On the two resurrections.
Greetings again in the name!
Been a while, but I do check in now and then. Noticed your article on Revelation 20.4-6 and decided to give it a go.
I also note that you are not accepting rebuttals that merely point out flaws in your interpretation. You wish to engage an alternate systematic interpretation, and I hope to oblige you.
Let me state from the outset that my views are not at all settled yet. But you wish to have a systematic rebuttal to your article, so my rebuttal will have to come from the standpoint of a system, and the system that I choose is one similar to that of Milton Terry. I am not at all convinced that this system is the way to go, but it is frankly the one that I have the most difficulty poking holes in from the standpoint of the biblical texts. Simply outlined:
1. There was a resurrection, but only of the just, in anno domini 70. It remains an open question whether this resurrection included all of the righteous up to that point or only some of them.
2. There will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust at the end of time.
I want to emphasize that the timing of either one of these events is not my immediate focus. A primillenialist could easily place that first resurrection in our future, then the second one a thousand years past that. But, since you take certain timing phrases differently from that, I will place the first resurrection at 70, since your view of the timing statements put it there.
I intend to very briefly summarize what such a view looks like set alongside various New Testament passages. Then I will come to a critique of your handling of Revelation 20.4-6.
First stop, Olivet and its various parallels. You and I would agree that the entire discourse is speaking of the events of 70. So here is where the resurrection comes in, Matthew 24.31:
On its own this verse may seem innocuous enough. Could (symbolically) mean one of a handful of things, right?
And he will send forth his angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.
But this is not the only time Jesus mentions this regathering. He does so also in Matthew 8.11-12 and Luke 13.28-29:
Manifestly, these passages are parallel to the regathering mentioned on Olivet. But what do they mean? A bit of close reading will elucidate.
I say to you that many will come from east and west and recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves being thrown out. And they will come from east and west and from north and south and will recline in the kingdom of God.
The Matthean passage is speaking of gentiles coming into the kingdom ahead of Jews. Jesus is, at this point of the narrative, complimenting the faith of the gentile centurion (Matthew 8.5-13). The many are gentiles coming from east and west to dine (the implication of recline) with the patriarchs. Dining with the patriarchs. Already we have a clue as to what is going on. But we will come back to this point later.
The Lucan passage is not speaking of gentiles. The narrative setting is completely different from that of Matthew. The Lucan saying is complementary to the Matthean, but not the same saying, or incident, or even focus. Jesus is speaking, not to or about a gentile, but to and about those who ate and drank in the presence of Jesus, those on whose streets Jesus taught (Luke 13.26, the immediate context). Since the mission of Jesus was only to the lost sheep of Israel, these are clearly Jews, not gentiles.
In the Lucan version, Jesus does not mention the many that will come in from all over. Luke has the patriarchs and prophets themselves coming from the four points of the compass:
That pronoun they refers to the patriarchs and prophets coming into the kingdom as part of this regathering. Put these two (complementary but not identical) sayings together and the picture could not be clearer: The patriarchs and prophets will be regathered first, then the many gentiles will be gathered in with them.
...when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves being thrown out. And they
will come from east and west and from north and south....
But notice that, while the gentiles are not necessarily dead, the patriarchs and (most of) the prophets certainly are! What is going on?
Only what Isaiah prophesied in 26.18-19:
Now, Dee Dee, I do not want to get into a tangent here. I know full well that you interpret these verses symbolically only. I am mentioning them only for how they fit in nicely with the view that I am presenting. They are not a proof of my view, but they fit.
We were pregnant, we writhed in labor,
We gave birth, it would seem, to wind.
We could not accomplish deliverance for the earth,
Nor were the inhabitants of the world born.
Your dead will live!
Their corpses will rise.
You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy,
For your dew is the dew of lights,
And the earth will give birth to the shades.
But does not Isaiah himself deny resurrection just a few verses before this passage? Isaiah 26.13-14:
These shades that will not rise are clearly the wicked. They are punished by having no part in the resurrection mentioned in 26.14. The first resurrection, according to my miniature outline, consists only of the just, not the unjust, and Isaiah in this passage reflects only this resurrection of the just. He writes of the first only. The second is not in view.
O Lord our God, other masters besides you have ruled us.
But through you alone we confess your name.
The dead will not live, the shades will not rise.
Therefore you have punished and destroyed them,
And you have wiped out all remembrance of them.
Back to business....
I mentioned above that note about reclining (thus dining) in the kingdom. What would a first-century Jew (id est, the target audience of Jesus) most naturally think of when confronted with talk of dining in the kingdom? Luke 14.13-15 supplies the answer just one chapter after Jesus speaks of the patriarchs coming in:
Jesus mentions the resurrection, and a Jewish listener (presumably a Pharisee; see 14.1) instantly thinks of dining in the kingdom. Does Jesus go on to correct this connection? He does not. In fact, he reinforces it with a parable about a dinner (14.16-24)! Read the parable carefully. Jesus wants to make himself very clear on the kinds of people that will end up attending the great dinner, but does not question the basic fact of there being a great dinner, or on the connection that his listener makes between the resurrection of the just and eating bread in the kingdom.
[Jesus said:] But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind. and you will be blessed, since they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just. When one of those who were reclining with him heard this, he said to him: Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!
If this Jew was mistaken about that connection, Jesus has done nothing to clear up the misunderstanding, and he has in fact reinforced it with his parable. I can only conclude that, for a first-century Jew (including Jesus!), dining in the kingdom is the activity of the resurrected righteous.
(But this is no surprise. We knew all along that dining in the kingdom and resurrection were connected in the Jewish Pharisaical mind. The Talmud is clear on that point. And it is utterly pagan to speak of dining with the dead. Dining with Abraham implies, to a Jew, that Abraham has been raised from the dead. Jesus disagrees with the Pharisees on many, many points, but not on resurrection!)
And, of course, it is in Isaiah again that we receive word of an eschatological banquet connected with the resurrection. Isaiah 25.6-8:
A lavish banquet (for all peoples, including the gentiles, apparently), and death being swallowed up.
The Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain,
A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, and refined, aged wine.
And on this mountain he will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples,
Even the veil which is stretched over all nations.
He will swallow up death for all time,
And the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces,
And He will remove the reproach of his people from all the earth,
For the Lord has spoken.
Now, there are quite a few references throughout the New Testament that speak of the resurrection of the just and the unjust, not least of which is John 5.29. These references are speaking, of course, about the second resurrection on my outline, when both the righteous and the unrighteous will be raised. But I will come to John 5.24-29 later.
What about Paul? Briefly, in 1 Thessalonians 4.13-5.11 he addresses the fate of the dead, and he does so using Olivet as his lesson plan. Dispute this if you wish, but the parallels are too strong (and in too much the same order!) for coincidence. We can debate that matter at length, if you wish, but I will content myself right now with pointing out the matter of timing in 4.13-15:
What is painfully clear from this quote is that Paul himself thinks it at least possible that he will be alive at the time of the resurrection. If by we who are alive he meant that he would certainly be alive he was clearly mistaken, a problem for any view. But it is quite natural for him to place himself in the category of the living, seeing as how he had not died yet, if it was at least possible that he would be alive at the time of the resurrection.
do not want you
to be uninformed, brethren, about those
who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we
believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those
who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we
say to you by the word of the Lord, that we
who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will not precede those
who have fallen asleep.
Neither the view that I am espousing here nor a classical premillennial view has any trouble with the pronouns in 1 Thessalonians 4.13-5.11. If the resurrection of the just (and note that there is no mention of the unjust being raised in this passage) is the next event on the calendar, then Paul does well to say we the living. He just might be alive at that time, whether at 70 or much later.
What does not make any sense at all is the usual preterist view, since Paul (by your own exegesis of 1 Corinthians 15) knows that the man of sin (2 Thessalonians 2.1-12) has yet to be revealed, then the coming of 70, then the entire messianic age, or age to come, or millennium before any resurrection would be taking place. Nobody would say we the living when he knows that he will be dead, an entire age having to intervene. How long did Paul expect the age to be, a year or two? It just does not make sense.
But in my outline it makes perfect sense. Paul is speaking of the events described on Olivet, but from the perspective of what will happen to the dead. Jesus had been speaking of the signs of the times, and signs are meant for the living, so he of course mentioned the dead only indirectly (in the regathering). The Thessalonians probably knew a version of Olivet very similar to ours, whether in written or in oral form matters not, and thus knew about the living but were understandably unclear as to the fate of the dead. So Paul runs through the discourse again, this time discussing the dead more explicitly.
Before leaving Thessalonica, let me point out one sometimes overlooked difficulty in dividing events at 1 Thessalonians 5.1. Paul calls what goes before the coming of Jesus, and writes of the gathering in that connection. At 5.1 he switches over to talk of the day of the Lord. Two different things? If they are, then he seriously misleads his Thessalonian converts in 2 Thessalonians 2.1-2:
Remember that Paul is writing to people that he knows to be having difficulty understanding eschatological events. It boggles the mind that, if he was speaking of two different events an entire age apart, he would not say so!
Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ
and our gathering together to him
, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord
In 1 Corinthians 15.20-28, briefly, Paul writes only of the resurrection of the just; the unjust go unmentioned.
In Hebrews 10.32-12.2, again briefly, the faithful saints of the Hebrew scriptures died without receiving what was promised (11.39). But the readers of the epistle will not be so unfortunate! They, with just a bit of endurance, will receive the promise (10.36). Why? Hebrews 11.40:
Now, Hebrews does not explicitly mention the resurrection of the just in this connection, but these statements clearly teach a change of status for the righteous dead in the very near future, relative to the writing of the epistle. (Or at least that is the next item on the eschatological list, not some intervening age.) Abraham had not yet received what was promised, nor had the readers, at the time of writing. But they were very soon going to receive it.
...because God had foreseen something better for us
, so that apart from us
they [the faithful of old] would not be made perfect.
By the time we get to Revelation 20.4-6, of course, we already know that the first resurrection is that of the just only, while the second is that of the unjust as well:
Your connection of these two resurrections with John 5.24-29 simply will not work. The only thing similar between the passages is the two-stage view of resurrection. Everything else falls apart:
Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.
1. In John 5.25 the first stage is explicitly described as an ongoing process: ...an hour is coming, and now is.... In Revelation 20.4 the first resurrection is explicitly described as an event: ...they came to life [inceptive aorist]. Furthermore, this event is placed at the beginning of the thousand years, and its effects (the reigning with Christ) are said to last one thousand years. There is simply no mention of any before the beginning of the millennium coming to life, nor any during the millennium, as would be the case in an ongoing process. This resurrection is an event, plain and simple.
2. In John 5.24 Jesus defines, as it were, the nature of the death that he goes on to describe in 5.25, and that death is metaphorical: He who hears has passed from death to life. Clearly not a literal death, clearly not a literal coming to life. In Revelation 20.4 John defines the nature of the death, as well: ...those who have been beheaded. A very literal death indeed. I know that you try to find two classes of people raised in this verse, one class being dead (beheaded), the other still alive (those who have not worshiped the beast or taken the mark). One small problem.... According to the book itself that latter class is dead too! In Revelation 13.15, the image of the beast is given the power to cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed. Regardless of what you and I might think of the actual events being described, what is manifestly clear in the logic of the book of Revelation is that the righteous are not around for the judgment of the bowls. They have either left the scene (18.4) or been martyred (most of the rest of the book), and it with the latter that John is especially concerned. Those who have triumphed over the mark of the beast are those who are dead by the crystal sea in 15.2 (the crystal sea being situated in front of the throne of God, in heaven, according to 4.6), not those who will suffer from the plagues of 15.1, who are, revealingly enough, called those who dwell upon the earth in 13.8, 14 and 17.8. Where are the righteous living? They are dead.
3. If, in fact, John meant to include the living being raised (metaphorically) in Revelation 20.4, he must have forgotten all about them in the rest of the text, since 20.4 speaks only of coming to life and 20.5 only of the rest of the dead. Where are the living? Only the dead are in view here.
4. It goes without saying that the raising of a martyr after his righteous, God-pleasing death is a terrible metaphor for the raising of a sinner after his unrighteous, God-hating state of death in sin and trespass. Most passages that speak of raising the dead in the metaphorical sense specify that the death is one of sin and shame. Ephesians 2.4-6, Romans 6.1-4, Colossians 2.11-12, and 1 John 3.14, all of which you reference in your argument, all make it clear that the death in question is that of sin, or of hatred, or of trespass. Revelation 20.4 does exactly the opposite, specifying the death in question as a martyrdom, an honorable thing before God.
5. If the righteous come to life metaphorically in 20.4, then do the unrighteous come to life metaphorically in 20.5?
Most of these observations and questions have been made in other posts, but you did not answer them because no system accompanied the comments. I hope that I have offered enough of a system to entice you to answer these objections to the linking of John 5.24-29 and Revelation 20.4-6, particularly since this particular system has been held by some, most notable the venerable Milton Terry, and it is, in its own way, premillennial, since the raising of the righteous happens before the millennium. I have, of course, left gaping holes in the analysis, but not to do so would require several volumes.
Thank you for your tireless efforts on this site. It is the only one of its kind that I regularly check. I look forward to your thorough dismantling of the Terry position, and with it premillennialism in general.
In Hebraico evangelio secundum Matthaeum ita habet: Panem nostrum crastinum da nobis hodie, hoc est, panem quem daturus es in regno tuo da nobis hodie.
(In the Hebraic gospel according to Matthew it has thus: Our bread for tomorrow give us this day, that is, the bread which you will give in your kingdom give us today.)
--Jerome, commentary on Psalm 135.