What is the First Resurrection? What is the Thousand Year Reign?

What is the first resurrection of Revelation 20? What is the thousand-year reign?

The context of this question comes from Revelation 20:1-6. In this passage, John is receiving revelation from Jesus about how the saints, as led by Jesus Christ, will overcome the forces of evil on the earth and be victorious. There are four great enemies in the book of Revelation: the Great Dragon (Satan), the great beast, the great harlot, and the false prophet. One by one, Jesus destroys them all. He destroys the Great Dragon last here in chapter twenty. First, an angel throws Satan into a bottomless pit and holds him there for 1000 years. During this thousand-year period, the souls of the faithful saints who died reign with Christ, but the rest of the dead do not. In Revelation 20:6, John writes, “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.”

Perhaps working backwards through this text would be the best thing to do. Let’s start with the second death. It is defined in verses 14-15: “Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” The second death is eternal separation from God and Christ in hell, but if you have experienced the first resurrection, then the second death has no power over you. So, what is it that enables a person to escape eternal separation from God and Christ? It is being saved from our sins and washed in the blood of the lamb. Revelation 7:13-14 states, “Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, ‘Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?’ And I said to him, ‘Sir, you know.’ So he said to me, ‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” This reminds us of another statement made by Ananias in Acts 22:16; he said, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” When we are baptized, we follow the form of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:1-11). It is this resurrection from the watery grave of baptism that is the first resurrection John mentions.

This means that the saints that reign with Christ for 1000 years are people who have been come into the likeness of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ; these are the saved. It is the saved that reign with Christ for 1000 years. Consider what Peter says in 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Christians are a royal priesthood. Royal means that we are part of the King’s family. Who is the king? Revelation 19:16 says, “And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” This is talking about Jesus. When did Jesus’ reign as King begin? Acts 2:32-33 states, “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.” Paul writes of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15:25, “For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.” Revelation 5:9-10 speaks of the saints reigning with Christ: “And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.’” This means that the 1000-year reign is the period of the church on earth.