THE THIRD RESURRECTION
From a study paper of Ambassador College 1973/74
HOW MANY professing Christians really know what the Bible
says about the resurrections?
Most Christians who profess to believe in the resurrection
think the "just" and the "unjust" will all be raised to life at
the same time - either to be rewarded or punished.
Some, however, believe the Bible teaches there will be two
But how many Christians know that according to God's master
plan there will actually be three resurrections - not just one or
(Yes, I know today this is debated IF there is a third
resurrection. They have different ideas as to when the "wicked" -
those who have refused salvation through Christ, will be thrown
in the lake of fire, and suffer the second death. The fact is the
Bible does teach that the unrepentant sinner, those who refuse
salvation, will be burnt up in fire - die eternal death - just
not exist ever again. That truth is covered in the studies "Death
- then What? While there may remain some movement for debate on
when the wicked fill face their punishment, I believe this study
from Ambassador College is still the closest to the truth, if not
even right on the truth of the matter - Keith Hunt)
In previous articles in this series, we have seen that the
first resurrection will take place at the second coming of Jesus
Christ and will include only the "just," who will be raised to
life and clothed with immortality at that time (1 Thess.4:1318; 1
We also saw clear biblical proof that after Christ's
one-thousand-year rule God will resurrect those who in past ages
died in sin and ignorance, but who (through no fault of their
own) never had a chance for salvernon - in many cases never heard
of Jesus Christ or saw a Bible in their entire lives. Or if they
did hear of Christ or see a Bible, they were spiritually blinded
These deceived billions did not ask to be born into a world
of ignorance and superstition; and since "God is not willing that
any should perish;" it is His responsibility to see that they are
raised up and given a knowledge of the truth (2 Pet.3:9; 1 Tim.
The twentieth chapter of Revelation clearly speaks of three
After mentioning the second coming of Christ (Rev.
19:11-12), the apostle John writes that a mighty angel will bind
the devil and cast him into an abyss, where be will be unable to
deceive the nations for one thousand years (Rev.20:1-3).
But what happens immediately after this? The saints who have
been caught up to meet Christ at His return (I Thess.4:3-17) will
then be given charge of this earth - ruling with Christ for one
thousand years. "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 [again] and reigned with Christ
a thousand years" (Rev.20:4).
Those who take part in this resurrection are greatly
blessed, being privileged to take part in the "first
resurrection" (verse 5).
"Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first
resurrection: on such the second death bath no power, but they
shall be priests of Gad and of Christ, and shall reign with him a
thousand years" (verse 6).
When do the remainder of the dead rise? "But the rest of the
dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished"
This verse plainly shows that others are to be resurrected
one thousand years later.
Verses 11-12 (of Revelation 20) describe a coming
resurrection and judgment of that portion of the "rest of the
dead" who never had their chance for salvation. Verse 12 reads:
"And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the
books [Greek: biblos, perhaps referring to the books of the
Bible] were opened; and another book was opened, which is the
book of life ..."
When these billions are resurrected, God will open up the
Bible to their understanding. They will be given their first real
chance to repent, accept Christ as their Saviour and receive His
precious Holy Spirit. Their names will then be written in the
book of life.
Now consider verse 13: "And the sea gave up the dead which
were in it; and death and hell [Greek, hades, grave] delivered up
the dead which were in them; and they were judged every man
according to their works."
Here is pictured another resurrection period. Who are these
What resurrection is this?
Notice that there is no statement that the "book of life" is
opened up to them. Why is the "book of life" not "opened" in
connection with those who rise up in this final resurrection?
Simply because they must have already had their chance for
salvation - and rejected it!
God is not willing that any perish, yet it is not His will
to force the truth on anyone. He will not force salvation down
God offers salvation freely to all those who will receive it
(Acts 2:21). And He has made every man a free moral agent - with
the power of volition, the power to choose.
Those who do not voluntarily accept God's offer and follow
that way of life necessary to receive life eternal will not
Those who will come up in this third resurrection are the
incorrigibly wicked. They are the last human beings to be
resurrected from their graves - from "the sea" (where they may
have perished in their first life), from death (without burial in
their first life), or from "hell" (a hole or grave in the
These miserable beings will be sentenced by God - and
"And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the
second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of
life was cast into the lake of fire" (verses 14,15).
Lamentably, none who will be resurrected in this
resurrection will have their names in the Lamb's book of life.
Therefore they will all perish!
This resurrection (which will result in the second death) is
vividly described in Luke's Gospel. A certain heartless "rich
man" is resurrected to a horrible fate. "And in hell [Greek:
bodes, grave] he lift up his eyes, being in torments .... [And he
said,] I am tormented in this flame" (Luke 16:23-24).
The wicked will all be cremated when God burns up the earth,
turning it into the final Gehenna (see 2 Peter 3:10).
But what is the truth of this parable? The rich man is
raised up out of his grave at the very end of the plan of God for
humanity on earth. He has had no knowledge of the passing of time
- "the dead know not anything" (Eccl.9:5). The "rich man" thought
that his brothers were still alive (Luke 16:27,280 but other
scriptures reveal they, too, had died).
He now realized that he had missed the boat; he had missed
out on receiving salvation. There is now "a great gulf fixed"
(verse 26) between him and those who are with Abraham in the
Kingdom of God. It is now impossible for anyone to pass either
way through this great gulf: impossible for those who are
immortal to become mortal; impossible for the mortal ones to
Jesus said: "Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for
many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in [the Kingdom of God],
and shall not be able" (Luke 13:24). Continuing with the context,
Jesus then goes on to picture Himself as One who refuses to
answer the knock of incorrigible sinners who have previously
rejected salvation (as shown by other scriptures). In verse 28 He
says: "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye
shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in
the kingdom of God, and you yourselves [incorrigible sinners]
thrust out [not able to enter the Kingdom]."
When the time for the third resurrection arrives, everyone
will have had his chance. Everyone's ultimate destiny will have
been "fixed" eternally. If will be forever too late for anyone
who - after receiving his chance for salvation - sinned
willfully, thereby rejecting eternal life. Those who rejected God
and His way must then reap the consequences of that decision -
the second death, from which there will be no resurrection. How
awful! How tragic!
God Is Just and Merciful.
God is NOT in any scest sadist. He is not willing that any
should perish, but that all should came to repentance (2 Pet.3:9;
cf., 1 Tim.2:4). But those who refuse His mercy, He is a God of
justice and judgment (Heb.10:29-31). He wants (those who leave
Him with no alternative but to put them to death for eternity) to
know what He earnestly desired and wished them to achieve.
So God is going to compel the incorrigibly wicked to see
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God
before they are eternally put to death (see Luke 13:28; 16:23).
Since God made man a free moral agent with the power of
volition, man must choose. God will insist that each human choose
either His way or the devil's way, either life or death (Duet.
But God will not force any man to receive eternal life, nor
will He arbitrarily consign anyone to death. All must choose, and
reap the consequences of that choice.
What will happen if a person chooses the way of sin and
suffering? "For the wages [reward] of sin is death; but the gift
of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom.
But the Bible speaks of two deaths: first and second. "....
It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the
From the time of righteous Abel till this very day, even
righteous humans have had to suffer the first death. But it is
the second death that is final - not the first (Rev.20:14,15).
Notice how the apostle Peter wrote that the wicked will perish in
the lake of fire - which will occur at the time when the earth is
burned up and then made into a new earth, where the righteous
will dwell forevermore:
"But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word
are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment
and perdition of ungodly men" (2 Pet.3:7).
God has decreed that He will not let this earth be destroyed
until His great master plan for mankind on this earth is
This time of the destruction of the wicked is uxplained more
fully by Peter. "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in
the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great
noise, and the elememts shall melt with fervent heat, the earth
also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (verse
Furthermore, "all these things shall be dissolved" (verse
11) at the time of the perdition (annihilation) of the
ungodly--during the time of "the day of God, wherein the heavens
being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt
with fervent heat" (verse 12).
What then? After the perdition (second death) of the wicked,
God will make "a new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth
(only) righteousness" (verse 13).
The Apostle John, after describing the destruction of the
wicked (Rev.20:13-15), immediately mentions "a new heaven and a
new earth" (Rev.21:1). He then gives a glowing account of the
peace, happiness, beauty and glory that will characterize this
John was taken in vision to a "great and high mountain,"
where he was able to view "that great city, the holy Jerusalem,
descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God ..."
Notice that this indescribably beautiful city is not up in
heaven, but is to be located right here on this earth. Again, the
Apostle John speaks of the "new Jerusalem, which cometh down out
of heaven from my God ... (Rev.3:12).
Nowhere in the Bible is there a promise that man will, at
death, waft off to heaven. Rather, the Scriptures plainly teach
that the new Jerusalem will come down from heaven to this earth.
Man will not go up to heaven to dwell with God; but God will come
to this earth to dwell with men:
"...Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell
with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be
with them, and be their God" (Rev.21:3).
The Bible is consistent. Jesus Christ plainly taught that
man would eternally dwell here on this earth when He said:
"Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth" (Matt.
And David wrote: "But the meek shall inherit the earth; and
shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace" (Ps.37:9,
But will man only inherit this earth during the millennium.
and then go to heaven? "The righteous shall inherit the land. and
dwell therein for ever" (verse 29).
What will happen to the wicked? Will they, as some say,
spend a while in hell (or in some other place) suffering for
their sins, and then be taken to heaven to live forever?
Long ago, the prophet Daniel spoke of the wicked who would
"awake" in a resurrection "to shame and everlasting contempt [or
Malachi also spoke of the end of these wretched beings who
spurned eternal life: "For, behold, the day cometh, that shall
burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do
wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn
them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them
neither root nor branch" (Mat.4:l).
What about the righteous? Where will they be? Daniel said
the righteous would "awake ... to everlasting life"
(Dan.12:2). They will then become glorified sons of God - living,
serving their Creator eternally: "And they that be wise shall
shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many
to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever" (verse 3).
The righteous will then be made immortal. But in the third
and final resurrection, the wicked will be made to see that they
have scoffed at God's priceless offer for salvation. As a
punishment, and as an eternal example, they will be annihilated
in the "second death."
The prophet Malachi wrote of this triumph of the righteous
over the wicked: "And ye [the righteous] shall tread down the
wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your of your
feet ..." (Mal. 4:3).
Those Who Sin Willfully.
Man's destiny is so great and glorious that few Christians
have ever really grasped it. God, through His Word, repeatedly
speaks of humans becoming sons in the very family of God.
Even God's angels are servants of these heirs of divine
"Are they [angels] not all ministering spirits, sent forth to
minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" (Heb.1:14).
Realizing the "high calling" which God has given us, the
Apostle Paul wrote that Christians should "give the more earnest
heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we
should let them slip" (Heb.2:l).
He then asked: "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great
salvation ...?" (verse 3).
The book of Hebrews is filled with warnings to the believer
not to get careless and lose out on eternal salvation. Paul warns
Christians not to let a "root of bitterness" trouble
and/or defile them (Heb.12:15).
But the sternest warning in the entire Bible is in the tenth
chapter of Hebrews: "For if we sin wilfully [with deliberate
intent] after that we have received the knowledge of the truth,
there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful
looking for of judgment and fiery in ... dignation, which
shall devour the adversaries" (Heb.10:26,27).
The Apostle Paul then speaks of the severe ("sorer")
punishment which will befall that wicked person "who hath trodden
under foot the Son of God, and bath counted the blood of the
covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath
done despite unto the Spirit of grace" (verse 29).
Truly, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the
living God" (verse 31).
(A word of qualification is necessary at this particular
juncture. Willful sin is NOT to be equated with sin by force of
habit or under heavy temptation. "Slipping," making mistakes, or
occasionally falling down spiritually do not constitute willful
sin. As long as the overall attitude of mind - a living mind-set
- is the desire to want to live and move along the road of
salvation with the Lord; then we have not committed the un-
pardonable sin. In a nut shell the un-pardonable sin is when you
have NO desire to serve and follow God, it is when you in essence
say "get out of here God, I do not want any party of you." or "I
just will not live or follow any of your laws and direction - I
will not acknowledge my sins, I will not repent." With that kind
of attitude of mind the Spirit of God cannot enter a person, and
they cannot be saved. A FULL rebellion against the Eternal One, a
rebellion that will not repent, is the unpardonable sin - Keith
But can a true believer draw back and be eternally
"Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back,
my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who
draw back unto perdition [destruction]; but of them that believe
to the saving of the soul" (verses 38,39).
We have seen that God is "not willing that any should
perish." Furthermore, God has ordained that there will be three
resurrections: the first, to immortality at the second coming of
Jesus - immediately before the millennium begins.
The second is to take place shortly after the thousand-year
rule of Christ. Those who rise in the second resurrection
comprise all the deceived multitudes who died without a saving
knowledge of the truth.
The third resurrection occurs at the very end of God's plan
for mortal man on this earth. Those who rise up in the third and
final resurrection are those who had their chance for salvation
and deliberately turned it down. God will be forced to extinguish
the lives of those who have obstinately chosen the way of death!
Remember, God will not force eternal life down anyone's
Now you should be better able to understand what the apostle
Paul meant by an "order" of resurrections (I Cor.15:23). He
simply meant that there would be a succession of resurrections,
various ones rising at different times for different judgments.
Let us remember that our Creator is a benevolent, loving God
who wants to do everything possible for mankind. "The Lord is
merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy ....
Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them
that fear him" (Ps.103:8,13).
Those who know the truth should strive with all their might
to be in the first resurrection, the resurrection to eternal
life, the "better resurrection" (Heb.11:35).
But those who are not predestined by God to receive the
saving knowledge of the truth now, will rise up in the second
resurrection. They will then be given their first real chance to
But those who reject that knowledge and that way of eternal
life regardless of the age in which they were given the knowledge
of the truth will rise in the third and final resurrection, which
will culminate in the "second death" in the lake of fire.
But the believer has a wonderful, eternal future ahead of
"He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his
God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving,
and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and
sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in
the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the
second death" (Rev.21:7,8).
Your eternal destiny - your future - is up to you! You can
choose the way of God and eternal life, or you can choose Satan's
way of lust, greed, strife and sin - which will lead to total
perdition - to the "second death" in a lake of fire.
Let each one of us make sure that we make the right choice.
Entered on this Website February 2008
Knowing that God has a wonderful plan of salvation. Knowing that
He is a God of PATIENCE AND MERCY AND LOVE, knowing that ALL will
get an open and fair opportunity to accept Jesus as Savior and
obtain salvation, should make our hearts SING WITH PRAISE!!
What a BEAUTIFUL and GLORIOUS truth is the teaching of the Bible
on the RESURRECTIONS. Relatively speaking there will be few that
will NOT want to be in the very Family of the Eternal God.
Give Him praise and honor forever more!