The End of Sickness and Death
1. What has fear of death often caused people to do?
OF ALL the things that have brought sorrow and suffering to humankind, sickness and death take the lead. Even the fear of death has kept people in a form of bondage, and threats of death have forced many to commit acts in violation of their consciences—for example, under Nazi rule, when some people were terrorized into betraying their own friends. (Hebrews 2:15) What relief humankind will experience when these enemies, sickness and death, are abolished!—1 Corinthians 15:26.
2, 3. (a) Doing away with death will eliminate what other undesirable things? (b) From what does God’s promise to abolish death liberate us now?
2 Only the Creator can help people out of this sad situation. And not only has he promised to do so, but he has laid the foundation for complete, permanent removal of death under the rule of the “new heavens” of Jesus Christ and his associate kings and priests. God promises humankind that “he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.” He adds, to give us faith and assurance: “These words are faithful and true.” (Revelation 21:4, 5) With the removal of sickness and death, the debilitating effects of old age, with its wrinkled skin and gray hair, will also disappear.
3 If we know and believe this divine promise, it removes much of the sadness that death brings. We will not “sorrow just as the rest also do who have no hope.”—1 Thessalonians 4:13.
NOT A NEW HOPE
4. Why can we say that the hope that death will be abolished is not a new hope?
4 This hope is not new. Men and women who served God thousands of years ago had this hope that comforted and strengthened them. While they knew that they would die, they also had faith in God that they would be brought back with opportunity for everlasting life. Some of these faithful people were actually eyewitnesses to resurrections that God performed through his prophets and through Jesus and the apostles. Of course, those resurrected ones eventually died again. But God’s servants then were awaiting a “better resurrection” under the Messianic kingdom, when it will not be necessary to die again, except for willful disobedience.—Hebrews 11:16, 35.
5. What evidence do we have that Abraham, Job and Daniel had assurance that, when they died, they would not remain dead forever?
5 Abraham demonstrated faith in the resurrection in an outstanding way. (Hebrews 11:17-19) Faithful, enduring Job spoke of being in Sheol, the grave, and of being remembered by God at His set time. (Job 14:13) And when the prophet Daniel asked for understanding of his long-range prophecy, which was to be fulfilled at “the time of the end,” God’s angel told him: “You will rest, but you will stand up for your lot at the end of the days.”—Daniel 12:8, 9, 13.
WHO WILL RECEIVE AN EARTHLY RESURRECTION?
6. (a) What two general groups of people will receive an earthly resurrection? (b) At their resurrection, what will be the attitude of those who had, before death, been servants of God?
6 Resurrection from death will be only the first step in God’s purpose to rehabilitate those who have died. They will come forth from the grave to be welcomed and received by the “great crowd” of survivors of the “great tribulation,” after the destruction of the present wicked system of things. There will be two groups of persons resurrected to live again on earth: (1) People who have proved faithful to God in the past, among whom are those mentioned in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, and (2) those who had, before death, never been servants of God. “There is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous,” said the apostle Paul. (Acts 24:15) The first group will have no trouble learning and taking hold of God’s provisions for life through Christ’s sacrifice. They will gladly render obedience to the laws in existence then. Such faithful ones are even now, while still in the grave, counted as “living” by God, because he is sure to resurrect them.—Luke 20:37, 38.
7. What will be done for the resurrected ones who had not served God in the past?
7 Persons who had not previously served God will, after being resurrected, have to learn about Jehovah the true God and his kind provisions through Jesus Christ. The “great crowd” of tribulation survivors will be responsible to teach them. (Romans 10:14) The good news will have to be made clear to these resurrected ones, for God has declared that “in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground [in the grave], and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”—Philippians 2:10, 11.
8. Will the resurrected ones be judged on the basis of their past deeds, or on what basis?
8 The resurrected ones will be required to be obedient to the laws then in force and will be judged “out of those things written in the scrolls according to their deeds.” (Revelation 20:12) The “scrolls” apparently represent God’s revelation of his will for humankind during that thousand-year period.
PERFECTION NOT IMMEDIATELY REACHED
9. What will be the situation of the “great crowd”?
9 The members of the “great crowd” will not be perfected immediately after the “great tribulation” is over. But they survive the destruction of this system of things because of their faith and obedience, and form the “foundation” of the “new earth.” (Revelation 7:14-17; compare Isaiah 51:16.) So they will undoubtedly go right ahead in a faithful way and will make rapid strides toward perfection as they follow the things written in the “scrolls.”—Psalm 37:30, 31.
10. What will be done about major disabilities that the members of the “great crowd” as well as the resurrected ones have had?
10 What about the members of this “great crowd” who have serious disabilities, such as heart disease, paralysis, blindness, loss of arms or legs, and so forth? It is reasonable to believe that they will receive early healing of these defects. When on earth, Jesus illustrated such healing. He instantly healed withered hands and arms, strengthened paralyzed limbs and restored sight to blind eyes. These body parts did not gradually grow back. (Luke 6:8-10; John 5:5-9) Likewise, the resurrected ones will logically come back with sound bodies. This was also true of all those whom the Scriptures report as being resurrected. (Luke 8:54, 55) Lazarus, for example, was partially decayed, but he came back from the grave with decayed parts renewed. (John 11:39-44) God made the following promise to his people whom he purposed to restore to their land in ancient times: “No resident will say: ‘I am sick.’ The people that are dwelling in the land will be those pardoned for their error.” People will be able to do the normal things of life even though not perfect as yet.—Isaiah 33:24.
HOW PERFECTION COMES ABOUT
11. (a) How will perfection be attained? (b) Why does a spiritual change have to be made before physical healing takes place?
11 However, full perfection of body will evidently come only as the individual, because of his faith in Christ, makes spiritual progress in ‘putting on the new personality.’ Even though a person has been healed of major disabilities, as he practices that which is right he will come nearer and nearer to perfection. He will be regularly partaking of God’s provision for his healing by means of Christ’s atonement sacrifice. (Revelation 22:2) Christ will mercifully remove all that one’s imperfections. This spiritual change will have to be made first, because sin is the cause of death, and a person cannot be perfect in physical body until sin is completely removed from his personality. The Bible always links sickness with sin.—Luke 5:18-25; 1 Corinthians 15:56; Romans 6:23.
12. What fight does each servant of God now have in making over his personality, and why?
12 The apostle Paul describes the “fight” carried on now by each one who tries to make over his personality, to become fully pleasing to God. He says: “What I wish, this I do not practice; but what I hate is what I do. . . . The good that I wish I do not do, but the bad that I do not wish is what I practice. . . . The one working it out is no longer I, but the sin dwelling in me.” (Romans 7:15-20) Through inheritance, all humans have been brought forth “with error,” in sin. (Psalm 51:5) Also, all have added to that sin during their own course of life, the environment wrongly influencing them.
13. What can a person do about (a) the bad tendencies he has ‘picked up’ from his environment? (b) his inherited tendencies that are bad?
13 Even today a person can genuinely get rid of the things that he has ‘picked up’ from his environment, with the help of God’s Word, His spirit and his own association with God’s servants. But it is different with the things that come through his genetic makeup, that are a part of him, physically and mentally. True, he can fight these faults with considerable success, for the apostles tell us that we can ‘make our minds over,’ “put on the new personality,” ‘produce the fruits of the spirit,’ “hold a good conscience” and ‘maintain fine conduct.’ (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:24; Galatians 5:22, 23; 1 Peter 3:16; 2:12) But we cannot completely wipe out these bad inherited tendencies merely through such effort. The apostle said of his situation: “Miserable man that I am! Who will rescue me from the body undergoing this death? Thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So, then, with my mind I myself am a slave to God’s law, but with my flesh to sin’s law.”—Romans 7:24, 25.
14. (a) When a Christian’s inherited weaknesses cause him to sin, what can he do to remain in God’s favor? (b) How will one be finally delivered from all inherited weaknesses, which cause sin and distress?
14 In this present time, the Christian can receive forgiveness for his sins through faith in Jesus Christ and the sacrifice of his life for our errors. And he must follow up his prayers requesting forgiveness by doing his best to align himself with the right course. He can never let up in the fight against wrong inclinations, and with the help of God’s spirit it need not be a losing battle. His conscience can be clean. (Romans 8:2, 11-13; Hebrews 9:14) But in the new system of things Christ will administer the full benefit of His sacrifice so that the inherited weaknesses, the genetic “misinformation” received from a person’s ancestors, will be corrected. He will be healed in every respect. What a relief! What a deliverance when a person will be able to do exactly the good it is in his heart to do, all the time! Thanks, indeed, to God through Jesus Christ.
15. (a) When will it no longer be a fight for a person to do the right thing at all times? (b) How does the apostle Paul highlight this point at 1 Timothy 1:8, 9? (c) How was Jesus an example of the fact that a righteous man does not need a code of laws forbidding murder, theft, and so forth?
15 So, during the thousand-year reign of Christ, an individual can gradually become less and less burdened with sinful tendencies. He will more and more do the right thing. Then, when perfection is reached, it will no longer be a fight to do the right thing. It will be natural to do right. A person will not be in the least inclined to steal, to commit immorality, to hate or slander others. The apostle Paul said about the Mosaic law, which legislated against these things: “Now we know that the Law is fine provided one handles it lawfully in the knowledge of this fact, that law is promulgated, not for a righteous man, but for persons lawless and unruly, ungodly and sinners.” (1 Timothy 1:8, 9) A perfect person needs no law to warn him not to do these wicked things. When Jesus was on earth, it was the natural thing for him to do what is right. He ‘loved righteousness and hated lawlessness.’ (Hebrews 1:9) He had an immediate, heart-motivated reaction to do good and to reject bad. Consider the account of his temptation by Satan and also Peter’s mistaken effort to get Jesus to avoid that which God had set before Jesus to do.—Matthew 4:1-11; 16:21-23.
RECEIVING RESURRECTED ONES
16. (a) Will resurrected persons be identifiable to themselves and their friends? (b) What is God’s purpose in bringing a person back to earth by a resurrection? (c) Though a resurrected person will not be judged by his past deeds, will such past performance have any effect on his life after resurrection?
16 As to the resurrected ones, God will accurately “re-create” each individual with his entire life pattern, personality and memory just as it was. The one resurrected will be able to identify himself as the same person. Also, his former associates will know him by his appearance and characteristics. He can then resume life after the interruption caused by his death, possessing the same motivations, leanings and traits that he displayed beforehand. However, his past sins and mistakes will not be brought up as charges against him. Why not? Because God’s purpose in bringing him back to earth is to provide opportunity for him to take advantage of Christ’s sacrifice and be freed of sin. Yet, what the individual did in the past, if bad, would have its effect on his personality, and the resulting bad traits would have to be overcome. The more unrighteous his past course was, the more he will have to change. Some may not take advantage of the opportunity to change.—Isaiah 26:10.
17. If a person died centuries ago, will it seem to him that a long time has passed between his death and his resurrection?
17 To the person who is resurrected, the time period that he was dead would be, to him, only an instant, since death is a nonexistence. It is likened in the Bible to a deep sleep. (John 11:11-14; 1 Thessalonians 4:13, 14; Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10) Thousands of years, or a day, would seem like only a moment of time. To the one resurrected, the experience would be like walking through a doorway out of the present wicked system of things into the righteous, orderly new system of things.
18. (a) What will the resurrected ones have to learn? (b) Logically, how will those who are resurrected not be brought back to a totally unfamiliar world, with a ‘communication gap’?
18 Of course, the person who died many years ago will be surprised to find circumstances on earth so different. He will have to be informed by the members of the “great crowd” of the works that God has performed in the meantime, particularly in giving His Son as the atonement sacrifice. He will also learn how the good conditions are a result of Christ’s Kingdom rule. It would be in harmony with God’s loving-kindness to assume that family members and friends will be able to receive back their dead loved ones, just as was the case with resurrections reported in the Bible. (Luke 7:12-15; 8:49-56; Hebrews 11:35) Then, after a period of training, the resurrected ones will, in turn, be able to receive and help their yet dead loved ones who are subsequently brought back. Thus no one will be resurrected to a totally unfamiliar world, but, rather, to warm companionship, with no ‘communication gap.’ This process will continue until all the ransomed dead are finally resurrected. What a joyous time that will be!
GOD BECOMES “ALL THINGS TO EVERYONE”
19. Though perfection comes by Christ’s thousand-year rule, when will those on earth be granted everlasting life?
19 At the end of the thousand years, the last trace of sin and its consequence, death, will have been destroyed. (1 Corinthians 15:26) But does this reaching of perfection by all then on earth mean that such persons cannot sin? No, for the Bible reveals that persons reaching that state will not be assured of everlasting life until they prove faithful against a final attack by Satan the Devil. When Christ’s kingdom and priesthood accomplish the restoration to perfection, Christ turns the Kingdom back to God, and man again stands in relation to God as Adam did. The situation is restored as it was at the beginning and each man’s final, everlasting destiny is for God alone to determine. God permits this attack by Satan and his demon hosts.
20. What test will come upon the perfect inhabitants of the earth at the end of the thousand years?
20 Revelation 20:7-10 describes what occurs as a test on earth’s inhabitants: “Now as soon as the thousand years have been ended, Satan will be let loose out of his prison [the abyss, where he had been placed just before the thousand years began], 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 [an unstated, hence humanly undeterminable number]. 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, where both the wild beast and the false prophet already were; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”—Compare Revelation 20:1-3.
21. (a) What issue will again be raised? (b) What will be the outcome?
21 This prophecy shows that some of the people then on earth will group themselves to attack the faithful ones on earth. They will be induced to do so by Satan and his demons. Why would perfect persons do this? Just as Adam and Eve did, they step out for independence from God. They are convinced that here is the opportunity to do this. Satan thus makes a ‘last stand’ to win his fight over the great issue that he originally raised, namely, the issue of the rightness of God’s rulership. He fails, for the faithful ones, who doubtless constitute the great majority of mankind, remain firm. Then Satan and those following him are hurled into the “lake of fire.” This is the “second death,” where, to all eternity, they are held in ‘torment’ (jailers were in olden times called “tormentors” [Matthew 18:34, Authorized Version]). They are ‘locked up’ in nonexistence forever.
22. (a) How can God safely guarantee everlasting life on earth to those who remain faithful under the final test? (b) What example do we have that God can know a person so thoroughly that he can be sure the person will never sin?
22 Those who faithfully stood firm for God’s rulership or sovereignty will then be granted everlasting life. They will “come to life,” that is, real assured life. (Revelation 20:4-6) Thus God becomes “all things to everyone.” (1 Corinthians 15:28) But how can God safely guarantee that these will live forever? Because he thoroughly knows who those are who love him and who would never turn away from him. We have an example of this ability of God in the case of Jesus Christ, whom God knew so thoroughly and completely that he could foretell that Christ would be faithful through every test. God even had his prophets write in advance many of the very details of things that Christ would do in obedience to God under severe hardships.—Isaiah 53:7, 11; Psalms 40:7-10; 45:7.
GOD’S PURPOSE TOWARD EARTH FULFILLED
23. How will there be enjoyment of life, with full opportunity for exercise of talents and abilities for the welfare of all on earth?
23 So, although it has taken time, God’s purpose toward the earth will be gloriously fulfilled. Earth will be a grand paradise, filled with humans praising God and showing love to one another. But will the earth then become too crowded? No. We can be sure that God knows the number of persons that can comfortably live on earth. So he can reserve plenty of space for mountains and seas as well as room for the habitation of wildlife, for beauty and recreation. He will adjust matters so that there will be no feeling of crowding as is the case in large cities today. Life will be enjoyable, with all persons in harmony. Yet, since they will vary in personality and in gifts or talents and skills, there will be endless vistas of interest and delight to be enjoyed in their company. The many fields of activity will provide absorbing study, research and enterprise, with a real, lasting purpose. Each individual will be able to contribute his talents and abilities for the common welfare, and will have the energy and time to do so.—Compare Isaiah 40:29-31 and the principle expressed at Ecclesiastes 5:18-20.
24. (a) What will then be man’s relationship to the animals? (b) Will serious accidents occur?
24 When God created man and woman, he told them to subdue the earth and to exercise dominion over the animal creation. (Genesis 1:28) The earth was made as a gift to man—his home. (Psalm 115:16) Man will therefore know how to take care of the earth, exercising proper, loving control over the animals. The animals will be man’s friends and will instinctively respect his dominion. God demonstrated this when he restored ancient Israel from exile in Babylon. (Hosea 2:18) In full possession of his faculties, with alertness of all his senses, a man will have no serious accidents. Look at the animals in their natural habitat. The bat, with his “sonar” equipment, flies in the dark, unerringly avoiding objects even as fine as a piano wire. A bird comes in to a perfect landing on a limb or twig. They are equipped fully for the life they live, and they enjoy living. With stronger reasoning we can be assured that man, being superior to the animals, will be perfectly at home in his environment.
25. Why will life then never become boring or monotonous?
25 Work will then be joyful. Man will not have to eat bread ‘in the sweat of his face,’ as Adam was told after he had sinned. (Genesis 3:19) Work and the exercise of all their faculties will keep humans occupied in worthwhile, purposeful pursuits. As foreshadowed in ancient Israel when they obeyed the Law, there will be ample allowance of time for association with one’s nearest and most intimate ones, as well as for becoming acquainted with new friends. So in all the earth, one will have friends who will always remain friends. All of this will come from making friends with those who love humankind most, Jehovah God and his Son Jesus Christ.—John 15:14.
[Picture on page 169]
When Jesus Christ was on earth, he actually brought dead persons back to life