Revelation 20 clearly describes three resurrections. We have previously seen that the first resurrection will take place at Jesus Christ's second coming. It will include only the "just," who will be raised to life and clothed with immortality (I Thessalonians 4:13-18; I Corinthians 15:33). After Christ's Millennial rule, God will resurrect those who in past ages died in sin and ignorance, having never had a chance for salvation, and in many cases having never heard of Jesus Christ or seen a Bible. Others were spiritually blinded, and God will resurrect them in a second resurrection ( Romans 11:7).
Scripture speaks of yet one more resurrection for the group not dealt with in either of the other two. This third resurrection is a resurrection to the second death, for those resurrected will be cast into the Lake of Fire and burned up.
1. Whom does God raise in the third resurrection? Revelation 20:11-15; John 5:29.
Comment : The incorrigibly wicked are the last of mankind to be resurrected from their graves—from "the sea" (where they may have perished), from death (without burial), or from hades (a grave in the ground). God Himself will sentence these unruly, miserable human beings—hopefully few—and whoever is not found written in the Book of Life will be cast into the Lake of Fire.
2. Will the wicked realize what they will be missing? Luke 16:19-31; II Peter 3:10; Ecclesiastes 9:5.
Comment : In the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, the latter, a heartless person, speaks to Lazarus while being "tormented in this flame." This alludes to the wicked being cremated when God burns up the earth, turning it into the final Gehenna, called elsewhere "the Lake of Fire." The rich man is raised out of his grave at the end of God's plan for humanity on earth. Because the dead know nothing, he does not realize the passage of time, but he certainly realizes that he has failed to receive salvation. He sees "a great gulf fixed" between him and those who are with Abraham in the Kingdom of God. At this point, it is impossible for anyone to change his fate.
3. Will Jesus "answer the knock" of incorrigibly wicked human beings? Luke 13:22-30; Matthew 7:13-14, 21-23.
Comment : Many will seek to enter the Kingdom of God but be barred from it because of flagrant sin. Jesus will refuse to answer the knock of unruly sinners who have rejected salvation, though they weep and grind their teeth when they find out they cannot enter God's Kingdom. When the third resurrection arrives, all humanity will have had the opportunity to be saved; everyone's ultimate destiny will have been eternally set. It will be too late for anyone who, after coming to the knowledge of the truth, sins willfully and thereby rejects eternal life. Those who reject God and His way of life must then reap the consequences of that decision—the second death following the third resurrection to judgment.
4. Does God care whether everyone perishes? II Peter 3:9; I Timothy 2:3-4; Hebrews 10:26-31.
Comment : God does not want anyone to perish but desires all to come to repentance. However, to those who refuse His mercy and trample the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ as if it were vile, He is a God of justice and righteous judgment. These, who leave Him with no alternative but to put them to death for eternity, will know what He earnestly desired them to achieve.
5. Does every human being eventually have to choose between God's way of life and Satan's? Genesis 2:15-17; Deuteronomy 30:19; Romans 6:23.
Comment : Since God made man with the power of volition, man must choose either His way or Satan's way, either life or death. All humans must die at least once (Hebrews 9:27). From Abel's time until now, even the righteous have suffered the first death, from which God will resurrect them to eternal life. But the second death is final.
6. What will God do after the second death of the wicked? II Peter 3:7-13; Revelation 21:1-5; Matthew 5:5; Psalm 37:9, 11, 29.
Comment : After describing the destruction of the wicked, the apostle John immediately mentions God creating a new heaven and earth where only righteousness dwells. He then gives a glowing account of the peace, happiness, beauty and glory that will characterize this new earth where the righteous will eternally dwell.
7. What will ultimately happen to the wicked? Daniel 12:2; Malachi 4:1. Where will the righteous be? Daniel 12:3; Malachi 4:2-3; Matthew 22:30; Luke 20:34-38.
Comment : Daniel and Malachi speak of the wicked who will awake in a resurrection to shame and everlasting contempt, having rejected eternal life, while the righteous will awake to everlasting life as glorified sons of God, living and serving their Creator eternally. In the third and final resurrection, the wicked will be made to see that they have scoffed at God's priceless offer for salvation. As punishment and as an eternal example, they will be annihilated in the second death.
The doctrine of the resurrection is the truth that the God who resurrected Jesus Christ will also raise all the dead to life. For some, that resurrection will be to eternal life. For others, it will be to physical life with an opportunity for eternal life. For a few, it will be a resurrection to the second death. If we obey, serve God the Father and Jesus Christ, and overcome our sins, we have a wonderful future ahead of us: We will inherit all things.