How many resurrections will there be?

The question of the number of resurrections of man is central to the question of millennial eschatology positions. The chiliast or premillennial position argues for two separate resurrections, one (the first) for the just and another (the second) for the unjust typically said to have an interval between them of a literal 1000 years. The anti-chiliast or amillennial/postmillennial position argues for a single resurrection occurring at one time though with distinctly different results for the just and the unjust.

If the Scriptures can be shown to declare that there will be only one resurrection, the anti-chiliast position is defended. If the Scriptures can be shown to declare that there will be two resurrections, the chiliast position is defended.

In numerous verses (Matthew 22:30, 1 Corinthians 15:41, Philippians 3:11, 2 Timothy 2:18, Hebrews 6:2) there is reference to “the resurrection.” It is strange to think that two resurrections a thousand years apart could be called “the resurrection” singular. Such is even stranger when considering that John 5:28 speaks of both the resurrection of life and the resurrection of judgment occurring in “an hour.” To make “an hour” to be “a thousand years” is quite a stretch. Martha knew that Lazarus (a believer) would rise again in the resurrection “on the last day” (John 11:24) and John 6:39-40 has all those given to Christ from the father being raised on the “the last day.” This might make sense for the chiliast if they had the resurrection of the just last, but in fact they have the resurrection of the just a thousand years before the end, hardly on the last day. Daniel is rather clear that “at that time” will arise “some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Daniel 12:2) The chiliast must stretch “hour,” “day,” and “that time” to be 1000 years long. Just how could the Bible be clearer that the resurrection of the just and unjust truly occur the same time? Perhaps if these were referred to as a single resurrection? Paul said to Felix, “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything written down by the Law and written in the Prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.” (Acts 24:15) He does not say resurrections.

In that time on that hour on the last day is THE resurrection of both the just and the unjust, the former who will arise to everlasting life and the latter to everlasting contempt.

Against these clear verses, the chiliast position prioritizes the less clear Revelation 20:5-6 where a “first resurrection” is mentioned. But not only is this in an apocalyptic vision that is often non-literal, but this “first resurrection” is easily explained by the anti-chiliast as being figurative, a rebirth of the believer. (Hendricksen, Commentary on John, p. 200)

1 thought on “How many resurrections will there be?”

  1. A few thoughts Doug,

    You did not mention 1 Thess. 4:16 where the dead in Christ only rise first indicating the reprobate will rise sometime later. Although it does not say when in 1 Thess. I think we can use the Rev. 20:5 to supplant this. It is kinda nice to hear an anti-premil (amil I assume?) that if the scripture says an hour it means an hour as I am used to most anti-premils quote 2 Peter 3:8 to refute that kind of thinking, but in this instance John in 5:28 is merely saying a time is coming and not trying to rap it all up in an hour. Realize prophesy often conflates periods as Isaiah 65:17-25 does. A good book to investigate this is Amillennialism and the Age to Come by Matt Waymeyer. You can also read the Scotch Baptist JR Jones thoughts on these matters at http://biblicalstudies.gospelstudies.org.uk/pdf/bq/01-2_088.pdf .

    Gordon Clark does not discuss this in his commentatary on 1 Thess. unfortunately.

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