The First and Second Resurrection
April 28th, 1963 @ 10:50 AM
THE FIRST AND SECOND RESURRECTION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-28-63 10:50 a.m.
You are sharing on the radio the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message; a message that meant as much to me in its preparation as any I have ever tried to deliver in the more than thirty-five years I have been a pastor. It is a message that concerns every one of us. Someday, somewhere, sometime, we shall experience the power of God when He raises us up from the dead. As surely as we die, and we are a dying people, as surely as we die, we shall be raised up again [1 Thessalonians 4:14-17]. As surely as we are raised, God will judge us [2 Corinthians 5:10]. We have our assignment in destiny. We have an ultimate rendezvous with the Lord. It is raining outside; we have no place particularly to go. So if I get started and preach this morning for an hour or two, you just rejoice in the truth of God that is being delivered and forget about the time.
After these many years preaching through the Bible, we have come to the Revelation, and in our preaching through the Revelation, we have come finally to chapter 20. And in preaching through chapter 20, we begin at verse 4 and preach through verse 6 [Revelation 20:4-6]. And the title of the sermon is The First and the Second Resurrection. This is the reading of the text, in Revelation 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 who had not worshiped 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.
But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years
were finished. This is the first resurrection.
He anastasis he prote, very emphatically expressed, “This is the resurrection, the first” [Revelation 20:3].
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.
Wherever in the Bible—and more than 40 times that word anastasis is used in the New Testament—wherever in the Bible that word anastasis is used, it refers to the raising again of a fallen body. And this is no exception in the use of that word. The word anastasis, translated “resurrection,” refers to the raising up of a body that has fallen upon death. Now we shall look at the text, first minutely; then we shall look at what God says about the resurrection of our fallen bodies.
The vision begins, “And I saw thrones, and I saw them who sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them” [Revelation 20:4]. This is the great and final and ultimate reward God has in store for His sainted and believing people. “I saw all of them up there in glory” [Revelation 20:4]. At the end of the binding of Satan, when Satan is cast into the abyss [Revelation 20:1-3], and when God inaugurates that new, and glorious, and triumphant, and millennial age, the first vision that John sees is the glorious panorama of all of God’s people, rewarded, enthroned, judging all God’s creation [Revelation 20:4]. You don’t get your throne, you don’t get your reward, until the end times. A man doesn’t die when he dies; his influence lives on, and on, and on. And it is only at the end of the age that the reward is given to the man [2 Corinthians 5:10].
So at the consummation of the age, John sees all of these gloriously resurrected, sainted children of God, enthroned, rewarded [Revelation 20:4]. This is the fulfillment of the promise that the Lord made to His disciples in the nineteenth chapter of [Matthew], that they would sit upon thrones, judging Israel [Matthew 19:28]. This is the confirmation of that glorious word of the apostle Paul, in the sixth chapter of 1 Corinthians, verse 2, when he says we shall judge the earth—God’s saints shall judge the earth [1 Corinthians 6:2]. Then, in the next verse, verse 3, he says and God’s saints shall judge the angels [1 Corinthians 6:3].
And this is the glorious fulfillment of the promise of our Lord in Revelation 3:21 that to us who overcome, we could share with Him in His own throne, in the Father’s throne in heaven; it has come to pass. “I saw thrones, and them that sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them” [Revelation 20:4], the great, millennial, triumphant age and the enthronement, the exaltation, the glorification, the rewarding of God’s resurrected saints.
Then in that great panorama, looking upon all God’s saved people—in that vast panorama, he sees a special and a particular group, and he singles them out:
And I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus…
And they lived again and reigned with Christ
that thousand millennial years.
Now there are two reasons why the apostle singles out, marks out, this special group among all of those who have been resurrected and enthroned. First, a martyr has offered to Jesus the highest fidelity of which life is capable: a man can surrender no more to Jesus than the surrender of his life. When the law takes a man’s life, he lays upon him the heaviest penalty known to the state. And when a man offers his life to Jesus, and lays down his life for the witness of the gospel of the Son of God, he has offered to our Lord life’s highest testimony.
And these martyrs are especially designated. Now, they are just a part, a section of that great company of God’s resurrected and redeemed saints [Revelation 20:4]. The marking of them out—these martyrs—is the same kind of thing as you find in the seventh verse of the first chapter of the Revelation, “Behold, Christ cometh…and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him…” [Revelation 1:7]
Now “they who pierced Him” are not a separate group from the whole group that shall see Him, but John especially points them out. In the coming of our Lord, when the whole earth shall see Him, these murderers of Jesus shall especially and particularly be forced to confront the living Lord. But they just belong to the great group that shall look upon Him. So these martyrs here, they are just a part of that vast host of God’s children who are resurrected, redeemed, rewarded, and enthroned [Revelation 20:4].
Now there’s another reason why they are especially marked out, these martyrs. And that is in the opening of the fifth seal, in the sixth chapter of the Revelation and the ninth verse, when the fifth seal was opened, John saw under the altar “the souls of them that had been slain for the word of God…” [Revelation 6:9], and they cried, saying, “O Lord, how long, how long”? [Revelation 6:10] Now that necessitates some kind of an answer. What is God to do about these martyrs, who have laid down their lives, who have been slain by murderous and blasphemous men? [Revelation 6:9]. That necessitates an answer. And your answer is found here, at the consummation of the age: God raised them up from the dead, and they live again [Revelation 20:4].
Now some are bothered by it referring to them as “souls,” tas psuchas, translated “souls.” But you use “souls” in that way, in that regard; in the second chapter of the Book of Acts it says, “And God…added unto them three thousand souls” [Acts 2:41]. In the seventh chapter, when Stephen is talking about Joseph going down into the land of—about Jacob going down into the land of Egypt at the invitation of Joseph, he says, “And there went down” Jacob’s household, “seventy-five souls” [Acts 7:14]. And in the twenty-seventh chapter of the Book of Acts, when it describes the shipwreck of Paul on his way to Rome, it says that there were in that ship “two hundred, seventy-six souls” [Acts 27:37]. And when 1 Peter, chapter 3, describes those that were saved in the ark in the days of Noah, it says there were saved, “eight souls” [1 Peter 3:20]. And you use that word “souls” with regard to people [Revelation 20:4], “These were beheaded and were dead” as to their bodies; a soul doesn’t die, it’s immortal.
In the fifth seal, in chapter 6, verse 9, he saw those souls disembodied; they were dead as to their bodies [Revelation 6:9]. But here, at the resurrection day, in the millennial triumph of our Lord, he sees those same disembodied spirits, those same disembodied souls, he sees them raised again; and that’s why that verb ezāsan: they “lived again” [Revelation 20:4]. Translated in the next verse, the rest of the dead “lived not again” [Revelation 20:5]. These souls are resurrected in their bodies, and they live with our Lord in triumph and in glory. Then it speaks of the fact that “the rest of the dead,” lived not again until the thousand years were finished. And this is the first raising of the bodies from the dead; this is the first resurrection [Revelation 20:5].
Then we have a second resurrection; whenever you have a “first,” you have a second. There is a second resurrection. And that leads us to a discussion of what God says to us about the raising up of these bodies that shall fall into the dust of the ground. It is a strange thing: there is no place in the Word of God where the entire vision of the resurrection from the dead is presented. It is always in part, it is in pieces, it is here and there and yonder all through the Word of God. And this morning in the time that we have, we are going to put together these references to the resurrection of the dead and see what God says to us about these who shall live again, who have fallen upon death.
First of all, there is such a thing, God says, as the resurrection. For example, in the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Matthew, our Lord is discussing that very thing with the Sadducees, for the Sadducees say there is no resurrection [Matthew 22:23]. And our Lord, in answering that question the Sadducees brought to Him [Matthew 22:23-28], said, “But as touching the resurrection of the dead,” then He speaks of the resurrection in glory, “that in that resurrection you do not marry and you are not given in marriage; you are as the angels in heaven” [Matthew 22:29-30]. But the discussion centers around the fact that there is, according to our Savior, there is a resurrection [Matthew 33:31-32].
In the eleventh chapter of the Book of John, when Jesus is talking to Martha, Jesus says to Martha that, “Your brother shall live again” [John 11:23], Lazarus who has died [John 11:14]. And Martha replies, “I know, Lord, that he shall live again in the resurrection” [John 11:24]. At the last day there is a resurrection.
In the twenty-[sixth] chapter of the Book of Acts, Paul is pleading for his life, in the defense of his life, before King Agrippa. And he says to that Jewish king, he says, “Why should it be incredible to thee, O King Agrippa, that God should raise the dead”? [Acts 26:8] So to begin with, we have in the Bible an avowal of the resurrection of the dead.
All right, a second thing in the Bible: there is, in the resurrection of the dead, there is a select, there is an elect—out from among—there is an elect resurrection. There is an election of God’s people who have believed in Him. For example, in Luke 14:14 the Lord, commending people for doing a certain thing says: “Thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” There is a resurrection of God’s people, a select, elect group: “Thou shalt be recompensed,” you shall have a reward for doing these things at the resurrection of the just [Luke 14:14]. Now again, in the sixth chapter of the Book of John, our Lord is speaking to His disciples about those who question Him, and He says:
This is the will of Him who sent Me:
that every one which believeth on the Son may have eternal life:
and I will raise him up at the last day.
Then, He repeats it again:
No man can come to Me, except the Father who has sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
then, He repeats it again:
Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life;
and I will raise him up at the last day.
So in that resurrection, there is an election. There is a select group that God is going to raise up: those who trust in Him [John 6:40,44,54].
Now that is expressed by the apostle Paul in the third chapter of the Philippian letter when he describes all the things that he has given up for Jesus; he was this and he was that, and he possessed this and that—and he gave it all up that he might have Christ [Phillippians 3:4-6]. Then he says:
These things that were gain to me, these that I counted loss for Christ…
that I might know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings…
If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
[Philippians 3:7, 10-11]
And that thing that Paul says, “I press forward to [Philippians 3:14], I want to attain unto,” that thing in this Greek word is far beyond what you have it here: tēn ex—and there’s that anastasin— tēn exanastasin tēn ek nekrōn. The literal translation of that is, “if by any means I might attain to that—to those who are raised out from among.” And that is an exact translation of, “to those who are raised out from among the dead” [Philippians 3:11]. In the great cemetery that is this earth, there is going to be a selection “out from among.” God is going to raise up those who believe in Him and who trust in Him. And that is an elect, select resurrection.
Now we learn another thing: there is also to be a resurrection of the doomed: of the lost, of the damned. A man doesn’t die when he dies. His spirit lives, but that man, whole, is going to be raised up. In the twelfth chapter of the Book of Daniel, for example, “Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt” [Daniel 12:2]. Again in the [fifth] chapter of the Book of John, our Lord said:
Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth;
they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
Then there’s not only an elect group that is going to be raised in the resurrection of life, but there is also—for those that are left behind there is also a resurrection of damnation, a resurrection into hell, a resurrection in the terrible judgment and sentence of Almighty God [John 5:28-29].
All right, another thing that the Bible reveals to us: that there is a time, there is a period of time between the first resurrection of the elect of God’s people and the other resurrection, which is a resurrection of damnation and condemnation [John 5:29]. There is a time between them; they are not all raised together, but they are raised in time—one at one time; one at another time. For example, in the fourth chapter of the First Thessalonian letter, in verse 16 it says that:
The Lord is going to “descend from heaven with a shout,
with the voice of the archangel, with the trump of God:
and the dead in Christ shall rise first.
[1 Thessalonians 4:16]
That means first with regard to us who are living at the time of the Lord’s coming, but it also means first with regard to the resurrection of these others who shall remain in their graves [1 Thessalonians 4:16].
Then in the twentieth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, I learn that there is a thousand year period that intervenes between the resurrection, the anastasis, the raising up of these fallen bodies out of the grave—there is a thousand year period between the raising up, the anastasis, the resurrection of those that have trusted in Jesus and those who die lost, blaspheming, unbelievers, rejecters [Revelation 20:4-15].
Now when he refers to the first resurrection, “The rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection” [Revelation 20:5]. If that is the first resurrection and these are raised, then these that are still in the grave belong to the second resurrection. And these that are raised in the second resurrection do not belong to the first resurrection. They are altogether different. For those who are raised in the first resurrection are saved. It says, “Blessed and holy is he that hath a part in the first resurrection” [Revelation 20:6]. But there is also a resurrection of damnation, of condemnation, a resurrection into hell and torment. And that is a later, a second resurrection [Revelation 20:5, 11-14].
Now having looked at what God has to say about the resurrection, let us look at what the Lord has to say about the resurrection, the first; the resurrection of His sainted people. We learn from God’s Book that the resurrection of God’s people is not all at the same time, but in itself is in a series, it is in a succession.
In the fifteenth chapter of the 1 Corinthian letter, the passage that I had you read together, Paul outlines that succession, the series, the companies, the troops that appear before God in resurrection glory. Now, this is what you read:
But now is Christ raised from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept,
For since by man came death, by Man came also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
But every man—every one, every soul—in his own tagma: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming.
Then the end…
[1 Corinthians 15:20-24]
Four groups in that tagma, “everyone in his own tagma” [1 Corinthians 15:23]. Tagma is a Greek word for a series, or a succession, or a troop, or a company as they would come. Tagma: everyone in his own succession, “in his own order,” in his own type, in his own troop, in his own company. Then he names those companies: Christ, the first fruits, they that are Christ’s at His coming, and then the end [1 Corinthians 15:20, 23-24].
Now he is following there a pictorial typology found in the Feast of the Firstfruits, which was one part of the celebrations among the people of Israel [Leviticus 23:9-14]. I wish all of you could have been with us in our Jewish Fellowship Week. One night for example, young Tom McCall took the twenty-third chapter of the Book of Leviticus, and there God names the seven feasts, and all of those feasts have a spiritual meaning. They have a great prognostication, a great prophecy. They harbinger some great event in the life of our Lord. They have a great profound meaning. For example:
- The first feast is the Passover, and that represents the death of our Lord [Exodus 12:1-28, 43-49; Deuteronomy 16:1-8].
- The second one is the Feast of Unleavened Bread. That is the burial of our Lord: the taking of that unleavened bread and hiding it away [Exodus 12:15-20, 13:3-10; Leviticus 23:6-8].
- And the third is the Feast of Firstfruits; that is the resurrection of our Lord [Leviticus 23:9-14].
- Then the next is the Feast of Pentecost, the fourth one and that is the coming of the Holy Spirit [Leviticus 23:15-22; Numbers 28:26-31].
- The fifth one is the Feast of the Blowing of the Trumpets, and that is the harbinger of the return of our Lord; the triumphant descent of our Lord [Leviticus 23:23-25; Numbers 10:10, 29:1-6].
- And the next feast—they turned it into a fast—the next feast is that of Atonement and that is the tribulation and the mourning of the people of God when they come back to the Lord and accept their Messiah [Leviticus 16, 23:26-32; Numbers 29:7-11].
- And the last is the Feast of Tabernacles, which is a pictorial representation of the glory and happiness of God’s ultimate and final millennial age [Leviticus 23:33-43; Numbers 29:12-38].
Now in those feasts, the apostle Paul takes the Feast of First fruits, which feast depicts the resurrection of our Lord [1 Corinthians 15:20-24]. Now the Feast of Firstfruits began on Sunday; it began on the first day after the Sabbath [Leviticus 23:10-11]. It began on the first of the week after the Passover, and our Lord was crucified at the Passover [John 19:14]. He was dead [Matthew 27:50]. He was buried [Matthew 27:57-61]. And the first day of the week, He was raised from the dead [Matthew 28:1-7]. Every time we meet on Sunday, we celebrate the Feast of the Firstfruits [Leviticus 23:9-14]. Every time we gather in God’s house on the first day of the week, we are celebrating an Easter, the resurrection of our Lord. That’s why we meet. You are under no commandment to meet on Sunday. We are under no commandment to meet on any other day. We do this out of the love of our hearts, out of the rejoicing of our souls that Jesus is living again, that God raised Him from the dead. This is our Easter: this is our Sunday, this is our first day of the week. This is our Feast of Firstfruits [Leviticus 23:9-14].
Now the Feast of Firstfruits has three parts. First, on that day—the first day after the Sabbath, on the Sunday after the Passover—the Israelite went out into the barley field, and there he plucked a handful of the ripe heads of the grain. And he took that, the firstfruits—he took that handful of the firstfruits of the coming harvest—he took that handful to the priest and he dedicated it to the Lord [Leviticus 23:10]. And the priest took it into the tabernacle and he waved it before the Lord [Leviticus 23:11]. It was a sign, it was a harbinger of the dedication of the whole harvest that should be given and dedicated unto the Lord.
So you had that day when the firstfruits were offered unto God—just a handful of the ears of barley. Then the second part was the harvesting of the crop, which came about in the summertime [Leviticus 23:10]. And then finally, at the end of the harvest, you had the gleaning [Leviticus 19:9-10]. So in the offering of the harvest unto God there was the handful of the firstfruits. Then there was the harvest, including the wheat harvest. And then finally the gleaning, going along after the harvesters had passed and picking up the heads that had been crushed and trampled down in the gathering. Paul uses that imagery and follows it precisely here [1 Corinthians 15:20-24]. In the resurrection of the just, in the resurrection of God’s people, in the resurrection of us who are saved, it has a tagma—it has a succession, it has a series. And we come before the Lord by troops and in different companies. First Christ; He was the first one raised from the dead [1 Corinthians 15:20].
Now you have many resuscitations, many of them. For example, that man who was dead and when he touched the bones of [Elisha] he was resuscitated [2 Kings 13:21]. You have the story of the raising from the dead of the son of the Shunammite by [Elisha] [2 Kings 4:32-37]. You have the story of the resuscitation of the son of the widow of Nain [Luke 7:11-15]. You have the story of the resuscitation of Lazarus [John 11:43-44]. You have the story of the resuscitation of the daughter of Jairus [Luke 8:41-42, 49-56]. But in all of those instances, the body was resuscitated. It went back into the dust of the ground; it died. It was not immortalized, it was not “resurrected.”
The first to be resurrected from the dead is our second Adam [1 Corinthians 15:20]. “As by Adam,” first Adam, “came death, so by [Christ],” the second Adam, “comes the resurrection from the dead” [1 Corinthians 15:21]. The first one to be raised from the dead is our Lord Jesus Christ [1 Corinthians 15:23]. All right, Paul says that’s first. Thing he says next is the firstfruits, the little handful, the little company that is brought before the Lord as an earnest of the great harvest that is yet to be dedicated, to be raised [1 Corinthians 15:23]. All right, let’s see if Paul is right in describing this succession. We’re to look for a little harvest, a little firstfruits, a few heads of grain that we wave before the Lord:
Behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain . . . and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent: and the graves were opened: and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after His resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
All right, Paul said Christ first, then the firstfruits, the little handful [1 Corinthians 15:23]. When the Lord entered into heaven, raised from the dead, He did not go by Himself. He had a little company with Him. He had a little troop with Him, He had a few souls with Him; they were the firstfruits. The firstfruits that were brought before the Lord; they are a harbinger. They are an earnest, they are a guarantee. They are a promise of the great harvest that is yet to come [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].
Now Paul is going to speak of that, “Every man in his tagma.” Christ is first; He is the first one raised from the dead. Then the firstfruits: that little hand of saints that was raised when Christ was raised, after He was raised and they went up in the glory with our blessed Lord. Now you’ve got a third group here, “Afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming” [1 Corinthians 15:23]. And that is the rapture: the taking out of God’s people when the Lord comes. “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints” [Jude 1:14]. “The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first” [1 Thessalonians 4:16]. That’s the great harvest, when the Lord comes for His own. Christ, that little group of firstfruits, then all of us—if the Lord delays His coming and we fall to the ground [1 Corinthians 15:23]—then all of us shall be raised up, which is the great, main body of the harvest of the resurrection [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].
Then he says, “the end.” You have it translated, “then cometh the end” [1 Corinthians 15:24]. Now that word “cometh,” some guy just put that in there because he just wanted to. Why they want to put things like that in there, I don’t know. But some guy just did that because he wanted to. It’s not in the—it’s not the way Paul wrote it, “then the end; then the end” [1 Corinthians 15:24].
So we’ve got some end ones, just like it is in the harvest of the firstfruits: the first heads, then the great harvest, then the gleaning [Leviticus 23:9-14]. Now, we have some gleanings at “the end” [1 Corinthians 15:24]. And when I turn to the Bible here, in the seventh chapter of the Book of the Revelation [Revelation 7:11], here are some gleanings. There are the elders, twenty-four of them [Revelation 4:4]. The twenty-four elders; twelve of them represent the saints of the Old Testament, twelve of them represent the saints of the New Testament. And those twenty-four elders represent God’s saints, all of God’s resurrected people [Revelation 7:11]. There they are, enthroned. Just like you saw them in the twentieth chapter of the Revelation, there they are enthroned, rewarded and crowned [Revelation 20:4]. These are God’s people. But they are not all of them: there are some “gleanings,” for here, in the presence of the elders, is a great group [Revelation 7:9]. And John said, “Well, where do they come from? Who are these? I never saw them before. I don’t recognize a one of them; I don’t recognize a one of them” [Revelation 7:13-14].
Now had they been those who had been saved in Paul’s day, he would have of recognized—I mean in John’s day, he would have recognized some of them. Why, you’d recognize your mother. You’d recognize your father, if they had preceded you. You’d recognize some of your friends. But when Paul looked upon—when John looked upon that group, he didn’t recognize a one of them, not a one of them. “I never saw these before. Where’d they come from?” And one of those elders said, “These are they that have come out of that, ‘the tribulation, the great’“ [Revelation 7:14]. They are part of the gleanings. After all of the rest of us are in glory, and all the rest of us are in heaven, down here in the awful days of that terrible tribulation, God saves some and these are some of the gleanings [Revelation 7:13-14]. After the rest of the harvest has already been reaped, all right, there are some gleanings [1 Corinthians 15:24].
Now when I turn over here to the eleventh chapter of the Revelation, and verse 11, why, I read there about His two witnesses [Revelation 11:11]. These two marvelous witnesses of the Lord God in this world, and in this dark day of tribulation and oppression, “and they were slain by wicked men [Revelation 11:7-9]. But after three and a half days, the spirit of life entered into them, and they ascended up into heaven,” there are some gleanings [Revelation 11:11-12]; here are two more that the Lord has gleaned. They have been raised from the dead [1 Corinthians 15:24].
Then I turn over here to the fourteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation: “And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on Mount Zion” [Revelation 14:1]. And with Him, that one hundred forty-four thousand redeemed from the earth; there are some gleanings, one hundred forty-four thousand of them—the gleanings of the Lord [1 Corinthians 15:24]. And then when I turn over here to the passage I just read to you, here are the “souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus” [Revelation 20:4]. And they have been raised from the dead. They have been raised from the dead; they lived again [Revelation 20:4]. These are the gleanings that God has raised up and enthroned with all of His sainted children [1 Corinthians 15:24]. Isn’t it a wonderful thing? Not a one is going to be lost; not a one is going to be left behind, not a one, not the least of God’s saints. Every one of them, in God’s time and in God’s ableness and in God’s power, every one of them is going to be raised up [1 Corinthians 15:20-24].
And when the great resurrection of Christ is told—we haven’t told it all. Wait a minute, man! There’s something else; there’s another story yet. There are the resurrection of that handful, and they were raised after Christ’s resurrection and went with Him up into glory [Matthew 27:52-53]. But wait a minute, man! That’s not all! That’s not all! There’s something yet. That was a harbinger, and the earnest and the guarantee of the great host, the main harvest, these who have fallen asleep in Jesus. And they shall be raised at the coming of the Lord, at the sound of the trumpet when the archangel shall speak [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].
But wait a minute, man! That’s not all yet: there are some who are left behind. There are some who go through that terrible tribulation [Revelation 7:14]. There are some who are going to be cut down by the beast and the false prophet. They haven’t been forgot [Revelation 7:15]. The Lord goes through this earth, and these are His gleanings [1 Corinthians 15:24]. And finally—and finally, when the Lord calls the roll in glory, every one whose name is in the Lambs’ Book of Life [Luke 10:20; Revelation 20:12, 15], every one of them is there, without loss of one.
Man, wouldn’t you like to have a little time here and preach about the elective keeping of God? Like that one hundred forty-four thousand—there were one hundred forty-four thousand, in the seventh chapter of the Revelation, when they were sealed [Revelation 7:1-4], and in the fourteenth chapter of the Revelation, when they are up there on Mount Zion, there are not thirteen thousand four hundred ninety-nine of them, there are not one hundred thirty-nine thousand four hundred ninety-nine of them; there are one hundred forty-four thousand of them [Revelation 14:1-3]. Every one of them got there, every one of them got there. And oh! what a blessedness that the Lord remembers us and that the Lord keeps us.
I was reading through these old preachers—these old time preachers, preached a long time ago—and somebody had confronted one of them. And somebody had said to one of them, “Now this thing of the election of God and the purpose of God, why, that is a terrible doctrine! That’s a terrible doctrine! For that means some are not going to be saved.” And the man replied, “That may be correct. That may be correct. In the elective purpose of God, there may be some who will say, ‘No!’ to Jesus, and ‘No!’ to the Lord, and will not repent and be saved. But,” he said, “I have the assurance—I have the assurance, every time I stand up and preach, and every time I deliver God’s message, the elective purpose of God says to me there are some that are going to be saved.” And that assurance is always with the Lord’s people.
Not the least of us are going to be left behind. There are going to be the resurrections of these that God has written in His book, just like there are the salvation of these God has written in His book. I’ve never seen that book of God. I don’t know whose names are in it. But every one of those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, every one of them is going to come down an aisle. He is going to give his hand to the preacher, he’s going to take Jesus as his Savior [Romans 10:8-13] and he’s going to be at that great and final rendezvous with God, every one of them: every one of those names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life [Luke 10:20; Revelation 20:12, 15].
And every one of those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, they may fall into the dust of the ground, but the Lord is going to raise them up [1 Thessalonians 4:14-17]. The Lord marks the place. The Lord sees the dust and it’s a separate and precious dust to Him. And in God’s day, and in God’s time, the Lord is going to raise them up, each in his tagma, each in his time, each in his order, each in his succession, but all of us remembered before the Lord [1 Corinthians 15:20-24]. Oh, it is a comfort to know, just like John wrote, “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection… and they shall reign with Christ a thousand years” [Revelation 20:6].
Now we must stop. And while we sing our hymn of appeal, somebody to give his heart in trust to the Lord Jesus [Romans 10:8-13]; somebody to put his life with us in the fellowship of the church [Hebrews 10:24-25], while we sing this song and while we make this appeal, would you stand by me? “Here I come, preacher, I put my life in the hands of God and here I stand” [Ephesians 2:8].
“Here I am, preacher. This is my wife and these are our children, we are all coming.” Or just a couple you. While the Spirit of the Lord shall speak to your heart and while God shall open the door, and while our people prayerfully sing the appeal, today to accept Jesus as Savior, or to put your life with us in this blessed church, would you come and stand by me?
In the balcony round, on this lower floor, on the first note of the first stanza, “Here we are, pastor, and here we come.” “Here I am, and here I come.”
Make it today. Make it now. In this glorious and triumphant hour, thinking about the power of God in our souls, to deliver us some day into glory, make it today. Make it now, make it the first note of the stanza. Step out into that aisle, and down to the front, “Here I come, here I come.” While we stand, and while we sing.
THE FIRST AND SECOND RESURRECTION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-28-63I. The resurrected saints of God
A. The enthroned saints of God(Revelation 3:21, 20:4, Matthew 19:28, 1 Corinthians 6:2-3)
B. The martyrs mentioned especially, singled out(Revelation 20:4)
1. A man can surrender no more to Jesus than the surrender of his life
a. Not a separate group from the whole, but especially pointed out, like “they who pierced Him” (Revelation 1:7)
2. In the opening of the fifth seal, John saw under the altar “souls of them who had been slain” crying out to God
a. The answer to their cry is found here at the consummation – God raised them up from the dead(Revelation 6:9)
b. Called “souls”, taspsuchas – use of “souls” with regard to people(Acts 2:4, 7:14, 27:37, 1 Peter 3:20)
i. In fifth seal he saw souls disembodied, dead in regard to their bodies
ii. At resurrection day he sees same disembodied souls raised again, resurrected in their bodies – the first resurrectionII. The resurrections
A. Nowhere in the Bible is the subject fully given in any one vision
B. There is a resurrection of the dead(Matthew 22:23, 30-31, John 11:24, Acts 26:8)
C. There is an elect resurrection – a selection “out from among”(Luke 14:14, John 6:39-44, Philippians 3:7-11)
D. There is a resurrection of the doomed, the lost(Daniel 12:2, John 5:28-29)
E. There is a difference in the time of the resurrection of the just and the unjust(1 Thessalonian 4:16, Revelation 20:5-6)
1. When the two are mentioned together, the saved are always first
F. There is an order, a series, a succession in the first resurrection
1. “Everyone in his own tagma, series, troop”(1 Corinthians 15:21-24)
a. Christ, the firstfruits, they that are Christ’s at His coming, and then the end ones
2. The imagery of the Feast of the Firstfruits – depicts the resurrection of our Lord
a. Began Sunday after Passover
b. Three parts
i. At the beginning of the barley harvest a handful of grain was given to the priest to be dedicated as an earnest of the entire harvest
ii. The harvest proper
iii. The gleaning
3. The succession in the resurrection of the saved(1 Corinthians 15:22-24)
a. Christ, the first one raised from the dead
i. There are many resuscitations, but Christ the first resurrected
b. The firstfruits – a few heads of grain (Matthew 27:50-52)
c. They that are Christ’s at His coming – the raptured(Jude 14, 1 Thessalonians 4:16)
d. Then the end – the gleanings
i. The saved out of the tribulation before the company of elders(Revelation 7:11-14)
ii. The resurrection of the two witnesses(Revelation 11:11)
iii. The resurrection of the 144,000(Revelation 14:1-3)
iv. The martyrs(Revelation 20:4)