The answer to this question might seem rather obvious based on one’s familiarity with traditional New Testament teaching on the resurrection of the just and the unjust. But to answer this question fully, one needs to know more than just the number of resurrections but also their role in achieving and completing Christ’s work to deliver a kingdom to the Father (1 Corinthians 22-25).
To show how Christ will use resurrection to achieve that end, I’d like to split the answer into two or more articles. First, let’s focus on identifying references to future mass resurrections and to whom and what period they apply to. Then in one or more subsequent articles, I’ll discuss their relationship to Christ’s goal of building the promised kingdom.
To discover more about the role resurrection plays in Christ’s kingdom-building process, read my recent book – The Rapture Question: An Unfiltered View
The First Resurrection
The most obvious resurrection is that of the called, chosen, and faithful in Christ. These are called the firstfruits of the resurrection and a kingdom of priests to God (Romans 8:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Revelation 1:5-6; Revelation 5:9-10). This is the resurrection to which they hope and have confidence in as a result of Christ himself being raised from the dead, because in it they receive the promised inheritance – eternal life.
Revelation 20:4,6 (ESV throughout)
4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped 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.
6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
This resurrection, called the first, is for the just, those who’ve died in Christ, and by virtue of that faithfulness will also be raised from the dead as he was (Romans 6). The immortality they gain in the first resurrection is conditional:
- Those to whom authority to judge was given
- Those souls beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God
- Those who had not worshipped the Beast or its image
- Those who had not received the Beast’s mark
All these are restored not to physical life, but to spiritual, eternal life (vs 4), and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years. Not only have they been given victory over the first death but over the second, permanent death as well (vs 6). This will be important later.
As to the timing of this resurrection, it occurs at our Lord’s appearing (1 Corinthians 15:51-53; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10; Titus 2:11-14; 1 Peter 1:7,13).
1 Thessalonians 4:14-17
14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke likewise mention a resurrection, but is it the first resurrection? In Mathew 22:23-33 and Mark 12:24-27, the resurrection spoken of is one in which the participants are like angels in heaven. We must go to the account in Luke to get the details needed.
34 And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36 for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.
The resurrection being spoken of here, closely resembles the first resurrection outlined previously in Revelation 20:
- They are worthy to partake of the resurrection
- They are sons of God, equal to the angels in their immortality
- They cannot die anymore – the second death has no power over them
The author of the Fourth Gospel(1) also records Christ’s clarification about the life he gives to the dead and the resurrection to life it leads to for those who believe.
Fourth Gospel 5:25-27
25 Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.
Though Christ is not speaking directly about resurrection, he is speaking of those who are the disobedient (whose wages for sin is death) but have been given ears to hear his words of life. As a result they will live in him (Romans 6). It’s also worth noting the connection between judgment and life (vs 26-27). The authority to execute judgment which Christ has been given isn’t merely to mete out punishment. It’s to lead the disobedient through death and into life. That’s the underlying will of the Godhead, and a goal of their work (Fourth Gospel 12:44-50).
We can get a glimpse of the bigger picture of Christ’s goal to deliver a glorified kingdom to the Father by reviewing briefly Paul’s exhaustive discourse on the necessity and expectation for the resurrection of the just outlined in 1 Corinthians 15.
1 Corinthians 15:20-26
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
Not only has Paul clarified the necessity of Christ’s resurrection (vs 17-19), he then shows that any hope we might have comes only through Christ, and only when Christ comes again. This coincides with what we observed about the timing of the first resurrection detailed in Revelation 20.
Paul goes on then to outline the work Christ has to complete before handing the glorified kingdom over to the Father:
- Christ is going to deliver a kingdom to the Father
- Notice this occurs at the end (of an age)
- But only after doing some things first:
1) Christ will reign in heaven and on earth
2) Destroying every rule, authority, and power that opposes God
3) Until he has put all God’s enemies under his feet
4) The last enemy he will destroy is death
To learn more about the firstfruits of salvation who assist Christ in his kingdom-building process, read my recent book – The Rapture Question: An Unfiltered View
Final Resurrection/Final Judgment
This last enemy that Christ will destroy is also mentioned in Revelation 20, providing the placement for this activity at the end of his 1000-year reign on earth.
Revelation 20:14 – Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.
This provides the closing requirement before handing the kingdom over to his Father. Prior to this final step, Christ will judge all the dead in righteous judgment. Let’s go back to the Fifth chapter of the Fourth Gospel to connect what Christ was referring to there and how it connects with the events at the end of Revelation 20.
Fourth Gospel 5:28-29
28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
Christ goes on to explain how resurrection applies to those who’ve died without their hope in him. Those who’ve done evil are also resurrected, but not to condemnation as some would expect; death was the condemnation (Romans 6:23). They’re resurrected to judgment(2). If Christ is the judge, then that judgment will be a righteous judgment. More on this later. Let’s continue with its connection in Revelation.
13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Notice also that their resurrection is not like those in the first resurrection. Theirs is a bodily and physical resurrection to life, because they haven’t qualified for the glorified resurrection to eternal life. In addition, they can be destroyed in the lake of fire; the second death. This is something the glorified are exempt from (vs 6).
The two resurrections we’ve spoken of so far address the resurrection and harvest of the faithful, the just, and a later resurrection and harvest of the world as a whole, the unjust. Yet there is another harvest spoken of for the disobedient in Israel, God’s chosen people. We get a hint of it in Romans 9-11.
The promises to Israel(3) precede the revelation of Yeshua, the Christ (Romans 9:1-5). Israel’s unbelief was prophesied (Romans 9:30-33), for God knows well they are a disobedient and contrary people (Romans 10:21). But God has not rejected his chosen people (Romans 11:1). He has used their stumbling as a means to bring the riches of reconciliation and salvation to the Gentiles (Romans 11:11-12,15). God has made allowances for all Israel to be saved through his mercy, because the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Although they were called firstborn sons of God (Exodus 4:21-23; Hosea 11:1), they are redeemed after the faithful firstfruits, a faithful remnant which includes the Gentiles (Romans 11:2b-7,17-24).
25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,
“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
27 “and this will be my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”
28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. 32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.
The Apostle Paul understands the plan God has for Israel to redeem it from exile; the promise of restoration and a new covenant (Jeremiah 31), and their deliverance as the earth gives birth to the dead (Isaiah 26). The prophet Ezekiel has clearly outlined the wonderful works God will do in Israel, to lead them into the obedience of faith for a clear and definitive purpose – and you shall know that I am the Lord (Ezekiel 37:6).
- These bones are the whole house of Israel – those cut off from life (vs 11) and from the natural olive tree (Romans 11:17-24).
- I will open your graves and raise you from your graves – declares the Lord (vs 12)
- I will bring you into the land of Israel – declares the Lord (vs 12)
- I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live – declares the Lord (vs 14)
- I will place you in your own land – declares the Lord (vs 14)
- I have spoken, and I will do it – declares the Lord.
In spite of the clear and plain description of a resurrection to physical, mortal life (vs 5-6,7-10), countless commentators and denominations insist that this has already been fulfilled in the Jews when they returned to their home land and established the modern nation of Israel. However, they overlook the obvious characteristics the Lord promises for all Israel, not just the Jews (vs 15-23):
- They will receive a new Spirit and a new heart, committed to Yeshua, the Christ (Ezekiel 36:26-28)
- The combined tribes of Israel, including the Jews (Judah) are joined into one in the hand of the Lord (vs 19). This has not been fulfilled in the modern nation of Israel.
- The restoration of the twelve tribes from out of the nations (vs 21) where the Lord dispersed them (Jeremiah 31). This also has not been fulfilled in the modern nation of Israel.
- One king shall be over them all (vs 22,24). Currently the Jews in Israel rule themselves.
- The Lord (Yeshua, the Christ) will dwell with them, and He will be their God, and they will be his people (vs 27). This too has failed to manifest in the current nation of Israel.
- The sanctuary of the Lord will be in their midst as an example to the Gentile nations around them (vs 28), so that these nations will know that it is the Lord Yeshua, the Christ, who sanctifies you.
It’s complete foolishness to suggest that the modern geographical nation of Israel, consisting primarily of Jews from the tribe of Judah, comes anywhere close to what God is promising for all twelve tribes of Israel; Reuben, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin, along with Judah.
Not only will Christ the King gather them from the nations where they were dispersed, he will gather them from the grave. Their resurrection will be to flesh and blood, as described earlier in Ezekiel 37. And it will come at a time that the Lord himself reigns on earth. And they will receive the covenant and the Holy Spirit then, just as we have received it now. And the path of the covenant for them will be the same path that we have walked – in obedience to Christ, the King, and ultimately into eternal life. And all that the Lord will do for them will not be for their own sake, but for the sake of his name among the nations (Ezekiel 37:24-28).
Yet before Israel can come to experience that kingdom, they must first come to know and accept their “King of Righteousness;” the Son of God. They must be willing to let go of their righteousness and embrace instead God’s righteousness in Christ Jesus his son (Romans 10:1-4). We know that God will accomplish this in them.
3 Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord.
5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
At this point we should be able to see that there are not two, but at least three future resurrections spoken of in scripture.
For the faithful saints, Christ will appear in the heavens and call them from the graves, at which time they will inherit eternal life and immortality. They will fulfill their role as kings and priests under their High Priest as he reigns on earth to lead all Israel and the nations into the obedience of faith. In this way he and his bride will complete the preparation of the kingdom to be handed over to the Father.
For those who stumbled in Israel, they will just be entering their covenant in Christ as he sets up his ruling kingdom on earth. During his reign they will learn to trust in the Lord as they fulfill their role as a model nation and an example of God’s faithfulness. During their time under Christ’s rule and King David’s leadership, they will grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, through faith, in much the same way that believers in Christ have since his work began. And the result of that faithfulness leads to the same conclusion for them at the end of the age – eternal life.
The final resurrection for the unjust and disobedient of the world will occur sometime near the end of Christ’s 1000-year reign. Just as the disobedient and unfaithful of Israel were resurrected to judgment in the form of Christ’s covenant of faith, so each of these resurrected dead will likewise be confronted with the Lord their righteousness. Their challenge, like it has been for all who’ve been called out of disobedience and darkness, will be whether to surrender to the obedience of faith and the grace of God or not. For those who choose wisely, there’s only one place that faith in Christ will lead them, and their names will be added to the Book of Life. For those who choose otherwise, all that remains for them is the second death; a permanent death from which there is no hope of resurrection or return.
The following series of articles provide related and additional insight into the kingdom-building process Jesus Christ is engaged in.
Do You See the Three Kingdoms of God?
What is the Kingdom of Priests?
The Kingdom of the Son
The Kingdom of the Father
There is much more to learn about each of these topics, and links have been provided to related articles. Those tagged with Read more lead you to related channel questions and their basic answers. Those tagged Discover more are part of a more in-depth study program. Any tagged with Learn more address methods, processes, and resources which can aid your approach to learning. All are free resources to assist you in gaining a more unfiltered view of God’s word.
To discover more about Christ’s kingdom-building process for his faithful, a restored Israel, and even the nations, read my recent book . . .
The Rapture Question: An Unfiltered View
At the close of each article, the relevant presuppositions that support it will be cited. This enables the reader to gain a clearer and deeper understanding of the context. To learn more about presuppositions, see the About page.
- The election of God is not limited to Gentiles in this age only. It started with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel) and continues today. (Psalm 132:13-18; Galatians 3)
- The work of Jesus Christ and the will of God unites the faithful of the first covenant with the faithful of the new covenant. (Ephesians 2; 3; Romans 5; 8; 9; 10; 11)
- Faith, which is a gift of God, is the basis of the hope of salvation for all those committed to the Lord. (Romans 11; 1 Peter 1; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; Jude 3)
- The grace of God is greater-than the sin of humanity (Romans 5)
- Christ’s work results in a new creation (Fourth Gospel 3:1-21; Romans 8:28-31; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Galatians 6:14-18)
- God’s redemptive work on humanity’s behalf is to save them from the second death, not the first death. (Genesis 2:16-17; Fourth Gospel 3:16-21; 5:24; 6:40; 17:1-3; Romans 5; 6; 1 Corinthians 15:19; Hebrews 9:25-28; Revelation 20:6)
- The divinity and supremacy of the Son of God – the creator and finisher of all things. He alone is given authority to judge in righteousness according to the will of God (Fourth Gospel 1:1-5; Psalm 96:10-13; Isaiah 11:1-5; Acts 17:30-31; Romans 2:5-11; Revelation 5; 19:11-16)
1) We adhere to the belief that the authorship of the Fourth Gospel has been misrepresented. Typically this authorship is attributed to John, the brother of James and author of the Book of Revelation of Jesus Christ. I have concluded on the side of such authors like J. Phillips (ISBN13: 978-0-9702687-3-0) who has shown conclusively John could not be the sole author and instead attribute primary authorship to Lazarus – the disciple whom Christ loved. Due to this, I will refer to the book as the Fourth Gospel.
2) Some mistakenly translate this as damnation or condemnation, but the word used in the Greek is kriseōs (krisis  in the transliteration), meaning divine judgment. Yet this judgment can be either positive, negative, or even neutral. The result of the judgment isn’t specified in the context. As a result of this judgment, those whose names were not found in the Book of Life are cast into the Lake of Fire.
3) When I refer to Israel, like the authors of Scripture, I’m referring to the descendants of Jacob (renamed Israel). This does not fit the description of the modern nation of Israel which consists of people from many assorted nationalities. Also, the modern Jews (Judah) represent only one of the twelve original tribes of Israel. In the near future, God will call to himself, for a specific purpose, descendants from all twelve tribes as part of his kingdom-building process (Romans 9:4-5; 11; Revelation 7:4-8).
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3 thoughts on “How many resurrections are spoken of in scripture?”
Gerard, This article is excellent. I found it easy to understand and to follow through each of its points. Well done! I found 2 errors. They were both wrong words. The 1st was in the final paragraph of the first section, where Paul is telling about completing something. You wrote “compete” instead of “complete. ” The 2nd was in the final paragraph of the article. You wrote “chose” when I think you meant “choose,” since that is the word you use in the next sentence. Love, Denise
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Denise, glad you liked it. Many thanks for pointing out the errors.