When Jesus Comes Back to Judge the World (Continued)
Sunday, March 8, 2009 -
We believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth: And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hades; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen”
Revelation 20:4-6 - “Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. 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 ended. This is the first resurrection.  Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.”
Last week we began unfolding the key idea from this text that there will be two and only two resurrections at the end of the age. Today we continue with the New Testament sequence of events that we began studying under point (2) last week:
2) 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 - “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.  For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”
This is another of those passages that deals with the subject of two resurrections almost by default. Paul specifically mentions the first resurrection in verse 16 - “...the dead in Christ will rise first...” He tells us this will happen at the Second Coming of Jesus. He tells us this will be a very loud, public, visible event - “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first”(4:16).
I don’t believe your salvation hinges on agreeing with me at this point. But, in my opinion, there will not be a secret resurrection and rapture that will leave people wondering what happened to all the Christians. I don’t believe Christian pilots are suddenly going to pop out of airplanes, leaving the flight attendants to wonder what happened to them. There is a passage in Matthew 24:40-41 that talks about one person being taken while the other is left - “Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left.  Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.” But this passage, when taken in its full context, clearly talks about the time of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ in glory (see verses 24-42). Again, notice the reference to the loud trumpet call (24:31), just as in Paul’s comments in 1 Thessalonians and John does in Revelation twenty.
Don’t misunderstand me. I believe Christians will be raptured. I believe they will be raptured at the time of the first resurrection when Jesus comes again. Paul ties those two events together in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 - “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”
Again, because Paul is writing words of encouragement to the church, he doesn’t even mention the second resurrection of the wicked. But he implies it by saying clearly that the resurrection of the saints is the first resurrection. And that word “first” implies the rest of the dead are raised after.
There is one other important passage from Paul: Philippians 3:8-11 - “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—  that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
That last phrase is fascinating. The whole evangelical church affirms that everyone will be raised. We get this from the clear teaching of the Scriptures. The Bible claims that “all will be made alive.” So what can Paul possibly mean by striving to “attain to the resurrection from the dead”? He will rise again no matter how he lives in this life. He doesn’t have to work at the general resurrection. None of us does.
Clearly, Paul is thinking about aiming his life, not just at resurrection in general, but the first resurrection in particular. This is what he means by being “found in Christ” (9). He is thinking about the judgement. He doesn’t want to be ashamed at his own righteousness. He wants to be involved in the resurrection of those who are “Christ’s” in the first resurrection.
3) THOSE WHO SHARE IN THE FIRST RESURRECTION ARE DESCRIBED AS THOSE OVER WHOM THE “SECOND DEATH” HAS NO POWER - This is the chief feature making the first resurrection a blessed resurrection for those in Christ: Revelation 20:6 - “Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.”
We all know what it is to fear death. The Bible says we all live chained to this fear of death while we are here on earth. But the Bible says there is a second death that is even more fearful than the first. In fact, Jesus said this second death was more to be feared than the first: Matthew 10:28 - “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
There is a kind of death that is just as real, even though spiritual in its greatest terror. It is no less real than the first physical death. And our text in Revelation 20 says only those who participate in the first resurrection escape the second death. The damnation - the eternal wrath of God - the outer darkness and gnashing of teeth - of the second death cannot touch those who are Christ’s at the first resurrection.
The apostle John said we aren’t presently even capable of grasping the glorious benefit and blessing of the first resurrection: 1 John 3:2 - “Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” For all those in Christ, John says something wonderful is going to happen when Jesus appears. This, according to Paul is the moment of the first resurrection:1 Corinthians 15:22-23 - “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.  But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.”
At His coming the dead in Christ shall be raised. Those living will be changed. And that’s the event John is talking about when he says, “When He appears, we will be like Him!” He’s not just talking about the glories that will be revealed to us in this transformed world. He’s talking about the glories that will be revealed in us. This is why the second death will have no power over us.
4) JOHN SAYS WE WILL REIGN AND RULE WITH CHRIST AFTER THE FIRST RESURRECTION - Revelation 20:6 - “Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.” This is not the only passage in the Bible to mention this wonderful theme: Revelation 5:9-10 - “And they sang a new song, saying,"Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,  and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."
While there is certainly much mystery here, there are few things we are told. We know that there will be a time of actual reigning with Christ on this earth - “...they will reign on the earth” (5:10). This will be right here - on this very earth. Right on the spot where Jesus’ Name was taken in vain. Right here where all our battles were fought. Right here where Jesus was nailed to a cross. Right here where false religions and leaders made ruin of so many lives. This is the place - right here on the earth - where every knee will bow and tongue confess the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
This is the very hope Jesus put in front of His disciples in their times of trial and doubt and discouragement: Matthew 19:27-29 - “Then Peter said in reply, "See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?"  Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.”
We are to remember the blessings of the first resurrection. God will make all wrongs right. We will all be richly rewarded. Next week we will continue on the actual judgement of those who do not take part in the first resurrection.