How Can You Benefit from This Hope?
WHO would you say is better off—the person who views death as ending everything or the one who has the firm conviction that the dead will be resurrected?
The person without hope has nothing on which to fall back. At most he can look forward to some seventy or eighty years of life. When death strikes his family, he has nothing that can give him comfort. To him, the loss is permanent. He may be able to express sympathy to other mourning ones, but he cannot point them to an encouraging hope. Since he himself feels that there is no hope for the dead, he may be tempted to do everything within his power to keep himself alive even if that resulted in injury to his fellowmen.
Far different it is with those who believe the Bible’s teaching about death and have faith in the resurrection promise it sets forth. They know for a certainty that all in gravedom will be awakened from the sleep of death. This knowledge has also freed them from the fears prompted by false teachings about the dead. Knowing that the dead are unconscious and have no remembrance, those who believe God’s Word have no fears about dead loved ones’ suffering in a place of temporary or permanent torment. They realize that the dead can neither help nor harm them and, therefore, they are freed from any fear of the dead.
Truly, if you embrace the resurrection hope as your own, you can benefit from it even now. Should death rob you of a dear friend or relative, your conviction that he or she will be raised to life will prevent you from giving way to the kind of grief experienced by those lacking this hope. You will also be able to give real comfort to those sorrowing over the loss of loved ones.
The conviction that there is a resurrection safeguards one from living just for the present. Instead of a person’s living by the precept “let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we are to die,” the resurrection hope will serve as an incentive to one to live in a way that is pleasing to God.—1 Cor. 15:32.
Faith in God’s power to raise the dead also liberates one from the fear of having one’s life cut short by violent means. God’s Word points out that Jesus Christ was instrumental in emancipating “all those who for fear of death were subject to slavery all through their lives.” (Heb. 2:15) Because of being afraid that they might be executed if they did not comply with the demands of superiors, throughout the centuries many persons have sacrificed principle and gone along with things that they knew to be wrong. However, the person who has unshakable faith in the Bible’s promise of a resurrection does not injure his conscience in this way. Is not the preservation of a clean conscience another fine benefit coming to those who believe in the resurrection?
Besides your gaining benefits now, your faith in God’s ability to raise the dead puts before you the prospect of welcoming back the dead or personally being among those raised to life. But your being among those to witness the realization of the resurrection hope calls for your meeting certain requirements.
Not all who have died will attain to a resurrection from the dead. Jesus Christ indicated that there was no hope for those who sinned against God’s spirit. He said: “Every sort of sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the spirit will not be forgiven. For example, whoever speaks a word against the Son of man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the holy spirit, it will not be forgiven him, no, not in this system of things nor in that to come.” (Matt. 12:31, 32) There being no possible forgiveness for sin against God’s spirit, all who make themselves guilty of such sin pay the full penalty for it by remaining dead forever.
Compared with the billions who have died, few of mankind have become guilty of a deliberate practice of sin that God views as being unforgivable. Still, the fact that such sin is possible should make one aware of the folly of taking risks by deliberately disregarding God’s commands. Faith in God’s promise of a resurrection from the dead restrains one from committing the unforgivable sin, thereby losing out on life for all eternity.
An Advance Start
There is yet another benefit of living in a way that reflects faith in the resurrection hope. it involves getting an advance start in the way of righteousness. How can this be?
The resurrection of “both the righteous and the unrighteous” to life on earth will give both groups the opportunity to attain to perfection as children of God. (Acts 24:15) All can avail themselves of the help that will be given by the heavenly kingdom in the hands of Jesus Christ and his associate rulers. The person who served God wholeheartedly prior to his death and resurrection will find it much easier to submit to the rule of Jesus Christ and his associates. On the other hand, the greater a person’s stubbornness was in resisting God’s will, the harder it will be for him to change and to grow to perfection.
Jesus Christ pointed this out when he told unbelieving fellow countrymen: “Men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and will condemn it; because they repented at what Jonah preached, but, look! something more than Jonah is here. The queen of the south will be raised up in the judgment with this generation and will condemn it; because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, but, look! something more than Solomon is here.” (Matt. 12:41, 42) Commenting on a city that would stubbornly refuse to pay attention to the message of truth, Jesus said: “It will be more endurable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on Judgment Day than for that city.”—Matt. 10:15.
The resurrection of the dead, both righteous and unrighteous, makes possible a Judgment Day, during which humans can show whether they really want to submit to God’s kingdom by Christ. In the case of Jesus’ fellow countrymen who heard his preaching and witnessed his miracles but then rejected him, this will be very hard. They will have to swallow their pride, acknowledging that they were wrong in rejecting Jesus as the Messiah. It will certainly require humility for them to submit to the rule of the one whom they did not want as king.
The inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, on the other hand, never had the opportunity that was set before those who saw Jesus Christ’s powerful works. In their case, pride and stubbornness will not be as great an obstacle as for the unbelieving Jews of the first. century C.E. The better response of the resurrected Ninevites and that of the “queen of the south” will reprove the resurrected generation of Jesus’ fellow countrymen who actually heard him preach and teach. In the past, the Ninevites in the time of Jonah and in the days of the “queen of the south” responded favorably to what God’s servants said. Hence, it will be easier for them to submit to the reign of God’s chosen king, one toward whom they never had prejudice.
Similarly, persons today who willingly and gladly consider what God’s Word has to say and then apply it in their lives will find it much easier to make progress during the Judgment Day. Thus what persons do now can affect their everlasting future.
Any who may rebel against divine rulership after being raised from the dead forfeit the prospect of eternal life. They will experience the “second death,” from which no recovery is possible. Concerning “second death,” we read at Revelation 20:14, 15: “This means the second death, the lake of fire. Furthermore, whoever was not found written in the book of life was hurled into the lake of fire.”
Considering that a proud, stubborn disposition could lead to one’s losing life everlastingly, we should want to get an advance start in the way of righteousness. How sad it would be if a person were to lose out on everlasting life by failing to take advantage of opportunities now to cultivate fine qualities—qualities that would make it easier for him to comply with God’s requirements during Judgment Day!
But you may ask, What can I do to get an advance start in the way of righteousness?