resurrection of the Righteous and the Unrighteous. What does this mean?

Acts 24:15 NET

15 I have a hope in God (a hope that these men[d] themselves accept too) that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.

The righteous include men like Moses, Noah, King David, Abraham, Esther, Ruth.The righteous also include Jesus' followers that served and obeyed the teachings of Christ in other times and in our times. The unrighteous includes millions of people that did not serve God, because they never heard about him or knew him.

During the period of a thousand years (Rev. 20:5), the dead will be resurrected and given an opportunity to join faithful servants of God. How will they be Judged? If they were to be judged by their past deeds, they could be judged whilst they were in the grave and so there will be no need for a resurrection. The resurrected will be given a clean slate and will be judged according to their future deeds, free from the influence of Satan. The Bible says that not all humans will be resurrected, those are the dead in Gehenna (Luke 12:5 YTL)

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  • This has a "The first resurrection" heading, but there doesn't seem to be a "second". Did part of this answer get cut off? Aug 9 at 2:45
  • Ray Butterworth. The first resurrection is for the partakers of the heavenly calling, Heb 3:1 NASB and Rom.8:15-17, . Also referred to as the first fruits 1 Cor.15:20,23 NASB. This resurrection takes place during Jesus' presence. The second resurrection on earth takes place during Jesus' one thousand-year reign. Aug 9 at 7:44
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First of all, it is not a thousand years reign, as the Greek numeric 'Chilioi' as base-10 (10x3rd power) in root Greek 'Chili' represents the sum of (plural) "thousands", and would properly translate as 'Thousands of Years'... and this evident from NT teaching mean the remaining earth age that ends in final judgment. So the reign of saints began with Christ's ministry, and continues after judgment forever. For some reason many miss Rev 20:4-6 reading only about the second group called the martyr, when also are (included) those on thrones with authority to judge. The HS deposit is more than a hope, it is a guarantee involving this earth age, and the eternal to come... also the second "I saw" is not found in the original Greek. Consider in this context, that those 'dead in sin' are made alive again (or) born again, resurrected in truth into the 'new man', serving (or) reigning now in this earth age, and the age eternal to come. I have written a thesis bible study in this context about the first resurrection, offered to all that would like to consider and critique the fact they reign with Christ in His service, and as priests forever (my web page): http://rtpricetag.home.comcast.net/~rtpricetag/First_Resurrection.html

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    Hi DeWayne. It sounds like you know a thing or two about the passage. But I can't help but notice that you didn't quite answer my question. (Or at least, I think you mean there is only one resurrection, but you don't come out and say that.) You might answer in your web page, but we are looking for complete and well-supported answers. Have you seen our tour page? It might help you see where we are coming from here. ;-)
    – Jon Ericson
    Dec 9 '13 at 6:23
  • There are two resurrections, in Acts 24:15-16 "...and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked..." Also true, the resurrection or being born again to reign with Christ is meant for both this earth age, and the age to come, as described in 1 Thess 5:10-11 "He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him." Awake meaning yet alive, asleep meaning dead of the flesh body, but spiritually alive and still reigning with Christ.
    – DeWayne
    Sep 3 '14 at 8:07
  • About (those) of the 'first resurrection'. The second "I saw" is not found in the original manuscripts. What Rev 20:4-6 says, John (saw) both those on thrones, and those that had been martyred, (both) did not receive the mark of the beast, both were resurrected to reign with Christ for eternity, not a (Latin) 'one thousand years'. This 'Chilioi' meaning this earth age (remaining) until Satan released from the abyss... he is now the 'spirit at work in those disobedient', his 'kingdom (spiritual) of the air'.
    – DeWayne
    Sep 3 '14 at 8:17
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What is the “first resurrection”?

I see the "first resurrection" described in Revelation 20:6 as having relevance to Old Testament saints and those who die during the tribulation.

Daniel 12:2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

The reason is that the difference between Old Testament believers and New Testament believers is that New Testament believers have their new life in Christ the moment they believe.

John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

Hebrews 11:39-40 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

Those who have died "in Christ" are with Christ now and will return for their bodies at the rapture.

1 Thessalonians 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

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What is the “first resurrection”?

Revelation 20:4-6 (NET Bible)

4 Then[a] I saw thrones and seated on them were those who had been given authority to judge.[b] I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. These had not worshiped the beast or his image and had refused to receive his mark on their forehead or hand. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were finished.) This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who takes part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

The Footnotes of the NET Bible, Revelation 20:5 read " This statement appears to be a parenthetical comment by the author." The parenthetical comments (verse 5) refer to the second resurrection that will take place during the thousand year reign of God's Kingdom by Christ. Some other Bibles which have it in parenthesis are J.P. Phillips N T, EHV , ICB,TLB, NIV, GNT.

The Two Resurrection.

The Christians scriptures give emphasis to the first resurrection, to the gathering of the saints in Christ , the heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. (Philippians 4:21, Romans 8:15-17). The resurrection to life in heaven is called the first resurrection (Rev. 20:6) and this occurs "during Christ’s presence." ( 1 Thes.2:19)

This shows that another resurrection will follow the resurrection of dead ones to life on the earth , thus there are two resurrections. First, there is the resurrection to heavenly life. Second, there is the resurrection "of both the righteous and the unrighteous" with the opportunity to gain everlasting life on the earth.​( John 5:28-29 Rev. 20:13).

The Earhly Resurrection.

John 5:28-29 (NASB)

28 "Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, 29 and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment." (Similarly, Revelation 20:13 , Acts 24:15)

Revelation 20:13 (NASB)

13 "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds."

The Hebrew scriptures also speak of the earthly resurrection,( Isaiah 26:19, Job 14:13) the religious faction "Pharisees" believed in the resurrection the "Sadducees" did not. (Acts 23:8) The Jews generally believed in the earthly resurrection and this is revealed in the reply that Martha, the sister of Lazarus gave to Jesus “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”( John11:24 NASB)

"Those resurrected will be judged according to their deeds."(after resurrection) Paul reasons that a person resurrected will not have against him, his sins in his previous life, and so wrote that : "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord," (Rom 6:23 NASB). Jesus will judge the living and the(spiritually) dead (2 Timothy 4:1") according to "the book of life " that John saw in his vision.(Rev. 20:12)

Revelation 20:12 (NASB)

12 "And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds."

The First Resurrection

Revelation 20 : (part 4c and 5-6 verses)

They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were finished.) This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who takes part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

Jesus was the first to be resurrected from the dead and made alive in the spirit. (1 Peter 3:18, Acts 26:22-23)

1 Peter 3:18 (NASB)

18 "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the [a]spirit."

Acts 26:22-23 (NASB)

22 "So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place; 23 that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles."

Others to follow, from every tribe and nation. "Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming." (1 Cor. 15:20-23, Rev. 5:9-10)

1 Corinthians 15:20-23 (NASB)

The Order of Resurrection

20 "But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in [a]Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming."

Revelation 5:9-10 (NASB)

9 "And they *sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the [a]book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. 10 “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”

Narrow is the gate and there are few who find it . ( Mat 7:13-14) Those who are "Christ’s at His coming," are the 1440,000 faithful disciples who have been purchased from the earth. (Re, 14:1-3, 2 Tim. 2:11-12) Those purchased from the earth are chosen by God, Matthew 22:14.

Revelation 14: 1-3 (NASB)

The Lamb and the 144,000 on Mount Zion

14 "Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. 3 And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth."

2 Timothy 2:11-12 (NASB)

11 "It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; 12 If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us;

The resurrection to life as a spirit being in heaven , is unseen to the human eyes. Paul writes:

1 Corinthians 15:42-44 (NASB)

42 "So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised [b]an imperishable body; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body."

This shows that another resurrection will follow the resurrection of dead ones to life on the earth , thus there are two resurrections. First, there is the resurrection to heavenly life. Second, there is the resurrection "of both the righteous and the unrighteous" with the opportunity to gain everlasting life on the earth.​( John 5:28-29 Rev. 20:13).

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As some already said. The first resurrection is anyone that dies as a Christian Christ saves, and goes through the tribulation maintaining their faith to the Real Christ. They didn't take the mark of the beast because that can strip you of your Salvation. Its called apostasy by deception. 2 Thessalonians 2.

The second is one chance given to people who did not get a fair chance at truth before and after the tribulation. They were not taught properly. However they are judged by their works as it states at the very end Revelation 20. Which makes it a bit of a risky proposition.

None the less , God is Judge. And He gives people every opportunity to be saved before Satan is released yet again, for a very short season without deception of pretending to be Jesus.

To put this last group of people to the test. They'll full well know who Satan is. If they follow Him then, they'll surely die of their soul.This is the second death .

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Revelation must always interpret happenings in the present life, today. Revelation is applicable in all present life, not in the future. The logic is: if you die, there is no hope. According to Ecclesiastes 9:4 "The living has hope." Again what is the logic? Revelation was written for the living people, it will happen today, why? What is the purpose of Revelation if it will not happen to us...the living people? There is no sense to read the Revelation if this is only for the future. Because people are already dead, so, what is the sense of this Revelation if you are dead? Totally nonsense.

In Revelation 20:12-13, speaking of the books, these books is the New & the Old Covenant. According to John 12:48 "there is a judge" and who is this judge? "that very words which I spoke will condemn him at the last day."

The Books (the Word of God John 1:1 Word was God) is the judge. Whatever in the Books that God spoke, (through Jesus Christ John 12:49-50) that it will judge us.

In John 5:25, "the dead (all people: bad or good) will hear the voice of the Son of Man. Those who hear will live." (we should not stop here) We must continue upto v28-29...

5:28-29 for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. (We have hope to hear the Son)

So, once we hear the Son of God, it is up to us, according to our deeds: "done what is good, or done what is evil."

So when we died... our body, there is no hope. So, this is the second death... our dead body. The first death is the spiritual death, (still we have hope; not the dead body) Ephesians 2:1, 2:5. (Remember: Romans 6:23 The wages of sin is death. & all are dead according to Romans 3:10-12 no one is righteous.

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