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What Does the Bible Say About..Two Resurrections and Our Status After Death?

I have been reading Revelation recently, and there are naturally going to be a lot of questions that arise from that chapter. One of them is about the resurrection. It is generally believed that when you die you go straight to Heaven, but these particular verses (Revelation 4-6 and one in Daniel- I can't remember which) seem to contradict that. There are multiple resurrections?!? And one involves the body (our physical body) and one involves our spirits. In Daniel, it says that no one is going to go to Heaven before us. Does this mean that people who died a thousand years ago aren't in Heaven; that they are just waiting around in their graves waiting for the Second Coming? I am very confused. If you could help me I would very much appreciate it! Thank you!


The book of the Revelation can certainly be confusing. This is especially true when so many people today have tried to give the symbols of the book modern interpretations instead of trying to read the book as it would have been read by its first audience.

The question you raise is a good one. Revelation 20:4-6 certainly talks about a first resurrection, which implies a second. When taken with the common, although not necessarily scriptural, beliefs about what happens after death it can become very confusing.

First, let's try to see what happens to the soul after death. Does it go straight to heaven or hell? Or is there a waiting period? Or does one lose all consciousness until the return of Christ? The passages in the Old Testament are generally vague about this. Some indicate that there may be no awareness in the grave (Psalm 6:5), but most don't address the ultimate fate of the soul. I could not even find a verse you indicated in Daniel about no one going to heaven before us. So we must look to the New Testament. The story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 seems to indicate there will be awareness after death and before the world ends, and there will be a separation of the good and evil. Many have said this is a sort of holding area prior to the judgement. That is possible, but not clearly stated. What is clear is that when Jesus comes again all the dead will arise with the living and meet him for judgement (1 Thes 4:13-18; 2 Thes 1:7-10). It appears that we do not go directly to heaven upon death, as some believe, but wait for Christ to appear.

The next question is whether Revelation 20 is talking about this at all. The book of Revelation is written in symbols that were understood by the Christians in the first century. Over the centuries we may have lost understanding of some of the meaning of the symbols. This makes the book difficult for most modern readers; difficult, but not impossible to understand. The basic meaning of the book is that Christians will overcome persecution because death has no power over them. This is especially emphasized here in chapter 20. What is the first resurrection that takes away the power of the "second death?" And what are the first and second deaths? These are the important questions relative to understanding this passage. If other scriptures answer them we need not put our own interpretation on them. When Adam and Eve were warned about the fruit in the garden of Eden, God told them that the day they ate of it they would die. They ate, and this was the first death, the separation of man from God by sin. They later died physically, as do we all. This is a second death. We all face both, although some will never die physically if they are alive when Christ comes. But for most of us, we face both. Like there are two deaths, one spiritual and the second physical, there are two resurrections for those who follow Christ. Paul spoke of the first resurrection in Romans 6:1-6. He said that baptism is a death, burial, and resurrection with Christ in the spiritual sense. We die to sin and are raised in a new life. Because of that we also have the hope of a physical resurrection and life in heaven. We know that this resurrection takes away the power of the second death, physical death, because of what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:51-57, speaking about the second, physical resurrection. When Christians assume the new, glorious body then "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your sting; O grave where is your victory?" Paul says here what John is told in Revelation 20, that for those who have had the first resurrection, salvation from sin through Christ Jesus, death has no power to threaten, because we know death is not an end but a beginning.

I pray that these thought may help you in your study. Thank you for an excellent and perceptive question.