v.6 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.
According to the Bible there are two “deaths” and two “resurrections”. Since it’s important for us to understand what they are and how they apply, let’s look.
There are two “deaths.”
The “first death” concerns that which is common to all man—namely, the death of the body (Heb.9:27). The “second death” concerns the spirit of man but only applies to the unredeemed that are made to suffer eternal death and damnation (v.14). In other words, though all men die, and therefore must suffer the first death, only the souls of the unsaved are affected by the power of the second death that leads to eternal torment. This is why John says of believers, “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.”
There are also two “resurrections.”
The word “resurrection” is a Greek word meaning “to make to stand” or “rise up.” It speaks of that occurrence when the soul (which departs the body at death) reenters the body and causes it to rise up from the grave. Everyone dies, therefore everyone also resurrects, but the event is vastly different between the saved and unsaved.
The saved (those redeemed in Christ) take part in the “first resurrection” and acquire a new body in the process (Phil.3:20-21; 1Cor.15:52). “But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1Cor.15:23).
In other words, the first resurrection is not a one-time event, but a procession much like a parade. It began with Jesus Christ and seemingly ends with this group of Tribulation martyrs, and in the interim consists of at least three separate occasions where other believers are resurrected (see—Matt.27:53; 1Thess.4:16-17; Rev.11:11).
The unsaved (those not redeemed in Christ) take part in the “second resurrection”. Unlike the first resurrection, however, they are not given a new body, and the event is not in stages, but rather a one-time event that follows the Millennium. This is why John says of the unbelievers, “But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished” (v.5).
Okay, now let’s shift gears and consider the Millennium.
It should be noted right up front that the word “millennium” does not appear in Scripture. But that doesn’t mean the event is not scriptural, or that it will not occur. The word comes from the Latin words mille (“thousand”) and annum (“year”) and is always translated as a “thousand years”.
John records the phrase “thousand years” six times in this chapter, and it’s safe to say that he is always referring to the period we call the “Millennium” described in Scripture as a time of righteousness, healing, and restoration unlike any other in the history of this earth. Listen to just some of the amazing facts about the Millennium.
- Jesus Christ will sit on David’s throne in Jerusalem and reign supreme over the earth in judgment and justice (Isa.9:7; Zech.14:9)
- The nation of Israel shall be honored above all nations (Isa.62:2-3) and Jerusalem will be the capital of the world (Jer.3:17)
- Satan (the Devil) will be taken from earth and locked up, so he can no longer tempt and deceive the nations (v.1-3)
- There will be no war between men (Isa.2:4)
- There will be peace with and within the animal kingdom (Isa.11:6-8)
- The whole earth will be “full of the knowledge of the Lord” (Isa.11:9)
- There will be no sickness or disease (Isa.29:18)
- There will be absolute law and order (Isa.29:20)
- All of the earth will be healed and subsequently restored to its original beauty (Isa.35:6-7; Isa.35:1-2)
Christians can look forward to reigning with Christ as priests during the Millennium with the authority to teach and enforce righteousness over the inhabitants on earth. Which, of course, raises the question: Who are the inhabitants on the earth over whom we shall rule?