“This is the first resurrection.” - Revelation 20:5
While the Scriptures answer this question in a simple and direct way it is unfortunately necessary to navigate a complex obstacle course of stupidity to answer this question for members of the “Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses”. To begin we will consider the Watchtower’s doctrine as it is presented in the January 1st, 2007 article “'The First Resurrection'-Now Under Way!” (pages 25-30), specifically the subheading “Now Under Way?” (paragraphs 9-11). This will require a bit of mental gymnastics to follow so lets break it down a little at a time. Paragraph #9 begins -
"When does the first resurrection occur? There is strong evidence that it is now under way. For example, compare two chapters of Revelation. First, look at Revelation chapter 12. There we read that the newly enthroned Jesus Christ, along with his holy angels, wages war against Satan and his demons. (Revelation 12:7-9) As this journal has often shown, that battle began in 1914.* Notice, though, that none of Christ’s anointed followers are said to be with Jesus in that heavenly war."
Immediately we are told “there is strong evidence”, why? That expression is in itself an admission that everything that follows is simply a private interpretation. Would you ever state a fact predicating it with the statement “there is strong evidence”? No you would not. That would be ridiculous. You would simply state; the sky is blue, the grass is green, and the resurrection has not begun. These are statements of fact said with confidence and evidence to support the truth stated therein. Nevertheless, there is no clear evidence to support the claim being made by the “Governing Body” in this article and they know it, hence they felt it necessary to open their assertions with the statement “there is strong evidence”, but let us consider this “evidence” they wish to present.
Their first piece of evidence submitted is a comparison of two chapters in the book of Revelation, 12 & 17. The point in examining chapter 12 is simply to highlight that at this point in the prophecy the resurrection has not yet happened, as noted by the fact that Christ's brothers are not mentioned, only the angels are seen in the vision. This is a point that will be acknowledged, however the date 1914 will not. The footnote refers the reader to *“the book What Does the Bible Really Teach? Pages 215-18” in an effort to argue the validity of proclaiming Jesus returned invisibly in the year 1914. This topic is discussed in the article “Is The Year 1914 Significant In Bible Prophecy?” on this site. However as this is not the topic under consideration let's move on. They continue with their evidence -
"Now look at chapter 17 of Revelation. We read there that after the destruction of “Babylon the Great,” the Lamb will conquer the nations. Then it adds: “Also, those called and chosen and faithful with him will do so.” (Revelation 17:5,14) “Called and chosen and faithful” ones must already have been resurrected if they are to be with Jesus for the final defeat of Satan’s world. Reasonably, then, anointed ones who die before Armageddon are resurrected sometime between 1914 and Armageddon."
So here they set two points in prophecy that show us when chronologically the first resurrection occurs. Since we are setting aside the date 1914 for this discussion we can acknowledge the point they are making in this argument, the resurrection happens after Christ's presence begins but before the nations are destroyed at Armageddon. So at this point we are in agreement. Now let's examine their next submission of evidence -
"Can we say more precisely when the first resurrection begins? An interesting clue is found at Revelation 7:9-15, where the apostle John describes his vision of “a great crowd, which no man was able to number.” The identity of that great crowd is revealed to John by one of the 24 elders, and these elders represent the 144,000 joint heirs with Christ in their heavenly glory. *(Luke 22:28-30; Revelation 4:4) John himself had a heavenly hope; but since he was still a man on earth when the elder spoke to him, in the vision John must represent anointed ones on earth who have not yet received their heavenly reward.
What, then, can we deduce from the fact that one of the 24 elders identifies the great crowd to John? It seems that resurrected ones of the 24-elders group may be involved in the communicating of divine truths today. Why is that important? Because the correct identity of the great crowd was revealed to God’s anointed servants on earth in 1935. If one of the 24 elders was used to convey that important truth, he would have had to be resurrected to heaven by 1935 at the latest. That would indicate that the first resurrection began sometime between 1914 and 1935."
So now we have a “clue” for understanding their interpretation. To cut through the fog their clam is this – 'someone who had already been resurrected communicated to Rutherford who the “great crowd” was in the year 1935'. That's right, they are stating as a matter of fact that a spirit creature -not the holy spirit- communicated this to the Watchtower’s President in 1935. The more serious insinuation is that they are claiming that resurrected individuals that are now spirit creatures are “involved in the communicating of divine truths today.” That is about all the evidence we need to consider. There is no further need to travel further down their rabbit hole. How are they communing with these spirit creatures? Did they appear in a burning bush? Was it in a vision at night? Did they hear a voice call out to them? Or, perhaps it is in a manner similar to how God spoke with Moses “He is being entrusted with all my house. Face-to-face I speak to him, openly, not by riddles”. (Numbers 12:7, 8)
Those of us belonging to our Lord Jesus Christ will look to what has been written in the Scriptures until he chooses to reveal himself to us, and when he does we will readily explain the manner of his manifestation to all. They state as their evidence that “the correct identity of the great crowd was revealed to God’s anointed servants on earth in 1935.” Objection! That is a false statement. The identity of the “great crowd” was first revealed in the year 96 C.E. to the Apostle John as is recorded for us in the Revelation he wrote for us to read. Furthermore, the “great crowd” is defined as “the ones who come out of the great tribulation.” (Revelation 7:9; 14) Since the “great tribulation” is still a future event, no one who was associated with “Jehovah's Witnesses” in the year 1935 will survive that future event as they are all now dead. Therefore, even if some spirit creature explained who the “great crowd” was to Rutherford the interpretation has since proved to be false. If this spirit had explained the “other sheep” doctrine to them then they could at least continue with their argument, but presently they have nothing of substance in their interpretation of the Scriptures.
If we stop with the nonsense and false interpretations, and let the inspired Scriptures speak for themselves, the truth will become obvious. Let's accept the first point made – the resurrection happens after Christ's presence begins, but before the battle of Armageddon. What additional information do the Scriptures reveal? In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul tells us; “Look! I tell you a sacred secret: We will not all fall asleep in death, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the blink of an eye, during the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised up incorruptible, and we will be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51, 52)
Here we see two important things. First, this is one momentous event, something that happens at the sounding of a trumpet. This is not something that is dragged out over a century, rather as he says it will happen “in a moment, in the blink of an eye.” Second not all of Christ's brothers will need to experience death. Remember that Jesus himself described this event to us. He said: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life; and everyone who is living and exercises faith in me will never die at all.” (John 11:25, 26)
This is emphasized further in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. “For this is what we tell you by Jehovah’s word, that we the living who survive to the presence of the Lord will in no way precede those who have fallen asleep in death; because the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s voice and with God’s trumpet, and those who are dead in union with Christ will rise first. Afterward we the living who are surviving will, together with them, be caught away in clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17) It is worth taking note of how this expression of “together with them” is stated in the “Kingdom Interlinear”; it specifically says “at the same time.” Again describing one momentous event that takes place at the sounding of a trumpet.
In the context of describing what happens after the great tribulation Jesus says; “all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in grief, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a great trumpet sound, and they will gather his chosen ones together from the four winds.” (Matthew 24:30, 31) In complete harmony with all the other descriptions of the same event it happens swiftly with the sounding of a trumpet. However the context of Jesus statement does give us additional insight as to the question of when the resurrection occurs, he said “Immediately after the tribulation.” (verse 29)
So to some up the resurrection happens sometime between the end of the tribulation but before Armageddon. Also we know according to the Watchtower’s own claim it happens “early in Christ’s presence” therefore since an event “early in Christ’s presence” happens after the tribulation obviously Christ's presence has not yet begun. (W 07 1/1 p.28 par.13) However some may argue, “why does it matter”? What difference does it make when the first resurrection begins? When the congregation was in its infancy two individuals came up with their own private doctrine about when the resurrection begins. Their names were Hymenaeus and Philetus.
Two advantages the congregation had at that time was first, those individuals were not members of some overseeing “Governing Body” and second, the apostles were present and able to expose their shenanigans. Hymenaeus was mentioned by Paul in his first letter addressed to Timothy. Therein he admonished Timothy to maintain a firm hold on his “faith and a good conscience, which some have thrust aside, resulting in the shipwreck of their faith.” Then Paul specifically mentions the bad example he had in mind as a warning for Timothy saying “Hymenaeus and Alexander are among these, and I have handed them over to Satan so that they may be taught by discipline not to blaspheme.”(1 Timothy 1:19, 20)
In his second letter to Timothy Paul again warns about the destructive teaching that these would-be teachers had brought into the congregation. He warned Timothy to reject teachings perpetuated by those who “violate what is holy, for they will lead to more and more ungodliness, and their word will spread like gangrene. Hymenaeus and Philetus are among them.” What was the false doctrine that these men were teaching that was of such great concern to the apostle? He continues “these men have deviated from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already occurred, and they are subverting the faith of some.” (2 Timothy 2:16-18) Has the “Governing Body” subverted your faith?
The Phrasing Paul uses in his second letter to Timothy when he addresses those who were falsely proclaiming the resurrection had begun is important to note and take to heart. He specifically said they had "deviated from the truth". What our Lord Jesus Christ and his chosen apostles taught was the truth. From the time they were inspired to speak and write the truth until this day their words continue to be the one and only source of truth for Christ's congregation.
From Paul's day until the day Christ's presence begins, there has been a continuously developing "man of lawlessness" that joins himself to us and seeks to contradict our accurate knowledge of the truth. These individuals, like Judas, find the origins of their faith with Christ, but they now willfully oppose the truth as it is presented to us in the Scriptures. They contradict our Lord's admonition to be found expectantly waiting for him whenever he should happen to arrive and his presence begins. Instead they are boldly proclaiming both his presence and the resurrection have already begun, and declare that they alone speak for God as his sole representative. Paul specifically warned Timothy about this situation saying: "O Timothy, guard what is laid up in trust with you, turning away from the empty speeches that violate what is holy and from the contradictions of the falsely called “knowledge.” For making a show of such [knowledge] some have deviated from the faith." (1Timothy 6:20, 21)
Why would our father allow these deceptive proclamations to be made by those claiming to represent him? Furthermore, why would he allow this stumbling block to destroy those with a faith so similar to our own? The apostle Paul, Silas, and Timothy answer by telling us that our father: "lets a deluding influence mislead them - - - because they did not believe the truth" (2 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:1-12)
Are you putting your faith in these self appointed leaders and teachers of Christ's brothers and their web of circular reasoning’s they constantly spin to prop up their uninspired prophetic interpretations and supposed authority? Is it not just a compounding of nonsense upon nonsense with these men? How many ridiculous interpretations need to be refuted so that members of the “Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses” are able to stop putting their trust in these men, and instead put their faith and confidence in our Father's inspired Word, the Bible? Indeed “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time?” (Matthew 24:45) Paul reminded Timothy that, "the solid foundation of God remains standing, having this seal, “Jehovah knows those who belong to him,” and, “Let everyone calling on the name of Jehovah renounce unrighteousness.”" (2 Timothy 2:19) Do you belong to our Father? Will you renounce unrighteousness?