Two Raising of the Dead
No one text clearly states how many general resurrections will occur overall, but some together mention two. For example, there's Revelation 20:4-6, already partially cited above:
"And I saw thrones; and they that sat upon them, and judgment was given to them; and I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the Word of God, and those who did not worship the beast, or his image, and did not receive the mark in their foreheads or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were completed). This is the first resurrection. "Blessed and holy is the one who has part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power. But they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years." (Revelation 20:4-6)
Jesus collaborates the above verses when he said:
"Do not wonder at this, for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves shall hear His voice. And shall come forth: those who have practiced good unto a resurrection of life, and those who have practiced evil unto a resurrection of judgment." (John 5:28-29) Revelation 20's description of the great white throne judgment can be seen as starting with the second resurrection in verses 11-12 before moving on to the third raising of the dead in verses 13-15. Texts like these and Daniel 12:2 decisively prove at least two general resurrections will come about. To show three will happen requires sifting carefully through the Bible to gather evidence. By comparing and contrasting how different texts describe various raising of the dead and the fate of the wicked, we are inevitably led to conclude that one physical resurrection will allow people to still get saved, but another one will not. The raising of the dead described in the second line of Daniel 12:2 cannot be the same as the one Ezekiel saw in vision in the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37), which places the resurrected Israel into the land of Israel, not the lake of fire. Therefore, another resurrection will happen after the one right at the end of the millennium.
Believers receive eternal life
Indisputably, one resurrection takes place when the millennium begins, as Christ returns, which Paul explains in 1Corinthians.
"Behold, I show you a mystery: we shall not all fall asleep, but we shall all be changed, In an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." (1Corinthians 15:51-52)
However, this raising of the dead to spirit life plainly differs from the resurrection to physical life that comes about after the millennium ends. In Ezekiel's vision (chapter 37) it discusses one that is to mortal, physical life, not eternal, spiritual life, for "the whole house of Israel" mostly died unsaved. Most of them (cf. 1 Kings 19:14, 18) were unfaithful idolaters worshipping false gods using statues. Ezekiel's vision shows, by its graphic description of the reconstruction of human bodies, that many will be brought back to a physical, not spiritual, life.
"The hand of the LORD was on me, and brought me by the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of a valley, and it was full of bones . . ."
"Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones, "Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews on you, and will bring up flesh on you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live. And you shall know that I am the LORD."
"And He (God) said to me (Ezekiel), "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel."" (Ezekiel 37:1, 5-6, 11)
Will those not converted have a chance?
During the great white throne judgment to come, the book of life is still open, not closed, to those just resurrected (Revelation 20:12), which indicates this precedes the third resurrection apparently described in verse 13. Likewise, these unfaithful Israelites will not be automatically fed into the Lake of Fire after their resurrection, but instead brought into the land of Israel (Ezekiel 37:12), as already noted above. Why should this be a surprise? Did not Paul declare that all Israel would be saved (Romans 11:26)? How was God going to make that even possible if everyone is judged right when they die?
Ezekiel's vision is one of the main supports for the teaching that the ignorant dead, such as the billions of ignorant Chinese and East Indian peasants down through the millennia who never heard of Christ, will not just be tossed into the lake of fire without getting an opportunity to be saved. is not the view that there is a second resurrection so much more compassionate than the classical Calvinist view that the vast majority of the world's population is born doomed to be thrown into an eternally burning hell fire that they cannot do anything by their own free will to escape?
A second chance
Would two resurrections be enough to take care of both the saved and unsaved dead? By inference it can be shown the second resurrection does not include the unsaved dead who knowingly rejected God during their first life. He does not give second chances to the called but to unrepentant wicked.
"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and who personally obtained the heavenly gift, and became partakers of the Holy Spirit, And who have tasted the good Word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they have fallen away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing that they are crucifying the Son of God for themselves, and are publicly holding Him in contempt." (Hebrews 6:4-6)
Would these people rise up and receive another chance, like ignorant, unsaved dead? Obviously not. They execution will be by being totally burned up, not eternally tortured. This is a much more compassionate view than the traditional Christian teaching of eternal hell.
One hundred years
Some have taught that this period will be a hundred years long for the unsaved but ignorant dead to make up their minds after rising up at the end of the millennium. This belief derives from a verse in Isaiah.
"There will not be an infant who lives but a few days, nor an old man that has not filled his days, for the child will die a hundred years old; but the sinner who is a hundred years old shall be accursed." (Isaiah 65:20)
This Scripture is not being yanked out of context, for verse 17 says,
"For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth. And the former things will not be remembered, nor come to mind." (Isaiah 65:17)
Do Revelation 21 verses 1 and 4 allude back to this text? The two general resurrection theory now runs into a major problem: Will the wicked come back to life at the same time as the ignorant dead? Will the former get to hang around for one hundred years while the latter figure out whether or not to go God's way? What nonsense! Instead, they are raised to be executed by burning instead (Revelation 20:15). Notice carefully yet again the wording of Revelation 20 verses 5 and 15.
"(But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were completed.)" (Revelation 20:5)
"And if anyone was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire." (verse 15)
Since this wording does not say exactly when after the millennium they will come to life again, this verse does not contradict the eschatological view that they will be split up into two classes separated by a hundred years.
What happens to those who do not repent?
The defiantly wicked dead will receive an execution by fire and will live no more.
"For behold, the day is coming, burning like a consuming oven; and all the proud, and every doer of wickedness, shall be stubble. And the day that comes shall burn them up," says the LORD of hosts, "and will leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you who fear My name, the Sun of Righteousness shall arise, and healing will be in His wings. And you shall go out and grow up like calves of the stall.
"And you shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I am preparing," says the LORD of hosts." (Malachi 4:1-3)
When separating the sheep from the goats, Jesus declared:
"Then shall He also say to those on the left, 'Depart from Me, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire, which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.'" (Matthew 25:41)
Christ also explained that the branches that did not abide in Him as the vine would be burned.
"If anyone does not dwell in Me, he is cast out as a branch, and is dried up; and men gather them and cast them into a fire, and they are burned." (John 15:6)
Jesus warned his listeners to fear God because He could cast the disobedient into fiery Gehenna.
"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but do not have power to destroy the life; rather, fear Him Who has the power to destroy both life and body in Gehenna." (Matthew 10:28)
Christ even went so far as to metaphorically advise people that it was better to sacrifice a body part and be saved rather than keep it and die.
"And if your hand shall cause you to offend, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life maimed than to go with two hands into the unquenchable fire of Gehenna, . . . And if your foot shall cause you to offend, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life lame than to be cast with two feet into the unquenchable fire of Gehenna" (Mark 9:43, 45)
These warnings to the wicked about being burned are not merely for those uncalled and resurrected at the millennium's end, but they are also for those now called (John 6:44, 65; Matthew 13:11-16) but ultimately unfaithful. Furthermore, if ALL the dead are going to be resurrected during the Great White Throne judgment (see Revelation 20:5, 12-13), the previously called and unrepentant wicked are included as well. Everyone will be resurrected; no general class will be left out, such as here (apparently) the unrepentant wicked.
"And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and the grave gave up the dead that were in them; and they were judged individually, according to their works." (Revelation 20:13) Since the second resurrection cannot sensibly include the defiant, knowing, and ultimately unrepentant wicked, the teaching of three periods when the dead are raised is well founded. Everyone will die the first death, except for those few true Christians who become instantly spirit when Jesus returns. The second death results from the casting of the unrepentant wicked into the lake of fire after coming to life again. Who then will be in the Lake of Fire? It must include the incorrigibly sinful.
Will the wicked by EXECUTED?
There cannot be multiple "lakes of fire" since God deals with all the wicked all at once when he burns up the present physical earth (2 Peter 3:10) to make way for the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21:1). Both the incorrigible who died before Jesus returned and the previously ignorant who came up in the second resurrection and who later reject God during the hundred years mentioned in Isaiah 65:20 are executed at the same time, after the great white throne judgment. There will be only one time of execution, not two, after both the millennium and the hundred years have ended. The second death will be inflicted on all the ultimately unrepentant at the same time.
Why do the incorrigibly wicked have to be executed? They will not be left dead for all eternity after their first deaths, since nobody should think "they got away with it." Furthermore, nobody could suffer a second death (Revelation 2:11; 21:8; 20:6, 14) if he or she did not have a second life to begin with! Each man and woman gets only once chance at salvation, whether it is during their first or second lives. Hence, it is a dangerous thing to be called now since the chance of falling away is greater for us than for those who'll live during and after the millennium.
Plainly there will be three resurrections, not just two. This conclusion can be deduced from the Biblical evidence after carefully examining what it says about life after death and the fate of the wicked. What is the practical spiritual lesson of the third resurrection for Christians trying to live Godly lives today? Scripture warns us that punishment by fire will come our way if we are so careless with our salvation as to completely and irretrievably fall away.
"For if we willfully go on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of inevitable judgment and of fierce fire, which will devour the adversaries of God." (Hebrews 10:26-27)