The Rest of the Dead

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The Rest of the Dead

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The first step taken by a Bible detective is to read the context of the passage in question —in this case verse 5 of Revelation, chapter 20. This also provides key evidence:

“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. This is the first resurrection. 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” (Revelation 20:4-6 Revelation 20:4-6 4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to 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 on their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on 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.
American King James Version×
, emphasis added throughout).

As we can see, this is actually talking about two resurrections. One is explicitly called the first resurrection, where those deemed worthy will reign with Christ for a thousand years when He returns to establish His kingdom on the earth. A second resurrection is involved in the raising up of “the rest of the dead” and it goes on to say this second resurrection will not take place “until the thousand years were finished.”

Five points about the 2 nd resurrection

Notice that we find the “rest of the dead” further identified in Revelation, when the period of a thousand years is over. It says, “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…” (Revelation 20:11-12 Revelation 20:11-12 11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
American King James Version×
).

So what can we know so far about this second resurrection? There are several points that stand out.

1. Those “rest of the dead” are definitely not part of the first resurrection, since we read in Revelation 20:4 Revelation 20:4And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to 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 on their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
American King James Version×
that those in the first resurrection consist only of those who faithfully followed God’s way of life to the end.

2. This second resurrection is also distinguished from the first one as not being in the same category, since only those participating in the first resurrection are called “holy and blessed.”

3. We also find the “rest of the dead” are resurrected back to life in order to be judged by God. They had been dead, since they had ceased to exist as human beings, for the Bible clearly says they did not “live again until the thousand years were finished.” If they were alive in some other conscious state after death, as some claim about humans having an immortal soul, the scripture could not have said they will “live again” only from this moment on.

4. The resurrected dead are described as “small and great,” which in Scripture refers to a range of people from the most insignificant to the most lofty. We can see this same description of persons in Revelation 13:16 Revelation 13:16And he causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
American King James Version×
where it says, “He causes all, both small and great , rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads.”   

5. The Bible repeatedly identifies “God” who will judge mankind as Jesus Christ (John 5:22 John 5:22For the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment to the Son:
American King James Version×
, 27; Acts 17:31 Acts 17:31Because he has appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has ordained; whereof he has given assurance to all men, in that he has raised him from the dead.
American King James Version×
; 2 Corinthians 5:20 2 Corinthians 5:20Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be you reconciled to God.
American King James Version×
; 2 Timothy 4:1 2 Timothy 4:1I charge you therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
American King James Version×
).

What did Daniel say about the books?

The Bible goes on to say, “…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” (Revelation 20:12 Revelation 20:12And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
American King James Version×
).

There has been some controversy about what precisely are these “books” that were opened, since we are not given many details. The text only says these people were “judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books .”

Some believe that a person’s deeds are written in books up in heaven, but this is not based on the Bible itself. We have to look at God’s own Word to interpret scripture. What we do find is a similar account of this verse in Daniel, where it says, “A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.” So it is a time of judgment where “the books” were opened” (Daniel 7:9-10 Daniel 7:9-10 9 I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. 10 A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered to him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.
American King James Version×
).

Two chapters later, Daniel uses the same terms, “the books,” to refer to God’s Word. It says, “…in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem” (Daniel 9:2 Daniel 9:2In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.
American King James Version×
). One of those books he mentioned was the book of Jeremiah, where Daniel saw the number of days that Judah would go into captivity (the verses that say this are Jeremiah 25:11-12 Jeremiah 25:11-12 11 And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, said the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations.
American King James Version×
). 

So the only set of books known at that time that would judge mankind were the books of the Bible known to Daniel.

The Apostles add details about divine judgment

Scripture repeatedly tells us we are going to be judged by God’s Word. Notice some of these verses written by one of the apostles: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account ” (Hebrews 4:12-13 Hebrews 4:12-13 12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened to the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
American King James Version×
).

The apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20 Romans 3:20Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
American King James Version×
). We are going to be judged by God’s law and “sin is not imputed when there is no law” (Romans 5:13 Romans 5:13(For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
American King James Version×
).

The apostle James adds, “But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it , and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does…For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty ” (James 1:25 James 1:25But whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
American King James Version×
; James 2:11-12 James 2:11-12 11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if you commit no adultery, yet if you kill, you are become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak you, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
American King James Version×
).

The conclusion so far: we will all be judged according to our deeds taking into account how we conformed to God’s laws.

Key evidence: true, spiritual conversion = opportunity for salvation

Of course, these “dead who came to life” are not people who had God’s spirit in them and had faithfully persevered in life. If they had, they would have been included in the first resurrection. Notice what Paul said about faithful church members in his day who had God’s spirit, “And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life ” (Philippians 4:3 Philippians 4:3And I entreat you also, true yoke fellow, help those women which labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow laborers, whose names are in the book of life.
American King James Version×
).

So those of the second resurrection will have the book of Life opened before them. They were the “small and great” who were never converted and who died in this “present evil age” (Galatians 1:4 Galatians 1:4Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:
American King James Version×
). Remember, God is not a respecter of persons, so, once resurrected, they will come to the knowledge of the truth and have a chance to follow God’s ways, just as those called today have their opportunity for salvation (1 Peter 4:17 1 Peter 4:17For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
American King James Version×
). These resurrected multitudes will then learn that “sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4 1 John 3:4Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
American King James Version×
, KJV).

If they do obey God’s laws, that book of Life is open to them to have their names inscribed in it. They will then end up, not being lost and condemned forever, as so many think, but rather, they will have eternal life and inherit the kingdom of God. These would include the vast majority of our relatives and ancestors. They will then have avoided the second death, as Revelation goes on to explain, “This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14-15 Revelation 20:14-15 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
American King James Version×
).

Dry bones and witnesses from the past

In Ezekiel 37:12-14 Ezekiel 37:12-14 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them, Thus said the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, 14 And shall put my spirit in you, and you shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall you know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, said the LORD.
American King James Version×
, we see an example of such a group of people (ancient Israel in this case) resurrecting, clearly not in the first resurrection, but afterward, and receiving God’s spirit. It says, “Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then 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 it and performed it,’ says the Lord.”

Also Jesus Christ spoke of that time of judgment, when different generations will resurrect together. He said, “The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it , because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12:41-42 Matthew 12:41-42 41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. 42 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.
American King James Version×
).

The final conclusion

The “rest of the dead” are not people condemned forever because of their ignorance but rather they are the vast majority of mankind who will be given an opportunity to receive God’s calling, to repent and then to be part of God’s eternal kingdom. And that is the very best news we can hear! Mystery solved.

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