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THEOLOGY > Future > The Final Judgment > The Second Resurrection   


The words, “the second resurrection,” are not found in Scripture, but reference is made to “the first resurrection” by John with the implication of a second resurrection:

And I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who 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 for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with Him for a thousand years (Rev. 20:4-6).
While two resurrections are not explicitly referenced in the Scriptures, the concept is undeniably taught. Reference is made to “the first resurrection” and in connection with these words the statement is made that “the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished” (Rev. 20:5), obviously a reference to a second resurrection. These verses require two resurrections.

The nature of the second resurrection is dependent upon the interpretation given to the first resurrection (see: The First Resurrection and First Means First). Following are the concluding paragraphs from the article on the first resurrection:

Conclusion – It is difficult, if not impossible, to unite properly all the concepts that are found in the Scriptures. The pressing dilemma may be the determination by the interpreter to remain loyal to a chronology that consciously or unconsciously guides his interpretation.

The first resurrection may include all the saints—Inclusive View—who have died prior to Christ’s return (the problem here is the final judgment of believers one thousand years after they are raised and after they have been ruling with Christ; it would seem that their destiny is already known so what is the purpose of the judgment). Or the first resurrection may include only those dead saints—Limited View—from the Great Tribulation (the problem here is the fact that the Scriptures seemingly teach that all believers will be raised at the Second Coming).

While admitting the possibility of an improper interpretation, this website leans toward a limited resurrection at the first resurrection; this interpretation is conditioned by the restrictive wording of the text in Rev. 20. It should be noted that such an interpretation has been the minority view throughout Church history. On the other hand, if an adjustment is made in the traditional concept of judgment, then perhaps all saints will be raised at the beginning of the Millennium (see: Reality of Judgment).

Not only is the second resurrection related to the first resurrection, it is also intricately related to the nature of the judgment as indicated in the above paragraph. The obvious question is the identity of those who will be raised during the second resurrection. Obviously, the simple answer is everyone who was not raised in the first resurrection will be raised in the second resurrection; there are two options:

One, believers and non-believers will be raised, and both will face the Great White Throne Judgment; this assumes that only tribulation saints were raised in the first resurrection.

Scripture does predict the resurrection of believers and unbelievers to be simultaneous: Dan. 12:2; Jo. 5:28-29; Acts 24:15; additionally, believers are predicted to be raised at the end of days: Jo. 6:39-40, 44, 54; 11:24.

Two, only non-believers will be raised and they alone will face the Great White Throne Judgment; this assumes that all believers were raised in the first resurrection.

But Scripture predicts the return of Christ and the last judgment to be simultaneous: Matt. 16:27; 25:31-32; II Thess. 1:7-10; Jude 14-45; Rev. 22:12.
With both of the above options there are problems if the usual concept of judgment is entertained, that is, if judgment is thought to be a specific event at a precise time that involves individuals having an audience before the Lord of the cosmos. Accepting the common concept of judgment raises the following questions:

Regarding number one, the problem is that at the return of Christ all believers are not raised to meet Him, but will remain in their graves during the Millennium; this scenario contradicts the Scripture’s teaching that believers, without delay, will be raised when Christ returns.

Regarding number two, the problem is that there will not be a general judgment as the Scriptures seemingly predict, but believers and non-believers will be judged at different times (Judgment Seat of Christ and Great White Throne Judgment respectively); if a general judgment is maintained, then believers will be judged a thousand years after their resurrection.

Additional problems relate to the dynamics of the Millennium: will people be saved during that time; if so, when will they be raised; if believers have already been judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ, then when will these new believers be judged; are these new believers considered to be part of the bride of Christ if the bride has already been raised; if there will be no new believers during the Millennium, then will normal sexual reproduction be suspended—if some people are still in their natural state, then surely children will be born; and if children are born, then some will become believers and some will remain non-believers; if people are saved during the Millennium, then people can and will be saved after Christ returns.

Obviously an answer is not forthcoming. The issues are confusing and baffling. An understanding of the problem is more easily attained than solving the problem.

Pressing chronological concerns are lessened if a broader perspective is employed, especially regarding the judgment. If this is not done, then it is difficult to know how to answer the above questions and properly relate the various themes. Also if this is not done then it is extremely difficult to identify the participants in the second resurrection. A broader perspective may not reconcile all the themes in an acceptable manner, but it does provide a framework for a more comprehensive and integrative eschatological viewpoint (see: Eschatological Perspective and Reality of Judgment).

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