A LOOK AT THE FIRST AND SECOND RESURRECTION:
Much of the confusion over whether the church will go thru the tribulation or will not go thru
the tribulation stems from a misunderstanding of what the First Resurrection is or what it includes. Post trib advocates normally see Rev 20 as describing the First Resurrection as a single event and timeframe…let’s take a look at this scripture:
4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not
worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a[a]
thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 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.
Even after reading this, I have to agree that it’s easy to see why many believe this passage
points to the First Resurrection as a one-time event that occurs after the tribulation, however, when studying any subject in scripture we have to study multiple scriptures that speak to the same subject area…which we’ll do in a moment.
Most folks that deny the Pre-trib rapture event point to Rev 20:4-6 as evidence that the church (those in Messiah) will go thru the Tribulation period. The problem with this viewpoint is that Rev 20 mentions nothing about those that have died in Yeshua
Messiah before this timeframe nor does it mention those that are alive when He comes. It only mentions one group of folks…specifically those that refused to take the mark and were martyred during the Tribulation period…then verse 5 ends
with the words…”this is the First Resurrection”. Post Trib advocates are absolutely correct that this particular group of folks won’t be resurrected til after the Tribulation timeframe, however, we need
to look at additional scriptures that speak to the other groups of believers, namely those who died in Messiah before the Tribulation as well as those who are alive when He appears. I believe what we’ll see is that rather than this scripture
pointing to the resurrection of all believers in Messiah at the same time (after the tribulation period) it is actually telling us when the First Resurrection is completed. In other words, I believe the scripture tells us there are other parts of this
First Resurrection beginning Yeshua (Jesus) our Messiah…and that it is actually a timeframe rather than a single event.
Let’s first look at some scriptures that will help us understand the sequence of events as they pertain to the “First
See the following verse from I Cor 15:20-23:
20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For
since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the first-fruits,
afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.
What we should first notice about the above scripture is that Christ (Messiah) is called the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. Why is Messiah called
the first-fruits?...the term first-fruits is a Hebrew phrase that actually refers back to the Festival of First-Fruits given to Israel by the Lord back in Lev 23:9.
As we already know, all the Jewish festivals are a type and shadow of key events
in God’s plan for mankind. First-fruits consists of a wave offering representing the first fruits of the barley harvest. This festival took place the first day after the Sabbath of Passover and actually pointed to the resurrection of
Yeshua which He of course fulfilled literally by resurrecting on that very same day. What must be understood is that that was just the beginning of the harvest…in March/April timeframe.
In other words, as Messiah is the First to be resurrected
from the dead, or the first-fruit of the harvest (of believers) to come, it makes sense that the timeframe for the “First Resurrection” began at His resurrection…it began the harvest of believers who would be later resurrected during the
The barley harvest continued and then on the festival of Shavuot (Pentecost) there was another wave offering that took place only this time it was to give thanks for the beginning of the “wheat harvest”…in June
timeframe. This was fulfilled literally in Acts chapter 2 when the Holy Spirit first fell on the 120 in the upper room and souls were first added to the Kingdom. The wheat harvest continues and then the final harvest comes in the fall. This
final harvest is represented in the Fall Festivals of the Lord…namely Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and the Feast of Tabernacles.
The point of this brief summary of the harvest festivals and timeframes is simple. The harvests (plural)
represent the ingathering of the believers unto the Lord. The harvest includes Messiah the First Fruits, those believers (both Old and New Covenant) who are asleep (waiting for resurrection), those who are alive when the Lord returns and finally those
who are martyred during the Great Tribulation…as verse 23 says, there’s an “order” to it.
Let’s take a look at I Cor 15:50-54
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood
cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the
twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and
this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”[
The above scripture is one of the few NT scriptures that speaks of those who would be in a sense resurrected (or changed) while they are still alive. Then it says, at the “Last Trump”. For us Gentile believers our first inclination
may be to find where else in the NT scriptures it talks about a trumpet being sounded…which of course we find in the book of Revelation…i.e. the seven trumpets. But from the Hebrew mind-set (which Paul most definitely had) the phrase “the
Last Trump” is an idiom that points to a specific festival day on the Hebrew calendar, namely The Day of the Blowing of the Trumpets (Yom Teruah or Rosh HaShanah). Also, the sequence of events given in this scripture is that 1st the
dead in Messiah will be raised, then those alive (those not asleep) will be changed (mortality will put on immortality).
Now let’s also look at I Thess 4:13-18
13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren,
concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.[b]
15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with
a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the
clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
The above scripture seems to coincide perfectly with I Cor 15:50-54 and also speaks of the dead
rising first then those that are alive at the sound of a Trumpet…again pointing to a festival timeframe, namely Yom Teruah.
Now let’s look at Isaiah 26:19-21 -
Your dead shall live;
with my dead body[b] they shall arise.
Awake and sing, you who dwell in
For your dew is like the dew of herbs,
And the earth shall cast out the dead.
Take Refuge from the Coming Judgment
20 Come, my people, enter your chambers,
And shut your doors
Hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment,
Until the indignation is past.
21 For behold, the Lord comes out of His place
To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their
The earth will also disclose her blood,
And will no more cover her slain.
I think you would agree this is a very fascinating scripture. Verse 19 definitely sounds like a resurrection of the dead to me. The symbolism
found in Isaiah 26:19 “Awake and sing” according Jewish sages is a specific reference to Rosh HaShanah or the Day of the Awakening Blast! Verse 20 seems to describe a place of shelter or refuge from a judgement that is about
to take place. The Hebrew word interpreted as “indignation” is “Za’am”…in the Hebrew understanding (the language the OT was originally written in) is a reference to the time of Jacob’s
trouble or the Tribulation timeframe when the Lord comes to punish the inhabitants of the earth. Look at verses 1 and 2 in the Isaiah 27 if there’s any question as to what timeframe this is talking about…you will find more Hebrew symbolism
that speaks of three evil characters that will be punished at the time when the Lord returns: the fleeing or swiftly moving serpent, the crooked (deceiving) serpent and the dragon that is in the sea
(Young’s Literal version). This coincides with Revelation 19 and 20 when the antichrist, false messiah and the devil, the dragon himself will be dealt with by the Lord.
Joel 2:15-17 -
Blow the trumpet in Zion,
Consecrate a fast,
Call a sacred assembly;
16 Gather the people,
Sanctify the congregation,
Assemble the elders,
Gather the children and nursing babes;
bridegroom go out from his chamber,
And the bride from her dressing room.
17 Let the priests, who minister to the Lord,
Weep between the porch and the altar;
Let them say, “Spare Your people, O Lord,
And do not
give Your heritage to reproach,
That the nations should rule over them.
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?
We’ll talk about the above scripture from Joel in a minute but
first let’s look at:
Rev 4:1-2 - After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet
speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat
on the throne.
Compare the above passage with the previous verses given namely: I Cor 15:50-54, I Thess 4 and Isaiah 26. The open door, the voice, the trumpet, the phrase Come
up, the word “Immediately” and in the Spirit. All both literal and symbolic language that points to the same event!
To reiterate, Isaiah 26 is one of the strongest evidences that there
will indeed be a pre-trib catching away of believers. To really understand the sequence of events spoken of in this scripture one needs to take a close look at the symbolism contained in the Fall Festivals of the Lord referenced in Leviticus 23 and elsewhere.
(see God’s Festivals Tabs) Also, if one examines the book of Revelations closely they will see the same pattern contained in Isaiah 26 as well as the Fall Festivals. So here’s the pattern the Lord has displayed for us in Revelation:
Rev 2-3 speaks of the church age (time we’re in right now), Rev 4-5 – again, a picture is drawn for us in this passage, the open door in heaven – the voice as a trumpet –
“come up hither” – and the fact that John says “immediately he was in the Spirit” all point to the festival of Rosh HaShanah!. Rev 4 and 5 both speak of the redeemed of the Lord in heaven worshipping
around the throne before the start of the tribulation…Rev 6-18 (which coincides with Isaiah 26:21) describes in detail the events in the Tribulation Period…Rev 19 speaks of His second coming to the earth (setting his feet on the Mount of Olives
– see Acts 1 and Zechariah 14) along with the armies (of saints) already in heaven (after being caught away). Rev 19 coincides with Joel 2 and also happens on a specific Festival Day that types and shadows this event...specifically Yom
Kippur or the Day of Atonement.
Both Pre and Post-tribbers really need to study the Biblical Festivals in order to obtain a clearer understanding of the sequence of events as it pertains to the First Resurrection. We all need to look at Jewish
wedding customs (see Tab) as well since many scriptures are related to our Heavenly Bridegroom’s betrothal and eventual marriage to His bride (the Assembly of believers in Him). Scripture passages like John 14:1-3 and Matthew 24:36, even
Isaiah 26:20 make reference to the honeymoon chamber shared by the marriage partners. So the picture drawn for us by the scriptures is this: the Bride enters in to the chamber in Isaiah 26:20 before the Za’am or tribulation period on Rosh
HaShanah, then comes the period of Jacob’s Trouble or Tribulation (in between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur prophetically), finally in Joel 2:15-17 we see both the Bridegroom and the Bride coming out of His chamber and her dressing room on the festival
of Yom Kippur…this again coincides with Joel 2:15-17. How do we know Yom Kippur is referenced in Joel 2, again because of the symbolism – it is a “fast day”(the only one commanded in the scriptures) and the time the
priests weep between the porch and the altar. The trumpet that is sounded on Yom Kippur is the Great Trump (see Matthew 24:31) or Shofar HaGadol (Hebrew)…the Last Trump being blown on Rosh HaShanah. Again see
tabs on God’s Seasons, Jewish Wedding Customs for more info regarding the festival, also review tab 2 on Types and Shadows which provides info on the patriarch Enoch and what his life represents as it pertains to those that will never die in the Lord.
In summary, to understand what the “First Resurrection” really includes we must take in to account the scriptures and others not listed here, we must recognize that the 1st Resurrection began with Yeshua’s resurrection as the
first-fruits of the harvest of those who would be resurrected. The harvest of souls as typed and shadowed by the festivals of the Lord reveal different seasons with specific fulfillments as they relate to mankind. From the above scriptures we clearly
see that Messiah has to rise first, then the dead in Messiah and those that are alive when He appears in the air, then finally the believers beheaded during the Tribulation period. All are part of the 1st resurrection upon whom the second death
has no power! Lastly remember Paul said in I Cor 15…I tell you a “mystery” we shall not all sleep (die in Messiah)…we shall be changed at the Last Trump. Paul is letting us know ahead of time what he speaks
of is not clearly stated in the scripture…we have to look deeper. Also, as I Thess 5 says: 9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that, whether
we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. 11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
The second resurrection is extremely easy to understand
– it includes all people of all ages who were not worthy of the First Resurrection and it will occur after the Millennium Period in Rev 20…they will be judged at the White Throne…which leads to another subject!
An Important Thought to Consider -
If you’ve taken the time to read the article at the tab “The Gospel Pattern” on this site, you should have noticed a very basic pattern that the Lord exampled and has given to
His people to follow. Namely, His death, burial and resurrection…and as it applies to our lives…repentance, baptism and being born of the Spirit (see Acts 2:38). Yeshua introduces the key ingredients
of this pattern in John 3, telling us that we must be born of “water” and the “Spirit” or we shall not even see the “Kingdom” nor shall we enter in. This new birth of course coincides with key scriptures
in the book of Acts (which shows the birth of the church)…namely Acts 2:38, Acts 10 (house of Cornelius), Acts 19:1-7 etc. What I believe He’s telling us in John 3 is that the way into the Kingdom, the church, the bride or more specifically
the way we get into Messiah “right now” is thru the new birth experience as further detailed in the book of Acts. In this dispensation which I guess could be best referred to as the church age or “Grace”, the Lord has given us
a specific formula to follow to enter His Kingdom while we are still on earth. In other words, as long as we are “born” of water and the Spirit and continue to walk in His commandments and repentance we will be included in the First Resurrection
either as those who sleep in the Lord or those who are alive when He appears in the air! This of course is all based on faith in Him and “obedience to His commands…not on works.
It should be noted that in previous dispensations ,
each generation was responsible to walk in the truths and righteousness they knew – even in Noah’s day there were eternal laws established by God that men should have been aware of…see Noahic covenant. http://www.gotquestions.org/Noahic-covenant.html
The scripture says that Abraham walked in the commandments of the Lord before the Law at Sinai was given… see Genesis 26:5 – “because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments,
My statutes, and My laws”…proof that commandments actually existed before the time of Moses etc. When the Lord gave Israel the Law at Sinai, they were given a much clearer understanding of what sin was…and what God’s expectations
were. Those that walked in it were accounted to be righteous and obedient to the Lord.
Here’s an interesting statement Paul makes regarding those Gentiles who didn’t have the written Law …let’s look at Romans 2:12-16
“12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God,
but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written
in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.”
This passage I believe speaks of those people who followed their own conscience of what was right and wrong and will be judged accordingly (by what they knew and what they did) by the Lord. This I believe would apply to all people in every age for
our God is a righteous judge!
So my point is, if (the new birth or repentance, baptism and being filled with the Holy Ghost) is the truth that He has given us to obey and walk in in this dispensation to enter into the Kingdom, then this is the obedience
the Lord is looking for that will allow us to have a part in the First Resurrection.
The specific question that may be asked then is: what about those believers who walked in the truth that they knew, and did their best to follow the Lord
but never (in this dispensation of Grace) entered the Kingdom thru the New Birth while they were alive on earth? I believe this group of people will be called up during the 2nd Resurrection to be judged by their works. Because they either
did not hear or understand the full truth they are judged by the “righteous judge” at the Great White throne…as Rev 20:12 says: “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened:
and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered
up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of
life was cast into the lake of fire.”
The books will be opened and the dead will be judged out of these books. In other words, their lives will be weighed in the balance at the White Throne judgment.
I would much
rather enter the Kingdom right now (thru the New Birth) while grace is flowing and begin to enjoy the blessings of God’s Kingdom (in this Life) rather than place my eternal destiny in the hands of fate at the White Throne of God.
that think that Rev 20 is only talking about the judgment of the wicked need to take another look at what is included in this scripture: “And whosoever as not found written in the book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”…inferring
that there will be people whose names will be found in the book of Life!
Anyways…food for thought. Please go to the Comments Tab and let me know your views on this subject!
Thanks and God bless you in your continued search for truth!