And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and scrolls were opened, and another scroll was opened, which is that of the life, and the dead were judged out of the things written in the scrolls - according to their works. Revelation 20:12-YLT
Wonder not at this, because there doth come an hour in which all those in the tombs shall hear his voice, and they shall come forth; those who did the good things to a rising again of life, and those who practiced the evil things to a rising again of judgment. John 5:28 & 29-YLT
These passages seem to indicate that there are two ( different and separate ) resurrections, what Scripture calls 'the first resurrection', and what others have termed the second, or more popularly, the general resurrection. The 'first resurrection', one would think, would be what Jesus told the Pharisees ( Jews ), 'the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.' ( John 5:25 ). The second, or so-called 'general' resurrection, then, would be that to which Jesus referred above, in John 5:28 & 29, quoting Daniel 12:2. Daniel's prophecy ( actually, Gabriel's ), though, gives no hint of a separate, and later, resurrection; so, why not?
The resurrection that Jesus spoke of in John 5:25, as happening at the present time of His speaking, I think most will agree, was primarily a spiritual resurrection, the resurrection that Ezekiel witnessed in his vision, recorded in Ezekiel 37. Remembering that Jesus had told His disciples that, 'in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel' ( Matthew 19:28 ); would it not be safe to assume that this is the 'first resurrection' of which John wrote? Now, some might object here, and for two seemingly very good reasons; first, Jesus used a different word in Matthew's Gospel, than what He most definitely terms a 'resurrection' in John's Revelation, and two, those who 'sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel', or, as was revealed to John, 'they did live and reign with Christ the thousand years', were, according to the latter, 'the souls of those who have been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus', or those who had suffered martyrdom for Jesus' sake. Interestingly enough, though; Luke does not record in his account that Jesus mentioned this 'regeneration', or restoration ( rebirth ), as being the occasion of His disciples sitting 'on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel', but rather, He told them, this would occur in the Kingdom that 'I bestow upon you' ( Luke 22:29 & 30 ). Without going into a lengthy exegesis, or explanation of the particular context of Jesus' words here ( different in Matthew's account ), suffice it to say that it is those who who were counted worthy to enter the Kingdom that would 'live and reign' with Christ!
Yes, I know; I haven't answered either objection......or have I?
Jesus assured His disciples that 'there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom' ( Matthew 16:28 ); He obviously knew that, although some of them would not end in a martyr's death, at least not till the Kingdom was fully present, some, or most of them, would die before this came to pass. Much of the problem, I believe, in understanding the resurrection is the idea of individual, biological bodies being raised ( anastasis ) from the dead ( grave ). The corporate body of Israel, as we saw in Ezekiel 37 is what the whole Scriptural concept of the raising of the dead referred to, and what the several examples that we have noted before in both the Hebrew and Greek scriptures pointed to and signified. As we have noted before too; inasmuch as the corporate was, and is, made up of individuals, individuals do take part in the resurrection. Primarily, though, the resurrection that Scripture signified was never about individual bodies being raised, although this took place, but about a corporate body, as 'in Adam all die', and, 'in Christ all shall be made alive'; it was under the federal headship of Adam that covenant man lost communion with God, and it was through, or in Christ, that he regained Paradise!
The question of why John saw the martyred saints raised to reign with the Christ for the thousand years ( a highly typological and significant figure, as we have seen ), although maybe a difficult one on the surface, really loses it's difficulty when viewed from a covenantal aspect. It was the corporate body of saints, both biological living and dead, who would reign with Christ. Whether they were physically alive or dead had no bearing on whether they were alive to God. Paul wrote, in his first letter to the Church at Thessalonica, that 'we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep'; earlier, in his first letter to the Church at Corinth, he wrote 'We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed'. He wrote, a little later, that 'the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed'. The dead, as we have seen in previous studies, referred, not ( necessarily ) to the biologically dead, but to those who had engendered covenantal separation from the blessings of God's Presence.
We have noted that, in the Gospel account that Matthew recorded, that it was 'in the regeneration' that His disciples would rule and reign with Him, whereas John, in the Revelation, uses the Greek 'anastasis' to portray the truth of the resurrection, the raising to life of the dead ones of Israel. Although somewhat differently worded, both of these words connote much the same truth, especially when taking into account the true, spiritual and covenantal nature of the resurrection. Regeneration is what Jesus talked with Nicodemus about, as we read in John 3. Nicodemus thought, strangely, that Jesus was giving him a biology lesson, but Jesus was really imparting a greater spiritual truth to him. So with the physical resurrections that we see in Scripture; they simply pointed to the greater spiritual truth of the resurrection to true life, life in covenant communion with God, life without which one is truly and really dead, though his physical heart may continue beating.
Are/were there two separate and different resurrections portrayed in John's vision in Revelation 20, one spiritual, and the other physical, as Jesus supposedly declares in John 5? It would almost seem so, wouldn't it? When you think of Jesus words though, to Martha, in John 11:26 ( yes, I'm harping on John 11:26 again! ), 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live'; it becomes clear ( it should, anyway ) that there is but One Resurrection, over a period of 'the thousand years', maybe, but ONE resurrection, several glorious iterations, maybe, but the same glorious Truth!
Rejoicing in this gloriously fulfilled Truth.
Charles Haddon Shank