In a previous article, The End of the Age, I covered the marriage of the Lamb and His Bride, the battle of Armageddon, and the Thousand Year Reign of Christ on the earth. But, there was a question that arises from the end of the battle of Armageddon and the beginning of the 1000 year reign. I begin with Revelation 20 vs. 4 –
“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.” – Rev. 20:4 NKJV
After Satan is bound and thrown into the bottomless pit for a 1000 years, verse 4 viewed the thrones set for judgment during the 1000 years but, the NKJV uses the preposition Then before introducing those who had been beheaded or not accepted the mark of the beast during the great tribulation making it seem like they alone lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But, what happened to those saints who rode out of heaven with Christ on white horses? The narrative continues –
“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.” – Rev. 20:5,6
I believe the answer to this question is that all other translations use the word And in verse 4 –
“And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” – Rev. 20:4 KJV
Most translations include those beheaded during the tribulation with the saints coming out of heaven with Christ. Verses 5 and 6 call this the ‘first resurrection’. It is the resurrection Paul is striving to attain to –
“If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” – Phil. 3:11
The use of the word ‘first’ troubles some because Jesus was resurrected as the ‘first fruits’ but, both Old and New Testaments make references to the resurrection at the end of the age.
“and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” – Luke 14:14 NIV
“and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.” – Acts 24:15
“Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” – Dan. 12:2
The phrase first resurrection is referring to the resurrection of the righteous that occurs at the end of the age.
Now, we have the question when does this first resurrection and rapture occur? Some say it will occur before the great tribulation (pre-trib), but this does not include those saints who obviously go through the tribulation and are talked about in Revelation 20:4. Some say it will be during the great tribulation (mid-trib) and this does fit the Scriptures if you place it just before the battle of Armageddon. Some say it will be at the conclusion of the great tribulation but, this does not account for the saints coming with the Lord ‘out of heaven’ before the battle of Armageddon.
Paul clearly places it after the great ‘falling away’ and after the ‘man of sin’ is revealed –
“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” – 2 Thes. 2:3,4
Clearly Paul insinuates that believers will be here to see the great apostasy, the rebuilding of the Temple, and the Antichrist setting up his abomination that desolates in the Temple. These events probably take place half way through the seven year period that the Antichrist confirms with Israel. So, I would not place the resurrection of the righteous and the rapture before this time. The ‘that Day’ Paul speaks about is clearly the coming of the Lord for he begins this thought with the verse –
“Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.” – 2 Thes. 2:1,2
He then concludes this teaching with a reminder to the Thessalonians –
“Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?” – 2 Thes. 2:5
so, he obviously had taught them these things before.
I do not know for sure when the resurrection of the righteous and the rapture will occur but it seems to me that it must occur during the seven year covenant the Antichrist confirms with Israel and after the Temple is rebuilt and after the Antichrist sets up the Abomination that Desolates.
However, there are those who believe differently and point to different Scriptures to prove their point. It seems to me that the Lord has left this subject somewhat unclear and the best answer is to be ready whenever it occurs.