Definition: A·naʹsta·sis, the Greek word translated “resurrection,” literally means “a standing up again” and it refers to a rising up from death. The fuller expression “resurrection of (from) the dead” is used repeatedly in the Scriptures. (Matt. 22:31; Acts 4:2; 1 Cor. 15:12) The Hebrew is techi·yathʹ ham·me·thimʹ, which means “revival of the dead.” (Matt. 22:23, ftn, NW Reference edition) Resurrection involves a reactivating of the life pattern of the individual, which life pattern God has retained in his memory. According to God’s will for the individual, the person is restored in either a human or a spirit body and yet retains his personal identity, having the same personality and memories as when he died. The provision for resurrection of the dead is a magnificent expression of Jehovah’s undeserved kindness; it displays his wisdom and power and is a means by which his original purpose regarding the earth will be carried out.
Is the resurrection a reuniting of an immaterial soul with the physical body?
For this to be possible, of course, humans would have to have an immaterial soul that could separate from the physical body. The Bible does not teach such a thing. That notion was borrowed from Greek philosophy. The Bible teaching regarding the soul is set out on pages 375-378. For evidence as to the origin of Christendom’s belief in an immaterial, immortal soul, see pages 379, 380.
Was Jesus raised in a body of flesh, and does he have such a body in heaven now?
1 Pet. 3:18: “Christ died once for all time concerning sins, a righteous person for unrighteous ones, that he might lead you to God, he being put to death in the flesh, but being made alive in the spirit [“by the Spirit,” KJ; “in the spirit,” RS, NE, Dy, JB].” (At his resurrection from the dead, Jesus was brought forth with a spirit body. In the Greek text the words “flesh” and “spirit” are put in contrast to each other, and both are in the dative case; so, if a translator uses the rendering “by the spirit” he should also consistently say “by the flesh,” or if he uses “in the flesh” he should also say “in the spirit.”)
Acts 10:40, 41: “God raised this One [Jesus Christ] up on the third day and granted him to become manifest, not to all the people, but to witnesses appointed beforehand by God.” (Why did not others see him too? Because he was a spirit creature and when, as angels had done in the past, he materialized fleshly bodies to make himself visible, he did so only in the presence of his disciples.)
1 Cor. 15:45: “It is even so written: ‘The first man Adam became a living soul.’ The last Adam [Jesus Christ, who was perfect as was Adam when created] became a life-giving spirit.”
What does Luke 24:36-39 mean regarding the body in which Jesus was resurrected?
Luke 24:36-39: “While they [the disciples] were speaking of these things he himself stood in their midst and said to them: ‘May you have peace.’ But because they were terrified, and had become frightened, they were imagining they beheld a spirit. So he said to them: ‘Why are you troubled, and why is it doubts come up in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; feel me and see, because a spirit does not have flesh and bones just as you behold that I have.’”
Humans cannot see spirits, so the disciples evidently thought they were seeing an apparition or a vision. (Compare Mark 6:49, 50.) Jesus assured them that he was no apparition; they could see his body of flesh and could touch him, feeling the bones; he also ate in their presence. Similarly, in the past, angels had materialized in order to be seen by men; they had eaten, and some had even married and fathered children. (Gen. 6:4; 19:1-3) Following his resurrection, Jesus did not always appear in the same body of flesh (perhaps to reinforce in their minds the fact that he was then a spirit), and so he was not immediately recognized even by his close associates. (John 20:14, 15; 21:4-7) However, by his repeatedly appearing to them in materialized bodies and then saying and doing things that they would identify with the Jesus they knew, he strengthened their faith in the fact that he truly had been resurrected from the dead.
If the disciples had actually seen Jesus in the body that he now has in heaven, Paul would not later have referred to the glorified Christ as being “the exact representation of [God’s] very being,” because God is a Spirit and has never been in the flesh.—Heb. 1:3; compare 1 Timothy 6:16.
Who will be resurrected to share heavenly life with Christ, and what will they do there?
Luke 12:32: “Have no fear, little flock, because your Father has approved of giving you the kingdom.” (These do not include all who have exercised faith; the number is limited. Their being in heaven is for a purpose.)
Rev. 20:4, 6: “I saw thrones, and there were those who sat down on them, and power of judging was given them. . . . Happy and holy is anyone having part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no authority, but they will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.”
Will those raised to heavenly life eventually have glorified physical bodies there?
Phil. 3:20, 21: “The Lord Jesus Christ . . . will refashion our humiliated body to be conformed to his glorious body according to the operation of the power that he has.” (Does this mean that it is their body of flesh that will eventually be made glorious in the heavens? Or does it mean that, instead of having a lowly body of flesh, they will be clothed with a glorious spirit body when raised to heavenly life? Let the following scripture answer.)
1 Cor. 15:40, 42-44, 47-50: “There are heavenly bodies, and earthly bodies; but the glory of the heavenly bodies is one sort, and that of the earthly bodies is a different sort. So also is the resurrection of the dead. . . . It is sown a physical body, it is raised up a spiritual body. . . . The first man [Adam] is out of the earth and made of dust; the second man [Jesus Christ] is out of heaven. As the one made of dust is, so those made of dust are also; and as the heavenly one is, so those who are heavenly are also. And just as we have borne the image of the one made of dust, we shall bear also the image of the heavenly one. However, this I say, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom.” (There is no allowance here for any mixing of the two sorts of bodies or the taking of a fleshly body to heaven.)
How did Jesus demonstrate what resurrection will mean for mankind in general?
John 11:11, 14-44: “[Jesus said to his disciples:] ‘Lazarus our friend has gone to rest, but I am journeying there to awaken him from sleep.’ . . . Jesus said to them outspokenly: ‘Lazarus has died.’ . . . When Jesus arrived, he found he [Lazarus] had already been four days in the memorial tomb. . . . Jesus said to her [Martha, a sister of Lazarus]: ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’ . . . He cried out with a loud voice: ‘Lazarus, come on out!’ The man that had been dead came out with his feet and hands bound with wrappings, and his countenance was bound about with a cloth. Jesus said to them: ‘Loose him and let him go.’” (If Jesus had thus called Lazarus back from a state of bliss in another life, that would have been no kindness. But Jesus’ raising Lazarus up from a lifeless state was a kindness both to him and to his sisters. Once again Lazarus became a living human.)
Mark 5:35-42: “Some men from the home of the presiding officer of the synagogue came and said: ‘Your daughter died! Why bother the teacher any longer?’ But Jesus, overhearing the word being spoken, said to the presiding officer of the synagogue: ‘Have no fear, only exercise faith.’ . . . He took along the young child’s father and mother and those with him, and he went in where the young child was. And, taking the hand of the young child, he said to her: ‘Talʹi·tha cuʹmi,’ which, translated, means: ‘Maiden, I say to you, Get up!’ And immediately the maiden rose and began walking, for she was twelve years old. And at once they were beside themselves with great ecstasy.” (When the general resurrection takes place on earth during Christ’s Millennial Reign, doubtless many millions of parents and their offspring will be overjoyed when they are reunited.)
What prospects will await those raised to life on earth?
Luke 23:43: “Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.” (All the earth will be transformed into a paradise under the rule of Christ as King.)
Rev. 20:12, 13: “I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened. But another scroll was opened; it is the scroll of life. And the dead were judged out of those things written in the scrolls according to their deeds. . . . They were judged individually according to their deeds.” (The opening of scrolls evidently points to a time of education in the divine will, in harmony with Isaiah 26:9. The fact that “the scroll of life” is opened indicates that there is opportunity for those who heed that education to have their names written in that scroll. Ahead of them will be the prospect of eternal life in human perfection.)
See also pages 227-232, under “Kingdom.”
Will some be raised simply to have judgment pronounced and then be consigned to second death?
What is the meaning of John 5:28, 29? It says: “All those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.” What Jesus said here must be understood in the light of the later revelation that he gave to John. (See Revelation 20:12, 13, quoted on page 337.) Both those who formerly did good things and those who formerly practiced bad things will be “judged individually according to their deeds.” What deeds? If we were to take the view that people were going to be condemned on the basis of deeds in their past life, that would be inconsistent with Romans 6:7: “He who has died has been acquitted from his sin.” It would also be unreasonable to resurrect people simply for them to be destroyed. So, at John 5:28, 29a, Jesus was pointing ahead to the resurrection; then, in the remainder of verse 29, he was expressing the outcome after they had been uplifted to human perfection and been put on judgment.
What does Revelation 20:4-6 indicate as to those who will be resurrected on earth?
Rev. 20:4-6: “I saw thrones, and there were those who sat down on them, and power of judging was given them. Yes, I saw the souls of those executed with the ax for the witness they bore to Jesus and for speaking about God . . . And they came to life and ruled as kings with the Christ for a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Happy and holy is anyone having part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no authority, but they will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.”
The parentheses are used in NW and Mo to help the reader to connect what follows the parenthetical statement with what precedes it. As clearly stated, it is not “the rest of the dead” who share in the first resurrection. That resurrection is for those who rule with Christ for the thousand years. Does this mean that no others of mankind will live during the thousand years except the ones who rule in heaven with Christ? No; because, if such were the case, it would mean that there was no one on behalf of whom they were serving as priests, and their domain would be a desolate globe.
Who, then, are “the rest of the dead”? They are all those of mankind who died as a result of Adamic sin and those who, though survivors of the great tribulation or those who may be born during the Millennium, need to be relieved of the death-dealing effects of such sin.—Compare Ephesians 2:1.
In what sense do they not “come to life” until the end of the thousand years? This does not mean their resurrection. This ‘coming to life’ involves much more than merely existing as humans. It means attaining to human perfection, free from all effects of Adamic sin. Notice that the reference to this in verse 5 occurs immediately after the preceding verse says that those who will be in heaven “came to life.” In their case it means life free from all effects of sin; they are even specially favored with immortality. (1 Cor. 15:54) For “the rest of the dead,” then, it must mean the fullness of life in human perfection.
Who will be included in the earthly resurrection?
John 5:28, 29: “Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice [the voice of Jesus] and come out.” (The Greek word translated “memorial tombs” is not the plural form of taʹphos [grave, an individual burial place] or haiʹdes [gravedom, the common grave of dead mankind] but is the plural dative form of mne·meiʹon [remembrance, memorial tomb]. It lays stress on preserving memory of the deceased person. Not those whose memory was blotted out in Gehenna because of unforgivable sins but persons remembered by God will be resurrected with the opportunity to live forever.—Matt. 10:28; Mark 3:29; Heb. 10:26; Mal. 3:16.)
Acts 24:15: “I have hope toward God . . . that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Both those who lived in harmony with God’s righteous ways and people who, out of ignorance, did unrighteous things will be resurrected. The Bible does not answer all our questions as to whether certain specific individuals who have died will be resurrected. But we can be confident that God, who knows all the facts, will act impartially, with justice tempered by mercy that does not ignore his righteous standards. Compare Genesis 18:25.)
Rev. 20:13, 14: “The sea gave up those dead in it, and death and Hades gave up those dead in them, and they were judged individually according to their deeds. And death and Hades were hurled into the lake of fire. This means the second death, the lake of fire.” (So, those whose death was attributable to Adamic sin will be raised, whether they were buried at sea or in Hades, the common earthly grave of dead mankind.)
See also the main heading “Salvation.”
If billions are to be raised from the dead, where will they all live?
A very liberal estimate of the number of people who have ever lived on earth is 20,000,000,000. As we have seen, not all of these will be resurrected. But, even if we assume that they would be, there would be ample room. The land surface of the earth at present is about 57,000,000 square miles (147,600,000 sq km). If half of that were set aside for other purposes, there would still be just a little less than an acre (c. 0.37 ha) per person, which can provide more than enough food. At the root of present food shortages is not any inability of the earth to produce sufficient but, rather, political rivalry and commercial greed.
See also page 116, under the heading “Earth.”