Q. A post-trib believer is demanding Scriptural proof from me that the first resurrection really is divided into several phases. If you can lead me to the Bible passages I need to share with him, I’d be most grateful.
A. The Bible teaches a span of time between the beginning of the First Resurrection and it’s conclusion exceeding 2000 years, and requiring three different events.
Paul wrote that Jesus was the first fruits of the first resurrection, and Matt 27:53 shows that others came out of their tombs at the same time. Rev. 20:4-6 describes its end, involving those who will have been martyred for their faith during the Great Tribulation, following the Lord’s return to Earth.
In between are two other mentions of a resurrection event, one in 1 Thes. 4:16-18 and the other in 1 Cor 15:51-53. The one in 1 Thes 4 says it will take place concurrent with the Rapture of the Church under circumstances that can not be compared to Rev. 20:4-6 so it has to have occurred sometime prior. 1 Thes. 4:16 is for all the dead in Christ and takes place at the same time as living believers are raptured. Rev. 20:4-6 is specific to martyrs from the Great Tribulation and does not include the rapture of the living. It also takes place after the 2nd Coming, too late for the rapture.
Also in 1 Cor. 15:51 Paul said the announcement of this resurrection was something that had been a secret until then. But Job 19:25-27 and Daniel 12:1-2 both describe a resurrection at the end of the age and were written centuries earlier, so again Paul had to have been speaking of a different event.
Put it all together and it’s clear that the First Resurrection began with Jesus, continues at the Rapture and is completed after the 2nd Coming with the Tribulation Martyrs (Rev. 20:4) and Old Testament believers (Daniel 12:1-2).