Revelation 20:4-7 is mysterious and to many confusing.
Revelation 20:4 speaks of Christians who are killed during the great tribulation, a period of forty-two months that precede the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. These are all who do not worship the beast and his image, which include all who refuse to receive the mark of the beast. These Christians will live and reign with Christ for a thousand years, some here on earth (ref. Jude 1:14-15) while others in heaven (ref. Revelation 7:13-17).
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.Revelation 20:4
Revelation 20:5 describes “the rest of the dead” and mentions “the first resurrection”.
But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.Revelation 20:5
And then Revelation 20:6 explains that those who were among the first resurrection shall reign with Christ a thousand years.
Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.Revelation 20:6
To be clear, the said thousand years is the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ, because Revelation 20:7 explains that Satan shall be loosed out of his prison of hell after that one thousand years.
And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,Revelation 20:7
Now, if you were to read verses 4 to 6 without an understanding of the whole picture, you would think that there is a fallacy, a mistake in logic that makes this part of Revelation 20 nonsense. What I mean is this: Verse 4 says, one group of the dead will be resurrected and they will reign with Christ for one thousand years. Then, verse 5 says, the rest of the dead, meaning another group, will be resurrected after the one thousand years. This resurrection is described as “the first resurrection”. Then, according to verse 6, this other group will also reign with Christ during the same one thousand years.
Yet, we know that the word of God is truth (ref. 1 Thessalonians 2:13) and God is not the author of confusion (ref. 1 Corinthians 14:33), and so there is no mistake and the aforementioned verses only seem to be nonsense. When considered carefully, it actually all makes sense. Let me explain.
To begin with, the “first” or “foremost” resurrection, in Greek “protos”, does not refer to the resurrection of the dead at the time of the seventh trumpet, because the first to ever be resurrected was the Son of man himself, something that happened over two thousand years ago, and the next to be resurrected will be the two witnesses per Revelation 11:11-12, and then after that, the seventh trumpet will sound, which is the reaping of the harvest (ref. Revelation 14:15-16). The reaping will include the dead in Christ as well as a certain number in Christ who are alive at the time of the seventh trumpet (ref. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52). The reaping is popularly known as “the rapture”.
By “the first resurrection” the Bible means “the resurrection of life”. This contrasts “the resurrection of damnation”, which must be the second resurrection. These two resurrections, the one of life and the other of damnation, will happen on the last day, shortly before the time of the great white throne, which is well after the one thousand year reign of Jesus Christ.
And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves 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 damnation.John 5:27-29
These two resurrections will happen around the time the earth and the heaven pass away (ref. Revelation 20:11), when the sun will burn up everything (ref. 2 Peter 3:10).
And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.Revelation 20:11-14
At this time, a “new Jerusalem” will be created (ref. Revelation 21) for all who are “saved” – that is to say, for all of the final bride of Christ.
Thus, for Christians generally, there will be two resurrections of the dead. One will happen at the time of the seventh trumpet, which is the day of Christ; and the other will happen around the time of the great white throne and the new Jerusalem.
The former will resurrect all Christians who are killed during the great tribulation, the final forty-two months before the day of Christ. The latter will resurrect “the rest”, meaning all others who are Christ’s, which includes everyone in the book of life that died in the past, and every Christian that dies before the final forty-two months, and also every mortal Christian and Jew that will die during the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ, and after that.
Everyone in the latter resurrection will go to heaven, a place that exists beyond the space-time continuum. Remember, Einstein figured out that time is the fourth dimension, inextricably connected to the three dimensions of space, which are height, length and width.
From heaven, some individuals will return to earth together with Jesus Christ at the time of the Second Coming. This is why the text reads “from the uttermost part of heaven”, as well as “from the uttermost part of the earth”.
And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together this elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.Mark 13:26-27
Accordingly, all who are Jesus Christ’s – his chosen from the present and the past – will be together with him on the day of the Second Coming.
This explains Revelation 20:4-7.