Risen from the Dust
Now we can lock in the timing of the second resurrection with respect to the first, by showing that it occurs at the end of the thousand year period known as the millennium. Therefore, the two resurrections are split apart by the millennium, with the first happening at its beginning and the second at its conclusion. All of this is made clear for us by the book of Revelation, which describes these events in their precise chronological order. However, we must start with the return of Christ as described in Revelation, because that is the primary event which triggers the rest, and will provide context for the rest of the passage.
"And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God" (Revelation 19.11,13-15 KJV bible). The Word of God is another name for Jesus Christ, and this passage depicts his glorious return with the armies of heaven to wage war against the beast and his followers. He will strike down the nations with his sword of truth, and crush his enemies as grapes in a winepress, because they are so filled with unrighteousness.
"And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army" (Revelation 19.19 KJV bible). Here we have the great battle of Armageddon, when the kings of the Earth are gathered together with the false prophet in opposition to the teachings of Christ. Being steeped in darkness, and deluded by their own vanity, they will think that they are secure. However, they will be devastated when Christ returns to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords.
"And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone" (Revelation 19.20 KJV bible). It's important to understand that there will be two beasts of the end times; one is a religious and political entity that gains control of the world, and the other is the devil himself masquerading as an angel of light. At the battle of Armageddon, both will be captured and cast into the Lake of Fire, which is eternal hell.
"And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years. And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season." (Revelation 20.1-3 KJV bible). This might seem like an apparent contradiction. If the false prophet, who is the devil playing messiah, is cast into the Lake of Fire, then how could he also be bound and put in the Abyss (see ch.2 Hades and Gehenna), for a thousand years? The answer is that it is the devil's role or incarnation as the false prophet which is cast into the Lake of Fire, not the serpent himself. In other words, his great fraudulent power with which he deceives the whole world is stripped away from him and thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, but he himself goes into the Abyss.
Now we can begin to establish the timing of the events that will constitute the great Resurrection of the Dead, "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 [came to life] and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again [did not come to life] until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection." (Revelation 20.4-5 KJV bible).
There is a lot happening in these verses. First, I should point out that there are two different ways of translating this passage. The first, and most common way, is that the martyrs "lived and reigned" with Christ. The other way is that they "came to life and reigned" with Christ. Either is linguistically acceptable, but if you look at the passage carefully, you will notice that the context demands it be translated that they "came to life". This is because when it is translated the other way the implication becomes that the thousand year millennium is the first resurrection, which doesn't work. The Resurrection of the Dead is an event, not a period of time.
Moving back to the message of the text; John sees the bodiless souls of Christians in heaven who have been martyred for witnessing against the beast, and describes how they come to life and reign with Christ for a thousand years. He identifies this as the first resurrection of the dead. The fact that they are martyred for refusing the mark of the beast tells us that this vision pertains to a time at the end of the seven year tribulation period. However, we also know that they are brought to life before the millennium begins, because they reign during the thousand year period. So we can lock in the timing of the first resurrection as occurring right between the end of the tribulation and the start of the millennium.
Jesus confirms this for us when he says in John 6.40, "every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6.40 KJV bible). Those who believe in Christ will never die in the spirit, and on the last day, not before it, he will raise them up as fellow heirs in his Kingdom. This last day is the Day of the Lord, which we already know begins at the return of Christ (see ch.19 Seventh Trumpet: Resurrection). So the faithful will be raised up on the Day of the Lord, specifically at the return of Christ.
The scripture then informs us that the rest of the dead will come to life when the thousand years are finished, "But the rest of the dead lived not again [did not come to life] until the thousand years were finished" (Revelation 20.5 KJV bible). Therefore, we can lock in the second resurrection as occurring at the end of the millennium. So we know that the millennium divides the two resurrections from each other.
"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" (Revelation 20.6 KJV bible). Keep in mind that the first resurrection is not limited to only the martyrs from the tribulation, but all of the saints from all of the generations who reside in Paradise (see ch.4 Souls in Heaven), and also the survivors on Earth at the end of the tribulation. Being overcomers of evil, those who partake in the first resurrection will be immune from the second death, which is the Lake of Fire. However, the rest of the dead will have to wait until the end of the thousand years to realize their fate.
It's also important to understand the timing of the second resurrection in relation to the Day of the Lord. Notice what Jesus says in John 12, "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (John 12.48 KJV bible). This passage tells us that nonbelievers will be judged on the last day, which is the Day of the Lord. We also know that all nonbelievers will be raised up and judged in the second resurrection (Revelation 20.11-15). Therefore, if they are judged on the Day of the Lord and also judged in the second resurrection, then the second resurrection must take place on the Day of the Lord.
However, we've already established that the first Resurrection takes place on the Day of the Lord, "every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6.40 KJV bible). This raises some issues with respect to the timing of the two resurrections. How is it that the second resurrection will take place on the Day of the Lord, if we know from John 6.40 that the faithful will also be raised up on that day? This seemingly contradicts the thousand year separation between the two resurrections.
The key here is that the Day of the Lord is not a literal twenty-four hour day. Rather, it is a period of judgment and righteousness that starts at the second advent, continues on throughout the millennium, and ends after Judgment Day. So the Day of the Lord is a fairly long period of time, and everyone will be raised up at some point during it, either before or after the millennium.
There are divergent viewpoints about the timing of the millennium in relation to Christ's return. Some feel that Christ returns at the end of the millennium for Judgment Day, and this view is called postmillennialism. Another view (the one I have been espousing up to this point), is that Christ returns before the millennium, and will reign here on Earth for one thousand years prior to Judgment Day. This view is called premillennialism.
Revelation 20 provides solid evidence that the latter view, so-called premillennialism, is the correct one. It does this by jumping forward in time to describe the events that will transpire after the millennium, "And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth... And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever" (Revelation 20.7-8,10 KJV bible).
Notice that when the devil is thrown into the Lake of Fire at the end of the millennium, the beast and the false prophet are already there. If one argues that Christ returns at the end of the millennium (so-called postmillennialism), then how would they account for the beast and the false prophet already being in the Lake of Fire at that time. We already know that they are not defeated and captured until the battle of Armageddon, which is initiated by Christ's return (Revelation 19.19-20). Therefore, it's clear that Christ returns at the beginning of the millennium to depose of the beast and false prophet, and then at the end of the millennium comes Judgment Day, when Satan is joined with them in the Lake of Fire.
This same scenario (premillennialism) is also paralleled for us in Isaiah 24. Isaiah 24 similarly describes the return of Christ on the Day of the Lord, and then a gap of time before the final judgment. "The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again" (Isaiah 24.20 KJV bible). The context of Isaiah 24 is the Day of the Lord, when he pours his cup of wrath upon the inhabitants of the Earth because they have rejected his ways.
"And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth" (Isaiah 24.21 KJV bible). The kings of the Earth being described here are the world leaders holding high positions in the kingdom and government of the beast. They will be responsible for many of the sins done in the interest of their utopian dream. The host of the high ones refers to the fallen angels who will be on Earth at this time (see Revelation 12.9), and will be supporting the spiritual side of the beast.
"And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited" (Isaiah 24.22 KJV bible). They will all be gathered together as prisoners in the Pit, which is the deep levels of the underworld. In the Pit they will be cut-off from influencing the earth, and then after many days they will be visited or punished. This gap of many days before they are judged is the millennial period.
Isaiah again speaks of this millennial imprisonment when he says, "Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, To the recesses of the pit. Those who see you will gaze at you, They will ponder over you, saying, Is this the man who made the earth tremble" (Isaiah 14.15-16 NASB bible). The devil will be thrust down into the depths of the Pit during the millennium, and then only after the millennial period will he himself go into the Lake of Fire, where the beast and the false prophet are.
The Resurrection of the Dead is not a single all encompassing event, but rather there is an order and sequence to it. When Christ returns and the last trumpet is sounded, the first resurrection will take place. Then after the millennium the rest of the dead will be raised up. This timing of the resurrection is reaffirmed for us in 1st Corinthians 15.20-28. Let's carefully break down the passage to better understand it.
"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept" (1st Corinthians 15.20 KJV bible). Christ has risen from the dead, defeating both physical and spiritual death. Additionally, he has become the firstfruits of those that have passed on, because he has taken on his eternal form (see ch.16 Spiritual Bodies). No one else has yet resurrected spiritually, even of the saints who are in heaven.
"For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1st Corinthians 15.21-22 KJV bible). Just as all die in Adam, who is the man of the earth, all will be brought to life through Christ, the man from heaven. It is through the power of Christ that every person will be raised up spiritually, and many will be joined together with him as Sons of God (see ch.18 Second Resurrection). Similar to Revelation 20, this passage also describes the Resurrection of the Dead as a "coming to life". This is because resurrection is the completion and realization of every soul, whether that spirit dwells in Paradise, Sheol, or is still in the flesh. Absent resurrection, even a soul that rests in Paradise has only obtained the guarantee of an inheritance, not the prize itself.
"But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming" (1st Corinthians 15.23 KJV bible). This is the order of the resurrection; Christ (who is the firstfruits) has already transformed, and then at his return those who belong to him will also be changed. This verse further confirms for us that the first resurrection, which is the resurrection of the righteous, will immediately occur at the second coming of Christ.
"Then cometh 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. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet" (2nd Corinthians 15.24-27 KJV bible). The Father has put all of Christ's enemies under his feet, and Jesus will reign throughout the millennium until they are his footstool. This is why God says to him, "Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool" (Hebrews 1.13 KJV bible). Since the time of his ascension, Christ sits at the right hand of God which is in the position of authority and power (see Mark 14.62). It is through the power of God, working in Christ, that all rule, authority, and power that is counter to his own will be abolished.
However, we don't yet see all things subdued unto Christ, "Thou (God) hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him" (Hebrews 2.8 KJV bible). God has already put all things under Christ's feet because they are rightfully his, however, we don't yet see everything put under him. This is because he will not exert his full authority until the end of the age. He is allowing the world to run its course before the time of the harvest. This is similar to when someone buys a house and they immediately become the rightful owner of the property, however, there is a period of time before they move in and take possession of it. The world belongs to Christ, but he will not take possession of it until the end of the age.
"But when he saith, all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all" (1st Corinthians 15.27-28 KJV bible). God has put all things in subjection to Christ, but naturally God is excepted, because he is the one who gives all power and authority according to his will. Christ is the Living Word, the eternal truth without beginning or end, and the Father has commissioned him to strike down all the workers of iniquity and to judge between the sheep and the goats, "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works" (Matthew 16.27 KJV bible). After Christ's work is complete and all things have been subdued to him through God, he will then deliver up the kingdom unto the Father, subjecting himself so that God is all in all. This will happen after Judgment Day, when the harvest is complete, the wheat has been gathered, and the tares have been burned (see ch.30 Eternal Torment).
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