THE FIRST RESURRECTION
From an old Ambassador College study paper (1973/74)
WHAT is the real hope of the true Christian? Will he spend
eternity lounging in idleness and ease? Or will the resur-
rected, newborn Christian spend eternity in happy, but
productive, activity - faithfully serving his Creator?
Most professing Christians have a rather foggy idea of what
future life in the Kingdom of God will be like. They know very
little about biblical teaching concerning the "resurrection of
the dead" - yet this is one of the basic doctrines of the Bible
But do you realize you can know what it will be like in the
next life? The Prophet Isaiah wrote: "Since the beginning of the
world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath
the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him
that waiteth for him" (Isa.64:4).
But the Apostle Paul explained that a Christian can
comprehend what God has prepared for those that love Him - "But
God hath revealed them unto us [true believers] by his Spirit:
for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God"
(I Cor.2:9,10). Many scriptures speak of this "mystery" (Rom.
16:25; Eph.3:3,5,9; Rev.10:7).
Satan has deceived the whole world on this all-important
subject of the resurrection of the dead (Rev.12:9). Many
scriptures reveal that the whole world is in darkness, igno-
rance and superstition.
The plain Bible teaching on the subject of the resurrection(s)
has been submerged in darkness for many centuries. There are no
Bible commentaries or dictionaries to which you can go to get the
truth on this subject. Invariably, you are given a noxious
mixture of truth and error - light and darkness - and wind
up confused if you believe what the so-called authorities tell
you. But it is high time for professing a Christians to go
directly to the Word of God to learn the real, unadulter-
How deceived has the world become on this vital subject of
A common misbelief is expressed in the 1972 edition of The
World Book Encyclopedia: "Most Christians believe that on the
last day of the world all the dead will come to life. They call
the day, Judgment Day, because God will judge everyone"
("Resurrection," XVI, p.245).
Some believe that at death their "souls" go immediately to
heaven, purgatory, limbo or hell.
"The Westminster Shorter Catechism (question xxxvii.) states the
doctrine that the bodies of the dead rest in their graves till
the resurrection, but that their souls do immediately pass into
glory [heaven]. This was the view of the Reformers" ("Death," The
New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, 1911, p.
According to this teaching the "body" must rest in the grave
till the "soul" can be reunited with it at the resurrection.
If the righteous are already in heavenly bliss, is it
logical to think that they would be made to return to this earth
to be reunited with their earthly "bodies"?
It is time to strip off the scales of paganism from our eyes
and look at the plain truth revealed in the Bible.
There are numerous references in the Old Testament to the
resurrection, but only the Prophet Daniel begins to hint that
there might be more than one resurrection.
Daniel wrote: "And many of them hat sleep in the dust of the
earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, ad some to shame and
everlasting contempt [or abhorrence]" (Dan.2:2).
This verse does not say that those resurrected to
"everlasting life" and those resurrected to "shame" will both
come up at the same time - in the same resurrection. That is what
many have mistakenly assumed.
Jesus Christ said: ". . . The hour is coming, in the which all
that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come
forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life
[eternal]; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of
damnation [judgment]" (John 5:28,29).
But note that Christ did not say that those who had done
"good" would be resurrected at the same time with those who had
The Apostle Paul, when he was speaking before Felix, the
governor of Judea, said that he had "hope toward God" of a
resurrection, in which, affirmed Paul, the Jews also believed. He
plainly told Felix "that there shall be a resurrection of the
dead, both of the just and unjust" (Acts 24:15). As Paul
"reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come,"
the unjust Felix trembled (verse 25). Paul did not say the just
and the unjust would rise up at the same time.
This same apostle wrote at length regarding the
resurrection(s) in 1 Corinthians 15. "For as in Adam all die,
even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his
own order. Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are
Christ's at his [second] coming. Then cometh the end..." (verses
Now if one turns to the twentieth chapter of Revelation, he
can see what is meant by "the end." Paul was referring to the end
of the one-thousand-year reign of Christ and the saints on this
earth. It will not be until sometime after the thousand years are
over that the second resurrection occurs (see Rev.20:7-12).
Jesus Christ is depicted in Revelation 19:11-21 as coming on
"a white horse' and then "he shall [in the future] rule them [the
nations] with a rod of iron" (verse 15).
The resurrected saints (joined by the living saints) will be
caught up to meet Christ in the air at His second coming, and
they as kings and priests will "reign on the earth" (Rev.5:10).
To these saints Christ promises: "He that overcometh, and keepeth
my works ... to him will I give power over the nations: and he
shall rule I them [under Christ] with a rod of iron ..." (Rev.
The Time Element.
But when and how will these glorified, then-made immortal
saints rule with Christ? And for how long?
The Apostle John was inspired to give the answer: "And I saw
thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto
them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded ...and they
lived and reigned [ruled] with Christ a thousand years" (Rev.
John, in vision, saw those who had been beheaded now
resurrected (at Christ's triumphal second coming) and given
governing positions or "judgment."
Paul gives more details of this glorious resurrection of the
saints: "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even
so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.... For
the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the
voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead
in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain
shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the
Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1 Thes.
Note that it does not say the saints will go to "heaven" to
meet Christ, but that He will come (probably billions of miles)
from "heaven" to the atmosphere of this earth, and the saints
will rise to meet Him "in the air."
Now notice a prophecy back in Zechariah which shows where
Christ and the saints will go-after this rendezvous in the air:
"And his feet [the Lord's - verse 1] shall stand in that day upon
the mount of Olives..." (Zech.14:4).
At this time will Christ be alone? "...And the Lord my God
[wrote Zechariah] shall come, and all the saints with thee"
(verse 5). But where will Christ go? Back to heaven with the
saints? "And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that
day shall there be one Lord, and his name one" (verse 9).
It should not amaze us to find the Christ will return to
stand on the Mount of Olives. Nearly two thousand years ago, His
angels told the disciples that Christ would return to this earth
just as He left it - and He had been standing talking with His
disciples atop Mount Olivet just before this promise was given
The Apostle Paul also spoke of Christ's coming at the "last
trump" - the time when He will gather His saints unto Himself.
"Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit
the kingdom of God, neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we
shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at
the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall
be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this
corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on
immortality" (1 Cor.15:50-53).
These and other scriptures show that it is only the just,
the righteous (dead), who are resurrected at Christ's second
John shows that those who had been martyred will be raised
to life and to a position of rulership during the thousand-year
rule of Christ. But the unjust dead will not be resurrected until
the end of this period: "But the rest of the dead lived not again
until the thousand years were finished. This [referring to those
martyred - verse 4] is the FIRST resurrection. Blessed and holy
is he that hath part in the first resurrection, on such the
second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and
of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years" (Rev.20:5,
Then, after the thousand years are expired, Satan goes out
to stir up more trouble on this earth. And it is still some time
later before the Great White Throne Judgment takes place - at
which the others who are still dead (years after the millennium
has ended) are made to "stand before God" in the SECOND
resurrection - when they will have their first chance.
What is your guarantee that you will be resurrected when
Christ returns to this earth? How can you make sure you will be
in the first resurrection to immortality?
It is "they who are Christ's at his coming" who will be in
the first resurrection (I Cor.15:23).
But who are "Christ's"? Paul said: "Now if any man have not
the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (Rom.8:9).
It is only those who are filled and led by the Spirit of God
who will be in the first resurrection. "For as many as are led by
the Spirit of God, they are the [begotten] sons of God" (verse
God's Spirit in us is like a seed that is developing into
Paul continues: "But if the Spirit of him that raised up
Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from
the dead shall also quicken [make alive] your mortal bodies by
[the power of] his Spirit that dwelleth in you" (verse 11).
There it is! If we have the indwelling presence of the Holy
Spirit in us when we die, then we will be resurrected through the
power of that same Spirit - at the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Paul then explains that we are earnestly waiting for that time
when we shall be born as spiritual beings into the family of God.
Remember, Christ said: "Ye must be born again" (John 3:7).
Paul explained this soon-coming new birth: "For the earnest
expectation of the creature [man] waiteth for the manifestation
of the sons of God" (Rom.8:19). That is what the true Christian
waits for - earnestly longing for the time when he will be born
into the family of God - as a divine, glorified son of God.
He continues: "... Even we ourselves groan within ourselves,
waiting for the adoption [sonship], to wit [in other words], the
redemption of our body" (verse 23).
What did he mean by "the redemption of our body"? Paul
begins to explain in the book of Philippians. By way of
background he mentions that he gave up everything in order to
serve Christ and became willing to suffer "the loss of all
things" (Phil.3:7,8). Why? "That I may know him, and the power of
his resurrection ... If by any means I might attain unto the
resurrection of the dead" (verses 10,11).
He then went on to explain that "our conversation
[citizenship] is in heaven ..." (verse 20).
And it is from there - from heaven - that we "look for the
Saviour." Who [meaning Christ] shall change our vile body, that
it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the
working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto
himself" (verses, 20,21).
This redemption of the body - this change from mortal flesh
to a spiritual body - is the only hope held out to the Christian.
What Will We Be Like? W
What kind of bodies will we have in the resurrection? We
will be divested of our "natural" bodies and will put on
"spiritual" bodies. "It is sown a natural body; it is raised a
spiritual body" (I Cor.15:44).
But what will "a spiritual body" be like?
If we can know what kind of body Christ had after His
resurrection, then we can also know what kind of a spiritual body
we will have in the resurrection.
The Apostle John tells us: "Beloved, now are we the
[begotten] sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall
be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him;
for we shall see him as he is" (I John 3:2).
What kind of body did Jesus have after His resurrection?
He appeared repeatedly after He was risen. " .. He showed himself
alive after his passion [suffering] by many infallible proofs,
being seen of them forty days ..." (Acts 1:3). He was seen by
Peter, by the twelve, and by "above five hundred brethren at
nice .... After that, he was seen of James; then of all the
apostles," He was seen by numerous women, and lastly by the
Apostle Paul (I Cor.15:5-8).
After His resurrection, Christ was, generally speaking,
easily recognized. Christ met with the two Marys. "And they came
and held him by the feet, and worshipped him" (Matt.29:9).
Doubting Thomas even felt Christ's side and the nail prints
in His hands to prove to himself that Jesus was real - and not an
apparition (John 20:24-29).
On another occasion He appeared suddenly in the midst of the
disciples: "But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed
that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them.... Behold my
hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a
spirit bath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have" (Luke
24:37-39). Christ had a glorified, spiritual body, but He was not
Then the disciples gave Christ "a piece of broiled fish, and
of an honeycomb. And he took it and did eat before them" (verses
Notice also that Christ spoke of drinking in the soon-coming
Kingdom of God: "I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until
the kingdom of God shall come" - (Luke 22;18).
So Jesus Christ manifested Himself in a physical form after
His resurrection. He could suddenly appear to the disciples when
they were assembled behind closed doors (John 20:19). He could
also just "vanish" out of their sight (Luke 24:31).
Furthermore, Christ could travel astronomical distances at
lightning speeds - probably at the speed of thought. It was on
the first day of the week that Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene,
but she was commanded: "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended
to my Father..." (John 20:17).
Later that same day, the two Marys did touch Him ("held him
by the feet" - Matt. 28:9), thereby proving that He had travelled
to heaven and back that same day.
If human beings were able to travel at the speed of light
(186,000 miles per second), it would take them more than four
years to travel to the nearest star. (And the Bible implies that
heaven is further away.) Yet Christ could flash to heaven and
back - undoubtedly at the speed of thought - annihilating time
How can spiritual beings travel through space at such
fantastic speeds? We simply do not know. But they can,
Once the saints have been glorified by a resurrection from
the dead, they will not have to eat for sustenance; but just as
Christ ate after His resurrection, so will the saints. Why will
they eat? Probably solely for pleasure.
Let us notice further what we will be like in the
resurrection. The Sadducees "which deny that there is any
resurrection" asked Christ a trick question: "Therefore in the
resurrection whose wife of them is she? For seven [brothers] had
her to wife" (Luke 20:33).
Christ answered: ". .. They which shall be accounted worthy
to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither
marry, nor are given in marriage" (verse 35).
He didn't say that there would not be sex differences in the
appearance of "men" and "women." But there will be no sexual
function of reproduction in the resurrection.
Can those who are resurrected be killed? "Neither can they
die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the
children of God, being the children of the resurrection" (verse
Where did the Sadducees go wrong in their reasoning? Christ
told them: "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power
of God" (Math.22:29).
If people really understood the Word of God better, and if
they understood how powerful God is, then they would realize that
it is very easy for Him to resurrect "all that are in the
In the resurrection we shall be "as the angels of God in
heaven" (verse 30). Christ did not say we would be angels, but we
will be like angels in that we will be immortal and will possess
powers and glory now only shared by God and the holy angels.
(I must add here, that when we say the angels are immortal, as Christ
said we would never die but be equal to the angels, we are NOT saying
that angels have "inherent" immortality. God is the only one that has
immortality as part of His very being, inherent [you may like to look
up that word in your dictionary]. Immortality is part of the very nature
of God, He did not find it, have it given, it is part of Him as much as
holiness and perfectness is, it belongs to Him in His very being. It is true
to say that God CANNOT "will" Himself to die or into destruction, He cannot
kill Himself. Immortality is inherent in God, He is from everlasting to
everlasting. But God can WILL that other beings He creates can live forever,
never die. He has so willed that the angels shall never die; in that sense
they are immortal. God could have willed Himself to destroy them, some day,
or any time He sees fit. But no, God has not willed Himself to do that, He
did will Himslef that angels once created, would live forever. So we must
differentiate between having immortality "inherent" like God has, and
immortality given to others by God. Angels and us humans fall into the
latter category, immortality was given to angels at their creation,
immortality will be given to us the saints in a resurrection or instant
change as 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 teaches. God is
the only one with inherent immortality - 1 Timothy 6:16. So Jesus taught
us that in the resurrection we humans would be equal to the angels in that
we would never again die - Keith Hunt)
No, we will not be angels, but we will be the literal
"children of God." The Bible shows that angels are sons of God by
creative fiat but they are not and can never become the actual
begotten and finally born sons of God. But we are to be born of
God - born into His family. Then the resurrected, glorified,
immortalized saints will live in eternal happiness for ever and
ever: "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and
there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither
shall there be any more pain ..." (verse,l).
These sons of God, then born into the very God family, will
"inherit ALL THINGS: and I will be his God, and he shall be my
son" (verse 7). Will they ever have to suffer any more evil
trials? "And there shall be no more curse ... and his servants
shall serve him" (Rev.22:3).
What will they do throughout eternity? Just sit back and
bask in idleness, ease and luxury, and lapping up never-ending
rivers of pleasures?
No, they will be busy. "...And they shall reign [rule or
govern[ for ever and ever" (verse 5). And remember. "his servants
shall serve him" - throughout all eternity (verse 3). Then will
came to pass the inspired words of Hebrews 2:8: "Thou hast put
all things under his [man's] feet. For in that he put all in
subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him."
We should strive to be in the "first resurrection" (Rev.
It is spoken of as "a better resurrection" (Heb.11:35).
Those who rise in that resurrection will be wonderfully blessed
Entered on this Website January 2008
Next is "The Second Resurrection."