It's easy to confuse the first resurrection with the Rapture. After all, they both involve resurrected bodies. The Rapture isn't exclusively a resurrection. By that, I mean that yes, the saints that have gone before us will be reunited with their bodies and have them transformed into immortal and incorruptible bodies just a moment before we, who are living, have our bodies transformed in like manner. It isn't described as the first resurrection, but as being caught up. "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with with trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." (1Thessalonians 4:16-17 KJV)
The first resurrection won't involve the living, but the dead in Christ. Here we see both the living and the dead being "caught up" to be with the Lord forever. It's not known as a "resurrection Rapture," but only as the Rapture (the catching away of the living and dead in Christ). The Rapture won't be the first time that the dead have been resurrected either. If you remember, immediately after Jesus rose from the dead, others rose from the dead as well.
"Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. 51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; 52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, 53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many." (Matthew 27:50-53 KJV)
It would be just as easy to confuse this with the “first resurrection” as it would be to confuse the Rapture with the "first resurrection."
So when does the "first resurrection" occur?
"And I saw thrones, and they that sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for their witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, nor in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years." (Rev. 20:4-6 KJV)
This scripture specifically mentions events that will occur only at the time of the Tribulation. Those who participate in the "first resurrection" were beheaded for their witness of Jesus and for the word of God, did not worship the beast, and did not receive the mark of the beast on their hand or forehead. It's clear that the "first resurrection" occurs AFTER the Tribulation, when Jesus returns to Earth along with those who had been raptured seven years prior.
Many will use this as support for a post-Tribulation Rapture, but that just isn't the case. If you read the following verses, you'll see what I mean:
"And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the alter the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? 11 And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled." (Rev. 6:9-11 KJV - bold mine)
God is very specific when He is describing those who are "under the alter."
- They are the souls who were slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.
- Christians will be killed during the Tribulation
- They are told to "rest yet for a little season."
- "little season" - Remainder of the Tribulation
- They are to wait until their fellow servants/brethren are killed as they were.
- Their fellow brothers and sisters will be killed during the Tribulation in the same way they were
These souls aren't representative of every Christian who is waiting to be resurrected at a post-Tribulation Rapture. These are specific souls that have been persecuted and killed because of their faith and it is during the seal judgments that they are first mentioned, linking their persecution and deaths to the Tribulation. These souls mentioned here in Rev. 6:9-11 are the same souls mentioned in Rev. 20:4-6. They are the souls who are part of the "first resurrection" and who "lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years."
Is there a second resurrection?
Well, yes and no. It's not specifically called the "second resurrection." It's called the "second death." It occurs at the White Throne Judgment after Satan is finally defeated and condemned to eternity in hell. It is at this time that those who died apart from God, are resurrected and stand before Jesus to be judged by the law of God, receiving the eternal destiny that they have chosen for themselves… eternity in the lake of fire and brimstone. This is why you need to repent and believe, so that you can be part of the experience known as the Rapture or, if you are left behind, be a part of the first resurrection. Just as those who take the mark of the Beast are automatically condemned to Hell, those who are part of the “second death” are destined to spend eternity in Hell.
Repent and be forgiven! Believe and be saved!