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Don Stewart :: How Many Resurrections Will There Be?

Don Stewart
Scripture speaks of two distinct resurrections - that of the just and the unjust. All Bible believers agree that there will be a resurrection of both the believing and unbelieving dead.
Resurrection Of The Righteous

The resurrection of the righteous is described as follows in Scripture.

1. The Awakening To Everlasting Life

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2).

2. The Resurrection Of The Righteous

And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous (Luke 14:14).

3. The Resurrection Of Life

Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth - those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:28,29).

4. The Better Resurrection

Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection (Hebrews 11:35).

5. The First Resurrection

The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection (Revelation 20:5).

Resurrection Of The Unrighteous

The resurrection of the unrighteous is also described in Scripture by a number of different terms.

1. The Resurrection To Disgrace And Contempt

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2).

2. The Resurrection Of Condemnation

Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth - those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:28,29).

3. The Resurrection Of The Unrighteous

have a hope in God - a hope that they themselves also accept - that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous (Acts 24:15).

When Will They Occur?

Though Bible believers acknowledge that both the righteous and unrighteous dead will be raised, there is no agreement as to the time when they occur. There are those who believe that everyone is resurrected at once, while others believe the different resurrections are spaced out over a period of time.

All At Once

There are a couple of passages that seem to teach that the righteous and unrighteous dead are all raised at once. The Lord told Daniel.

Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2).

Jesus said.

Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and will come out - those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:28,29).

And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of My Father, that all who see the Son and believe in Him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day. No one can come to Me unless drawn by the Father who sent Me; and I will raise that person up on the last day (John 6:39,40,44).

Paul said.

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of His appearing and His kingdom, I give you this charge (2 Timothy 4:1).

To many people, these passages clearly speak of one general resurrection of both the saved and lost.

Response

Those whose reject one general resurrection do not think these passages conclusively teach that all will be raised at once. All they are saying is there will be a resurrection of the righteous and unrighteous at the "last hour" or "last day." This, it is argued, is an undetermined period of time and could stretch over a thousand years.

Separate Resurrections

There are a number of passages that seem to call for a separate resurrection of believers.

Then I saw thrones, and those seated on them were given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection (Revelation 20:4,5).

Here we have the souls of the disembodied waiting for their resurrection. After they are raised from the dead, it is said the remainder of the dead did not live again until a thousand years after this. This means two phases of the resurrection are separated by one thousand years.

First Resurrection Limited To Righteous

The argument that the first resurrection is limited to the righteous can be seen as follows. Jesus said.

But those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage (Luke 20:35).

Paul wrote of himself.

and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:11).

If all were to be raised together, then why would Paul work to obtain the inevitable? His statement seems to assume a separate resurrection of believers and unbelievers. He wants to be raised "out from among the dead" with the other believers.

Thousand Years Apart

The fact that there is a first resurrection implies a second resurrection. The rest of the dead will not raised for another thousand years.

Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years (Revelation 20:6).

Different Order

Christ's resurrection was first in God's program, then to be followed by believers.

For in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:22,23).

When Paul says each in his own order, it has the idea of a marching unit of the Roman army. The picture is of a great triumphal procession in which a general returns victorious from a battle while the troops march behind him in different ranks. The resurrection of the dead will be similar. Jesus Christ will be the first, followed by a number of groups who come back from the dead, each in their own marching order.

Order Of Resurrections

The Bible, therefore, speaks of two future resurrections, the resurrection of life and the resurrection of death. The first resurrection is in four parts or phases. The various resurrections that the Bible speaks about are as follows.


1. Jesus Christ

2. The Saved At Rapture Of The Church

3. The Tribulation And Old Testament Saints At His Second Coming

4. The Great White Throne And Millennial Saints


1.Christ Is The First

Jesus Christ was the first person to come back from the dead, never to die again. Paul wrote.

But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep . . . But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:20,23).

Paul said.

that the Messiah must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, He would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles (Acts 26:23).

Paul said of Christ's pre-eminence.

He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything (Colossians 1:18).

He is the one who is pre-eminent over death.

2.The Rapture Of The Church

At the rapture of the church, the bodies of the living and dead will be changed.

For the Lord Himself shall 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 (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

Paul told the church at Corinth about the change that would take place.

Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:51-58).

3.The Tribulation Saints

The Tribulation saints will be raised at the Second Coming of Christ.

And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. And I saw 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 thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one 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 20:4-6).

4.The Old Testament Saints

The believers, who lived before the time of Christ, will be raised when Christ returns. The Book of Daniel says.

At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of tribulation, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:1-2).

After the tribulation period is over, Jesus Christ returns. He will then resurrect the Old Testament saints. Every believer, from the time of Adam until the Second Coming of Christ, will have been resurrected at this time.

Thousand Years

When Christ returns, there will be a thousand year period of peace when He rules in righteousness. This is known as the Millennium.

5.Great White Throne

At the end of the thousand years, there will be a final resurrection. This will come at the Great White Throne judgment.

Then I saw a Great White Throne and the one who sat on it; the earth and the heaven fled from His presence, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15).

The resurrection of unbelievers will take place after the thousand year reign of Christ upon the earth. All the unbelieving dead who have ever lived will be resurrected and judged at this time.

Righteous Judged

There will also be some righteous people who will be judged at the Great White Throne. They will consist of children who were born during the Millennium and became believers in Jesus. They will have been born to people who entered the Millennium with mortal, not resurrected bodies.

Summary

Although some Christians believe there will be only one general resurrection at the end of time, Scripture seems to speak of more than one resurrection. The first resurrection will be that of believers while the second resurrection will be that of unbelievers. The resurrections in Scripture do not all happen at once. The first resurrection refers to the resurrection of all believers, though separated in time. There has been over nineteen hundred and fifty years between the resurrection of Christ, and the rapture of the church - which is still future. After the church is raptured and resurrected, there will be the resurrection of the tribulation saints- those who have died for their testimony of Christ during the Great Tribulation. At that time the Old Testament saints will also be raised. After the thousand year reign of Christ on the earth, the Millennium, there will be one final resurrection. This will be the unrighteous dead from all time as well as the millennial saints - those who have believed in Christ during the Millennium. After the Great White Throne judgment, there will be no more resurrections.
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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