As a former lock, stock, and barrel dispensational premillennial Christian, I used to believe the necessary fiction (to make premill coherent) that there were multiple physical resurrections of the dead. For those unfamiliar with this schema, it is believed that the righteous dead are raised at the Rapture after which time Christ will set up His earthly Millennial Kingdom, but that the unsaved dead have to wait until the end of the Millennium at which point they are raised, along with the righteous who died during the Millennium, and then the Final Judgment takes place. Note that this involves at least two distinct resurrection events separates by a thousand years or so (a pre-tribber would add an additional seven years and a mid-tribber would add an additional three and one-half years to this figure). With the popularity of the Left Behind series (you know, the 67th book of the Bible - don't get worked up, that was satirical), this has become an increasingly popularized view. But is it Biblical? The answer is a resounding, and astonishingly simple to prove, NO.
This can be done in much greater detail, but I will try to extract and dismantle a few common arguments. First, the premillennial believer will inevitably turn to Revelation 20:4-6…
And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 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.
…and state that this verse proves that there are two physical resurrections with an intervening Millennium. When confronted with the idea that the "first resurrection" is referring to the conversion experience, the argument is commonly stated that the Greek word for resurrection in this passage "anastasis" is never used for anything other than a physical resurrection, thus it must mean the same thing here when used of the "first resurrection." At first blush, the argument appears to carry some force, but upon examination, it is really an exercise in question-begging. It is presumed the word never means anything different so it cannot mean something different here, but that is simply assuming what must be proven and pointing to one's assumption as the proof. However, it is conceded that the other times the phrase is used in the New Testament it does refer to a physical resurrection, so in that sense, there is a presumption that it is used so here.
So how do I overcome this presumption? Well let's see…. The word "anastasis" is communicating a concept. Words are not anything in themselves, but rather are containers for ideas. This word is a container for the concept of "being raised from the dead" in which being literally raised from the literal dead is indeed its primary meaning. However, this "concept" of being raised from the dead is used multiple times in Scripture to mean something else. In fact, it is used to describe the born again experience. Now if a premillennial believer were to ask me for another verse (other than Revelation 20:5, the verse under dispute) where the born again experience is very clearly called an "anastasis," I would say that the request is improper. Why? Because it is not necessary for the actual word "anastasis" to be used for there to be a resurrection. It is apparent that in describing Christ's resurrection, words other than "resurrection" are used, but no one disputes that a resurrection is being referred to. Also, there are ways to describe something without using the actual dictionary term, in other words, if you say Dee Dee never tells the truth, that is the same as calling me a liar even though you never used the actual word "liar." Someone who never tells the truth is a liar by definition. By analogy, the born again experience is a resurrection by definition since the very descriptive words that define what a resurrection is are used of it. Let's examine the Scriptures…
Ephesians 2:4-6- But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus."
This verse says we were dead spiritually. This is the normal word used for dead. But we were made "alive." This is resurrection by definition - something that is "dead" is made "alive." Notably, the word for made alive is often used indisputably in the gospels for resurrection.
Romans 6:4 - Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
We were "buried" and then "raised," this is all speaking of a spiritual experience which is the anti-type to the physical resurrection to come.
Col 2:11-12 - In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. "
1 John 3:14- We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.
And most importantly:
John 5:24-25 - Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.
All of these verses are very clearly describing a "resurrection" regardless of the fact that "anastasis" is not used with several references from the pen of John himself. This really isn't that radical of a concept.
This point can also be proven by defeating the premillennial idea (and one that is absolutely necessary to them) that the "final resurrection" does not include everyone that ever lived. A premillennial debate opponent once put it to me this way,
There is only one resurrection we as believers experience. We do not have a part in the final resurrection. We have already been resurrected and rewarded with thrones and crowns by then.
To begin the dismantling of this position, it is helpful to look at other writings of John to determine what he was talking about. Does John elsewhere outside of Revelation 20 mention "two" resurrections? Yes of course….
John 5:25:30 - Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth- those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
Okay, what do we know from this passage? First, the passage teaches TWO resurrections. This is very important, and it tells us something about the timing of these TWO resurrections. The FIRST resurrection is something that was happening right then and continues…."the hour is coming and now is." It is a continual event. ALL BELIEVERS HAVE ALREADY EXPERIENCED THIS. Other Scripture sheds light on exactly what is meant by this FIRST resurrection as shown above.
But our subject resurrection verses also speaks of a SECOND resurrection. What does the verse tells us about that event?
John 5:28-30 - Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth- those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
It says first that "the hour is coming"- that is it is yet future to when Christ was talking. It will involved ALL of the dead who are in the graves. The righteous will receive "life" and the wicked will received "condemnation" but they ALL are resurrected, it is just a qualitatively different resurrection. But this resurrection of ALL who are dead and buried is one event. It is not the righteous at point A and the wicked at point B which is at least a thousand years away from point A. It is not just the righteous of the Millennium.
Jesus makes the same point again:
John 6:43 -"Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day."
Jesus is speaking of the resurrection of the righteous (which we have already seen is the same event as the resurrection of the wicked) which takes place on the last day. There are no days to follow. An argument from silence here will not do, that is, that Jesus has not spoken of the wicked for Jesus again uses "the last day" and does speak of the wicked.
John 12:48 - He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him- the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.
Paul also speaks of this in Acts 17:31 - because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness.
Paul connects the two events in Acts 24:15 - I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.
This utterly defeats the premillennial paradigm which has the righteous that die prior to the Millennium resurrected before the Millennium with the wicked being raised and judged at the end of the Millennium. Jesus makes the two events at the same time! Concurrent. ON THE LAST DAY. So the wicked are judged (which is spoken of in John 5 as occurring when they are resurrected) on the last day which is the same time that the righteous are resurrected. It is one event occurring at the end of time.
-Dee Dee Warren