Divisions of the First Resurrection -- By: Roy L. Aldrich

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 128:510 (Apr 1971)
Article: Divisions of the First Resurrection
Author: Roy L. Aldrich

Divisions of the First Resurrection

Roy L. Aldrich

[Roy L. Aldrich, Former President of Detroit Bible College, Detroit, Michigan.]

The resurrection event for believers has various titles in Scripture. It is called “the first resurrection” in Revelation 20:5, “the resurrection of life” in John 5:29, “the resurrection of the just” in Luke 14:14, and “a better resurrection” in Hebrews 11:35. All the saints of all dispensations have part in this resurrection. The wicked have no part in this event. Their resurrection is called “the resurrection of damnation” in John 5:29.

But all of the saints are not raised at the same time nor do they all have the same kind of experience in resurrection. Most of the saints will experience resurrection after the death of the body but some will enter the resurrection state apart from physical death.

The resurrection of the just takes place in several ranks or stages: “But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (1 Cor 15:23). The Greek word translated “order” is tagma, a military term, and may be rendered “rank” or “division.”

The contention that the first resurrection is a single undivided event is one of the key assumptions of the posttribulation rapturists. The first resurrection of Revelation 20:5 clearly takes place at the end of the tribulation, and so it is concluded that the church must pass through the tribulation to have part in this event.

In Daniel 12:1, 2 a resurrection takes place after “the time of trouble,” and it is concluded that this establishes the posttribulation theory. But these arguments lose their force if the resurrection for the saints takes place in several ranks or stages separated by time periods.

The term that is used to qualify the resurrection of Revelation 20:5 is prōtos which may mean either first of time or first of status. It is the same term used by Paul in 1 Timothy 1:15 where he calls himself the chief of sinners. Clearly Paul did not claim to be the first sinner in time b...

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