The First Resurrection
Read Revelation 20:5-6 (ESV)
The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
What is the first resurrection and what is the second death? Who participates in the first resurrection?
The concept of life after death is not a solely Christian concept. Many cultures and religions have believed in some type of afterlife. The ancient Greeks believed souls lived in the underworld after death. Many pagan religions, like the ancient Egyptians, buried their dead with supplies and riches so they would be prepared if they rose from the dead. Many Indian religions believe that human souls or streams of consciousness will be reborn or reincarnated into other bodies. Some cultures worship their ancestors because they believe their deceased loved ones can bless them from wherever they are continuing to exist after death. Still others are obsessed with occult ideas of dead people manifesting as ghosts or rising again as zombies.
But all of these different concepts of the afterlife point to something important. They demonstrate that humanity knows deep down in our souls that we were created to live forever. The idea that we simply cease to exist after we die is at odds with what we know to be true. That’s why when a loved one dies, especially unexpectedly, we can’t seem to grasp that someone who was so full of life just a second ago is gone forever in the blink of an eye.
In Ecclesiastes 3:11, Solomon wrote that God has “put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from beginning to end.” Solomon confirms this sense we have that there is more to this world and that life goes on after death. God set a sense of eternity in our hearts. But Solomon also acknowledged that without God’s revelation to us, we are limited in our understanding of Him and His plan for us. Thankfully, God has revealed Himself to us and He does confirm that there is more than this futile world. There is life after death. And, as we continue to study Revelation in the next few days, we’ll see that God’s revelation to us about the afterlife simply does not compare to the afterlife promised by other religions.
In today’s verse, John saw details about the first resurrection in his vision. This first resurrection is the physical resurrection of the righteous or the resurrection of the believing saints. The promise for those who die trusting in Jesus as their Lord and Savior is a resurrection that makes them blessed and holy. After this resurrection, they will be “priests of God and Christ, and they will reign with Him for a thousand years.”
We are also promised to be eternally protected from the second death which is the eternal wrath and punishment of God after we have been judged for our deeds. Those who have rejected God’s offer of salvation through Jesus Christ will be found guilty. The punishment is being thrown into the lake of fire to suffer forever. We will study this more in a few days.
Friends, many religions promise some sort of afterlife experience. But none of them promise what God promises us through His Son, Jesus. Evil will be judged and dealt with once and for all but in Him, we will be protected from judgement. The second death will have no power over us. We won’t just be raised from the dead, we will be raised perfected, blessed, and perfectly holy. We will be priests of God and of Christ. We will reign with Him in a perfect kingdom. I am longing for that day! Are you?
God, thank You for revealing Yourself and Your plan to us. In our hearts, we know that You made us for more than just this life but You gave us Your Word to explain everything we need to know about life after death. Thank You for the promise of the first resurrection! It is more than I could have ever asked for and much more than I deserve apart from You. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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