Will Only the Tribulation Martyrs
Qualify for the First Resurrection?
Q. The Book of Revelation says that the only believers around in the Millennium are those that survive the tribulation along with the first to be raised from the dead (the First Resurrection)...only those that were killed in the Great Tribulation. The rest of the dead only rise at the final judgement. The New Jerusalem only comes after the final judgement, with new heavens and earth...not in the millenium. This means that the first resurrection is not, as you teach, for the 'best' or Torah-obedeient believers but simply for those who died during the Tribulation. That is clearly what Revelation teaches:
This is the only scripture in the whole of the Protestant cannon that refers to the first resurrection. And it says only those that died for the testimony of Yah'shua (Jesus) help Him during the millenium as first resurrection [saints] and the rest of the saints only rise at the day of judgement (with the day of judgement only being after the final rebellion, when Satan decieves the leftover nations)."
"And I saw a malak (angel) coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.
"I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Yah'shua (Jesus) and because of the word of Elohim (God). They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Messiah a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and qadosh (holy, set-apart) are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be cohenim (priests) of Elohim (God) and of Messiah and will reign with Him for a thousand years" (Rev.20:1-6).
A. There are a number of different questions/issues tied up in this assessment so let's take them one at a time.
We'll start with the "New Jerusalem" of which there are two passages. The first is referenced in connection with the judgment of the Philadelphia qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones):
This passage tells us that the spiritual overcomers will become, in the allegorical language of this vision, a symbolic "pillar" in the Temple of Yahweh which is in the future New Jerusalem which will not be built on earth but descend from its place of construction, in Heaven, to the earth. We are not told in this passage when this will happen, only that it will include those of that ancient Philadelphian congregation who overcome - who are the elect. It is a city for overcomers that includes a group of believers who died around two millennia before the end-time event described in the second passage:
"I (Yah'shua/Jesus) am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of My Elohim (God). Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of My Elohim (God) and the name of the city of My Elohim (God), the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from My Elohim (God); and I will also write on him My new name" (Rev.3:11-12, NIV).
This particular passage is, as you correctly observe, pointing to the post-millenial era but there is also a sense in which the Qadosh (Holy, Set-Apart) City is already here, and has been since the Besorah (Gospel) was first preached and souls started making teshuvah (repenting), surrendering to Yah'shua (Jesus) and getting regenerated (born-again):
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Qadosh (Holy, Set-Apart) City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from Elohim (God), prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband" (Rev.21:1-2, NIV).
Those who are thus transformed have already come to or arrived at or dwell in this City:
"...the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother" (Gal 4:26, NIV).
Thus the New Jerusalem, the Qadosh (Holy, Set-Apart) City, the Heavenly Jerusalem acquires new citizens in real time in the spiritual dimension. That is why Paul, speaking to the Galatians, said that spiritually-speaking the earthly Jerusalem, which he compares to the slave woman and calls it the City of Hagar, is of no spiritual importance to believers any more. What exclusively matters to true Christians/Messianics, is therefore the Invisible City, and we are not to be pre-occupied with the City of Bondage any longer, as so many Christians and Messianic Zionists sadly are.
"But you (saved ones) have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living Elohim (God). You have come to thousands upon thousands of malakim (angels) in joyful assembly, to the Assembly of the Firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to Elohim (God), the Judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Yah'shua (Jesus) the mediator of a B'rit Chadashah (New Covenant), and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better davar (word) than the blood of Abel" (Heb.12:22-24, NIV).
Therefore there is an aspect - the most important aspect - in which the New Jerusalem transends time and space. We live in it already and share it with those redeemed who went before us.
Now we must go to the period of time 1,000 years earlier - to the time of Messiah's return - and to the scripture you quote which describes. The first observation we must make concerns at the very minimum one group that "had been beheaded because of their testimony about Yah'shua (Jesus) and because of the word of Elohim (God)". Second, that they had "not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands". Third, "they came to life (were resurrected) and reigned with Messiah a thousand years".
Thus from these verses we conclude that those faithful martyrs murdered during the Great Tribulation will rule (with Messiah) over the survivors. (Who the survivors are we will examine in a moment). If we are to believe Revelation 20:5 as it stands in most of our English Bibles, then your thesis must be granted:
There are two problems with this simplistic overview of events and who will, and will not, be a part of them:
"(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection" (Rev.20:5, NRSV).
With this scribal addition removed, the field is left open for the other scriptures, which contradict it, to have full expression. This immediately disqualifies one of the theories gaining ground in the Messianic Movement which maintains that Yah'shua (Jesus) does not return until the end of the Millennium. Moreover, the fact that only one passage uses the expression "first resurrection" does not exclude other resurrection passages that clearly point to it without calling it by name. We have already seen how, for example, the "new Jerusalem" is known by at least two other names.
- 1. These aren't the only people involved. There are two other categories of person we must include in this equation:
- a. Those believers who survive the holocaust that will be the Great Tribulation will be instantly resurrected and ascend to meet the returning Messiah in the air along with the hosts of those believers marked for millennial rule and return with both for the Thousand Years:
"For the Master himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of Elohim (God), and the dead in Messiah will rise (be resurrected) first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Master in the air. And so we will be with the Master le-olam-va-ed ("forever", in reality, "aeon-long", i.e. for the duration of the millennial aeon)" (1 Thess.4:16-17, NIV).
- b. Those resurrected will, I maintain, be both those beheaded in the Great Tribulation for their emunah (faith) as well as the righteous qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones) from all ages (both those martyred and those overcomers like the Philadelphians) since the very beginning, whose spirits are in heaven awaiting this their day of their resurrection prior to the first day of the Millennium represented by the festival of Shemini Atseret.
- 2. The material in parentheses/brackets is a scribal addition.
This sentence does not appear in the earlier Aramaic texts and is so correctly omitted from the AENT and HRV, the only two serious translations of the Aramaic Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) . The Aramaic Peshitta does not include it. Thus v.5 should correctly read:
"And this is the first resurrection" (Rev.20:5, Aramaic Peshitta New Testament Translation, Messianic Version, Janet M.Magiera).
We have to ask ourselves why the martyrs of the Great Tribulation alone are worthy of resurrection and rulership at this time. What about all the other martyrs over the millennia? Why even have a Millennium if being a part of it is not highly desirable? There is nothing to be gained in remaining a disembodied spirit for a thousand years since resurrection is the great object and end of our emunah (faith) - we are not complete without our glorified physical bodies.
What of the Apostle John who, though exiled, was not martyred but died a natural death? Is he less worthy? There is much to be said for the argument that it is harder to live and suffer for Messiah than it is to die for Him whilst by no means depreciating the latter since it is the ultimate sacrifice.
The scribal addition, about which the Book of Revelation strictly warns against, is a spanner in the theological works that contributes only to unnecessary and unhelpful confusion:
Now the words, "the rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended" are not the problem - it is where they are inserted that is the problem. For truly the rest of the dead are resurrected at the end of the Millennium - the disobedient believers and the unbelievers - but this second class body does not include the elect who happened not to be martyred in the Great Tribulation...like John the Apostle (who wasn't martyred at all) or his fellow apostles, or some of the sub-apostolic fathers like Polycarp (who were...but 2,000 years 'too late').
"I (John) warn everyone who hears the words of this prophecy of this book (the Book of Revelation ): if anyone adds to them, Elohim (God) will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, Elohim (God) will take away his share in the tree of life and in the Qadosh (Holy, Set-Apart) City, which are described in this book" (Rev.22:18-19, ESV).
A final word about the 'New Jerusalem'. Since in its primary essence this City is spiritual and we, as regenerated believers, are a part of it, any time its members come to earth, that City - or part of it - is coming to earth too. Just before the inauguration of the Millennium, Yah'shua (Jesus) returns with the faithful qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones), the children of the First Resurrection. This would include all the martrys of the Great Tribulation (not excluding others, no thanks to the invasive scribal insertion). As they descend in the air to earth, they are met by the children of the First Resurrection who survived the Tribulation and who were resurrected instantly (1 Cor.15:42). Both parties meet in the air, and then return to the earth where Yah'shua (Jesus) is installed as Regent. This also is the New Jerusalem coming to earth.
Whether this event will be accompanied by buildings to replace the old City of Hagar is open to debate. The symbology of the Book of Revelation's description of the City, where Yahweh is its "Temple" and the qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones) are its "pillars" - a City where there is perpetual day and no night - does seem to suggest that this is not primarily a 'city' in the physical sense. Given its vast dimensions, it would stick out of the earth to such an extent as to render the planet unstable.
I mention all of this merely to suggest that the New Jerusalem may come (and leave before the earth being dissolved prior to glorification) more than once in different ways. It would not therefore be amiss to say that the New Jerusalem 'comes' with Yah'shua (Jesus) and the qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones) of the First Resurrection both at the beginning of the Millennium and at the conclusion of it when heaven and earth are renewed.
So I am grateful you brought this question up as it has contributed to yet another resolution of faulty manuscripts and the end-time restoration of all things.
 Messianic versions which unfortunately use the Greek texts - JNT/CJB, ISRV, Halleluyah Scriptures, RSTNE, MRC, OJB, etc - include the scribal comment).
 This is not, as Protestantism claims, a reference to the whole Bible. When John penned these words he had not yet written his three epistles which, according to the Protestant dogma, would disqualify them and condemn John for 'adding' to the Bible as it would later become. Chronologically the Johannine epistles were the last books of the Bible.
Comments from Readers
 "That's how I currently see things..." (AP, USA, 17 March 2017)
There is actually much debate whether the the first part of Rev 20:5 was an addition or not. A few examples that show this:
"The most exhaustive study of the text of the book of Revelation is found in Concerning the Text of the Apocalypse, by H. C. Hoskier, published by Bernard Quaritch, Ltd., London, 1929, a two-volume set of 1,400 pages, in which every verse, and sometimes practically every word in each verse, is critically examined as to its authority and the correct reading. In this work the Sinaitic manuscript and seventy other manuscripts, including Vatican 1160, are cited as authority for the Greek text rendered, "The rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years should be finished."" (https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1936/08/is-revelation-205-spurious)
However, we can choose to err on the side of caution, and for our discussion, not include Rev 20:5a as a part of what we consider Scripturally binding.
"[the] confidence that Revelation 20:5a is "spurious" is not shared by most critical scholars. The passage is not omitted in the critical editions of Nestle-Aland 27, Westcott-Hort UBS 4, and Tischendorf 8, and it is rendered in nearly all translations, including the NWT (which does note in a footnote the textual disparity). It is interesting that a web search on "Revelation 20:5" and "interpolation" mostly turns up old Watchtower and later Bible Student (i..e Dawn Bible Students) material.
"The critical judgment may however err in excessive conservativism, a reluctance to judge a passage spurious if it does not meet a certain burden of proof, and many probable interpolations are not detectable by text-critical methods and thus are present in critical editions."
These then will be the verses we are considering, without Rev 20:5a:
As you pointed out, yes, sometimes events in Scripture may be described in different (sometimes less direct) ways. And no, just because only one passage uses the expression "first resurrection", it does not automatically exclude other resurrection passages from pointing to this event.
"4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6 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." (Rev 20 :4-6)
However, we should be careful however not infer or project teachings onto a certain phrase or event if there is not the Scriptural backing to support it. So this is where I would ask - what passages can you give that would clearly refer to the first resurrection and also supports that anyone else will be resurrected for the millennium - especially as a promise to a special group of believers?
In the context of our discussion, the only time the 'first resurrection' is directly referred to in the Protestant Cannon is Rev 20:5-6, and in the context of Rev 20:1-6, refers to those who had died for Yah'shua's (Jesus') testimony in the tribulation, who would not bow to the Beast described through the book of Revelation, and of this group (along with the faithful that survived and were transfigured) being called the first resurrection. There is no evidence in our remaining verses that anyone other than those faithful tribulations martyrs are resurrected to rule during the Millennium. To imply there is, when there is no evidence of that in Revelation or elsewhere in Scripture - that would be going beyond and adding on to what Revelation teaches, and that is what Yah'shua (Jesus) warns against in Rev. 22:18-19 .
So how can one authoritatively teach that there will be some believers who will be favored or considered above others that will be resurrected to rule in the Millennium and call that group of believers 'the first resurrection'? Since it cannot be found in Revelation, where in Scripture can you find a clear reference or promise that anyone else except the faithful martyrs will be resurrected at the beginning or during the Millennium (and especially that it will be a group of special believers, while others will be required to wait)?
What we do find is that Scripture promises to all who are truly saved and will overcome a part and place in the New Jerusalem.
Yes, Scripture does say those who are truly saved and overcoming are of the New Jerusalem now (in a spiritual aspect), just as much as Scripture also says we have been raised from the dead now (in a spiritual aspect), and yes, when we are saved and walk in the Ruach (Spirit), there is a spiritual sense that the New Jerusalem and Resurrection comes into the world.
However, the focus of Revelation 20-21 is the physical resurrection of the dead, and the judgment of all after they have been physically resurrected, just and unjust. It's after the Judgment that Death and Hades is destroyed (Rev 20:14), that we are given the promise of a new physical Heavens and Earth (as Elohim promises to make "all things new" in Rev 21:5), before He again gives a promise of a New Jerusalem. The context of Rev 20-21 shows this is the promise of a physical New Jerusalem - a dwelling place for Elohim and His physically resurrected people, where "death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things [will already] have passed away [at or after the completion of the Judgment]." (Rev 21:4).
This promise for every true and faithful believer is repeated in Rev 21:5-8, Rev 21:14.
You quoted 1 Thess.4:16-17 :
STRONGS NT 165 (http://biblehub.com/greek/165.htm) notes that except for 'age', ??? (aeon) can also (depending on context) be correctly translated as "a human lifetime (in Homer, Herodotus, Pindar, Tragic poets), life itself (Homer Iliad 5, 685 ?? ??? ????? ???? etc.)."
"For the Master himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of Elohim (God), and the dead in Messiah will rise (be resurrected) first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Master in the air. And so we will be with the Master le-olam-va-ed (literally in reality, "aeon-long")" (1 Thess.4:16-17, NIV).
STRONGS also notes that it may be correctly translated as "an unbroken age, perpetuity of time, eternity", and that ??? (aeon) was used to denote these concepts not only in Scriptural manuscripts, but in the Greek writings of "Plato, Tim., p. 37 d. 38 a.; Tim. Locr., p. 97 d. (quoted below); Plutarch, others." and "With this signification the Hebrew and rabbinical idea of the word ????? [olam] (of which in the Sept. ???? is the equivalent) combines in the Biblical and ecclesiastical writings Hence, in the N. T. used"
The specific word used in this text - ai?nios, an adjective, derived from aeon, literally 'age-long' (http://biblehub.com/greek/166.htm)- is translated by both Strong's Concordance and NAS Exhaustive Concordance as "eternal, unending", while Thayer's Greek Lexicon(STRONGS NT 166: ???????) states it can possibly translated as: "without beginning or end, that which always has been and always will be", "without beginning", "without end, never to cease. Everlasting". HELPS Word-studies notes it is "properly", "age-like" ("like-an-age"), i.e. an "age-characteristic" (the quality describing a particular age)"
With this in mind, the 'aeon-long' used in 1 Thess.4:16-17 does not automatically have to refer to the period or 'age' of the Millenium, which has a defined duration and end. Rather, 'aeon-long' can validly refer to the new 'age' or aeon of Yahweh's and Yah'shua's rule of the New Heaven's and Earth, living amidst Their resurrected people in the physical New Jerusalem. Indeed, Revelation actually not only supports that this is the 'aeon' or age being referred to, but also gives a description of what that age or aeon without end will be characterised by:
Regarding the question if only the faithful martyrs of the tribulation are worthy of being resurrected during the Millennium, or why the rest of believers would be required to wait before they were resurrected - can we really use our own judgment as a measuring stick? Doesn't Yah'shua warn in His parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Mat 20:1-16) that His just judgment might sometimes seem unfair to our flesh? Do we dare judge Father Yah if He choses to do something that may seem initially unfair to us? So our measuring stick of true teaching here cannot be of what our initial reaction would be of what might be fair or not - the question is what is the clear evidence of Scripture, and if any clear evidence can be given from Scripture than.
"No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of Elohim [God] and of the Lamb will be in it, and His servants will worship him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they [the resurrected redeemed] will reign forever and ever [to the ages of the ages]." (Rev 22:3-5)
A personal thought, and not as anything authoritative…
Would it be desirable to be resurrected and to reign with Yah'shua in the Millennium? Yes! But the context of the book of Revelation is warning believers of what is to come, to strengthen and encourage those who will be called to endure through those terrible times with the promises of what the will receive if they are faithful. The warning of Tribulation suffering and possible martyrdom is accompanied with the promise of millennium resurrection to those who will faithfully endure.
Would it be wrong if Father Yahweh choses to bless in a special [way] those who remain faithful and had endure through what Yah'shua said will be a "great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short." (Mat 24:21-22) - a greater tribulation than any other generation has known? Would it be unjust if those who who suffered yet endured in Him through that unique and terrible tribulation were also blessed in a unique and special way, in being able serve Him as he begins His physical reign in the (still fallen) world during the Millennium rest ?
Can we complain, when we have been promised that we will also reign with Him eternally in the New Jerusalem, when the heavens and earth have will have been fully restored, in a Kingdom that cannot be corrupted, of perfect peace, where His reign will be to the ages of ages - an age without end?
Again though, these are only some of my own personal thoughts and NOT a measuring stick. The question is and can only be: what is the evidence from Scripture? (19 March 2017)
1. Hebraic vs. Greek: I'll not re-enter a discussion on the editor's insertion at Revelation 20:5 because what you believe about this is determined by what you believe about Hebraic or Greek primacy and we in this ministry have declared for Hebraic primacy based on what we consider to be the overwhelming evidence that most, if not all, the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) were written in Hebrew (e.g. Matthew) or Aramaic. Since, by your own statement, your position does not depend on this insertion, we will pass it by.
2. Olam/Aeon: Likewise, though for different reasons, I will not address the question of olam and aeon here either as it is covered in considerable detail in my sermon, The Fire of Yahweh: Olam, Aeons and Eternity which, though it principally relates to the question of the nature and duration of hell, nevertheless gives, in my view, a sufficient overview of the subject without getting bogged down in the speculative and unhelpful etymological minutae that inevitably arise out of a pagan language like Greek which was not the source language that John's Apocalypse was written down in.
The more important issue (connecting back to #1) is what language the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) were written in and to thereafter focus on the etymology and word usage of the receptor Aramaic. For those unfamiliar with this controversy I recommend, by way of an introduction, a careful examination of the well-presented Introduction to the Hebraic-Roots Version (HRV) of the New Testament.
Once it is established (and that is not difficult to do) that the 'Greek New Testament' is, in reality, an imperfect translation of the Aramaic Messianic Scriptures using a language with a pagan etymology, so many of the discordant and contradictory readings in the Greek that have lead to strange theological interpretations in the Western Church may quickly be eliminated - the Greek, incidentally, that is the bedrock of the various compilations and editions, two of which you cite, viz. Nestlé-Aland and Westcott-Hort, get critical Torah details wrong, reason enough to tread carefully and cautiously with them.
Though Greek scholarship, because of the shere volume of NT manuscripts we possess, is by no means unimportant, as far as the serious Bible scholar occupied with translation accuracy is concerned, it is definitely of secondary importance, in the same way that English translations of the NT (like the KJV) are tertiary. This ministry always insists on the primacy of the Hebraic originals and recommends, amongst others, Andrew Gabriel Roth's Ruach Qadim: Aramaic Origins of the New Testament (Tushiyah Press: 2005), his Aramaic English New Testament (Netsari Press LLC: 2012) and James Trimm's Hebraic-Roots Version of the Scriptures (SANJ, Hurst, TX: 2004) .
So I am going to give an etymological discussion of aeon (or eon) a wide birth too so that we don't come to cross-purposes arguing from different manuscript loci. Instead we will focus on what the Scriptures say, the local, wider and general context of Scripture, and the moral aspect.
3. The Moral Aspect: I have to disagree with your implied contention that there isn't a question of morality in our respective positions. Our trust or emunah (faith) in Yahweh depends to a very great deal on what tiqveh or hope a doctrine gives us because of what it tells us about the justice of Elohim (God). This does not mean we can simply fall back on a subjective analysis - too much false doctrine has arisen historically, and especially in modern times, on the basis of existentialist claims. At the same time we cannot simply make this a brain exercise either. If we start cutting off our heart from an understanding of the Scriptures we shall give no place for the operation of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) and end up with a sterile and heartless gospel like the Jehovah's Witnesses. Nowhere is a combined approach - careful Scriptural exegesis and a sense of the true heart of Elohim (God) - more important than, for example:
for what we believe about these positions very much defines what kind of a heart we have - whether it is after the heart of Yahweh or of the Devil.
- 1. The question of whether hell is eternal or aeon-long; and
- 2. The question of whether we have a real choice to be saved (Arminianism) or whether it is determined without our consent (Calvinism)
So I will not be deflected by the moral aspect of this issue which I will devote some time to, as I would to a discussion of Calvinism or 'eternal torment', and come back to the Scriptures afterwards (without implying there is any order or hierachy of importance in my choosing to deal with the moral aspect first).
Firstly, let us look at your position analytically. Who are the resurrection qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones) in your system:
However you cut it, this is what your strict down-the-line interpretation of the Scrptures you cite, and the way you interpret them, forces you to declare and you defend your position morally by implying that mine might seem "unfair to our flesh", pre-judging a contrary position as 'fleshy' and 'not spiritual' and therefore unmeritorious as a serious position.
- 1. Those who were martyred during the 7-year (or 3˝-year, depending on your position) Great Tribulation immediately prior to Messiah's Return;
- 2. Only those believers who were beheaded or decapitated (ISIS-style with knife/sword/axe or by guillotine) thus excluding believers who were killed or executed at this time by:
- a. Strangulation;
- b. Asphixiation;
- c. Slitting of the arteries;
- d. Shooting;
- e. Electrocution;
- f. Torture;
- g. Hanging;
- h. Poisoning;
- i. Bludgeoning;
- f. Drowning;
- g. Being sawn in half;
- h. Stabbing;
- i. Stoning;
- j. Run over by a vehicle; etc. etc. (you can think of dozens more)
- 3. Those believers who survive the Tribulation and are instantly resurrected; and
- 4. Non-believers who survive (some would dispute there are any unbelieving survivors).
I happen to believe that Elohim (God) is both fair and just. You would have us believe, by your strict interpretation of Scripture (since your position is based on literally interpreting selected Scripture) that of all those who died most horribly for Yah'shua (Jesus), having the same ahavah (love) for Him unto death, the same dedication and faith, that only those who were killed in a particular way (by beheading) are worthy of the first resurrection?
You admit (and I agree with you) that it is "desirable to be resurrected and to reign with Yah'shua in the Millennium" because the Scriptures plainly say so, so why would not all the faithul witnesses killed during the Tribulation by strangulation, asphixiation, shooting, electrocution, hanging, stoning etc., not be found equally worthy of the same rewards as those who are decapitated or beheaded? The fellowship of those justified by their emunah (faith) unto death is echad (one) and cannot be separated, as the Davar (Word) testifies:
And yet your heartless and unjust model would - if you take the Scriptures that you quote literally - require Yahweh to say to all of these who sought "a better resurrection":
"[they] were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented -- of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth" (Heb.11:35-38, NKJV).
No, no, no, and a thousand times no! This is as morally repugnant, and as unjust, as Calvinism, and why I unhestitatingly reject it as a perverion of Yahweh's ahavah (love) because it isn't ahavah (love). It's satanic! And, no, I refute any insinuation that my judgment is made on the basis of the 'flesh'. To claim that only the headless faithful-ones are worthy of the Millennium as opposed to a faithful-one who has been tortured to death over many weeks or months is monstrous and who has died...or, worse, in my view, has survived in a vegitative state. It offends my whole concept of righteousness that Yahweh has taught me painstakingly through the Bible and the witness of the Ruach (Spirit) over decades as a talmid (disciple).
"Sorry, chaps, you weren't beheaded. Though I know you sought a better resurrection and longed to be a part of the highly desirable Millennium which all my children have longed for, and were willing to die for Me for, and that some of you did, you are going to have to wait a thousand more years as disembodied spirits, separated from your decapitated loved ones, some of whom may be your spouses, children and other family members, who are enjoying the blessedness of being with My Son on earth in resurrected, glorified bodies which you have longed for for so long, you kept your heads on your shoulders and will have to wait. Don't ask me why I have chosen to do it this way or why it seems to be unfair, because that's just your flesh speaking."
But let us, for the sake of argument, pretend that the word "beheaded" is actually a metaphor for "martyred", then we could include all who died for Messiah in the Great Tribulation, "not accepting deliverance". Would that be any fairer? What of those who, having made exactly the same sacrifices in earlier ages, who have been waiting all this time as disembodied spirits for the return of Messiah? What if we deleted the word "beheaded" altogether or assumed that it refers to all who have suffered for Messiah, who were willing to die is called upon to do so, but whom Yahweh preserved? Why should they be excluded? I pose these questions for the intelligent mind and tender heart to ponder over.
To my knowledge, "beheaded" has never been understood to mean anything else other than "decapitation" so really we are back to where we started before I hypothetically expanded the term to include all martyrs from all ages, along with those willing to be martyrs if called upon to be do but who were prevented by Yahweh from dying. We could go into the question of Sovereignty and volition but that would take us into the whole Arminian-Calvinistic controversy.
4. The Scriptural Witness: I have puposefully left this to the end to make the reader aware that other issues need to be taken into consideration. As the saying goes, "the eyes are useless when the mind is blind" and it is no secret that people read the Scriptures differently based on a number of preconceptions. Words that we are not expecting can so easily be mentally blocked. Let's take an extract from one of the key passages you quoted:
I highlight two words, "also" and "and" - how many categories of believer do you see in that passage? I read three:
"Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Yah'shua (Jesus) and for the Davar Elohim (Word of God), and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years" (Rev.20:4-5a).
There are differences of opinion about this amongst Evangelical scholars - here is how the Amplified Version renders it:
- 1. Those with "the authority to judge";
- 2. "The souls of those who had been beheaded"; and
- 3. "Those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands".
These three (or two, depending on how you read the text) are not necessarily one single category of person (though they might be) who simultaneously became judges because were beheaded because they had refused to worship the beast though obviously some who were beheaded might be called to be rulers and some who were beheaded might have been because they refused to receive the mark. I quote the version of the Bible which you used. The Aramaic actually seems to indicate two categories of person:
"Then I saw thrones, and sitting on them were those to whom authority to act as judged and pass sentence was entrusted. And I saw [in addition] the souls of those who had been slain with axes [beheaded] for their witnessing to Yah'shua (Jesus) and [for preaching and testifying] for the Davar Elohim (Word of God), and had refused to pay homage to the best or his statue and had not accepted his mark or permitted it to be stamped on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived again, and ruled with Christ, the Messiah, a thousand years...This is the first resurrection. Blessed (happy, to be envied and qadosh (holy, set-apart) - spiritually whole, of unimpaired innocence and proved virtue - is the person who takes part (shares) in the first resurrection! Over them the second death exerts no power or authority, but they shall be ministers to Elohim (God) and of Christ, the Messiah, and they shall rule along with Him a thousand years" (Rev.20:4-6, AmpV).
Here, using the Aramaic syntax, all are rulers but not all were beheaded:
"And I saw thrones, and (persons) sat on them, and judgment was given to them, and [judgment was given] to the souls that were beheaded for the testimony of Y'shua and for the Word of Elohim: and these are they who had not worshipped the beast of prey nor its image; neither had they received the mark upon their forehead or on their hand; and they lived and they reigned with their Mashiyach those thousand years. This is the first resurrection" (Rev.20:4-6, AENT).
The Peshitta reads:
- 1. A class of rulers whose background is not given (they could be the surviving believers and/or those from previous ages); and
- 2. The class of rulers who were beheaded because they refused to worhip the Beast or receive his Mark.
Herein lies a major theological problem for your model. In verse 6 it reads:
"And I saw seats (thrones) and they sat on them and judgment was given judgment. And [I saw] the souls, those who were cut off because of their testimony of Yeshue and because of the word of Alaha (Elohim) and those who did not worship the creature nor his image, neither received the mark on their foreheads or on their hands, and they lived and reigned with Meshikha (Messiah) [for] on thousand years. And this is the first resurrection. Blessed and qadosh (holy, set-apart) is he who is part of the first resurrection. And on them the second death has no authority, but they will be priests of Alaha (Elohim) and Meshikha and reign with Him [for] one thousand years" (Rev.20:4-6, Peshitta, trans. Janet M.Magiera).
Very clearly, those who are part of the first resurrection are, unlike those of the second, "blessed and qadosh (holy, set-apart)" or, as the Amplified Version explains, are "spiritually whole, of unimpaired innocence and proved virtue". And unlike those of the second resurrection, "the second death has no authority" over them. This means, using your model, only those who were beheaded during the Great Tribulation for refusing to worship the Beast and receive his mark, plus those who survived and were instantaneously resurrected, are to be counted as "blessed and qadosh (holy, set-apart)" or "spiritually whole, of unimpaired innocence and proved virtue" and only these will not be subject to the "second death". Thus the first resurrection will exclude the original eleven apostles, all of whom but one (John) were martyred, John the Baptist and indeed all of Yahweh's qadosh (holy, set-apart) men and women who went before, all of whom must partake of the second death because they were not "spiritually whole, of unimpaired innocence and proved virtue" since this (first) resurrection is highly desirable and sought after and in your model they aren't numbered there.
"Blessed and qadosh (holy, set-apart) is he who is part of the first resurrection. And on them the second death has no authority, but they will be priests of Alaha (Elohim) and Meshikha and reign with Him [for] one thousand years" (v.6).
Obviously those who partake of the second resurrection, not being qadosh (holy, set-apart) and who must therefore partake of the second death (having all the dross burned off them by fire - 1 Cor.3:12), are of a different, inferior, order(s) to those of the first resurrection, otherwise such qualifying descriptives would not have been given with which to clearly identify the kind believers Yahweh considers worthy to enjoy the Millennium. To disqualify all the other valiant witnesses and martyrs from previous ages, including the apostles, is therefore preposterous.
No, no, and again no, I say again, because justice and fairness is outraged. I do not believe in the elohim (god) of this model any more than I believe in the elohim (god) of Calvinism.
Why, then, does Revelation 20 emphasise - apparently exclusively (ignoring the 'other rulers' for a moment - who presumably must likewise be "spiritually whole, of unimpaired innocence and proved virtue" even though they weren't martyred to merit such a shared privilege with the martyrs) - the martyrs of the Great Tribulation? Because the imagery of this chapter and surrounding material is all about life and death. Let's try and get an overview of the nature of the narrative and what is being conveyed to us.
At the end of history we meet the same Messiah who has already appeared in history as the loving servant of Elohim (God) who gave Himself for others. Using the imagary of war and conquest, the meaning of the life and death of Yah'shua (Jesus) assumed a new dimension. As the life and martyrdom of Messiah was the primary imagery of His First Coming, now the imagery is transferred to those marginalised, harrassed and oppressed believers who did not gather out of the world system, for whatever reason, and who died within it. One group of believers - the martyred ones - is singled out to illustrate their final Triump in Messiah. They are the ones contrasted with the agents of the Beast System to show that the life violently snatched from them is but transientory - they will be raised within seven years or sooner, and will join, as the rulers, those unnamed rulers who, waiting in Heaven for their resurrection, return with Messiah and join them.
Part of the problem we face with the Book of Revelation, which is highly symbolic, is, as I have mentioned previously, translating events onto a time scale. John's pictorial language is very hard to follow which is probably why there are so many diverse interpretations of the Apocalypse. Positing a 'rapture' has been one way (however unsatisfactory, in my view) to deal with the scriptural data for it would have us believe that another category worthy of the first resurrection were 'whisked' away ahead of the Tribulation.
At this undoubted time of the "restoration of all things" (Acts 3:21) the leading lights in the 'Remnant Movement' are still struggling over the Book of Revelation, with most trying to see contemporary events in its last chapters. I don't think we are anywhere near the actual events described and as you will see from our writings we have consistently taught that we are at a penultimate judgment which will resemble events described for the Final Judgment in the Book of Revelation, but no more.
Though the martyrs are highlighted in the material around Revelation 20 the book is not only about them. They are highlighted because they will, as it were, 'in the news' at the time - the rest will be elss visible. It describes a universal struggle between good and evil that cultimates in a universal victory, 'fulfilling', 'filling-up' or 'completing' the initating events of the First Coming. The Book of Revelation is so universal, in fact, that it includes not only an account of the oppressed (and their fate) but also of the oppressors (and their fate). The defeated Enemy is not only human but also the transcendant, spiritual powers of the 'dark side' who usurped and dominated Yahweh's creation for so long. Yah'shua (Jesus) judges by means of a "sword" that comes out of His mouth - meaning, His powerful Davar (Word), which both judges and redeems. Similar imagery of a "rod of iron" is also used (Rev.19:15; cp. Ps.2:9).
How much of the Book of Revelation is symbolic and how much is objective, propositional and chronological? How are we to understand John's eschatological language? Are we to understand the Millennium as merely a segment in a chronological series of events that may be plotted on a calendar or chart, as so many have tried to do, or is it primarily an image of a theological nature to be uniquely communicated by its own pictorial medium? Probably no one picture of the end-time can do justice to the eschatological message John proclaims, so that the message of each picture impresses itself on the imagination of the interpreter.
I suspect that much of the meaning of the Book of Revelation will remain hidden until the actual events unfold, both to ensure that Satan does not know what is happening and that Yahweh's people lean on the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) and not mere intellect. If this is the way Yahweh used the details of the First Coming to be hidden from both the dark supernatural powers and those human beings walking in darkness, why would He not do the same thing in respect of the Second Coming? There are so many theories and expectations out there, all contradicting one another; and as those pre-Messianic Judahites sought for physical liberation from the oppressive occupying power of Rome, might not the Messianic believers of our time likelwise be seeking for temporal deliverance through Presidents and Potentates? Be prepared for some surprises.
Revelation 20 is one of the most controversial chapters of the whole Bible, most especially the first six verses. Christians and Messianics still disagree as to what the "thousand years" actually are.There are three main views:
It is possible, therefore, to look at Revelation 20 through any of these three lenses and arrive at radically different conclusions. There are also pre- and postmillenialists who view the Millennium symbolically like the Amillenialists, as if that is not already complicated enough. And then there are those, like the Preterists, believe we are in the Kingdom Age that will essentially go on for ever. Many of these, like the Jehovah's Witnesses, deny the physical resurrection.
- 1. Premillennialism which teaches Yah'shua (Jesus) will return before (pre) the millennium who think that this thousand years (from the Latin, millennium) is a future time of great peace and justice, which is usually thought to be a literal 1,000 year period that will begin when Messiah returns to reign on earth as a physically present King, and which will include resurrected believers - that has consistently been the position of this ministry for the past 30 years and we have always taught that those of this 'first' resurrection are the faithful commandment-keeping believers, including those who were martyred during the Great Tribulation, who will reign with Him;
- 2. Postmillennialism which teaches that Messiah will return after (post) the millennial period. These believers, who espouse the 'Kingdom Now' doctrine, believe that before Messiah returns, the Besorah (Gospel) will spread and triumph so powerfully that societies will be transformed and peace and justice will reign upon the earth for either a literal 1,000 years or for a very long period of time after which Yah'shua (Jesus) will return for the Final Judgment; and
- 3. Amillennialism which teaches a non-millennial view and thinks that this 'thousand years' is the same period as this present 'church age' (counting back to the first Messianic Shavu'ot or 'Pentecost' (actually about 2,000 years ago) and that there will be no future 'millennium' before Messiah returns for the Final Judgment. Roman Catholics are of this belief.
Seasoned Remnant scriptorians understand these problems which is probably why there is such diversity of opinion among them too though I think most are Premillennialists like ourselves.
This is why Messianic Evangelicals have had to seek revelation on this subject for clarity quite early on in our ministry. It is central to our little book, The Final Gathering. The belief that the First Resurrection will consist of all the obedient faithful, from all generations, who will enjoy the benefits of the Millennium is a central theme that run through all our writings and teachings. The key qualification is not that you were a martyr but that you were an overcomer who was willing to lay down his or her life for Messiah whether one is called upon to do so or not. And clearly, there will be a lot of martyrs during the Great Tribulation who will refuse to compromise their emunah (faith) with the Anti-Messiah (Antichrist) System. One of our Five Commissions is to gather the Israelite Tribes and relocate them to places of safety beyond the reach of the Beast System.
To ask us, then, to believe in and accept your model, would be to fundamentally deny the revelation and work of 30 years' of ministry. To accept or promote such a model would be to run against the whole motion and thrust of this work. It outrages ahavah (love) and justice and fails, in my opinion, to grasp the bigger picture. It runs so contrary to what we as Messianic Evangelicals work for and will continue working for. Many others outside this ministry have independently come to the same conclusions as we have which we take to be an added confirmation and testimony that we are correct. (21 March 2017)
 Recommendation of these translations and books for critical study does not necessarily mean the endorsement all the authors' exegeses or theological opinions.
This page was created on 17 March 2017
Last updated on 21 March 2017
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