THE FIRST RESURRECTION
Revelation 20:5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 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.
The first, and usually, only thing on religion’s mind when they come to this chapter is the thousand years. And this phrase is mentioned six times, from verses two through seven. But trying to approach truth from that view point has gotten us in a confused mess! That which is the governing factor in this passage is not the thousand years, but that of the first resurrection!
Resurrection of the Soul
John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. 25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.
These are the words of the very Word of God Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ! He, as the Alpha, the beginning, is establishing the doctrinal truth that the sinner is dead! And he is asserting that the need of the dead sinner is a sovereignly enacted resurrection! And that resurrection is performed by the same method, spiritually, to save the soul, as was used to raise Lazarus physically. It is the sovereign and therefore, effectual word of Christ.
For, as stated in verse twenty four above, if one has the ability to both hear and believe that word, he is already passed from death unto life! He has been spiritually resurrected!
The apostle Paul writes to the Ephesians concerning this same doctrine. In chapter two and verse one he speaks of the sinner as being dead in trespasses and sins. Then in verses four through six we read, But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
Therefore we learn that regeneration is the first resurrection! For it takes God’s effectual call into the dead heart of the sinner to give him life; to effect a spiritual resurrection!
Resurrection of the Body
Of course there is a physical resurrection. Our Lord spoke also of this in this passage as the proof that he could resurrect spiritually dead sinners to spiritual life. For in verses twenty eight and twenty nine of that same passage of John we read, Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
You will notice that in referring to spiritual resurrection (regeneration), he says that this would begin happening “now”! That is, it would begin in the time of his ministering at that point on earth! And you will notice that those words, and now is, are not used in the verses describing the physical resurrection. For that would take place at the end of the age. Also, graves are only referred to in the physical resurrection in verses 28 and 29. For the spiritually dead are bound in sin, not in the earth!
We also see that the doctrine of the General Resurrection as held to by the fathers who set it down in the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith is supported in these verses. This Confession also refers to Acts 24:15, And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. Of course, we have devised many erroneous versions of this since then, especially after the publication of the terrible Scofield ‘Bible’!
But the thing we need to accept and understand is that our Lord does speak of only one resurrection from the grave, but he clearly speaks of two aspects of that one resurrection! He says there will be some raised unto the resurrection of life; and others raised at the same time, to the resurrection of damnation.
The Rest of the Dead
But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Rev. 20:5
How do we understand this phrase? We understand it to mean all the unregenerate in the world, who were evangelized, but who remained in unbelief. That is, the rest of those still remaining dead in trespasses and sin! The Apostle Paul speaks of this in the second verse in Ephesians two. Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
Believers, just as those remaining in unbelief, were formally controlled by the influences of Satan before their spiritual resurrection. Then they were delivered … from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: (Col. 1:13). But the unbelievers, with no regeneration, or spiritual resurrection, are said to still have Satan’s spirit ‘working’ death in them. Therefore, those evangelized, but remaining in unbelief are, the rest of the dead.
Blessed and Holy
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. The only thing that renders one blessed and holy is sovereign regeneration. For by it alone, old things pass away and all things become new. Certainly, bringing a dead body out of a grace has no ability to do that! 1Cor. 15:50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. It is only those who have experienced regeneration who are changed to a state of holiness!
But God, … Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
And it is only regeneration, or the spiritual resurrection that assures that on such the second death hath no power. The second death (Rev. 2:11, 20:14,15, 21:7,8), is eternal damnation. And only regeneration prevents the eternal damnation of the soul in the lake of fire! For it is clearly stated, whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Those saved, regenerated in the first resurrection, are then said to be raised .. up together, and made (to) sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (Ephes. 2:6). They are reigning priests! They have access to the holy of holies, to have communion with God Himself! Heb. 10:19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21 And having an high priest over the house of God; 22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
They need not a ‘saint’, living of departed, they need not Mary, or even a pastor to get them into the glorious presence of the Father. They have Christ and his life within! Therefore they are said to sit in his heavenly places, ruling in spiritual unction through out the church age.
Pastor Gene Breed
July 13, 2006