Sunday, 25 July 2021
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 20:6
The words now reveal the fifth of seven blessings promised in Revelation. So far, they have been –
“Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.” (Rev 1:3)
“Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,” says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.’” (Rev 14:13)
“Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.” (Rev 16:15)
“Then he said to me, ‘Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true sayings of God.’” (Rev 19:9)
“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.” (Rev 20:6)
With this in mind, John begins the verse with, “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection.” The idea of this blessed state is that of being enviable or fortunate because of receiving the provision of God. A benefit has been extended to the person and a state of true happiness is the result. Those who have received the first resurrection stand in this blessed state.
Being “holy” means being set apart. There is an intimate union that has been established between them and God. They are set apart to Him because their faith in Christ has set them apart. From there, John explains why this is with the words, “Over such the second death has no power.”
The “second death” was introduced into Scripture in Revelation 2:11 –
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”
It is now mentioned for the second time. It will be mentioned two more times before Revelation closes out –
“Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:14, 15
“And He said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. 7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. 8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.’” Revelation 21:6-8
The “second death” is the Lake of Fire. It is the final state for all humanity apart from God. Jesus is the only way to avoid this fate. To believe in Him is to overcome. To overcome means that they have been spared from this second death. They have moved from spiritual death to spiritual life. It is the reconnection to God that was lost at the very beginning when Adam sinned.
Through faith in Christ, one is born again. The reconnection is made, and its effects are eternal. As it says, of those who are raised in the first resurrection, the “second death has no power.” Their eternal state is secure in Christ. Of them, it next says, “but they shall be priests of God and of Christ.”
After being literally raised from the dead, they will serve at a literal, physical temple on earth. The temple will be in Jerusalem, and it is likely that it is what is described in the final chapters of Ezekiel. In this capacity, they will serve in a priestly capacity. Along with that, John next says, “and shall reign with Him a thousand years.”
This is now the fifth of six times (in just five verses) that the term “thousand years” is used. It is as if the Lord is trying to clue us into the fact that He really means “a thousand years” and that this isn’t just some symbolic timeframe that is being referred to.
Those who are raised in the first resurrection are literally raised. Those so raised will never be separated from God again. Those who are raised will serve God and His Christ at a literal temple in Jerusalem. Those who are raised will serve there for a thousand years. These points are to be taken literally. The Old Testament clearly indicates that these things will occur, and now the book of Revelation confirms that it is so.
As a point of theology, there is a debate concerning the temple sacrifices that are detailed in Ezekiel 45, 46. Are these actually effectual or not.
First, this makes the assumption that Ezekiel is referring to the millennial temple. This can be and is debated. It doesn’t affect one’s salvation to come down on either side of the debate, so there is no need to address that now. But assuming it describes the millennial temple. Why then would they have sacrifices if Christ is the end of the law, including the sacrifices of the law, which He is (Hebrews 7:18, 8:13, 10:9, etc.)?
The answer is that those sacrifices are not effectual, but commemorative. None of the Old Testament sacrifices under the Law of Moses were effectual? This is clearly stated in Hebrews 10:4. And so, what purpose did they serve under the Mosaic covenant? They were anticipatory of the coming Christ. To understand this, you can watch the Superior Word Leviticus sermons. In them, it is seen that every detail points to Christ.
As those sacrifices under the law were not effectual, then why would it be wrong to have them after the time of Christ even if they are still not effectual? Anticipatory and commemorative both accomplish the same thing – they point to Christ. There is no problem at all with there being a real temple (which points to Christ), a real sacrificial system (which points to Christ), and etc.
The only truly effectual sacrifice for sin is Jesus Christ. Looking forward in anticipation of Him, or receiving what He has done now, it is Christ Jesus who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No person will come to the Father apart from Him.
Life application: The term “blessed” is given as a complete contrast to what it would be like without the resurrection. We can find a hint of this in 1 Corinthians 15:18, 19 – “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul speaks about the uselessness of living as a Christian if Christ didn’t really rise. Here we are living lives as believers and striving for holiness in order to please God whom we believe has saved us and whom we also believe will grant us eternal life. But without Christ’s resurrection, this is nothing more than a pipe dream. It would also lead to a complete waste of life. Instead of being pious, nice, giving and forgiving, and honoring of God, it would be a lot more fun to live in passion, excess, and walking over others… if this is all there is, then what difference does it make?
But the fact is that Christ did come, Christ did die on the cross to pay our sin-debt, and Christ did rise again. Because of this, we have every hope that this life is not the true life, and this world is not our true home. Those who entered the tribulation period and came to realize this were then willing to give up this life in hopes of a better eternal state. Their perseverance, even to the point of death, is rewarded with the resurrection of the righteous that Jesus speaks about in Luke 14:14.
In addition to being “blessed” they are also noted as holy. They are sanctified, purified, and set apart to God for His glory – forever. Daniel speaks about the contrast between those who receive the resurrection of the righteous and those who will be resurrected to condemnation –
“At that time Michael shall stand up,
The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people;
And there shall be a time of trouble,
Such as never was since there was a nation,
Even to that time.
And at that time your people shall be delivered,
Every one who is found written in the book.
2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,
Some to everlasting life,
Some to shame and everlasting contempt.
3 Those who are wise shall shine
Like the brightness of the firmament,
And those who turn many to righteousness
Like the stars forever and ever.” Daniel 12:1-3
Daniel is not saying that these resurrections will occur at the same time, he is merely noting that they will both occur. God doesn’t reveal everything all at once, but He has slowly revealed His plan over many centuries, through many prophets, and in a progressive manner. The first resurrection is separate from the rapture and is also separate from another resurrection which will be noted later.
Those who participate in the first resurrection receive a wonderful promise and a great reward. As the second death is the Lake of Fire, and because it is eternal in nature, then if the second death has no power over them, this must be a resurrection to eternal life. Those so raised can never die again.
Concerning the literal nature of the events as noted above, don’t be a doubter. Rather, stand firm on what God is telling us. All of the promises of the Old Testament that God made to His people Israel will be fulfilled, literally, completely, and faithfully. God is ever faithful to keep His promises, even to His rebellious people. The refining fire of the tribulation will bring them back to their senses and God will be pleased to dwell among them again. The word is sure and reliable. It is the word of God in Christ, our Lord JESUS!
Lord God, it is simply wonderful to know that You are ever faithful. Your faithfulness doesn’t depend on our faithfulness at all. And thank goodness for that. If it did, we would all perish. But You are longsuffering and full of mercy, and You will never fail to keep every promise. What a glorious and perfect God You are! Amen.