"It is always interesting to trace a truth before ever it has emerged into public notice.  This letter [given to D. M. Panton by a great-grandson of the same name, and published in ‘Dawn’ Vol.16] was addressed to an official of the C. M. S., dated July 31st 1827, and written by the son of John Wesley’s executor; and it was composed when the chief protagonists of this particular truth - Govett and Pember and Seiss, not to speak of A. B. Simpson, Hudson Taylor, and A. T. Pierson - were still in their childhood, or not yet born."  - (D. M. Panton).



You asked my opinion the other day relative to the First Resurrection.   It appears to be God’s method in regard to those mysteries which have been hidden from past ages, rather to bring them to view gradually than develop the whole of them at once; because there is a preparation of mind necessary to receive them.  Witness an instance in the Apostle Peter previously to his being sent to Cornelius, and again - you will recollect what our Lord said to His disciples not long before His bodily presence was removed from them.  "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now" (Jn. 16: 12).


My idea then regarding the First Resurrection* is as follows.  It is spoken of as taking place at the commencement of the Millennium; when Satan, who is said to have "the powers of death" (Heb. 2: 14), is bound for a thousand years.  His overthrow was accomplished, and his schemes in the seduction of our first Parents completely thwarted, by the death of our Redeemer, who is spoken of by the Paslmist as leading "Captivity captive" (Ps. 68: 18).   It is also related by the Evangelist St. Matthew that at Christ’s death the graves were opened (as it would seem by the earthquake which then happened) "and many bodies of the Saints which slept arose and came out of their graves after his resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared unto many" (Matt. 27: 52, 53).   As then this practical resurrection took place in token of Christ’s having triumphed over or conquered His enemy, not only in his own person, but in behalf of his people (for the Apostle says "Them that sleep in Jesus will God bring with him", (1Thess. 4: 14), so in token of this triumphant reign commencing on earth; when the promises shall be accomplished of the Heathen being given him for his inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession (Ps. 2: 8).  The kingdoms of this world having become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ (Rev. 11: 15), there shall be a more glorious manifestation of his triumph in the resurrection of such as having suffered in his cause.


[* This cannot be interpreted as a figurative resurrection, for if so, the clause "the rest of the dead lived not again until the 1000 years were finished" must also be understood figuratively; but this is plainly inadmissable.]


This will throw more light perhaps on the representation given under the fifth seal (Rev. 6: 9, 11) of the souls of them that were slain in the persecutions under the Heathen Emperors (or Pagan Rome) who are depicted as crying from under the Altar for vengeance to be executed, when it is said to them, that they should rest for a little season until their fellow servants also and their brethren which should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.  But as those which arose on Christ’s resurrection were not seen by all the City, but only appeared to various inhabitants of Jerusalem, so I do not imagine this resurrection will be generally visible but may be manifested to many for the stronger confirmation of their faith. *


[* Possibly this may have a very powerful influence towards effecting that sudden and general conversion of the Jewish Nation which I think we may expect to take place about the same period (see Isaiah 25: 8v.) and of the receiving of whom the Apostle speaks in the Eleventh chapter to the Romans, "If the falling of them be the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?" (ver. 12).  For he had just before remarked, that "through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles" (ver. 11) and afterwards he adds (ver. 15), "If the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?" And ver. 25: "For I would not brethren that ye should be ignorant if this mystery, that blindness (or hardness) in part is happened to Israel until the fulness of Gentiles be come in."]


For my opinion is, as you know, that there will not be a personal reign of Christ on earth;¹ against which I think there are the strongest objections, but I believe the saints will reign with them, during this period (Rev. 20: 4), those at least who have suffered in His cause; such as He will rank among the Martyrs: these it appears will be honoured with a resurrection before others so that they shall be with Christ when he comes to Judgment.  For he is represented as accompanied on this important errand by Saints as well as Angels (Jude 14.) and it is said by St. John in the former part of this verse, "I saw thrones and they that sat upon them and judgment was given unto them": (see also Matt. 19: 28; Luke 22: 30).  Besides the Apostle Paul says, "Know ye not that we shall judge Angels?" (1 Cor. 6: 2, 3).  This distinguished honour then, "living and reigning with Christ during the thousand years", is reserved for such: and although the thousand years bears no proportion to Eternity, yet it is in itself no inconsiderable period of duration: and in respect to the existence of our Globe will I apprehend be the Sabbatical or Seventh part.  Although it would be presumptuous in us to attempt to fathom the Divine mind and counsels, yet we are sure that all which God does is the result of infinite wisdom and reason; and it appears (if I may be allowed to hint it) not without reason that this honour is put upon the characters here mentioned seeing they have already given so public a testimony of their being devoted to the cause of the Redeemer by laying down their lives for His sake (2 Thess. 1: 10).  The purport of this general judgment being as I apprehend to exhibit to men and Angels the equity of the Divine procedure and sentence of the Judge, St. Paul observes (1 Tim. 5: 24), "Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to Judgment"; so in regard to the characters of which we have been speaking, they have been made already sufficiently manifest.


[Is there not a meaning which has not been generally obvious in these words of the Apostle, 2 Tim. 2: 11, 12?  "It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him we shall also live with him: If we suffer we shall also reign with him" - and again - "If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be glorified together," Romans 8: 17.] 


To add a word more on what the Apostle says in his first Epistle to the Thessalonians (4: 16), that "the dead in Christ shall rise first".  From this I gather that even at the general Resurrection there will be a priority in favour of them, they probably will be aroused by the first sounding of the Trumpet, nor need to wonder if such as rise only to shame and everlasting contempt (Dan. 12: 2), should be backward to appear: nay, are they not represented as calling on the rocks and mountains to fall upon them in the general breaking up of nature, and hide them from the wrath of the Lamb (Rev. 6: 16).  But that there shall be more than one sounding of the Trumpet on this awfully grand occasion is not only a generally received opinion, but is implied in the Apostle’s words when he speaks of the last Trump, at which time the change shall pass on such as are alive(1Thess. 4: 17), and the general² resurrection take place.




1. The prepositions used throughout numerous prophecies of God, relative to Christ’s reign on earth, make it as certain as language can, that Christ and His saints, (that is, those amongst them who are 'considered worthy') will reign on the earth during the Millennium. - Ed.

2. The resurrection of 1Thess. 4: 16 is not a ‘general’ resurrection.  This resurrection takes place immediately upon Christ’s descent from heaven to earth (ver. 15), and is therefore selective, (see Lk. 14: 14; 20: 35; Phil. 3: 11; Rev. 20: 4, 5; Heb. 11: 35b).  In 1Thess. 4: 16 we read: "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first."  Not all the dead in Christ will rise first, for we are informed elsewhere (as shown above), the contrary: Not all believers will be ‘considered worthy’ to reign during the Millennium; therefore, many will remain in Hades.  - Ed.