Revelation 1:5b: The First Begotten of the Dead

Verse 5:[1] And from Jesus Christ, (John 8:14; 1 Tim. 6:13; Rev. 3:14) who is the faithful witness, and the (1 Cor. 15:20; Col. 1:18) first begotten of the dead, and (Eph. 1:20; Rev. 17:14; 19:16) the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him (John 13:34; 15:9; Gal. 2:20) that loved us, (Heb. 9:14; 1 John 1:7) and washed us from our sins in his own blood…

[The firstborn, etc., ὁ πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν] That firstborn (that is, raised in the first place [Pareus], for the resurrection is a certain sort of birth, or a regeneration [Pareus, Grotius, similarly Ribera, Cotterius, Cluverus]):  see Matthew 19:28 and Acts 13:33 [Pareus, Grotius]) of the dead (Beza, Piscator).  This is concisely expressed, in the place of, of those who rise again from the dead (Brightman):  who was reawakened, first of the dead (Grotius, thus Cotterius, Cluverus), namely, either, by His own power (Pareus, thus Durham), by which also He reawakened others (Durham, thus Brightman); or, unto life immortal (Grotius, Cotterius, Cluverus, Menochius, Pareus), and blessed (Menochius):  For those saints in Matthew 27:52, 53 did not come forth from their tombs before Christ was awakened, as it is expressly affirmed in verse 53 (Cotterius).  See 1 Corinthians 15:20; Colossians 1:18, and the things mentioned there (Grotius).  This pertains unto the priesthood of Christ, by which He conquered death by death, made full expiation of sins, and rose again for our justification, Romans 4:25 (Brightman, Pareus).  This also pertains to our consolation (Pareus), so that the many that were going to suffer might despise death, knowing that they were going to rise again after the example of Christ (Ribera, similarly Pareus).

And the first begotten of the dead; that is, who first rose from the dead, namely, by his own power, John 10:18, and to die no more: see Acts 13:34; 1 Corinthians 15:20.

[1] Greek: καὶ ἀπὸ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὁ μάρτυς ὁ πιστός, ὁ πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν, καὶ ὁ ἄρχων τῶν βασιλέων τῆς γῆς. τῷ ἀγαπήσαντι ἡμᾶς, καὶ λούσαντι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν ἐν τῷ αἵματι αὐτοῦ.

7 thoughts on “Revelation 1:5b: The First Begotten of the Dead

  1. Our great High Priest, having atoned for sins, conquered death, rising to die no more!

    Because He lives, we know that we shall live also!

    –Dr. Dilday

  2. Hi, Dr. Dilday. I have not forgotten about our email exchange a while back. I’ve just been incredibly busy with three little ones!

  3. Every word, phrase, and verse are so very rich and edifying. What a great God we serve. His written word is breathtaking. Each week has been very encouraging. I am so glad to be a part of this study.

  4. A quote from the reading:
    “For those saints in Matthew 27:52, 53 did not come forth from their tombs before Christ was awakened, as it is expressly affirmed in verse 53 (Coteries).”

    Since this subject was brought out, could you direct us to learned commentary regarding the graves being opened and the bodies of many saints arising and appearing to others? If this was their resurrection, did they ever die again? Would they be like Lazarus, who also came forth from the grave? I don’t think the Scripture tells us anything more about these people, does it?

    Two new and fresh thoughts for me from this reading:
    1) “resurrection is a certain sort of birth, or a regeneration of the dead”
    2) “the first begotten of the dead; that is, who first rose from the dead, namely, by his own power, and to die no more”

    • Matthew Henry’s comments have significant scholarship behind them: ‘The graves were opened. This matter is not related so fully as our curiosity would wish; for the scripture was not intended to gratify that; it should seem, that same earthquake that rent the rocks, opened the graves, and many bodies of saints which slept, arose. Death to the saints is but the sleep of the body, and the grave the bed it sleeps in; they awoke by the power of the Lord Jesus, and (Matthew 27:53) came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into Jerusalem, the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now here,

      (1.) We may raise many enquiries concerning it, which we cannot resolve: as, [1.] Who these saints were, that did arise. Some think, the ancient patriarchs, that were in such care to be buried in the land of Canaan, perhaps in the believing foresight of the advantage of this early resurrection. Christ had lately proved the doctrine of the resurrection from the instance of the patriarchs (Matthew 22:32), and here was a speedy confirmation of his argument. Others think, these that arose were modern saints, such as had been Christ in the flesh, but died before him; as his father Joseph, Zacharias, Simeon, John Baptist, and others, that had been known to the disciples, while they lived, and therefore were the fitter to be witnesses to them in an apparition after. What if we should suppose that they were the martyrs, who in the Old Testament times had sealed the truths of God with their blood, that were thus dignified and distinguished? Christ particularly points at them as his forerunners, Matthew 23:35. And we find (Revelation 20:4-5), that those who were beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, arose before the rest of the dead. Sufferers with Christ shall first reign with him. [2.] It is uncertain whether (as some think) they arose to life, now at the death of Christ, and disposed of themselves elsewhere, but did not go into the city till after his resurrection; or whether (as others think), though their sepulchres (which the Pharisees had built and varnished, Matthew 23:29), and so made remarkable, were shattered now by the earthquake (so little did God regard that hypocritical respect), yet they did not revive and rise till after the resurrection; only, for brevity-sake, it is mentioned here, upon the mention of the opening of the graves, which seems more probable. [3.] Some think that they arose only to bear witness of Christ’s resurrection to those to whom they appeared, and, having finished their testimony, retired to their graves again. But it is more agreeable, both to Christ’s honour and theirs, to suppose, though we cannot prove, that they arose as Christ did, to die no more, and therefore ascended with him to glory. Surely on them who did partake of his first resurrection, a second death had no power. [4.] To whom they appeared (not to all the people it is certain, but to many), whether enemies or friends, in what manner they appeared, how often, what they said and did, and how they disappeared, are secret things which belong not to us; we must not covet to be wise above what is written. The relating of this matter so briefly, is a plain intimation to us, that we must not look that way for a confirmation of our faith; we have a more sure word of prophecy. See Luke 16:31.

      (2.) Yet we may learn many good lessons from it. [1.] That even those who lived and died before the death and resurrection of Christ, had saving benefit thereby, as well as those who have lived since; for he was the same yesterday that he is today, and will be for ever, Hebrews 13:8. [2.] That Jesus Christ, by dying, conquered, disarmed, and disabled, death. These saints that arose, were the present trophies of the victory of Christ’s cross over the powers of death, which he thus made a show of openly. Having by death destroyed him that had the power of death, he thus led captivity captive, and gloried in these retaken prizes, in them fulfilling that scripture, I will ransom them from the power of the grave. [3.] That, in virtue of Christ’s resurrection, the bodies of all the saints shall, I n the fulness of time, rise again. This was an earnest of the general resurrection at the last day, when all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God. And perhaps Jerusalem is therefore called here the holy city, because the saints, at the general resurrection, shall enter into the new Jerusalem; which will be indeed what the other was in name and type only, the holy city, Revelation 21:2. [4.] That all the saints do, by the influence of Christ’s death, and in conformity to it, rise from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. They are raised up with him to a divine and spiritual life; they go into the holy city, become citizens of it, have their conversation in it, and appear to many, as persons not of this world.’

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