The First Resurrection

  Jamma Mokhriby


We received this question regarding the first resurrection and its relationship to the Rapture prophesied of in I Thess. 4:16, “…I would like to know your explanation of Revelation 20:4-5.

Those verses plainly teach that the FIRST resurrection (as in “dead in Christ rising” I Thess. 4:16) takes place AFTER the tribulation saints have resisted the mark of the Beast. How do you think you will be raptured before the Mark of the Beast, when the Bible plainly says that the first resurrection is AFTER the mark”

The following is our answer as based on the Scriptures: At first glance this passage of Scripture would appear to support that the Rapture/Resurrection must take place after the tribulation.

We first need to realize that a more thorough examination of the Scriptures soundly disproves this impression.

Before Jesus Christ rose from the grave there are numerous biblical accounts of persons being restored to life, such as the widow’s son in I Kings 17:17-22 and Lazarus in John 11:14-45. Those who had been brought back to life before Jesus’ death and resurrection went on to live out the rest of their lives as mortals and eventually died.

The Scriptures reveal that it is only by Christ’s resurrection that the dead can receive immortal bodies (I Cor. 15:46-49). After Jesus rose from the grave the provision for permanently overcoming death had been obtained by the Lord (I Cor. 15:17-18).

According to Matt. 27:52-53, the first saints to be resurrected in Christ, arose from the dead shortly after Jesus came forth from His tomb. We quote, “and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” It should be noted that according to the flow of this passage of Scripture, the soldiers guarding Jesus’ tomb witnessed these saints coming forth from their graves. Verse 54 states, “Now when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!” Who wouldn’t be filled with great fear after witnessing the resurrection? We can assume by their confession they also became believers.

Who these esteemed resurrected saints were and why they were raised earlier than other saints we are not told, but the fact remains that their sins had been paid for and they were no longer under the penalty of death.

So here we have the first resurrection, after Jesus Christ’s, clearly recorded in God’s Holy Word. There is no record to be found in the Book of Acts or in any of the Epistles of the Apostles that these resurrected saints remained on the earth after Christ’s ascension. If they had remained on the earth we would expect such a noteworthy circumstance would have been expounded upon in the Scriptures and utilized for furthering the Gospel.

The determinative point that must be understood then is that the term “first resurrection” used in Rev. 20:5-6, is not addressing the timing of this wondrous phenomenon, but is instead a declaration of the culmination of this cumulative event that began with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

First Cor. 15:20 sheds more light on this truth when we are told that, “Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Here the Apostle Paul reveals that Christ Himself is counted among those of the first resurrection.

The Scriptures give further confirmation that the “first resurrection” is an ongoing event, which concludes in Rev. 20:46 after the return of Jesus Christ.

Opening a Bible to Rev. 11 will bring one to a time in the not too distant future. There we are shown events that will transpire during the horrible final 7 years before Jesus Christ returns to the earth. This time is known as the Tribulation.

In this Chapter we read of two mighty prophets of the Lord who will stand against the evil world leader commonly referred to as the Beast or Anti-Christ. For 3 ½ years these two men of God will be divinely protected, but then according to Rev. 11:7, they will be murdered by the Anti-Christ.

We now come to the passage of Scripture that is relevant and conclusive to our study of God’s Word concerning the “first resurrection.”

Quoting portions of Rev. 11:8 & 11-12 we read, “And their bodies will lie in the street of the great city…after the three and a half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet…And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud.”

These two prophets are unquestionably part of the first resurrection’s company of believers. The assembly which makes up the firstfruits harvest contains at least two other groups of believers. It is often overlooked that Rev. 20:4-5 speaks of these two distinct groups.

The one group seen seated upon thrones had already been resurrected sometime earlier, while the second group, comprised of waiting souls, are to be the last of the firstfruits. These will complete the harvest of the “first resurrection.”

Prophesying about the first group Rev. 20:4 reads, “And I saw thrones and they sat on them, and judgement was committed to them.”

It should be noted that angels are never shown in Scripture as occupying thrones nor holding positions of judges; only the Church is promised these positions as rewards (see Lk. 22:30, Rev. 3:21 & I Cor. 6:2-3).

The saints shown sitting on the thrones in Rev. 20:4 could not possibly have received this reward unless Jesus Christ had personally came and resurrected them before this time.

This is confirmed by Matt. 16:27 and Jesus’ words found in Rev. 22:12 where He declares, “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to His work.”

Rev. 4:4 and 5:8-10 reveal that the Church will have received their reward of crowns before Jesus Christ initiates the Tribulation Period with the breaking of the first seal in Rev. 6:1.

First Peter 5:4 reveals that these crowns could not have been issued to believers unless Jesus Christ had already been seen by them at the Resurrection/Rapture “…when the Chief Shepherd appears.”

Returning to Rev. 20:4 we will now look at the last company of believers who will complete the harvest of the first resurrection.

According to this passage, those who have been killed for their faith during the Tribulation Period will take part in this final ingathering. By our understanding they will be resurrected along with Old Testament believers as was promised to Daniel the prophet in Dan. 12:13.

Believers who survive the Tribulation Period go on to inhabit the earth in their mortal bodies where they will await the last resurrection after their deaths. This dovetails perfectly with the composite revelation of the Scriptures.

Passages such as Matt. 13:49-50 disclose that all the living who have rejected the forgiveness of Jesus Christ will be destroyed during His second coming to the earth.

Scriptures such as those found in Isa. 65:20-23 reveals that children will be born upon the earth after the return of Jesus Christ.

Since there will be no wicked to repopulate the earth after Christ returns, that only leaves mortal believers who survived the Tribulation to do so.

If the immortal glorification of all believers were to take place at the second coming of Jesus Christ after the Tribulation, as was proposed by the composer of the opening question to this message, then according to the revelation of Jesus Christ about the glorified saints in Matt. 22:30*, there would be no one left to repopulate the earth! *”For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.”

There is no Rapture to Heaven of living believers when Jesus Christ returns at the close of the Tribulation Period. The wicked are destroyed, mortal believers inherit the earth and Jesus sets up residency in Israel for a thousand years at that time.

He is not coming at the close of the Tribulation to make a U-turn with believers back to His Father’s house in Heaven as some would like to believe. He promised believers in John 14:1-3 that He would come for them while He is still dwelling in Heaven so that they can join Him in His Father’s house.

As can be seen in Ch. 5 & 6 of the Book of Revelation, just as promised, the Church will be in Heaven with Jesus before He opens the first seal of the Tribulation.

What is essential to notice is that in all five of the firstfruits resurrections we cited, it is the Lord who directly raises the individuals up when He comes for them.

This is in contrast to others who were temporarily brought back to life during New Testament times by the prayers of an intercessor such as Peter’s prayers for Tabitha in Acts. 9:36-41. This important fact is harmonious with I Cor. 15:22-23 which reads, “...even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order. Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ” at His coming.”

The only person more foolish than the one who rejected the notion of preparing for life after death is the one who decided they would make their preparation tomorrow. Today is the day to make thorough preparations for the Rapture (or for life after death) by putting your faith in the Risen Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.

(For further information concerning the resurrection please see RW Message 173, “Life by the Book”).

Jesus shed His blood on the cross so that all who believe in Him are promised eternal life.