How Many Resurrections Will There Be?

Some advocates of the millennial scheme suggest there will be two resurrections separated by a one-thousand-year reign of Jesus on earth. What does God’s Word have to say on this subject?
By Wayne Jackson | Christian Courier

Though the Bible is explicit regarding the second coming of Christ and the universal resurrection of the dead, some millennialists allege that there will be two separate resurrections.

One writer dogmatically expresses the matter: “There is no general resurrection, at which all the dead will arise at the same time” (Thiessen, 452). Again: “There are two phases to His coming. Thus we find that He will come into the air, and that some things will take place in the air; and we find that He will come to the earth, and that some other things will take place on the earth” (449).

This brand of millennialism argues that the first resurrection and the second resurrection are separated by a span of one thousand years (i.e., Christ’s alleged earthly millennial reign; 495).

In this article, we cannot discuss every aspect of the various views of millennialism. Instead, we will focus on the matter of the bodily resurrection.

Is the resurrection a unified event involving both the righteous and the unrighteous? Or are there two resurrections separated by a span of one thousand years? Consider several biblical texts on this theme.

Daniel 12:2

And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

There is not the slightest hint that the resurrection of those who enter “everlasting life” and those destined for “shame and everlasting contempt” are separated by an era of one thousand years. Such a conclusion is eisegesis rather than exegesis (i.e., reading an alien meaning into the text rather than extracting the true meaning from the passage). As noted scholar H. C. Leupold asked: “Does this verse teach a partial resurrection of the dead? We answer, ‘No’” (529).

Some have attempted to argue otherwise based on the term “many.” The suggestion is that the prophet did not specify that all would be raised. Instead, only “many” would. However, Baldwin has noted that the Hebrew (rabbim, “many”) is used in numerous Old Testament texts as the equivalent of “all.” See, for example, Isaiah 2:2–3, where the “all” becomes “many” (cf. Rom. 5:12, 15; Mt. 26:28; 2 Cor. 5:14).

Matthew 25:1–13

This is one of Christ’s parables. The primary thrust of the story is about a wedding to which various ones had been invited. Some had prepared adequately for the bridegroom’s coming, while others had not before they all “slept.” When the bridegroom (i.e., Christ) came, those who had prepared went in to the feast. Those unprepared were shut out (v. 10 b). It is clear that: (1) All those who slept (i.e., they had died) were then awakened simultaneously when the bridegroom arrived (cf. Dan. 12:2, hinting at the resurrection). (2) Depending on their preparation, all were positively or negatively rewarded. This suggests appropriate judgments for both classes at the same time.

Matthew 25:31–46

Shortly before his death, Christ gave a discourse that included a discussion of his return to judge the world. In this presentation, the following facts are apparent. (1) The judgment will involve a universal gathering of “all the nations” (v. 32). (2) The righteous will receive their reward (v. 34), “then” at the same event, the wicked will be condemned to “depart” (v. 41). (3) Both groups are assigned their eternal destinies simultaneously (v. 46). There is no room for a thousand-year interval between the two events.

John 5:28–29

Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.

Bernard observed: “This is a plain statement of a general bodily resurrection, both of good and bad” (1.245). A. T. Robertson expressed the same sentiment (5.87). Lenski called attention to “the important and decisive” term “all,” which, he says, “is the foundation for one resurrection, and that occurring on the last day” (397). “Hour” is not the equivalent of one thousand years! Leupold and Kostenberger (442) suggest that this text may be grounded in Daniel 12:2.

Acts 17:30–31

The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commands men that they should all everywhere repent: inasmuch as he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he has ordained; whereof he has given assurance unto all men, in that he has raised him from the dead.

This passage clearly teaches: (1) The whole of accountable humanity is commanded to repent. (2) A “day” has been appointed when the entire “world” will be judged. (3) As noted above (cf. Mt. 25:31 ff), this will occur when the “Son of man shall come in his glory”—at the second coming. Paul’s language utterly excludes the multiple comings and judgments of millennialism.

Acts 24:15

In his address before Felix, Paul declared that “there shall be a resurrection both of the just and the unjust” (Acts 24:15). The apostle did not use a plural form, “resurrections,” as though the two would be entirely separate resurrections spanned by 1,000 years. Instead, the one resurrection would include both groups, as the abovementioned texts have emphasized.

1 Corinthians 3:12–15

But if any man builds on the foundation gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, stubble; each man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it is revealed in fire; and the fire itself shall prove each man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work shall abide which he built thereon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as through fire.

Here, Paul instructs us that we should diligently cultivate those we convert to Christ to be of the highest quality—gold, silver, costly stones—and not inferior materials like wood, hay, and stubble. Paul states that in the final reckoning, “the day,” obviously the Judgment Day, will reveal the qualitative difference. Since this judgment will take place when Christ returns (cf. Mt. 25:31 ff), it is clear there will not be two resurrections and two judgments but a unified terminal event.

2 Corinthians 5:10

In this passage written to the Corinthians, Paul declared: “For we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether it be good or bad.” Note these essential elements. (1) “All” suggests a universal assembly. (2) The assembly is for “judgment,” with Christ presiding as Judge (cf. Acts 17:31 b, the one “raised from the dead”). (3) The judgment assembly embraces both the “good” and the “bad.” See also Revelation 20:11–15.

1 Thessalonians 4:13–18

Millennialists attempt to separate the “resurrection” of 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 from the general resurrection, which will involve all the dead. The mistake they make is failing to understand the purpose of the message in this letter. In this epistle, the apostle had already mentioned the Lord’s return (1 Thess. 1:10; 2:19; 3:13), but these saints were confused about that issue. They were anxious to know the fate of their Christian loved ones who had already died.

Paul was happy to inform them that these souls would accompany the Lord as he returned to initiate the resurrection of the body, thus transporting new bodies and souls back to heaven. It was not his purpose to address all elements of the final resurrection. He was dealing with one specific concern of Christians. This context cannot be isolated from numerous other passages (such as those mentioned above) and made to stand alone as a “saints only” resurrection.


The premillennial theory is significantly erroneous. From the notion that the church was a mere afterthought in the plan of redemption, to the restoration of national Israel, to a one thousand-year earthly reign with a restored Mosaic system, it is a dogma riddled with error.

For further study of this topic, see: Examining Premillennialism

  • Baldwin, Joyce. 1978. Daniel. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity.
  • Bernard, J. H. 1928. Critical and Exegetical Commentary on John. Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark.
  • Kostenberger, John. 2007. John. "Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament_. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, eds. Grand Rapids: Baker.
  • Lenski, R. C. H. 2001. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of St. John. Peabody: Hendrickson.
  • Leupold, H. C. 1969. Exposition of Daniel. Grand Rapids: Baker.
  • Robertson, A. T. 1932. Word Pictures in the New Testament. Nashville: Broadman.
  • Thiessen, H. C. 1949. Lectures in Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.