The first resurrection mentioned in Revelation 20 does not mean it only includes one group of believers. It includes many groups of believers in their specific order. Revelation 20:4-6 states,
“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. 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.”
It appears the martyred tribulation saints are the last believers to be resurrected.
CHRIST THE FIRST FRUITS & MANY OLD TESTAMENT SAINTS
Jesus is the first fruits of the resurrection. I Corinthians 15:23 states, “But every man in his order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming.”
There was a group of saints resurrected with Jesus from the Old Testament. Not all of the Old Testament saints were resurrected, but their souls and spirits went to heaven with Jesus. Matthew 27:52-53 states,
“And the graves were opened; and many of the bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the grave after His resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”
“Many” of the Old Testament saints were resurrected with glorified bodies. How many? Maybe a 144,000.
Now Jesus’ resurrection had to fulfill Feast of First Fruits to the exact detail described in the Law. Leviticus 23:9-14 states,
“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the Lord.
“And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the Lord for a sweet savour: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin. And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.”
Jesus is the first fruits, the priest, and the Lamb without blemish in the above passages. The sheaf or omer are the “many” saints Jesus presented or waved before the Father in their glorified bodies. Jesus is also the burnt offering (Leviticus 1), the meat (meal) offering (Leviticus 2), and the drink offering. The fine flour mingled with oil is the Lord’s righteousness that was imputed to us, and now we have the Spirit of Christ living in us (Romans 8:11; many others): You MUST be born again to understand (see) and enter into the Kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5). Hallelujah!!
THE RAPTURE AND RESURRECTION OF THE CHURCH
The next group of believers to be resurrected are believers who died from resurrection day until the rapture of the Church or it might include the Church and the rest of the Old Testament saints. Jesus alludes to the rapture in Matthew 24. He goes through the birth pangs, the preaching of the Gospel of the kingdom in all the world, the abomination of desolation, the exodus of Jewish believers from Judah, an allusion to the battle of Armageddon, and all the way to the 2nd coming.
The birth pangs cannot start until the Church is removed from the earth. We cannot know the day or hour when this will happen. Jesus is not speaking of the day or hour His feet will touch the Mount of Olives, which is prophesied in Zechariah 14 and alluded to in Acts 1. He is speaking of a time that no one can know. It will be suddenly. It will send shock waves throughout the whole earth. Hundreds of millions of believers snatched away by force to meet the resurrected Lord in the air. Jesus gathers His saints, not angels. Matthew 24:31 is NOT the rapture of the Church as pre-wrath or post-tribulation advocates believe. It is the gathering of Israel in the latter days. The parallel passage to Matthew 24:31 is Isaiah 27:12-13.
The Rapture does not start the Tribulation. Jesus starts the Tribulation by opening the first seal judgment, which is the false peace treaty between Israel and many nations brokered by the man of sin (Daniel 9:27; Revelation 6:2). II Thessalonians 2 has the order of events. The saints with the Holy Spirit living in them will be taken out of the way, and then the anti-christ will be revealed. In Revelation 3, the Philadelphia-type saints are promised to be “kept from” (Greek: Ek) the hour of testing that will come upon the whole earth.
The first allusion to the rapture of the Church happened when God removed Enoch from the earth 600 plus years before the flood. Enoch pleased God by faith, so God translated him (Genesis 5:22; Hebrews 11:5). Noah entered the Ark 7 days before it started to rain (Genesis 7:4). You see a pattern?
The mystery of the rapture or the translation of believers who are alive at the coming of the Lord was solely revealed to the Apostle Paul (Galatians 1:15-17). I Corinthians 15:51-53 states,
“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.”
The rapture of living saints was a “mystery: until prophesied by Paul. The resurrection of dead saints was prophesied several times in other scriptures by Jesus (John 5:28-29), Isaiah (26:19), and Daniel (12:2).
Here is another proof text of the rapture. I Thessalonians 4:13-18 states,
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 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.”
The dead saints rise 1st and then the living saints. The phrase “caught up” is the Greek word Harpazo. We get the word rapture from the Latin word “rapturo.”
Next, the Apostle John is removed in the Spirit in Revelation 4:1 to witness the events of the tribulation in heaven, the place where the Church will dwell for at least 7 years. The Book of Revelation is broken up into 3 sections. The past (Revelation 1). The present (Revelation 2-3). The future (Revelation 4-22). Revelation 4:1 starts a new dispensation. The Book of Revelation becomes more Jewish from chapter 4 forward. Why? Because it is the “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7), not the Church’s trouble.
Finally, please read the Gospel of John 14:1-3. The Lord promises to come for us and take us to heaven. The Apostle John is the one who revealed by the Holy Spirit that Jesus is the “Door” in the Gospel of John (John 10:7, 9). The “Door” in Revelation 4:1 is Jesus. The parallel between Revelation 4:1 and John 14:1-3 is undeniable. In John 14:6 Jesus states, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to Father but by Me.”
THE 144,000 JEWISH EVANGELISTS FROM THE 12 TRIBES OF ISRAEL
In Matthew 24 where Jesus stated, “And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world and then the end shall come” refers to the 144,000 Jewish evangelists. The 144,000 will be preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom throughout the whole world in the tribulation. They will be sealed in their foreheads; and when their mission is fulfilled, they will be taken to heaven. The 144,000 are commissioned in Revelation 7 and taken to heaven in Revelation 14. Revelation 14:1-4 states,
“And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.
“These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.”
The 144,000 are called the first fruits. Jesus is also called the first fruits. I am NOT dogmatic on the next statement, but could the 144,000 from the 12 tribes of Israel be the “many” resurrected at the time of Jesus’s resurrection to be used for a future use? In Revelation 14, there is definitely a connection between the Lamb (Jesus) and the 144,000. The 144,000 are without fault. There is no guile in their mouth. It sounds like they are in their glorified bodies. The 144,000 could also be saved after the rapture. Whatever the case, they will be born-again Jews. They will be taken to heaven at some point in the “time of Jacob’s trouble.”
THE TWO WITNESSES
There are those that believe that Moses and Elijah or Enoch and Elijah will be the two witnesses during the tribulation. They will preach in Jerusalem for 1,260 days and then they will be killed. After 3 1/2 days of their dead bodies being televised in the street, the following will happen. Revelation 11:11-12 states,
“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.”
“Come up hither” was also the command in Revelation 4:1 when John was caught up in the spirit.
When Enoch was translated, no one saw him taken by God. But, when Elijah was taken up in a “chariot of fire,” Elisha saw him taken (2 Kings 2:11-12). The two witnesses will be seen by the world on television lying dead in the street, and then they will see them come to life and return to heaven. The fiery chariot is a picture of the tribulation. Elijah will likely be one of the two witnesses (Malachi 4:5-6). Elijah will come before the day of the Lord. John the Baptist had the spirit of Elijah just like there was the spirit of anti-christ in John’s day. The actual Elijah and man of sin will fulfill the types listed above.
MARTYRED TRIBULATION SAINTS
As stated in Revelation 20, those who are martyred will be resurrected at the end of the tribulation and reign with King Jesus on earth for 1,000 years. Revelation 20:4 states,
“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.”
The martyred tribulation saints likely complete the first resurrection.
REMAINDER OF THE OLD TESTAMENT SAINTS
The rest of the Old Testament saints will be resurrected. As stated before, “many” of the Old Testament saints were resurrected with Jesus. It did not say “all.” The rest of the Old Testament saints can either be resurrected with the Church before the tribulation or at the end of the tribulation. They cannot be resurrected at the end of the Millennium because they will help populate Israel during this period.
Secondly, the spiritually dead are resurrected at the end of the 1,000-year reign of Christ (Revelation 20:12-15). I believe the following passage from Daniel alludes to the Old Testament saints being resurrected. Daniel 12:1-2 states,
“And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. 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.”
Michael the Archangel protects Israel. The time of trouble is speaking of the tribulation. In Jeremiah 30:7, it is called the “time of Jacob’s trouble.” The nation in this context is Israel. There will be millions of Jews saved during this period (Zechariah 13:8-9). How do we know this? Their names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. The entire context of Daniel 12:1-2 deals with Israel.
The first resurrection is made up of the following:
- Many of the Old Testament saints
- The Church
- The 144,000 Jewish Evangelists
- The two witnesses
- The martyred tribulation saints
- The remainder of the Old Testament saints
Please be a part of the first resurrection. The second resurrection is only for lost people who will spend eternity in the lake of fire. In order to go in the first resurrection, you MUST believe by faith (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) the true Gospel. Please DO NOT try to earn your way to heaven. God will NOT accept your works. The Father will ONLY accept Jesus’s righteousness. Please read Psalm 22, Isaiah 52-53, and the last part of each Gospel account to find out what Jesus did for you on the Cross.
To believers, end-time Bible prophecy is a GREAT witnessing tool if it is taught in context. You can tell unbelievers Israel is back in the land as prophesied many, many times in the Bible. Jerusalem was reunified in 1967. The Jewish religious leadership in Israel want to build the 3rd temple very soon. The economic part of the anti-christ system is in place. The ecumenical movement to unify all religions is well underway. The earth is in distress, not because of climate change, but because of habitual, unrepentant sin. Jesus is coming for His Church very soon. Finally, tell the lost, trust solely in the blood of Christ for salvation. Jesus is the only way to Heaven.
Jesus is coming soon and suddenly.
“Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).