For Whom Will Resurrection Bring Benefits?
MANY questions come up about the resurrection of the dead. Who will be resurrected? Infants? Children? Both the righteous and the wicked? Will those who were married be reunited with their former mates?
The Bible does not go into every detail about the resurrection. However, it contains the marvelous promise that the dead will be raised to life and it gives enough particulars to establish faith in that promise. Should its silence about certain matters keep us from appreciating the soundness of that promise?
In our dealings with fellowmen we do not expect every detail to be spelled out, do we? For example, if you were invited to a banquet, you would not ask the one extending the invitation: ‘Where will all the people sit? Are you prepared to cook for so many people? How can I be sure you will have enough serving utensils and dishes?’ To ask such questions would be an insult, would it not? No one would think of saying to a host: ‘First convince me that I will enjoy myself.’ Having the invitation and knowing its source should be sufficient for one to be confident that things will go well.
Really, no one would appreciate being called upon to explain or prove each statement that he makes. Let us say that an acquaintance described an experience in saving a person from drowning. If he was a respected friend, we would not ask him to prove that he actually did the things he described. To require this would show lack of confidence and trust. It would be no basis for building and maintaining a friendship. Obviously, then, one who would not accept God’s promise of a resurrection without first having every detail clarified could never be counted as His friend. God accepts as his friends only those who exercise faith, who trust his word. (Hebrews 11:6) He provides abundant evidence on which to base such faith, but he does not force people to believe by providing and proving every single detail so that faith is unnecessary.
Thus the absence of certain details serves to test people as to what they are at heart. There are those who have a high opinion of themselves and their own pet ideas, and who follow a course of independence. They do not want to be accountable to anyone. Belief in the resurrection would require them to acknowledge a need to live in harmony with God’s will. But this they do not want to do. Hence, due to the absence of certain details about the resurrection, they may find what they consider to be justification for their disbelief. They are much like the Sadducees in the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The Sadducees refused to believe in the resurrection and pointed to what they thought to be an insurmountable problem. They said to Jesus:
“Teacher, Moses wrote us, ‘If a man’s brother dies having a wife, but this one remained childless, his brother should take the wife and raise up offspring from her for his brother.’ Accordingly there were seven brothers; and the first took a wife and died childless. So the second, and the third took her. Likewise even the seven: they did not leave children behind, but died off. Lastly, the woman also died. Consequently, in the resurrection, of which one of them does she become the wife? For the seven got her as wife.”—Luke 20:28-33.
In answering their question, Jesus Christ exposed the wrongness of the Sadducees’ reasoning and emphasized the surety of the resurrection promise. He replied:
“The children of this system of things marry and are given in marriage, but those who have been counted worthy of gaining that system of things and the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. . . . But that the dead are raised up even Moses disclosed, in the account about the thornbush, when he calls Jehovah ‘the God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob.’ He is a God, not of the dead, but of the living, for they are all living to him.”—Luke 20:34-38.
WHY RESURRECTION HOLDS FORTH NO PROMISE OF MARRIAGE
On the basis of Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees, some may be disturbed about his saying that there will be no marrying among those raised from the dead. They may even think that without marriage the resurrection is something undesirable, that it would not benefit them.
However, when reasoning on Jesus’ reply, we do well to remember that we are imperfect. Our likes and dislikes are largely conditioned by the things to which we have become accustomed. So no one really has any basis for being sure that he would not like the future provisions that God will make for the resurrected ones. Then, too, not all the details have been provided. This has really been a kindness on God’s part. Why, as imperfect humans, we might at first react unfavorably to things that would actually fill our life with joy in a perfect state. Such details therefore might be beyond our present ability to receive. Christ Jesus showed awareness and consideration of the limitations of imperfect humans, as evident from what he said to his disciples on one occasion: “I have many things yet to say to you, but you are not able to bear them at present.”—John 16:12.
Those who will attain a resurrection to immortal spirit life in the heavens have no concept of what it will be like. They cannot compare it with anything they know on earth. Their bodies will be completely different. All sex distinctions belonging to humans will be things of the past for them. So there can be no marrying among those raised to spirit life in the heavens because they all together as a body become the “bride” of Christ.
But what about those who are brought back from the dead to live on earth? Will they be reunited with former marriage mates? No statement in the Bible indicates that this will be the case. The Scriptures definitely show that death dissolves the marriage. Romans 7:2, 3 reads: “A married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is alive; but if her husband dies, she is discharged from the law of her husband . . . so that she is not an adulteress if she becomes another man’s.”
Hence, if a person chooses to remarry now, he does not have to worry about the effect this might have on a resurrected mate in the future. If singleness is not for him, he does not have to struggle to maintain it in the hope of being reunited in marriage with his former mate in the resurrection. Surely, then, it was a kindness on God’s part not to require former marriage relationships to be in force at the time of a person’s resurrection, as the Sadducees erroneously thought.
While we do not know where on earth or with whom the resurrected ones will live, we can rest assured that whatever arrangement exists will contribute to the happiness of the resurrected ones. God’s gifts, including the resurrection, will wholly satisfy the desires and needs of obedient mankind. His gifts are perfect, flawless. (James 1:17) The generous gifts that we have already received as expressions of his love convince us of that.
CHILDREN AND OTHERS TO BE RAISED
What of children who die? Will they too return to life when righteousness prevails on this earth? Surely that is what loving parents would want for any children that they may have lost in death. And there is solid basis for entertaining such a hope.
Among those reported in the Bible as having been resurrected were children. The daughter of Jairus, who lived in Galilee, was about twelve years of age; Jesus brought her back to life. (Luke 8:42, 54, 55) The boys who were raised from the dead by the prophets Elijah and Elisha may have been older or younger. (1 Kings 17:20-23; 2 Kings 4:32-37) In view of these past resurrections of children, is it not right to expect that a large-scale resurrection of children will take place during Jesus’ rule as king? Most assuredly! We can be certain that whatever Jehovah God has purposed in this regard will be the just, wise and loving thing for all concerned.
The Bible reveals that by far the majority of mankind—men, women and children—will be raised from the dead. As the apostle Paul affirmed in his defense before Governor Felix: “I have hope toward God . . . that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15) The “righteous” are those who lived in God’s favor. The “unrighteous” are the rest of mankind. But does that mean that every dead individual will have a resurrection? No, it does not.
THOSE WHO WILL NOT BE RESURRECTED
Certain ones have been judged by God as undeserving of a resurrection. Regarding those who in the present time refuse to submit to Christ’s rulership and fail to do good to his “brothers” on earth, the Bible says: “These will depart into everlasting cutting-off.” (Matthew 25:46) They will experience this everlasting cutting-off when Jesus Christ, along with his angelic forces, destroys all opposers of his righteous rule in the “great tribulation,” now near.
As to any in line for the kingdom of the heavens who prove unfaithful to God, we are told: “There is no longer any sacrifice for sins left, but there is a certain fearful expectation of judgment and there is a fiery jealousy that is going to consume those in opposition.”—Hebrews 10:26, 27.
Also, there are classes of people who are spoken of as experiencing an eternal destruction. Jesus Christ indicated that the unrepentant Pharisees and other religious leaders of his day as a class had sinned against the holy spirit. He said of such sin: “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.” (Matthew 12:31, 32) There being no forgiveness for such sin, all guilty of denying obvious manifestations of God’s spirit pay the penalty for such unforgivable sin by remaining dead forever.
Aside from what the Bible says specifically about those who have perished everlastingly, we are in no position to say that particular individuals will not be raised from the dead. The fact that some will not be, however, should serve as a warning to us to avoid a course leading to divine disapproval.
A RESURRECTION OF JUDGMENT
The fact that the majority of mankind will be raised from the dead is truly an undeserved kindness on God’s part. It is something that God does not have to do, but his love and compassion for humankind moved him to lay the basis for it by providing his Son as a ransom. (John 3:16) That any humans would fail to appreciate their being raised from the dead with the prospect of eternal life is, therefore, hard to imagine. Yet there will be some who will not develop full, unbreakable, loyal attachment to Jehovah God. They will therefore lose out on the lasting blessings that being brought back to life will offer them.
Jesus Christ called attention to this when he spoke of a “resurrection of judgment” and set it in contrast with the “resurrection of life.” (John 5:29) The fact that life is here contrasted with judgment makes it clear that a condemnatory judgment is involved. What is this condemnation?
To understand this, contrast first the situation of those resurrected to earthly life with that of those resurrected to heavenly life. The Bible says of those sharing in the “first resurrection”: “Happy and holy is anyone having part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no authority.” (Revelation 20:6) Raised to immortal life in the heavens, the 144,000 joint heirs of Christ cannot die. Their loyalty to God is so certain that he can entrust them with an indestructible life. But this is not the case with all those raised to life on earth. There will be some of these latter ones who will become disloyal to God. The condemnatory judgment passed on them for unfaithfulness will be “second death,” a death from the “authority” of which no recovery is possible.
Yet why would anyone end up following a course leading to condemnatory judgment when he has been granted the undeserved favor of being raised from the dead?
The answer to this question can be better understood in the light of what Jesus Christ said about people who would be resurrected. Addressing his unbelieving fellow countrymen, Jesus said:
“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.”—Matthew 12:41, 42; Luke 11:31, 32.
With reference to a city that would stubbornly refuse to listen to the message of truth, Jesus noted:
How would it be more endurable on Judgment Day for Sodom and Gomorrah? How would the “queen of the south” and the Ninevites who responded to Jonah’s preaching condemn the generation of Jesus’ fellow countrymen?
This will be in the way such resurrected ones respond to the help given during the reign of Jesus Christ and his 144,000 associate king-priests. That period of rulership will be a “Judgment Day” in that it will provide all persons opportunity to demonstrate whether they want to submit to God’s arrangements. In the case of those like the unbelieving inhabitants of cities who witnessed the powerful works of Jesus Christ, this is not going to be easy.
It is going to be hard for them to recognize humbly that they were wrong in rejecting Jesus as the Messiah and then to have to submit themselves to him as their King. Pride and stubbornness will make submission more difficult for them than for the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, who, while sinful, never rejected grand opportunities like those set before persons who witnessed the works of Jesus Christ. The better response of the resurrected Ninevites and that of the queen of Sheba will serve as a reproof to the resurrected generation of Jesus’ fellow countrymen living in the time of his earthly ministry. It will be much easier for these Ninevites and similar ones to accept the rule of someone toward whom they had never been prejudiced.
Those who positively refuse to make progress in the way of righteousness under Christ’s kingdom will experience the condemnatory judgment of “second death.” In certain cases this will happen before they reach human perfection.
Furthermore, others, after having been brought to human perfection, will unappreciatively fail to demonstrate loyal devotion to Jehovah God when put to the test. Following the thousand-year reign of Christ, Satan the Devil will be released for a short time from his confinement in the abyss. As he attacked God’s sovereignty to seduce Eve, who then persuaded Adam, he will again seek to get perfect humans to rebel against God’s rulership. Of Satan’s attempt and its outcome, Revelation 20:7-10, 14, 15 says:
“As soon as the thousand years have been ended, Satan will be let loose out of his prison, and he will go out to mislead those nations in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war. The number of these is as the sand of the sea. And they advanced over the breadth of the earth and encircled the camp of the holy ones and the beloved city. But fire came down out of heaven and devoured them. And the Devil who was misleading them was hurled into the lake of fire and sulphur . . . 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.” This signifies their unending destruction or annihilation. Thus these unfaithful ones will have what Jesus called “a resurrection of judgment,” a condemnatory judgment.
On the other hand, those who refuse to join Satan in rebellion will be judged worthy of receiving everlasting life. They will forever rejoice in having life as perfect humans, expressing love and being loved for all eternity. Theirs will prove to be a “resurrection of life.”
Even now we can start to develop the qualities that God looks for in those whom he recognizes as his approved servants. If we show ourselves appreciative for all that he has done and get an advance start in the way of righteousness, we can have the wonderful prospect of having far more than the present life. Yes, we can have life everlasting in perfection, free from all sorrow and pain!