Prophetic Personages and Events

The Bible Monthly vol 1



"The dead in Christ shall. rise first" (I Thess. iv. 16).

"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. Blessed and holy is he that hath Part in the first resurrection: on such the second death lath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years" (Rev. xx. 4-6).

From the above are quotation out of the Apocalypse, it is clear that the first and second (or last) resurrections are separated by at least the thousand years during which Christ will reign. The first resurrection will thus form a prelude to the great millennial kingdom of glory. In itself it constitutes a magnificent display of the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ over death, the wages of sin. The grave will then be despoiled of its prisoners, not indeed of all, but of those entitled by grace to share in the benefits of the first resurrection.

The Old Testament is not altogether silent concerning this' preparatory measure which Christ will take to assemble those who are destined to share the glories of His heavenly kingdom. For instance, Isaiah associates this triumphal event with the introduction of millennial glory for Israel and the nations. When, says he, Jehovah of hosts shall make a feast of fat things in Mount Zion for all peoples, then " He will swallow up death in victory " (Isa. xxv. 6-8). This prediction no doubt refers to the immunity from death which will be enjoyed by those who are alive on the earth during Messiah's rule, but it is also applicable in its bearing to the first resurrection itself, as the quotation of this prophecy by the apostle Paul (1 Cor. xv. 54) proves beyond all question.

Another prophecy also foretells this exercise of restorative power from the grave. Hosea delivered the following word from Jehovah, anticipating the national blessing of Israel : "I will ransom them from the power of the grave : I will redeem them from death : 0 death, I will be thy plagues 0 grave, I will be thy destruction " (Hosea xiii. 14). While the terms of this prophecy, considered figuratively, may have reference to the repatriation of the scattered outcasts of Israel, sleeping hidden in the dust of other nations (cp. Dan. xii. 2, Rom. xi. 15, also Ezek. xxxvii.), Paul the apostle appears to make direct allusion to this passage when expounding the subject of resurrection. Speaking of the raising of the dead and the transformation of the living, he exclaims exultingly, in terms analogous to Hosea's prophecy, "0 death, where is thy victory? 0 death, where is thy sting? " (1 Cor. xv. 55, R.V.).


The happy participants in the first resurrection will be those that belong to Christ. As the apostle wrote, "Every man in his own order : Christ the first-fruits : afterward they that are Christ's at His coming [presence] " 1 Cor. xv. 23). Christ is the Great Pioneer in this emergence from the tomb. Speaking of the temple of His body, the Lord said to the Jews, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up " (John ii. 19). This the Lord did, as the disciples remembered when He was risen from the dead. By His resurrection, He became the First-begotten, the Firstborn from the dead (Col. i. 18; Rev. i. 5). As He had power to lay down His life, so He had power to take it again (John x. 18). Through death, to which He was pleased to become obedient, He destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil (Heb. ii. 14), and has become the Deliverer of these who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

As the Living Christ who is risen from the dead He possesses the keys of death. Our knowledge of this qualification is based upon His own word : "I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell [hades] and of death " (Rev. i. 18). This authority He will exercise by raising from among the dead those who are His. " As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive " (1 Cor. xv. 22). Christ has by His own resurrection become the first-fruits of them that sleep. As the Lord said to His disciples, " Because I live, ye shall live also " (John xiv. 19).

The fact and character of the first resurrection will present no difficulty to us, in so far as they are consi3ered in connection with Christ's. His resurrection is both the pattern and the pledge of the resurrection of His own. He was raised out from the domain of death by the glory of the Father, leaving myriads of dead ones in their graves. The blessed who are raised up by the Lord Jesus will also leave behind all those who having died in their sins can have part in the second resurrection only, which will be for judgment. As Christ has ascended on high, and entered into that glory which is heavenly, so also those that are His will share that pathway of life. Paul's aspirations were that by some means he might attain unto the first resurrection (the exanastasis), which is a rising from among the dead ( Phil. iii. 11), and that thus he might conform to the manner of Christ's own entry into the glory above.

The first resurrection as the occasion for the exercise of His power upon certain dead and living ones is also implied in our Lord's own utterance concerning Himself. He said to Martha, "I am the Resurrection and the Life : he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live : and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die " (John xi. 25, 26). In the sequel of those words at Bethany, Lazarus was brought forth from the dead as a type of those who will share the blessings of the resurrection of the just.

When the Lord said that the believer in Him, Who is the Resurrection, shall though dead, yet live, Tae promised something more than a part in the general resurrection when the dead, small and great, shall stand before God. This will be true of the wicked and unbelieving (Rev. xx. 12-15). But the Lord promised what was special to the one believing in Him, and this promise was the gift of resurrection life to them while others still remained in the darkness of the grave.

The Lord went on in His saying to Martha to shew that the living should have their peculiar blessing too; for the living believer should not die, but should be transformed by the power of Him who is the Life, and who as the Life is the Way also to the Father's house on high.

And it is well to note that the order of events indicated by our Lord to the mourners in Bethany corresponds with that indicated by the Holy Spirit through Paul to the mourners in Thessalonica. The Lord spoke of Himself as the Resurrection and the Life, and not as the Life and the Resurrection. Paul spoke of the dead in Christ rising first, and then the rapture of those who are alive and remain. He is emphatic that those who "are alive and remain " shall not take precedence of those who are asleep (1 Thess. iv. 15-17).


Those who partake in the first resurrection will be those who belong to Christ in virtue of the eternal redemption He obtained by His own blood. But on consulting the scriptures referring to this subject, it is found that several features are enumerated which characterise those who will be raised and consequently distinguish them from those who will remain in their graves. These features are as follows, and they are collected here for the further consideration of our readers, in conjunction with the scriptural references quoted.

(1) They will include believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. See John xi. 25 : "he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live."

(2) They will include those "in Christ." "The dead in Christ shall rise first " (1 Thess. iv. 16). "In Christ shall all be made alive " (1 Cor. xv. 22).

(3) They will include those that are "Christ's." "They that are Christ's at His coming " (1 Cor. xv. 23).

(4) They will include the just or righteous. "Thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just " (Luke xiv. 14). See also John v. 29: "they that have done good."

(5) They will include believers of Old Testament days. " That they [the saints of old] might obtain a better resurrection " (Heb. xi. 36).

(6) They will include those who are blessed and holy. " Blessed and holy is he that bath part in the first resurrection " (Rev. xx. 6). See also Luke xx. 35, 36.

(7) They will include those who are immune from the second death. "On such the second death hath no power " (Rev. xx. 6; ii. 11).

We find from these passages that this great company of raised persons, brought forth their graves in a moment, will consist of men of faith who are blessed and holy and righteous, while every one of them will be Christ's, and not one of those "in Christ " will be missing.


The apostle John frequently introduces his record of the separate parts of the various visions afforded him by the words, " And I saw." The three words form a useful guide in the study of the book. Such a section occurs, relating to those who will have part in the first resurrection.

The prophet writes as follows : " 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 worshipped 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 (Rev. xx. 4).

John saw in two divisions those who will live and reign with Christ; and he first saw some already seated on thrones to whom it was given to exercise rule and judgment. He saw secondly the souls of the martyred witnesses for Christ who were at that time made to live and reign with Christ, being added thus to their predecessors in resurrection glory.

The fact that the first division is referred to by the pronoun, "they," and without further definition suggests that it consists of persons who have figured in previous visions and received previous mention. They are seen sitting upon thrones; they are not a class to be judged, but to exercise judgment upon others. These can be no other than the armies who came out of heaven with the Warrior-King for the subjugation of the nations and for the destruction of the beast and the false prophet (Rev. xix. 11-21). As John had just described them as companions of Him who is called the King of kings and Lord of lords when He first appears to the world, it is easy to understand that it is to these same persons he refers when he says " they " sat upon thrones.

Who are these that follow the King out of heaven? Are they not those whom the apostle said God would bring with Jesus at His coming. "If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him " (1 Mess iv. 14). The grief of the bereaved saints in Thessalonica was accentuated because they thought the departed would be debarred from the joys of Christ's kingdom into which the living would obtain an entrance. The apostle by a special revelation given to him declared for their comfort and enlightenment that the Lord Jesus at His public appearing would be accompanied by those who had died as well as those that were alive at the time of the rapture. The dead in Christ would be raised, and the living would be caught up both to be for ever with the Lord. Whether therefore the Lord is in the Father's house, or whether He comes out to judge the habitable earth in righteousness on the appointed day (Acts xvii. 31}, those caught up will be with Hint Those who companied with the Lord in His tribulation will also company with Him in glory. Those who suffer with Him shall also reign with 1-lirn. For this purpose they are with the Lord when He comes with ten thousands of His saints to execute judgment upon all (Jude 15). This prophecy quoted by Jude is one of the earliest, being delivered b e y Enoch the befor judgment of the flood.

The first division therefore comprises those who are Christ's, and who are claimed by Him at His secret coming, when by the power of His glory whereby He is able to subdue all things to Himself He will gather both sleeping and waking ones to Himself. These heavenly saints have been seen in their risen and glorified state in successive Apocalyptic visions as the twenty-four elders, as the bride and guests at the marriage supper of the Lamb, as the armies out of heaven, and as the enthroned rulers of this world in righteousness.

The second division is an additional company, and consists of :—

(1) those beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the word of God; and

(2) those who had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, nor in their hands.

This is the company of the valiant in faith who have been faithful unto death during the time of unparalleled tribulation. Satan, expelled from the heavenlies, comes to the earth in great fury knowing his time is short, and makes war against those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (Rev. xii. 17; xiv. 12). But there are those who though looking for the earthly kingdom love not their lives unto death. Satan appears to triumph in their martyrdom, but a voice from heaven declares, " Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord " (Rev. xiv. 13). If the martyrs lost by their death a share of earthly blessedness, they were destined to come forth from their graves in the first resurrection to share a better reward--the heavenly blessedness.

No less a reward would those have who refused to be coerced into the worship of the beast or his image, or into bearing the mark of the beast, and were killed in consequence (Rev. xiii. 15-18). These also are raised to life that they may reign with Christ. To secure them this favour they are made to share the favour of the first resurrection, and are thereby added to the ranks of those already raised.

It will be observed that the prophet saw "the souls " of these persons, that is, he saw them in their disembodied or disparate state, at first, and then they were raised to live and reign. The first class of these "souls" John had previously seen under the altar at the opening of the fifth seal (Rev. vi. 9-11). They are there described as those who "were slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held." They, in unison with their righteous blood, like that of Abel's, cried aloud to God for vengeance. But it was said to them that "they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled."

That period of waiting was now fulfilled, and the whole company of those who were faithful unto death in the time of the great tribulation are given the crown of life in the first resurrection. It is specially named that these martyrs were beheaded for their testimony, and in this respect their fate was analogous to that of John the Baptist, the friend of the Bridegroom, and the greatest prophet born of women, who was beheaded by Herod Antipas.


From the above observations it will be seen that all those who partake of the first resurrection will not be raised at the same moment. The church and the Old Testament saints will be raised at the Lord's second coming, and the martyred remnant later at His public appearing when Babylon the beast and the false prophet will have received their doom, Satan also being bound. It is the just not the unjust who will inherit the kingdom (I Cor. vi. 9), and the first resurrection embraces these and these only, though not at the same moment of time. The unjust are reserved unto the day of judgment to be punished (2 Pet. ii. 9). How could these have part in what is known in scripture as the " resurrection of the just " (Luke xiv. 11)?

The first resurrection is a day rather than a moment. It is the "last day " in which the Lord will raise up His own (John vi. 39, 44). It is the day of the redemption of His purchased possession (Eph. i. 14; iv. 30).

No Christian should undervalue the doctrine of the first resurrection. It links our hopes with Christ. As Jews, the disciples of the Lord believed in the resurrection, but they were astonished when the Lord spoke to them of a resurrection from among the dead (Mark ix. 10). This was exemplified when the Lord Jesus rose again. It will again be exemplified at the first resurrection, when all who are Christ's will come forth from among the dead by the power of Him who will preserve the spirit and soul and body of each until that day (1 Thess. v. 23).