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THEOLOGY > Future > The Millennium > First means First 


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 (Rev. 20:4-5).

When saints are raised at the beginning of the Millennium their resurrection is referred to as “the first resurrection.” What does the word “first” mean? What are the implications?

The Greek word is prōtos, a common word indicating order in a sequence, and used some 100 times in the New Testament. Over seventy times this word is translated “first”; so it would seem that there should be no debate as to the meaning of the word: first means first. Therefore, when John designates the resurrection at the beginning of the Millennium as the “first” resurrection, then you would think that the understanding is simple—this is the first resurrection. But such is not the case.

Dispensationalists affirm that Rev. 20 is merely the last phase of the first resurrection, and not the “first resurrection” in its entirety. According to them the “first resurrection” occurs in stages, as least three stages:

Stage one – the saints’ resurrection at the time of Christ’s death on the cross

Stage two – the believers’ resurrection (Rapture) at the commencement of the Tribulation

Stage three – the Tribulation saints’ resurrection at the beginning of the Millennium

Such exegetical manipulation cannot withstand investigation. Clearly, there is a joining of resurrections that are essentially different. The resurrection of saints at the time of Christ’s death is fundamentally different from the resurrections associated with the Rapture and/or the beginning of the Millennium. The latter two are resurrections to a glorified state, while the resurrections at the time of Christ were not resurrections to a glorified state, for those who were raised were subject to death and died again. Surely, the word “first” is not used by the Biblical writer in such a confused sense.

The very idea of the “first” resurrection being composed of multiple stages is without support from the Scriptures, either directly or indirectly. Such a chronology and such an interpretation of the word “first” is unprecedented. It is simply a concept that has been brought to the text and in no manner can be identified with the text. It is eisegesis.

In no way can stage two be justified; there is simply no Rapture and no resurrection at the beginning of the Tribulation. The entire idea of a secret Rapture to catch away the Church in order that it will escape the time of Great Tribulation is a fantasy created in the 1800’s and has neither exegetical nor historical support. Dispensationalism should be exposed for what it is, exegetical foolishness (see: The Rapture Question).

Additionally, if the word first means first, and the word is used to speak of a resurrection at the conclusion of the Tribulation and the beginning of the Millennium, then based on this single word there cannot be a resurrection at the beginning of the Tribulation. First means first. When the force of this single word is felt then Dispensationalism collapses.

Why are the above stages created? It is because Dispensationalists realize the significance of the passage in Rev. 20. If it stands as written, then in Rev. 20 is the first resurrection. There is not a resurrection before this point; a resurrection cannot be posited before this resurrection. To do so is to reject the text and to bring into question the authority of the text. The fanciful idea of three stages that comprise the first resurrection is a shallow attempt to escape the plain teaching of the text. First means first.

The word “first” is a reference, not only to the sequence, but also to the essence of the resurrection. This is resurrection to life, immortal life; it is life without the possibility of death. It is a resurrection that makes it possible for the individual to live in eternity. The resurrection of Rev. 20 is the first resurrection of this kind for anyone; that is why it is called “first.” It is the first in sequence and the first of its kind. First means first.

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