Revelation 20:5
But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
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(5) But the rest of the dead lived not again . . .—Rather, The rest of the dead lived not (we must omit the word “again”) until the thousand years be finished. This is the first resurrection. In those words we meet one of the keys to the controversy respecting the millennium. What is this resurrection? Is it the resurrection at which the saints shall assume the glorified bodies, and their perfect consummation and bliss? It has been argued that the word must be understood literally as of a bodily resurrection. It is further said that the contrasting words (“the rest of the dead lived not”) necessitate this literal interpretation. But there is no reason for restricting the word Resurrection to a literal meaning. The sacred writers frequently use the idea figuratively. They speak of a resurrection which is spiritual; the dead in sin are summoned to rise from the dead that Christ might give them light (comp. Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 5:14); indeed, the figure often underlies the language and arguments of New Testament writers (John 5:24-25; Romans 6:5; 2Corinthians 5:15; Colossians 2:12). But do the words, “the rest of the dead lived not,” force upon us so sharp a contrast that we must understand the first resurrection literally? Undoubtedly the words are in contrast. If the words “lived not” necessarily mean that the rest of the dead did not enjoy physical life on earth, then the living with Christ of the saints and the first resurrection must be understood as giving physical life on earth to the saints. But are we bound to thus understand literally the “lived” of Revelation 20:4 and the “lived not” of Revelation 20:5? There are two or three considerations which will be enough to show that they need not be understood thus. (1) The word “to live” is used about sixteen times in the Apocalypse. On nine of these it is applied to the eternal life of God the Father or God the Son; it is twice used in the passage before us (Revelation 20:4-5). Of the remaining five occasions where the word is used, it is four times employed in what can scarcely be other than a figurative sense (Revelation 3:1; Revelation 7:17; Revelation 13:14; Revelation 19:20—some might doubt the figurative use in this last passage), but only once is it employed in a sense which can fairly be defended as literal (Revelation 16:3). (2) There will be faithless people during the millennium—the nations to be deceived (Revelation 20:8). Are we then to picture saints with glorified resurrection bodies living on the earth, which at the same time is tenanted by men and women still in the natural body? (3) There is a resurrection, which surely is the second resurrection, described in Revelation 20:12-13 : this last is a general resurrection of the dead, small and great. There seems no adequate reason to affirm that this first resurrection, then, must be physical. Our notions of life and death are so circumscribed by the geography of earth, that we seldom give to the word “life” in our thoughts its true richness and fulness of meaning. We fail to remember that the faithful ones who live, because Christ lives, have the promise of the life that now is, as well as that which is to come; we forget that God is not God of the dead, but of the living.

20:4-6 Here is an account of the reign of the saints, for the same space of time as Satan is bound. Those who suffer with Christ, shall reign with him in his spiritual and heavenly kingdom, in conformity to him in his wisdom, righteousness, and holiness: this is called the first resurrection, with which none but those who serve Christ, and suffer for him, shall be favoured. The happiness of these servants of God is declared. None can be blessed but those that are holy; and all that are holy shall be blessed. We know something thing of what the first death is, and it is very awful; but we know not what this second death is. It must be much more dreadful; it is the death of the soul, eternal separation from God. May we never know what it is: those who have been made partakers of a spiritual resurrection, are saved from the power of the second death. We may expect that a thousand years will follow the destruction of the antichristian, idolatrous, persecuting powers, during which pure Christianity, in doctrine, worship, and holiness, will be made known over all the earth. By the all-powerful working of the Holy Spirit, fallen man will be new-created; and faith and holiness will as certainly prevail, as unbelief and unholiness now do. We may easily perceive what a variety of dreadful pains, diseases, and other calamities would cease, if all men were true and consistent Christians. All the evils of public and private contests would be ended, and happiness of every kind largely increased. Every man would try to lighten suffering, instead of adding to the sorrows around him. It is our duty to pray for the promised glorious days, and to do every thing in our public and private stations which can prepare for them.But the rest of the dead - In contradistinction from the beheaded martyrs, and from those who had kept themselves pure in the times of great temptation. The phrase "rest of the dead" here would most naturally refer to the "same general class" which was before mentioned - the pious dead. The meaning is, that the martyrs would be honored as if they were raised up and the others not - that is, that special respect would be shown to their principles, their memory, and their character. In other words, "special" honor would be shown "to a spirit of eminent piety" during that period above the "common and ordinary" piety which has been manifested in the church. The "rest of the dead" - the pious dead - would indeed be raised up and rewarded, but they would occupy comparatively humble places, as if they did not partake in the exalted triumphs when the world should be subdued to the Saviour. Their places in honor, in rank, and in reward would be "beneath" that of those who in fiery times had maintained unshaken fidelity to the cause of truth.

Lived not - On the word "lived," see the notes on Revelation 20:4. That is, they "lived" not during that period in the special sense in which it is said Revelation 20:4 that the eminent saints and martyrs lived. They did not come into remembrance; their principles were not what then characterized the church; they did not see, as the martyrs did, their principles and mode of life in the ascendency, and consequently they had not the augmented happiness and honor which the more eminent saints and martyrs had.

Until the thousand years were finished - Then all who were truly the children of God, though some might be less eminent than others had been, would come into remembrance, and would have their proper place in the rewards of heaven. The "language" here is not necessarily to be interpreted as meaning that they would be raised up then, or would live then, whatever may be true on that point. It is merely an emphatic mode of affirming that "up to float period they would not live" in the sense in which it is affirmed that the others would. But it is not affirmed that they would even then "live" immediately. A "long" interval might elapse before that would occur in the general resurrection of the dead. See the Analysis of the chapter.

This is the first resurrection - The resurrection of the saints and martyrs, as specified in Revelation 20:4. It is called the "first" resurrection in contradistinction from the second and last - the general resurrection - when all the dead will be "literally" raised up from their graves and assembled for the judgment, Revelation 20:12. It is not necessary to suppose that what is called here the "first resurrection" will resemble the real and literal resurrection in every respect. All that is meant is, that there will be such a resemblance as to make it proper to call it a resurrection - a coming to life again. This will be, as explained in the notes on Revelation 20:4, in the honor done to the martyrs, in the restoration of their principles as the great actuating principles of the church, and perhaps in the increased happiness conferred on them in heaven, and in their being employed in promoting the cause of truth in the world.

5. But—B, Coptic, and Andreas read, "and." A and Vulgate omit it.

again—A, B, Vulgate, Coptic, and Andreas omit it. "Lived" is used for lived again, as in Re 2:8. John saw them not only when restored to life, but when in the act of reviving [Bengel].

first resurrection—"the resurrection of the just." Earth is not yet transfigured, and cannot therefore be the meet locality for the transfigured Church; but from heaven the transfigured saints with Christ rule the earth, there being a much freer communion of the heavenly and earthly churches (a type of which state may be seen in the forty days of the risen Saviour during which He appeared to His disciples), and they know no higher joy than to lead their brethren on earth to the same salvation and glory as they share themselves. The millennial reign on earth does not rest on an isolated passage of the Apocalypse, but all Old Testament prophecy goes on the same view (compare Isa 4:3; 11:9; 35:8). Jesus, while opposing the carnal views of the kingdom of God prevalent among the Jews in His day, does not contradict, but confirms, the Old Testament view of a coming, earthly, Jewish kingdom of glory: beginning from within, and spreading itself now spiritually, the kingdom of God shall manifest itself outwardly at Christ's coming again. The papacy is a false anticipation of the kingdom during the Church-historical period. "When Christianity became a worldly power under Constantine, the hope of the future was weakened by the joy over present success" [Bengel]. Becoming a harlot, the Church ceased to be a bride going to meet her Bridegroom; thus millennial hopes disappeared. The rights which Rome as a harlot usurped, shall be exercised in holiness by the Bride. They are "kings" because they are "priests" (Re 20:6; Re 1:6; 5:10); their priesthood unto God and Christ (Re 7:15) is the ground of their kingship in relation to man. Men will be willing subjects of the transfigured priest-kings, in the day of the Lord's power. Their power is that of attraction, winning the heart, and not counteracted by devil or beast. Church and State shall then be co-extensive. Man created "to have dominion over earth" is to rejoice over his world with unmixed, holy joy. John tells us that, instead of the devil, the transfigured Church of Christ; Daniel, that instead of the heathen beast, the holy Israel, shall rule the world [Auberlen].

By the rest of the dead, some understand all except martyrs; only that party who adhered to antichrist. Those who by the rest understand all the dead, both good and bad, (the martyrs alone excepted), judge that there will be two resurrections: the first more particular, of those that have suffered death for Christ; the second general, of all the rest of the dead. I must confess I find a difficulty to allow this; it is too great a point to found upon a single text, in a portion of holy writ so clouded with metaphors as this, and I know no suffragan text. Those who understand by the rest of the dead, only the wicked, understand by this living again, a politic life, that is, recovered not their former power, continued as dead men, able to do no mischief, till the thousand years of the church’s peace and tranquillity were expired. May this sense of living, and living again, be allowed, it will deliver us from almost all our difficulties about the sense of these verses; for then, by living, in the foregoing verse, is signified a political living, not a resurrection from a natural death. But then ariseth a question: If these beheaded saints did not rise from their natural death, how could they be restored to places of dignity with Christ in the church? To which they auswer: That those formerly suffering for the name of Christ, and all the saints upon the earth, are to be considered as one church; and so those formerly beheaded, lived and reigned with Christ in their successors in the same faith; that is, those alive at that time, being restored to their peace, and liberty, and reputation in the world, the martyrs, who were members of the same body, are also said to live. This appears to me the most probable sense: for that the glorified saints should leave heaven (as to their souls) to be again clothed with flesh, and in it to live a thousand years, and be concerned in the following troubles the church should meet with after these thousand years, seems to me to be utterly improbable, and to lay a foundation for so many difficult questions, as will pose the wisest man to answer to reasonable satisfaction. But yet there remains a difficulty, how this restoring God’s holy ones to a better state can be called

the first resurrection. That it may be called a resurrection is plain, as the conversion of the Jews, and restoring them to their former state as the church of God is called life from the dead, Romans 11:15; and the restoration of the witnesses, Revelation 11:11, is called so; though neither the one nor the other were naturally dead. Nor is it unusual in Scriptural and prophetical writings, to speak of people recovered to their former and better state, as being risen from the dead. It may be called the first, with reference to that far more excellent state which they shall be put in after the last judgment, when they shall live and reign with Christ in a more happy and glorious manner. If this may not be allowed as the sense of these two verses, I must confess this such a dusnohton, or difficulty of Scripture, as I do not understand. I shall proceed with the following verses upon this hypothesis, that this is the sense, though I dare not be positive in it.

But the rest of the dead,.... Meaning not the dead saints, for they will be all raised together, but the wicked dead; and not them as morally or spiritually, but as corporeally dead: these

lived not again until the thousand years were finished; so that there will be such an exact term of years between the resurrection of the saints and the resurrection of the wicked; nor will there be any wicked living upon earth, or in bodies, during that time; for the wicked dead will not be raised with the saints at Christ's coming, and the wicked living will be destroyed in the conflagration of the world, and neither of them shall live again until the end of these years. This clause is left out in the Syriac version.

This is the first resurrection; which is not to be connected with the living again of the rest of the dead at the end of the thousand years, for that will be the second and last resurrection; but with the witnesses of Jesus, and the true worshippers of God living again, in order to reign with Christ a thousand years; for this resurrection is not meant of a resurrection from the death of sin to a life of grace; though the work of grace and conversion is sometimes so represented, it cannot be designed here; for such a resurrection the above witnesses and worshippers were partakers of before their sufferings, and which was antecedently necessary to their witness and worship; besides, this resurrection was future in John's time, and was what was to be done at once, and was peculiar to the commencement of the thousand years; whereas the spiritual resurrection was before his time, and has been ever since the beginning, and is successive in all ages, and not affixed to anyone period of time, though there may be more instances of it in one age than in another; nor is this ever called the first resurrection, nor can any reason be given why it should; for though one man may be converted before another, his conversion cannot be called the first resurrection, since there are many instances of this nature before, and many more after; besides, at this time, there will be none of God's people to be raised in this sense; they will be all quickened and converted before; the nation of the Jews will be born again, and the fulness of the Gentiles brought in; to which may be added, that if the first resurrection is to be understood in a spiritual sense, then the second resurrection of the wicked dead, at the end of the thousand years, must be understood in like manner: nor is a reviving of the cause of Christ and his interest here intended, particularly through the calling of the Jews, and the numerous conversion of the Gentiles; for though the former of these especially is signified by the quickening of the dry bones in Ezekiel's vision, and is expressed by bringing the Jews out of their graves, and is called life from the dead, Romans 11:15 yet that cannot with any propriety be called the first resurrection; for there was a great reviving of true religion in the time of John the Baptist, Christ and his apostles, especially after the effusion of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, both among Jews and Gentiles; and there was a revival of the Christian religion in the times of Constantine, and again at the reformation from Popery; and as for the conversion of the Jews and the Gentiles in the latter day, that will be the last reviving of the cause and interest of Christ, which will usher in his spiritual reign, and therefore should rather be called the last, than the first resurrection; besides, this affair will be over before this time; this is signified by the marriage of the Lamb in the preceding chapter; and the kingdoms of the world will become Christ's under the seventh trumpet, and both will be in the spiritual reign: moreover, this does by no means agree with the character of the persons who shall share in this resurrection, they are such who shall have lived and suffered, at least many of them, under Rome Pagan and Papal, Revelation 20:4 and therefore can never be understood of Jews and Gentiles in the latter day, when neither one nor other shall be any more. To which may be subjoined, that if this was the sense, then this cause must revive also among the wicked at the end of the thousand years, whereas when they are raised, they will attempt the very reverse. It remains then, that by this first resurrection must be meant a corporeal one; for as some of those that will live again were corporeally beheaded, and all of them corporeally died, they will be corporeally raised again; and in such sense will the rest of the dead be raised at the end of these years; with respect to which this is properly called the first resurrection; it is the first in time, it will be at the beginning of the thousand years, and the second will be at the close; the dead in Christ will rise first in order of time; see Gill on 1 Thessalonians 4:16; they will have the dominion in this sense over the wicked in the morning of the resurrection: Christ's resurrection is indeed first, but that is the cause and pledge of this; and there were particular resurrections both before and after his, but they were to a mortal state; and there were some saints that rose from the dead immediately after his resurrection; but these were but few, and were designed as an earnest of this; besides, though it was a resurrection, it was not the resurrection; and it may be further observed, that the resurrection of the righteous will be the first at the coming of Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:22 there will be none then before theirs; theirs will be the first; the resurrection of the wicked, to which this is opposed as the first, will not be till a thousand years after: add to all which, that this resurrection will be, , "the first", that is, the best, as the word is used in Luke 15:22 the chief, the principal; the resurrection of the wicked can hardly be called a resurrection in comparison of it, and in many places theirs is not taken notice of where this is, as in 1 Corinthians 15:12 the righteous will be raised by virtue of union to Christ, in consequence of his having the charge both of their souls and bodies, and in conformity to his glorious body, and to eternal life, which will not be the case of the wicked,

{10} But the rest of the dead {11} lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.

(10) Whoever shall lie dead in sin, and not know the truth of God.

(11) They shall not be renewed with newness of the life by the enlightening of the gospel of the glory of Christ. For this is the first resurrection, by which souls of the dead do rise from their death. In the second resurrection their bodies shall rise again.

5. But] Should be omitted; there is more authority for reading “and.”

This is the first resurrection] Here, as with the Millennium, there is the question whether these words are to be understood literally. In fact, the interpretation of these words, literally or otherwise, is the turning-point of the Millenarian controversy.

The plain meaning of the words is, that after the overthrow of Antichrist, the Martyrs and other most excellent Saints will rise from the dead and have their part in the Millennial kingdom: the rest of the dead, even those finally saved, will not rise till later. But at last, after the Millennium, and after the last short-lived assault of Satan, all the dead, good and wicked, will rise.

Now no Christian doubts, that the second or general Resurrection described in Revelation 20:12 will be literally realised. It is therefore very harsh to suppose that the first is of a different kind. Such is, however, the view which since St Augustine’s time has been usually adopted by Catholic theologians. The first Resurrection is understood to be the resurrection “from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness.” It admits men into the kingdom of Christ, i.e. the Church, within which the power of the Devil is restrained, so that, if he can seduce some to sin, he cannot seduce them to actual idolatry or denial of God. This state of things will last through the whole course of the present dispensation, which, whatever its actual chronological length, is symbolically described as a thousand years. When that ends, there will ensue the three and a half years’ struggle with Antichrist—Revelation 20:7-15 being regarded as a new description of that period. If anyone can think this a legitimate interpretation of St John’s words, he may: and for the coupling of a spiritual with a literal resurrection, St Augustine, and those who follow him, compare St John 5:25; John 5:28. But it seems straining the view of “resumptions” very far, not to take the whole of this chapter as chronologically subsequent to the preceding: and really any view but the literal one seems exposed to insuperable exegetical difficulties.

If the true sense be not the literal one, it is safest to regard it as being as yet undiscovered.

Revelation 20:5. Ἡ πρώτη, the first) Many, even of the ancients, have admitted this first resurrection. Within an age of a thousand years is concluded the resurrection of the saints, who rise again at an earlier or a later period, according to their merits.—Tertull. l. iii. c. Marcion, c. 24. Ambrose, on Luke 17:4, speaks to the same purport, but not so in lib. i. de Interpellatione, c. 7, wherefore I do not quote his words. The remarks of Augustine de Civ. Dei, l. xx. c. 7, do not at all touch upon the first resurrection of bodies itself, but on the errors with which some had contaminated it. In later times great numbers have again defended this resurrection, and especially P. Crugotius, in his Notes on the Apoc., ch. 20, also in his Apology for the Confession of the Remonstrants, p. 209.

Verse 5. - But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished; should be finished. Omit "but;" omit "again." It is important to notice the omission of "again;" the rest of the dead lived not until, etc. The best explanation of these words seems to be that the "rest of the dead" refers to those Old Testament saints and others (such as godly heathens) who were in the world before Christ's act of atonement - "the thousand years" (see on ver. 2, above) - had been accomplished. They could not be said to have lived, in the high sense in which St. John uses the word, not having known Christ; for "in him was life" (John 1:4; John 5:40, etc.). But by Christ's redeeming work, these were placed on a level with Christians (cf. Luke 7:28, "John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he;" also Hebrews 11:39, 40, "And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect"). This is the first resurrection. These words refer both to the reigning of those mentioned in ver. 4, and to the living of those in ver. 5 (vide supra). This "first resurrection" is the spiritual rising with Christ, which is a consequence of his redeeming work. It is to be noticed that St. John nowhere makes use of the phrase, "second resurrection," though he does use the words, "second death." Both the "first resurrection" and the "second death" are spiritual operations. Revelation 20:5Lived - again (ἀνέζησαν)

Read ἔζησαν lived, as in Revelation 20:4

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