First resurrection. Revelation 20:5, 6 refers to the resurrection of those who will reign with Christ as “the first resurrection.” The apostle Paul speaks of this first resurrection also as “the earlier resurrection from the dead [literally, the out-resurrection the out of dead (ones)].” (Php 3:11, NW, Ro, Int) On the expression Paul uses here, Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament (1931, Vol. IV, p. 454) says: “Apparently Paul is thinking here only of the resurrection of believers out from the dead and so double ex [out] (ten exanastasin ten ek nekron). Paul is not denying a general resurrection by this language, but emphasizing that of believers.” Charles Ellicott’s Commentaries (1865, Vol. II, p. 87) remarks on Philippians 3:11: “‘The resurrection from the dead;’ i.e., as the context suggests, the first resurrection (Rev. xx. 5), when, at the Lord’s coming the dead in Him shall rise first (1 Thessalon. iv. 16), and the quick be caught up to meet Him in the clouds (1 Thess. iv. 17); compare Luke xx. 35. The first resurrection will include only true believers, and will apparently precede the second, that of non-believers and disbelievers, in point of time . . . Any reference here to a merely ethical resurrection (Cocceius) is wholly out of the question.” One of the basic meanings of the word e·xa·naʹsta·sis is getting up from bed in the morning; thus it can well represent a resurrection occurring early, otherwise called “the first resurrection.” Rotherham’s translation of Philippians 3:11 reads: “If by any means I may advance to the earlier resurrection which is from among the dead.”
Earthly Resurrection. While Jesus was hanging on a stake, one of the evildoers alongside him, observing that Jesus was not deserving of punishment, requested: “Jesus, remember me when you get into your kingdom.” Jesus replied: “Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.” (Lu 23:42, 43) In effect, Jesus said: ‘On this dark day, when my claim to a kingdom is to outward appearances highly unlikely, you express faith. Indeed, when I do get into my kingdom, I will remember you.’ (See PARADISE.) This would require a resurrection for the evildoer. This man was not a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. He had been engaged in wrongdoing, lawbreaking meriting the death penalty. (Lu 23:40, 41) Therefore, he could not hope to be one of those receiving the first resurrection. Additionally, he died 40 days before Jesus ascended into heaven and hence before Pentecost, which was 10 days after that ascension, when God through Jesus anointed the first members of those who will receive the heavenly resurrection.—Ac 1:3; 2:1-4, 33.
The evildoer, Jesus said, would be in Paradise. The word means “a park or pleasure ground.” The Septuagint rendered the Hebrew word for “garden” (gan), as at Genesis 2:8, by the Greek word pa·raʹdei·sos. The paradise in which the evildoer will be would not be “the paradise of God” promised to “him that conquers,” at Revelation 2:7, for the evildoer was not a conqueror of the world with Jesus Christ. (Joh 16:33) The evildoer would therefore not be in the heavenly Kingdom as a member of it (Lu 22:28-30) but would be a subject of the Kingdom when those of “the first resurrection” would, as kings of God and Christ, sit on thrones, ruling with Christ for a thousand years.—Re 20:4, 6.
“The righteous and the unrighteous.” The apostle Paul said to a group of Jews who also entertained the hope of a resurrection that “there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.”—Ac 24:15.
The Bible makes it plain who are “the righteous.” First of all, those who are to receive a heavenly resurrection are declared righteous.—Ro 8:28-30.
Then the Bible calls faithful men of old such as Abraham righteous. (Ge 15:6; Jas 2:21) Many of these men are listed at Hebrews chapter 11, and of them the writer says: “And yet all these, although they had witness borne to them through their faith, did not get the fulfillment of the promise, as God foresaw something better for us [spirit-begotten, anointed Christians like Paul], in order that they might not be made perfect apart from us.” (Heb 11:39, 40) So, the perfecting of them will take place after that of the ones having part in “the first resurrection.”
Then there is the “great crowd” described in Revelation chapter 7, who are not members of the 144,000 “sealed” ones, and who consequently do not have “the token” of the spirit as being spirit-begotten. (Eph 1:13, 14; 2Co 5:5) They are described as coming “out of the great tribulation” as survivors of it; this would seem to locate the gathering of this group in the last days shortly before that tribulation. These are righteous through faith, being clothed in white robes washed in the blood of the Lamb. (Re 7:1, 9-17) As a class, they will not need to be resurrected, but faithful ones of that group who die before the great tribulation will be resurrected in God’s due time.
Also, there are many “unrighteous” persons buried in Sheol (Hades), mankind’s common grave, or in “the sea,” watery graves. The judgment of these along with “the righteous” resurrected on earth is described in Revelation 20:12, 13: “And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened. But another scroll was opened; it is the scroll of life. And the dead were judged out of those things written in the scrolls according to their deeds. And the sea gave up those dead in it, and death and Hades gave up those dead in them, and they were judged individually according to their deeds.”
Time of the earthly resurrection. We note that this judgment is placed in the Bible in the account of events occurring during Christ’s Thousand Year Reign with his associate kings and priests. These, the apostle Paul said, “will judge the world.” (1Co 6:2) “The great and the small,” persons from all walks of life, will be there, to be judged impartially. They are “judged out of those things written in the scrolls” that will be opened then. This could not mean the record of their past lives nor a set of rules that judges them on the basis of their past lives. For since “the wages sin pays is death,” these by their death have received the wages of their sin in the past. (Ro 6:7, 23) Now they are resurrected that they might demonstrate their attitude toward God and whether they wish to take hold of the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ that was given for all. (Mt 20:28; Joh 3:16) Though their past sins are not accounted to them, they need the ransom to lift them up to perfection. They must make their minds over from their former way of life and thought in harmony with God’s will and regulations for the earth and its population. Accordingly, “the scrolls” evidently set forth the will and law of God for them during that Judgment Day, their faith and their obedience to these things being the basis for judgment and for writing their names indelibly, at last, into “the scroll of life.”
Resurrection to Life and to Judgment. Jesus gave the comforting assurance to mankind: “The hour is coming, and it is now, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who have given heed will live. . . . Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.”—Joh 5:25-29.
A judgment of condemnation. In Jesus’ words here, the word “judgment” translates the Greek word kriʹsis. According to Parkhurst, the meanings of this word in the Christian Greek Scriptures are as follows: “I. Judgment. . . . II. Judgment, justice. Mat. xxiii. 23. Comp. xii. 20. . . . III. Judgment of condemnation, condemnation, damnation. Mark iii. 29. John v. 24, 29. . . . IV. The cause or ground of condemnation or punishment. John iii. 19. V. A particular court of justice among the Jews, . . . Mat. v. 21, 22.”—A Greek and English Lexicon to the New Testament, London, 1845, p. 342.
If Jesus, in speaking of judgment, meant a trial the result of which might be life, then there would be no contrast between this and the “resurrection of life.” Therefore, the context indicates that Jesus meant by “judgment” a condemnatory judgment.
“The dead” that heard Jesus speak on earth. In considering Jesus’ words, we note that when Jesus spoke, some of “the dead” were hearing his voice. Peter used similar language when he said: “In fact, for this purpose the good news was declared also to the dead, that they might be judged as to the flesh from the standpoint of men but might live as to the spirit from the standpoint of God.” (1Pe 4:6) This is so because those hearing Christ were ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ before hearing but would begin to ‘live’ spiritually because of faith in the good news.—Eph 2:1; compare Mt 8:22; 1Ti 5:6.
John 5:29 refers to end of judgment period. But a very important thing to notice, something that helps to determine the time feature of Jesus’ words concerning the ‘resurrection of life and the resurrection of judgment,’ is what he said earlier in the same context, in speaking of those living then who were spiritually dead (as explained under the subheading ‘Passing Over From Death to Life’): “The hour is coming, and it is now, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who have given heed [literally, word for word, “the (ones) having heard”] will live.” (Joh 5:25, Int) This indicates that he was not speaking merely of someone audibly hearing his voice but, rather, of the ones “having heard,” namely, those who, after hearing, accept as true what they hear. The terms “hear” and “listen” are used very frequently in the Bible with the meaning of “give heed” or “obey.” (See OBEDIENCE.) Those who prove to be obedient will live. (Compare the use of the same Greek term [a·kouʹo], “hear or listen,” at Joh 6:60; 8:43, 47; 10:3, 27.) They are judged, not on what they did before hearing his voice, but on what they do after hearing it.
Jesus was therefore evidently taking a similar position in time in speaking of “those who did good things” and “those who practiced vile things,” namely, a position at the end of the period of judgment, as looking back in retrospect or in review of the actions of these resurrected persons after they had opportunity to obey or disobey the “things written in the scrolls.” Only at the end of the judgment period would it be demonstrated who had done good or bad. The outcome to “those who did good things” (according to “those things written in the scrolls”) would be the reward of life; to “those who practiced vile things,” a judgment of condemnation. The resurrection would have turned out to be either to life or to condemnation.
The practice of stating things as viewed from the standpoint of the outcome, or stating them as already accomplished, considering them in retrospect, is common in the Bible. For God is “the One telling from the beginning the finale, and from long ago the things that have not been done.” (Isa 46:10) Jude adopts this same viewpoint when he speaks of corrupt men who slipped into the congregation, saying of them: “Too bad for them, because they have gone in the path of Cain, and have rushed into the erroneous course of Balaam for reward, and have perished [literally, they destroyed themselves] in the rebellious talk of Korah!” (Jude 11) Some of the prophecies use similar language.—Compare Isa 40:1, 2; 46:1; Jer 48:1-4.
Consequently the viewpoint taken at John 5:29 is not identical with that at Acts 24:15 in which Paul speaks of the resurrection of “the righteous and the unrighteous.” Paul is plainly referring to those who have had a righteous or unrighteous standing before God during this life, and who will be resurrected. They are “those in the memorial tombs.” (Joh 5:28; see MEMORIAL TOMB.) At John 5:29, Jesus views such persons after their coming out of the memorial tombs and after they, by their course of action during the reign of Jesus Christ and his associate kings and priests, have proved themselves either obedient, with eternal “life” as their reward, or disobedient, and so deserving “judgment [condemnation]” from God.