The Sevenfold Resurrection
One of the most beautiful views of the Resurrection from the dead. Jesus Christ was the “Firstfruit and the pattern for this triumphant truth. It was the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and it is a clear, articulate message that turned the first-century world upside down. His death caught the attention of men from every walk of life. Apostle Paul, when addressing King Festus (Acts 2), was describing Christ’s sufferings when Festus cried with a loud voice, “Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.” Paul, put this event of Calvary and the Resurrection in proper perspective when he answered: “I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner” (Acts 26:24-26).
When it became clear that Jesus was indeed alive, proven by many “infallible proofs” (Acts 1:3), the “election” from among the Jews was absolutely overwhelmed. Nothing could stand in their way as they responded to His request to receive the Holy Spirit baptism and to spread this “news” of His Resurrection to the uttermost parts of the earth. The whole ideal of “good news,” which is our gospel message, is that He was crucified for our transgression and raised again for our justification.
The First Testament believer understood the cleansing from transgressions which was provided through the law and sacrifices, but they knew nothing of justification. Justification raised their faith to a new level of dignity. They were not only forgiven, they received an imputation of righteousness which gave them standing with God the Father. More than just servants, they were also heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. This crowd became an “army of the Lord” and the world was never to be the same.
Life in the church is bound to the proper message of the Resurrection. We must keep His resurrection and its provisions in proper balance with our present spiritual resurrection, future resurrection, and glorification. Paul said, “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:11). The death that operates in most lives and churches is the insufficiency of resurrection power. Most people want emotions, not a resurrected life. The first is soulish and fleshly, while the latter is spiritual and only available to the sold-out crowed. You can’t have resurrected life and the world at the same time.
Once the church loses the vibrancy and joy of this resurrected life, the next area that suffers is the hope of the believer…Spiritual apostasy is always followed by confusion concerning the “end time” events. Please don’t confuse the super-church syndrome, public relations promotion, and emotional excitement with a spiritual resurrection. One is mere puffery, while the other is power. One is flesh and worldly things; the latter looks for a city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God.
I would have never believed that the evangelical, fundamental, and Pentecostal communities would have become so confused about the return of Jesus Christ. From no-rapture theories to post-millennialism, there are almost as many ideas as churches. While there is certainly room for differences, the “smorgasbord theology” leaves most Christians divided and confused. The Word of God is no private interpretation; consequently, something is wrong and I believe it has to do with the lack of deep consecration and a life of prayer and fasting. I dedicate myself to help lead a renewal in these areas.
The First Resurrection
Our glorious future is worth every sacrifice a believer will be called to make. When we glory in His appearing and coming, tribulation becomes a steppingstone to spiritual joy. Nothing, and I mean nothing, will move a Christian who has received a preview of things to come. You cannot catch a glimpse of eternity and return to enjoy the glitter of a carnal and sin-soaked world. It’s like trading country meals for TV dinners.
Until Jesus spoke as recorded in Saint John 5:25-29, the First Testament theology had never allowed for a first and second resurrection. Read these words carefully: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. 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” (John 5:25-29).
For the first time, these believers were hearing about a “resurrection of life” and a “resurrection of damnation:” tow separate events distinctly dividing the future of the righteous and the unholy. Only the Sadducees, the ultra liberals of Jewish theology, denied the certainty of a resurrection. The rest of the Jewish sect firmly believed in a resurrection. At first mention, it appeared that the disciples didn’t grasp the significance of a resurrection with two separate events. No one seemed to question Him.
When Jesus was transfigured on the mountain before three of His disciples, this message finally made its impact. They saw Christ in His pre-incarnate glory; either way, these three would never be the same. The Scripture describes the transformation this event had on their lives: “And as they came down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead. And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean” (Mark 9:9-10).
The literal interpretation of the last words of verse ten would read like this: the rising from out of, or from among the dead. They had never encountered the idea of a rising from out of the dead. Their theology in the First Testament allowed for no distinction. No wonder they questioned with one another what this new thought might mean. The certainty that the righteous dead, beginning with Christ, would become part of a distinct resurrection which was separate from the unholy profoundly changed the lives and theology of the tree disciples.
When Apostle Paul was writing to the Philippians, he spoke of this great hope that governed his life. He said, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of (out from among) the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11). This great leader had but one desire: to be a part of the first resurrection. To him, it was never treated as something he deserved, but (rather) something worth “forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before” (Philippians 3:13b).
Seven-Fold or Seven Components
This event we call “The First Resurrection,” or a resurrection from out among the dead, cannot be understood apart from its seven-fold order. Jesus Christ is clearly described as the firstfruits, or the first of the ripe fruit. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits 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” (1 Corinthians 15:19-22).
The next verse says, “But every man in his own order (or rank).” In other words, the resurrection is not a carbon-copy experience. Just as throughout our lives the Lord deals with each one of us as individuals, so is our moment of glory and reward. In verse 38 of the same chapter he says, “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:41-42a).
Not only is the resurrection a distinct experience of differing glory for each but also different ranks will be resurrected and raptured at different times. Most Bible scholars not the differences, but usually disagree on the order. Let’s look at the seven-fold order that I believe answers most questions and gives a harmonious view of the many references in Scripture.
Jesus Christ: The Firstfruits
There is no discussion that I have read which questions this fact: Jesus Christ is the firstfruits of the First Resurrection. While men had been raised from the dead to die again, and Enoch and Elijah had been raptured without death, no one had passed through the gates of death and stripped it of all its power. Jesus Christ had died and then conquered the very experience of death by reversing it. Moreover, he actually rendered death non-existent in relation to His resurrection body. With Jesus Christ, our firstfruits (first of the ripe fruit), death no longer exists. It has been destroyed.
When the disciples came to the empty tomb, they saw the grave clothes lying there and realized that Jesus had simply disappeared. The clothes were not taken from Him, He was taken from them. His physical body had merged into the spiritual body and vanished from the wrappings. They (the wrappings) deflated as He moved out of His linen tomb. He left the natural spices of burial for the supernatural aroma of the resurrected “Rose of Sharon.” He is today our sweet-smelling myrrh and soon coming King.
Paul said to the Colossians, “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:4). John said in his first epistle, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3). No wonder – when we forget to live by the resurrection life and hope—we also forget holiness and separation from the world.
The Rapture of the Bride
The second order of the First Resurrection is the rapture of Christ’s bride before Daniel’s seventieth week begins. Not one seal of the great tribulation can be opened (Revelation 6) until the chosen and adorned bride is safe with the bridegroom. Jesus made this clear in the book of Revelation: “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Revelation 3:10). He did not say “in” the tribulation, but “from” the tribulation. An etymological study will confirm this interpretation. The bride will be adorned with holiness and no other life style will be accepted. Isaiah described it beautifully: “And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein” (Isaiah 35:8).
Apostle Paul said, “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” And what was the reason for His gift of Himself to the church? “That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:26-27).
A perfect picture of the bride in her new position is found in Revelation, chapters 4 and 5. It is a position of authority as she occupies twenty-four thrones around the central throne of God the Father. She is clothed with white raiment (the righteous of the saints) and honored with crowns of gold. The bride of Christ is heard to sing her new song and rejoice about her future. “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10). Any argument against this representing Christ’s bride seems thin to my grasp of the truth. This event has already transpired before the tribulation period is unleashed in chapter six. The twenty-four elders represent the chosen bride from both the First and Second Testament. This is the second order or the First Resurrection.
The Tribulation Saints
The next rank or order of the Resurrection is the tribulation saints in Revelation 7:9-17. They are before the throne, but not on thrones as was the chosen bride above. They have white robes, but carry palms in their hands instead of wearing crowns of gold on their heads. It is clear that the rank is different and inferior to that of the bride.
These are Laodicean church members who were spewed out of His mouth and landed in the great tribulation. (Revelation 3:15) The very wording suggests that many of them were professing believers whose lives were stained by carnal and sinful life styles. It was necessary for them to be purified before they could join the crowd around His throne.
It is clear that this group had been in the midst of the great tribulation. The elder who talked with Jon asked him who they were but answered when it was evident that John did not know. Here are his words to John: “And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation” (Revelation 7:13-14a).
One of the greatest catastrophes in the church of Jesus Christ is the mixed multitudes with no understanding of the preceding truths. Past evangelical preachers were much more diligent in describing these events. The result was great concern for personal holiness. No wonder sanctification and the personal lordship of Jesus Christ over one’s life was important to original Methodists and Presbyterians like Charles Finney and men like Dwight L. Moody. Obedience to Jesus Christ and an aspiration to be a part of His bride consumed these saints of old. The “grace” preached today is so cheap that nobody seems to care.
The Two Prophets of God
The fourth order is the two witnesses that are mightily used of God during the tribulation periods. They follow the tribulation of saints but are certainly not inferior in standing. An angel describes them as “These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth” (Revelation 11:4). While there is different from the bride of Christ, they are surely equal position.
When the witnesses finish their testimony, the false prophet or beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will finally prevail over them. They will be killed and left in the streets of Jerusalem for three and one-half days. No one will allow for their burial. It is clearly a time of festivity because these holiness prophets have at last been silenced. The godless will make merry and send gifts, but their joy is short lived.
The Scripture clearly describes their resurrection and rapture up to the throne of God. “And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them” (Revelation 11:11-12). It is my opinion that this happens near the end of the tribulation period. This order may actually transpire after the two next groups.
The 144,000 from the Jewish Nation
For two thousand years the Lord Jesus has focused His attention on the church and His bride within the church. Many spokesmen from the church have been so bold as to declare that the Jewish people have been cut off and finished. Anti-Semitism has blighted a significant amount of Christian theology. A remnant of Jewish persons has been saved throughout church periods; but during the end times, a new focus toward His chosen people is already evident in their national renewal and the central position they occupy in international events. Once the rapture has occurred and Daniel’s seventieth week begins, significant things will transpire affecting them.
At the beginning of this week of years, 144,000 will be sealed by the Lamb (Jesus Christ) with the seal of His Father. They will be protected and will perform a special task for the Lord Himself. Their task is not described but will certainly have to do with the witness of His Messiah-ship to the Jewish people. The fact that all Israel is saved by the end of seven years should be testimony enough of their tremendous importance. “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins” (Romans 11:26-27).
Once their task is finished, they will be raptured up to the throne of God for a glorious celebration. The scripture pointedly says that they are before the throne and that they are redeemed from the earth: “And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb” (Revelation 14:1-4).
This group is called the “firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.” They are certainly not the first order distinctly Jewish. What a beautiful picture of a fulfillment of Paul’s promise in Romans chapter eleven. They were cast off in unbelief that the Gentile world might have opportunity to be saved. Now they will be received that there might be life from among the dead. (Romans 11:15 Please refer.) This is the fifth order of the first resurrection.
Redeemed From Among the Jews
If the 144,000 were the firstfruits from among the Jewish people, there must be additional individuals. Since the great tribulation would be in progress, any group to follow would be saved from this horrible period of Jewish suffering. We see just such a group in Revelation 15:2-3: “And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.” They are playing David’s harp and singing Moses’ song. The scripture specifically states that they have the victory over the beast, his image, and his mark. It is in the temple at Jerusalem that the image is rected and called by Daniel and Christ the “abomination of desolation.” At this point (the middle of the seven years), the Jewish people will see the Antichrist for who he really represents. It’s significant that this scripture mentions that image.
In Revelation 4:6, John describes this sea of glass as following, “And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal.” These redeemed Jewish believers are standing on that sea before the throne. They have the harps of God (only the redeemed and glorified can play those harps) and are worshipping their heavenly Father. The sixth order is complete.
The Gleaning Conclude the First Resurrection
The number for completion in this book of Revelation is seven. There is a seven-year period called the “great tribulation.” It begins with seven seals followed by seven trumpets concluding with seven vials. The number seven is in play throughout the end-time scenario. The seventh order of the Resurrection completes what is called the First Resurrection. These are the gleaning from the precious fruit of the earth, both Jews and Gentiles alike.
Utter confusion of interpretation results when efforts are made to put the First Resurrection in one single order. To deny anyone order leaves the even less than complete. Daniel’s seventieth week is over, the Antichrist and the false prophet are in the lake of fire. Satan is in the bottomless pit, and the marriage supper in heaven is finished. Jesus Christ has been crowned King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The bride of Christ is enthroned and ready to share Christ’s judgment. They are going to judge and reign with the bridegroom for one thousand years (the millennium).
Right down to the end of the seventh horrible year men repent, suffer martyrdom, and refuse to deny Christ and His Word. “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 which had not worshipped 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” (Revelation 20:4). It plainly states that they “lived (were resurrected) and reigned with Christ.” John then states in verse five that this is “the first resurrection.”
This group represents individuals from every nation where men have repented and have been slain since the third order. No doubt there are Jewish converts saved and martyred after the beautiful scene in the sixth order. They only dad left in the grave after this point are those who will be at the White Throne Judgment. (Revelation 20:11-15.) “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” (Revelation 20:6)
From Jesus Christ, who was the first ripe of the fruit of the earth (He did die, remember), to this glorious event concluding the First Resurrection, mighty Holy Ghost power has been displayed. While that power is ours to live by, it is also the guarantee that our person will not be locked in the grave. The grave is no longer a threat to the blood-washed crowd. It has no power over us. Jesus Christ is our evidence.
No man who enters into the person relationship that Christ’s blood-offering allows will lack for abundant life. We are buried with Him by the baptism of death but raised by the renewal of the resurrection of life. We live now, but we shall really live then.
This seven-fold order of the “First Resurrection” answers many questions raised by those who teach a mid-or post-tribulation resurrection; there is an element of truth in each. The bride of Christ is kept from this horrible hour of holocaust. It is a testimony to God’s mercy and evident in a study of Scripture that men will continue and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection, not one part of these seven orders or ranks was excluded… It is certainly clear that the sanctified bride of Christ is the second rank preceded only by Christ; the firstfruits, to be followed by five additional ranks or orders.