By the word ‘death’, we usually mean the death of the body. As Hebrews 9:27 says, that kind of death can only happen once. Its effect is to separate a person’s body from their spirit. The body returns to the earth, in the grave. The spirit returns to God, who is the judge of all people.
The explanation of the phrase ‘the second death’ appears in Revelation 20:14. Christ’s rule on this earth will not last always, because God is creating a new heaven and a new earth (21:1). Before God does that, there will be a final judgement of all people (20:12). At that judgement, wicked people will live again only so that they can die again. After that, both their bodies and their spirits will suffer punishment in the lake of fire, which is the final hell (Matthew 10:28; Revelation 20:14-15).
Resurrection means the event when God causes the bodies of dead people to live again. So what happens at that final judgement is a kind of resurrection; but it is neither happy nor holy. It is awful; the second death will separate them always from God and from every good thing (21:8).
On the other hand, those people who join in the first resurrection are called blessed (happy) and holy. ‘Blessed’ means that they are truly content because of their right relationship with God and with Christ. ‘Holy’ means that God has separated them for himself. God’s people are called his holy priests in 1 Peter 2:9. That does not just refer to their leaders, but to all God’s people. God is giving them all that kind of special and wonderful relationship with himself (Hebrews 10:19-22).
That is not something that people can earn by their own efforts (Romans 4:4-8). It is God’s free gift because Christ died for them (Romans 5:6-11). He gives that gift to the person who trusts him (Romans 4:5).
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© 2016, Keith Simons.