The Mystery of the Resurrections Mentioned in the Bible

Does the resurrection from the dead seem like a mystery to you?

The Mystery of the Resurrections Mentioned in the Bible

Paul brings clarity to this often-overlooked biblical truth while acknowledging human mortality: "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order. Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming" (1 Corinthians:15:22-23).

Paul describes an order of resurrections commencing with "those who are Christ's at His coming," which Revelation:20:5 refers to as "the first resurrection." An order of resurrections commencing with one called "the first" means there are subsequent and sequential resurrections—and indeed these are described more fully elsewhere in the Bible.

A first resurrection for those who are Christ's

Paul describes the first resurrection, of those who have been Christ's faithful servants at His coming, this way: "Behold, I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (1 Corinthians:15:51-53).

Those raised and changed to immortality at Christ's return will live and reign with him for 1,000 years: "And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them . . . And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished" (Revelation:20:4-5).

The glory of those who have "put on" immortality puts them permanently beyond the grasp of death: "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power" (verse 6). These will be endowed with life eternal in the likeness of Christ (1 John:3:2), attaining the destiny of those who remain faithful—to "bear the image of the heavenly man" (1 Corinthians:15:45). This first resurrection, with those in it learning God's way and being made immortal before the rest of the world, is called a "better resurrection" (Hebrews:11:35).

A second resurrection for those who never knew God or Christ

What about those described in the book of Revelation as "the rest of the dead" who "did not live again until the thousand years were finished" (Revelation:20:5). Who are they? And what will become of them?

First, "the rest of the dead" constitute all those who were not "Christ's at His coming" and fall into two broad categories—those who died never truly knowing Christ, and those who have already willfully rejected Him as their personal Savior. These are two very different categories of people, facing two very different destinies.

The first group, who died without ever having known Christ, is described standing before the throne of God in a second resurrection: "And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened" (Revelation:20:12).

The prophet Ezekiel was given a vision by God in which he saw vast numbers of long-dead Israelites come back to life as flesh-and-blood human beings. In this vision, "breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army" (Ezekiel:37:1-10).

"Then," God tells them, "you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and performed it" (verses 13-14).

A merciful God, not willing that any should perish, reaches out to all those to whom the "books" of the Bible had never been open (in terms of understanding) and brings them back to life to offer them an intimate relationship with Him by putting His Spirit in them—a powerful demonstration of a merciful God so unwilling that any should perish that He reaches into the grave to offer life to the unsaved masses.

A final resurrection for those who ultimately reject God

But a merciful God, to be perfect, must also be just. Those who have knowingly and willfully defied the mercies and commandments of God in their lifetime even after coming to know God and His truth face a very different destiny in a final resurrection—that of the second death: "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" (Revelation:20:14).

The unrepentant incorrigibly wicked of past ages meet their Maker in a resurrection to receive justice through a second death in the lake of fire, from which there will be no resurrection.

The biblical teaching on the resurrections provides hope, destiny and justice for all. There will be three resurrections for three distinct groups of people—each in their own order, each in their own time through the power of a perfectly merciful and perfectly just God not willing that any should perish. To learn more about these resurrections, with far more complete biblical explanations, download or request our free booklet What Happens After Death?

richard nellis

richard nellis's picture

There can not be any conflict in the word of God. The truth can not disagree with the truth. Where there is an apparent conflict, there must be a misunderstanding or mistranslation in one or both verses.

Jesus said in John 14:2,3: “2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” There are two things to note in these verses: first He is preparing a place in His Father's house; second He is going to return to receive us so that we can be where He is. His father's house is in the New Jerusalem (Rev 3:12), which is not yet on the earth. Those in the New Jerusalem “shall go no more out”(Rev 3:12) but shall be in the New Jerusalem for 1,000 years or more. This is the time of the first resurrection (Rev 20:1-5) At the same time Satan will be bound for 1,000 years. Those in this resurrection will be priest of God and Christ and reign with Him for 1,000 years. (Rev 20:6) At the end of 1,000 years the new Jerusalem will descend to the earth (Rev 21:2). This is the same time as the second resurrection (Rev 20:5) when Satan will be freed. Entrance into the city shall be restricted. Rev 21:27 “27 And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defiles, neither [whatsoever] works abomination, or [makes] a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

Those who are in the second resurrection and are found in the 'Book of Life' shall be like the wedding guest of Matthew 22. They went home after the wedding was over, only the Bride went with the Bridegroom. This is hinted at in Mark12:20-24, where the woman had 7 brothers as husbands. But Jesus said: when they rise from the dead they neither marry or are given in marriage. But in Isiah 11:6-9 there are children after the resurrection. This shows two groups. One inside New Jerusalem and outside. Those outside are going to the New Jerusalem to learn the law of God. (Isaiah 2:3, Mic 4:2) The second resurrection is also the time when the two sticks of Ezekiel 37 will be joined together.


ericj58's picture

Very insightful comment. God is not only a jealous God (Exodus 20:5, 34:14, Joshua 24:19), which can also answer a lot of questions about God's character but He is also a `fair` God (Romans 2:11, Ephesians 6:9, & Deuteronomy 25:15). This along with the article makes sense and gives me hope when I see my daughter in the second resurrection who died at 5 months old. I can't wait 'til His Kingdom comes!...

Sabrina Peabody

Sabrina Peabody's picture

I have some comments on Mr. Nellis’ post:

I also love that about the Bible, because unlike any other book, it cannot conflict with itself and what is says is true.

In John 14:2-3, I think “Father’s house” can refer to the entire universe since that is all God’s. It says the meek shall inherit the earth, in Matthew 5:5, implying that is what we are striving for – to inherit the earth, however, God may very well have many more mansions for us throughout the universe. Based on how it appears in Revelation, it seems to me that the New Jerusalem descends after the final judgment not before (Revelation 21:2). I definitely think there will be elements of the New Jerusalem on earth in the Millennium such as the tree whose leaves provides medicine and the healing water that flows from Jerusalem (Ezekiel 47:7-12, Revelation 22:1-2).

In Revelation 5:10 it says God has made us kings and priests and we shall reign <i>on earth</i>. Revelation 20:6 goes on, “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” By putting these two scriptures together, we see those in the first resurrection shall reign with Christ on the earth and shall reign with Him for a thousand years. This is the most convincing to me.

In Revelation 3:12, those in the New Jerusalem “shall go out no more” means that they are pillars, uphold Godly beliefs and are spirit beings. This is a specific reward to the Philadelphian church as another example of a reward was to the church in Thyatira, “To him I will give power over the nations…” – the earthly nations during the Millennium.

Isaiah 11:6-9 refers to children during the peaceful Millennium on earth, when the earth will be “be full of the knowledge of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea.” I don’t think the Bible supports the belief that there will be children born after the three resurrections as that would imply there would again be death. Revelation 21:4 says, “there will be no more death.” Children who are born need time to develop godly character and choose God’s way. If they do not, and there is no more death, it would result in another Satan character.

The Millennium is not in heaven. The Bible teaches there are three main sources of pressure and temptation in the present age: the world(1 John 2:15-16), the flesh(Galatians 5:16-17), and the devil. What kind of pressure will each of these bring on humans during the Millennium? The world will be different because Christ is ruling (Revelation 19:15; 20:4-6) because unrighteousness will be punished (Zechariah 14:16-19, no rain on nations who do not keep the Feast of Tabernacles) and the knowledge of God’s way will be taught throughout the earth. The pull of the flesh will be the same; people will still have to fight human nature since they will still be in their human bodies, and not all people during the Millennium will put their faith in God. The devil will be locked up during this 1,000 years (Revelation 20:1-3) therefore not exerting pressure and temptation on those in the Millennium. Therefore people will still have to overcome the flesh and if they do so, they will become part of the God Family. There is a purpose and reason God plans for the Millennium to be on earth and not in heaven, to give more people the opportunity to become a part of His family.

UCG is post-tribulation premillenialist, meaning they hold the belief that after the Tribulation is the second coming of Christ, followed by the Millennium, then the second resurrection and final judgment.

richard nellis

richard nellis's picture

For Sabrina Clore

You seem to have missed a point or two. Remember there can be no disagreement in the word of God.

First: In John 14:2,3 Jesus is preparing a place for US to be with Him in the New Jerusalem. In Re 21:2 the New Jerusalem will come down out of Heaven to the earth after a new earth is formed in Re 21:1 THEN the tabernacle of God will be with men in Re 21:3. If we are to be with God in the New Jerusalem and it is not on the earth until the end of the 1,000 year millennium, how can we rule on the earth until after the millennium? And, how can the New Jerusalem be on the earth during the millennium?

Second: If Satan is going to be in a bottomless pit during the millennium, what does it look look like, or is it symbolic of something else? A pit is a hole in the ground? Any hole in the ground must have a bottom, unless it goes through the center of the earth, then it is a tunnel and then the center of the earth becomes the bottom, because that is where gravity brings everything to a stop. Is it possible that the Bottomless Pit is a symbol for an empty earth, where Satan has no one to deceive? As I said in my first comment on the White Throne Judgment, at the time of the coming of the Messiah, the remnant of mankind will be killed by the word of God Mt 13:30, Mal 4:1-3, Rev 14:13-15.

Third: Satan is in isolation during the millennium and can not bring pressure on humans during the millennium, whether it is a pit or on an empty earth.

Forth: God will establish His kingdom on earth after the millennium is over and His priest and kings have received the training they need to rule on the earth over those that are raised during the second resurrection and are not judged as worthy of the lake of fire. Zec 14:4 And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which [is] before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, [and there shall be] a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. Zec 14:5 And ye shall flee [to] the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, [and] all the saints with thee. When Jesus returns to the earth after the millennium, He shall bring His saints with Him to establish His kingdom and fight against those that Satan has gathered against Him.

Malachi 3_16-18

Malachi 3_16-18's picture

Hi Richard,

I recommend re-reading the above article carefully & prayerfully.

Q.1. The New Jerusalem won’t be on earth until after the millennium. It is to this earth, specifically the Mt. of Olives, that Jesus Christ returns at His 2nd. coming (Acts:1:10-12; Zech:14:4-9; Mt 25:31). But the New Jerusalem will come down from heaven from God the Father after the Millennium,& after the final judgment (Rev:21:1-4; 1 Cor:15:23-24).

Q's.2 & 3. God is able to create a “bottomless pit” if He so chooses. We look at things from the human perspective. What matters is that He calls it a bottomless pit (or at least, that's the best way John could describe it), & it’s going to be a place of restraint, so as you said, he won’t be able to get to humans during this time.

Q.4. God’s firstfruits will begin reigning on earth at the start of the Millennium (Zech:14:4-9; Rev:5:10; Dan:7:27; Mt 5:5). Perhaps God will give them additional instruction at that time, but the startling reality is, NOW is the judgment period of those whom God calls in this age (1 Cor:15:23-24; 1 Pet:4:17).

You may find UCG's additional reading helpful: "What Is Your Destiny?" & "The Road to Eternal Life."

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