What is meant by the “first resurrection?”
“But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished” (Revelation 20:5a). Now notice carefully, the Old Testament saints, the New Testament saints, and the Tribulation martyrs “live” at the beginning of the Millennium. And this is called “the first resurrection.” While the words “second resurrection” or “last resurrection” do not occur in the text, it is made perfectly clear that there is another resurrection. John says, ” But the rest of the dead did not “live” again until the thousand years were finished.” The Scripture teaches two resurrections, separated by 1000 years.
Now notice who is raised in the first resurrection: only believers! “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6). They are the same group we met in verse 4: Old Testament saints, New Testament saints, and Tribulation martyrs.
Now that raises a question. Are these all raised at the same time after the Tribulation? Please note this carefully: The first resurrection is not an isolated event. It is an order of resurrections including ultimately all the righteous dead who are raised before the Millennium begins. They are first in comparison to those who are last, the unbelievers who are raised after the Millennium to stand before the Great White Throne.
There is an order to the first resurrection, and we need to remember that. First, there is Christ. And that resurrection was almost 2000 years ago. Second, the saints of this Church Age (1st. Thessalonians 4:13-16) who shall be raised at the Rapture before the Tribulation. Third, Old Testament saints and Tribulation martyrs, who shall be raised at the end of the Tribulation to enjoy the Millennium.
Now, just as there are two resurrections (first and last), so there are two deaths: physical death and what the Scriptures call the second death. The second death is defined for us in Revelation 20:13. It says, “And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and hades delivered up the dead that were in them, and they were judged, every man according to their works. And death and hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast down into the lake of fire.”
The second death is a reference to eternal judgment. The lake of fire. So those who are a part of the first resurrection shall reign with Christ. Those who are a part of the second resurrection shall experience eternal agony in the lake of fire.
Now, you don’t have to wait for the second resurrection. That’s the best news I have for you today.