The First Resurrection
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 for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
Note that the ones being addressed in this passage are rewarded with ruling an reigning for what they did and didn't do
. That is, works
. Remember the promise to the overcomer at the Church at Thyatira, "And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron."
And even in the lukewarm Church at Laodicea we see this promise, "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne."
The context is reward for works
. And not only works, but he who "keeps my works unto the end
." We recall the Lord's words when he spoke about the Tribulation and the end of the age in Matthew 24, "But he who endures to the end shall be saved."
The context is, thus, believers. Jewish believers. For only believers can be overcomers. Only believers have works and service judged. These are not passages about the forgiveness of sin. That's a free offer by the blood of Christ alone.
We've seen this pattern with all rewards: Works, Faithfulness. We won't repeat the argument here, suffice to say scripture is clear that our rescue from the grave (not our reward) is "not of works, lest an man should boast
" (Eph 2:9). And scripture is clear that God has already reconciled himself to the world and does not hold the sins of men against them (2 Cor 5:19). Servants are judged for their work. Yes, I know I am repeating myself, but I'm up against years of tradition.
And it appears the greatest work is faithfulness unto death
, a very real prospect in that terrible time to come
. Death may very well be the qualifier.
The Former Resurrection
We know turn to the final part of this promise. The ones who had not worshiped the Beast are blessed in the "first
" or "former
" resurrection. That is, the first of a pairing of the same company. There are a number of resurrections in scripture, but these two in the Revelation go together.
We can see this pattern of "former/latter" when scripture refers to the "first
" covenant. Well, the first covenant in scripture is the covenant God established with Noah. He also established a covenant with Abraham. Later, he would establish a covenant with David.
So how are we to reckon this verse in Hebrews 8? "For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second."
Clearly the writer is referring to the "Old" and the "New"covenants with Israel (as the context shows). But as we've noted, the Old and New Covenants are neither the first nor the second (respectively) in time or sequence.
The next chapter itself gives us the same Greek word translated as "former
There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.
The idea is the first of a pair. That is, the two go together. They may be rendered "former" and "latter" as we've noted. This helps us understand the phrase "the rest of the dead.
" This would be the rest of the same group.
The Greek word for "rest
" is "loipoi
." In the KJV, here is how the translators translated it:
- other, 15x; other things, 1x; others, 7x; remnant, 4x; residue, 1x; rest, 12x; which remains, 1x
Let's see it's usage in this book (from Strong's Concordance) :
But unto you I say (5719), and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have (5719) not this doctrine, and which have not known (5627) the depths of Satan, as they speak (5719); I will put (5692) upon you none other burden.
Be (5737) watchful (5723), and strengthen (5657) the things which remain, that are (5719) ready to die (5629): for I have not found (5758) thy works perfect (5772) before God.
And I beheld (5627), and heard (5656) an angel flying (5740) through the midst of heaven, saying (5723) with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters (5723) of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet (5723) to sound (5721)!
And the rest of the men which were not killed (5681) by these plagues yet repented (5656) not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship (5661) devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can (5736) see (5721), nor hear (5721), nor walk (5721):
And the same * * hour was there (5633) a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell (5627), and in the earthquake were slain * (5681) of men seven thousand: and the remnant were (5633) affrighted, and gave (5656) glory to the God of heaven.
And the dragon was wroth (5681) with the woman, and went (5627) to make (5658) war with the remnant of her seed, which keep (5723) the commandments of God, and have (5723) the testimony of Jesus Christ.
And the remnant were slain (5681) with the sword of him that sat (5740) upon the horse, which sword proceeded (5740) out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled (5681) with their flesh.
The "rest of the dead
" is limited to the rest of the group in view. It does not mean "all the dead who ever died." If the traditionalist wants to force this meaning upon it, he runs into trouble explaining why millions, already in fiery torment, are being resurrected to have their works judged. The rest here are said to "live not again
" until the end of the millennium
. This limits to believers who did not overcome during the Tribulation.
If you've followed this blog, and our studies about resurrection and death, this makes sense. We understand that only believers have "life." Only believers have resurrection. When one is dead (unbeliever or believer) he is dead. He knows nothing. When we interpret the Bible, as best we can, we need to try to be consistent. If we cannot find that consistency perfectly, the fault is ours. It only means we need to keep on studying.
The first resurrection group has a very specific description, "them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands." Just as this "first resurrection" cannot be all believers of all time, "the rest" cannot be the unbelievers of all time. If "the rest" is every person not yet raised, we are ALL on that list!
Clearly, the people in view here are people who lived during the Tribulation. How they perform determines if they will see the millennium and if they will be able to enter the New Jerusalem. We recall the "better resurrection" of Hebrews 11. That is a different company of believers, but the idea of suffering is present. These not only had faith, they "were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection." We do not "obtain" the free gift, but we can "obtain" rewards, etc.
Obviously there is a chance that some might NOT obtain the better resurrection. In our dispensation, we are striving for the "out from among the rest of the dead
" resurrection of Philippians 3:11, a resurrection to which Paul said he had not yet "attained
." It is attained by service, faithfulness, and works.
The Latter Resurrection
Those not blessed of the first resurrection are destined to the latter of the two in view in this vision/book.
I can be inferred that these were guilty of the sins and failures to listen spoken in the indictments of five of the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3 of the Revelation. We looked at these warnings in our last study. The Lord chastises them (as does with hos sons/heirs), but if they fail to overcome, they will not get any reward. Part of that reward for faithful service is resurrection and rulership in the Millennial Kingdom.
Since these believers who failed in their service are not in the millennium, they are not numbered with those who rebel along with Satan at the end of the thousand years.
Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
We see the rebellion against the Lord. Remember, the Millennium will be a time better than other ages, but it will not be without evil. Many will only feign obedience. The Lord and his overcomers will rule an reign. Israel will have her promises. But many will hold hate in their hearts.
Man is inherently wicked. Even in light of perfect rule and the absence of Satan, some men will still prefer to live in the flesh.
During the millennium, the Lord will rule the nations with a rod of iron (Psalm 2:9; Rev 2:27; 12:5, 19:15). Men will "rage" against his rule. The overcomers will reign with him (as we have seen) as a reward.
Putting together our timeline:
The Tribulation Testing of Jewish Believers
The Return of the Lord to establish his kingdom
The overcomers rule and reign with Christ 1000 years (Satan bound)
Satan loosed, the wicked rebel and are vanquished
They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night [to the ages of the ages].
The armies destroyed. Satan cast into the Lake of Fire with the Beast and the False Prophet. This is where "the rest of the dead
" (those who did not overcome in the Tribulation) are raised.
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades [KJV: Hell] delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
This is the setting for the GREAT WHITE THRONE, the BOOK OF LIFE, the SECOND DEATH, and the LAKE OF FIRE. The context and subjects of this scene are believers who failed to overcome. These failed in faithfulness and service. The warnings to these believers, spoken to the seven churches, limited to that age, will now come to pass.
We will look at these and related issues next time.