The First Resurrection
"And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to 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 worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their right hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on 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" (Rev.20:4-6 KJV).
The individuals mentioned here proclaimed the truth about Jesus and were obedient to God's word. Because of their performance under extremely difficult circumstances, these individuals will receive a great reward.
The Participants of the First Resurrection
Those whom the Father has called to salvation from the time of Adam to the time of the return of Christ are the ones who will be in the first resurrection. They are the righteous of all ages who have qualified during this lifetime to become the leaders of the world:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in heaven for you" (1.Pet.1:3-4 KJV). See also Job 14:14-15; Acts 23:6; 24:15; Tit.1:2.
Those Written in the Book of Life
The Book of Life is an extremely important book to the elect of God, because the names of the righteous of all ages are recorded in its pages. In beseeching God to spare the Israelites who had rebelled at Sinai, Moses says, "Yet now, if you will forgive their sin. . .; and if not, blot me, pray you, out of your book which you have written. And the Lord said to Moses, Whosoever has sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book" (Ex.32:32-33 KJV). See also Psa.69:28; Rev.21:27; 22:19.
An angel told Daniel the following about the Book of Life:
"And at that time Michael shall stand up, the great ruler stands for the sons of your people. And there shall be a time of distress, such as has not been from the existence of a nation until that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone that shall be found written in the book" (Dan.12:1 Para.).
Jesus said the following to his disciples about the Book of Life:
"Behold, I give to you power to tread on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject to you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven" (Lk.10:19-20 KJV). See also Phil.4:3; Heb.12:23; Rev.13:7-8; 17:8.
"He that overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels" (Rev.3:5 KJV). See also Rev.3:4;18; 6:11; 7:9-10; 13-18.
The Righteous Dead of All Ages
In the Book of Hebrews, chapter eleven, there is a long list of righteous individuals who died without receiving God's promises:
"These are the individuals, Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection" (Heb.11:33-35 KJV).
A Better Resurrection
The entire eleventh chapter of Hebrews chronicles these righteous individuals and their deeds of faith as they lived and died in obedience to God. Verse 35 shows that they did all this in order to obtain a better resurrection. Is one resurrection better than another? The answer is Yes! The first resurrection is the best and most desirable because of the rewards that will be given to those who participate in it.
"And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect" (Heb.11:39-40 KJV). See also v13.
At that point in history, these righteous individuals had not received their reward; moreover, they still have not received it. They are dead, and not alive in heaven or any other place. However, the prophets and the righteous of all ages, including Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Moses, and David, will receive their reward at the same time as those who died after Jesus and those who remain alive at his return. See 1.Thes.4:13-15.
THE DAY JESUS RETURNS
One of the most misunderstood topics of the Bible is the return of Christ. Most people do not begin to comprehend the magnitude of the events that surround this climactic event or its importance in the overall plan of God for the future of humanity. The first resurrection will undoubtedly be one of the most awesome and glorious events to ever take place.
A number of cataclysmic, earthshaking events will occur on the day that Jesus returns to the earth. The following are three of these major events which directly concern the elect of God:
- The resurrection of the righteous dead to immortality
- The change of the living righteous to immortality
- The rewarding of the righteous for their diligent effort and self-sacrifice
Jesus Appears In The Sky
One of the first events on this day will be the gathering of the elect of God to meet Jesus in the atmosphere above the earth. As Jesus enters the earth's atmosphere and lights the sky with his glory, the angels will begin to collect the righteous of all ages:
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matt. 24:29-31 KJV). See also Isa.43:5-7; Mk.13:24-27; 14:62; Rev.1:7.
The Dead Rise First
In this great day, everyone who has obtained salvation will rise to meet Jesus as he enters the atmosphere, and all of the righteous who have died over the centuries will be resurrected and will join him before those who are alive at his coming:
"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep [dead], that you sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord shall not precede them which are asleep" (1.Thes.4:13-15 KJV; 1.Cor.15:51-54).
"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1.Thes.4:16-17 KJV). See also 2.Thes.2:1-8.
Some believe verse 17 means the righteous will not come back to earth but will remain in heaven; however, this is not the case. All of the prophecies which deal with the Kingdom of God in relationship to physical humans after the return of Christ clearly show Jesus ruling on earth. If the righteous are to be with Jesus, they will be on earth with him. See Matt.5:5; Rev.5:10.
The Change to Immortality
Those who participate in the first resurrection will have escaped the punishment reserved for the wicked and have been promised that they will live forever as immortal beings:
"Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power. . ." (Rev.20:6).
"He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches; He that overcomes shall not be hurt of the second death" (Rev.2:11 Para.).
"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom.6:23 KJV). See also 1.Tim. 6:12 KJV; Lk.20:34-35.
"And this is the promise that he has promised us, even eternal life" (1.Jn.2:25 KJV; Tit.3:7).
The quality of life the righteous are promised is comparable to that which God himself has. God the Father and Jesus Christ are spirit-beings who inherently possesses the highest form of life: immortality on the divine plane of existence. This kind of life springs forth from itself; it never dies or decays and is not dependent on any other source to sustain it: See 1.Tim.1:17; 6:12-16.
"To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life" (Rom.2:7 KJV).
To the Elect at Corinth, Paul explains the resurrection from the dead and the difference between the mortal human who will die and the immortal spirit-being who cannot die.
1.Corinthians 15:35-54 NIV
"But someone may ask, 'How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?' How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body' (vs.35-38).
"All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor' (vs.39-41).
"So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body' (vs.42-44).
"So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being," the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven' (vs.45-47).
"As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are from heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven' (vs.48-49).
"I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable' (v50).
To Be Immortal
The gift that God offers to those he calls to salvation is not just eternal life; it is much more. The angels have eternal life and are sustained by God's life-giving power yet they can be destroyed if they disobey God. The life God offers to the elect is immortal life, which can never be destroyed:
"Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory" (vs.51-54). See also 2.Tim.1:9-10; 1.Pet.4:6; Rev.20:6.
It is this quality of life called immortality that God grants to those who participate in the first resurrection. The acquisition of immortality and eternal life allows the elect to pass beyond this physical existence into the Family of God. Immortality represents the highest reward for faithfulness to God, and it is abundantly clear that God intends to share immortality with those he has called to salvation:
"Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life" (Rom.2:6-7 KJV). See Lk.18:29-30; 20:34-35; Rom.6:23; 1.Tim.6:12; 1.Jn.2:25; Tit.3:7.
"Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature. . ." (2.Pet. 1:4 KJV).
"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1.Jn.3:2 KJV). See also Rom.6:1-5; Phil.3:21.
With immortality, the righteous will also receive a glorified body, which will radiate with the brightness of the stars:
"And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever" (Dan.12:3 KJV).
The First to Become Sons of God
"If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept. 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. But every man in his own order: Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming" (1.Cor.15:19-23 KJV). See also Col.1:13-18.
"For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestine to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom.8:29 KJV). See also 2.Cor.6:17-18; Jn.1:12; 3:1-3; Rom.8:8.
The scriptures clearly show that Jesus was the first of humanity to be resurrected as an immortal being and a son of God, and those who will be resurrected at his coming are also considered to be the first of humanity to receive sonship in the Family of God:
"For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifies and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren" (Heb.2:10-11 KJV).
"But you have drawn near to Mount Zion, even the city of the living God, to a heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, and to an assembly, a church of the firstborn ones having been enrolled in heaven; and to God the judge of all; and to the spirits of just ones who have been perfected" (Heb.12:22-23 KJV). See also Rev.14:4.
"Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures" (Jms.1:16-18 KJV).
The Kingdom of God Established on Earth
After the first resurrection, Jesus will return to the earth with the elect of all ages who will have been changed into immortal beings (1.Cor. 15:51-54). One of the primary reasons Jesus will come to rule the inhabitants of earth is to bring peace, so that God's plan for the salvation of humanity can go forward, unimpeded by Satan who is the god of this world. See 2.Cor.4:4; Rev.12:9.
Isaiah prophesied that, after the return of Christ, there will be a time of peace in which the nations will come to Jerusalem to learn the way of God:
Isaiah 2:2-4 KJV
"And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it" (v2).
The government of God is symbolized by a mountain that will be above all other governments. Notice that people will look to God's government for guidance:
"And many people shall go and say, Come you, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (v3).
When all the earth finally comes under the rule of the God family, which includes the elect of God who will have been made immortal, the earth will finally be at peace:
"And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (v4). See also Isa.9:6-7.
"And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev.11:15 KJV). See also 1.Cor.6:2-3; 15:24; Rev.12:5; 19:15; 20:4-6.
"And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever" (Dan.2:44 KJV). See also ch.2:1-44.
"But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain [government] of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains [governments/nations], and it shall be exalted above the hills [governments/nations]; and people shall flow to it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain [government] of the Lord and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Mic.4:1-3 KJV).
"This is what the Lord says: 'I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called The City of Truth, and the mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called The Holy Mountain" (Zech.8:3 NIV) See also vs.4-7; ch.14:1-21.
"Behold a day of the Lord comes, and your spoil shall be divided among you. For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem. And the city shall be captured and the houses plundered, and the women ravished. And half the city shall go into captivity, and the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. And the Lord shall go out and fight against those nations, like the day he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day on the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall divide from its middle, from the east to the west, a very great valley. And half of the mountain shall move toward the north, and half toward the south. And the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with you" (Zech.14:1-5 KJV Para.). See also Hag.2:6-7.
A Time of Rewards
The rewards and inheritance for the righteous are reserved in heaven, but when and where will these be given to the saints? The prophetic scriptures clearly show that at the first resurrection, the elect of God will be given rewards for the works they performed during their lives. When speaking of the distribution of these rewards, Jesus said he following:
"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" (Matt.16:27 KJV). See also Rev.14:12-13. And, "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done" (Rev.22:12 NIV).
"And the nations were angry, and your wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that you should give reward to your servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear your name, small and great; and should destroy them which destroy the earth" (Rev.11:18 KJV).
The apostle Paul knew that besides being given immortality, which was beyond any human's ability to earn, the righteous would also receive rewards for their performance above and beyond their call to salvation:
"Now he that plants and he that waters are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor" (1.Cor. 3:8 KJV; vs.13-15).
"Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but to all them also that love his appearing" (2.Tim .4:8 KJV).
CO-RULERSHIP WITH JESUS
Ezekiel was inspired to tell of a time when all of Israel will again be a nation under God's leadership with David as their king:
"And David my servant shall be king over them; and they shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children's children, for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever" (Ezk.37:24-25 KJV). See also Zech.12: 8-10.
On two different occasions, Jesus promised the twelve disciples that they would rule the earth with him:
"Then answering, Peter said to him, Behold, we have left all things and followed you: what then shall happen to us? And Jesus said to them, Truly I say to you, You who have followed me; in the regeneration, when the Son of man sits on his throne of his glory, you also will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matt.19:27-28 Para.).
"You are those having continued with me in my trials. And I appoint a kingdom to you, as my Father appointed to me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom. And you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Lk.22:28-30 Para.).
The Overcomers Will Rule With Christ
"To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne" (Rev.3:21 KJV).
"And he that overcomes, and keeps my works to the end , to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to pieces: even as I received of my Father" (Rev.2:26-27 KJV). See also 1.Cor. 6:2-3; 2.Tim.2:12.
Kings and Priests
"You also, as living stones, are being built a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Because indeed it is also contained in the scripture, 'Behold I lay in Zion an elect, precious Stone, a Corner-foundation; and the one believing in him shall never in any way be ashamed. .
.. But you are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for possession, so that you may openly speak of the virtues of the One who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1.Pet.2:5-6;9 Para.).
"John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; And from Jesus Christ who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. To him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And has made us kings and priests to God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen" (Rev.1:4-6 KJV). See also Rev.5:10.
Before his death, Jesus told his disciples that he was going to prepare a place for them where his Father resides:
"In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (Jn.14:2-3 NIV).
Many people wrongly assume the elect will be in heaven forever; however, those in the first resurrection will rule the earth with Jesus for at least a thousand years during which the earth will become a place of peace and prosperity. One of the first major responsibilities for those in the first resurrection is to assist in the conversion of humanity, because God the Father and Jesus Christ want everyone to obtain salvation (1.Tim.2:4; 2.Pet.3:9). For this task, the Father's earthly children are being trained and prepared through trials, tests, continual study into the biblical record, practice of God's truth and law, and prayer in order to grow in grace and knowledge so that each will be able to fulfill an office of a king and a priest who will rule and teach God's truth to those who have never heard or understood the way to salvation.
Those in the first resurrection (i.e., the elect of God) will be the examples, leaders, and teachers for the rest of humanity who have never had an opportunity for salvation. The elect are the ones who will teach the rest of humanity the way of God.
Inherit the Kingdom
"When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King [Jesus] say to them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father [God the Father], inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matt.25:31-34 KJV). See also Jms.2:5.
Those in the first resurrection will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven as a part of their reward:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven"
(Matt.5:3 KJV, also see v5).
The elect of God will inherit this government and receive many other rewards for their faithfulness and obedience to God.
Inherit All Things
Not only will the righteous inherit the Kingdom but also all things. What a tremendous reward! To inherit the kingdom and to be joint-heirs with Jesus of all that will ever exist:
"He that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son" (Rev.21:7 KJV). See also Heb.1:1-2, 5-8.
AFTER THE FIRST RESURRECTION
After the first resurrection, there will not be a single person on earth who has the spirit of God. The earth and its people will have been almost totally destroyed by the events at the end of the age, and the people of the earth will be in a state of confusion, terror, and shock. They will be wondering what happened and how they are going to survive. Into such a world, Christ and the elect will return and bring peace, joy, happiness, and harmony.
The following are the four basic reasons the Sovereign God calls people to participate in the first resurrection:
1. To prepare a people to help Jesus Christ rule the world.
"And [he has] has made us to our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth" (Rev.5:10 KJV). See also 1.Thes.3:13; Rev.3:21; 20:4-6.
2. To preach the good news of the soon coming Kingdom of God.
"And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come" (Matt. 24:14 KJV).
3. To preach the message of repentance.
"Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy spirit, Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. . ." (Matt.28:19-20 KJV).
4. To grow in grace and knowledge (2.Pet.3:18) and learn and perfect the ways of God in their lives so that they will be able to fulfill the purpose for which they were called.
The first resurrection is the best resurrection. During this resurrection, the elect of all ages will be taken to the heaven of heavens where they will be given their rewards and prepared to return with Jesus Christ to conquer and rule the earth in righteousness:
"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know you not, that so many of us as were baptized to Jesus Christ were baptized to his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism to death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life [eternal life, immortality]. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:" (Rom.6:1-5 KJV).
By B.L. Cocherell b7w2