For many years the Church of God has taught that there are three resurrections. The Bible is very clear and straightforward regarding the first and second resurrections and even gives us some details regarding the timing of these resurrections. However, the Bible is not as clear and exact on the subject of a third resurrection which has caused some to ask the question, does the Bible require a third resurrection? Would God actually resurrect those who have rejected His way of life solely for the purpose of destroying them in the Lake of Fire? Let's take a look at what the Bible says on this subject.
Before we look specifically at the question of the third resurrection let's briefly review what the Bible tells us regarding the first two resurrections. The Bible is very clear that those who are called as firstfruits and remain faithful to God throughout their lifetimes will be resurrected as spirit beings and born into God's Family at Christ's return. This resurrection occurs at the sounding of the Seventh Trumpet and those faithful saints that have died prior to this time will be resurrected first. Soon afterwards, the faithful saints that are still living at this time will be changed to spirit beings and will join with the first group to meet Christ in the air (1 Cor 15:50-54; 1 Thess 4:13-18; Rev 20:4-6).
This resurrection of the firstfruits is directly referred to as the "first resurrection" in Rev 20:5-6. For there to be a "first resurrection" logic requires that there must be at least a second resurrection. The timing of this second resurrection is revealed in Rev 20:5 which states, "But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished...." So, the second resurrection occurs after the completion of Christ's thousand year reign on the earth. This resurrection includes the rest of mankind that did not receive their opportunity to obtain salvation during their previous physical lives. They are resurrected back to physical life so that they can have their eyes opened to understanding God's way and be given the opportunity to become converted and (if they remain faithful) eventually born into the God Family as spirit beings. This resurrection and time of testing and judgment is referred to in the Bible as the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev 20:11-13; Ezek 37:1-14).
Now let's look at the question of the third resurrection. The Bible is clear that not everyone will obtain salvation and be born into the God Family as spirit beings. Those who deliberately and willfully reject God's salvation and those who habitually and continually neglect to follow God's instructions in their lives will be destroyed in what the Bible calls the Lake of Fire (Rev 20:14-15; 21:8). The Bible also refers to this as the second death (Rev 20:14; 21:8). This second death is a final, permanent, and spiritual death from which there is no resurrection. In recent years, some have taught that this Lake of Fire and second death are merely metaphors and are not literal. They believe that God would not resurrect unrepentant sinners (who had already died) solely for the purpose of casting them into the Lake of Fire which would just result in them dying again. Therefore, they conclude that the Lake of Fire must be a metaphor to simply signify that these individuals are not given eternal life and is not a literal event where these individuals are cast into a fire. The belief is that once these individuals die at the end of their physical lives they simply remain dead and are never resurrected.
Let's analyze this idea in the light of scripture and see what the Bible actually teaches on this subject. Revelation 19:19-21 tells us that as Christ is returning to the earth at His second coming the armies of the Beast will gather together to make war with Him. These armies are killed and the birds eat their dead bodies. This is a literal event. Just prior to this we are told the Beast and False Prophet are captured and thrown into the Lake of Fire. These two individuals are still living up to the point where they are cast into the Lake of Fire and this event is described within the context of obviously literal events. This account gives us no reason to think that the Beast and the False Prophet being cast into the Lake of Fire is anything other than a literal event. They are judged by God as incorrigibly wicked and are sentenced to eternal death. Casting them into the Lake of Fire is the manner in which this sentence is carried out and, since they are still physically alive up to this point, it is obviously a literal event that results in their deaths.
Revelation 20:7-10 tells us that after the thousand year reign of Jesus Christ on the earth, Satan will be released from captivity and will once again be allowed to influence mankind for a short time. He will then stir up the people of Gog and Magog to attempt to besiege the city of Jerusalem. God will send down fire from heaven to devour them and prevent their attack on the city. This is a literal event that will occur in the future. Immediately after describing this obviously literal event the Bible then explains that Satan will be cast into the Lake of Fire where the Beast and False Prophet were previously thrown. Similar to the Beast and False Prophet, Satan is also alive at the point when he is cast into the Lake of Fire. His being cast into the Lake of Fire is a literal event where God carries out the sentencing of His judgment of Satan for being incorrigibly wicked. It is clearly not a mere metaphor. Since the Lake of Fire is clearly seen in these two examples as a literal tool that God uses to carry out the sentencing of His judgment for the incorrigibly wicked, it logically follows that the casting of all the incorrigibly wicked that have ever lived into the Lake of Fire described in Rev 20:14-15 and Rev 21:8 is also a literal event as well.
The Lake of Fire is referred to several times in the Bible as the "second death" (Rev 2:11; 20:6; 20:14; 21:8). The Greek word translated as "death" is thanatos (Strong's # 2288). The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament by Spiros Zodhiates defines thanatos as meaning "to die". The Greek word translated as "second" is deuteros (Strong's # 1208). Zodhiates defines this word as "Second in number.....in order....in place....in time." These definitions clearly indicate that the phrase "second death" means exactly what the English words imply. It means to die a second time. This logically requires they live a second time to do this thus requiring a resurrection to make all of this possible.
There are several scriptures in the Bible that describe the ultimate destruction of the incorrigibly wicked. This is referred to several times in the Bible as being cast into outer darkness (Matt 8:12; 22:13; 25:30). Other scriptures refer to the wicked being burned up in a fire (Matt 13:42; 50); being thrust out of the Kingdom of God (Luke 13:27-28); or appointed a portion with the hypocrites (Matt 24:51). In everyone of these scriptures the phrase "weeping and gnashing of teeth" or "wailing and gnashing of teeth" is mentioned. This intense expression of emotion requires an awareness of the magnitude of what is occurring. For these individuals to have this awareness, and to have the opportunity to emotionally react to it, they would have to be alive. A person who died either having deceived themselves into believing that they had obtained salvation even though they had disqualified themselves through habitual unrepented sin, or having completely turned their back on God to the point that they were not even expecting to obtain salvation, would have had no reason to feel this intense emotion in their physical lives. Logically the only way they could have the opportunity to experience this is to be brought back to life and given the realization of what they have lost out on.
John 5:28-29 states, "Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth -- those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation". The Greek word translated as condemnation is krisis (Strong's # 2920). Zodhiates defines it as "Generally meaning judgment given, sentence pronounced. Specific sentence of punishment or condemnation, e.g. to death. This definition indicates this is not referring to the second resurrection where individuals who were previously deceived are given the chance to prove which way they will live once their eyes are opened. This definition indicates the judgment has already taken place and this is the carrying out of the sentence. Thus these people are resurrected for the purpose of receiving their sentence to the second death.
Daniel 12:2 states, "And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt." The only way these people could have everlasting contempt is that they have through their habitual disobedience to God lost their chance at salvation. Given that they are resurrected to this contempt makes it very clear that they don't just simply stay dead at the end of their physical lives. They are resurrected to face their condemnation and to be thrown into the Lake of Fire.
When we properly understand these scriptures we can then see that the picture that Christ gives us at the end of the Parable of the Minas is not just a metaphor to illustrate a point but is instead a prophecy of how His judgment of the incorrigibly wicked will be carried out. Luke 19:27 states, "But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me." This scripture is picturing the time when the incorrigibly wicked will be brought up in the third resurrection, given the knowledge of the incredible inheritance they have given up through their habitual disobedience, and then cast into the Lake of Fire to be forever destroyed in the second death.