What are the first and the second resurrections?


By BibleAsk Team

The concept of resurrection holds a central place in Christian eschatology, offering hope and assurance of life beyond the grave. According to Christian belief, resurrection entails the restoration of the physical body to life, accompanied by transformation and eternal existence. The New Testament provides insights into the nature and timing of resurrection events, including the first and second resurrections, which represent distinct phases of divine judgment and restoration.

The First Resurrection: Triumph of the Righteous

The first resurrection, often associated with the resurrection of the righteous, represents a moment of triumph and vindication for those who have faithfully followed God’s commandments and embraced the gospel message. Revelation 20:4-6 (NKJV) provides a vivid description of the first resurrection:

“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.”

This passage portrays the first resurrection as a moment of divine vindication and reward for martyrs and faithful believers who have endured persecution and remained steadfast in their allegiance to Christ. Those who participate in the first resurrection are granted the privilege of reigning with Christ and sharing in His authority during the millennial reign.

Characteristics of the First Resurrection: Reward and Eternal Life

The first resurrection is characterized by several key attributes that distinguish it as a moment of divine triumph and fulfillment of God’s promises. Firstly, the first resurrection represents victory over death, sin, and the powers of darkness, as believers are raised to newness of life and empowered to reign with Christ in His kingdom.

Secondly, the first resurrection is accompanied by rewards and blessings for those who have faithfully served God and endured persecution for the sake of righteousness. Revelation 22:12 (NKJV) affirms this aspect of divine recompense:

“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.”

Finally, the first resurrection signifies the attainment of eternal life and fellowship with God, free from the threat of judgment or condemnation. John 5:24 (NKJV) assures believers of their participation in the first resurrection:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”

The Second Resurrection: Judgment of the Wicked

In contrast to the first resurrection, which represents a moment of blessing and reward for the righteous, the second resurrection is associated with divine judgment and condemnation for the wicked. Revelation 20:11-15 (NKJV) provides a sobering portrayal of the second resurrection:

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before [a]God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second [b]death. 15¬†And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”

This passage depicts the second resurrection as a moment of reckoning and accountability before the throne of God, wherein the wicked are judged according to their deeds and condemned to annihilation in the lake of fire.

Characteristics of the Second Resurrection: Condemnation and Destruction

The second resurrection is characterized by the solemnity and severity of divine judgment, as the wicked are held accountable for their rebellion against God and rejection of His mercy and grace. Hebrews 9:27 (NKJV) emphasizes the inevitability of judgment for all humanity:

“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.”

Secondly, the second resurrection results in annihilation for those whose names are not found written in the Book of Life. Revelation 20:15 (NKJV) emphasizes the finality of this judgment:

“And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”

Finally, the second resurrection signifies the culmination of divine justice and the eradication of sin and evil from God’s creation. Revelation 21:8 (NKJV) describes the fate of the wicked in vivid terms:

“But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”


The following chart will outline the events occurring at the first and the second resurrections of Revelation 20 & 21:



1. Second coming of Jesus for the saints (John 14:3).1. Third coming of Jesus with the saints (Rev. 21:2-5).
2. Saints raised to life (1 Thess. 4:16).2. Holy city descends onto the mount of Olives, which becomes a great plain (Zech. 14:4, 9).
3. Righteous given immortality (1 Corin. 15:53, 54).3. Wicked dead raised (Rev. 20:5, first part)
4. All righteous (alive and dead) caught up into clouds (1 Thess. 4:17).4. Satan loosed (Rev. 20:7-8).
5. Living wicked slain by the Lord’s presence (2 Thess. 2:8; Lu. 17:26-30).5. Satan deceives all nations. They surround the holy city (Rev. 20:8-9).
6. Wicked remain in their graves (1 Thess. 4:16, last part).6. Wicked destroyed by fire (Rev. 20:9).
7. Jesus takes righteous to heaven (Jn. 14:1-3; 17:24; 1 Thess. 4:16-18).7. New heavens and earth created (Rev. 21:1-5; 2 Pet. 3:10-14).
8. Satan bound (Rev. 20:2-3).8. God’s people enjoy eternity with Jesus (Rev. 22:5).

The first resurrection of the saints takes place at the second coming of Christ (Thessalonians 4:16, 17; 1 Corinthians 15:51-53). The 1,000-year period begins at the second coming of Christ, when Jesus takes the righteous from this earth to heaven to live and reign with Him for “a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4).

At the close of the 1,000 years “the holy city, new Jerusalem” (Revelation 21:2) will come down from heaven to the earth with all the saints (Zechariah 14:1, 4, 5) and the wicked dead of all ages will be raised to life (Revelation 20:5). And they will surround the holy city to capture it (Revelation 20:9). But God’s fire will come down from heaven and devour them. This fire will purify the earth and burn up all sin and sinners (2 Peter 3:10).

After cleaning the earth with fire, the Lord will create a new earth (2 Peter 3:13; Isaiah 65:17; Revelation 21:1) and give it to the righteous, and “God… will dwell with them… and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God” (Revelation 21).


In conclusion, the first and second resurrections represent distinct phases of divine judgment and restoration within Christian eschatology, marking the culmination of God’s redemptive plan for creation. The first resurrection symbolizes the triumph of the righteous over sin and death, leading to eternal life and fellowship with God in His kingdom. In contrast, the second resurrection signifies the judgment and condemnation of the wicked, resulting in eternal separation from God and punishment in the lake of fire.

The first and second resurrections serve as reminders of the importance of faithfulness, righteousness, and moral preparation for the ultimate realities of divine judgment and eternal life. As believers anticipate the fulfillment of God’s promises, they are called to live lives of faith, obedience, and love, trusting in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ and the hope of eternal life in His presence.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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