You may have come across Scriptures like those in Revelations, the twentieth chapter, the fourth through the sixth verse, in which statements like, “…blessed and holy are those who take part in the first resurrection…” or those in John five twenty-nine, in which statements like, “…they that have done good shall come forth, unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation,” which may provoke questions like: what is the first resurrection? Does it mean there is going to be a second, or a third resurrection? Who will partake in the first resurrection?
Well, let me continue by stating that there are only two resurrections, a first, and a second. The first resurrection is also called the resurrection of the just, or the resurrection of life, or a better resurrection (Hebrews 11:35). While the second resurrection is that of the unjust. I’d be dwelling on the first resurrection.
The first resurrection programme is a continuum, and would terminate at the second coming of Christ to reign on earth. Christ was the first person to partake in it. First Corinthians fifteen twenty calls Christ, the first fruit of them that slept. His resurrection was a prototype of how the just will be raised.
At Christ’s resurrection, Matthew’s gospel, the twenty-seventh chapter, the fifty-second through the fifty-third verse, mentioned that the graves of many saints were opened, and their bodies were resurrected after the resurrection of Christ and they appeared to people in the city. Which saints these were, was not explicitly stated. But we would suppose they were the Old Testament saints. We would suppose, even though Scripture doesn’t state explicitly, that they rose in the form and manner in which Christ did, and ascended to heaven with Him. This also partook in the first resurrection.
Christ was not just a mere Spirit after He resurrected. He had a resurrected body. When He appeared to the disciples in the upper room after His resurrection, they thought He was a spirit. But He beckoned on them to touch Him. They felt His hands and feet for the defect were the nails went through. Then it dawned on them that He was real. For a spirit has no flesh and bones (Luke 24:38-39).
In like manner, we all, the church saints, will partake in this type of resurrection that Christ partook of. What will be the timing? The rapture. For at the rapture, the dead in Christ (that is, those would died, been saved by grace) would rise first with their incorruptible spiritual bodies, then we that are alive (having been born again), and remain (walking in holiness) will be changed to an incorruptible body and be caught up, to meet the Lord. This will happen in a twinkling of the eyes. And this is the first resurrection (1 Thesselonian 4:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52)
After the rapture, some people would become saved within the seven years of tribulation. These are called the tribulation saints. Those that died during the tribulation, would be raised back to life at the second advent of Christ to reign on earth, at the end of the tribulation period. This is also part of the first resurrection (Revelation 20:3-5).
The two witnesses of God (that represent the two olive trees and the two candlesticks) that will stand before the antichrist and prophesy for 1260 days, during which no one would be able to hurt them, but afterwards be killed, at about the middle of the seven years of the tribulation, and after 3½ days, resurrect, and ascend to heaven. This is still part of the first resurrection (Revelation 11:1-12).
Christ is the Resurrection and Life, who came to show us how to live in the human flesh, and also became the first fruit from the dead, showing us what we would become, in the spiritual flesh.
For we know that when Christ shall appear, we shall be like Him (spirit, soul, body), for we see Him as He is. This is the Believer’s hope. And herein should we derive comfort (1 John 3:2-3)