But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
As many modern translations make clear, the second sentence refers back to verse 4 . Verse 4 describes the faithful followers of Christ, resurrected to immortal life at Jesus Christ’s second coming, who will reign with Him for a thousand years. Obviously they will be the first ones resurrected.
If there is a “first” resurrection, then the following resurrection would be the “second” resurrection.
Who are the “rest of the dead” raised in the second resurrection? The vast majority of mankind—those who have not repented and accepted Jesus Christ’s sacrifice—including the billions who have never even heard of Jesus Christ or understood His message. Our loving God, who “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4), will not be thwarted by the deception and death these billions have previously experienced. Our just and merciful Savior has a plan that gives everyone a full and complete chance to repent and be saved ( 2 Peter 3:9 ).
This second resurrection is celebrated in the meaning of God’s festival that comes right after the Feast of Tabernacles. For more information about the resurrections revealed in the Bible, read “Resurrections: What Are They?”