New Apostolic Church and the day of the First Resurrection. In this article, we clarify whether the New Apostolic Church teaches a biblically correct stance about the day of the First Resurrection.
The goal of every New Apostolic is to take part in the day of the First Resurrection because this is what the New Apostolic Church teaches through its apostles. One asks in prayer for the time to be shortened, so that the return of Christ will be imminent to bring his bride home. This bride is the bridal congregation, the loyal members of the New Apostolic Church. According to New Apostolic doctrine, the ‚Day of the First Resurrection‘ is the day when Christ will return for the Rapture of the Church and those who have fallen asleep in the (New Apostolic) faith will be resurrected. Together with those who are still alive, the resurrected will then take part in the wedding of the Lamb in heaven, in order to subsequently establish the ‚Millennial Kingdom of Peace‘ on earth with Jesus.
Evangelicals adopted New Apostolic teachings
The New Apostolics are not alone in this view. Premillennialism (doctrine of the rapture before a great tribulation, combined with a subsequent ‘millennial kingdom’) and dispensationalism (doctrine of different households/epochs of God with the people/Israel) is taught in many free churches and evangelical community movements.
Interestingly, it was precisely the so-called Irvingians and Darbyists (Brethren movement) in the 19th century who gave rise to this teaching. Edward Irving, an influential member of the Catholic Apostolic Movement and a pioneer of today’s New Apostolic Church, contributed significantly to the spread of the until then, almost unknown doctrine. The many evangelical congregations and free churches of today should be aware that they are following the ideas of the Catholic-Apostolic Movement of the 19th century and the Brethren movement.
The Bible text to be clarified
“Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the First Resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.”Rev 20, 6
This is the central Bible passage in Revelation that speaks of a ‚First Resurrection‘.
A principle of Bible interpretation is to interpret the Bible with the Bible. That is, clear Biblical passages should explain the unclear passages and not the other way around. Unfortunately, that’s not what happens most of the time.
Does the ‚First Resurrection‘ mean a physical resurrection, as the New Apostolic Church teaches? If so, then there shouldn’t be ‚First Resurrection‘ at this point, but ‚Second Resurrection‘, should the passage be understood in such a way, as propagated by many! Because the first resurrection took place in Jerusalem almost 2000 years ago when Jesus rose from the dead. He is the firstfruits among the risen 1 Cor 15:23. This was the first resurrection in world history! In Revelation 20:6 this is certainly not speaking about these first resurrection.
The resurrection of the believers on the last day
The physical resurrection of those who belong to Christ takes place on Judgment Day. This is the last day of world history. This rules out a pre-rapture before a great tribulation. Jesus himself says this very clearly several times in the Gospel according to John:
“And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”John 6, 40
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”John 6, 44
“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”John 6, 54
It could hardly be more obvious and clear: the believers will be raised on the last day. This excludes a resurrection and a rapture before a great tribulation. Thus, the ‘First Resurrection’ – should it be equated with the resurrection of the believers – cannot take place before the last day of world history.
First resurrection a physical resurrection?
Obviously, with the ‘First Resurrection’ in Revelation 20:6 does not mean a physical resurrection of the believers, because that will take place at the end of time. The New Apostolic Church does not stand on the basis of Holy Scripture with its teaching on the ‘Day of the First Resurrection’. Could it be a spiritual resurrection of the internal man? In fact, there is clear evidence of this in the New Testament. Jesus himself tells us:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.John 5, 24-25
This is a direct correspondence to John 20:6. Obviously, Jesus speaks of spiritual death and spiritual eternal life. Paul also knows how to speak of this death:
“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses”Col 2, 13
Here we also get an important indication of when this ‚bringing to life‘ happens. Not in the future, rather it has already happened with the believer. That is, at the moment when God forgave the believer’s sins. When does this happen? At conversion in baptism. So Paul writes a few verses beforehand:
“having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”Col 2, 12
Rising with Christ
The ‚First Resurrection‘, then, is the co-rising with Christ in baptism or conversion. Thus, the lifting of the baptized person out of the ‚watery grave‘ in the biblically performed baptism is also an image of the resurrection. Conversion in baptism gives rise to a new creature that has died to sin. Once again, Paul makes this quite clear to the Romans:
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”Rom 6, 3-4
So the blessings in Revelation 20:6 are already effective for the believers: bliss, holiness, priesthood, reign with Christ – the second death no longer has any power over the believer. All of this applies now to anyone who is saved through Christ.
The context rules out a physical resurrection
In fact, Revelation 20:6 does not explicitly speak of a physical resurrection, but John, in verse 4, sees the souls of those who suffered persecution at the throne of God. It is a word of comfort for those who suffered persecution and were martyred in the first and second centuries.
Paul writes to the Ephesians as if he had already known what John would see in his vision:
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places [Regionen] in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.Eph 2, 4-7
Has the goal of faith been lost?
The goal of faith for the members of the New Apostolic Church is to participate in the First Resurrection. Is this goal of faith now obsolete? It’s not that easy to say. Nor can it be said that the members of the New Apostolic Church pursue a goal that does not exist. However the ‘First Resurrection’ is not a physical resurrection, but a spiritual resurrection, which has to happen here and now in our lifetime. The physical resurrection and the rapture of the believers happen at the end of time!
New Apostolics rightly await for the return of Christ combined with the physical resurrection of the believers and the rapture of those who are still alive. New Apostolics, however, are misinformed by their Apostles and the Chief Apostle about what must happen beforehand (spiritual first resurrection), what Christ is returning to (resurrection of all people), and what will happen afterward (Millennial Kingdom/New Heaven/New Earth). As a result, New Apostolics are in real danger of missing the real goal, eternal fellowship with God! Especially because they misinterpret the ‘First Resurrection’ and postpone it into the future!
© Lutz Jusko
All Bible quotations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV). In german all quotations are taken from the Bible translation by Franz Eugen Schlachter in the 2000 version.