Life After Death – Part 3 – The Second Resurrection
The Apostle John, in the Book of Revelation, writes of a “first resurrection.” In this presentation we cover the second one. Some people consider this resurrection a mystery. It seems true that the further out a mentioned event is on the Bible timeline, the more obscure the references. But the second resurrection is not so far out that we can’t gain a lot of detail about it, when it occurs, who is resurrected, what form they take. If you don’t understand this point of Bible truth, or if you need to explain it to others, this presentation can help.
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For Further Consideration
It’s hard to find biblically accurate information about the second resurrection on the web.
Here is a search of our site for the term “second resurrection.”
In the first presentation of this series, Life After Death, I challenged listeners to look up the phrase first resurrection in the Bible. In the second part of this series, titled First Resurrection, we saw that, instead of going to heaven, God reveals a resurrection from the dead, called by John in Revelation, the first resurrection. We read right out of the Bible that this resurrection occurs when Christ returns to the earth. And we read that those resurrected were all the people in times past, who were dedicated followers of Jesus, who had died, right up until His return. We saw that in plain English that they would be resurrected to eternal life and they would be forever members of God’s own family – God as God is God and God as Jesus Christ is God.
If you missed that presentation and the one before it, you can go to liferesource.org on the Web and find those two presentations by clicking the presentations button, towards the top of the page. Then select “Series.” And that series will be listed there alphabetically under the title, Life After Death.
If the Bible tells us there’s a resurrection, and it’s called the first resurrection, is it possible to do a search on second resurrection and find something on it? Well, no, because there’s no term for second resurrection as such. It’s called something else. But since we know there’s one, that indicates there are more than one. So sure enough, there is one that comes after the first resurrection that’s detailed in the Bible. And we’re going to read what the Bible says about this second resurrection.
Let’s pick up where we left off. We left off at the return of Christ and the first resurrection. I’m going to do a little backup here and go to Revelation 19:11, where John said:
Revelation 19:11-16 – Then I saw heaven open and behold a white horse. The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True – those words are capitalized – and in righteousness He judges and makes war. He’s clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which He is called is The Word of God. So we all ought to know who this is by now. Right? Those are all names for Jesus Christ. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following Him on white horses also. From His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. And He will rule them with a rod of iron, and He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. One His robe and on His thigh is a name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
So now, down in verse 19, John says:
V-19-21 – And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth, with their armies, gathered to make war against Him who was sitting on the horse and against His army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet, who was in his presence and had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with Sulphur. Now, referring back to what we studied earlier, what happens to a human being when they’re thrown into fire? Well, they die. And it says: The rest of the dead, who were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of Him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh. Have you ever seen buzzards who are flying over something out in the woods or wherever? You can see it in the desert like that.
So here we see Jesus Christ returning to earth after the seventh trumpet – the second coming of Christ. And all those who withstand Him are killed. And what happens to them? Well, they go to sleep – the sleep of death. That’s what the Bible says happens to people when they die.
Then something else happens. Immediately after the great battle – Revelation 20:1.
Revelation 20:1-3 – Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him in the pit, and set a seal over it, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. And then, after that, he’s to be released for a little season.
So notice the word then, in verse 1 – the very first word. That means that this event follows the one before it. So what happened before it? Well, Christ returned and He fought the battle, and captured the beast and the false prophet, and threw them into this fiery pit.
Once the devil is restrained – put away from all the people – where he won’t be able to deceive and lie anymore, they will all be able to see who really is God. And their eyes will be opened to the truth. They will believe God instead of the devil, who, by his nature, is a liar. And then begins the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth. What will that be like?
Did you know that a third of the Bible is prophecy? That’s a lot of prophecy. And the majority of that prophecy is about what it’s going to be like after Christ returns. It’s going to be somewhat like the Garden of Eden, becoming gradually more and more like it as time passes. Just think about this for a minute. Everybody knows God now. There’s no devil to incite murder and anger and war and all that. What would happen if all the energy that the world has is put toward good things – taking care of people, feeding everybody, clothing everybody, decent housing for everybody, good education for everybody, instead of all the wars and the attempt to control people, and the propaganda campaigns, and the politics. If all that was done away with, and all of our energy was spent on good things – productive things – what would happen? What would happen if people were just left alone to produce?
When I was a student in my theology school, we were studying this, and the school put out a paper to its readers. It was like a little tabloid newspaper. It was just a one issue newspaper. It was about what life would be like after Christ returns. And one of the titles was – headline – Peace Breaks Out Worldwide!. That title was inspired, perhaps, by Isaiah 2:4, where it says – and this if after Christ comes back:
Isaiah 2:4 – He will judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many people. They don’t have to fight anymore. And they will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks – old technology language for “there’s not going to be weapons any longer. And the energy and the money that was spent on weaponry is going to be spent on productive effort. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.
Truth be told, there are dozens of other scriptures that make this plain. Peace will reign in this time. That’s when one of the other of Jesus’ names will come to the fore – the Prince of Peace. He’s going to settle all the disputes and the disturbances, so people won’t have to fight.
Notice something else that’s going to happen during that time in Ezekiel 47, verse 6.
Ezekiel 47:6-12 – And he said to me – this is Ezekiel talking and he’s being talked by an angel – “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. He’d just been led out into a river that it took a thousand cubits to get ankle deep, and then another thousand cubits to get knee deep, and so on. And he was led back to the bank. And he says: As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the side and on the other. And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah and enters the sea. When the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. Now, this is in the context of a world where the whole ocean had turned to blood. It was polluted in some way and it looked like blood – maybe it was blood – probably the effects of the war that had been fought. For the water goes there that the waters of the sea may become fresh so that everything will live where the river goes. Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh. They are to be left salt. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. This river, by the way, starts as a trickle that flows out in four directions from under the throne of God. That’s what he said happened. And their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing.
So there’s going to be a miraculous healing of the planet. And all the effects of the war was fought – that God had to stop, because we were going to unleash weapons that would have destroyed the earth – that’s all going to be undone.
Also, because people are now aware of who God is, and how great He is, and how much He loves them, they’re going to suddenly get in touch with their calling. God has called people through the ages – all with the same purpose – to make disciples – to make themselves disciples and to make others disciples by their example and by their encouragement. And I have a feeling that phrase, make disciples, is going to take on a whole new fruitful meaning, as in “have lots of kids.” There won’t be any financial problems, and no food problems, no housing, no clothing problems. Everything is going to be safe and so, why not? Right? And all of these people are going to grow up knowing God. So, I think what’s going to happen there is, there’s going to be a huge boom – just boom! – in the number of people that grow up and become connected to God – become followers of Jesus and God the Father.
Also, in Isaiah 35:5, here’s another one:
Isaiah 35:5 – Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. And then shall the lame man leap like a dear, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For water break forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand shall become a pool and the thirsty ground springs of water. In the haunt of jackals where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
So the desert is going to become arable and all the disabled people are going to be healed of their disabilities and illnesses. It’s hard to imagine that because of the way the world is now, but that times is coming.
So what happens to all the people that grew up in this time? I mean, we are talking about life after death and resurrections, aren’t we? Well, it doesn’t specifically say what’s going to happen. Some people think that those that live in that time will live a full life and then be changed – like at the first resurrection – the people that we were still alive when Christ returned. And those who are alive when Christ returns are changed. So that could happen. This does seem, to me, to be the most logical possibility. But, if it turns out that that’s not right, I know that sometimes my logic doesn’t match up with God’s, so I’m just going to sit back and watch and see what happens. See, God reveals what’s going to happen, but he doesn’t show us the mechanism, so to speak. God always has a reason why He’s raising up a utopian culture for a thousand years. It’s clearly to produce more children for His family. But we don’t know exactly how that’s going to be handled, as far as when they’re time of judgment is sufficient that He will enter them into His Kingdom.
So, with no devil to deceive people about God, most will want to worship Him. Everything is going to go the right way, instead of the way it goes now. And looking at all that, this time will probably expand the numbers of God’s family in an almost unimaginable way. We know that toward the end of this thousand years, God is going to release the devil for a short time. He doesn’t tell us why – but maybe, a final test. The purpose isn’t made clear. But after that, then what?
Well, who’s left to be resurrected? That’s a good way to start with this, right? We know that all the people who have followed God from the time of Adam until Christ’s return are already immortal and living with Christ in His Kingdom. And we know that there’s a plan for those people during the thousand years that live with Christ. So who’s left after that?
For certain, there were billions upon billions of people before Christ’s return who never even knew or accepted Christ, or knew God and accepted Him – you know, all the billions of people in Asia, and India, and in the Western hemisphere. As far as the timeline goes, they’re still in the grave. They’re still dead – not in hell, because there is no such place. We’re going to get into that later. And those from every age, who never knew God, who were deceived by the devil, who consequently never knew the truth of God. I mean he is a deceiver or he isn’t. And people either know God and follow Him or they don’t. So there’s lot’s of people that may have seen their neighbors go to church or whatever, but they didn’t really understand it, and God is not going to throw those people in hell and let them burn forever because they were never confronted with the truth. And there’s also a small group of people who knew God, but turned away from Him forever. We’ll talk more about that too.
So let’s see who’s coming up in this resurrection. Let’s go to Revelation 20, and verse 4. We’re going to have to untangle this a little bit, because John doesn’t exactly go point by point chronologically. He says:
Revelation 20:4 – They I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority of judgment was committed. And I also saw the souls of them who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and the word of God, and those who had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. That’s the first resurrection, isn’t it? And they’re going to reign with Christ for a thousand years.
We read this last time. It’s about the first resurrection. It shows that the first resurrection occurs when Christ returns and those resurrected are immortal. But let’s keep reading. Verse 5:
V-5 – The rest of the dead – we were just wondering about them, right? – did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. And then he says: This is the first resurrection.
So verse 5 – the first part of it – that’s a parenthetical statement. The second resurrection occurs after the thousand years have ended. But what about these people? What’s going to happen to them? Well, there’s actually a picture of this resurrection taking place in Ezekiel 37:1. Yes, there’s a word picture of what’s going to happen. It’s been translated into English so we can read it. Ezekiel says:
Ezekiel 37:1-6 – The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley. It was full of bones – apparently, the place of a great battle. And He led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Now Ezekiel was a pretty smart guy. He said: “O LORD God, You know.” And then He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.” Why is this a prophecy? Because it didn’t happen right away. It’s still going to happen later. But this is the picture of what’s going to happen. ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the LORD God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live. And you shall know that I am the LORD.” So that’s a resurrection, right? There’s even a song about it – you know, “…knee bone connected to the thigh bone….” – all of that. Verse 7 – so Ezekiel said:
V-7-11 – So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone – knee bone connected to the thigh bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath. Prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: Come four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as He had commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. And then He said to me, “Son of man – now we’re going to find out who this is – Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.”
Got that? All the Israelites that didn’t really believe in or trust God in their lifetime. We know that David, and some of the prophets, and Moses, and there are certain people in the Old Testament that are named. We know that David is going to be over the twelve tribes of Israel. These are all the Israelites that ever lived. And that really is a picture. When you study Bible prophecy, you learn it’s always from the perspective of Jerusalem. That’s the center of where it all emanates from. It’s like you’re standing there. And so, when you see this resurrection, you’re going to see the whole house of Israel come up in that resurrection, because those are the people that lived there.
V-11-26 – Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost. We are indeed cut off.’ Therefore, prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: Behold I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O My people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves – see, those are the people that didn’t know He was the LORD. And I will put My Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD. I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.’” And the word of the LORD came back to me: “Son of man, take a stick and write on it, ‘For Judah and the people of Israel associated with him.’ And then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with him.’ And join them one to another into one stick that they may become one in your hand. And when your people say to you, “Will you not tell us what you mean by these?” say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am about to take the stick of Joseph (that is in the hand of Ephraim) and the tribes of Israel associated with him, and I will join with it the stick of Judah…. You see, back in ancient times, Israel and Judah separated. Israel went to the north and had their own pagan religion , and the Jews stayed in the south. The Israelites – Joseph – they were cast off into captivity over a hundred years before Judah. But Judah finally went too. So they’ve been separated. And Judah was carried to Babylon, and they maintained their identity. But the Assyrians took off the Israelites and they scattered them through the nations. So they lost record of who they are. But God knows who each one of those people is, and all their descendants. … I will join with it the stick of Judah that they may be one in my hand. When the sticks on which you write are in your hand before their eyes, then say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. And I will make them one nation in the land on the mountains of Israel. And one king shall be king over them all. And they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms. They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols or with their transgressions. But I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned and will cleanse them, and they shall be My people, and I will be their God. My servant, David, shall be over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in My rules and be careful to obey My statutes. And they shall dwell in the land that I gave My servant, Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children’s children shall dwell there forever, and David, My servant, shall be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them.
So I want to ask you this question. These people are just resurrected. They’re all the people that never had a chance to know God. Does it sound like they’re going to be judged right then? Or, does it sound like they’re going to have some more history? It does, doesn’t it? Why is that? Well, we’re going to get to that in just a minute.
So we know when that happens, right? It happens after the thousand years. We read that the rest of the dead don’t come up until after that. So that should be right after the millennium, right? So let’s connect that up with Revelation 20:7.
Revelation 20:7 – And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations that are in the four corners of the earth, to gather them to battle. Their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched upon the breadth of the land, and they came up to the camp of the saints and the beloved city – that’s Jerusalem – but fire came down from heaven and consumed them. And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and Sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Aha! You knew there was an ever-burning hell, didn’t you? But do you know how to read English grammar? Let’s go back over this now. And you also have to understand that this was translated into English by people who believed in an ever-burning hell. Okay? “The devil is thrown into a lake of fire, where the beast and the false prophet were,” it says. Where what? Well, it says up above, “they were cast.” It could mean they were living there, but we already understood that when you throw a mortal being into a fire, they don’t live on forever. They burn up! Right? They’d have to have an immortal soul to burn forever. And we’re going to talk about that, too. ‘And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and Sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet were cast, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” So it sounds like it’s talking about the beast and the false prophet – plural – not the devil – singular. But that word they, that is in italics in the King James. That word was added. “The devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and Sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet were cast, and will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” So the bit about the beast and the false prophet, that’s just identifying which lake they got thrown into – same one that the beast and the false prophet were thrown into. And who’s going to be tormented day and night forever and ever? The devil! See, the sentence is about the devil. Where was he thrown? Well, into the lake of fire. And what happens to him when he’s thrown there? Well, fire can’t touch him. He’s tormented, but not because he’s hot. He’s outside of fire and any other physical chemical reaction. He’s a spirit. But he is tormented, none the less. Why, would you think? Well, he’s lost his freedom. He’s restrained there. He’s been tossed there and a great chain has been put around him by that angel, we’re told. In fact, he’s lost everything – all his hopes and dreams to become God and take God’s place and kill all of us, that’s all gone.
We also learn, though, that the beast and the false prophet – two men – were cast into the this lake of fire. And we know that they can’t burn forever, so are they tormented? It doesn’t say that! It says they’re going to be burned up. God loves all people, and those who would ruin His plan, they die. But they don’t live on in torture. That’s not what our God is like.
So let’s keep reading. Who’s left, again, to be resurrected? No devil now. All the people who lived and died without a full chance to accept Christ. They’re going to be born into a world that has been inhabited by God-believing people for a thousand years, where the whole planet is healed, and all the deserts have been turned into arable land. Those people are all going to have a chance to live and prove whether they want to obey God or not. Let’s notice something here – Revelation 20:11.
V-11=12 – Then I saw a great white throne and Him who was seated on it. From His presence, earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne. And the books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.
So, all these people that never had a chance are going to come up in this resurrection, and they’re going to have a chance. They’re going to have a chance to be judged according to what they had done. And at that point – when they’re resurrected – what had they done? Well, essentially nothing, because they didn’t know Christ.
Now let’s think about this. Most people today think of the term judgment as an event, where God sits on a throne and people walk by Him, and He pronounces judgment on each one of them – you know, “you’re a sheep, you’re a goat.” Right? But notice this in 1 Peter 4:17.
1 Peter 4:17 – For it time for judgment to begin at the household of God. And, if it begins with us, what will be the outcome of those do not obey the gospel of God?
“A time of judgment to begin.” Your time of judgment is your life. All the saints whoever lived and were resurrected, they were already judged fit for the Kingdom. When were they judged? During their lifetime, because of the things that they had done. That’s what it says.
Now people say today, “Well, we’re saved by grace, not by works.” That’s true, but you do have to make a commitment to Jesus Christ to be forgiven. Right? So you can’t even get in the grace ballpark unless you make that commitment. Now you can’t keep that commitment without grace and without God’s help, but you’ve got to make that commitment. So my point is, that Peter, here, is portraying judgment on Christians as a period of time. So, wouldn’t these people also get a period of time? You say, “Well, they had a life already.” Yes, but they didn’t know what you knew during your life. They never had a chance to understand. So they’re going to get…I think, probably a lifetime to live and make a commitment to God. So they’re not even judged yet when they come up. After the first resurrection occurs, they’re all going to sit in the grave, waiting for their resurrection – for their chance to know and commit to God. Of course, they’ll be unconscious, but that’s what is going to happen.
It also says they will be judged according to what they have done. And since they haven’t had a chance to enjoin the struggle all of us have had to deal with, there remains a need to give them a chance to do that. Judgment begins at the house of God. So it doesn’t really talk about how long that’s going to happen. But, after a period of time, they’re going to be judged on how they lived their life. And, if they are judged faithful to God, they’re going to be called the sheep, and if they don’t, they’re going to be called the goats.
God says He’s not willing that any should perish, and I’ve noticed that God usually gets what He wants. So I think this is how that’s going to happen.
So there you have it. The second resurrection is the resurrection to physical life after the thousand years. Everyone else is resurrected here – all the people who didn’t come up in the first resurrection, who have not had a chance to know Christ. Just think about what that means. Do you have relatives or friends that you love who don’t believe? They’re not going to hell. They’re going to come up in a great resurrection, and for the first time, have a chance to deal with God with open minds and open hearts, and know Jesus Christ and God the Father, and how much they are loved by Them. The evidence of God’s existence, His power and His love will, at that time, be indisputable. Most of those people are going to have, compared to what we had to go through, an easier time of it – a more sure time. So we can think about those that we love, who are non-believers, and we can know that when we say God is a loving God, He even loves those people. And there’s no way He’s going to fry them in hell for all eternity.