THE FIRST RESURRECTION

 

By J. A. SEISS, D.D.

 

There is a general impression that the belief in the First Resurrection at a different time from that of the general resurrection rests solely on Revelation 20: 6.  But this is a great mistake.  Omitting the passages from the Old Testament Scriptures, sustained by the promises of which the ancient worthies suffered and served God in hope of a better resurrection (Heb. 11: 35), our Lord makes a distinction between the resurrection which some shall be accounted worthy to obtain, and some not (Luke 20: 35).  St. Paul says there is a resurrection out from among the dead to attain which he strove with all his might as the prize to be gained (Phil. 3: 11).  He also expressly tells us, that while as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive; yet it shall not be at once (1 Cor. 15: 22-24).  It is particularly to be remarked that wherever the resurrection of Christ, or His people, is spoken of in Scripture, it is a 'resurrection from, or from among, the dead and wherever the general resurrection is spoken of, it is the resurrection of the dead. This distinction, though preserved in many instances in the English translation, is too frequently omitted; but in the Greek the one is always coupled with the preposition, out of or from among, and the other is without the preposition; and in the Vulgate it is rendered by a mortuis, or ex mortuis, as distinct from resurrectio mortuorum.  In Romans 8: 11, the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead, it is a mortuis.  So in Romans 10: 7; Ephesians 1: 20; Hebrews 13: 20; 1 Peter 1: 3, 21.  So Lazarus was raised (John 12: 1, 9).  Our Lord, in His reply to the Sadducees, made the distinction between the general resurrection of the dead and the resurrection which some should be accounted worthy, to obtain (Luke 20: 34, 35).  St. Paul, when he spoke of a resurrection to which he strove and agonized to attain (Phil. 3: 11), as if one preposition was not enough to indicate or emphasize his meaning, uses it doubled, resurrectionem, quae est ex mortitis - the special or eclectic resurrection, that one from, the among the dead.

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THE FIRST RESURRECTION

 

By MOSES STUART, D.D.

 

The second resurrection will be general, universal comprising both the righteous and the wicked; while the first will comprehend, as the writer's language seems to intimate, only saints and martyrs who have been specially faithful unto death.  This distinction the writer has made prominent.  He expressly assures us that the other dead would not be raised when the thousand years should commence, but only at the end of the world when all will be raised.  The express contrast here made between the partial and the general resurrection, and the manner in which this contrast is presented, shew that the design is not to compare a spiritual with a physical resurrection, but to contrast the partial extent of the latter at the beginning of the Millennium, with its general or universal extent at the end of the world.

 

It is asked, "Whether all true Christians, and indeed all truly pious men of every age, who lived before the commencement of the Millennium will be raised from the dead at that period, or whether the Apocalypse affirms this only of Christian martyrsTo this I answer briefly, that those "who are beheaded for the testimony of Jesus," are clearly placed in high relief by the writer of the Apocalypse; but possibly he does not limit the promises merely to these.  He may mean to include all who amid sufferings have been faithful and true to the doctrines and duties of a divine religion, in times of pressure.  We cannot well doubt that he has specially in view the persecuted Christians of his day; but still may he be regarded as designating two classes of persons?  Can he mean to be understood as confining his views only to literal and actual martyrs?  And if faithful Christians in general are described by his language, then what forbids that all of these before the Millennium who have cherished the same spirit as the actual martyrs, served the same God, and possessed the same sympathies in respect to the prosperity and welfare of the church, should be included in the promises which he here holds out?

 

Is there not a distinction made by John between those who have periled their lives and suffered for their steadfast adherence to religion, and those who have been distinguished neither by active piety nor by suffering?  Who will venture to answer with confident assurance, that there is not?  The special object, in view of which the Apocalypse was written, seems to point us to the class of martyrs and faithful confessors, as being the only ones intended to be included by the writer.  In times of distressing and bloody persecution was the book written.  Christians were to be consoled and fortified so as to meet the shock.  Was it not to hold out high and peculiar rewards to those who endured to the end?  It is difficult not to think this probable.  And what is the peculiar reward of unshaken constancy and fidelity?  A part in the first resurrection.  This is the natural and obvious solution of the case.

 

And does not Paul himself seem to say, that although he might possibly be a Christian, and attain to final happiness, yet he should lose a part in the first resurrection, if he should become slothful and remiss?  He tells us that he had suffered the loss of all things, and counted them but dung, that he might know Christ and the power of His resurrection; if by any means he might attain to the resurrection of the dead (Phil. 3: 8-11).  Did Paul, then, consider it a matter of doubt whether he should have a part in the final resurrection?  This same apostle, who has so expressly taught us the resurrection of all, both of the righteous and of the wicked - did he doubt whether he could attain to this same resurrection?  Surely not.  Consequently his declaration, then and only then, seems to possess a full and energetic meaning, when we view him as declaring that a high and holy and vigorous contest with the powers of darkness must be carried on, in order to obtain a part in the first resurrection.  So interpreted, the meaning of the passage stands out in bold relief.

 

All this seems rather to guide us to the conclusion that a distinction will be made among the pious themselves, at the first resurrection. This is only carrying out the principle that those who possess five talents and improve them diligently, will be made rulers over five cities: and those who have two, over only two cities. 'Si quomodo occurram ad resurrectionem, quae est ex mortuis.' If St. Paul had been looking only to the general resurrection, he need not have given himself any trouble, or made any sacrifice to attain to that; for to it, all, even Judas and Nero, must come; but to attain to the First Resurrection he had need to press forward for the prize of that calling.

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PREPARATION FOR RESURRECTION

By A. B. SIMPSON, D.D.

 

The Holy Spirit prepares us for the coming of the Lord, and to be among "the first fruits" at His appearing.  There is a remarkable expression in Romans 8: 23, which has a deeper meaning than appears on the surface - "Ourselves which have the first fruits of the Spirit."  It means that the Holy Spirit is preparing a first company of holy and consecrated hearts for the coming of the Lord and the gathering, of His saints, and that these will be followed later by the larger company of all the saved.  There is a first resurrection, in which the blessed and holy shall have part, and for this He is preparing all who are willing to receive Him in His fulness. Transcendent honour!  Unspeakable privilege!  May God enable us to have a part in this blessed hope!

 

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