What Is the First Resurrection?

The apostle John foresaw a thousand-year period in which Satan would be bound and Christ and His disciples would reign over the earth. This is what we call the Millennium.

John said those who did not follow Christ would not “live again” until after the thousand year period was over. “This is the first resurrection,” he said, and then he added, “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power” (Revelation 20:5-6).

Nearly a hundred years earlier, on the American continent, the prophet Abinadi also taught about the first resurrection. It would begin, he said, with the resurrection of Christ, and it would consist of faithful people who had lived and died before that time. Specifically, those who had obeyed God in this life—”all the prophets, and all those that have believed in their words, or all those that have kept the commandments of God”— as well as those who would have obeyed him if they had known about the gospel—”they that have died before Christ came, in their ignorance, not having salvation declared unto them.” However, Abinadi warned that those who “rebel against [God] and die in their sins…have no part in the first resurrection” (Mosiah 15:21-26). Their resurrection will come later.

When Alma, who had been converted by the words of Abinadi, invited a group of people to be baptized at the waters of Mormon, he specifically identified the first resurrection as a reason to be baptized, and he equated the first resurrection with eternal life, the greatest gift we can receive from God:

…that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life (Mosiah 18:9).

Alma’s son, known as Alma the Younger, wanted to correct a misuse of the term “first resurrection” which had come into usage during his time. After explaining to his son Corianton that our spirits will be assigned to one of two “states” immediately after we die, he indicated that some have called this assignment a “first resurrection.” Even though he understood why people wanted to use this term, he wanted to clarify that the term “first resurrection” actually refers to a separate event that occurs later. Quoting Abinadi, Alma said:

There is a first resurrection, a resurrection of all those who have been, or who are, or who shall be, down to the resurrection of Christ from the dead (Alma 40:16).

And then he clarified the meaning of the term:

Now, we do not suppose that this first resurrection, which is spoken of in this manner, can be the resurrection of the souls and their consignation to happiness or misery. Ye cannot suppose that this is what it meaneth.
Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but it meaneth the reuniting of the soul with the body, of those from the days of Adam down to the resurrection of Christ (Alma 40:17-18).

Alma wasn’t interested in specifying when we will be resurrected. But he did want Corianton to know that, for each of us, there will come a time after death when our spirit and our body will be reunited. This is our resurrection, and at that time, if we are righteous, we will “shine forth in the kingdom of God,” but if we are wicked, we will be permanently cut off from the presence of God, suffering the “second death.”

Today, I will I will strive to qualify for the first resurrection by keeping God’s commandments and staying true to my covenants with Him, so that I can one day overcome the second death and inherit eternal life.

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