What is the difference between the first resurrection and the second resurrection?
Two future resurrections are described in the Bible. The first resurrection is mentioned in Revelation 20: "This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years" (Revelation 20:5b-6). Those involved in the first resurrection will already be raised to life prior to the 1,000-year reign of Christ called the millennium.
This first resurrection includes those who return to life at the rapture as described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (the "dead in Christ" and believers alive at the rapture) as well as the resurrected Christian martyrs from the end of the tribulation period mentioned in Revelation 20:4.
The second resurrection is described in Revelation 20:12-13: "And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done." This group will include those who are unbelievers who will be assigned by judgment to the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).
Between these two resurrections is the 1,000-year millennial kingdom. Believers reign with the Lord during this period and have already been resurrected. Unbelievers are described in Revelation 20:5 as, "The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended."
Therefore, the first resurrection is for the people of God; the second resurrection is for the judgment of unbelievers. The difference between these two groups is based on one's relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It is essential for every person to hear the good news and be saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) to receive eternal life (John 3:16).
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