Posted on 10 May 2012 04:22 PM
I recently heard the arguement of three resurrections: one at the time of Christ's return, when the saints are resurrected to reign with Christ 1,000 years, the second at the end of the thousand years (though separate from the final judgement) where those who never received the Gospel or had the chance to accept Christ will be judged according to their actions and given a chance to accept Christ, and a third where we know Satan and his angels will be thrown into the lake of fire along with the wicked dead prior to the formation of the New Earth. Up until now, I've thought that there will be only two resurrections: one when Christ returns, and the other just before the lake of fire judgement. I had assumed that those who had never had the chance to recieve Christ would simply be either resurrected along with the saints or in the final judgement--the judging here of which will go to either fate, of course, being God's. Biblically, as far as I understand, both can be argued, but which is the case? Can you give me a few verses to substantiate the biblical view?
There are indeed three resurrections, but not necessarily as you have described them.
All resurrections occur AFTER the investigative judgment is finished, because Jesus says that when He comes, "My reward is with me." Rev 22:12. The day of judgment, which is the sanctuary's antitypical Day of Atonement, is going on now. "Judgment is set and the books are opened." Dan 7:10. Everyone's name will come up in this investigative judgment, and all cases will be decided-- whether each individual gets "eternal life" or will "perish," as John 3:16's two options spell out.
If those who have trusted in the blood of our Savior maintain their trust and cooperate with God as He sanctifies them, they will be raised in the FIRST resurrection during Jesus' Second Coming. They have died in peace, "in Christ." They have trusted that their sins have "gone beforehand unto judgment," meaning they've been confessed and forgiven. They have confesssed AND forsaken every sin they were aware of. "Pardon" has been written next to each confessed, recorded sin. In the Day of Atonement, those sins are completely "blotted out" of the Book of Remembrance Acts 3:19, and our heavenly Father says He will "remember no more" their sins. Heb 10:17. They are "blessed and holy." The second death has no power over them, because they will live forever in peace and joy. Rev 20:6. This group also includes those who may never have heard of Jesus, but who have responded to the Holy Spirit's drawing and have lived principled, even godly lives, as their consciences have responded to that "still, small voice." They rise from the grave immortal. Until this time, only God had immortality. 1 Tim 6:16.
They all "reign with him [Christ] a thousand years." Rev 20:7. They reign in heaven, though, because that's where Jesus has taken them. 1 Thes 4:13-18 tells us that the righteous dead and those righteous who are alive when Jesus comes will be "caught up together in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air." They do not stay on earth during that thousand years. They "judge [evil] angels" (1 Cor 6:3) and search the Books of Remembrance to see for themselves why those not in heaven with them were not permitted to rise in the first resurrection. Also, we know they are in heaven for that thousand years because when Jesus comes, the entire earth goes into such upheaval that it becomes uninhabitable. Rev 21:1 tells of a new creation, a new heaven and a new earth to be given to the redeemed at the end of the thousand years, when the New Jerusalem, where they're living, comes down from heaven. Rev 21:2.
Jesus and the redeemed come down to earth with that city. That's Jesus' Third Coming to earth. But before that wonderful re-creation of earth, right in front of the saved, there will occur the second resurrection. This is for all those whose sins prevented their rising in the first resurrection. They loved sin and their worldly pleasures more than the possibility of being with Jesus, cleansed of sin and enjoying the wonders of eternal life. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. " 1 Cor 2:9.
Those raised in the second resurrection are organized by Satan to make a final assault on the newly-descended city, but they hear judgment pronounced against them, and then they experience "the second death" in the fire from heaven. The Bible describes the lake of fire, where they're destroyed, as that "second death." Rev 20:14-5. They are not given immortality, and since "death and hell" are also "cast into the lake of fire," to be destroyed forever, too, we know there's no such thing as an eternally burning torment of hellfire. No sinner is given immortality, so why even make up a story about such a place? It's a horrid unbiblical "tradition." "Traditions" are called that, instead of "truth," because they teach differently than the Bible.
Now we'll address the third resurrection, also called a "special resurrection." Most people will rise either in the first or second resurrection, which are for the "sins-confessed and forsaken" and the "sins unconfessed and/or unforsaken" groups respectively. Two separate resurrections, one for the wheat and one for the tares, basically. But in the "special resurrection," a certain group that's composed of both the righteous and the sinful will rise. We're told of that unique group in Dan 12:2: "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt."
Rev1:7 describes a scene that's clearly Jesus' Second Coming: "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him." That last group are those who have risen to "everlasting contempt." Now why would those who have done such evil to Jesus on the cross see Him coming to earth to claim His faithful? Why aren't they resurrected in the second resurrection with all the rest of the wicked? It's because their sin is even worse, because they did it directly to the Son of God, even though He had given all the evidence anyone could need to know He was the long-awaited Messiah, the Lamb of God whose sacrifice of Himself would "save them FROM their sins" (Mat 1:21), not IN their sins. They falsely arrested and accused Him, held a sham of a trial, pressured Pilate and incited the crowd to crucify this innocent Man, mocked Him, hit and spit on Him, jammed a thorny crown onto His head, scourged Him cruelly twice, then hung him on the Roman cross to die as the worst of the three sinners executed that day. These people will get to see our King and Lord coming in power and magnificence and beauty, with thousands and thousands of angels, to receive His beloved saints. And they will know that the One they treated so cruelly is not coming for them. Their suffering is worse than those still waiting in their graves for the second resurrection and destruction, because they get to see more of His triumphant return than the sleeping ones do. As He was once in their hands, they are now in His hands.
Also raised in this special resurrection are those who have lived at the time of fulfillment of the 2300 day prophecy of Daniel 8:14. "And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth." Rev 14:13. It's the same group that in Dan 12:12 that gets a special blessing: "Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days." That 1335 year prophecy takes us to the end of that 2300 day prophecy time period, too. The date is 1844, according to computations based on details given to us in the Scriptures.
Why are they especially privileged to see Jesus coming before the rest of the righteous are raised? It's because the most important message ever given by God to men, the three angels' messages of Revelation 14, have been given to that group of people living after 1844 who have understood the time prophecies of Daniel. Those of that group who have been faithful in giving that message to the world--at a time when the world is in deep apostasy and rebellion to God, accepting the mark of the beast instead of the Sabbath seal of God-- are to be given that special blessing. You can read more wonderful details about what they'll see and hear in the incredible book The Great Controversy by Ellen White, in the chapter "God's People Delivered." We urge you to get and read that book asap, if you haven't already done so. Of that group, the words inspired by heaven say, "Here is the patience of the saints. Here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus." Rev 14:12. That same group has the "testimony of Jesus Christ," Rev 12:17, which is the "spirit of prophecy." Rev 19:10.
That spirit of prophecy is an identifier of that group and was given to guide that group in its special privilege of giving the very last call of God to humanity: "Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues." Those who separate from religions based on tradition and align themselves with those who "live by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God" will be allowed to see what those raised in the special resurrection will see--the return of Jesus from the beginning-- and hear--the time of His coming announced, and the blessing from God pronounced upon His faithful people enduring the time of Jacob's trouble for His sake.
We hope this study has helped clarify, because your question was an important one. It is essential that we know everything possible about God's plan of salvation, so we can avail ourselves of it and be saved, in the end, to live eternally. We send our blessings.