The First Resurrection, spoken of in Revelation 20:4-6, has been the source of much debate, mostly those debating the rapture question since the rapture occurs at the same time as the resurrection of the righteous dead according to I Thessalonians 4:16-17. While I have posted on the subject before (read about it here), perhaps simplicity should be our guide. Sometimes, the Bible is not complicated, but we make it complicated. Let’s look at the bare facts, first by examining the text:
4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
Notice first of all that John is not seeing people come to life. John is seeing saints already seated upon thrones. In John’s vision, they have already been resurrected prior to this. The timing of the resurrection is simply not here.
There are, however, two "time markers" that show us the timing of the First Resurrection.
#1- The First Resurrection will be after the great tribulation. The text is clear. Those who rejected worshipping the beast, did not receive the mark of the beast, and even those who had their heads chopped off for their witness for Jesus Christ, will all be included in the First Resurrection. This passage takes us back to Revelation 13 and 14:9-13 giving the assurance that those who exercised the patience of the saints (13:10, 14:12) will not have sacrificed themselves for nothing. The antichrist’s authority lasts 42 months, but the authority of the saints on their thrones lasts 1000 years.
#2 – The First Resurrection will be before the 1000 years. The text is just as clear here; it is a Pre-Millennial event since they reign with Jesus Christ for 1000 years. This is also a physical resurrection since those who had their heads chopped off are now living again. This looks forward to a period in time when the saints will reign with Christ in new resurrection bodies here on the earth (Revelation 5:10) not from heaven. This resurrection includes Old Testament saints as well as New Testament saints according to Hebrews 11:40.
Any further precision of the timing of the First Resurrection must be gleaned from other key passages. For Post-Tribbers to claim this passage shows that only their timing is the right one is to read too much into the passage and to fail to understand the timing of the pre-wrath rapture. Stick to the basics of the passage and realize that what John is seeing is not the resurrection/rapture occurring after Armageddon, but seeing thrones upon which are seated already resurrected saints and seeing the bestowment of the Millennial Kingdom upon them (judgment was given unto them).
Since John has already witnessed the timing of the resurrection/rapture twice in the book of Revelation, once in Revelation 6 at the sixth seal, and another time in Revelation 14 at the reaping of the righteous, we know the timing of the First Resurrection to be precisely at that point in the chronology. So, not only is it a Pre-Wrath Rapture, but it is also a Pre-Wrath First Resurrection.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman