How was Jesus “the firstborn from the dead” when there were others who were resurrected before Him?


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Firstborn from the dead

About “the firstborn from the dead,” the apostle John wrote, “And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Revelation 1:5).

Obviously, Jesus, the son of man, was not the first person to be raised from the dead. In the Old Testament, we know that Moses got resurrected from the dead (Jude 9) and Elijah resurrected a young boy (1 kings 17:21:22). And in the New Testament, Jesus Himself resurrected three individuals from the dead (John 11:44; Luke 7:15; Luke 5:42).

What does firstborn mean?

The word “first” has different meanings. For example the president’s wife is called “the first lady” but that doesn’t mean she is the first lady to ever exist but rather she is “first” in rank or position. So, it is clear that the word “first” in Revelation 5:1 means preeminence in rank and honor. King David wrote, “Also I will make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth” (Psalm 89:27). As David calls God Father, so God considered David His firstborn son. Also, David was the first from whom a line of royal descendants was to extend to the Messiah.

God called His people, “Israel is My son, My firstborn” (Exodus 4:22 also Jeremiah 31:9). Israel as a nation was chosen by God to be His ambassador to the world because of Abraham faithfulness (Genesis 17:3-6; 18:18).

In Revelation 1:5, the Son of God is regarded as “first” in the sense that all others resurrected before and after Him gained their freedom from death only by His own victory over death. His power to lay down His life and to rise from the dead (John 10:18) sets Him apart from all other men ever to come forth from the grave, and also sets Him as the source of all life (Romans 14:9; 1 Corinthians 15:12–23; John 1:4, 7–9).

The firstborn over all creation

Paul describes Jesus Christ as first in rank: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Colossians 1:15). This figure shows the honor and office held by the firstborn in a royal family. Christ’s position is distinguished, authoritative, and absolute. He has been entrusted by God the Father with all power and authority in heaven and earth.

The apostle explains Christ’s preeminence, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16). 

Also, Christ is the Eldest Brother in the family of the redeemed. “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). The ultimate purpose of the plan of salvation is the restoration of unity in the family of God’s kingdom, so that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28).

The head of the church

Paul represents the church as the body of Christ, showing that it is one united body, with Christ as its head. “And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18).

All the members of the church are different individuals, with different jobs and responsibilities. For these duties, they receive gifts from the Holy Spirit according to their needs. As the head provides all the factors for living, and all the bodily functions are completely and continuously dependent upon the the head, so Christ supports the body in every way (1 Corinthians 12:12–27 ; Ephesians 1:22).

The beginning and the end

Jesus Christ is the resurrection. He declared, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Revelation 1:8, 18).

Through sin man disconnected himself from the source of life, and therefore became subject to death, but the hope of eternal life was restored through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:12, 18; 6:23). In spite of the death Christ suffered for the fallen race, He continues to be “the living [One],” for He is God and the assurance of eternal life (John 1:12).

Check out our Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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