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The Time of the First Resurrection

Query for the Month

of October 2001


Next up-date: November 1st (God willing).

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In the book of Revelation chapter 20 verse 5 it is written:

 “… the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.”

This plainly says that this is the FIRST resurrection. Giving us a definite point of time. If we can determine when or if a mass opening of the graves and people coming out of the graves occurs or has occurred, then we would be able to line this verse and all following and preceding verses in an identifiable time frame.

So using scriptural or historical evidence, can you help me pinpoint in time, the FIRST resurrection?

Let's look at the resurrections in the Bible.  Since this one is described as the FIRST there follows that there will be others, notably the SECOND.  If we look at the context of the verse in question we find this:

Revelation 20:

4 And I saw thrones, and they [the Christians] sat upon them, and judgment was given to 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. 5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.

This is [the result of the] first resurrection. 

6 Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. 7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison [at that time there will be another resurrection (the second)  of the "rest of the dead"], 8 and [he, Satan] shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog [prince and people, Ezekiel 38:2], to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. 

This tells us that the first resurrection is that of the Christians, who then "lived and reigned" with Christ for one thousand years.  Then we are told that the "rest" did NOT live AGAIN until the thousand years are finished.  So that negative puts a resurrection of the "rest" (the non-Christians) at the end of the thousand years so that they can go into the battle..  This would be the SECOND resurrection.

However this does not tells us exactly when the first resurrection takes place which is what the questioner wants to know. It does, however, show that Christ will be with the Christians so it cannot take place before the second coming.  We have some words on this thought which confirms it.

1 Corinthians 15:

20 But now is Christ risen from the dead [31AD], and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at His coming.

24 Then comes 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.

So now we know that the first resurrection will take place at His coming.  That will be at the end of the world as we know it, because "then comes the end" when He delivers the world into His Father's hands.  As the second coming has not yet occurred it is plain to see that the first resurrection is still in the future.

Then there will be a period of one thousand years during which the non-Christians do not live, for "all rule [rebellion]" etc. has been "put down."

But was/is this the FIRST literal resurrection mentioned in the Bible? No.  The first one in history was the resurrection of Moses shortly after his death. Centuries later Moses appeared with Elijah on the mountain to talk with Jesus concerning His sacrifice at Calvary so that resurrection took place before the New Testament times.  Luke 9:29-31.

There have been seven recorded instances of resurrections which have taken place before that of Jesus, with two others afterwards, ranging from about 1500BC to 58AD.  These are:

The Resurrections

#1  c 1500BC  Jude 1:9  

Yet Michael the archangel, when contending [arguing] with the devil [when] he disputed about the body of Moses, durst [dared] not bring against him a railing [reviling] accusation, but said, “The Lord [will] rebuke you.”

#2  c 850BC  1 Kings 17: 

17 And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him. 18 And she said to Elijah, “What have I to do with you, O you man of God?  Are you come to me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?” 

19 And he [Elijah] said to her, “Give me your son.” And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed. 20 And he cried to the LORD, and said, “O LORD my God, have you also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?” 

21 And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried to the LORD, and said, “O LORD my God, I pray you, let this child's soul come into him again.” 22 And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived. 23 And Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the house, and delivered him to his mother: and Elijah said, “See, your son lives.” 24 And the woman said to Elijah, “Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth.” 

#3  c 810BC  2 Kings 4:

30 And the mother of the child said, “As the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you.” And he [Elisha] arose, and followed her. 31 And Gehazi passed on before them, and laid the staff upon the face of the child; but there was neither voice, nor hearing. Wherefore he went again to meet him, and told him, saying, “The child is not awaked.”

32 And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed. 33 He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them two, and prayed to the LORD. 34 And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and he stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm. 35 Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro; and went up, and stretched himself upon him: and the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. 

36 And he called Gehazi, and said, “Call this Shunammite [lady].” So he called her. And when she was come in to him, he said, “Take up your son.” 37 Then she went in, and fell at his feet, and bowed herself to the ground, and took up her son, and went out. 

#4  c 800BC  2 Kings 13:21  

And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men [enemies]; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet. 

#5  c 29AD  Matthew 9:

18 While He spoke these things to them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped Him, saying, “My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay Your hand upon her, and she shall live. 19 And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did His disciples….

23 And when Jesus came into the ruler's house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, 24 He said to them, “Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleeps.” And they laughed Him to scorn. 

25 But when the people were put forth, He went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose. 26 And the fame thereof went abroad into all that land. 

#6    c 29AD Luke 7:

11 And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and much people. 12 Now when He came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. 

13 And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her, and said to her, “Weep not.” 14 And He came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, Arise.” 15 And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And He delivered him to his mother.

16 And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, “That a great prophet is risen up among us”; and, “That God has visited His people.” 

#7  c 30AD John 11:

11 These things said He: and after that He says to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.”

12 Then said His disciples, “Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well.” 13 Howbeit Jesus spoke of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. 14 Then said Jesus to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.”… 

23 Jesus says to her, “Your brother shall rise again.” 24 Martha says to Him, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 and whosoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Believe you this?”

27 She says to Him, “Yea, Lord: I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.”… 

28 Jesus therefore again groaning in Himself comes to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. 39 Jesus said, “Take you away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him that was dead, says to Him, “Lord, by this time he stinks: for he has been dead four days.” 

40 Jesus says to her, “Said I not to you, that, if you would believe, you should see the glory of God?” 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I knew that You hear Me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that You have sent Me.”

43 And when He thus had spoken, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” 44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus says to them, “Loose him, and let him go.” 45 Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on Him. 

#8  JESUS on Sunday morning in 31AD.

#9  31AD Matthew 27:

50 Jesus, when He had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. 51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain [two] from the top to the bottom;

and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; 52 and the graves were opened [at 3pm on Friday afternoon]; and many bodies of the saints which slept [in those graves] arose, 53 and came out of the graves after His resurrection [on Sunday morning], and went into the holy city, and appeared to many [until His ascension when they went with Him to heaven, Ephesians 4:8]

#10  c 58AD Acts  20:

7 And upon the first day of the week [Saturday night], when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached to them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

8 And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. 9 And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. 10 And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, “Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him.” 

None of these are classed as being in the category of either the first or the second resurrections of Revelation 20.  There is however, another resurrection mentioned in the Old Testament which we should look at.

Daniel 12:

1 And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of your 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 your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.

2 And many [but not all] of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life [these will be Christians], and some to shame and everlasting contempt [the rejecters]

The phrase "at that time" tells us that this resurrection of both bad and good will take place before the second coming, just after the time of trouble, because at the advent ALL the remainder of the Christians will be called forth.  But this resurrection also includes some who are classed as "rejecters" and we have read that they will not live during the thousand years which commences at the second coming, so it appears that their new life will be a short one.  All the people of God will be "delivered" when Michael "stands up", but not all of them "that sleep in the dust" will be resurrected then, because of the "time of trouble".

As for the rejecters, they are raised to see Him come, but are obviously doomed to die in the general destruction which occurs shortly after.  Who are they?  Some of them are mentioned on the first page of The Revelation.

Revelation 1:7  

Behold, He comes with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced [crucified] Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen.

Some of those who come up to "shame and everlasting contempt" will be those who caused His death at Calvary.

But this resurrection is also not in the count of the FIRST and SECOND resurrections - it is  a special - one of a kind. So this leaves us with the FIRST resurrection yet to take place at the second advent of Jesus Christ.  Now, our enquirer wanted to know WHEN this resurrection would occur and that's the difficult part of the question. 

Jesus said that we should always be ready for His return.  But we may not know when that will be.  His advice is:-

Mark 13:

33 Take you heed, watch and pray: for you know not when the time is. 

34 For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. 35 Watch you therefore: for you know not when the Master of the house comes, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: 36 lest coming suddenly He find you sleeping.

 37 And what I say to you I say to all, Watch. 

If the servants are watching carefully then they would see the signs of the master's return by the dust clouds on the road, and the warnings of scouts who were patrolling the perimeter.  We too may see the signs and interpret them.  Consider Matthew 16:3.  But under those conditions there could also be many false alarms caused by over-zealous watchers, as there have been in our history.

So from our point of view this means that we should be prepared at all times because we do not know when we are going to die.  When that happens we can no longer "watch", and would not be able to participate in His second advent.  The first knowledge we will have of that situation then will be when we hear His voice and are raised from our dusty beds after He has arrived. 

So what He is really saying to us is that we should not concentrate on the time of the advent but on our preparedness for it.  Therefore, the TIME of the first resurrection is not important.  When the Son of God can organise His return He will, but we can be sure that He will bring it about.  In the meantime we can join with the Old Testament patriarch who said some 4,000 years ago:

Job 19:

25 For I know that my Redeemer lives [right now], and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. 26 And though after my skin [is dissolved and] worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God [because of the resurrection]; 27 whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me [how my heart yearns for that day]


The timing of the first resurrection of Revelation 20 is connected with the second advent.  As no man can forecast the time of Jesus' coming we cannot know the time of the resurrection either.  But we should be continually prepared each moment now so that if we die we can be in the first resurrection and not the second. 

This resurrection is not called "first" because of its position in history, but because it is the most important one of all - it is FIRST (foremost) in degree.  It is the one in which the majority of Christians will participate.

Who wants to add (or subtract!) from these thoughts? I won't argue as I have stated, but I will publish your Scriptures so that we may review all the words of God on the subject.
Next thought. To be discussed from November 1st 2001.

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