“And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years“
We come now to the resurrection and reward of the saints. Two groups of saints will enter the kingdom:
1) those that God resurrected before the Tribulation and Tribulation martyrs and
2) those that come out of the Tribulation physically alive.
And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them.
John sees certain people sitting on thrones have the privilege to judge in a vision. He does not give their identity. Other Scriptures tell us that saints will judge the world.
“Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?” (1 Corinthians 6:1).
Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands.
A second group who will reign is the martyrs of the Tribulation. The word “beheaded” means smitten with an ax. The guillotine was just one form of Roman punishment. They probably detached Paul’s head from his body.
The word “for” in “for their witness to Jesus” and “for the word of God” means for the sake of, on account of, because of. The reason they were beheaded was for the sake of the gospel.
And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
The martyred dead of the Tribulation will come back to life and reign with Christ for a thousand years on earth. During this time, the wolf and the lamb will feed together. The lion will eat straw like an ox. There will be world peace and no more war. Nations will beat their swords into plows and spears into pruning hooks.
The earth will know no curse as it does now. The ground will produce its crop abundantly. People one hundred years old will be very young (Isaiah 65:20). Isaiah goes on to say that some will sin and that will affect their life span. Jesus will rule with a rod of iron to control injustices due to sin. That is how righteousness prevails in the Millennium. Justice will triumph.
But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.
The rest of the dead will not come to life until the end of the Millennium. This is the resurrection of the lost of all ages (20:11-15). This resurrection will not occur until after the Millennium (v.11).
This is the first resurrection.
The New Testament uses the word “resurrection” 40 times. It always refers to physical, bodily resurrection except in Luke 2:34.
The “first resurrection” is not the first chronological resurrection because Christ was the first to rise from the dead. “Many” rose from the dead when Christ rose (Matthew 27:52-53).
The “first” resurrection is in contrast to the “last” resurrection (20:12-13). The word “first” carries the idea of “before.” All the righteous dead are raised before the resurrection of the wicked dead at the end of the 1000 years.
The resurrection of the righteous comes in phases (1 Corinthians 15:23). Christ rose first, then the “many,” then the church, then the Tribulation saints and finally the Old Testament saints (Isaiah 26:19-21; Ezekiel 37:12-14; Daniel 12:2-3).
Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection.
Those who participate in the “first resurrection” are “blessed and holy.” All the righteous dead will rise before the Millennium. This is a bodily resurrection. They are “holy” because they have reached the point of ultimate sanctification.
Over such the second death has no power,
The “second death” [eternal death] has no authority over those in the first resurrection. Their blessing is that they will be priests of God and Christ and will reign with Christ for 1,000 years.
The “second death” refers to those eternally consigned to the Lake of Fire following the second resurrection (v.14). Death means separation. Jesus took the believer’s spiritual death upon Himself at the cross so there is no eternal separation of the believer from God.
“…who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years
Those who participate in the first resurrection (believers) will become “priests of God and of Christ” and they “shall reign with Him a thousand years.” This is the worship responsibility in the Millennium.
The normal life span will cover the entire duration of the Millennium. A child will die 100 years of age (Isaiah 65:20). There will be no shortened life span because of sickness or old age except for those who rebel against Jesus’ kingdom authority (Isaiah 11:4; 65:20b).
God will raise all saints in the first resurrection.
The first resurrection is for the just and the second resurrection is for the unjust.
“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice “and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28).
Revelation 20 separates the two resurrections by 1,000 years. There is a sequence to the first resurrection. God will raise the saints by a certain order.
“But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:23-24).
The word “order” means troop, company, battalion, and rank. Each resurrection will occur by their company. The picture is an army marching by ranks, one company following another. Each has a rank for resurrection. First, God will raise the church before the Tribulation. After the Tribulation, He raises the Tribulation saints and Old Testament saints.
Old Testament saints, the Lord Jesus, the church, and Millennial saints all participate in the first resurrection. The first resurrection is for the Lord Jesus and all believers.