In Defense of the Faith Wednesday, August 17, 2011
During the thousand year Millennial Reign, the earth will be populated by ordinary, living, breathing humans, some of whom survived the Tribulation Period, together with those who will be born (in the usual manner) during the Kingdom Period.
The human lifespan will return to what it was in the days of Adam, but they will be mortal humans in the sense that, even with Satan bound, men will still die, and sin will still exist; “There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed.”
Further proving that the inhabitants of the Kingdom Period are ordinary humans; they will need food, and shelter, and to get it, they will have to work for a living, even as they enjoy an extended lifespan: “And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them.” (Isaiah 65:21-22) Coinhabiting the earth with mortal humans, Scripture tells us, are the immortal resurrected dead. “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. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.”
(Revelation 20:4-5) Notice two key points John makes in this passage. First, those being addressed are undeniably those who came out of the Tribulation. And second, John says that, AFTER the Tribulation, (in which they were beheaded) they both live AND reign with Christ for the full thousand years. This passage is often used as a proof text to argue in favor of a post-Tribulation Rapture.
After all, they are clearly those who endured the Tribulation. And if it is the ‘first’ resurrection, then it must take place concurrent with the Rapture. That seems to make sense, until you look at the passage again. Those referenced there are ONLY those who came out of the Great Tribulation. Church Age believers and the Old Testament saints are not mentioned, since they have already received their resurrection bodies. (Matthew 19:28, Daniel 12, Job 19:25) “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) Revelation 20:4-6 mentions a “first resurrection” and identifies those involved as “blessed and holy.”
The second death (the lake of fire, Revelation 20:14) has no power over these individuals. But how does one have two ‘first’ resurrections; the first at a pre-Trib Rapture, and the second at the end of the Tribulation Period? Actually, the Bible identifies the ‘first resurrection’ as occurring in four stages, not two.
The first resurrection, in general, is the raising of all believers from all ages. It corresponds with Jesus’ teaching of the “resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14) and the “resurrection of life” (John 5:29). And it clearly takes place in various stages; the first was Jesus Christ Himself two thousand years ago. He was the ‘Firstfruits’ (1 Corinthians 15:20) Who prepared the way of salvation for those who Trust Him during the Church Age.
The second stage involved the resurrection of the saints of Jerusalem; “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after His resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” (Matthew 27:52-53).
Stage three is the resurrection of the “dead in Christ” followed by the Rapture of “we which are alive and remain” at the Lord’s return for His Church at the conclusion of the Church Age. (1st Thessalonians 4:17)
And finally, the resurrection of the martyrs at the conclusion of the final seven years of the Age of the Law. (Revelation 20:4, Daniel 9:24) All these groups are part of the ‘first resurrection’ upon whom the ‘second death’ (in the lake of fire) will have ‘no power’.
There is no inconsistency between resurrection of the saints at the conclusion of the Church Age, followed by a separate resurrection of the martyrs at the conclusion of the Tribulation, anymore than there is an inconsistency between the Resurrection of Christ followed by the separate resurrection of the O. T. saints in Jerusalem.
From the Resurrection of Jesus to the resurrection of the Tribulation martyrs and O.T. saints (Daniel 12:13); it is all part of the general ‘first’ resurrection of the dead in four stages, each of which is clearly separated according to Scripture to a specific purpose in the overall Plan of God.
The second resurrection, then, is the raising of all unbelievers; the second resurrection is connected to the second death. It corresponds with Jesus’ teaching of the “resurrection of damnation” (John 5:29). The event which divides the first and second resurrections is the millennial kingdom. The last of the righteous are raised to reign “with Christ a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4), but the “rest of the dead [that is, the wicked] lived not again until the thousand years were finished.” (Revelation 20:5).
As part of understanding Scripture’s outline of the overall Plan of God, consider the various epochs of human history from the perspective of the angels who did NOT join the rebellion, and who, by nature, have no understanding of what sin really is or how it really works. “Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; WHICH THINGS THE ANGELS DESIRE TO LOOK INTO.” (1st Peter 1:12) We are a mystery to the angels.
The Bible says they are charged with ministering to us, but that one day, they will be judged BY us. (1st Corinthians 6:3) “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with SO GREAT A CLOUD OF WITNESSES, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,” (Hebrews 12:1) Isaiah 14 introduces us to the first outbreak of sin in the universe. “For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” For his sin of arrogance, God pronounced judgement on Lucifer, the most honored of His angels, and those rebellious angels who followed him; “Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.” (Isaiah 14:12-15) The existence of humanity is often described by theologians as the ‘trial of Satan’.
The courtroom is Planet Earth, with Jesus as the Righteous Judge, the angels as witnesses, and with sinful mankind serving as evidence. It is more than just the trial of Satan. Sin itself is on trial. Lucifer, called in Scripture, “the anointed cherub that covereth” was highly favored of God; “and I have set thee so” (Ezekiel 28:14) Isaiah 14:14 defines that first sin as, “I will” — the sin of pride. The trial is to prove what ‘one little sin’ can do — the classic ‘slippery slope’ scenario.
The trial opens with Exhibit 1 — Adam and Eve. They are placed in a perfect environment and given only one command — to avoid the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. They fail — and man inherits a sin nature.
Exhibit 2 –Man is allowed free reign until the Flood — the so-called “Age of Conscience”. Without Divine interaction or instruction, society becomes so sinful and corrupt that God saves Noah and his family alive and destroys the rest in the Flood.
Exhibit 3 – During the Age of the Patriarchs, God spoke directly to chosen individuals; Abraham, Noah, Lot, etc. Each, even having spoken directly with God, commit some heinous sin. Having gone from one commandment (the Age of Innocence) to no commandments at all (the Age of Conscience) to direct confrontation,(the Age of the Patriarchs) God progresses to giving mankind the Ten Commandments (the Age of the Law). Not one person ever kept all ten of them throughout his lifetime, no matter what the circumstances. (David, for example, broke all ten of them.)
Exhibit 4 — The Age of the Law, during which time the Commandments of God became so corrupted and perverted that it became necessary to scrap the whole system and replace it with the Age of Grace. To accomplish that God Himself stepped out of space and time, took on the form of sinful man, kept the Law on our behalf, and paid the price for our sin. (Death) In so doing, He made a way for all mankind to be saved by faith through grace. But most of mankind rejects even the free offer of grace, preferring a life of unregenerate sin.
That constitutes Exhibit 5 — and it must make the angelic witnesses gasp in disbelief. From the perspective of the angelic witness, then, ‘one little sin’ has thus far brought mankind to the point it is today. So far, God has given sin every opportunity to prove itself worthy of its wages. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23)
Exhibit 6 — The Age of Grace concludes at the Rapture. The Rapture removes the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit, giving Satan (and sin) free reign for seven years. And the end result is the near-destruction of all human life. Jesus then returns at the 2nd Coming, binds Satan for a thousand years, and reigns Personally from Jerusalem. Mortal humanity has no excuse, He is right there, in Person, for all to see. Satan’s influence is restrained, lifespans are extended, there are no more wars, famine or poverty, and humankind is returned to the Eden-like state from which it began. With God Himself on the Throne of human government, ruling with a rod of iron for a thousand years, Satan is loosed for ‘a little season’. “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.” The mortal humans who have lived in a state of God-given idyllic bliss for a thousand years, under the influence of Satan, raise an army to bring against the King of Kings and Lord of Lords Himself.
Exhibit 7. Sin is judged according to its works. “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.” This is the SECOND resurrection.
Unlike the first resurrection, it has only one phase. “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:10-12,14)
In the overall Plan of God, as outlined in Scripture, everything has a purpose. There are no omissions, no errors, and no inconsistencies. From Genesis to Revelation, a central theme of Scripture is that sin is the cause of death, and will ultimately be eradicated from existence, together with all those who “received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” (2nd Thessalonians 2:12)
Praise the Lord for that OTHER central theme of Scripture. “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)