The First Resurrection: A Reaffirmation -- By: Meredith G. Kline

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 39:1 (Fall 1976)
Article: The First Resurrection: A Reaffirmation
Author: Meredith G. Kline

The First Resurrection: A Reaffirmation

Meredith G. Kline

The characteristic courtesy of Ramsey Michaels in discussion, even when the discussion is a disagreement, is amply evidenced again in his Response to my earlier article. I admire the virtue and appreciate this particular instance of it, but as one notably deficient in irenic grace I could almost wish he had set a less noble example! Despairing of matching it, I tender my apologies beforehand, ere the ardor of offensive defensiveness has quite carried me away.

So far as formal exegesis is concerned, Professor Michaels’ Response is not so much a criticism of my article (the distinctive point of which he in fact endorses) as it is a novel proposal of his own setting himself against the commentators of all millennial schools on what has been a point of fundamental, if formal, agreement among them. Though he characterizes his approach as a “rather conventional premillennial” one, at this critical point it is anything but conventional.

He charges the commentators on all sides with complicating the picture in Revelation 20:4–6 by reading as a double pair of first and second death and first and second resurrection what he wants to restrict to the single pair of first resurrection and second death. In spite of the bold manner in which this proposal is introduced as being “of course” what John says, it must strike most readers of the Book of Revelation as a strained exegesis, unnatural in the extreme.

How he arrived at such a position seems to be clear enough, however. Having acknowledged the validity of my observation that in the Revelation 20 and 21 context “first” and “second” do not refer simply to mere sequence but denote a qualitative difference, he then perceives that if that fact is incorporated into the double binary pattern interpretation that has all along been accepted on all sides, it will have to be admitted that there is a difference in kind between the first and second resurrections as

well as between the first and second deaths. That, he is also aware, spells the end of the premillennial exegesis—and millennial opinions go down swinging!

It is under point two that the Response takes up this decisive issue, asserting that Revelation 20:4–6 does not contain the idea of two death experiences and two resurrection experiences but only one of each. The Response says that John does not pair “first” with death or “second” with resurrection, and it then makes the quite un...

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