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THE ‘REST OF THE DEAD’ AND THE SECOND DEATH

 

All Scripture citations are to the New International Version, UK edition of 1984, unless otherwise noted.

 

Question: What is meant in Revelation 20: 5 that the dead do not come to life until the Millennial Age is past?

 

Answer: In the NIV-UK 1984 version, Revelation 20: 5 reads as follows:

 

(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.


It was once thought by Bible scholars and translators that the part of Revelation 20: 5, ‘the rest of the dead’, etc., was an interpolation, added to copies of the NT manuscripts, as it does not appear in all of them. And though there are still some doubts on its being genuine, most modern English translations leave it in (as does, for example, the 1986 Courant French version).

As shown above, the NIV-UK frames the sentence in parentheses, a tacit acknowledgement that it makes more sense this way. Indeed, to let it stand without parentheses introduces an inconsistency.

For example, v. 4, which ends with ‘. . . [they] reigned with Christ a thousand years’ clearly refers to the elect Church, the Little Flock in their heavenly reward. And it is to this special class that ‘the first resurrection’ of v. 5 applies.

With this in mind, vs. 4, 5, and 6 could be rendered in the following way, with the parenthetical sentence omitted for clarity:

 

4. . . . They [the Church] came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5. This is the first resurrection. 6. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

 

It is evident from v. 6 that the ‘priests of God and of Christ’ and those who ‘reign with him for a thousand years’ are the same as those mentioned in v. 4, and they alone qualify for ‘the first resurrection’.

If this is the correct understanding, then we should ask, Who are the ‘rest of the dead’ that come to life when the thousand years are ended?

From God’s point of view, all mankind are regarded as dead under the curse, until they ‘come to life’ through belief in Christ and the cancellation of the Adamic curse against them. See Luke 9: 59, 60. Although they will be raised from the condition of death (the grave) somewhere near the beginning of the thousand-year period (the Millennium), they do not ‘come to life’ until they have undergone a conversion and restitution to perfection. The Church who live and reign with Christ as priests for the thousand years will be instrumental in bringing about this reformation. Not until the end of the thousand years can mankind be said to have ‘come to life’ in the full meaning of the term.

The ‘rest of the dead’, therefore, have no part in the ‘first resurrection’, since their being made ‘alive’ comes after the resurrection of the Church – who are perfected first – but before the end of the Millennium.

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Copyright January 2013 ukbiblestudents.co.uk

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