The First Resurrection
by Martin G. Collins
Forerunner, "Bible Study," July 2001
Death is a reality we all must face (Hebrews 9:27), but the hope of the Christian is the resurrection of the dead (I Peter 1:3). The same God who resurrected Jesus Christ from the grave nearly two thousand years ago will also raise all the dead to life again. The New Testament consistently teaches hope in the resurrection based upon the resurrection of Christ as the firstborn from the dead.
By means of the resurrection, the vast majority of mankind will receive the opportunity for salvation and subsequently the gift of eternal life. Only a few who willfully reject God's way of life will not. This Bible study begins a three-part series on this basic biblical doctrine (Hebrews 6:2). This installment will analyze the first resurrection, that of the firstfruits of God's Kingdom.
Comment: The Bible identifies two types of resurrections: special acts of God's mercy in which He restores people to physical life, and resurrections to spiritual, eternal life. The New Testament also contrasts resurrection to life with resurrection to judgment or condemnation. Theologically, resurrection to judgment can also mean being raised to one's opportunity for salvation, in the same way that "the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God" (I Peter 4:17).
Comment: Our resurrection to eternal life is possible because Jesus Christ died to pay for our sins and rose from the grave as the firstborn of many brethren. His death justifies us, but His resurrection to life makes our resurrection possible. Of itself, the blood of Christ does not save us, and had He remained dead, we could not be saved or given eternal life. We are saved because Christ lives now and forever.
Comment: The saints of God will be part of the first and better resurrection. The Bible nowhere says that those resurrected to everlasting life and those resurrected to shame will both come up in the same resurrection. The apostle Paul tells Felix, the governor of Judea, that there would be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust dead, indicating at least two separate resurrections.
Comment: Only the just, the righteous, will rise at Christ's second coming. God will raise the martyred saints to eternal life, but the unjust dead will not be resurrected until the end of this period. If we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us when we die, we will be resurrected through the power of that same Spirit at that time. In addition to the dead in Christ, those who are true Christians at His coming will rise in the first resurrection (Matthew 24:30-31).
Comment: Paul was willing to suffer the loss of all things so he could experience the power of Christ's resurrection. Since our citizenship is in heaven, our hope lies there. Christ our Savior will change our corrupt bodies into bodies like His glorious body—from mortal flesh to immortal, incorruptible spirit.
Comment: Jesus promises the saints that, if they overcome and live His way of life, He will give them a new name that only the recipient knows, as well as the names of God and of His city, New Jerusalem. God will give the saints power over the nations under Christ. They will also be clothed in righteousness and sit with Him on His throne. The resurrection of the saints is so certain that Paul speaks of it as already accomplished.
God has established an order of resurrections. His saints will rise first, followed at length by a second resurrection of most of mankind who never had a chance to know God's truth during their lives. Finally, in a third resurrection, the wicked—those who knew God's truth and rejected it—will come up to face eternal judgment, death in the Lake of Fire. It is far better to be in the first resurrection, to live as eternal spirit beings in the God Family, filled with God's own character and incapable of sin.