Because there is almost no knowledge among Christians today concerning the various resurrections from the dead, and the distinctions among them, it seems prudent to lay a solid foundation regarding this topic. The Scriptures actually have much to say about the resurrections (plural), but if you were to ask the majority of Christians today of this topic they would say that they know of only one resurrection. As we have seen in reading John’s writing in the book of Revelation, it is plainly declared that there are more than one resurrection.
And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Yahshua and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection…
Some in reading this may think that it is stating that there are two resurrections. However, this is itself an erroneous conclusion based upon a misunderstanding of these words. John states “the rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed.” What is declared is that there would be a space of a thousand years between the first resurrection (the number of the firstborn) and any subsequent resurrection. There would not be any resurrections during the Millennial period where the firstborn are ruling with Christ. We must look at other Scriptures to determine the total number of resurrections, for the Scriptures reveal that there will be a total of three resurrections of men.
It should not be surprising that there are three resurrections, for three is a number relating to fulness and completion. E.W. Bullinger, in his book Number in Scripture, shares the following relating to the number three.
Three, therefore, stands for that which is solid, real, substantial, complete, and entire.
All things that are specially complete are stamped with this number three…
When we turn to the Scriptures, this completion becomes Divine, and marks Divine completeness or perfection.
Three is the first of four perfect numbers.
* Three denotes divine perfection;
* Seven denotes spiritual perfection;
* Ten denotes ordinal perfection; and
* Twelve denotes governmental perfection.
Hence the number three points us to what is real, essential, perfect, substantial, complete, and Divine.
E.W. Bullinger notes that “three notes divine perfection.” There are three persons in the Godhead; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Resurrection is man entering into the fulness of spiritual life. It is embracing the divine perfection for which man was created. We should therefore find it affirming to learn that there are three resurrections, for this number is bound up with the entire doctrine of resurrection and man attaining to divine perfection, being perfect and complete in Christ Yahshua, the Son of God.
We even note this number in relation to the resurrection of Christ, for we are told that He arose on the third day. We observe the relation of the third day and divine perfection in the following words of Christ.
And [Yahshua] said to them, “Go, tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.‘”
Yahshua was speaking truths on many levels with these words. The third day was a reference to His own resurrection, when He would be perfected. Yet it was also a reference to the resurrection of the firstborn sons of God. For two days (two thousand years) the church would be given authority to cast out demons and perform cures. After two days, at the dawning of the third day, the number of the firstborn would attain to the resurrection as firstfruits unto God. This company of men would themselves be perfected, being conformed to the image of the glorified Son of God.
Many Christians understand that a day stands as a symbol for a thousand years, for this knowledge has been restored to many in an hour when it is necessary in order to discern the work of God. For those who are unfamiliar, I will share the following Scripture which serves as a foundation for this understanding.
II Peter 3:8
But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
This is a key to understanding many of the types and shadows of the Scriptures. Knowing that a day is as a thousand years serves to unlock the prophetic significance of many events and declarations found in Scripture. We can go back to the first chapter of Genesis and see this symbolism. We are told that as Yahweh moved to re-create the earth in the first chapter of Genesis, that on the third day He caused the earth to arise out from under the waters, for prior to this time the waters covered all things.
Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. And God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good… And there was evening and there was morning, a third day.
On the third day we see the first pattern for resurrection. The land arising out of the water stands as a symbol of man, whose flesh was formed of the dust of the earth, arising in resurrection life out of the waters of death. That this occurs on the third day is by the design of Yahweh.
Some might object that man is not at the end of day two (two thousand years) from the formation of Adam in the Garden of Eden. This is certainly true, for it has been six thousand years since Adam was created. This places us at the end of six days prophetically, and poised to enter the seventh day. We must keep in mind, however, that the earth has known two men, two Adams. The first was formed six thousand years ago, and the second appeared two thousand years ago.
I Corinthians 15:45-49
So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. And just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
“The last Adam” is a reference to Yahshua, the Son of God. He came as the Head of a new race of men. Therefore we have two different genealogies running concurrent to one another. We have the genealogy of the first Adam which is poised to enter its seventh day. We also have the genealogy of the last Adam, which is on the brink of entering the third day. Thus the seventh day and the third day will arrive simultaneously. We will see the many membered body of Christ perfected on the third day, for this is the time appointed for their resurrection.
We can observe this truth in many other instances of Scripture. Following is another Scripture that contains a prophetic message relating to the perfecting of the sons of God.
“Come, let us return to Yahweh. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day that we may live before Him.”
For two days mankind has known a divided state. Those who have been born again of the seed of Christ have known the battle between the Spirit of Christ within them and the sinful flesh. As the apostle Paul declared, “these are contrary to one another.” This torn condition of man has existed for the past two thousand years, ever since the first Pentecost when the Spirit descended upon those gathered in an upper room in Jerusalem. It is not the will of God that man should perpetually remain in this divided condition. There is a second salvation where man will be loosed from the bonds of this sinful flesh, and will receive a new, glorified body that does not know sin.
So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.
The time appointed for this to occur is at the beginning of the Millennial period, the seventh day from Adam and the third day from Christ.
In Revelation we read of a great event taking place in the heavens, and this event is a dramatization of the firstborn sons of God coming forth in resurrection power and life.
And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems… And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child. And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.
What is symbolized here is the birth of the firstborn in the resurrection from the dead. I have a number of Bibles that include notes and headings placed in the text by the translators and editors. Some place a heading over this passage declaring that it speaks of the birth of Jesus. This is misleading, being one more attempt of Satan to deceive the children of God regarding the inheritance that awaits them. John is not writing in the book of Revelation of things that have happened in the past, but of things that will happen in the future.
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must shortly take place…
The woman in the heavens is the church. The child she is giving birth to is the elect saints, the overcomers who attain to the first resurrection. These are caught up to the throne of God, being called to rule with Him. This is a reference to those who will attain to the first resurrection.
Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.
As the number of the firstborn are entering into the power and preeminence due them, the church is fleeing into the wilderness. The church must undergo a further refining, for when the time of the first resurrection came she was not ready.
The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed.
There are firstborn sons of God, and there are the later born sons of God. The firstborn are a remnant portion of the whole. These will be a small company in comparison to the multitude of the sons of God. We see then that the first resurrection from the dead is close at hand, but not all will attain unto it. The majority of Christians will have to await a later resurrection. Before we pass on to speak of the three resurrections, let us look at one more type and shadow that speaks of the fast approaching first resurrection.
As Joshua (a type of Yahshua) led the people of God into their inheritance at the crossing of the Jordan River, we are given clear types of the first resurrection from the dead. The Promised Land serves as a type of the inheritance of the saints, which is their resurrected state in glory. Even as the Jordan had to be crossed, we have to cross over from death into life. Observe now the symbolism of this crossing.
And they commanded the people, saying, “When you see the ark of the covenant of Yahweh your God with the Levitical priests carrying it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it. However, there shall be between you and it a distance of about 2,000 cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.”
The ark of the covenant stands as a symbol of the presence of God in His glory. It was forbidden to look in the ark, or to touch it, lest the man should die.
But [Yahweh] said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!“
I Timothy 6:15-16
He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords; who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen or can see.
Joshua commanded the priests to carry the ark into the waters of the Jordan, and all who followed were strictly charged to remain at a distance of about 2,000 cubits. Every detail of the word of God is pregnant with meaning. Yahshua would be the first man to cross into the inheritance prepared for the sons of God. It would be “about 2,000″ years before any others were to follow in entering into this same inheritance prepared for the saints in glory. The 2,000 cubits stand for 2,000 years. We should note, however, that it says “about 2,000,” for no one knows the hour or the day. We are not told that it would be precisely 2,000 years from the time of Yahshua’s resurrection to the time of the resurrection of His firstborn brothers. We are only told that it will be “about 2,000″ years.
Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow Yahweh will do wonders among you.” And Joshua spoke to the priests, saying, “Take up the ark of the covenant and cross over ahead of the people.” So they took up the ark of the covenant and went ahead of the people.
What an awesome foreshadowing of the resurrection of the saints to glory is found in these words. Truly Yahweh would do wonders for those who consecrated themselves.
I John 3:2-3
We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
This is the fulfillment of what was observed at the crossing of the Jordan. The wonders Yahweh would do among us is to transform us into His own glorious image. This is the meaning of “consecrate yourselves.” John said “everyone who has this hope… purifies himself.” Do you want to see the wonders of Yahweh? Do you want to attain to the resurrection of the firstborn? Then you must lead a consecrated life. You must be wholly devoted, leading a life dedicated to the will and pleasure of God.
Christ has crossed over ahead of His brethren. A space separates Yahshua and those of His people who follow Him of about 2,000 years. It has now been about two thousand years. All who would attain to the first resurrection must be wholehearted in their pursuit of the goal. Their eyes must be fixed on the finish line. They must let nothing distract them or slow them down.
So it came about when the people set out from their tents to cross the Jordan with the priests carrying the ark of the covenant before the people, and when those who carried the ark came into the Jordan, and the feet of the priests carrying the ark were dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks all the days of harvest), that the waters which were flowing down from above stood and rose up in one heap, a great distance away at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan; and those which were flowing down toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. So the people crossed opposite Jericho.
What is signified in the words “So it came about when the people set out from their tents”? The apostle Paul gives us understanding.
II Corinthians 5:2-4
For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven; inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
We must leave this tent of mortal flesh in order to enter into our inheritance in Christ. There is a body prepared for us, a dwelling suited to our new status as glorified sons of God.
Note in the account of Joshua leading the people across the swelling of the Jordan that the waters which symbolize death, “rose up in one heap, a great distance away at Adam.” This signifies that all men will have access to the crossing of the Jordan, as far back as Adam. All men will be granted the ability to follow Yahshua across the Jordan into the inheritance prepared for the sons of God.
Let us focus upon one more detail of this narrative, for it will lead us into a discovery of the three resurrections prepared for man. It is written in this account that the priests stepped into the Jordan while it was in flood “for the Jordan overflows its banks all the days of harvest.” These words are as full of meaning as every other detail we have looked at. It was at harvest time that they crossed the Jordan, and this understanding will lead us to a wonderful testimony set in Scripture by the wisdom of Yahweh. All resurrections are pictured as harvests. Even as we harvest the ripe and mature grain of the earth, so too will God reap the earth and gather together those who have come to maturity. Not all mature at the same time. Each one comes to maturity, and therefore resurrection, in their own order.
When Yahweh gave the Law to Moses, He established certain festivals that were to be observed with meticulous detail. Every detail was to serve as a lesson, part of a grand parable, revealing Yahweh’s work with mankind. The Law contained portions relating to the observance of three feasts that the Jews were to observe annually. Each of these feasts occurred at the time of a major harvest in the land of Israel. Following is a list of the feasts and their associated harvests.
Passover – Barley
Pentecost – Wheat
Tabernacles (Sukkot) – Grapes
Three times in a year all your males shall appear before Yahweh your God in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover) and at the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) and at the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles)…
Three times a year the people of Israel were commanded to appear before God. Appearing before God is symbolic of resurrection. That Moses instructed the Jews to appear three times every year was a foreshadowing of the three resurrections of man (“each in his own order”). In very symbolic language, the word “ingathering” was also used in association with these harvests.
“Three times you shall keep a feast to Me in the year: You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread… at the time appointed in the month of Abib…, and the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field; and the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field. Three times in the year all your males shall appear before Yahweh God.”
God has been laboring in the field of this earth to bring forth mature sons after His image. There will be three harvests of men from the earth, each different in its character even as the three feasts were different, and the crops harvested at each one were different. These feasts would have been nothing without the harvests associated with them. The harvests were the key component of every feast. Each man was to bring with him fruit from the harvest when he appeared before Yahweh.
And none shall appear before Me empty-handed.
God looks for fruit in the lives of men. Tragically, there will be those who appear before God without any fruit to show forth from their lives. These will receive a curse rather than a blessing, even as Yahshua cursed the fig tree that did not have any fruit on it when He came to inspect it.
Even as the fruit was gathered together and the firstfruits brought to Yahweh three times in the year, so will Yahweh send out His angels into the earth to gather together from all mankind those who are mature and fruitful.
“And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.”
As we saw in the previous chapter, there are vast differences between the three resurrections of men and women to stand before God. There is a preeminence that belongs to those who attain to the first resurrection. The resurrections that follow will be of a lesser glory, honor and dignity. These differences are foreshadowed in the three harvests.
This first resurrection is associated with the barley harvest. Barley is an early ripening crop. It ripens about fifty days before wheat, and is therefore harvested earlier, not having to undergo all the heat of the summer. This is a parable. The overcomers who attain to the number of the firstborn will come to maturity quicker than the rest of the body of Christ. Because they gave themselves eagerly to pursue God’s will for them of becoming like Christ, they will not have to experience the heat of the Great Tribulation and the Lake of Fire, even as barley doesn’t have to go through the heat of summer.
Barley differs from wheat in a very critical way. Barley contains little gluten, while wheat has an abundance of gluten. Gluten is the component of grain that reacts with yeast to make the bread rise. Because barley lacks gluten it is often baked as an unleavened bread. This is a parable, for bread represents man’s flesh and leaven represents sin. The barley crop speaks of a people whose flesh does not rise up at the presence of sin, for they have crucified the flesh with its affections and desires. These are the overcomers, and like Christ, they rule over the flesh.
Wheat contains an abundance of gluten and it is baked as a leavened bread. This is a picture of God’s people who have not removed the sin from their lives; whose flesh reacts strongly in the presence of sin. The action of the yeast in wheat bread continues to cause the bread to rise until the bread is placed in the oven and baked. The heat of the oven stops the reaction between the leaven and the gluten in the bread, and it ceases to rise. This is also a parable of this latter group of Christians who will only turn away from sin, and learn righteousness, as they go through the heat of the Great Tribulation and the Lake of Fire.
These first two resurrections speak of those who are the people of God. Not all those who are God’s people walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. Many are living lives of ease and comfort, sin and impurity. Only a remnant of the people of God will attain to the first resurrection. The rest will have to await the next resurrection after the thousand years are over.
Paul wrote of the order of the resurrections, and those who attain to them in the following words.
I Corinthians 15:22-26
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.
The words from the New American Standard translation represent a common rendering of the words of this passage. I believe the translators have failed to capture the true intent of Paul’s meaning, however. Paul was well aware of the symbolism of the harvests as they related to resurrection, and I believe he had this analogy in mind when he penned these words to the believers in Corinth. As it has been previously mentioned, the word Christ means anointed. During the feasts of God the firstfruits were presented to God, and they were anointed.
What is not observed in our English translations is the presence and absence of the definite article “the” in the original Greek. This article is present in the phrase “so also in (the) Christ all shall be made alive,” as well as in the phrase “after that those who are (the) Christ’s at His coming.” This definite article is absent, however, in the phrase “Christ the first fruits.” This could be taken to indicate that Paul is not speaking of “the Christ” here as a reference to the Son of God, but that he is speaking of “anointed firstfruits,” which is understood to be a company of elect saints.
‘Also on the day of the first fruits, when you present a new grain offering to Yahweh in your Feast of Weeks… you shall offer a burnt offering for a soothing aroma to Yahweh, two young bulls, one ram, seven male lambs one year old, and their grain offering, fine flour mixed with oil…
It should be noted that anointing the firstfruits was something done specifically with the first feast which was Passover, and with the flour made from the barley. Regarding the second feast associated with the harvest of wheat, the instructions are quite different. Rather than adding oil to the grain, leaven is added.
You shall bring from your dwellings two loaves of bread to be waved, made from two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven, for firstfruits to the Lord.
Leaven symbolizes sin, whereas the removal of leaven is a major part of the Feast of Passover. Christ Yahshua was the firstfruits of those who arose from the dead, and He was without sin. Those who attain to the first resurrection will likewise be those who “crucify the flesh with its passions and desires.” Understanding the relationship of the harvests, and their accompanying symbols, we can translate the apostle Paul’s words in the following manner:
I Corinthians 15:22-26
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. But each in his own order: the anointed first fruits (Barley/Passover), after that those who are Christ’s at His coming (Wheat/Pentecost), then the remainder (Grapes/Tabernacles), when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.
Paul attaches to his words on the order of the resurrection the words “He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.” These words express the thought that the resurrection work of God among mankind will not be complete until the enemies of God are dealt with. These will be last in resurrection, and like grapes which are trodden under the feet of man, the enemies of God will be trodden under God’s feet, experiencing His wrath.
Why is Your apparel red, and Your garments like the one who treads in the wine press? “I have trodden the wine trough alone, and from the peoples there was no man with Me. I also trod them in My anger, and trampled them in My wrath; and their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments, and I stained all My raiment. For the day of vengeance was in My heart, and My year of redemption has come. And I looked, and there was no one to help, and I was astonished and there was no one to uphold; so My own arm brought salvation to Me; and My wrath upheld Me. And I trod down the peoples in My anger, and made them drunk in My wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.”
God’s work among mankind will not be finished until all mankind have entered into that which Paul described with the following words: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. But each in his own order.” All men died in Adam. All shall be made alive in Christ. Even the enemies of God will come to the end of their rebellion, and they will confess that in God alone are righteousness and strength. All who were incensed with God will be ashamed of themselves, and will come to a long awaited repentance. Thus we see that Isaiah describes the day of God’s wrath not only as “the day of vengeance,” but also as “My year of redemption.”
I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. They will say of Me, ‘Only in Yahweh are righteousness and strength.’ Men will come to Him, and all who were angry at Him shall be put to shame.
This then will be the third and final resurrection. Even as Tabernacles occurred late in the fall of the year at the time of the grape harvest, the enemies of God will be resurrected to a resurrection of judgment, resulting in their redemption. The enemies of God are pictured as grapes which are trodden under foot, and these will be resurrected last of all. This will be the consummation of the work of God among man. Mercy will triumph over judgment, and all will be summed up in Christ.
I Corinthians 15:25-28
For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all.
There is an order to God’s plan of reconciliation of the creation back to Himself. “Blessed and holy are those who attain to the first resurrection.” Truly it will be said, “Many were called, but few were chosen.” If you are a son of God, the opportunity is set before you to attain to the number of the firstborn. Will you live in such a way that you might be chosen, or will you be assigned a portion with the wicked?
But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Yahweh is calling out to His sons in this hour to remove all unrighteousness from their lives. He is calling out to all who have ears to pursue Him with an undivided heart. The path is difficult. There are sorrows and trials that all the righteous must pass through. Yet we are given the following promise:
Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.
We stand close to the morning of the third day. It will be a time of unparalleled joy for a company of overcomers. These have known much of sorrow and difficulty, and their Father in heaven will not be stinting in their reward. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will no longer be any mourning or crying or pain. The first things will have passed away.
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