Part 1: The Prize of the First Resurrection

When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world. 1 Cor. 11:32

Scope of This Series

Just as the Scriptures teach that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by works, and IS eternal, they also teach that all men will be held accountable for our deeds, and will be rewarded OR punished accordingly (e.g. Gal. 6:7-8; 2 Cor. 5:9-10; Col. 3:23-25, Rev. 2:23). This series, Resurrection, Rapture, Judgment, and Millennium, studies how God reconciles these two seemingly (but not actually) conflicting truths for believers (the old “faith without works” vs. “faith and deeds” controversy) during the Tribulation and the Millennium, before the last day when the old order of things will pass away and the New Jerusalem appears, with every believer a mature part of it (see Rev. 20:11 – 21:5; Eph. 4:11-13).

Synopsis of Part 1 and Urgency of this Study

Part 1 herein studies what God’s word teaches primarily about the first resurrection, which precedes the New Jerusalem and the main resurrection of believers in Jesus Christ by one thousand years. This is a prize rewarded for deeds prompted and empowered by the Holy Spirit – the only deeds that will endure the baptism of fire that all believers will encounter at Christ’s Bema seat on Judgment Day. The timing of the harvesting/rapturing of those believers living at the time of the first resurrection, Paul’s goal that he suffered martyrdom for, and some OT examples we are exhorted to learn from are also addressed.

Understanding this matter is urgent because Jesus is coming very soon, and, as He prophesied, much of our end-times Church is not prepared for the coming judgment. Most Christians are unknowingly deceived, lulled to complacency – worse yet, sleep – by believing false teachings. It’s high time to renew our minds.

Praise God, His word is omnipotent, and false doctrines crumble, then are demolished as truth is wholeheartedly and progressively sought, studied, and apprehended by those with eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to understand!

The Rod: Will God Spare It? by J. D. Faust – an Exhaustive Study on the Matter

I share again that it took me many months of determined serious re-study of God’s word on this matter to demolish such false doctrines and rebuild in truth. The Lord led me to do this in conjunction with studying many Scripture-rich related writings by discerning saints, mainly from the 1800’s (especially Robert Govett, acclaimed by Spurgeon), and one excellent exhaustive 400+ page contemporary study, The Rod: Will God Spare It? by J. D. Faust, which I highly recommend (links to the publishing house descriptions of these works & authors are provided towards the end of the overview of this series).

As always, I encourage being a Berean, deliberately making time to study these critical Scriptures under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord grant you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation as you do so! (For convenience, I’ve included links to Scriptures that aren’t written out. Those written herein are NIV, 1984 revision; the links, however, will include the most recent revision of the NIV.)

So, do you desire as I do to be able to withstand the fire emanating from the throne on Judgment Day? Do you likewise seek truth and obedience more than comfort? Let’s dig into God’s word on this critical matter!

Baptism with Fire on Judgment Day

John the Baptist and the apostle Paul both prophesied and described the coming baptism with fire on Judgment Day:

11 I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire. (Matt. 3:11-12).

12 If any man builds on this foundation [Jesus Christ] using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. 16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him*; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple. (1 Cor. 3:12-17)

Jesus’ words addressing this sanctifying discipline (*not annihilation) will be addressed later in this series, God-willing. I have already provided a list of many of them at the end of the overview of this series.

Baptism with the Holy Spirit and repeated filling with Him via our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ enable and empower us to accomplish righteous works in this age, and this is how we build what is pleasing to God, and will withstand the baptism with fire on Judgment Day. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the flesh, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:13-14).

Eternally Saved Regardless of Works

All Christians will spend eternal life together as part of the New Jerusalem once the first heaven and first earth pass away and the new heaven and new earth appear (Rev. 20:11 – 21:2). The Great White Throne judgment of all the dead and the resurrection to eternal life of those whose names are written in the book of life immediately precede this on what Jesus Himself called the last day (John 6:40).

Multiple Scriptures reveal that this eternal salvation is by grace through faith in Christ alone – no works at all. Whether a Christian is continuously Spirit-filled and lives as righteously as Paul did, or receives Christ but then backslides and lives according to the flesh, or receives Christ on his deathbed and therefore accomplishes no righteous Spirit-led works, he will be together with all saints after the Millennial Age as part of the New Jerusalem for eternity (the eternal rewards will differ, however, e.g. Rev. 22:12).

Yet All Will be Held Accountable and Rewarded or Punished According to Deeds

Yet just as the Scriptures teach that eternal salvation is by grace through faith and not by works, they also teach that all men – believers and unbelievers alike – will be held accountable for our deeds, and rewarded or punished to scale accordingly, whether in this lifetime or before the Lord at His Bema seat and during the Millennium. Here are some Scriptures that teach this regarding believers:

7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction [not annihilation], the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Gal. 6:7-8, emphasis and comment added)

9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Cor. 5:9-10, emphasis added)

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Jesus Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism. (Col. 3:23-25, emphasis added)

Lastly, behold some of the Lord’s own words demonstrating the severity of His punishment of His own:

21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of their ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. (Rev. 2:21-23) (Pause to apprehend Christ is indeed addressing His churches, unlike how some twist and falsely teach this…)

Even a casual reading of the NT reveals repeated exhortations to deny self, follow Christ, suffer for Him, and persevere, all requiring work on the believer’s part to put God’s word into action in accordance with the indwelling Holy Spirit.

So then, how DOES God reconcile these two seemingly conflicting (but not actually) truths  for believers – the old “faith without works” vs. “faith and deeds” controversy (e.g. Jesus’ words in John 6:39 vs. His words in Matt. 7:21, and Paul’s often-quoted words of Eph. 2:8-9 vs. the often ignored words of James 2:14,26)? It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings (Prov. 25:2). Are you ready to search this out? Do you have your Bible at hand?

Two Resurrections for Believers, Immediately Preceding and Following Christ’s Millennial Kingdom

Many Christians believe ear-tickling false doctrine that the entire Church will be raptured/resurrected at the same time pre-Tribulation (I was one until recently, having first shortly been of the post-Tribulation persuasion). They are ignorant of God’s word regarding holding His servants accountable for their deeds, which, ultimately, is due to not studying the Scriptures as critically as the Lord calls us to do. Many, like myself until this year, then unintentionally spread the prevailing deception, lulling even more believers into complacency. Blinded by such preconceptions, many Christians thus erroneously believe that only unbelievers are judged at the Great White Throne; many I’ve known or encountered believe all Christians will be part of the first resurrection, and thus enter the Millennial Kingdom; that they will be rewarded therein according to their works, but will not be punished. Those believing in another timing of a single “rapture of the Church” likewise miss the crucial truth that Christ rewards or punishes believers according to our deeds.

It is essential to study and apprehend Revelation Chapter 20! Truth is indeed often hidden in Scripture so that only the determined ones who search for it as for hidden treasure… find the knowledge of God (Prov. 2:1-5; see also 25:2 above). As you pause to carefully read it in your own Bible now, pay particular attention to what is hidden in verse 15, yet disclosed in conjunction with  vv. 4-6, especially v. 5…

Indeed, careful Holy Spirit-led study of Rev. 20 reveals that the main resurrection of Christians is actually on the last day (described in vv. 11-15), and is the second resurrection. For those who missed it, note that although the resurrection of those whose names are written in the book of life is not stated outright in v. 15, it is disclosed therein since Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life indicates persons ARE present whose names ARE found in the book of life. Furthermore, vv. 4-6 substantiate it, and reveal important details.

As a reward for their Spirit-led and empowered righteous acts, the blessed and holy (set apart) saints – the overcomers/victors/conquerors of Rev. Chs. 2 & 3 and the martyred so-called “Tribulation saints” from later chapters – will be resurrected at the beginning of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom one thousand years earlier than the other saints, and will reign alongside Him throughout that entire age. Note also that no Christian subjects of the Millennial Kingdom are described:

4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. (Rev. 20:4-6)

Two populations are addressed in verse 4. Those seated on thrones and given authority to judge are Christ’s overcomers of Rev. Chs. 2 & 3 who are resurrected/raptured before the Tribulation begins; they are the first-fruits, the barley harvest per the OT, to whom Christ promised, Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth (Rev. 3:10).

The second population addressed in v. 4 is composed of a few groups. One group is the significantly less sanctified saints alive at that time who will be left behind to ripen/mature during the heat of the Tribulation; they are the main harvest, the wheat harvest per the OT, apparently matured and raptured/resurrected pre-wrath at the seventh trumpet; they are also the great multitude described in Rev. 7:9-17 as those who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their [soiled] robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb (v. 14, emphasis and comment added). I believe these “Tribulation saints” are also those described in Rev. 15:2-4 who stand beside the sea of glass mixed with fire (their Judgment Day) who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. I believe those who don’t receive Christ until during the Tribulation and are martyred because they refuse the mark of the beast are another group within the main harvest “Tribulation saints.”

Completing the OT harvest analogy, this second population of Rev. 20:4 also likely includes a few saints, the harvest gleanings, who aren’t raptured/resurrected until right before the Trubulation ends (this is not as clear in Revelation, but may be what Christ is indicating in 16:15; more on being clothed in righteous acts later in the series, God-willing). (Of course, the grape harvest of Rev. 14:17-20 is only the unbelievers.)

Having suffered righteously during the Tribulation, they ALL are called blessed and holy, and will reign with Him a thousand years (v. 6) alongside the previously resurrected/raptured first-fruits (v. 4). Praise God for rewarding all His children who share in Christ’s sufferings with reigning with Him and sharing in His glory (Romans 8:17) throughout the entire Millennium before the old order gives way to the eternal state! Which leads us to teachings of Peter and Jesus…

A Thousand-Year Early Welcome into the Eternal Kingdom for the Worthy

This first resurrection is a thousand-year early welcome into the eternal kingdom (also translated as a rich welcome, a lavish reception – enjoy multiple translations of 2 Peter 1:11 here). It is an inheritance for saints who obediently suffer persecution and/or trials with Christ as the Thessalonians and Philadelphians did (see 2 Thess. 1:3-5 and Rev. 3:8-10a, and contrast with most of the Sardians and Laodiceans in Rev 3:1-6 and Rev. 3:14-22, respectively).

It is important to understand that the first resurrection is not simply being raised momentarily for judgment at Christ’s Bema seat on Judgment Day; per Jesus’ own teaching in Luke 20, these worthy saints can no longer die, for they are children of the resurrection:

35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection of the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die, for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. (Luke 20:35-36)

Jesus also taught that only His overcomers are so rewarded:

To Him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Rev. 3:21) The remainder, He rebukes and disciplines (v. 19).

We’ll study more details of Rev. Chs. 2 & 3 and the second death in upcoming articles, God-willing. Until then, I encourage you to study them yourself, and to ask the Lord to show you how no longer being able to die as children of the first resurrection ties in with not being hurt temporarily by the second death (Rev. 2:11), and what the converse indicates for those Christians who don’t make sufficient efforts to overcome in accordance with the Spirit during this lifetime… Rest assured, the Scriptures (e.g. Eph. 4:11-15) teach that we WILL all eventually be fully disciplined/matured/sanctified and made part of the New Jerusalem, praise God!

Peter taught that our calling and election are confirmed by our efforts – that these efforts ensure we’ll receive that rich thousand-year welcome into the eternal kingdom (see 2 Peter 1:3-11). All the sequential and progressive efforts of vv. 5-7 are to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (vv. 10b-11). This extravagant welcome is the double-portion inheritance promised to the first-born sons in the OT! Praise God, we know that Peter was able to die a martyr because of his great Spirit-led and empowered efforts, and that he will certainly be one of the blessed and holy saints welcomed into the eternal kingdom one thousand years before most! And this brings us to Paul…

The Prize of the “Out-Resurrection from the Dead” that Paul Fervently Sought

Clearly assured of his salvation, the apostle Paul lost everything he had in this world to suffer for Christ – including his status in the Sanhedrin as a Pharisee, and perhaps also his wife (Sanhedrin members were married) – and sought this first resurrection fervently as a prize:

8 …I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him… 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3:8-11).

According to Greek scholars, the unique word the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to use that is (mis)translated as “resurrection” in v. 11, ἐξανάστασις (Strong’s G1815, used only here in the Bible), actually means “out-resurrection” (ref. Vine’s Expository Dictionary). Thus Paul is fervently desiring to be included in a select resurrection out of and distinct from the main one.

Paul’s extraordinary efforts clearly are not to obtain his salvation (which is not awarded for works), but to obtain the highly sought prize of the “out-resurrection” awarded for a sufficiency of righteous deeds done in step with the Spirit. He seeks to enter into the joy of eternal life with His Lord a thousand years earlier than the arrival of the New Jerusalem!

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:12-14)

Paul taught about running for the prize of reigning alongside Christ during His thousand-year kingdom also in 1 Cor. 9:24-10:12. Herein, the Holy Spirit inspired him to emphasize that Christians can miss this prize/inheritance just as a whole generation of Israelites (except only two men, Caleb and Joshua) failed to enter into the promised land because God was not pleased with them (10:5). Lest we also fall into disobedience, here are some key points for us to apprehend from Paul and all those Israelites who failed to receive their inheritance despite having received the same grace as Caleb and Joshua:

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way to get the prize. …27 I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 10:1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.

6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.

…11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the age has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (1 Cor. 9:24,27-10:6,11-12)

Yes, Christians can indeed fall from grace and miss our inheritance (which is this prize, the blessed first resurrection, not eternal salvation), just like that generation of Israelites fell from grace and missed their inheritance. This should bring to mind the multitude of accountability teachings in Hebrews that few pastors preach. Hopefully this study has opened many eyes to see that these passages have been falsely taught (one way or another) not to apply to us when they truly DO! The Lord will surely bless all whom respond to His call to study that great book on their own. Focused on the prize of the first resurrection, we will look now only at two verses in Hebrews.

The Better Resurrection of Hebrews Chapter 11

From the great “hall of faith” chapter which recounts extraordinary feats of multiple OT saints, Hebrews 11:35 witnesses that multiple saints have suffered greatly in order to gain this “better resurrection”: …Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Clearly, the writer of Hebrews knew of the better resurrection from the Lord’s own teachings (e.g. recorded in Luke 20:35-36 as studied above, also Luke 14:14), as this epistle was written before Revelation was.

It should be apparent now that the Epistle to the Hebrews was written largely to encourage the Christians of Hebrew descent that they indeed could endure righteous suffering and gain this superior resurrection by keeping it in mind and fixing their eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of their faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (12:2). It is important to recognize that Jesus Himself, like the OT saints of 11:35, endured His persecution by fixing His eyes on the coming joy of heavenly rewards. Many Christians are missing the mark when they falsely claim it is not Christ-like to do so:  …our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor. 4:17-18)

Note also the parallelism with His promise to the churches: To him who overcomes, I will give to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Rev. 3:21-22)

Towards Being Raptured Before the Imminent Tribulation

In like manner as the great cloud of witnesses before them, a great multitude of saints are prophesied to suffer persecution in the coming 7-year Tribulation and refuse the mark of the beast in order to obtain the first resurrection (pre-wrath, apparently at the time of the seventh trumpet, with a few gleanings near the end, as addressed above). Hopefully you realize by now that these saints will have to suffer the Tribulation because they will not have apprehended and applied these accountability truths in time before our Lord raptures His first-fruits BEFORE the Tribulation.* 

It is in the hopeful expectation that fellow Christians alive today take this to heart, earnestly seek first the kingdom, and avoid such an outcome that I am writing this! Please join in spreading the Lord’s accountability teaching and in praying this up, as He leads, equips, and empowers you! Thank you, and may the Lord bless you exceedingly abundantly for doing so!

Be always on the watch and pray always that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:36)

And indeed, have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire(Jude 1:22-23)

So very much love in Christ our Judge and Deliverer, your sister deanna 

*Recapitulating from both the Overview and Part 1 and adding a bit more: All saints who are alive during Christ’s ~7-year parousia / Judgement Day are raptured according to when they are ripe/mature. Those saints who are left behind after the pre-Tribulation rapture to be matured by the heat of the Tribulation and who do not take the mark of the beast (unpardonable sin) WILL eventually be raptured/resurrected out of it (again, according to when they are ripe/mature), and will indeed be a part of the blessed and holy first resurrection. The second resurrection only involves the dead saints – no raptured living saints.

To be continued, God-willing…

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