The Resurrection is a somewhat involved series of events, the first and second resurrection have distinct and subtle differences. In this article we take a look at these specifics in an effort to simplify the resurrection experience overall.
The First Resurrection
Those who are in Christ up to and at the time of the Rapture, which includes Old Testament Saints (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
The Two Witnesses, Elijah and Enoch (Revelation 11:11-12)
The Tribulation Saints (Daniel 12:2; Matthew 25:46; John 5:29)
There is another group not raptured, but were raised in their bodies with Christ “after” His resurrection. These were Old Testament Saints, but of this company it is unknown if they were simply revived like Lazarus and had to die again, or if this company went to Heaven with Christ in glorified bodies. Either way, it is unknown what the disposition of this company was, but we must include them as part of the groups who were resurrected, because it is unknown (Matthew 27:52-53).
All these are part of the first resurrection. It is an important distinction between a person who was raised from the dead, such as Lazarus (John 11:40-44), the little boy by Elijah (1 Kings 17:17-24), Elisha and a little boy (2 Kings 4:32-37), Peter and Tabitha (Acts 9:36-43), and a resurrection. In these accounts, all of these people had to die again. When a person is resurrected, they cannot die again, they are essentially immortals.
This distinction sets a revived person apart from a resurrected one, regardless of how long the person was dead. Lazarus was dead for 4 days, the longest recorded period in scripture of any person being brought back to life, including Christ Himself who was dead for 3 days. The first resurrection is a distinctly different kind of event from a person who is raptured. The rapture is the rejoining of the Spirit of a man with his physical body. The body becomes a glorified version of itself, having no blood in it. No blood is also referred to as corruption, meaning decay (1 Thessalonians. 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:50-55). The Rapture is distinct from the resurrection because it happens only once and happens to people who are dead, as well as those Christians who are alive at the time of the event. The resurrection takes place with dead people first. Both companies go to Heaven in glorified bodies, and both return to earth with Christ during Armageddon and the thousand year reign.
The only person to date who has been resurrected is Christ. There are a couple of things bear reviewing about the crucifixion of Jesus and the day of His resurrection. There are aspects that have been mired in religious tradition without the facts surrounding the events of period.
The three companies at issue are the Old Testament Saints, which are made up of all those from the time of Adam, to the Thief on the Cross with Jesus. This group all died and went to Paradise. Once Jesus rose from the dead, there is no more Paradise, man now goes directly to Heaven. All the people who sat in Paradise were waiting on the promise of the Messiah, which Jesus fulfilled when He went to minister to those in Paradise, during the 3 days His body was in the tomb.
“To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” Luke 1:79
“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” Hebrews 11:13
During this period, there was a gulf that separated Paradise from Hell (Luke 16:26).
“Therefore Hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure” Isaiah 5:14
This is interpreted as Hell expanding beyond the portion that was Paradise in order to accommodate all those who would be going to Hell as the number of men going to Hell, increases without measure. There is no more gulf, when Jesus took out the Saints, Hell filled up the expanse.
“The Lord knoweth how to deliver the Godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust unto the Day of Judgment to be punished” 2 Peter 2:9
This means that God knows how to take those out of Paradise, while leaving those in Hell who are supposed to be there.
This first company of believers from the Old Testament is now in Heaven, whether they were rejoined with glorified bodies and went straight to Heaven as spirits.
The New Testament Saints are all those who died after Christ ascension, which includes all those who died during Christ forty days on Earth, immediately after His initial ascension, but after His resurrection (John 20:17; Acts 1:3).
The group of people who died during the forty days Christ was on Earth, would have gone directly to Heaven because Jesus has already ministered to those in Paradise and that company was now in Heaven, Paradise is no more. This same Paradise that Jesus spoke of in (Luke 16:20-31), is what the Catholic Church subscribes to as purgatory today, though Paradise no longer exists in any form. This same company from the forty days of Christ on Earth, prior to His final ascension (Acts 1:9), followed the same protocol after death, that all people, including us today at the time this writing must follow, death and then Heaven instantly.
Those who are raptured are unique in their dispensation, because this group will never experience death like everyone else does. They are transformed alive. In some way, this transition must cause physical death and resurrection simultaneously, or within moments of one another. The reason for this assertion is that it is written, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” Hebrews 9:27
Those experiencing the Rapture are unique, having this isolated exception to the way they transition from physical life to Heaven. These will be those who never entered Heaven in Spirit form without their bodies.
The final company, those from the tribulation, is thought to be reunited with their bodies at the time of the Great White Throne Judgment (GWTJ). This is the only time, according to scripture, that the opportunity is given for such reconciliation.
“And I saw the dead small and great stand before God, and the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hell delivered up the dead which were in them” Revelation 20:12-13
The sea giving up the dead and death delivering up its dead, refers to the bodies of those dead, being regenerated and given back to those people so they can stand before God, just like the Rapture is played out for the Believers. Hell delivering up its dead are the Sprits of men who were in Hell all this time, having their bodies and Spirits reunited.
When John speaks about, “the souls of them beheaded for the witness of Christ” (Rev 20:4) He is talking about the people that died during the tribulation and went to Heaven. What John did not say, is that he saw their “bodies”. He used the word “souls”. The Greek word for souls is “Psuche” Psoo-Khay, meaning an inanimate breeze, a breath, a sentient in principle only, vitality, life, mind, spirit. The Hebrew word for soul is “Ruwach” meaning by resemblance, breath or unsubstantial, resemblance of a spirit, air, mind, or a breath. Another Hebrew word is “Nephesh”/ Neh-fesh, meaning a breathing creature, ghost, man, mind, will.
This means what John saw were the “Spirits” of those who were in Heaven and the Earth during the thousand year reign of Christ. As such, these people were distinguished from among the other believers as those coming out of the tribulation and did not have bodies. This group is not reconciled with their bodies until after the thousand year reign, and just before the final judgment of God at the Great White Throne. Any other assertion, would be guess work, not Biblical.
“But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection” Revelation 20:5
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.
The Second Resurrection
“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.” Revelation 20:12-13
This scripture identifies those comprising the second resurrection as the wicked judged by God at the great white throne judgment prior to being cast into the lake of fire. The second resurrection, then, is the raising of all unbelievers; the second resurrection is connected to the second death. It corresponds with Jesus’ teaching of the “resurrection of damnation” (John 5:29).
The event which divides the first and second resurrections is the millennial kingdom (thousand year reign). The last of the righteous are raised to reign “with Christ a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4), but the “rest of the dead [that is, the wicked] lived not again until the thousand years were finished” (Revelation 20:5).