When you think of the first murder in the Bible, Cain killing Able, it informs us that they understood the concept of believing on the coming of the Messiah, which was the purpose of giving sacrifices until Jesus came.
7 "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
8 And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
9 And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper"?
1 John 3:11-13
11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
12 Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous.
13 Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.
Those, like Cain, who did not give the proper sacrifices or any sacrifice at all, rejected God and did not receive atonement for their sins. They died IN their sins.
23 "And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.
24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.
25 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning".
Those who died in their sins went directly into their judgment, Hell. Just like the rich man and Lazarus.
22 “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom”.
Those who died BELIEVING on the coming of Messiah, PRIOR to Jesus coming as a man, went to Paradise. Luke 16:25–31
12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.
13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
Luke 1:79 - "To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace".
How far can you trust God? Consider this, all the people who died from the time of Adam, all the way to the thief on the cross with Jesus, died believing on the coming of the Messiah. They all gave blood sacrifices believing that Jesus would come. When Jesus died on the cross, He went into Paradise and ministered to all those who were there, for three days and nights.
This event is what makes the resurrection what it is, not simply that Jesus rose from the dead, though that is huge, but the fact that He went into Paradise and fulfilled the promise that God gave all those people who had been dead for thousands of years, in some cases. God did not forget them, even “after” they died and were in Paradise. God kept His word to all those people “after“ they died. The Christ went to them as prophesied during their “lifetime”.
All those people who had died and were in Paradise including Moses, Adam, Abraham and a host of others, still had to accept Jesus while in Paradise as the Messiah. Only then could they go to Heaven. But the point here is that we can trust God beyond this life to “the other side of death”. This is huge. If God did not send Jesus to Paradise, and those people did not come “out” of Paradise, our faith would be in vain, and our salvation bogus. (Matthew 27:52-53)
We would have no reason to believe anything that God has said, if the critical moment of our faith was not perfected with Christ return, not simply Jesus coming back to earth from the grave, and all He did with the disciples and all that, but had Jesus not “first” gone and retrieved those who died before us, this whole thing would be a hoax.
We are all in the same boat, believing God. If God did not save them, we are not saved. We as believers know this reality, but that does not make spiritual matters any less difficult to grasp at times. Death is both physical and spiritual, and this transition is one of the hardest things to relate to because of the finality of physical death in our minds, while we are alive. Keeping the faith, for those who believe, when death comes, the transition will be peaceful, blessed and as promised. It all happens in a twinkling of an eye, which is to say the amount of time it takes to blink. (1 Corinthians 15:52)
Revelation 14:13 “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them”
“Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord”
This refers to those who had to give up their lives because they chose Christ. The most difficult thing about transitioning from life to death, is the reality of your faith at the point of death.
Death is not what is fearful, but what is on the other side of waking up. It is a fearful proposition to be confronted with such a huge unknown, to spend a lifetime preparing and believing in the Lord and our salvation, and it is all challenged in a moment in time at death. Our only hope must lie in our faith.
The longer you believe, and actually operate your life according to the Lord’s word, the more you experience God’s promises “happening “to you in this life. If you can see these moments, the manifestations of your faith in action, in this life, on the ground, no matter how small the event, the accumulation of these moments are your proof that Gods word is real and has tangible results. Not coincidences, but real on the ground manifest proof of Gods work in your life and your circumstances.
What we do in “this life” transcends into the life to come. It “counts” and is written in the Books at the final judgment.
Revelation 20:5 “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection”
The rest of the dead refers to those in Hell. There are four companies included in this group, depending on the dispensation of life:
1. Those who died from the time of Adam, to the time of Christ who did not believe on the coming of the Messiah, nor gave sacrifices for the remission of sins. This ordinance started with Adam, after he was driven out of the Garden of Eden. God taught Adam and his sons Cain and Able about the sacrifice (Gen. 4:1-7; Hebrews 11:4).
It also refers to those who died after the order of Moses, who did not keep the ordinances of God (Exodus 19:3-25, 20:1-26, 21-23).
2. Those who died during Christ lifetime and did not receive Him as the Messiah, while believers, continue to give sacrifices until His resurrection.
3. Those who died after Christ resurrection while He was on Earth for forty days following His resurrection, and did not believe on Him. Believers are no longer giving sacrifices at this time.
4. Those who died from the time of Christ ascension to the Rapture, who do not believe on Christ, do not accept Him as Lord, do not believe He came as a man, died, rose on the third day, and is seated on the right hand side of God on a Throne in Heaven. They do not believe that He will return as promised in the clouds and take those who believe in Him to Heaven. The Second Advent.
These four companies of unbelievers are not part of the first resurrection.