This seems like a crazy question, right? Isn’t there just one resurrection? Well, it isn’t quite that simple. The Resurrection is based on the Hebrew harvest (Jesus made this reference many times), and the Hebrew harvest had 3 divisions: a first fruits harvest, the primary harvest, and a final gleanings harvest. The Bible supports this 3-part view. There are those who claim as many as 7 resurrections, however!! Let’s see what the Bible says.
First we need to define what a resurrection is. The bible describes a number of people who were raised back to life in both the Old and New Testaments. Most of these were raised to life only to die again. My definition of a Resurrection is the raising of the righteous back to eternal life en mass in what could be termed a “harvest”. Raising the dead is temporary, Resurrection is permanant. The following are the list of saints who were raised back to life only to die again. These are not included in what I term a Resurrection:
|Saint Raised to Life||Reference|
|Son of Zarephath’s Widow||1 Kings 17:17-24|
|Son of Shunammite Woman||2 Kings 4:35|
|Man who touched Elisha’s bones||2 Kings 13:21|
|Widow’s son at Nain||Luke 7:13-15|
|Jairus’s Daughter||Matt. 9:25|
Some people also consider Paul as raised from the dead in Acts 14:19-20, but the Bible doesn’t explicitly say so. Also notice that all of these were individaul cases and all eventually died again (the raising to life was temporary), and all await a final Resurrection. So the question remains: how many resurrections will there be?
3 Part Harvest
We are now ready to begin to examine Resurrections rather than just the raising of individuals. Jesus frequently compared the Resurrection(s) to a harvest. Because the Hebrew harvest was divided into 3 parts, my theory is the Resurrection will be divided into exactly 3 parts as well. Here is a brief explanation of the 3 Part Harvest:
- a first fruits harvest: a limited, preliminary harvest which was presented to YHWH as an offering
- the primary harvest: the harvest when the majority of the grain was reaped
- a gleanings harvest: a final sweep through the fields to reap any remaining grain
If this theory is correct we should find evidence in scripture for these same three parts of the harvest. That is exactly what we see:
In Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming (the primary harvest)” (1 Cor. 15: 22-23 NASB, clarification and emphasis mine).
This verse accounts for the first two harvests. The gleanings harvest (and the primary harvest) are found in this verse:
And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first (Gk: PROTOS, meaning first or primary) resurrection. (Rev. 20: 5-6, emphasis mine)
Here we see two resurrections being referred to. The primary one includes those who did not take the Mark of the Beast, did not worship the Beast, and those who were beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and the Word of God. This resurrection includes only the righteous. A secondary resurrection is mentioned as well. This one will include all the rest of the dead (righteous and unrighteous) and will happen after the Millennium.
These three resurrections pictured above perfectly fit the picture of the 3 Part Hebrew harvest. Let’s assemble a graphic to see what groups of people might be resurrected in each resurrection.
Many Bodies of the Saints (at Crucifixion of Jesus; Matt. 27:52-53)
|After the Crucifixion of Jesus|
|Primary Harvest (first resurrection) Rev. 20: 4-6||Old Testament saints (Abraham, Daniel, etc.)
Dead in Christ prior to the Rapture (including all the martyrs during the 70th Week)
The Two Witnesses
|At the end of the sixth year of the 70th Week|
|Gleanings Harvest (second resurrection) Rev. 20:11-15||Dead in Christ after the Rapture (during 7th year of 70th Week and the Millennial Kingdom)
Unrighteous Dead from all of history
|After the end of the Millennial Kingdom|
This graphic seems to perfectly account for everyone who will be resurrected within the 3 Part Harvest. Let’s look at each group and see if this makes scriptural sense.
First Fruits Harvest
We have already seen that Jesus is referred to as the “first fruits.” We also know his resurrection occurred three days after his crucifixion.
In Matthew, we learn that many saints were raised to life immediately after Jesus rose from the dead:
And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. (Matt. 27: 51-53)
These were obviously saints who were entombed near Jerusalem. Did they ascend to heaven with Jesus? Were they also part of the “first fruits” resurrection? Scripture doesn’t tell us, but I think we can assume they did ascend and were part of this preliminary harvest.
Who these saints might have been leads to highly interesting speculation. Since they presented themselves in Jerusalem after Jesus’s resurrection, we can assume they died and were buried in that area. Was one of them John the Baptist? Were some of them prophets like Zechariah? Were others kings like David and Solomon? Someday we may know for certain.
The Primary Harvest
Since the primary harvest is the “primary” (Gk: PROTOS) one, it must include the most saints. Revelation pictures this harvest in vivid agricultural terms:
Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand. And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.” Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped. (Rev. 14:13-16)
We already know from Rev. 20:4-6 that this harvest includes all the martyrs of the 70th Week of Daniel. We also know from 1 Cor. 15:23 that all those who are “Christ’s at his coming” are in this harvest as well. This includes all the dead in Christ throughout the Church age. What about Old Testament saints like Daniel and Abraham who were buried away from Jerusalem?
If we examine Dan. 12, we will find the answer.
But at that time (after the Great Tribulation) your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. (Dan. 12: 1b-3 NIV, clarification and emphasis mine)
After the Great Tribulation, all of Daniel’s people whose names are written in the Book of Life will be delivered (resurrected.) This is abundantly clear evidence that Old Testament saints are resurrected in the primary harvest.
This harvest should also include the Two Witnesses whose resurrection is recorded in Rev. 11. The career of the Two Witnesses creates a great deal of contention among Bible scholars. We know from Rev. 11:3 that their ministry is 1260 days long. At the end of their ministry we learn that the Beast that comes out of the Abyss will kill them and their bodies will lay in the streets of Jerusalem for 3 1/2 days. At that point they will be resurrected:
But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God came into them, and they stood on their feet; and great fear fell upon those who were watching them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” Then they went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies watched them. (Rev. 11: 11-12)
Some claim the ministry of the Two Witnesses is the first half of Daniel’s 70th Week. Some claim it is the last half. Everyone has an opinion on their ministry, and almost all of them are different. Someday I will do a blog article on why I think their ministry overlaps both halves of the 70th Week, extending from the 3rd year to 3 1/2 days before the Resurrection at the end of the 6th year. This is a highly complex and debatable issue which will require a full article to explain. If my theory is correct, however, the resurrection of these Two Witnesses will exactly co-incide with the Primary Harvest Resurrection.
The gleanings harvest (the second resurrection) will occur after the conclusion of the 1000 year Millennial Kingdom and will include all the unrighteous dead throughout all the ages and some righteous. They are “judged from the things which were written in the books according to their deeds . . . and if anyone’s name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:12, 15 NASB). The limited number of righteous in this resurrection (it is a “gleaning”) will include those who repent and die in Christ in the final year of the 70th Week (after the Rapture) and all the repentant Jews and Gentiles who die in Christ during the 1000 year Millennial Kingdom. These are the human survivors of the 70th Week and children born to them during the Millennium.
Timing of the Primary Harvest
Based on these explanations above all people who will be resurrected can be fit within the framework of a Hebrew 3 Part Harvest. This is very strong evidence that this is in fact how the resurrections will take place. Let’s now look at the timing of the Primary Harvest Resurrection because it will also give us the timing of the Rapture that directly follows the main Resurrection.
Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. (Rev. 20: 4-5)
To those familiar with Revelation and Daniel, the first verse above should “jump” out at you as recognizable. John saw thrones and those that sat on them were given judgment. This is a direct reference to Daniel’s and John’s Throne in Heaven Visions (Dan. 7: 9-10 and Rev. 4: 2-4). God and the twenty-four elders are the ones seated on the thrones. We have already learned that this vision pictures the opening of the 7 Sealed Scroll. The thrones are set up at the very beginning of Daniel’s 70th Week and the judgment is passed for the Resurrection once the scroll is opened at the 7th Seal which exposes the names of all those written in “the Book” (Dan. 12:1-2) This time ‘stamps” the passage. The fact that this passage is found in Rev. 20 after Satan is imprisoned has led numerous commentators to believe this resurrection happens after the 70th Week is completed (Satan’s imprisonment occurs after the 70th Week). This is inaccurate. This passage is found after imprisonment of Satan not because the first resurrection occurs at that time, but rather because the passage discusses the reign of those who were resurrected: they reign with Christ for a thousand years. This section of Revelation (Rev. 20) is about that time period; the Millennial Kingdom. The passage is looking back at the Resurrection that occurs during the 70th Week of Daniel and is included here only because it discusses the future reign of the saints. This is a very important nuance of interpretation.
This interpretation can be proven by the other passage in Revelation that clearly shows this Primary Harvest which is followed by a second reaping which is the Wrath of God:
Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand . . . Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped. And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.” So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God. And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses’ bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles. (Rev. 14: 14, 16-20)
This passage clearly shows that the Wrath of God (which begins at the 7th year of the 70th Week) and Armageddon follow the Primary Harvest Resurrection which is Jesus’s doing. This is consistent with everything we have discussed on this website in regard to a Pre-Wrath timing for the Rapture.
Pre-Tribulation Rapture Resurrection
We know from 1 Thess. 4: 17 that during the first resurrection, the dead in Christ rise first, and then the saints who are alive are caught up together with them in the air; the Rapture immediately follows the Resurrection. If the Primary Harvest Resurrection includes saints who by faith do not take the Mark of the Beast, the Resurrection (and thus the Rapture) must occur after the Mark of the Beast is institutionalized! This cannot happen prior to the 70th Week of Daniel as a Pre-Tribulation Rapture. It must occur during the 70th Week (at the end of the Sixth Year of the 70th Week.) The saints will toil for six years of “tribulation” and rest in Heaven during the seventh year of the “week,” much as the Sabbath provides rest in a calendar week.
This analysis of the Resurrection authoritatively proves there isn’t a Pre-Tribulation Rapture. It is impossible to study Revelation with an open mind and still accept a Pre-Tribulation Rapture theory.
I have, however, read some explanations from Pre-Tribulation Rapture theorists who try and explain away this clear teaching by saying there are as many as seven resurrections . I have actually read statements where others have said there are multiple “first resurrections” as well, and that is why those who have refused the Mark of the Beast are included in the first resurrection. They claim this first resurrection happens before the 70th Week and then again during it. These theorists are unable to provide scriptural support their unorthodox positions, however. Scripture is clear. There is only one primary harvest (first resurrection) and it takes place at the end of the sixth year of the 70th Week. There are not two “first” resurrections! First is first.