Firstborn of the Dead

Jesus is the Firstborn of the Dead, a reference to his resurrection and the basis for the future resurrection of the saints – Revelation 1:5. 

The vision of the “Son of Man” is preceded by “greetings” from the “One who is, who was, and who is coming,” from the “seven spirits before His Throne,” and from Jesus, the “faithful witness” and the “firstborn of the dead.” In his death, he gave faithful testimony, and God vindicated his sacrifice when He raise him from the dead.

And his resurrection is the precedent for the future resurrection of his followers, and thus, he is called the “firstborn of the dead,” the first of many over whom the “second death has no power” – (Psalm 89:27-37, Revelation 1:4-6).

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul applies the same idea to the past resurrection of Jesus and the future resurrection of his followers at his “arrival,” though he uses the term “first fruit” instead of “firstborn” - (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).

Likewise, in writing to the Colossians, he calls Jesus the “head of the church, the beginning, the firstborn from the dead.” This stresses that he is the first of a great many who will be raised from the dead at the end of the age – (Colossians 1:18).

SUPREME SOVEREIGN

His position as the “ruler of the kings of the earth” is based on his faithful “witness” in death, and on his consequent resurrection. It is “by his blood” that the saints are “loosed from their sins and made a kingdom of priests.” He “overcame” and qualified to reign on his “Father’s throne” through his sacrificial death - (Revelation 1:4-6, 3:21).

The importance of his death and resurrection is reiterated by the figure of the “one like a Son of Man” who declares - “I am the Living One, and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades!

His authority over “death and Hades” is based on his own death AND his resurrection from the dead by his Father. And because he now possesses this authority, the names of his followers, his “witnesses,” are “written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Therefore, though they still die, they will not “taste the second death” - (Revelation 1:18, 3:14).

In the introduction to his letter to Smyrna, the Risen Christ describes himself as the “first and the last, who was dead and lived.” The term “first and last” refers not to his divine nature, but to his position as the “firstborn of the dead.” He was the first one resurrected. And what he began he will certainly complete - (Revelation 2:8-11).

UNTO DEATH

This description is especially apt for the church in Smyrna. This congregation is enduring “tribulation” and facing increased persecution, and that is why Jesus exhorts its members to “become faithful unto death.”

But death will not be the last word. Because he is the one “who became dead and lived,” his faithful martyrs may rest assured they will receive the “crown of life,” for “he that overcomes will not be hurt of the second death.”

In Revelation, final judgment, punishments, and rewards follow the “thousand years” when all men appear before the “Great White Throne of Judgment.” Anyone whose name is not found “in the book of life” will be “cast into the lake of fire.”

But all those whose “names are written in the book of life” will find themselves standing before the “Lamb” and the “throne” in the “city of New Jerusalem.” There, God will “wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more,” as Jesus “shepherds them to living waters.”

And in its detailed description of “New Jerusalem,” the book paints a vivid picture of resurrection life in the New Creation where the saints “tabernacle” with God and dwell with the “Lamb” forevermore.


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