(Read Part 14)
The failure of Christians to interpret Scripture literally often results in the unequivocal denial of the pretribulation rapture, the literal seven-year tribulation, the premillennial return of the Lord Jesus Christ to Earth, and His construction of the millennial temple and the establishment of His theocratic reign on Earth for 1,000 years. Yet these are all essential and distinctly dispensational Biblical, theological truths. In Part 14, we examined the second coming of Jesus Christ and the final battle at Armageddon, which occurs at the end of the third temple period.
Here we will examine another major event, “the first resurrection,” which takes place during the transition period between the tribulation temple and the construction of the Lord Jesus Christ’s millennial temple. The concept of the first resurrection can be confusing, as there were definitely resurrections that occurred prior to the first resurrection as recorded in Revelation 20.
And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. 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.
The Resurrections in the Old Testament
The Bible reveals three specific times when God allowed one of His prophets to resurrect a person from the dead. Elijah raised a widow of Zarephath’s son from the dead (1 Kings 17:17-24). Elisha, the successor to Elijah, was instrumental in the resurrection of two individuals. The first resurrection took place when Elisha resurrected a Shunammite woman’s son from the dead (2 Kings 4:20-37). The second resurrection occurred when a man fell on Elisha’s tomb, and the person immediately was resurrected from the dead (2 Kings 13:21).
The important fact regarding the three stated resurrections is that none of the three individuals was granted eternal life when God allowed them to be resurrected. The three individuals are not still living today. All three of the resurrected Old Testament individuals had to face death a second time. Therefore, their resurrection in no way contradicts the first resurrection in Revelation 20.
The Resurrections in the New Testament
The New Testament records six different instances where God allowed various individuals to be miraculously raised from the dead. Jesus Himself raised the widow of Nain’s son from the dead (Luke 7:11-16). Jesus also raised the 12-year-old daughter of Jairus, who was a ruler in a synagogue, from the dead (Mark 5:35-43). On a third occasion, Jesus Himself resurrected His friend Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44).
Scripture provides three more accounts of resurrections that took place apart from the actual resurrection of Jesus Christ. First, the Apostle Peter raised a young lady from the dead. Her name was Tabitha, also known as Dorcas (Acts 9:36-41). Second, God allowed the Apostle Paul to raise Eutychus from the dead. This is a delightful story—Paul was preaching a lengthy message and Eutychus, who was sitting on a window’s ledge, fell asleep and literally fell to his death. Can you imagine the heartache that Paul felt? God listened to the prayer of Paul and immediately raised Eutychus back to life (Acts 20:7-12). Third, and in the most unusual account, God made a visual statement to the people in Jerusalem on the day that Jesus Christ was crucified. Matthew records that at the moment Jesus died, multiple people were resurrected from the dead (Matt. 27:51-53).
There is a common denominator regarding all of the resurrections just cited, along with all the resurrections cited in the previous section. None of the people are alive today. Every single one of the stated people died a second time and they await the first resurrection.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ
The first Person God resurrected from the dead, never to face death again, was the Lord Jesus Christ. Though God allowed others to be raised from the dead before Christ, He was the first to rise from the grave with a body that was no longer subject to death.
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.
Jesus Himself stated of His resurrection:
I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death (Rev. 1:18).
Scripture is clear that the first resurrection in Revelation 20 could not occur without the preliminary event of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus was the firstfruits that leads to the first resurrection.
The Apostle Paul states that, based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the church age saints will receive their resurrection bodies at the rapture, which occurs prior to the start of the third temple period (cf. 1 Thess. 4:13-18).
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 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.
The death, burial and ultimate resurrection of Jesus Christ guarantees the future first resurrection of all of God’s people from before and after the church age, which will occur in the transitional time before the fourth temple period. We will further examine these distinctly dispensational truths in the next article.
Here we stand; we cannot, and must not, be moved from this distinctive dispensational doctrine.
(Read Part 16)
Dr. Richard Schmidt is the founder of Prophecy Focus Ministries, having previously served as a pastor and church planter. His love for the prophetic Scriptures resulted in writing a doctoral dissertation on a dispensational perspective on the mystery church age existing between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel. Dr. Schmidt offers seminars on a variety of prophetic topics to local churches and conferences. We are very excited to involve him as a contributing author to Dispensational Publishing House.
Copyright © 2016 by Dr. Richard Schmidt. Used by permission of the author.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®.
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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