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Thread: Revelation 20: the "first resurrection" and the "thousand years"

  1. #1
    Chuck Norris Guest

    Revelation 20: the "first resurrection" and the "thousand years"

    This thread concerns two interrelated questions from Revelation 20: (1) what does the phrase "the first resurrection" refer to? and (2) what does the phrase "the thousand years" refer to? I realize that everyone has an opinion on both of these questions, and I welcome them all, but my specific hope is that an innovative answer to the first question will lead us to an innovative answer to the second. So I ask that anyone who wishes to respond to this thread read the OP all the way through before they do so. I know it's long, but please bear with me.

    First off, then, to what does the phrase "the first resurrection" in Revelation 20:6 refer? To my knowledge there are three options available to us: (a) it speaks of the bodily resurrection of the saints at Christ’s second coming; (b) it speaks of the spiritual regeneration of all Christians this side of the resurrection; or (c) it speaks of a new stage of life which every Christian experiences upon entering the presence the Lord after death.

    The proponents of (a), i.e. premillennials, often make the point that the “first resurrection” must be a bodily rising from the grave since the implicit “second resurrection” in 20:12-13 is a bodily resurrection. This is seen to be contradictory, however, by the premillennial recognition that the “second death” is a death of a different sort from the loss of physical life in the implicit “first death”. According to 20:14, the “second death” is the lake of fire. It is, in other words, not just a death of a different sort, but a death of a higher order than physical death, a new reality to which the state of physical death gives way after the great judgment. If we see any sort of symmetry between the first-second death and the first-second resurrection, therefore, this suggests that the “first resurrection” refers to a life of a different order from the bodily resurrection of 20:12-13.

    Option (a) becomes even less likely when we recognize that the “second death” is not something that happens to an entirely different group than those who experienced the implicit “first death”. On the contrary, “Death and Hades” give up their “dead” in verse 13, and they are thrown into “the lake of fire” in verse 14. This suggests, once more, that the “first resurrection” is not the same sort of reality as its implicit follow-up, the first in a sequential series of events of the same kind, like an underground railway on a circuit returns to pick up those who missed the early train. Rather, as the text implies, those who take part in the “first resurrection” are the same group guaranteed to take part in the “second resurrection”, since they are the ones over whom the “second death” has no power (20:6).

    This is strongly confirmed when we read Revelation 20 in the context of the following chapter. In Revelation 21:1-5 the word “first”, or protos (πρῶτος), is employed in juxtaposition with “new” (καινός). The consummation of history brings “a new heaven and a new earth” (v. 1), and a “new Jerusalem” (v. 2); indeed, it is the time when the Creator God makes “all things new” (v. 5). And when the word “first” appears throughout the passage, it is used to speak of that which is superseded by the “new”. It may be good to see the words side by side to get the effect.

    “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away… There shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the first things have passed away… Behold I make all things new.”

    When God makes all things new, all the “first things” pass away—all death, sorrow, crying and pain. In this passage, to be “first” means to belong to the order of the old world that will give way to the new when God acts to liberate the whole of creation from its bondage to decay. In this context protos does not mean merely the first in a series of like kind; rather it characterizes this world as both different and lesser in kind from the “new” world of God’s consummate redemption. It shows the present transient state of things in contrast with the new world order that will abide forever. Even death, the kind of “death” associated with the “first things”, gives way to a reality of a higher, eternal order: the “second death” referred to in verse 8 (cf. v. 4). Thus we see that an alternative term for “new” in Revelation 21 is the word “second”. The term “new”, with its positive redemptive undertones, would be inappropriate to refer to the higher order of “death” which belongs to the future world, but “second” is clearly intended as a synonym to “new” given it bears the same antithetical relationship to “first”.

    In this juxtaposition of first death (v. 4) and “second death” (v. 8), Revelation 21 presents us with the same idiom that we find in the previous chapter with the “first resurrection” (vv. 5, 6) and the second resurrection (which is implicit in the chapter). The chances that this is coincidental are extremely low. Rather, the force of context compels us to think that the word protos in the phrase “the first resurrection” serves to qualify the type of resurrection described in contrast to the implicit second resurrection; i.e. the “first resurrection” belongs to the “first things”, while the second resurrection belongs to the new order that supersedes the first things—all death, sorrow, crying and pain. While the second resurrection is the final redemption of our bodies, the “first resurrection” refers to the intermediate state of “life” which every Christian experience upon entering the presence of the Lord after death. In other words, it refers to life after death, not life after life after death.

    We find, then, that a contextually grounded exegesis of Revelation 20 leads us to the solid conclusion that option (c) is the right answer to our question.

    Now, although this does indeed make for an unusual and innovative use of the word “resurrection”, it is also quite appropriate, since the martyrs of Revelation 20:4-6 are people who were thought to be dead and are now seen to be, in a very real sense, alive. Yet it is nonetheless expressed as a kind of postmortem life before life, since the phrase “first resurrection” implies that there will indeed be a “second resurrection” for these martyred saints—the resurrection of the body which will take place at the end of the “thousand years”, i.e. the time when the “first” (πρῶτος) things will pass away and God will make all things “new” (καινός). Furthermore, the picture does not thereby collapse the concept of resurrection into a Gnostic parody of a disembodied bliss, for this resurrection is qualified as being preliminary and inferior to its implicit successor: it is the protos to which the bodily resurrection is the new. The point is not that death equals resurrection for the Christian, but rather that these souls are seen as being alive in spite of having been killed by the Beast. Their fate is thereby contrasted with the fate of the Beast, who ironically went alive to the “second death”. In vindicating polarity, although these saints died, yet they live (cf. 2 Cor. 6:9).

    There are two main passages in the Apocalypse to which this scene points back in fulfillment, the beatitude of 14:13 and the promise to the overcomers of the church of Smyrna in 2:10-11. By highlighting each of them we shed great light on 20:4-6, as well as giving a plausible answer to the outstanding question of “the thousand years”. The first passage, 14:13, has a claim of close relationship to our present text firstly in that it constitutes the second of seven “beatitudes” in the Revelation, while 20:6 constitutes the fifth (cf. 1:3; 16:15; 19:9; 22:7, 14). And out of all seven beatitudes, these two bear the most striking similarity in both concept and terminology. It may be helpful to read them back-to-back:

    “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”


    “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 the Messiah, and shall reign with him a thousand years.”

    Both passages proclaim the blessedness of the martyrs who did not give way to the great pressure of the Beast’s persecution. The “rest” which “the dead who die in the Lord from now on” receive in reward for their works in 14:13 is very much the same as the promise that those who take part in the “first resurrection” should be “priests” of the risen Messiah and “reign” with him for “a thousand years” (cf. also Rev. 6:11). The sabbath blessing in the one is equivalent to the millennial blessing in the other, for in Judaism the eschatological reign was always conceived of as the reality to which the sabbath rest was a signpost.

    The second text to which our present passage looks back in fulfillment is the promise to the persecuted overcomers from the Church of Smyrna. Like 20:4-6, 2:10 speaks of the blessedness of martyrdom by promising that the “crown of life” will be given to those who are “faithful unto death”. This alone would be enough to remark on, but the parallel becomes explicit when verse 11 goes on to assure that those who inherit this postmortem “life” are no longer subject to the “second death”, a phrase which (very significantly) does not appear again until 20:6. Once more, it may be helpful to read both texts, one after the other:

    “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty… Do not fear those things which you are about to suffer… Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life… He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”


    “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 the Messiah for a thousand years… Over such the second death has no power.”

    The souls of the martyrs living and reigning with the Messiah in the millennium is clearly intended, within the scope of the Revelation, as the direct fulfillment of the promise to the Christians in Smyrna. Indeed, it would be more than unusual if the climactic scene of this prophecy, picturing the vindication of the martyred saints over their oppressors, would not have a direct application to the persecuted Christians to which it was sent. That is the great weakness of the premillennial interpretation of this passage, as it is the great weakness of a strictly futurist reading of the rest of the Apocalypse. Without a doubt, the worn out, beaten and battered saints of Asia Minor would have taken 20:4-6 as a word of comfort and fulfillment aimed directly at them.

    This fulfillment is seen to be much more significant, however, when we recognize the role that the archenemy “Satan” takes in both passages (2:9, 10 and 20:2f., 7ff.). The saints of Smyrna were told that Satan would be allowed to throw some of them into prison, in order to test them, for ten days. After the destruction of the beast, however, John sees Satan himself thrown into the prison of “the bottomless pit”, not for ten days, but for the greatly multiplied number of a thousand years.

    This opens up an intriguing possibility to the outstanding question of the “thousand years”. Ten represents completion; a thousand is ten to the third power; years obviously extend far beyond days. The plain and powerful purpose of the numeric symbolism, in its immediate application to the suffering Christians in Asia Minor, is to evoke the conviction that their momentary light affliction—loving not their lives even unto death—is working the far exceeding glory of resurrection life, a great reversal of fortunes to be rewarded at the throne of the risen Messiah, even prior to their being clothed with heavenly bodies at his return. Though they die, yet they will live. This, quite plausibly in my opinion, is the meaning of the millennium.
    Last edited by Chuck Norris; Aug 11th 2009 at 10:26 PM. Reason: persnickety about the details

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Norris View Post
    This thread concerns two interrelated questions from Revelation 20: (1) what does the phrase "the first resurrection" refer to? and (2) what does the phrase "the thousand years" refer to? I realize that everyone has an opinion on both of these questions, and I welcome them all, but my specific hope is that an innovative answer to the first question will lead us to an innovative answer to the second. So I ask that anyone who wishes to respond to this thread read the OP all the way through before they do so. I know it's long, but please bear with me.

    First off, then, to what does the phrase "the first resurrection" in Revelation 20:6 refer? To my knowledge there are a three options available to us: (a) it speaks of the bodily resurrection of the saints at Christ’s second coming; (b) it speaks of the spiritual regeneration of all Christians this side of the resurrection; or (c) it speaks of a new stage of life which every Christian experiences upon entering the presence the Lord after death.

    The proponents of (a), i.e. premillennials, often make the point that the “first resurrection” must be a bodily rising from the grave since the implicit “second resurrection” in 20:12-13 is a bodily resurrection. This is seen to be contradictory, however, by the premillennial recognition that the “second death” is a death of a different sort from the loss of physical life in the implicit “first death”. According to 20:14, the “second death” is the lake of fire. It is, in other words, not just a death of a different sort, but a death of a higher order than physical death, a new reality to which the state of physical death gives way after the great judgment. If we see any sort of symmetry between the first-second death and the first-second resurrection, therefore, this suggests that the “first resurrection” refers to a life of a different order from the bodily resurrection of 20:12-13.

    Option (a) becomes even less likely when we recognize that the “second death” is not something that happens to an entirely different group than those who experienced the implicit “first death”. On the contrary, “Death and Hades” give up their “dead” in verse 13, and they are thrown into “the lake of fire” in verse 14. This suggests, once more, that the “first resurrection” is not the same sort of reality as its implicit follow-up, the first in a sequential series of events of the same kind, like an underground railway on a circuit returns to pick up those who missed the early train. Rather, as the text implies, those who take part in the “first resurrection” are the same group guaranteed to take part in the “second resurrection”, since they are the ones over whom the “second death” has no power (20:6).

    This is strongly confirmed when we read Revelation 20 in the context of the following chapter. In Revelation 21:1-5 the word “first”, or protos (πρῶτος), is employed in juxtaposition with “new” (καινός). The consummation of history brings “a new heaven and a new earth” (v. 1), and a “new Jerusalem” (v. 2); indeed, it is the time when the Creator God makes “all things new” (v. 5). And when the word “first” appears throughout the passage, it is used to speak of that which is superseded by the “new”. It may be good to see the words side by side to get the effect.

    “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away… There shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the first things have passed away… Behold I make all things new.”

    When God makes all things new, all the “first things” pass away—all death, sorrow, crying and pain. In this passage, to be “first” means to belong to the order of the old world that will give way to the new when God acts to liberate the whole of creation from its bondage to decay. In this context protos does not mean merely the first in a series of like kind; rather it characterizes this world as both different and lesser in kind from the “new” world of God’s consummate redemption. It shows the present transient state of things in contrast with the new world order that will abide forever. Even death, the kind of “death” associated with the “first things”, gives way to a reality of a higher, eternal order: the “second death” referred to in verse 8 (cf. v. 4). Thus we see that an alternative term for “new” in Revelation 21 is the word “second”. The term “new”, with its positive redemptive undertones, would be inappropriate to refer to the higher order of “death” which belongs to the future world, but “second” is clearly intended as a synonym to “new” given it bears the same antithetical relationship to “first”.

    In this juxtaposition of first death (v. 4) and “second death” (v. 8), Revelation 21 presents us with the same idiom that we find in the previous chapter with the “first resurrection” (vv. 5, 6) and the second resurrection (which is implicit in the chapter). The chances that this is coincidental are extremely low. Rather, the force of context compels us to think that the word protos in the phrase “the first resurrection” serves to qualify the type of resurrection described in contrast to the implicit second resurrection; i.e. the “first resurrection” belongs to the “first things”, while the second resurrection belongs to the new order that supersedes the first things—all death, sorrow, crying and pain. While the second resurrection is the final redemption of our bodies, the “first resurrection” refers to the intermediate state of “life” which every Christian experience upon entering the presence of the Lord after death. In other words, it refers to life after death, not life after life after death.

    We find, then, that a contextually grounded exegesis of Revelation 20 leads us to the solid conclusion that option (c) is the right answer to our question.

    Now, although this does indeed make for an unusual and innovative use of the word “resurrection”, it is also quite appropriate, since the martyrs of Revelation 20:4-6 are people who were thought to be dead and are now seen to be, in a very real sense, alive. Yet it is nonetheless expressed as a kind of postmortem life before life, since the phrase “first resurrection” implies that there will indeed be a “second resurrection” for these martyred saints—the resurrection of the body which will take place at the end of the “thousand years”, i.e. the time when the “first” (πρῶτος) things will pass away and God will make all things “new” (καινός). Furthermore, the picture does not thereby collapse the concept of resurrection into a Gnostic parody of a disembodied bliss, for this resurrection is qualified as being preliminary and inferior to its implicit successor: it is the protos to which the bodily resurrection is the new. The point is not that death equals resurrection for the Christian, but rather that these souls are seen as being alive in spite of having been killed by the Beast. Their fate is thereby contrasted with the fate of the Beast, who ironically went alive to the “second death”. In vindicating polarity, although these saints died, yet they live (cf. 2 Cor. 6:9).

    There are two main passages in the Apocalypse to which this scene points back in fulfillment, the beatitude of 14:13 and the promise to the overcomers of the church of Smyrna in 2:10-11. By highlighting each of them we shed great light on 20:4-6, as well as giving a plausible answer to the outstanding question of “the thousand years”. The first passage, 14:13, has a claim of close relationship to our present text firstly in that it constitutes the second of seven “beatitudes” in the Revelation, while 20:6 constitutes the fifth (cf. 1:3; 16:15; 19:9; 22:7, 14). And out of all seven beatitudes, these two bear the most striking similarity in both concept and terminology. It may be helpful to read them back-to-back:

    “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”


    “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 the Messiah, and shall reign with him a thousand years.”

    Both passages proclaim the blessedness of the martyrs who did not give way to the great pressure of the Beast’s persecution. The “rest” which “the dead who die in the Lord from now on” receive in reward for their works in 14:13 is very much the same as the promise that those who take part in the “first resurrection” should be “priests” of the risen Messiah and “reign” with him for “a thousand years” (cf. also Rev. 6:11). The sabbath blessing in the one is equivalent to the millennial blessing in the other, for in Judaism the eschatological reign was always conceived of as the reality to which the sabbath rest was a signpost.

    The second text to which our present passage looks back in fulfillment is the promise to the persecuted overcomers from the Church of Smyrna. Like 20:4-6, 2:10 speaks of the blessedness of martyrdom by promising that the “crown of life” will be given to those who are “faithful unto death”. This alone would be enough to remark on, but the parallel becomes explicit when verse 11 goes on to assure that those who inherit this postmortem “life” are no longer subject to the “second death”, a phrase which (very significantly) does not appear again until 20:6. Once more, it may be helpful to read both texts, one after the other:

    “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty… Do not fear those things which you are about to suffer… Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life… He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”


    “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 the Messiah for a thousand years… Over such the second death has no power.”

    The souls of the martyrs living and reigning with the Messiah in the millennium is clearly intended, within the scope of the Revelation, as the direct fulfillment of the promise to the Christians in Smyrna. Indeed, it would be more than unusual if the climactic scene of this prophecy, picturing the vindication of the martyred saints over their oppressors, would not have a direct application to the persecuted Christians to which it was sent. That is the great weakness of the premillennial interpretation of this passage, as it is the great weakness of a strictly futurist reading of the rest of the Apocalypse. Without a doubt, the worn out, beaten and battered saints of Asia Minor would have taken 20:4-6 as a word of comfort and fulfillment aimed directly at them.

    This fulfillment is seen to be much more significant, however, when we recognize the role that the archenemy “Satan” takes in both passages (2:9, 10 and 20:2f., 7ff.). The saints of Smyrna were told that Satan would be allowed to throw some of them into prison, in order to test them, for ten days. After the destruction of the beast, however, John sees Satan himself thrown into the prison of “the bottomless pit”, not for ten days, but for the greatly multiplied number of a thousand years. Ten represents completion; a thousand is ten to the third power; years obviously extend far beyond days. The plain and powerful purpose of the numeric symbolism, in its immediate application to the suffering Christians in Asia Minor, is to evoke the conviction that their momentary light affliction—loving not their lives even unto death—is working the far exceeding glory of resurrection life, a great reversal of fortunes to be rewarded at the throne of the risen Messiah, even prior to their being clothed with heavenly bodies at his return. Though they die, yet they will live.

    This, quite plausibly in my opinion, is the meaning of the millennium.
    Yep . . . what he said . . . ^^^

    May we all see it . . .
    Grace and peace,

    Billy-brown 2


    I Peter 1:25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Norris View Post
    This opens up an intriguing possibility to the outstanding question of the “thousand years”. Ten represents completion; a thousand is ten to the third power; years obviously extend far beyond days. The plain and powerful purpose of the numeric symbolism, in its immediate application to the suffering Christians in Asia Minor, is to evoke the conviction that their momentary light affliction—loving not their lives even unto death—is working the far exceeding glory of resurrection life, a great reversal of fortunes to be rewarded at the throne of the risen Messiah, even prior to their being clothed with heavenly bodies at his return. Though they die, yet they will live. This, quite plausibly in my opinion, is the meaning of the millennium.
    This is an interesting proposition indeed, and I will at least concede the point that it is plausible. But it seems to me that in the end all it really does is push the problem of symbolism back from Revelation 20 to Revelation 2. If the "ten days" are symbolic, what are they symbolic for? And how does that discount them from being a literal ten days of trial as well?

    You say they represent completion, and that's all well and good, but I can't shake the feeling that the Christians in Smyrna would have taken "ten days" to mean ten actual days, and that they would have been comforted by the fact that they wouldn't have to be imprisoned for, say, eleven days. In other words, I find it hard to believe that they would have read the letter addressed to them and thought either (a), "what do you think 'ten days' means?" or (b), "At least we can take comfort in the fact that we will be imprisoned for the complete number of days ordained for us, whatever that is..."

    If you could give a good argument for why "ten days" would have been understood as something other than ten literal days, then you might be on to something here. Otherwise I find your case thin. Intriguing, to be sure, but thin nonetheless.

    - Hitman


    "Test all things; hold fast what is good." - Advice from the Apostle Paul


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    Mr. Norris, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. You've shared a number of things that I've never heard before, and you did a great job of persuading me on several of your points. I'm looking forward to wrestling through what you've presented here in the days to come during my own personal studies! Bless you!
    analyze. synthesize. repeat.

    *It is the next chapter of my life, whether I'm ready or not. My time here in these forums has come to its close. I bless you as I go!*

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    One major snag I immediately encountered was this:

    "And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished."

    The "rest of the dead" refer to the only other dead people in this series of seven visions (19:11-21:8) that have been seen thus far: those killed by Jesus, whose bodies were eaten by birds. They live again after the thousand years, but those Christian martyrs who were beheaded (after the rise of the false prophet) will live again at the beginning of the thousand years. This snag, then, has multiple barbs.

    1) The beheaded spoken of have not yet physically died, since the beast and its image have not yet come.
    2) The rest of the dead spoken of have not yet physically died, since Jesus has not yet returned.
    3) The rest of the dead rise physically after the millennium, so it stands to reason that the beheaded who rise also do so physically (given the "but" in v.5).
    4) If the beheaded rise physically first, then the "second" resurrection (implied) speaks of timing, not type.

    What are your thoughts on all this?

    Thanks! - Astro
    analyze. synthesize. repeat.

    *It is the next chapter of my life, whether I'm ready or not. My time here in these forums has come to its close. I bless you as I go!*

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Norris View Post

    First off, then, to what does the phrase "the first resurrection" in Revelation 20:6 refer? To my knowledge there are a three options available to us: (a) it speaks of the bodily resurrection of the saints at Christ’s second coming; (b) it speaks of the spiritual regeneration of all Christians this side of the resurrection; or (c) it speaks of a new stage of life which every Christian experiences upon entering the presence the Lord after death.
    I would say (b) and (c).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Norris View Post
    This thread concerns two interrelated questions from Revelation 20: (1) what does the phrase "the first resurrection" refer to? and (2) what does the phrase "the thousand years" refer to? I realize that everyone has an opinion on both of these questions, and I welcome them all, but my specific hope is that an innovative answer to the first question will lead us to an innovative answer to the second. So I ask that anyone who wishes to respond to this thread read the OP all the way through before they do so. I know it's long, but please bear with me.

    First off, then, to what does the phrase "the first resurrection" in Revelation 20:6 refer? To my knowledge there are a three options available to us: (a) it speaks of the bodily resurrection of the saints at Christ’s second coming; (b) it speaks of the spiritual regeneration of all Christians this side of the resurrection; or (c) it speaks of a new stage of life which every Christian experiences upon entering the presence the Lord after death.
    I believe the first resurrection specifically refers to Christ's resurrection. We have part in His resurrection when we are saved and we reign with Him in heaven after we physically die and go to be with Him in heaven.

    John 11
    24Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. 25Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
    26And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

    Here, Jesus is saying anyone who believes in Him will never die. Yet He also speaks of that person as being alive even if they were dead. What did He mean by that? Well, we all will physically die (unless He returns first), so He must be speaking of our souls there. So, He must be speaking of us never experiencing the second death. John says in Rev 20:6 that the second death has no power over those who have part in the first resurrection. Those who belong to Christ spiritually have part in His resurrection. Even when we physically die ours souls go to be with Him in heaven.

    Remember, John sees the souls of those who are physically dead. Souls don't need to be resurrected. They are already alive. That's why I believe the best interpretation is that they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years and not that they came to life and reigned for a thousand years.

    Rev 20:4 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.

    It's worth noting that the word translated here as "lived" does not mean "came to life" or "were resurrected". It's translated from the Greek word zaō, which is never used in terms of being resurrected in other verses but instead refers to the state of being alive or to actively living one's life.

    Paul tells us that Christ's resurrection was the first resurrection.

    1 Cor 15
    20But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 21For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
    22For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
    23But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.

    Acts 26:23 That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.

    If Christ's resurrection was the first then what is the second resurrection? The one that occurs "at His coming". He already has been resurrected and has an immortal body. At His coming, the dead in Christ will be resurrected and will have immortal bodies as well. Then (at that time) comes the end (of this age) "when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Norris View Post
    This thread concerns two interrelated questions from Revelation 20: (1) what does the phrase "the first resurrection" refer to?
    I thought this question was interesting and started looking up how the early Church interpreted this. I found a great deal of consistancy in the sources I have available to me. The following I thought was a good representation of early Christian thought on this matter.

    Augustine of Hippo, St [354-430 AD]
    The City of God (Book XX)
    After that He adds the words, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself." As yet He does not speak of the second resurrection, that is, the resurrection of the body, which shall be in the end, but of the first, which now is. It is for the sake of making this distinction that He says, "The hour is coming, and now is." Now this resurrection regards not the body, but the soul. For souls, too, have a death of their own in wickedness and sins, whereby they are the dead of whom the same lips say, "Suffer the dead to bury their dead," -- that is, let those who are dead in soul bury them that are dead in body. It is of these dead, then -- the dead in ungodliness and wickedness -- that He says, "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live." "They that hear," that is, they who obey, believe, and persevere to the end. Here no difference is made between the good and the bad. For it is good for all men to hear His voice and live, by passing to the life of godliness from the death of ungodliness... For "the hour is coming" (but here He does not say, "and now is," because it shall come in the end of the world in the last and greatest judgment of God) "when all that are in the graves shall hear His voice and shall come forth." He does not say, as in the first resurrection, "And they that Hear shall live." For all shall not live, at least with such life as ought alone to be called life because it alone is blessed. For some kind of life they must have in order to hear, and come forth from the graves m their rising bodies. And why all shall not live He teaches in the words that follow: they who shall live; "but they that have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment," -- these are they who shall not live, for they shall die in the second death. They have done evil because their life has been evil; and their life has been evil because it has not been renewed in the first or spiritual resurrection which now is, or because they have not persevered to the end in their renewed life. As, then, there are two regenerations, of which I have already made mention -- the one according to faith, and which takes place in the present life by means of baptism; the other according to the flesh, and which shall be accomplished in its incorruption and immortality by means of the great and final judgment -- so are there also two resurrections -- the one the first and spiritual resurrection, which has place in this life, and preserves us from coming into the second death; the other the second, which does not occur now, but in the end of the world, and which is of the body, not of the soul, and which by the last judgment shall dismiss some into the second death, others into that life which has no death.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Norris View Post
    This thread concerns two interrelated questions from Revelation 20:... and (2) what does the phrase "the thousand years" refer to?
    Although this question was no less interesting I only had one reference to it in my early Church sources from St. Augustine again but boy did he go into alot of detail on it in his book the "City of God". I wish it wasnt so much as I cant cut and paste all of it and will only wet our appetites with this one.

    Augustine of Hippo, St [354-430 AD]
    The City of God (Book XX)
    CHAPTER 7 -- WHAT IS WRITTEN IN THE REVELATION OF JOHN REGARDING THE TWO RESURRECTIONS, AND THE THOUSAND YEARS, AND WHAT MAY REASONABLY BE HELD ON THESE POINTS.

    The evangelist John has spoken of these two resurrections in the book which is called the Apocalypse, but in such a way that some Christians do not understand the first of the two, and so construe the passage into ridiculous fancies. For the Apostle John says in the foresaid book, "And I saw an angel come down from heaven. . . . 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." Those who, on the strength of this passage, have suspected that the first resurrection is future and bodily, have been moved, among other things, specially by the number of a thousand years, as if it were a fit thing that the saints should thus enjoy a kind of Sabbath-rest during that period, a holy leisure after the labors of the six thousand years since man was created, and was on account of his great sin dismissed from the blessedness of paradise into the woes of this mortal life, so that thus, as it is written, "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day," there should follow on the completion of six thousand years, as of six days, a kind of seventh-day Sabbath in the succeeding thousand years; and that it is for this purpose the saints rise, viz., to celebrate this Sabbath. And. this opinion would not be objectionable, if it were believed that the joys of the saints in that Sabbath shall be spiritual, and consequent on the presence of God; for I myself, too, once held this opinion. But...

    The Lord Jesus Christ Himself says, "No man can enter into a strong man's house, and Spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man" take captive the human race; and meaning by his goods which he was to take, those who had been held by the devil in divers sins and iniquities, but were to become believers in Himself. It was then for the binding of this strong one that the apostle saw in the Apocalypse "an angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the abyss, and a chain in his hand. And he laid hold," he says, "on the dragon, that old serpent, which is called the devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years," -- that is, bridled and restrained his power so that he could not seduce and gain possession of those who were to be freed. Now the thousand years may be understood in two ways, so far as occurs to me: either because these things happen in the sixth thousand of years or sixth millennium day, which is to be followed by a Sabbath which has no evening, the endless rest of the saints, so that, speaking of a part under the name of the whole, he calls the last part of the millennium -- the part, that is, which had yet to expire before the end of the world -- a thousand years; or he used the thousand years as an equivalent for the whole duration of this world, employing the number of perfection to mark the fullness of time...

    And for the same reason we cannot better interpret the words of the psalm, "He hath been mindful of His covenant for ever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations," than by understanding it to mean "to all generations." "And he cast him into the abyss," -- i.e., cast the devil into the abyss. By the abyss is meant the countless multitude of the wicked whose hearts are unfathomably deep in malignity against the Church of God; not that the devil was not there before, but he is said to be cast in thither, because, when prevented from harming believers, he takes more complete possession of the ungodly. For that man is more abundantly possessed by the devil who is not only alienated from God, but also gratuitously hates those who serve God. "And shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years should be fulfilled." "Shut him up," -- i.e., prohibited him from going out, from doing what was forbidden. And the addition of "set a seal upon him" seems to me to mean that it was designed to keep it a secret who belonged to the devil's party and who did not. For in this world this is a secret, for we cannot tell whether even the man who seems to stand shall fall, or whether he who seems to lie shall rise again. But by the chain and prison-house of this interdict the devil is prohibited and restrained from seducing those nations which belong to Christ, but which he formerly seduced or held in subjection. For before the foundation of the world God chose to rescue these from the power of darkness, and to translate them into the kingdom of the Son of His love, as the apostle says. For what Christian is not aware that he seduces nations even now, and draws them with himself to eternal punishment, but not those predestined to eternal life? And let no one be dismayed by the circumstance that the devil often seduces even those who have been regenerated in Christ, and begun to walk in God's way. For "the Lord knoweth them that are His," and of these the devil seduces none to eternal damnation. For it is as God, from whom nothing is hid even of things future, that the Lord knows them; not as a man, who sees a man at the present time (if he can be said to see one whose heart he does not see), but does not see even himself so far as to be able to know what kind of person he is to be. The devil, then, is bound and shut up in the abyss that he may not seduce the nations from which the Church is gathered, and which he formerly seduced before the Church existed. For it is not said the nations" -- meaning, no doubt, those among which the Church exists -- "till the thousand years should be fulfilled," -- i.e., either what remains of the sixth day which consists of a thousand years, or all the years which are to elapse till the end of the world. The words, "that he should not seduce the nations till the thousand years should be fulfilled," are not to be understood as indicating that afterwards. he is to seduce only those nations from which the predestined Church is composed, and from seducing whom he is restrained by that chain and imprisonment; but they are used in conformity with that usage frequently employed in Scripture and exemplified in the psalm, "So our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until He have mercy upon us," -- not as if the eyes of His servants Would no longer wait upon the Lord their God when He had mercy upon them. Or the order of the words is unquestionably this, "And he shut him up and set a seal upon him, till the thousand years should be fulfilled;" and the interposed clause, "that he should seduce the nations no more," is not to be understood in the connection in which it stands, but separately, and as if added afterwards, so that the whole sentence might be read, "And He shut him up and set a seal upon him till the thousand years should be fulfilled, that he should seduce the nations no more," -- i.e., he is shut up till the thousand years be fulfilled, on this account, that he may no more deceive the nations.

    That wasnt even the half of it. I am almost tempted to read the whole book I am told its a Christian classic.

  10. #10
    Chuck Norris Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Matthehitmanhart View Post
    This is an interesting proposition indeed, and I will at least concede the point that it is plausible. But it seems to me that in the end all it really does is push the problem of symbolism back from Revelation 20 to Revelation 2. If the "ten days" are symbolic, what are they symbolic for? And how does that discount them from being a literal ten days of trial as well?

    You say they represent completion, and that's all well and good, but I can't shake the feeling that the Christians in Smyrna would have taken "ten days" to mean ten actual days, and that they would have been comforted by the fact that they wouldn't have to be imprisoned for, say, eleven days. In other words, I find it hard to believe that they would have read the letter addressed to them and thought either (a), "what do you think 'ten days' means?" or (b), "At least we can take comfort in the fact that we will be imprisoned for the complete number of days ordained for us, whatever that is..."

    If you could give a good argument for why "ten days" would have been understood as something other than ten literal days, then you might be on to something here. Otherwise I find your case thin. Intriguing, to be sure, but thin nonetheless.
    Good points Hitman. I have two comments in reply.

    First, it should be noted that the prospect held out for the saints in Smyrna who were to be thrown in to prison and tested was not that they would soon be released from prison, but that they would receive the "crown of life" after standing faithfully for Christ "until death". Thus the point of telling them that the trial would be for "ten days" was not to encourage them that they would be go free after that period, for if they remained faithful to Christ through the testing they would assuredly be put to death.

    Second, I agree with you that if the reference to "ten days" is strictly symbolic then there must be more behind it than the fact that "ten" represents "completeness", and that it must be something which the Christians in Asia Minor would have recognized. I do think that there is more behind it, however, and that it would have been easily seen by a first century congregation steeped in Scripture and withstanding the pressures of an oppressive pagan empire.

    Most scholarship is in agreement that the statement that some of the saints of Smyrna “will have ten days of trial” is an intentional allusion to Daniel 1:12-15--where the “testing” of Daniel and his comrades “for ten days” is repeated twice--for there is a close correlation between the two situations. Upon entering their captivity to Babylon, the four Hebrew youths were tempted to compromise with pagan religion by being pressured to eat from the king’s table. They refused to do so both because the food was dedicated to idols (cf. 1:2; 5:3-4), and because the act of eating at the king’s table would be, in the ancient Near East, a symbolic act of giving loyalty to him above all else.

    This is, of course, closely analogous to the situation of the Christians in Asia Minor, where they would be tested in captivity to give all loyalty to Caesar as Lord. The real point of the numeric symbolism, then, is to show the approaching trial of the Christians in Smyrna as typologically linked with the trial of Daniel and his friends. It thus functions in the same way, within the Revelation, as “time, times and half a time” (which, in its Danielic context, was concerned with the persecution of Antiochus Epiphones), only with an added emphasis on captivity. And, just as throughout the book of Daniel, the reward of those “overcomers” who remain faithful to YHWH “until death” is that they will be vindicated over their oppressors, endowed with life and governmental authority. Granted all of this, it’s no mistake that the great judgment scene of Daniel 7 should stand behind the fulfillment of the promise to this first century Church in Revelation 20.

  11. #11
    Chuck Norris Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by astrongerthanhe View Post
    One major snag I immediately encountered was this:

    "And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished."

    The "rest of the dead" refer to the only other dead people in this series of seven visions (19:11-21:8) that have been seen thus far: those killed by Jesus, whose bodies were eaten by birds. They live again after the thousand years, but those Christian martyrs who were beheaded (after the rise of the false prophet) will live again at the beginning of the thousand years. This snag, then, has multiple barbs.

    1) The beheaded spoken of have not yet physically died, since the beast and its image have not yet come.
    2) The rest of the dead spoken of have not yet physically died, since Jesus has not yet returned.
    These points would indeed be problematic for a historicist or spiritualist reading, where the thousand years of Revelation 20 are not believed to come chronologically after the cosmic battle of 19:11-21. But for a preterist reading (which I happen to sympathize with) this isn't a problem at all, since within that scheme the vision of 19:11-21 is not believed to be a literal description of Christ's second coming, but is instead believed to be about the fall of Jerusalem and/or Rome, painted in classic apocalyptic imagery as the "coming" of YHWH (cf. Ps. 18).

    Of course a rigid futurist would have gripes with this as well, but that would be a hermeneutical debate which must take place primarily over the nature of apocalyptic literature, not just over the text of Revelation 19-20.

    3) The rest of the dead rise physically after the millennium, so it stands to reason that the beheaded who rise also do so physically (given the "but" in v.5).
    I don't see this as a real problem, since "the rest of the dead" are the wicked dead who do not in any sense "live" again until their physical resurrection in vv. 12-13, at which time they are thrown alive into the "second death" (i.e. the lake of fire). What's more, verse 6 goes on to clarify the difference between the quality of "life" of all those dead who partake of the "first resurrection" and the future "life" of the "rest of the dead" who do not: the difference is that those who partake of the "first resurrection" will not be hurt by the "second death".

    4) If the beheaded rise physically first, then the "second" resurrection (implied) speaks of timing, not type.
    If they did, then it would, but I don't think there is good evidence to suggest that the "proto-resurrection" is a bodily resurrection. Rather, as I argued in teh OP, the contextual meaning of the word protos points in a different direction altogether.

  12. #12
    Chuck Norris Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Norris View Post
    These points would indeed be problematic for a historicist or spiritualist reading, where the thousand years of Revelation 20 are not believed to come chronologically after the cosmic battle of 19:11-21. But for a preterist reading (which I happen to sympathize with) this isn't a problem at all, since within that scheme the vision of 19:11-21 is not believed to be a description of Christ's second coming, but is instead believed to be about the fall of Jerusalem and/or Rome, painted in classic apocalyptic imagery as the "coming" of YHWH (cf. Ps. 18).

    Of course a rigid futurist would have gripes with this as well, but that would be a hermeneutical debate which must take place primarily over the nature of apocalyptic literature, not just over the text of Revelation 19-20.



    I don't see this as a real problem, since "the rest of the dead" are the wicked dead who do not in any sense "live" again until their physical resurrection in vv. 12-13, at which time they are thrown alive into the "second death" (i.e. the lake of fire). What's more, verse 6 goes on to clarify the difference between the quality of "life" of all those dead who partake of the "first resurrection" and the future "life" of the "rest of the dead" who do not: the difference is that those who partake of the "first resurrection" will not be hurt by the "second death".



    If they did, then it would, but I don't think there is good evidence to suggest that the "proto-resurrection" is a bodily resurrection. Rather, as I argued in teh OP, the contextual meaning of the word protos points in a different direction altogether.
    I should probably clarify after this post, I am definitely not a full-preterist, FYI.

  13. #13
    First off, then, to what does the phrase "the first resurrection" in Revelation 20:6 refer? To my knowledge there are a three options available to us: (a) it speaks of the bodily resurrection of the saints at Christ’s second coming; (b) it speaks of the spiritual regeneration of all Christians this side of the resurrection; or (c) it speaks of a new stage of life which every Christian experiences upon entering the presence the Lord after death.
    It is undeniable it's Christ.

    Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

    Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.

    Blessed is he that hath part in the first resurrection. Those that believe, for once we were dead in sin and now is this very moment a live forever.

    Beck

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Norris View Post
    ...this suggests that the “first resurrection” refers to a life of a different order from the bodily resurrection of 20:12-13.

    Option (a) becomes even less likely when we recognize that the “second death” is not something that happens to an entirely different group than those who experienced the implicit “first death”. On the contrary, “Death and Hades” give up their “dead” in verse 13, and they are thrown into “the lake of fire” in verse 14. This suggests, once more, that the “first resurrection” is not the same sort of reality as its implicit follow-up... Rather, as the text implies, those who take part in the “first resurrection” are the same group guaranteed to take part in the “second resurrection”, since they are the ones over whom the “second death” has no power (20:6).
    I can't seem to figure out what you think the "second" resurrection is, and who takes part in it. You seem to say in one place that all men (even those cast into the lake of fire; 20:12-14) take part in the implied second resurrection, but in another place you seem to say that only those in Christ take part in it. Would you mind clarifying this for me? (I put in bold those parts that confused me.) Thanks so much!
    analyze. synthesize. repeat.

    *It is the next chapter of my life, whether I'm ready or not. My time here in these forums has come to its close. I bless you as I go!*

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by astrongerthanhe View Post
    I can't seem to figure out what you think the "second" resurrection is, and who takes part in it. You seem to say in one place that all men (even those cast into the lake of fire; 20:12-14) take part in the implied second resurrection, but in another place you seem to say that only those in Christ take part in it. Would you mind clarifying this for me? (I put in bold those parts that confused me.) Thanks so much!
    As, then, there are two regenerations, of which I have already made mention -- the one according to faith, and which takes place in the present life by means of baptism; the other according to the flesh, and which shall be accomplished in its incorruption and immortality by means of the great and final judgment -- so are there also two resurrections -- the one the first and spiritual resurrection, which has place in this life, and preserves us from coming into the second death; the other the second, which does not occur now, but in the end of the world, and which is of the body, not of the soul, and which by the last judgment shall dismiss some into the second death, others into that life which has no death. - St. Augustine

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