A Short Study of Revelation 20:5-6
“This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:5-6)
The first resurrection is a spiritual resurrection. It is the resurrection of sinners from spiritual death to spiritual life in Christ (John 5:25). This first resurrection begins in the new birth. It is completed in the translation of the soul from this body of sin and this sin cursed earth to God’s holy heaven. It will be followed by the resurrection of the body to immortal glory at Christ’s second coming. The Word of God teaches us three things about the resurrection of God’s elect:
1. We have been raised representatively in Christ (Ephesians 2:5).
2. We have been raised spiritually by the power of the Holy Spirit (John 5:25; Ephesians 2:1-3).
3. We shall be raised bodily when our Lord comes again (1st Thessalonians 4:17).
The new birth is nothing less than a resurrection from the dead. It is a spiritual resurrection. This is the resurrection of which John speaks in Revelation 20:6. Like all other people, God’s elect are born in spiritual death and deserving of eternal death. In regeneration the Holy Spirit, by invincible, irresistible grace, gives them life in Christ. He raises them from death to life. Never in the Scriptures is the new birth attributed to the free will of man, or even to his faith. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. Only the omnipotent God can give life to dead sinners (John 3:3-8). The new birth is always spoken of in the Scriptures as a resurrection (John 5:25; John 11:25-26; Ephesians 2:1-4). It is not a decision, but a resurrection. It is not a reformation, but a regeneration. It is not a new start in life, but an entirely new life!
The Word of God gives numerous illustrations of the new birth, this spiritual resurrection, by the power of God. Ezekiel’s description of the deserted infant, cast off, polluted in its blood, naked in its loathsomeness, and dead, but raised to life by the word of God’s power in the time of love, is a vivid picture of the new birth (Ezekiel 16:1-8). The prophet’s vision of dry bones, caused to live by the preaching of God’s Word and the power of God’s Spirit (Ezekiel 37:1-14), is certainly intended by God to be an illustration of our regeneration by the power of the Holy Spirit. And a clearer, more instructive picture of the believer’s spiritual resurrection in Christ could not be given than the story of the resurrection of Lazarus in John 11.
Here in Revelation 20:6 John gives us a word of comfort and assurance regarding ourselves, even while we live in this world. If we are born of God, if we have part in the first resurrection: — We are blessed (Ephesians 1:3). — We are holy (saints), made holy by the righteousness of Christ imputed to us in justification and imparted to us in regeneration. — Over us the second death, the everlasting wrath of God, has no power (Romans 8:1; Romans 8:33-34). — Even now, we have been made priests with God, serving him in the most holy place. — Even now, we have been made kings and shall reign with Christ throughout this gospel age (represented as “a thousand years” in John’s vision). — And, soon, we shall leave this world of woe and enter into heaven’s glory and bliss with our Saviour. We shall be “forever with the Lord” What a blessed hope this is! (Read 2nd Corinthians 4:17 – 5:9).