TWO HOPES; TWO ARMIES; TWO RESURRECTIONS
TWO HOPES; TWO ARMIES; TWO RESURRECTIONS Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
We are in a critical period in world history. We need something to look forward to, something to hope for, something joyful and wonderful so we are not filled with fear. The hope of being "raptured" out of trouble is held by numerous Christians but it has no scriptural basis.
There is a better hope, and it is scriptural.
There is confusion today over the latter rain, the two witnesses of Revelation, Chapter Eleven, Joel's army of Joel, Chapter Two, and the manifestation of the sons of God of the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans. Perhaps we can say a few words that will help the disciple understand the present-day burden of the Holy Spirit.
There are two resurrections and two appearances of the Bride of the Lamb. The first resurrection and appearance is that of the firstfruits. The second resurrection and appearance is that of the entire Bride.
The first resurrection and appearance are greatly to be desired but must be attained.
Table of Contents
TWO HOPES; TWO ARMIES; TWO RESURRECTIONS
The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever." (Revelation 11:15)
The other day, a group of us were speaking of the problems in the world and in America. Among us was a pastor who spoke of his hope for the rapture, a hope he conveys to his congregation. The pastor was showing that we have no need to worry because we have a wonderful, joyous hope of leaving the scene of all these problems and going to Paradise to be with Jesus. As this pastor spoke I was able to understand, for the first time perhaps, why this unscriptural doctrine is so popular. I suddenly could see what a relief this thought is, and how it naturally would appeal to people.
The "pre-tribulation rapture" hope is like the "faith" and "prosperity" doctrines. None of these doctrines is scholarly or based on any sound exegetic or hermeneutic principles. They all are emotional, appealing to the carnal believer. If the Lord Jesus began to speak of living by His body and blood these same believers might flee for their lives.
The "faith" message is a simple good news that the ordinary person can grasp quickly. But it is not scriptural.
The "prosperity" message is simple good news that the ordinary person can grasp quickly. But it is not scriptural.
The pre-tribulation rapture message is simple good news that the ordinary person can grasp quickly. But it is not scriptural.
If you preach these three doctrines you will fill your church with people because they are easily understood messages of hope and security.
When you come against the "rapture" doctrine, for example, you are not presented with clear scriptural passages in context but with reasoning, such as, God is a good God and He doesn't want His people to suffer.
How devout, intelligent people can say such a thing when thousands of believers are being martyred each week is beyond me. It truly is a spiritual blindness.
Given the fact that there is not a single passage of the Scriptures that states the Lord is coming to take His Bride to Heaven, that the believers will become invisible, rise to meet Him in the air, and then return with Him to Heaven, how can ministers who subscribe to the plenary verbal inspiration of the accepted original texts continue with such teaching?
Then the thought came to me, "What if every preacher and evangelist in the country decided there would be no pre-tribulation rapture, and that we are going to keep on living on the earth throughout the troubles that are coming? How would this affect the rank and file of believers?"
Think about this.
Have you ever faced a dreadful prospect, such as a court appearance, a lawsuit, a dangerous operation, or some other fearful circumstance? How did it affect you? Did you pray more? Did you read your Bible? Did you draw closer to the Lord?
Suppose you were told by the doctor that you had six months to live? Would you draw closer to the Lord? Would you entrust your loved ones to the Lord?
Now let us suppose you were then assured that none of these things were going to happen because the Lord loves you so much. There would be no court appearance, no lawsuit, no dangerous operation, and your life expectancy was above normal.
How would you react then?
You might become giddy with relief. You might thank God, but you probably would not be seeking God with the same intensity that had been true when you were facing disaster.
Many of us are kept sober and prayerful by the Lord through the problems that come our way each day. Is this true of you?
The Bible tells us to prepare for the evil day.
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:13NIV)
Now, if there is to be no evil day, the urgency of putting on the full armor of God is dissipated. Isn't this true?
It is my personal opinion that if the hope of the pre-tribulation rapture were removed from the Christian churches we would see a big change for the better in terms of increased prayer, Bible reading, and general holiness and sobriety of behavior.
Ask a friend of yours how he would react if his or her hope of the pre-tribulation rapture were removed.
One lady said, "If I thought God would let me suffer I wouldn't serve him."
It may be true that this attitude is common among American believers.
The pre-tribulation rapture hope is unrealistic. According to its proponents this hope was held by the Apostle Paul and preached to the churches. If such were the case it is well that the Christians of two thousand years ago did not order their lives in terms of an any-moment rapture. Hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of Christians since the days of Paul have been tortured and slain for the Gospel. Families have been broken up. None of the original Christians or those of succeeding centuries were delivered from the evil day, so we trust they prepared themselves to suffer.
Escape by rapture was not taught in the Christian churches until the middle of the last century, from what we have read.
Today in Sudan horrible things are being done to believers.
Yet the comfortable American Christians are too precious to the Lord to be allowed to suffer? Do you believe this? I don't!
Well, what about the future? Does God have a plan for His Church during the age of horrors we are facing?
Indeed He does, and it is not a cheap retreat, an evacuation from the battle. God's trumpets do not sound retreat!
There can be no catching up of the believers until after they are resurrected, and any believer upon being resurrected will be more than a match for Satan. He does not have to be carried off to Heaven in order to escape Satan or the great tribulation. This is ridiculous!
Of course, the ninety-first Psalm will hold true during the tribulation so we have nothing to fear even if there were to be no further work of God on our behalf.
But there is a marvelous scriptural hope for the future, an ark of safety that will ride serenely on the waters of judgment.
The hope is that of being filled with all the fullness of God.
And to know this love that surpasses knowledgethat you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:19NIV)
There are three great works of grace: salvation, Pentecost, and finally the fullness of the "Tabernacles" experience. We are moving past Pentecost today and entering a deeper, fuller work of Christ in us, an infinitely more demanding work. Christ is being formed in people today as never before. Now is the time for the holy nation to be "born at once."
Being saved and filled with the Spirit make it possible for God to bring us into His ultimate intention for us, which is that we become His house.
In the Father's house there are to be many rooms, many living stones. The Lord Jesus is the chief Cornerstone. We also as living stones are being built up into the stature of the fullness of Christ by that which every joint supplies.
Being saved makes some demands on us to change.
Being filled with the Spirit makes more demands on us to change.
But to become the eternal house of Christ and God makes total demands on us.
The fire of God is ready today to burn the worldliness out of us.
The fire of God is ready to burn the passions and lusts out of us.
The fire of God is ready to burn the seeking of preeminence and personal ambition out of us.
In order to be made ready for the full indwelling of God we have to have integrityabsolute integrity of character.
Many believers have integrity of character and many do not. Those who do not are found in abundance in the churches but they will leave when God begins to purge His temple.
Is God dealing with you? No doubt He is if you are an experienced Christian. Your troubles are designed to drive you into Christ so you may be prepared to receive the fullness that the Lord has planned to give you.
Pray! Pray! Pray when you are in trouble! Don't faint or run from God; pray with all your might. We are in the fat cows today but the lean cows are on the way. Lay up the good corn of the Word while you have time. Seek the Lord. Prepare yourself to stand. There will be no rapture to move you from earth to Heaven so you are not required to stand!
The wheat and the tares are growing side by side. This means Christ is growing in His people and Satan is growing in his people. We already are witnessing abominations in America as children are shooting and knifing other children; as employees shoot their bosses if they are fired because of incompetence or for some other reason.
Madness is all around us in America but we are blind. We cannot seem to understand we are entering Sodom and the judgment of Sodom will soon be upon us.
Will God remove His witnesses from the earth? He assuredly will not. They will be needed more than ever.
Rather God is going to give us so much of Himself that we will be more than conquerors right where we are. How do you like that for a hope?
Demon-filled people are going to be faced with Christ-filled people. Do you know what happens when the Ark of the Covenant is brought face to face with Dagon?
Nowhere in the Bible is there so much as one passage that states clearly God will save His people from the troubles of the end-time by removing them to Heaven. Not one passage! Not one!
When God says His people will escape trouble He means He will deliver them, just as He did Daniel. We may infer from the word "escape" that the Scripture means we will be taken to Heaven, but this is not what is stated.
We have no Scripture we can stand on that assures us we will be removed to Paradise when trouble begins (how unrealistic can we get?with history and present-day circumstances assuring us otherwise!).
But we have a Bible full of guarantees that if we abide in Christ we will be safe in the midst of the storm.
God has no need of weak people whom He has to take to Heaven in order that Satan may inherit the earth. God needs warriors who can stand on the earth and bear witness of God, His Person, His ways, His will, and His eternal purposes in Jesus Christ. During the tribulations and moral horrors that are upon us even today, true and faithful witnesses of God are needed as never before. Am I correct or not?
Do we suppose Antichrist will be so great that God is unable to protect a witness of Himself in the earth? In the days to come even the heavens will be invaded by Antichrist, as Daniel tells us. Antichrist will tear down some of the heavenly host. There will be no safety in Heaven. The safety, and the only safety, is in Jesus Christ whether we are in Heaven or upon the earth.
There is no verse of the Bible that I know of which speaks of safety in Heaven. The Bible says there will be war in Heaven. But many verses tell us God is our high Tower, our Rock, our Fortress, and our Shield. Why then do we look to Heaven for protection when the protection is found only in Jesus Christ?
You have no way of knowing what you will experience when you go to Heaven. But you do know that if you are serving Christ now, He is here with you and He will protect you. If your protection is here now, why are you trying to flee?
Of course, any of us would like to think there will be no court appearance, no lawsuit, no dreaded operation, no cutting off of our life, no danger to our children, and no financial problems. Some believers, not knowing how to resist Satan, spend much of their life in a state of dread. Have you been there?
Of course we would enjoy being carried to Paradise where there are no worries. Who wouldn't?
But that is not the Bible solution to the problems of life. The Bible solution is the Lord Jesus. He sits as King of the flood. Jesus is before the Father making intercession for us. He also is right here with His warriors, ready to protect us from everything Satan can bring against us.
But what is God doing in the midst of the turmoil?
God is building saints, warriors who can return with the Lord to establish and maintain the Kingdom of God on the earth. These are not weak people who must be raptured so they won't be harmed. These are the Lord's mighty men. They will do the Lord's will in the earth as long as He needs them here, and there is no power in Hell that can prevent their doing the Lord's will.
Get a sense of victorious strength in Christ. Picture yourself filled with God, standing in the midst of the darkness, serving as a lighthouse for a befuddled, frightened humanity.
How can we be the light of the world or bear witness of the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth if we are sitting in a mansion in Heaven?
Do you want to help mankind through the dark days that are ahead or do you want to leave the nations to the tender mercies of Satan and Antichrist?
If you had your choice, which would you preferto assist people or to leave them so you will be comfy and cozy?
If you are any kind of a person, and I believe you are, your choice will be to put on your armor and stand in the evil day. The people of the world may be boastful today but the time is coming when the roaring of the sea and the waves will cause people to have heart attacks from sheer panic. You want to be right here, filled with God, being the hand and heart of God outstretched to people.
Well, you indeed shall be according to the Scriptures.
The saints have stood for two thousand years and they shall stand until the Lord returns. When He catches up His warriors it will be into the air so they can join the legions who already are in the air, ready to descend with Jesus and put an end to Antichrist, the False Prophet, and all the other wicked of the earth.
The Lord will speak with the voice of thunder, "Come up here!"
Michael will summon his mighty warrior angels.
The trumpet of God will sound the attack.
The legions in the air will descend and raise their bodies from their place of interment. The living warriors will be changed and caught up together with them to be seated on the war stallions.
Down from the sky will hurtle the One whose robe has been dipped in blood, followed by those who are called, chosen, and faithful.
Antichrist and his armies will attempt to resist the takeover of the earth but they will all be slaughtered.
And give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. (II Thessalonians 1:7NIV)
Can you see in the above verse that relief will come to the Christians by the revelation of the Lord in blazing fire rather than by a "rapture" seven years previously as commonly taught?
We are more than conquerors through the Lord Jesus Christ. We fear God! He alone can determine our eternal destiny. We have no fear of Satan, Antichrist, the great tribulation, or anything or anyone else. Christ is our strength, our protection. We do not need to flee from the battle in order to be saved. The Lord is our helmet, our salvation.
So we do have a joyful, wonderful hope. It is a hope of victory, not of fleeing from the conflict.
Best of all it is a scriptural hope, the hope the saints of all ages have held. Our hope is that God will keep us from temptation and from harm.
In addition we have the knowledge that the wheat, the righteous, will come to maturity in the last days. This means we will be filled with a fullness of God we have not known before.
The Lord will roar out of Zion, Joel tells us. When the Lord will arise and shake the heavens and the earth, the wicked will be removed from all positions of authority and power; but those who are abiding in Christ, who are living each day in a personal relationship with Jesus, speaking to Him and listening for His voice and His will, shall sing and dance in the heights of Zion throughout all that is to come to pass on the earth. The bodies of the remnant will remain on the earth, as God wills, but they themselves will be living in the Presence of the King.
We can begin to experience such security and joy today if we have a mind to seek the Lord with all of our might, turning aside from every idol that would in any manner detract from a single-minded, steadfast, resolute pursuit of God.
The Bible hope really is a better hope than the one people have made up.
Those who love the Lord are speaking today of God's army. "God is raising up an army. Get ready to march in the army of the Lord." You hear it from many places. Some are proclaiming Joel's army. Others are hoping for the manifestation of the sons of God. Still others are praying for the latter rain to fall. These are exciting times for the saints.
Perhaps a word or two about what is in the future may be of help to those who are pressing forward in the Lord.
There is an army being prepared today. Then there is another army that will return with the Lord when He appears. This second army is Joel's army and is identical with the manifestation of the sons of God.
The army that is being prepared today is still part of the Church Age. It is an army of witnesses. The army of witnesses will march in the authority and power of the latter (harvest) rain.
The army of witnesses will preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to every nation. Then the end of the Church Age will be here and there will be a tumultuous period of transition in preparation for the Lord's return to earth.
The army of witnesses, the latter-rain revival, is portrayed in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Revelation as "two witnesses." The two witnesses are Christ, the one Lampstand, and the Body of Christ, the second lampstand. It will be the Lord working with His saints and confirming the Word with signs following.
We have heard about the past revivals and are profiting by the record of success and failure. We understand now that the last-day witness of the Lord will be clothed in sackcloth. It will not be a case of highly esteemed preachers dressed in the finery of the world. I think we all are disgusted with the self-seeking we have seen in the recent past.
God is withholding the fullness of His power until a people are prepared who know Jesus and are not seeking to be great in the eyes of the world.
There are contemporary "refreshings" but we are not certain "this is that." It seems while the voice is Jacob's the hands are those of Esau.
In any case, the prophets seem to be speaking with one voice that we are on the threshold of the greatest revival of all time.
The witnesses will be filled with a double (Elisha) portion of the Spirit of God to announce the soon coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth (the original Gospel message). They will be empowered to strike the nations with plagues in order to call their attention to what God is saying.
These are the days of the "greater works" of which Jesus spoke.
It is time today for all the gifts and ministries of the Spirit of God to be operating so the second lampstand may be prepared to bear witness of the soon coming of the Kingdom.
Are you one of those that God is drawing to Himself, purging you of all worldliness, lust, and self-seeking? If so, wait patiently on the Lord, seeking His face constantly so you will be prepared to march in the army of witnesses.
This is the latter rain. This is Revelation, Chapter Eleven. This is a double portion of Acts 1:8. It is still part of the Church Age and will occur before the Lord returns. It will prepare the way of the Lord.
Can you hear the drums of war in the spirit realm?
Joel's army and the manifestation of the sons of God are a different matter altogether. They are not a witness of the coming Kingdom nor will they march during the Church Age; rather they speak of the Battle of Armageddon and the subsequent release of the earth from sin. They are not only God's witnesses; they are also God's kings, judges, destroyers, and priests. It is given to them to execute Divine judgment on all people, especially on those who have been with us in the churches but never were actually part of us.
Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men [the sinners in the churches]: "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones To judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him." (Jude 1:14,15NIV)
The latter-rain army of witnesses will bring judgment, it is true, but the purpose of the judgment is to awaken people to their need to get right with God. Joel's army, on the other hand, will smash all resistance to Christ. These are God's royal priests who will govern the nations with the rod of iron.
Many members of the latter-rain army will suffer persecution and martyrdom as they withstand the emerging of Antichrist. The soldiers of Joel's army, on the other hand, are invincible. They are immortal. They cannot be harmed in any manner by the wicked of the earth.
It will take an effort on your part to be in either or both of the armies. To be in the contemporary army of witnesses you must come out from the church games (not necessarily from your church) and get down to business with the Lord. You must keep assembling with the saints so you can be built up by that which every part of the Body supplies, and so you can build up your fellow believers. You must covet fervently the gifts and ministries of the Spirit so you may have something to give to others.
As soon as the second lampstand has been built to the Lord's requirements, the first Lampstand, Jesus Christ, will go forth with the saints to bear witness to the ends of the earth. All nations must have a chance to believe and be baptized in view of the soon coming of the great and terrible Day of the Lord.
Meanwhile, as you are being prepared to bear witness to your generation, Christ is being formed in you. This is why the twelfth chapter of the Book of Revelation, the chapter following the two witnesses of the eleventh chapter, describes the travail of the Church which occurs as Christ, the Ruler of the nations, is being formed in the witnessing saints.
The witness is for now. The exercise of rulership by the indwelling Christ is for the Kingdom Age to come. You are like Joseph who bore witness while he was in prison and later was placed in charge of Egypt.
If you are not faithful in finding your place in today's army of witnesses it is not likely you will be a part of Joel's army.
In order to march in Joel's army it must be true of you that your life is hidden with Christ in God, for only those who have made Christ their life will appear with the Lord. Read the second chapter of Joel and see how strict the requirements are for participation in the cavalry charge of Armageddon.
Is it really true of you that Christ is your very life, or are you part of the multitude of believers who are saved, baptized in the Holy Spirit, and now are living their own life, waiting to be "raptured" to Heaven so they can lie at ease in their mansion?
You soon will be out of oil, if this is the case, and the door will be closed to you when the Lord appears.
Don't let this happen to you. The staves are in the Ark. You settled down too quickly. Get back up on your feet and press forward. You have not arrived just because you have spoken in tongues! The purpose of speaking in tongues is to bring you into the rest of God, not into the rest of the flesh.
Press forward! This year (1998) will be one of much deception and falling away, if I am hearing correctly from the Lord. Forget about being "raptured" out of your troubles. Your troubles are designed to purge you from worldliness, lust, and self-seeking so you can be part of the second lampstand, so you can serve as the light of the world, bringing the witness of Christ's Kingdom to every creature.
This is no time to settle back and be at ease in Zion. Forget what everyone else in your assembly is doing; press forward into Jesus Christ so you will be ready when He empowers His saints to go forth to the nations and bear witness of His soon return to earth.
Don't go forth in your own strength and wisdom, for you do not know the Lord's plans as yet. Wait until you are strengthened by power from on high. Then you will be able to bear witness locally and, as the Lord leads, to the farthest reaches of the earth.
The two armies are the army of witnesses empowered by the harvest rain of the Spirit, and then the army from Heaven that will establish the Kingdom of God on the earth. If you are faithful in the lesser, you will be entrusted with the greater. This is one of the primary laws of the Kingdom of God.
Don't let the American way of life fool you. It is one massive illusion designed to lure the believers into spending their time on the things of the flesh, things that are passing away with their using and not only are relatively worthless but actually are chains that bind our spirits to the present world. When Satan is through luring the saints with the toys of the world the whole scene will change and you and I will be facing the greatest persecution of Christians in the history of the world. We shall be hated by all nations because we bear the Lord's name.
If you are focusing on money, the lusts of the flesh, or any other worldly or sinful distraction, you are facing a dreadful future.
For you who mean business with God, remember there is no safety in any country or even in Heaven itself. The only true safety is that which is found in the Lord Jesus Christ, whether you are on earth or in Heaven. The "little horn" of Daniel will reach into the heavens and tear down part of the host because they still have a rebellious nature. God is preparing to shake not only the earth but the heavens also.
There is total safety in Jesus Christ and only in Jesus Christ. You can have that perfect safety today if you will abide in the Rock, in Christ.
Let Christ be your mighty fortress, your horn of salvation, your shield, your truth, your salvation, your joy, your hope, your peace, your safety, your way to the Father so where Christ is there you will be alsoin the bosom of the Father.
Then you never can be shaken.
How about it?
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. (Revelation 20:6NIV)
There will be a thousand-year Kingdom Age, often referred to as the Millennium. Whether the thousand years is a literal or a symbolic number we are not prepared to say. Perhaps it is best to take the passage in the Book of Revelation literally until we find out differently.
The Kingdom Age will commence at the next appearing of the Lord Jesus from Heaven with His saints and holy angels.
There will be a resurrection at the beginning of the Kingdom Age and one at the conclusion. Thus there are two major resurrections of the dead.
It is taught commonly that the first resurrection is for the saved and the second resurrection is for the lost. From our point of view, the Scriptures do not support this position.
As we understand it, the first resurrection is for the firstfruits of the Bride and the second resurrection is the general resurrection from the dead.
Until we come to the Book of Revelation, it seems the Apostles themselves were not aware the resurrection would be separated into two events with an intervening thousand-year Kingdom Age.
It is apparent that neither the majority of the Church nor the nations of the earth are ready for the new heaven and earth reign of Christ. Thus we believe the thousand years are for the purpose of perfecting the Church so the Church will be prepared to serve as the light of the world for those nations of people whom the Lord assigns to salvation, that is, who are to be preserved in the Day of Wrath.
No person born on the earth will be left indefinitely in a place of burial or interment after their bodily death; every human being shall be raised from the dead and shall stand before Christ and His saints to be judged.
Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come outthose who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:28,29)
"All who are in the graves will hear his voice and come out."
But we find the Apostle Paul stating a goal that may be foreign to us.
And so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:11NIV)
Some believe that Paul was referring merely to an advanced state of spiritual maturity, not to the actual bodily resurrection from the dead. We do not believe this to be true for three reasons:
The Greek term here is out-resurrection, a special use appearing only once in the New Testament.
The expression "first resurrection" found in Revelation 20:6 refers to an actual resurrection from the dead.
There are passages in which Paul groaned for the redemption of his body, a desire seldom or never heard in today's Christian teaching.
In fact, a few verses later in Philippians Paul speaks clearly of the resurrection of his body.
Who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so they will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3:21NIV)
We are not implying we will achieve resurrection prior to the Lord's return. Our point is that while all people will be raised from the dead at some point, the first resurrection, which is the resurrection of the royal priesthood, must be attained.
We do not attain to the first resurrection by taking the four steps of salvation. We attain to the first resurrection as Paul teaches, by laying aside all else, counting the things of the world as garbage, until we are living in the power of Christ's resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.
If Paul, after an extraordinarily fruitful life and ministry, had not as yet attained to the power of the resurrection in his inward nature (according to his own testimony), which is the necessary preparation for the first resurrection, what then is true of the rank and file of the believers of today who think they will be raised when the Lord returns even though they have never taken up their cross and set out after the Lord?
The differences between the two resurrections, one at the time of Jesus' return and the other at the conclusion of the thousand years, are remarkable. The first resurrection (Revelation 20:4-6) is for the rulers, the royal priesthood. They gain their bodies at this time so they may rule with Jesus from Jerusalem.
Notice that no books are opened at the first resurrection, whereas at the second resurrection (Revelation 20:11-15) the books of record and the Book of Life are opened.
The reason no books are opened at the first resurrection is that those who attain the redemption of their body in that hour had been judged previously. The worldliness, lust, and self-will of their personality were brought before the Lord and dealt with.
It is clear from Revelation 20:4-6 that the first resurrection is for an elite group of governing priests; it is reserved for those saints who have conquered and have lived victorious lives in Christ. These verses are not speaking of everyone who will be saved, such as those who are saved by fire; neither are they speaking of the majority in Sardis who are unworthy to walk with Christ in the white robes of the priesthood.
The sum of what we are saying is that you cannot assume you will be raised from the dead and glorified when the Lord first appears. This first resurrection must be attained by following Jesus with your whole heart. You must be called, chosen, and then proven faithful.
If you are not raised when the Lord appears you will be raised at the end of the thousand years. There you will be judged according to the choices you have made during your lifetime. If you have known the Gospel you will be judged by the Gospel. If you have never heard of the Gospel you will be judged by whatever you did know of God's will.
The first resurrection is a goal worth pursuing. Today the Spirit of God is brooding on the face of the Christian churches to see who will move past the basic salvation and Pentecostal experiences and enter the fullness of His Presence and indwelling.
Such will appear with the Lord when He returns because He is their Life. But the majority of believers are still living in their natural life, not by the body and blood of Jesus, and will not be called up to the slain Lamb when He appears in the sky. It is the eagles, those who live by feeding on the Lamb, who will have the inward resurrection life that will raise them to the "carcass" when the voice of God calls from the sky.
The bride appears at the beginning of the thousand years, at the first resurrection, as follows:
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) (Revelation 19:7,8NIV)
The bride appears at the end of the thousand years, after the second resurrection, as follows:
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. (Revelation 21:2,3NIV)
Now, consider carefully these two appearances, if you will.
In the first appearance the Bride has made herself ready and is clothed in her own righteous acts.
In the second appearance the Bride may have been assisted by others, as is customary in preparation for a wedding.
The first appearance is followed by the Bride, terrible as an army with banners, riding behind her Lord in the attack of Armageddon.
The second appearance is followed by the Bride descending from the sky (or Heaven), filled with the Presence of God, to serve as the light of the world.
It is our point of view that the purpose of the thousand-year Kingdom Age is to give the saints of the first resurrection an opportunity to prepare the remainder of the Church for her descent as the Bride of the Lamb, and also to gain experience working with the Lord in governing and guiding the nations of saved people who will live on the earth during the Kingdom Age.
The firstfruits of the Church, the Lord's firstborn so to speak, having received a double portion of blessing from the Lord, will bring their brothers and sisters to maturity by sharing the inheritance with them.
There are several types in the Old Testament that point toward a temporary separation of the family of God into a Zion company (a warlike remnant) and then the remainder of the family.
Perhaps the most outstanding type of the temporary division is the victory of Gideon and his three hundred, a victory which then was shared by the rest of the Israelites.
Another important type is the separation of the Ark of the Covenant from the remainder of the Tabernacle of the Congregation during the reign of King David. It is our belief that the thousand-year Kingdom Age tends to be a Davidic period while the new heaven and earth reign of Jesus is more of a Solomonic period of peace and prosperity.
Also we notice that David ruled over Judah for several years before the remainder of Israel was brought under his jurisdiction.
So we are not lacking for support from the Old Testament figures when we claim the Christian Church will be temporarily divided into a warlike remnant who will serve as the Lord's mighty men, so to speak, before the remainder of the family of God is prepared to descend from the sky as the great Temple of God, the Throne of God, God's Presence among the saved peoples of the earth.
Our point in discussing the two different resurrections and the two appearances of the Bride of the Lamb is to encourage you as a Christian to lay aside your own desires, take up your cross, and follow Jesus as a disciple. Read carefully Paul's exhortation in the third chapter of the Book of Philippians. Prepare yourself to run the race with single-minded diligence and dedication.
It may be true there is a window open today as never before, for those who desire to attain the first resurrection and be with the Lord Jesus on the earth during the thousand-year Kingdom Age. It may be true there are thrones that are vacant right now, waiting for those who care enough to press forward toward one of them.
What is there in this life that you would esteem more highly than to attain the first resurrection and to be a member of the firstfruits of the Bride? There is no power in Heaven, on the earth, or under the earth that can stop you if you press forward in Christ.
In Jesus Christ you possess the awesome authority to attain God's highest and best.
Go for it!