Lesson 15: The Second Resurrection: Humanity's Opportunity for Salvation!
Everyone who has ever lived since the creation of Adam and Eve will eventually understand the Bible and have the opportunity to repent, change and accept God's gift of eternal life! It's exciting to learn God's awesome plan of salvation for all humanity.
Don Hooser, a minister in Washington, tells this story:
"I grew up attending a Protestant church so, as a young adult,
I assumed I had heard every major Bible subject at least mentioned.
I understood about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
and the gift of God's grace. I knew the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes.
I had heard of the second coming of Christ, the Great Tribulation, the
Day of the Lord and 'the' resurrection.
"But at age 21, I learned that some things I had been taught about
the Bible were not true. But even more to my amazement, I heard about
'the second resurrection'! At first, I thought it couldn't be
true or I would have heard of it. But I soon saw the clear proof in the
Scriptures. And then I realized that a plan that included the second resurrection
was not only logical but any conceivable plan without it is extremely illogical!
"When I think of all my family members and friends who have died
without really understanding the Bible, my greatest comfort comes from
understanding the reality of the second resurrection!
"For over 43 years, I've been in
the ministry, regularly teaching the Bible. But the one Bible subject
that is still the most exciting to me is the subject of the second
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How Can God Be Both All-Loving and All-Powerful?
Most people who believe the Bible believe, at least superficially, that God
is both all-loving and all-powerful. But if they logically analyze their religious
beliefs, they would have to conclude that God is either perfect in love or perfect
in power—but not both! The teachings of most churches would lead
you to this nonbiblical conclusion.
But the Bible says: "God is love" (1 John 4:8, 16). He has "perfect love"
(1 John 4:18). "By this we know love, because He [Christ, the Son of God,
who became human] laid down His life for us" (1 John 3:16).
God is also "Almighty God" (Genesis 17:1; Revelation 19:15). He is "the Lord
God Omnipotent" (Revelation 19:6). He said, "I am God, and there is none like
Me" (Isaiah 46:9).
These scriptures are clear. But consider the apparent dilemma. Most people
on earth die without ever learning the way to eternal life. If God loves everyone
and is trying to save everyone now, He must lack power because He certainly
is not reaching everyone with the gospel (His revelation to man). Or, if God
has the power to do anything He chooses to do, He apparently does not love
everyone since He is allowing people to die without giving them lifesaving
Once you understand the second resurrection, you'll understand how God is
both all-loving and all-powerful!
Does God want everyone who has ever lived to learn, repent
and receive eternal life?
2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but
is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that
all should come to repentance.
1 Timothy 2:3-4
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires
all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
God fully desires all people to come to the knowledge of the truth, to come
to repentance and to be saved! And His desire is realistic—He has a plan to
accomplish this. (See also Matthew 18:14 and Ezekiel 18:30-32.)
What Bible passage speaks of both a first and second resurrection?
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.
The "first resurrection" is specifically mentioned in verses 5 and 6. In
previous lessons in this "Bible Prophecy and You" series, we learned that
the first resurrection is the resurrection of the saints (the true followers
of Christ) that will take place during the second coming of Christ. The fact
that "the second death has no power" over them means there is no possibility
of dying again—they are immortal. They live for the thousand years and beyond
The word "second" is not used in these verses, but the word "first" implies
there will be at least one more resurrection—at least a second one. As Expositor's
Bible Commentary brings out, "Why does John call this the 'first' resurrection?
The term prote clearly implies the first in a series of two or more"
(notes on Revelation 20:6).
Verse 5 speaks of "the rest of the dead." That means everyone else who has
lived and died since Adam and Eve! This tells us they will "live again" and
it tells us when—after "the thousand years."
The "rest of the dead" will be resurrected to human life so they can learn
God's truth and have the opportunity to live by it, as will be explained later.
The two sentences in verse 5 seem at first to be out of order. But notice
that the main subject of verses 4 through 6 is the "first resurrection." The
first sentence in verse 5 is inserted as a parenthetical clarification. It
becomes clear if you think of putting parentheses around that first sentence.
For example, the New English Translation says, "(The rest of the dead did
not come to life until the thousand years were finished.) This is the first
How does the Bible describe the time of judgment when most people
who have ever lived will be judged?
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the
earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.
And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened.
And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were
judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.
The purpose of resurrecting "the rest of the dead" (verse 5) is so they can
experience their time of judgment. In the Bible, judgment does
not just mean final sentencing and does not always mean condemnation. It can
include an evaluation—a time to demonstrate our conversion.
Consider how Peter said, "For the time has come for judgment to begin at
the house of God [the Church]" (1 Peter 4:17). Members of God's Church are
being evaluated—judged—now. And in the second resurrection people who have
not yet had a chance will have their opportunity—their time to learn spiritual
knowledge and then be judged over a period of time for how they apply and
obey that knowledge.
Because of the wording of verse 11, the time of judgment for those who are
raised in the second resurrection can be known as the Great White Throne Judgment.
How will God judge those who rise in the second resurrection?
[See Revelation 20:11-12 in the question above.]
God will judge them by the same standards as He has judged people at any
other time. Those who are raised in the second resurrection will be "judged
according to their works, by the things which were written in the
books [the books of the Bible]" (verse 12, emphasis added; see also Daniel
7:10; Romans 2:12-13). If they believe, repent, obey and receive God's forgiveness
and grace, their names will be written in "the Book of Life"—which means God
will give them His gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23; Philippians 4:3).
Is the second resurrection a second chance to be saved?
"Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all
men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will
judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has
given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead."
And Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, that those
who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind."
Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said
to Him, "Are we blind also?"
Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but
now you say, 'We see.' Therefore your sin remains."
In "times of ignorance," people's sins still earn them the death penalty.
But Paul said that in some sense God overlooks those sins—He knows these people
haven't yet had an opportunity to know the truth and repent and change. But
when a person "knows to do good and does not do it," God considers him or
her fully accountable for the sin (James 4:17).
Some prophecies of the healing of blindness are dual—they include the healing
of spiritual blindness. Therefore, a person's one chance comes when
God calls and chooses someone, at which time He opens his or her mind to spiritual
understanding. (See also Romans 3:20; 7:7.) It seems most people, including
most who have been a part of mainstream Christian churches, have not truly
had God's calling and therefore do not understand enough to be held fully
(In another way of looking at "chances," God gives us many chances
by forgiving us of our sins every time we repent. But we must not take lightly
or abuse God's mercy. A person who keeps sinning has a harder and harder time
being able to sincerely and deeply repent. If he ever gets to the point where
he cannot repent, he has no more chance.)
Where is biblical proof of a future opportunity for
those who have died?
"Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of
Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!"
Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been
done, because they did not repent:
"Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works
which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have
repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
"But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in
the day of judgment than for you.
"And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down
to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in
Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
"But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom
in the day of judgment than for you."
"The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation
and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed
a greater than Jonah is here.
"The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation
and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom
of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here."
Jesus spoke of a future "day of judgment" for humanity. Jesus' main point
was that ancient Sodom, Gomorrah, Nineveh and Tyre (cities that God caused
to be destroyed) were not as evil as the people who heard Jesus and saw His
miracles but still rejected Him. It will be "more tolerable" for the people
of Sodom, etc., because they will not have rejected the mighty works and preaching
of Jesus Christ Himself.
But consider some secondary lessons from what Jesus said. Those who have
died will need to be raised to life in order to be judged in the "day of judgment."
The day of judgment is not synonymous with a time of condemnation for everyone,
because a time of condemnation would not be "tolerable" at all for anyone.
Where does the Bible give us a word picture of the second resurrection?
Ezekiel 37:1, 5-10
The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the
Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones...
"'Thus says the Lord God to these bones: "Surely I will cause
breath to enter into you, and you shall live.
"'"I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin
and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the
So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise,
and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone.
Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin
covered them over; but there was no breath in them.
Also He said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say
to the breath, 'Thus says the Lord God: "Come from the four winds, O breath,
and breathe on these slain, that they may live."'"
So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived,
and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.
Here God describes the valley of dry bones. Verse 11 says "these bones are
the whole house of Israel," but as we saw in Matthew, the second resurrection
will include all nations. Ezekiel 37 has dual meaning. It partly is describing
the restoration of the nation of Israel under God and the reuniting of the
divided kingdom into a single nation of Israel (verses 16-22). But it also
shows that someday there will be a literal resurrection of people—to once
again be living, breathing human beings.
Will people in this second resurrection have the opportunity to be
converted and receive God's Holy Spirit?
"'"I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in
your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and
performed it," says the Lord.'"
God's Holy Spirit is only given to those who repent, are baptized and obey
God (Acts 2:38; 5:32).
What would be necessary to prepare for the physical resurrection
of tens of billions of people?
"So it shall be, when the Lord your God brings you into the land of
which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you
large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of all good
things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards
and olive trees which you did not plant—when you have eaten and are full..."
We learned about the Millennium—the 1,000-year reign of Christ on the earth—in
the last lesson (Revelation 20:4-6). Because many billions of people will
be raised to life after the Millennium in the second resurrection, a highly
necessary activity during the Millennium will be making preparations for all
the new people who will soon populate the world.
The physical state of the whole earth when people are raised in the second
resurrection will be similar in many ways to the physical condition of Canaan
when God gave the Israelites this Promised Land. God said He would "give you
large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of all good
things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards
and olive trees which you did not plant" (Deuteronomy 6:10-11). And think
of all the clothing, personal items and other things these people will immediately
How long will the Great White Throne Judgment last?
"No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, nor an old
man who has not fulfilled his days; for the child shall die one hundred
years old, but the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed."
The Bible doesn't clearly say how long the human life span will be before
the judgment period comes to an end. People will need to live long enough
to learn and grow spiritually and develop godly character. Babies will first
need time to grow up and develop maturity. What we read in Isaiah 65:20 might
be a hint that the judgment period will be 100 years.
God Is Both All-Loving and All-Powerful!
After completing this lesson, we hope you can clearly see how God is both
all-loving and all-powerful. God loves all people and longs to see everyone
choose to live His way so He can give them eternal life. And God has the unlimited
power to make sure every person who has ever lived will be taught the truth
and have the opportunity for eternal life. Death does not defeat God. God
can raise the dead. Most people will receive their chance for salvation when
they rise in the second resurrection.
Christians who celebrate God's biblically commanded festivals gain a deeper
and fuller understanding of God's plan of salvation. Those who observe the
festival on the eighth day just after the Feast of Tabernacles, which we call
the Last Great Day, are thrilled to rehearse the wonderful significance of
the second resurrection each year (Leviticus 23:36). And God's anticipation
of the enormous expansion of His family surely must be what excites Him more
than anything else! For further explanation, see "The
Last Great Day: Eternal Life Offered to All" from the booklet God's
Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind.
Think about a loved one or friend who has died without having full knowledge
of God's truth. What would you most like to say to him or her? If you had
the chance to teach him or her in the second resurrection, what would be
the first scriptures and biblical truths you would explain? Write down three.
Next Lesson: A Glimpse Into Your Eternal Future
Questions about this lesson? Feedback about
Hope for Unbelieving Loved Ones
The Last Great Day: Eternal Life Offered to All from the booklet God's Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind
All Those in the Tombs Will Hear His Voice
News Radio: What Happens After Death?
News Video: Death and the Resurrections