Revelation 20:5

Saturday, 24 July 2021

But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Revelation 20:5

The previous verse referred to those who “lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years” because they were willing to die rather than take the mark or to worship the beast or his image. After having noted them, this verse now says, “But the rest of the dead.”

This is speaking of all who have died apart from Christ, including those who died during the tribulation period. There is a time when all humanity will be brought before God for judgment as is recorded in Revelation 20:11-15. But this will not be until after the millennium. As it says, they “did not live again until the thousand years were finished.”

This is now the fourth of six times, within just a few verses, that the “thousand years” is mentioned. By this time, even the dullest of scholars who deny a literal millennial reign should stop and say, “I think I should reevaluate my presuppositions.”

Those who were martyred during the tribulation, trusting in Christ for their salvation, will be raised and they will reign with Christ for a thousand years. The others will not be raised until the thousand-year period is over. It is almost inconceivable that anyone who claims he believes the Bible would deny a literal reading of what is being stated. As for those who are raised, John finishes the verse with, “This is the first resurrection.”

Like a literal millennium, scholars of the past (and even today) have gone out of their way to deny that this is a literal, bodily resurrection. However, other than Luke 2:34 that speaks of the “rising up” of many, the word translated as “resurrection” always means exactly that. Despite that, some say this “resurrection” is simply referring to the conversion of the Jews in the end times. But what would be the point of verse 4 and of verse 6, both of which are referring to issues that are specifically dealing with the dead being raised to life and physically reigning with Christ?

Rather, this is referring to exactly what is presented in the text, meaning a literal resurrection of the dead, and then their ruling with Christ for a thousand years. To say that this isn’t a literal resurrection then calls into question the resurrection of Christ, a subject Paul deals with in detail in 1 Corinthians 15.

As far as the words of this verse, the twentieth letter of the Hebrew aleph-bet corresponds to this twentieth chapter of Revelation. The twentieth letter is Resh, meaning “head,” “first,” “top,” or “beginning.” It is pictured by the head of a man. Here we see the “first” resurrection corresponding to Resh.

Life application: By the constant repetition of the words “thousand years,” God is ensuring that we understand this to be a literal period. And because of what occurred in verse 4, and then what is mentioned today, no other option is within the realm of reason.

In John 5, Jesus gave these words to us –

“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” John 5:28, 29

Jesus speaks of one resurrection here, but this in no way limits there being two resurrections. This is the same as the Old Testament prophets who openly spoke of the coming of the Messiah and yet there are two advents. What is concealed is later revealed at a time of God’s choosing. The rapture was concealed until Paul first spoke of it in 1 Corinthians 15. After that, it was mentioned again on several occasions. However, both the rapture and the two advents of the Messiah are both shadowed or prefigured in the Old Testament even if they weren’t explicitly stated.

These hints are given so that after they come about, it is realized that what was being noted wasn’t an aberration, but something God had already presented in veiled terms. In other words, when the shadows come to pass, we have no excuse for not realizing them. Paul explains this concept when speaking of the Old Testament feast days of Israel in Colossians 2:16, 17.

What is concealed in the Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament. But the same is also true within the New. There are hints of things said by Jesus and/or the apostles elsewhere which are clearly stated in Revelation. Such is the case with there being two resurrections. The first one was noted in the previous verse while this verse notes who will not be a part of it. It thus refers to anyone who had not received God’s forgiveness through Christ prior to the rapture, or anyone who had not been martyred for Christ during the tribulation.

That leaves two categories: 1) Those who survived the tribulation and will enter the millennial reign of Christ, either a believer or not and, 2) Anyone who died during the tribulation who had not received Christ. The former (assuming they did not take the mark of the beast) will, presumably, be given the opportunity to call on Christ during the millennium and the latter will be a part of the second resurrection. As we will see, the first resurrection is a resurrection of life; the second resurrection is a resurrection of judgment.

It is rather difficult to see how some scholars will purposely ignore what is explicit because it doesn’t fit their view of eschatology (last things). The Bible makes it clear that Israel was not replaced by the church and that dispensationalism is the correct view of how God is working in and through His creation for the redemption of man. Each step is revealing to us the wondrous workings of our Lord in redemptive history. Each step reveals JESUS.

Lord, I choose Jesus now! Amen.