The Meaning of Revelation 20:5 Explained

Revelation 20:5

KJV: But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.

YLT: and the rest of the dead did not live again till the thousand years may be finished; this is the first rising again.

Darby: the rest of the dead did not live till the thousand years had been completed. This is the first resurrection.

ASV: The rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years should be finished. This is the first resurrection.

What does Revelation 20:5 Mean?

Study Notes

first resurrection
The "resurrection of the just" is mentioned in Luke 14:13 ; Luke 14:14 and the resurrection of "life" distinguished from the "resurrection unto damnation" in John 5:29 . We here learn for the first time what interval of time separates these two resurrections.
raised
Resurrection, Summary:
(1) The resurrection of the dead was believed by the patriarchs Genesis 22:5 ; Hebrews 11:19 ; Job 19:25-27 and revealed through the prophets; Isaiah 26:19 ; Daniel 12:2 ; Daniel 12:13 ; Hosea 13:14 and miracles of the dead restored to life are recorded in the O.T.; 2 Kings 4:32-35 ; 2 Kings 13:21 .
(2) Jesus Christ restored life to the dead Matthew 9:25 ; Luke 7:12-15 ; John 11:43 ; John 11:44 and predicted His own resurrection; John 10:18 ; Luke 24:1-8 .
(3) A resurrection of bodies followed the resurrection of Christ Matthew 27:52 ; Matthew 27:53 and the apostles raised the dead; Acts 9:36-41 ; Acts 20:9 ; Acts 20:10 .
(4) Two resurrections are yet future, which are inclusive of "all that are in the graves" John 5:28 . These are distinguished as "of life"; 1 Corinthians 15:22 ; 1 Corinthians 15:23 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 ; Revelation 20:4 and "of judgment"; John 5:28 ; John 5:29 ; Revelation 20:11-13 . They are separated by a period of one thousand years Revelation 20:5 . The "first resurrection," that "unto life," will occur at the second coming of Christ 1 Corinthians 15:23 the saints of the O.T. and church ages meeting Him in the air 1 Thessalonians 4:16 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:17 while the martyrs of the tribulation, who also have part in the resurrection Revelation 20:4 are raised at the end of the great tribulation.
(5) The mortal body will be related to the resurrection body as grain sown is related to the harvest 1 Corinthians 15:37 ; 1 Corinthians 15:38 that body will be incorruptible, glorious, powerful, and spiritual 1 Corinthians 15:42-44 ; 1 Corinthians 15:49 .
(6) The bodies of living believers will, at the same time, be instantaneously changed 1 Corinthians 15:50-53 ; Philippians 3:20 ; Philippians 3:21 . This "change" of the living, and resurrection of the dead in Christ, is called the "redemption of the body"; Romans 8:23 ; Ephesians 1:13 ; Ephesians 1:14 .
(7) After the thousand years the "resurrection unto judgment" John 5:29 occurs. The resurrection-body of the wicked dead is not described. They are judged according to their works, and cast into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:7-15 .

Verse Meaning

The "rest of the dead" evidently refers to the wicked who are physically dead whom God will raise at the end of the Millennium ( Revelation 20:12).
The "first" resurrection refers to the first of the two resurrections John spoke of in the context ( Revelation 20:4-6; Revelation 20:12). This includes the resurrection of the Tribulation martyrs at the second coming of Christ ( Revelation 20:4) and other believers resurrected at the same time (i.e, Old Testament saints; Daniel 12:2; John 5:28; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:23). The second resurrection in this passage is the resurrection of the wicked at the end of the Millennium ( Revelation 20:12-13). [1] Other names for this "first" resurrection are the resurrection of the just ( Luke 14:14; Acts 24:15), the resurrection from among the dead ( Luke 20:34-36), the resurrection of life ( John 5:29), and the resurrection to everlasting life ( Daniel 12:2). This verse clearly opposes the view that there is only one resurrection at the end of history, which amillennialists and postmillennialists prefer.
The "first" resurrection cannot be first in temporal sequence since God has already resurrected Jesus Christ ( Matthew 27:52-53). Furthermore, Christians will have experienced resurrection by this time ( 1 Thessalonians 4:16). Various groups of the righteous will experience resurrection at various times. However, God will raise all the wicked at one time, namely, at the end of the Millennium ( Revelation 20:12-13).
The times when God will raise the righteous are as follows. First, He raised Jesus Christ who is the firstfruits of those who sleep ( 1 Corinthians 15:23). Second, He raised some saints near Jerusalem shortly after Jesus" resurrection ( Matthew 27:52-53), though this was probably a temporary resuscitation like that of Lazarus. Third, He will raise Christians at the Rapture ( 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Fourth, He will raise the two witnesses during the Great Tribulation ( Revelation 11:3; Revelation 11:11). Fifth, He will raise the Tribulation martyrs at the beginning of the Millennium ( Revelation 20:4-5). Sixth, He will raise the Old Testament saints at the same time ( Isaiah 26:19-21; Ezekiel 37:12-14; Daniel 12:2-4). Seventh, He will apparently raise the saints who die during the Millennium (cf. Revelation 20:12-13). The idea that the resurrection of believers takes place in stages also finds support in 1 Corinthians 15:23. Many premillennialists believe that the first resurrection refers to the resurrection of the righteous and the second resurrection refers to the resurrection of the unrighteous. [2]
Historic amillennialists usually take the first resurrection as a reference to spiritual regeneration (i.e, salvation). They believe the second resurrection describes a general physical resurrection of all the dead at the end of time. This view takes "resurrection" figuratively in one case but literally in the other.
"If, in a passage where two resurrections are mentioned ... the first resurrection may be understood to mean spiritual rising with Christ, while the second means literal rising from the grave;-then there is an end of all significance in language, and Scripture is wiped out as a definite testimony to any thing." [3]

Context Summary

Revelation 20:1-6 - The Millennial Reign
In the preceding chapter the beast and the false prophet are depicted as meeting their punishment in the lake of fire. In this, the devil, death, and Hades are consigned to a similar fate. The imagery is apparently drawn from that fearful tragedy which left so deep an impression on the ancient world. See Genesis 14:10; Genesis 19:24; Judges 1:7. The last reference is especially interesting, because there the fate of the cities of the plain is quoted as an example of eternal fire. May it be ours to participate in the first resurrection!
Let our loins be girded and our lamps trimmed, that we may be found of Christ in peace, at our posts, and prepare to enter with Him into the bridal feast. This is a more solemn and critical consideration than the majority of Christians seem to suppose. In fellowship with their Lord, His people are to exert in a godly direction the same kind of influence over the affairs of men, as the rulers of darkness in an ungodly sense now exercise. Thank God, every morning brings that blessed day nearer. [source]

Chapter Summary: Revelation 20

1  Satan bound for a thousand years
6  The first resurrection;
7  Satan let loose again
8  Gog and Magog
10  The demons cast into the lake of fire and brimstone
11  The last and general resurrection

Greek Commentary for Revelation 20:5

The rest of the dead [οι λοιποι των νεκρων]
“All except the martyrs, both the righteous and the unrighteous” (Beckwith). But some take this to mean only the wicked. [source]
Lived not until the thousand years should be finished [ουκ εζησαν αχρι τελεστηι τα χιλια ετη]
See Revelation 20:4 for the items here. “To infer from this statement, as many expositors have done, that the εζησαν — ezēsan of Revelation 20:4 must be understood of bodily resuscitation, is to interpret apocalyptic prophecy by methods of exegesis which are proper to ordinary narrative” (Swete). I sympathize wholly with that comment and confess my own ignorance therefore as to the meaning of the symbolism without any predilections for post-millennialism or premillennialism.This is the first resurrection (αυτη η αναστασις η πρωτη — hautē hē anastasis hē prōtē). Scholars differ as to the genuineness of this phrase. Accepting it as genuine, Swete applies it to “the return of the martyrs and confessors to life at the beginning of the Thousand Years.” According to this view the first resurrection is a special incident in the present life before the Parousia. It has no parallel with 1 Thessalonians 4:16, where the dead in Christ are raised before those living are changed. Some think that John here pictures the “Regeneration” (παλινγενεσια — palingenesia) of Matthew 19:28 and the “Restoration” (αποκαταστασις — apokatastasis) of Acts 3:21. No effort is here made to solve this problem, save to call attention to the general judgment out of the books in Revelation 20:12 and to the general resurrection in John 5:29; Acts 24:15. [source]
This is the first resurrection [αυτη η αναστασις η πρωτη]
Scholars differ as to the genuineness of this phrase. Accepting it as genuine, Swete applies it to “the return of the martyrs and confessors to life at the beginning of the Thousand Years.” According to this view the first resurrection is a special incident in the present life before the Parousia. It has no parallel with 1 Thessalonians 4:16, where the dead in Christ are raised before those living are changed. Some think that John here pictures the “Regeneration” (παλινγενεσια — palingenesia) of Matthew 19:28 and the “Restoration” (αποκαταστασις — apokatastasis) of Acts 3:21. No effort is here made to solve this problem, save to call attention to the general judgment out of the books in Revelation 20:12 and to the general resurrection in John 5:29; Acts 24:15. [source]
Lived - again [ἀνέζησαν]
Read ἔζησαν livedas in Revelation 20:4 [source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for Revelation 20:5

Revelation 20:4 They lived []
Equivalent to lived again. Compare Revelation 20:5. [source]
Revelation 2:25 Hold fast [κρατησατε]
First aorist active imperative of κρατεω — krateō either ingressive (get a grip on) or constative (hold on as a single decisive effort). See present imperative κρατει — kratei in Revelation 3:11 (keep on holding).Till I come (αχρι ου αν ηχω — achri hou an hēxō). Indefinite temporal clause with αχρι ου — achri hou (until which time) with modal αν — an and either the future active indicative or the first aorist active subjunctive of ηκω — hēkō (usual idiom with αχρι — achri in Revelation as in Revelation 7:3; Revelation 15:8; Revelation 20:3, Revelation 20:5). [source]
Revelation 2:25 Till I come [αχρι ου αν ηχω]
Indefinite temporal clause with αχρι ου — achri hou (until which time) with modal αν — an and either the future active indicative or the first aorist active subjunctive of ηκω — hēkō (usual idiom with αχρι — achri in Revelation as in Revelation 7:3; Revelation 15:8; Revelation 20:3, Revelation 20:5). [source]
Revelation 20:3 Shut it and sealed it [εκλεισεν και εσπραγισεν]
Effective first aorists active indicative of κλειω — kleiō and σπραγιζω — sphragizō he should deceive no more Negative purpose clause with ινα μη — hina mē and the first aorist active subjunctive of πλαναω — planaō Glorious relief after the strain of the previous visions of conflict. Small wonder that Christians today cherish this blessed hope whatever the actual meaning may be.Until should be finished (αχρι τελεστηι — achri telesthēi). Temporal clause of future purpose with αχρι — achri (as a conjunction like εως — heōs) and the first aorist passive subjunctive of τελεω — teleō Repeated in Revelation 20:5 and see αχρι — achri and the subjunctive in Revelation 7:3; Revelation 15:8.He must be loosed Sad necessity, alas, with δει — dei and the first aorist passive infinitive of λυω — luō a little time Accusative of time. Whatever the thousand years means, it is here said plainly that after it is over the devil will again have power on earth “for a little time.” [source]
Revelation 20:3 Until should be finished [αχρι τελεστηι]
Temporal clause of future purpose with αχρι — achri (as a conjunction like εως — heōs) and the first aorist passive subjunctive of τελεω — teleō Repeated in Revelation 20:5 and see αχρι — achri and the subjunctive in Revelation 7:3; Revelation 15:8. [source]
Revelation 20:4 Judgment was given unto them [κριμα εδοτη αυτοις]
First aorist passive of διδωμι — didōmi Picture of the heavenly court of assizes.The souls (τας πσυχας — tas psuchas). Accusative after ειδον — eidon at the beginning of the verse.Of them that had been beheaded Genitive of the articular perfect passive participle of πελεκιζω — pelekizō old word (from πελεκυς — pelekus an axe, the traditional instrument for execution in republican Rome, but later supplanted by the sword), to cut off with an axe, here only in N.T. See Revelation 6:9; Revelation 18:24; Revelation 19:2 for previous mention of these martyrs for the witness of Jesus (Revelation 1:9; Revelation 12:17; Revelation 19:10). Others also besides martyrs shared in Christ‘s victory, those who refused to worship the beast or wear his mark as in Revelation 13:15; Revelation 14:9.; Revelation 16:2; Revelation 19:20.And they lived (και εζησαν — kai ezēsan). First aorist active indicative of ζαω — zaō If the ingressive aorist, it means “came to life” or “lived again” as in Revelation 2:8 and so as to Revelation 20:5. If it is the constative aorist here and in Revelation 20:5, then it could mean increased spiritual life. See John 5:21-29 for the double sense of life and death (now literal, now spiritual) precisely as we have the second death in Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:6, Revelation 20:14.And reigned with Christ Same use of the first aorist active indicative of βασιλευω — basileuō but more clearly constative. Beckwith and Swete take this to apply solely to the martyrs, the martyrs‘ reign with Christ. [source]
Revelation 20:4 Of them that had been beheaded [των πεπελεκισμενων]
Genitive of the articular perfect passive participle of πελεκιζω — pelekizō old word (from πελεκυς — pelekus an axe, the traditional instrument for execution in republican Rome, but later supplanted by the sword), to cut off with an axe, here only in N.T. See Revelation 6:9; Revelation 18:24; Revelation 19:2 for previous mention of these martyrs for the witness of Jesus (Revelation 1:9; Revelation 12:17; Revelation 19:10). Others also besides martyrs shared in Christ‘s victory, those who refused to worship the beast or wear his mark as in Revelation 13:15; Revelation 14:9.; Revelation 16:2; Revelation 19:20.And they lived (και εζησαν — kai ezēsan). First aorist active indicative of ζαω — zaō If the ingressive aorist, it means “came to life” or “lived again” as in Revelation 2:8 and so as to Revelation 20:5. If it is the constative aorist here and in Revelation 20:5, then it could mean increased spiritual life. See John 5:21-29 for the double sense of life and death (now literal, now spiritual) precisely as we have the second death in Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:6, Revelation 20:14.And reigned with Christ Same use of the first aorist active indicative of βασιλευω — basileuō but more clearly constative. Beckwith and Swete take this to apply solely to the martyrs, the martyrs‘ reign with Christ. [source]
Revelation 20:4 And they lived [και εζησαν]
First aorist active indicative of ζαω — zaō If the ingressive aorist, it means “came to life” or “lived again” as in Revelation 2:8 and so as to Revelation 20:5. If it is the constative aorist here and in Revelation 20:5, then it could mean increased spiritual life. See John 5:21-29 for the double sense of life and death (now literal, now spiritual) precisely as we have the second death in Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:6, Revelation 20:14. [source]
Revelation 20:9 They went up [ανεβησαν]
Second aorist active indicative of αναβαινω — anabainō a return to the manner of the seer as in Revelation 20:4, Revelation 20:5. [source]
Revelation 7:3 Till we shall have sealed [αχρι σπραγισωμεν]
Temporal clause of indefinite action for the future with αχρι — achri (sometimes αχρις ου — achris hou or αχρις ου αν — achris hou an) and the aorist subjunctive as in Revelation 15:8; Revelation 20:3, Revelation 20:5 or the future indicative (Revelation 17:7), usually with the notion of ascent (up to) rather than extent like μεχρι — mechri (modal) sometimes occurs, but it is not necessary. But there is no futurum exactum idea in the aorist subjunctive, simply “till we seal,” not “till we shall have sealed.”Upon their foreheads (επι των μετωπων — epi tōn metōpōn). From Ezekiel 9:4. Old word (μετα ωπς — metaτους δουλους του τεου — ōps after the eye, above the eye, the space above or between the eyes), in N.T. only in the Apocalypse (Revelation 7:3; Revelation 9:4; Revelation 13:16; Revelation 14:1, Revelation 14:9; Revelation 17:5; Revelation 20:4; Revelation 22:4). For “the servants of God” (tous doulous tou theou) who are to be thus marked linked with angels in the service of God see Revelation 1:1; Revelation 2:20; Revelation 19:2, Revelation 19:5; Revelation 22:3, Revelation 22:6. [source]

What do the individual words in Revelation 20:5 mean?

The rest of the dead not lived again until shall have been completed the thousand years This [is] the resurrection - first
Οἱ λοιποὶ τῶν νεκρῶν οὐκ ἔζησαν ἄχρι τελεσθῇ τὰ χίλια ἔτη αὕτη ἀνάστασις πρώτη

λοιποὶ  rest 
Parse: Adjective, Nominative Masculine Plural
Root: λοιπός  
Sense: remaining, the rest.
τῶν  of  the 
Parse: Article, Genitive Masculine Plural
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
νεκρῶν  dead 
Parse: Adjective, Genitive Masculine Plural
Root: νεκρός  
Sense: properly.
ἔζησαν  lived  again 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Indicative Active, 3rd Person Plural
Root: ζάω  
Sense: to live, breathe, be among the living (not lifeless, not dead).
ἄχρι  until 
Parse: Conjunction
Root: ἄχρι  
Sense: until, unto, etc.
τελεσθῇ  shall  have  been  completed 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Subjunctive Passive, 3rd Person Singular
Root: τελέω  
Sense: to bring to a close, to finish, to end.
χίλια  thousand 
Parse: Adjective, Nominative Neuter Plural
Root: χίλιοι  
Sense: a thousand.
ἔτη  years 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Neuter Plural
Root: ἔτος  
Sense: year.
αὕτη  This  [is] 
Parse: Demonstrative Pronoun, Nominative Feminine Singular
Root: οὗτος  
Sense: this.
ἀνάστασις  resurrection 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Feminine Singular
Root: ἀνάστασις  
Sense: a raising up, rising (e.
  - 
Parse: Article, Nominative Feminine Singular
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
πρώτη  first 
Parse: Adjective, Nominative Feminine Singular
Root: πρῶτος  
Sense: first in time or place.