“And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto 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” (Revelation 20:4-5).
I have received emails wondering about what the first resurrection is, believing that the rising of the saints will not happen until after the Tribulation has played out. They say, “Those verses plainly teach that the FIRST resurrection (as in “dead in Christ rising” 1 Thess. 4:16) takes place AFTER the Tribulation saints have resisted the mark of the beast. How do you think you will be “raptured” before the mark of the beast, when the Bible plainly says that the first resurrection is AFTER the mark?”
People look to these passages and reason that the dead in Christ will not rise until the end of the Tribulation. But are they correct, or are they missing something? I have a dear sister, who I will call “Judy.” She emails me all the time with her “proof” of a post-Tribulation coming of the Lord Jesus. She is adamant that the first resurrection will not take place until after Jesus returns, one time only and at the end of the Tribulation. Is she right? Let’s see:
THE BEGINNING OF THE RESURRECTION
At first glance at the aforementioned Scriptures, it would seem to the casual Bible reader that the resurrection does take place after the Tribulation, but we must take the whole of Scripture and not take one verse, or a set of verses out of context, as the Bible CANNOT contradict itself, as the Word of God supports itself no matter what verse you are reading. A better interpretation of the first resurrection would be the interpretation of the “resurrection of the righteous!”
Matthew 27.52-53 (KJV):
“And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”
The Gospels chronicle the blessed event of the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. By this account, the saints who had died believing the promise of the coming of the Messiah were raised to life as well. These were saints who had fulfilled the years of their mortal life. As Jesus was the first fruits of the resurrection, so were these people.
Just as Jesus was on the earth for a full forty days to witness to the masses of Jews that would believe His resurrection, so did these raised saints witness during these forty days by their being raised to life. Jesus took these saints with Him sometime during His days on earth after the resurrection, as the beginning of the “first resurrection.” This was just the start of the resurrection of the righteous….1 Corinthians 15.23-24:
“But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.”
If you understand the implication of the verses that speak of Jesus as the first fruits of those born of the dead, then you realize that Jesus also was part of the first resurrection. As with any harvest of fruit, as the term “first fruits” is important, as fruit is gathered in stages, not all at once from many of the variety of agricultural products are harvested.
Colossians 1:18: “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.”
There is no record of these raised saints in subsequent books of the Bible, in Acts or any of the epistles of Paul, that these people did anything but rise from the dead. They had no need to die again, as their sins had been forgiven, as they believed the promise that had just been fulfilled.
As Jesus became a new creation with a new body that we too will experience, so they also were part of that new creation. We don’t know who they were, their names or where or how far this miracle reached, but we do know that they came to life and were resurrected, just as our Lord was raised. If it was any other way, this fact would have been recorded to further the Gospel.
If we return to the verses in Revelation 20, then we must understand that this is the culmination of the resurrection of the righteous who are called collectively, the first resurrection. Then if there is a collective series of resurrections, beginning with Jesus Christ, our Lord, then by implication, there must be others or a chronological order of events that will take place that will be called the first resurrection, not just one.
THE TWO WITNESSES
Let’s take a look at another resurrection. The raising to life of the two witnesses. Revelation chapter 11.7-12, emphasis added:
And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.
And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.
And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.
And after three days and an half the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.
And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.”
These two prophets are unquestionably part of the first resurrection’s company of believers. The assembly which makes up the first fruits harvest contains at least two other groups of believers. It is often overlooked that Rev. 20:4-5 speaks of these two distinct groups.
If you look at the verses in Revelation chapter 20 one group is sitting on thrones. They can’t be angels, as angels are never given authority to rule or to judge. That blessing is given to only one group, the church. So these judging saints have been resurrected some time before those being resurrected here.
The second group are those that were beheaded during the Tribulation period and ends the chronological order of events called the First Resurrection, or the resurrection of the righteous. They were killed for their faithfulness to Christ, the beheaded faithful are blessed because they have: “A part literally, to experience along with others in the first resurrection” (Louw/Nida, § 90.83). 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. Obviously, not all Christians raised to life will have this detail of being beheaded.
Of the first group, if we go back to Revelation chapter 4, I believe you can grasp who these resurrected saints are and when they were resurrected:
“And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.”
These are the symbols of the resurrected saints, called the church who are part of God’s government on the earth. They are not angels, as previously mentioned, but glorified saints before God’s throne sitting on thrones with crowns on their heads. (see Luke 22:30, Rev. 3:21 & 1 Cor. 6:2-3).
Those sitting on these thrones could not be there unless Jesus had resurrected them to life before that time. This is confirmed in Matt.16:27 and Jesus’ words found in Rev. 22:12 where He declares, “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to His work.”
As I have preached many times, the Tribulation is designed for two things and two things only. First, the refining of Israel, as silver is refined in the fire. It will be the most terrible tribulation that will fall upon those who have rejected their Messiah for 2000 years, save for a few who have been shown mercy and their eyes opened to the truth of their Savior.
The second truth of the Tribulation is to purge and destroy all who are in direct rebellion against God’s laws and the blasphemy against God’s only Son, Jesus Christ the Lord. It makes no sense for God to inflict this level of His holy wrath upon His own bride, as Jesus has paid the price for our sins, and we have no need to be converted to Christ, as that blessing has been accomplished at the cross for all eternity.
Rev. 4:4 and 5:8-10 reveal that the church will have received their reward of crowns before Jesus Christ initiates the Tribulation period with the breaking of the first seal in Rev. 6:1:
“And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see.”
This is the beginning of God’s wrath, so to begin God’s wrath, the church must be removed, as Paul said, “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Thessalonians 5:9.
1 Peter 5:4 reveals that these crowns could not have been issued to believers unless Jesus Christ had already been seen by them at the gathering of His church to life “when the chief Shepherd appears.”
“And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”
A SIDE POINT
One point that makes obvious sense and would make no sense at the opposite conclusion is this: If there is ONLY one resurrection at the end of the Tribulation and Jesus returns and destroys all rebellion with the sword of His mouth, then those raised will be spirit beings with new bodies and those who are wicked will be destroyed. Matthew chapter 13:49-50 confirms this:
“So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
My question is….who will go into the kingdom age being mortal to repopulate the earth? See the problem? There will be no one. A better explanation is that Jesus is not coming back to change all into spirit beings as that has been done earlier.
What He is coming back for is to set up His kingdom. Those who survive the Tribulation will go into the kingdom age being mortal but having accepted Jesus Christ as Savior during the Tribulation and escaped martyrdom and will repopulate the earth.
Those who have died not accepting the mark of the beast, will be raised to life and will comprise the fulfillment of the first resurrection and receive their new glorified bodies, the same as with Jesus Christ and the saints raised with Him, the first fruits of the two witnesses and the redemption of the His body, the church approximately seven-years prior.
TWO DIFFERENT TRUMPET CALLS
Two different points are made right along with the verses that began this sermon, that the trumpets in 1 Thessalonians, is the same trumpet blown by the seventh angel in Revelation. There is a misconception that these are the same trumpet blown. The biggest reason that I can find is they announce two different events. The one that Paul writes is followed by nothing but sheer joy. We have been redeemed from the earth. Each in his own order. 1 Thessalonians 4.16-18:
“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
Now compare this with the trumpet that is blown by the seventh angel that is erroneously thought to be the last trump that Paul speaks of and the third woe: Revelation chapter 11:15-17.
“And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.”
In subsequent verses we see the third woe being enacted upon a rebellious earth and its inhabitants. Bowl judgment after bowl judgment is poured out of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God. How fast? We don’t knowbut when it comes it is NOT a trumpet to signal joy, but a signal of horror, violent death, and suffering beyond any of our imaginations. They are two trumpets blown, but separated by some amount of time.
THE SECOND RESURRECTION
The nature of the second resurrection is brought forth in Revelation, which depicts the dead being released from the power of death for the purpose of a final judgment,
“And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell [hades, the grave] delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works…And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20.13,15 KJV).
This is called the Great White Throne Judgment and the books will be opened. What books will there be? We know that there is a “book of life.” Those whose names are not written in this book will be cast out and thrown into a great inferno and destroyed, called the lake of fire. What are the other books?
I believe they are books of your Bible, God’s Holy Word. What is implied but not flatly stated is that the just and the unjust will be standing there. Those who have been resurrected unto life in the chronological order of these resurrections will have their name in the book of life.
Judgment will be passed on the wicked as not being found in this book of life, as the righteous have been rewarded before this time as they have been covered by the blood sacrifice of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
WHICH RESSURECTION FOR YOU?
What each of us has to decide is in which resurrection will you be involved? Obviously, the first resurrection is the one that each sane person would choose if they were convinced of the penalty imposed for not following the clear message of the books of your Bible. Unfortunately, not all will believe the clear message written down in the Bible. Many will be deceived.
Many will revel in their unrighteousness. Many will follow the god of this world─Satan─the devil to their own destruction. What about you? Will you choose life or will you choose death? Eternal death waits for the resurrected wicked raised at the 2 resurrection, BUT life eternal awaits those who are part of the first resurrection. It is promised in your Bible. 1 Corinthians 15:51-55:
‘Behold, I shew 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
Whether we live or whether we die, we will meet the Lord in the air, at His coming for His Bride. Where will you be? Will you be in the first resurrection? How do you obtain life through the first resurrection? John 3:16-17, emphasis added:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosover believeth in Him, has ever lasting life. God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through HIM should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
This is Pastor Mike Taylor praying God’s love in your life through His Son. If you have any need for prayer, counseling or just a listening ear, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit me online at www.churchofgod-usa.org. God bless you, till we meet at Jesus’ feet.