Revelation 20:5 speaks of a "first resurrection" implying a second and perhaps others. It is this passage, therefore, more than any other, which is used to support the teaching that there will be more than one resurrection of the body before the end of time. Indeed, Premillennialism teaches two resurrections and Dispensationalism three or four.
Premillennialism, for example, teaches a resurrection of saints before its expected future millennium and another general resurrection at the end of the world, the two separated, therefore, by 1000 years of history. Those who are raised at the beginning of the millennium, they say, both OT and NT saints, will reign with Christ on earth 1000 years.
We believe that Scripture teaches only one general resurrection of the dead, and that at the end of the world. Then all shall be raised to stand before God in judgment and to receive in the body the reward either of grace or works. This, we are certain, is the clear teaching of Scripture in such passages as John 5:28-29 (note the word "all") and Acts 24:15 (notice the teaching that there is one resurrection of the just and unjust).
Notice, too, that in John 6 Jesus four times states that the resurrection of believers takes place at the last day, not 1000 years before (vss. 39, 40, 44, 54). That phrase, "last day" in Scripture always refers to the very end of something (cf. Jn. 11:24; 12:48; 7:37).
What, then, are the first and second resurrections of Revelation 20? We believe that the first resurrection is that of souls, when they are taken to be with Christ after death and reign with Him in that disembodied state until the end of the world when their bodies are raised in the second resurrection. There are a number of reasons we believe this.
First, Revelation 20:4 actually speaks of "souls." It is interesting, to say the least, that the Premillennialists and Dispensationalists who insist so strongly on a strictly literal interpretation of Revelation 20 are forced in defense of their views of the resurrection to say that these "souls" are in fact complete persons, whose bodies are raised 1000 years before the end and who then reign with Christ in their resurrection bodies on earth for 1000 years.
It is true that the word "souls" is used in Scripture to denote complete persons (Gen. 2:7; 46:26-27), but in every such case the word "person(s)" can simply be substituted for the word "soul(s)" (our readers can check this for themselves). That is not possible in Revelation 20. It makes no sense to read Revelation 20:4, "and I saw the persons of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus."
Second, we would point out that Revelation 20 also speaks of two deaths. (cf. vs. 14). The second death is not a physical death, a death of the body, but of the soul. Why then should both resurrections be resurrections of the body?
Third, we would remind our readers of all those passages that speak of the new life of the soul in terms of a resurrection (Col. 2:12; Eph. 2:5; Rom. 6:13; Jn. 11:25-26; 5:24-25). Why then should it be thought strange that the receiving of the souls of believers by Christ at death be described as a resurrection in Revelation 20?
We believe, then, in one coming of Christ, one resurrection, and one hope.
- Volume: 8
- Issue: 3
Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)
Ordained: November 1979
Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002; Emeritus October 15, 2017Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/
Address13823 Clear Lake Rd.
State or ProvinceWA