Hope for the Dead, Consolation for the Grieving
JESS Romero, mentioned in our opening article, eventually remarried. As for Agustín and Valentina Caraballoso, Jonathan’s death still hurts, but a calm has set in. Ramón and María Serrano from Spain still come to tears 24 years after Paquito’s death. But in all these cases, what has kept them going? They answer: “The hope of the resurrection!”
But what exactly do we mean by “resurrection”? Who will be resurrected? When? And how can we be sure?
Hope for the Dead—As Jesus Taught
During his ministry on earth, Jesus resurrected several persons. (Mark 5:35-42) This served as a token of the great resurrection that will take place when the earth is once again totally under God’s rule, as millions request when they pray: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.”—Matthew 6:9, 10.
An example of God’s power in this respect was when Jesus resurrected his friend Lazarus. At the same time, the account clarifies the state of the dead. Jesus said to his disciples: “Lazarus our friend has gone to rest, but I am journeying there to awaken him from sleep.” Not getting the meaning, the disciples said: “Lord, if he has gone to rest, he will get well.” They imagined he was saying that Lazarus was just asleep when, in fact, he was dead. Thus, Jesus left no room for doubt: “Lazarus has died.”
Notice, please, that Jesus made no reference to any immortal soul passing on to another state or realm. He was not influenced by Greek philosophy but by clear Bible teaching in the Hebrew Scriptures. Lazarus was asleep in death and when Jesus arrived had already been four days in the memorial tomb. So, what hope was there for him?
When Jesus spoke to Lazarus’ sister Martha, he told her: “Your brother will rise.” How did she answer? Did she say that his soul was already in heaven or elsewhere? Her response was: “I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.” She also held to the Biblical teaching of a resurrection to life on earth. Jesus gave her even greater reason for faith by saying: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life.” Then, to prove his point, he went to Lazarus’ tomb and cried out loudly: “Lazarus, come on out!” What happened?
The historical account states: “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.’”—John 11:1-44.
Therein lies the hope that has helped many of the bereaved persons interviewed by Awake! That same hope sustains them to look forward to the near future when the earth will be a renewed paradise and Jesus’ hope-inspiring words will be fulfilled: “Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which 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.”—John 5:28, 29.
“My Favorite Text Is . . . ”
Awake! has interviewed parents and youngsters regarding the death of a child in the family.* Time and again, in explaining how they have coped with their grief, they have said: “Let me tell you my favorite text.” If you are grieving, maybe these texts will also help you.
Fourteen-year-old Yunhee, from Seoul, Republic of Korea, died of leukemia in 1985. Her father, Chun Kwang-kook, explained to Awake! how he consoled Yunhee in her last weeks of life: “I told her about Lazarus. Jesus said Lazarus was sleeping, and as with him, when Jesus calls, ‘Yunhee! Wake up!’ she will arise from sleep also.”
Janet Hercock, from England, was 13 when she died of cancer in 1966. She was survived by her parents and two brothers, David and Timothy. David told Awake! which text was most helpful to him: “It was Acts 17:31, which states: ‘Because [God] has set a day in which he purposes to judge the inhabited earth in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and he has furnished a guarantee to all men in that he has resurrected him from the dead.’ At the funeral, the speaker stressed that Jesus’ resurrection is our guarantee of a future resurrection. That has been a great source of strength for me.”
In December 1975 young George, just 14 years old, took his father’s rifle and shot himself. How did George’s father, Russell, take this loss of his son by suicide?*
“Certain scriptures became an anchor for me. For example, the words in Proverbs 3:5: ‘Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding.’ To some extent I was leaning on my own understanding in trying to reconcile myself with what had happened.”
The Morgan family, from England, were in Sweden when their son Darrall suddenly became ill. An emergency operation was performed in Stockholm. Eventually he was flown back to England, where he died shortly before his 24th birthday. His mother Nell says: “One scripture that stands out in my mind is Matthew 22:32, where Jesus quoted God as saying: ‘I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ Then he continued: ‘He is the God, not of the dead, but of the living.’ I know that those words mean that Darrall is retained in God’s memory and will return in the resurrection.”
Hope for the Dead—Soon a Reality
Bible prophecy indicates that we are near the time when God will take action to restore peace and everlasting life to obedient mankind. God promises: “I will change their mourning into exultation, and I will comfort them and make them rejoice away from their grief.” “‘Hold back your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there exists a reward for your activity,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and they will certainly return from the land of the enemy [death].’”—Jeremiah 31:13-17.
At that time Jehovah will progressively restore to life through the resurrection those who have died throughout man’s history. Under the heavenly government of God’s new system, they will have the opportunity of choosing everlasting life by obedience to God’s commands for life at that time. Thus, if we turn to the Bible, we will find that there is a true hope for the dead and consolation for the living.—Acts 24:15; Revelation 20:12-14; 21:1-4.
A future issue of Awake! will consider a child’s reaction to the loss of a brother or a sister.
The subject of suicide and parental grief will be covered in a future issue of Awake!
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Diane Krych, who relates the death of her son David in our second article, went through extreme grief and denial reactions. This was evidenced by the letters she wrote to David, and kept, for 13 years. She stopped writing when she faced the reality of the death of her own father, whom she had nursed. (Awake! is not recommending letter writing as a form of relief. However, we quote the first letter to illustrate how the resurrection hope was her anchor and has sustained her ever since.)
You have been sleeping for 46 days now. It feels like years since I’ve seen you and held you. But the days for your sleep are limited. I wish I knew the number because I’d mark one off each day. For us, it’s a long, hard, lonesome wait, but for you it will seem like a few minutes. I’m thankful for that. We’re looking forward to the day when Jehovah will wake you from your sleep in the new order. We will have the biggest party you have ever seen. It will last three days at least. Everyone we know will be invited. It will be your party. I only hope we don’t have to wait too long. I can’t wait to hold you in my arms, David. We all miss you terribly. The house is empty without you. Nothing will be the same until you’re back home with us.
So, my precious son, we’ll try to be patient and wait on Jehovah for your return, and in the meantime, we will write you little notes to fill you in on what happens while you’re asleep.
With all my love,
[Pictures on page 15]
The Bible promises that the dead, like Maria and David, will be resurrected