Let’s begin with a three-question quiz; a Q&A for eternity.
The choices are: Yes___, No___, I don’t’ know___.
Is there life after death?
If so, will there be a bodily resurrection of the dead?
If we live forever, will everyone be in heaven with God?
For those who selected, “No” to the first question (now or at any time in their life), the next two questions would be irrelevant to them. Why? Because it’s evident they haven’t read the Bible or don’t believe what it says if they have? Even if they acknowledge the Bible as God’s Word, it’s apparent that they prefer the temporary enticements of this world to the incomparable paradise of everlasting life in heaven.
Scripture is crystal clear that the answer to the first two questions is a resounding, “Yes!” With the answer to the third question a solemnly sad, “No.”
For believers in Messiah Jesus, Heaven awaits us. For unbelievers when they die … Hell. Followed by the “second death” (eternal separation from God) in the Lake of Fire after they, too, are raised from their graves. They remain under God’s wrath for not believing and receiving God’s Son as personal Savior (John 3:36).
The promise of Romans 8:1 applies only to believers: “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”
As does, “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of underserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory” (Romans 5:1-2).
If you answered, “I don’t know” to one or more of these questions, my response would be, “Why? Don’t you want to know? Don’t you want to be sure?” The Bible plainly states that we can know, we can be sure.
Why is that? Because the historical fact is that Jesus Christ arose from the dead, attested to by many who saw him and were with him.
“…Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died” (I Corinthians 15:3-6, italics for emphasis).
In addition to this greatest miracle of all time, the Bible is replete with numerous other miracles performed by God and by His Son. As well as hundreds of prophecies that have come to pass, with 100% accuracy. Such mighty miracles and perfectly fulfilled prophecies cannot be found in any man-made religion or so-called sacred texts. Nor can their adherents be certain of where they will spend eternity, because all man-made religions and cults are based on self-worth or good deeds. They cannot know for sure if they’re good enough or have done enough.
In stirring contrast, God’s salvation is a matter of believing and receiving Messiah Jesus as Lord and Savior, who did for us what we could do for ourselves. Who was and is what we could never hope to be without him.
“For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (II Corinthians 5:21).
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle John says, “I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life” (I John 5:13).
Concerning the third question in the quiz, let’s look at:
The Righteous (Saved) & the Unrighteousness (Unsaved)
When the Lord bodily appeared to Abraham as the Pre-Incarnate Messiah and confided in Abraham his intentions to judge Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham asked God to reconsider if there were but 10 righteous people in the city. Said Abraham: “…Should not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?” (Genesis 18:25, a rhetorical question).
Hundreds of years later after God chose Moses to deliver the Israelites, we read:
“Then the Lord came down in a cloud and stood there with him; and he called out his own name, Yahweh. The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out, ‘Yahweh! The LORD! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But I do not excuse the guilty…” (Exodus 34:5-7a).
Who are the guilty … the unsaved, the unrighteous according to God? Numerous Bible passages answer that question, both Old & New Testament. The guilty are those who have refused to place their trust in God’s simple yet profound plan of redemption. A plan that began when God shed the blood of an innocent animal to provide clothing for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). Clothing necessary because their sinful disobedience had taken away their innocence (exemplified by their nakedness) and had exposed them to God’s guilty verdict of death … both physical and spiritual. Remember, the word death throughout Scripture means separation, not annihilation.
A plan culminating in the once for all substitutionary sacrifice of God’s own Son, Messiah Jesus; to replace the Old Covenant of the Law which required ongoing animal sacrifices to cover the sins of the people.
The Bible is decidedly clear that God divides people into two human hemispheres: the righteous and the unrighteous … believers and unbelievers. And it is by faith in the Lord’s gift of salvation through His Son that gives us right standing with God … righteousness. The same faith through which God declared Abraham righteous long ago also saves us today.
The only difference is that Abraham and Old Testament saints were looking forward to Messiah’s redemptive remedy for sin. The truth of which was foreshadowed in the Levitical Sacrificial System; though offerings to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were already underway before the Law of Moses. Thus, Jesus’s once for all sacrifice is adequate for all people—past, present, and future. However, we must make that salvation personal.
Resurrection in the Old Testament
God’s creation plan of eternal existence for every person ever born has not changed, except for one thing: RESURRECTION!
A bodily resurrection … for both the saved and the unsaved.
The New Testament offers considerable testimony regarding the resurrection of the dead. But there is also ample evidence in the Old Testament, as God systematically revealed his plans to the prophets.
Messiah Jesus definitively declared: “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying” (John 11:25). Before that dynamic disclosure, even the prophets didn’t completely comprehend how the unrighteous could stand before God one day and the righteous would live with God forever.
Would it be a literal resurrection of the body, or in spirit only? Would there be a single resurrection for both the righteous and unrighteous, or more than one … separated by time and space? The prophets and those who listened to them and followed the Lord faithfully didn’t know all the details; still, they believed God and his promises.
“All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth” (Hebrews 11:13).
Said Jesus to his disciples about the many who didn’t believe in him: “…For they look, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand” (Matthew 13:13).
Then a few verses later: “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it” (Verses 16-17).
“All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had planned. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us” (Hebrews 11:39-40).
Despite his great suffering and despair because he had done nothing wrong to deserve the loss of his family, possessions, and health, Job believed that God would vindicate him. Despite not knowing why these things happened, and despite coming up with inaccurate cause and effect correlations and conclusions (by both Job and his “friends”), Job uttered an astounding affirmation of faith and hope.
“But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!” (Job 19:25-27).
I, too, am overwhelmed with this terrific truth: Resurrection … body, soul, and spirit!
King David (along with Isaiah) understood eternal life as well or more than anyone in Old Testament times, including the remarkable revelation that the Messiah would die for our sins and be raised again bodily.
(Words of King David from Psalm 23, that begins with “The Lord is my Shepherd.” This Psalm is known by many, including unbelievers)
In the first Gospel message preached after Christ ascended to heaven, Peter emphasized above everything else the resurrection of Jesus from the dead—to prove that he was the Messiah, the Son of God. In part of his message to the crowd (of which 3,000 would accept Jesus as Savior that day) Peter quoted David, “For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave” (Acts 2:27, quoting Psalm 16:10).
Peter went on to say: “…David wasn’t referring to himself, for he died and was buried, and his tomb is still here among us… David was looking into the future and speaking of the Messiah’s resurrection… God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this” (Acts 2:29-32).
Both Elijah and Elisha raised a boy from the dead. However, like a handful of resurrections recorded in the New Testament, those raised (for example, Lazarus by Jesus) died again. Thus, many observant Jews believed that resurrection was possible; yet most refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, let alone that his resurrection would be permanent … forever!
See Eye of Prophecy article, There’s Resurrection … And There’s Resurrection! (Posted 3-19-16). Which is a comparison of Old and New Testaments resurrections to the once for all resurrection of Messiah Jesus.
Will There Be More Than One Resurrection of the Dead? If so, How Many?
To eliminate suspense or to confirm what you may already know (but can you explain your answer?), the question will be answered now; then supported with examination of some decisive passages.
There are TWO (types of) Resurrections. However, there will be three separate times when these two resurrections take place. That is not a contradiction!
In Revelation Chapter 20, the return to life of the Tribulation saints is called the “first resurrection.” There’s also the resurrection of the dead in Christ that occurs at the Rapture, which precedes the tribulation believers. Then, after the Millennium, Revelation 20 dramatically describes yet another raising of the dead—those who are unbelievers.
First (foremost) we need to remember that the Rapture and physical return of Messiah (Zechariah 14 and Revelation 19) to the earth are separate events. Please see Eye of Prophecy article: Messiah’s Return & The Rapture (Same or Separate Events?) Published 12-3-16. And, End of the World Events … In Chronological Order! (2-25-17) Also, Armageddon and Messiah’s Return … An Amazing Sequence of Events. (2-3-18).
Let’s examine the chronological order of these three resurrections. With documentation and commentary to show that the first two are bundled together in what the Bible labels the “first resurrection.”
(1) Resurrection of Believers at The Rapture
After the risen Messiah ascended back to heaven, 1st century believers eagerly expected him to return any day. Though 2,000 years have gone by, the reality of his imminent return (at any moment) is as relevant today as then. In fact, his return is more imminent that ever, considering other Biblical prophecies unfolding in the 20th and 21st century, paramount of which is the rebirth of the State of Israel. (See Eye of Prophecy article: Just How Imminent is Messiah’s Imminent Return? Posted 1-18-17).
For unbelievers who have ridiculed Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world as well as his return, and for some believers who sometimes wonder when and even if this will happen, let’s not forget what the Apostle Peter said not to forget:
“Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, ‘What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created’” (II Peter 3:3-4, emphasis added). *Note: the italicized words are rendered “first” or “first of all” in several Bible translations. Later, you’ll see the importance of this as we analyze the first resurrection.
Peter continues: “But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends. A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. But the day of the Lord will come unexpectedly as a thief…” (II Peter 3:8-10a).
Like many of my brothers and sisters in Christ, I am so eager for that day to arrive. On the other hand, I’m eternally grateful that the Lord has waited this long. Because the question (thought) is: If he had returned before I was born, then would I have been born … let alone born-again to experience the Rapture? Note: Thanks to one of my sibling sisters for that thought/question.
Including this week’s post, 42 Eye of Prophecy articles in the category of The Rapture deal extensively with this spectacular subject. Such as: The Tremendous Transfiguration of Believers, posted 7-23-16. And, of course, the first five articles published in July/August 2013; concerning the What, Why, When, Who, and How of the Rapture. Since the purpose of today’s article is to clarify the number of resurrections, discussion of the Rapture will be limited.
Beginning with an excerpt from Why the Rapture? In italics:
Primary Purpose: Resurrection (both dead and living believers) with a spiritual body equipped to live forever.
Secondary Purpose: Sparing believers from the tribulation. And giving unbelievers one last chance (up to seven years) to accept the true Messiah over the false Messiah….
If Jesus had not arisen from the dead, there would be no credibility to his or the Bible’s claims that redemption comes exclusively by God’s grace (unmerited favor). But Christ did arise, so all the Biblical truth and promises about salvation in Christ are true….
Perhaps the most absorbing is the Apostle Paul’s introductory use of the term, “spiritual bodies.” Think about it: Aren’t these two words mutually exclusive? How can there be any such thing as a “spiritual body.” Our earthly bodies are flesh and bone; they house our soul and spirit, which are anything but physical. Has anyone ever seen the spirit of another human being? Have you ever seen your own soul?
See Eye of Prophecy articles, Spiritual Bodies … A Contradiction of Terms? Part I & II. Posted 9-26 & 10-3-15.
Continuing with the excerpt:
But for Paul, through inspiration of the Holy Spirit, a spiritual body is a perfectly “natural” fact that will one day be physically experienced by all who have been raptured … not virtual, computer-generated, or cybernetic reality, but actual reality. Just how real is the new resurrected body? Jesus, himself, showed us how awesomely real it is: After he arose from the dead, he walked, he talked, he ate with his disciples, and he could be touched! How real is that?
Listen to what Paul says, “It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised in glory … They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies” (I Corinthians 15: 42-44).
I see this spectacular change taking place in the same light (pun intended) of what happened to Jesus during his transfiguration on the mountain, when Elijah and Moses appeared with him (Matthew 17: 1-7). In fact, I believe the term transfiguration is the best way to describe what will take place at the Rapture. Why transfiguration? Webster’s Dictionary defines transfiguration as, “a change in form or appearance….”
How will this transfiguration take place? The question concerns only the transfiguration itself, not the chain events of the Rapture as explained in I Thessalonians 4. For a detailed account of the fascinating sequence of the Rapture and approximately how long it could take, please read Eye of Prophecy article: The Shout Heard Around the World (4-22-17). Which expands on the older article, How the Rapture (will take place).
(In trying to depict believers ascending to heaven artists have inadvertently corrected the prevailing premise that the entire Rapture sequence will happen in the blink of an eye. Only the actual transfiguration will be that quick. Those left behind will hear and see the entire sequence of the Rapture)
Read with me the Apostle Paul’s second revelation of the Rapture, following the entire sequence of this extraordinary event as first disclosed in I Thessalonians Chapter 4:
“But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It (the transformation or transfiguration) will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown, for when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed” (I Corinthians 15:51-52, parenthesis mine).
One more excerpt from Why the Rapture?
To live on this earth requires a special kind of body that God so wonderfully, uniquely, and masterfully created: one that can breathe life-giving air; drink life-sustaining water; eat life-growing food; feel life-producing pleasure and life-warning pain; see and hear life-enabling sights and sounds; produce life-perpetuating children; and know life-changing truths. However, the bodies we currently possess are not in any way, shape, or form adequate to live forever in the new earth and the new heavens that the book of Revelation so majestically portrays.
God has promised and will give us a brand new “heavenly body.” One that far surpasses the limitations of our earthly space suit. One immune to pain, sorrow, suffering, sin, disease and most of all, death itself. (See Revelation 21:4). One that can “leap tall buildings with a single bound and is faster than a speeding bullet!” Okay, a little facetious here; but isn’t that the underlying idea of Superman? Christ is the only “Super Man” who ever lived, and he will give us a heavenly body like his, to enable us to do extraordinary things, above and beyond our wildest expectations. I, for one, want to fly! And I’m not talking about jumbo jets.
Now for the other well-known passage that describes the Rapture’s startling sequence of events.
“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words” (I Thessalonians 4: 16-18, italics to emphasize the Greek word, harpazo).
As clearly indicated by Paul, this resurrection applies only to believers in Messiah Jesus—the saved; those declared righteous by God, both Old and New Testament saints. See article, Old & New Testament Saints … Is There A Difference? (Published 7-7-18).
In I Thessalonians Chapter 5, Paul continues with more details on the Rapture that triggers the Day of the Lord, which encompasses the Tribulation and the Millennium.
“For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever” (I Thessalonians 5:9-10).
This is one supporting passage for those of us who ardently believe in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture of true believers in Christ. The anger of God referenced by Paul in this verse is in the immediate context of the Rapture and the Day of the Lord—which includes God’s final judgment (wrath, anger poured out on the world) during the Tribulation.
(2) Resurrection of Tribulation Saints
“…And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony about Jesus and for proclaiming the word of God. They had not worshipped the beast or his statue, nor accepted his mark on their forehead or their hands. They all came to life again, and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
“This is the first resurrection. (The rest of the dead did not come back to life until the thousand years had ended.) Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. For them the second death holds no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4-6, parenthesis in the text).
Two integral features of the passage just quoted will be clarified to hopefully eliminate any confusion even among Bible scholars and teachers. One is whether the resurrection of believers at the end of the Tribulation (those who “had not worshipped the beast … nor accepted his mark…”) is exclusively the “first resurrection.” If it is, then what do we do with the Rapture resurrection of believers? This will be discussed under Part A to follow.
The other focal point of this passage: whether only the Tribulation saints will reign with Christ during the Millennium. Which, in turn, would presumably (absent astute analysis and careful correlation of this passage to other passages) exclude hundreds of millions of believers, both living and dead who will be caught up to heaven before the Tribulation begins … at the Rapture. This will be covered in Part B to follow.
(A) First Resurrection
There are two (main) reasons to conclude that the first resurrection identified in Revelation Chapter 20 includes all believers … those raptured before and those who died during the Tribulation. They are: (1) The Greek word translated first; (2) Other key phrases in the text itself.
A (1) Greek Word for First:
There are over a dozen Greek words in the New Testament conveying the concept of first in succession, one (of many), principal, prototype, etc. In Revelation 20, the Greek word employed by John is: Protos. This translated Greek word is found frequently in the New Testament. For example: 156 times in the New American Standard Bible.; sixteen times in the book of Revelation.
Thayer’s Greek Dictionary contains three applicable definitions for protos.
*Note: Whenever there are two or more meanings (variations thereof) for any defined word, the context of the passage—compared to other passages if necessary—will determine the primary or best application.
Protos is defined as: “1. first in time or place. a. in any succession of things or persons. 2. first in rank. a. influence, honor; b. chief; c. principal; 3. first, at the first.”
This multiple application of the Greek word protos is affirmed by its English translation.
First is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as: “preceding all others in time, order, or importance.”
Protos—translated as first (resurrection) in Revelation 20—is (should be) the key application or meaning of rank, influence, chief, principal; a prototype but not necessarily first in chronology. The secondary application of protos in Revelation 20 does relate to sequence, but in contextual contrast to the next (2nd) resurrection, which is that of unbelievers at the Great White Throne Judgment.
The primary contextual meaning is that of chief in rank or honor, because raising of the Tribulation believers is part of the preeminent resurrection of all believers … vital extraordinary events during the end times Day of the Lord. Both of which (Rapture and Tribulation saints) precede the 2nd resurrection, which is also an important event (at the end of the Millennium). But one without the prominent eternal joy and triumph of the resurrection of all believers, beginning with the Rapture and culminating with the raising of the Tribulation saints seven years later. Both of which are components of the “first resurrection.”
Instead, the second resurrection (of unbelievers) will be one of hopeless gloom and eternal doom, as every one of them will be thrown into the Lake of Fire along with Satan (and the Antichrist and False Prophet, who were consigned to the Lake of Fire before the Millennium begins).
In Revelation 20, the pyramid order of protos (first) is that of principal, chief, or first in rank; secondarily, that of chronology—both of which are in the immediate context of and comparison to the 2nd resurrection of the unbelieving dead in Christ.
It’s the predominate meaning in some other New Testament passages where protos is used.
Such as: “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking…” (II Peter 3:3, NASB). *Note: Recall, this verse was quoted earlier from the NLT with the wording that of “most importantly” instead of “first of all.”
The “first” (of all) is not primarily referring to chronological order; rather it’s applying to what is foremost important to understand. We sometimes blend the two together in a common English phrase: First and foremost.
Although the resurrection of believers at the Rapture and those at the end of the Tribulation take place at separate times, that doesn’t mean they are two DIFFERENT resurrections, which are separate or distinct in rank, i.e. a first then a second kind. In fact, they are the same type or in the same category (in contrast to resurrection of dead unbelievers). Both are part of the first resurrection of the dead in Christ. The only thing that makes these resurrections of believers distinctive is that of knowing (or not) when they will take place. The Rapture will happen without warning; whereas the Tribulation believers will be raised as part of an exact enumeration of events during the last days of the Tribulation.
A (2) Key Phrases of the Text:
Other wording in Revelation 20 is also of vital importance to realize both raptured and tribulation believers are part of the first resurrection.
To wit: “Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. For them the second death holds no power…” (Revelation 20:6a, italics for emphasis).
Although the immediate reference is that of the Tribulations saints being raised to life again, the broader context of Revelation 20 includes a sequence of events: Satan imprisoned in the Abyss for a thousand years; bodily resurrection of Tribulation saints; the Millennial reign of Messiah; release of Satan for the final battle of all time; and the raising of the unbelieving dead in preparation for the Great White Throne Judgment and their 2nd death in the Lake of Fire.
John is classifying the resurrection of Tribulation saints as the “first”; but is doing so in the general succession of events and in specific juxtaposition to the subsequent (next, or second) raising of the (unbelieving) dead.
In fact, immediately after he employs the term first resurrection, we find the following in parenthesis—highlighting this contrast: “(The rest of the dead did not come back to life until the thousand years had ended.)” (Revelation 20:5).
Hence, John extended and incorporated the first resurrection to all believers, not just those at the end of the tribulation. He does so with the all-important phrase of those, “who share in the first resurrection.” Who else could John have been referring to but those who were already in heaven having been raised from the dead at the outset of the Tribulation (Rapture). This sharing convincingly combines both set of believers into the first resurrection. It is the resurrection of the saved that happens first and foremost; to be followed by the (2nd and final) resurrection of the unsaved.
Do you see that … first and foremost?!
B. Reigning with Messiah During the Millennium
The question of whether just the Tribulation saints will reign with Messiah throughout the Millennium has already been answered by amplification of the scope (sharing) and inclusiveness of “first resurrection.”
Of course, Raptured believers will rule with the Lord during his magnificent Millennial reign as King of all kings. This is cemented by the wording of the last part of verse 6:
“Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. For them the second death hold no power; but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6, emphasis added).
Early in the book of Revelation, we read:
Who are the “us” of this verse? None other than all believers (both dead and alive) when Revelation was written and all those who would become believers thereafter. (Also, see I Peter 2:5).
(3) Resurrection of Unbelievers
Indeed, this is the third resurrection that will take place in chronological sequence. However, it is still the second resurrection concerning prototype or rank or principal. With the Rapture and Tribulation believers’ part of the first (type of) resurrection.
“And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it… I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne… The sea gave up its dead and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15).
These verses expand on what was revealed earlier in verse 5: “The rest of the dead did not come back to life until the thousand years had ended.”
John doesn’t specify this Great White Throne Judgment as a (the) second resurrection. Rather he refers to the eternal fate of all unbelievers as the, “second death.” Nonetheless, the passage is crystal clear that all those standing before God had been raised from their graves. Because this takes place 1,000 years after the Tribulations saints are raised from the dead and because it comes after the first resurrection which we’ve already covered, it must by default be the second (the one to follow the first) resurrection of the dead.
Things to Ponder
In his breathtaking description of the resurrection of believers, then transfiguration and transportation of both the living and the (raised) dead in I Corinthians 15 and I Thessalonians 4, the Apostle Paul didn’t use the term, first resurrection. He didn’t need to; it was understood that this was the resurrection spoken of by Old Testament prophets and by Jesus, himself—the one that is first and foremost in rank.
On the other hand, John in Revelation labels the resurrection of believers who died during the Tribulation as the first. But he did so in the immediate context of and contrast to the ensuing resurrection of unbelievers. John also says that (all) those who “share in the first resurrection” will reign with Christ for a thousand years. Therefore, all believers—those at the Rapture and those raised seven years later—will participate in the first resurrection.
Officially, however, the first resurrection in a body that would live forever was that of our Lord and Savior, Messiah Jesus.
“But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. But there is an order to this resurrection. Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back” (I Corinthians 15:20-23).
When does Messiah return (come back)? Answer: during the Day of the Lord. Which begins with the Rapture (resurrection, transfiguration) and culminates with his majestic bodily return to the earth, seven years later. Both of which include resurrection of dead believers, all of whom share in the first resurrection.
The first (foremost … most significant) resurrection is unto eternal life. The second resurrection is unto eternal death … the living dead as it were.
Except for one thing, both pre-Tribulation and Tribulation believers in Messiah Jesus have everything in common, which includes partaking in the (first) resurrection.
What is that one thing?
Tribulation saints were unbelievers with everyone else on earth the moment after the Rapture.
They did not heed the warnings of Scripture; thus, they will not be spared from the Great Tribulation.
However, the Lord is so loving and merciful.
He is the God of second chances!