In John 5:28-29 we have a passage that speaks of a resurrection where all that are in the graves hear his voice and come up. Those who have done good are resurrected unto life and those who have done evil are resurrected to damnation. Now when we look at this on the surface it would appear that there is one general resurrection at the end of time and at this resurrection everything is based on works.
We know that this is not true so what is going on in the text. To get an answer we must rightly divided the word of truth and study the resurrection through the word of God. While this study will not look at every resurrection in the Bible we will look at some of the main ones to get an understanding about these passages in the word of God.
3 Important Resurrections:
1) Old Testament Saints that came up with Jesus Christ (Matthew 27:50-53)
- When Jesus was resurrected the bible says many saints also were resurrected. We do not know exactly who these were but we know they came up.
2) Church Age Saints (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
- The church age runs from Acts until the Rapture of the Church takes place. The event being discussed in this passage is the Rapture. This is where Jesus comes and takes his bride from off the earth.
- At this event anyone who has died in Christ (saved during the church age) will be resurrected at this event. Those that are still alive and saved will be changed and caught up with Jesus in the clouds.
- It is important that you do not mistake this for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. While there are similarities like clouds and trumpets they are not the same. This is clearly seen when you look at Revelation 19:11-16. The Second Coming of Jesus Christ will be seen by all the Rapture happens in a twinkling of an eye. Jesus is on earth at the Second Coming but at the Rapture we meet him in the clouds.
3) Tribulation Saints (Revelation 20:4-5)
- At the end of the Tribulation in connection with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ we see that those who were beheaded for not taking the mark of the beast or worshipping his image are said to live and reign with Christ for 1000 years.
- These are Tribulation Saints that are resurrected at the end of the tribulation.
Now the problem comes when we look at Revelation 20:5 because it says that this is the first resurrection. How can this resurrection of Tribulation Saints be the first resurrection when others have taken place before it?
To see the answer we must look to 1 Corinthians 15:20-23. Here the word of God likens the resurrection to a harvest. Note the word first fruits. It also tells us that man is resurrected in a specific order. When you look at the Old Time Harvest, there were 3 parts to a harvest. There were the First Fruits, the Harvest, and the Gleaning. Therefore in these resurrections we have three parts that make up the first resurrection.
1) The Old Testament Saints are the First Fruits.
2) The Church Age Saints are the Harvest.
3) The Tribulation Saints are the Gleanings.
This is also shown to us by the phrase “come up hither”. It is only found 3 times in the King James Bible. It is found in Revelation 4:2 in connection with John going up before to see thing in the tribulation. This is a type of the church going up before the tribulation. It is found in Revelation 11:12 when the two witnesses are resurrected at the end of the tribulation. This is a type of the Tribulation Saints. Then it is found in Proverbs 25:6-7 in connection with Old Testament Saints. It is interesting that Jesus used this Proverb when discussing a guest at a wedding (Luke 14:7-11). The Old Testament Saints are guest at the marriage of the Lamb.
Back in Revelation 20:5 we see that the rest of the dead lived not until the 1000 years were finished. Therefore after the 1000 year millennial reign of Jesus Christ Satan will be loosed out of the bottomless pit and then destroyed and thrown into the Lake of fire. Then there is the Great White Throne Judgment where anyone who has not been resurrected at any of these other resurrection will be resurrected to stand before God (Revelation 20:11-15).
Looking back at the passage in John 5:28-29 we see that those verse are referring to the Resurrection of Revelation 20:11-15. Those who have done good would be those who died in the Millennium in a righteous state by following the instruction of Jesus. Those who have done evil would be anyone who died unrighteous from Adam until this event.
So when we follow 2 Timothy 2:15 and rightly divide the word of truth it is easy to see how these resurrection fit together and are not contradictory.