Introduction - Resurrection in the Bible
A resurrection is when someone who has physically died is raised back to physical life from the dead. The Bible details the following eight personal (and previous) resurrections (excluding the resurrection of Jesus):
· Elijah raised the son of a woman. (1 Kings 17:8-9, 17-23)
· Elisha raised the son of a Shunammite woman. (2 Kings 4:16-20, 32-36)
· God used the bones of Elisha to raise a man back to life. (2 Kings 13:20-21)
· Jesus raised the widow of Nain’s son to life. (Luke 7:11-15)
· Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter to life. (Luke 8:41-42, 49-55)
· Jesus raised Lazarus to life. (John 11:43)
· In Joppa, Peter raised Tabitha. (Acts 9:36-41)
· Paul raised Eutychus who had fallen from a window. (Acts 20:7-12)
None of these resurrections were permanent as each resurrected person (listed above) was likely to have physically died later. In fact, the Greek noun for ‘resurrection’ (in the original text of the New Testament) does not indicate whether a resurrection is ‘permanent’ or ‘temporary’ – it simply means ‘a standing up’ or a ‘raising up’ or ‘rising’. For example, in Hebrews 11:35 (see below), the Greek word for ‘resurrection’ (‘anastasis’, ‘αναστασις’ – Strong’s number 386) is used twice.
Hebrews 11:35 Women received their dead raised [resurrected temporarily Strong's Number 386] to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection [resurrected permanently Strong's Number 386].
The first instance is a temporary resurrection when the women received their dead back (by raising or ‘resurrection’). The second instance is the permanent and ‘better resurrection’ sought after by those who were tortured. Both these instances use the same Greek word for ‘raising’ or resurrection but the first is temporary and the second is permanent.
Why would God raise someone with only temporary effect? Well, these eight temporary resurrections recorded in the Bible, which restored individuals back to mortal physical life (because they would subsequently die), were a biblical type which foreshadowed a future permanent resurrection to immortal physical life. Every temporary deliverance (resurrection) therefore provided a biblical assurance of ultimate deliverance in the ‘better resurrection’ of Hebrews 11:35, which was permanent. This is the wisdom of God.
Some raise the objection that the Bible teaches that it is appointed for men to die once and then judgement. Therefore, these personal resurrections must have been ‘permanent’ because no one is allowed to die twice. The scripture for this assertion is in the Book of Hebrews:
Hebrews 9:27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.
Clearly Hebrews 9:27 is true, but the context is regarding the ‘natural order’. These eight personal resurrections, however, were not according to the natural order because they were miracles. Also, nowhere in scripture is it found that these eight (who were raised) were taken to heaven, therefore if the resurrections were permanent, Lazarus, Tabitha et al. would still be around today, which clearly they are not.
The only Man, currently, to have received a permanent resurrection is the Lord Jesus Christ Who is currently in heaven with His physical (and now) immortal resurrection body. Many more will also receive their permanent resurrection (as will be discussed further down this paper) once the corporate event of the first resurrection is complete.
1 Corinthians 15:52-54 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So, when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
The Biblical Meaning of the Number ‘8’
Jesus is the resurrection and the life and whoever believes in Jesus, even though he dies, will live. This is the truth of resurrection. It is of profound significance that the Greek word for ‘Jesus’, in the bible verse where this truth is revealed, has a numerical value of 888 [Greek Ιησους Letters: Iota (10) + Eta (8) + Sigma (200) + Omicron (70) + Upsilon (400) + Sigma (200) = 888] – a trinity of eights!
John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live”.
The number ‘eight’, therefore, is biblically associated with ‘resurrection’ because of the eight (‘8’) previous temporary resurrections (detailed above) together with the fact that ‘Jesus’, Who is the resurrection, has a numerical value of ‘888’. Note that the number ‘888’ is larger (or perhaps ‘better’) than the number ‘8’ as a reference to the ‘better’ or permanent resurrection of Jesus. The three ‘eights’ associated with Jesus also speak of His place in the Trinity.
The First and Second Resurrection
Attention can now be turned towards the two major corporate resurrection events in the Bible – the first of which is yet to complete, and the second will not begin for about 1000 years from now. These corporate resurrections are called the first resurrection and the second resurrection respectively. Jesus summarises these corporate resurrections in John’s Gospel with the resurrection of life (the first resurrection) and the resurrection of condemnation (the second resurrection):
John 5:28-29 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
The First Resurrection
The first resurrection occurs (in the main) at the end of 6000 bible years (after the creation of light in Genesis 1:3). The first resurrection is in stages and straddles the Christian Dispensation and the seven-year Tribulation. It was the wisdom of God to allow 2000 bible years from the resurrection of Jesus (in AD 33) during which spiritual fruit would ‘grow’ and produce a harvest from that one grain which fell to ground and died. Jesus Himself, asserted this metaphor (of ‘grain’ before ‘harvest’) in John 12:24:
John 12:24 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.
During this time, the Holy Spirit has been searching for a bride for the Son of God amongst the Jews and (importantly) amongst the Gentiles.
Romans 11:25 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
First Resurrection Stages
Jesus was the ‘first fruits’ of the first resurrection when He was raised after three days of physical death. Because the first resurrection is yet to complete (as there is more ‘fruit’ to come), the first resurrection is best understood in stages – indeed, five distinct stages where each stage occurs in an orderly progression.
1 Corinthians 15:22-23 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the first fruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.
The five stages of the first resurrection are as follows:
1. Jesus and possibly the Saints resurrected at same time. (Matthew 27:52).
2. Resurrection of the Body of Christ at the Rapture. (1 Thessalonians 4:16, John 5:28)
3. Resurrection of the Two Witnesses during the Tribulation. (Revelation 11:11)
4. Resurrection of the Old Testament Saints. (Isaiah 26:19, Daniel 12:2, John 5:28, Hosea 6:2)
5. Resurrection of the Tribulation Saints and completion of first resurrection. (Revelation 20:4)
The sequence of these stages is shown in the diagram below:
Timing of the Resurrection of Old Testament Saints
As will be seen, because the second resurrection is only for unbelievers at the end of the Millennium, the resurrection to life of the Old Testament Saints (believers) must be during the first resurrection as there are no other corporate resurrections recorded in scripture.
The Book of Daniel, in full agreement with Jesus’ teaching of two corporate resurrections (in John 5:28), provides further timing details for the resurrection of the Old Testament Saints.
Daniel 12:1-2 “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, everyone 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.”
The context of this deliverance of Israel (‘your people’) is at the end of the Tribulation, and so places the timing of the resurrection of the Old Testament Saints as after the Tribulation.
It is also known that the resurrection of the Tribulation Saints is explicitly stated as being the conclusion of the first resurrection:
Revelation 20:4-6 … 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. 5. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6. 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.
Therefore, the resurrection of the Old Testament Saints (believers) is narrowed down to being after the Tribulation but before the resurrection of the Tribulation Saints.
In this way, the Bible has pinpointed the timing of the resurrection of the Old Testament Saints – such an important moment in history when all believers prior to the church (or Body of Christ) are raised to their permanent immortal resurrection bodies.
As an afterthought, the Bible magnificently presents a typological confirmation of this extraordinary resurrection of Israel (as part of the Old Testament Saints) in the Book of Hosea:
Hosea 6:2 After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight.
These two days may be a typological reference to the 2000 bible years of Christendom and the third day is a typological reference to the Millennial Kingdom which follows Christendom. Remember that in bible chronology, the consummation of the age is considered as ‘unreckoned’ by God in His redemption chronology. Also remember, that with the Lord, a day represents 1000 years:
2 Peter 3:8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
The Second Resurrection
The timing of the second resurrection is stated as following the satanic rebellion at the end of the Millennial Kingdom:
Revelation 20:7, 11-13 Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison… … 13 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.
As such, the second resurrection is for unbelievers only. All unbelievers (across all time) will be present, except the anti-Christ (the beast) and the false prophet who will already be in the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20). Unbelievers who have already died will be raised to physical life and the Books will be opened and the unbelievers will be judged – each one according to their works.
Notwithstanding this judgement, anyone who is not found written in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire and this is known as the ‘second death’:
Revelation 20:15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
In summary, the first resurrection begins with Jesus as the first fruits and concludes at the end of the Tribulation. It is for believers only. This is why the Book of Revelation says blessed are those who partake of the first resurrection because over such, the second death has no power.
Revelation 20:6 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 second resurrection occurs at the end of the Millennial Kingdom which is at the end of 7000 bible years and is for unbelivers only. All unbelievers will be present except the anti-Christ (the beast) and the false prophet, who will already be in the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20). Those who have died will be raised to physical life and books will be opened, and the unbelievers will be judged – each one according to their works. The judgement of the unbelievers will be just and severe with those not found in the Book of Life, being cast into the lake of fire.