Power of the Resurrection Hope
1. What marvelous prospects are made possible by the resurrection?
WITHOUT the resurrection, there is no hope for any future life for the human dead. But Jehovah, out of undeserved kindness, has opened up for billions who have died the priceless opportunity to enjoy eternal life. As a result, we also have the heartwarming hope of being reunited with loved ones who have fallen asleep in death.—Compare Mark 5:35, 41, 42; Acts 9:36-41.
2. (a) In what ways has the resurrection proved to be important in the carrying out of Jehovah’s purpose? (b) When in particular is the resurrection hope an important source of strength to us?
2 Because of the resurrection Jehovah can, without lasting harm to his faithful servants, let Satan go to the limit in trying to prove his malicious charge, “Everything that a man has he will give in behalf of his soul.” (Job 2:4) Because Jesus was raised from the dead he was able to present the value of his human sacrifice before his Father’s heavenly throne, with lifesaving benefit to us. By means of resurrection those who are joint heirs with Christ are united with him in the heavenly Kingdom. And for all of us who have faith, the resurrection is a source of strength beyond what is normal when we undergo trials that bring us face to face with death.
Why Fundamental to Christian Faith
3. (a) In what sense is resurrection a “primary doctrine”? (b) What does resurrection mean to the world in general?
3 The resurrection is, as stated at Hebrews 6:1, 2, a “primary doctrine,” part of the foundation of faith without which we could never become mature Christians. But it is alien to the thinking of the world in general. Lacking spirituality, more and more people live in pursuit of pleasure. They see only this life as real. (1 Cor. 15:32) Those who adhere to traditional religions, both inside Christendom and outside, think they have an immortal soul, which would make resurrection unnecessary. Any who try to reconcile these two concepts find it more confusing than hope inspiring. How can we help those who are willing to listen?—Acts 17:32.
4. (a) Before a person can appreciate resurrection, what may we need to discuss with him? (b) What scriptures would you use to explain what the soul is? The condition of the dead? (c) But what if someone uses a Bible translation that seems to obscure the truths found in those texts?
4 Before such ones can appreciate what a wonderful provision the resurrection is, they need to understand what the soul is and the condition of the dead. Often, just a few scriptures are sufficient to make these matters clear to a person who is hungry for the truth. (Gen. 2:7; Ezek. 18:4; Ps. 146:3, 4) But some modern translations and paraphrase editions of the Bible obscure these truths. So it may be necessary to consider the expressions used in the Bible’s original languages.
5. How would you help such a person to understand what the soul is?
5 The New World Translation is especially valuable in doing this, because it consistently renders the Hebrew term neʹphesh and the corresponding Greek word psy·kheʹ as “soul,” and in its appendix are listed many texts where these terms are found. Other modern versions may render the same original words not only as “soul” but also as “creature,” “being,” “person” and “life”; “my neʹphesh” may be rendered “I,” and “your neʹphesh” as “you.” A comparison of these Bibles with some older translations or with the New World Translation will help a sincere student to appreciate that the original-language terms rendered “soul” refer to (1) persons, (2) animals and (3) the life that they enjoy as such. But never do they convey the idea that a soul is an invisible, intangible thing that can escape from the body at death and have a continued conscious existence somewhere.
6. (a) Why do some modern translations leave readers confused as to the meaning of Sheol, Hades and Gehenna? (b) How would you explain from the Bible the condition of persons in Sheol, or Hades? In Gehenna?
6 Likewise, the New World Translation is consistent in its use of Sheol to transliterate the Hebrew term sheōlʹ and in its use of Hades for the Greek term haʹdes and Gehenna for geʹen·na. But some other modern translations and paraphrases of the Bible confuse the reader by rendering BOTH haʹdes and geʹen·na as “hell,” in addition to using “the grave” and “the world of the dead” as other renderings of sheōlʹ and haʹdes. By comparing translations, where necessary, it can be shown that Sheol is the equivalent of Hades. (Ps. 16:10; Acts 2:27) The Bible makes it clear that Sheol, or Hades, mankind’s common grave, is associated with death, not life. (Ps. 89:48; Rev. 20:13) It also points to the prospect of return from there by means of resurrection. (Job 14:13; Acts 2:31) In contrast, no hope for future life is held out for those who go to Gehenna, and, of course, the soul is not spoken of as having conscious existence there.—Matt. 18:9; 10:28.
7. Properly understood, how can the resurrection influence a person’s attitude and actions?
7 With those matters cleared up, the death and resurrection of Christ take on real meaning. A person can now be helped to grasp what the resurrection might mean to him and can begin to appreciate Jehovah’s love in making such a marvelous provision. The grief felt by those who have lost dear ones in death can now be replaced with joyful anticipation of reunion in God’s New Order. First-century Christians realized that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a cornerstone of the Christian faith. Zealously they witnessed to others about it and the hope that it assured. So, too, those who appreciate it today are eager to share this precious truth with others.—Acts 5:30-32; 10:40-43; 13:32-39; 17:31.
Using the ‘Key of Hades’
8. What does Jesus’ use of “the keys of death and of Hades” mean for his spirit-anointed followers?
8 All who are to be associated with Christ in his heavenly Kingdom must eventually die. But they know well the assurance that he gave when he said to the apostle John: “I became dead, but, look! I am living forever and ever, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.” (Rev. 1:18) What did he mean? He was calling attention to his own experience. He, too, had died. But God did not leave him in Hades. On the third day Jehovah personally raised him to spirit life and conferred immortality upon him. Not only that, but God gave him “the keys of death and of Hades” to use in releasing others from mankind’s common grave and from the effects of Adamic sin. Because of being in possession of those keys, Jesus is able to raise his faithful followers from the dead. When he does so, he confers upon the spirit-anointed members of his congregation the precious gift of immortal heavenly life, just as his Father did for him.—Rom. 6:5; Phil. 3:20, 21.
9. When does the resurrection of faithful anointed Christians take place?
9 When would faithful anointed Christians experience that resurrection? It has already begun. The apostle Paul explains that they would be raised ‘during Christ’s presence,’ which presence began in 1914 C.E. (1 Cor. 15:23) Now, when these finish their earthly course, they do not have to wait in death for the return of their Lord. As soon as they die they are raised up in the spirit, being “changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” What happiness is theirs, because “the things they did go right with them”!—1 Cor. 15:51, 52; Rev. 14:13.
10. What other resurrection will there be, and when will it begin?
10 But theirs is not the only resurrection. The fact that it is called the “first resurrection” indicates that another must follow. (Rev. 20:6) Those who benefit from this latter resurrection will have the happy prospect of everlasting life on a Paradise earth. When will that take place? The book of Revelation shows that it will be after “the earth and the heaven” of the present wicked system of things are removed. That end of the old system is very near. Thereafter, at God’s appointed time, the earthly resurrection will begin.—Rev. 20:11, 12.
11. Who will be included among the faithful ones raised to life on earth, and why is that a thrilling prospect?
11 Who will be included? Faithful servants of Jehovah from earliest times. Among them will be men who, because of their strong faith in the resurrection, “would not accept release by some ransom”—some compromise of their integrity to God in order to escape a violent death. (Heb. 11:35) What a delight it will be to get to know them personally and to hear from them, firsthand, the details concerning events that are reported on only briefly in the Bible! Among others, there will be Abel, the first faithful witness of Jehovah. Enoch and Noah, fearless proclaimers of God’s message of warning before the Deluge. Abraham, who entertained angels. Moses, through whom the Law was given at Mount Sinai. Courageous prophets such as Jeremiah, who saw the destruction of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E. And John the Baptizer, who heard God himself identify Jesus as His Son. There will also be loyal ones who died during the last days of the present system.—Heb. 11:4-38; Matt. 11:11.
12. (a) How many of the dead in Hades will be raised? (b) So who will be included, and why?
12 In time, others, too, will be raised. The extent to which Jesus will use the ‘key of Hades’ on behalf of mankind is shown in a vision given to the apostle John in which he saw Hades “hurled into the lake of fire.” What does that mean? That it is destroyed; it goes out of existence because of being completely emptied. Thus, in addition to raising faithful worshipers of Jehovah, Jesus will mercifully bring back from Hades, or Sheol, even unrighteous persons. None of these are raised simply to be judged worthy of death again. In the righteous environment under God’s Kingdom they will be helped to bring their lives into harmony with Jehovah’s ways. The vision showed “the scroll of life” opened, and they will have opportunity to get their names entered in it. They will be “judged individually according to their deeds” performed after their resurrection. (Rev. 20:12-14; Acts 24:15) Thus, viewed from the standpoint of the final outcome, theirs can prove to be “a resurrection of life” and will not unavoidably be “a resurrection of [condemnatory] judgment.”—John 5:28, 29.
13. (a) Who will not be resurrected? (b) How should knowledge of the truth about the resurrection affect our lives?
13 Of course, not all who have ever lived will be resurrected. Some committed sins for which no forgiveness is possible. Those executed in the “great tribulation,” now near at hand, will be included among those who experience everlasting destruction. (Matt. 12:31, 32; 23:33; 24:21, 22; 25:41, 46; 2 Thess. 1:6-9) Thus, while extraordinary mercy is shown in releasing all who are in Hades, the resurrection provides no basis for our being indifferent about how we live now. Rather, it should motivate us to show how deeply appreciative we are of this truly undeserved kindness of God.
Strengthened by Hope of the Resurrection
14. How can the resurrection be a source of great strength to a person who is nearing the end of his present life?
14 Those who have made the resurrection hope their own are able to draw great strength from it. When they near the end of their life, they know that they cannot indefinitely postpone death, regardless of the medical procedures used. (Eccl. 8:8) If they have kept busy in the work of the Lord and served loyally with his organization, they can look to the future with full assurance. They know that by means of resurrection they will in God’s due time enjoy life again. And what a life it will be! “The real life,” as the apostle Paul called it.—1 Tim. 6:19; 1 Cor. 15:58; Heb. 6:10-12.
15. If we are threatened by violent persecutors, what can help us to maintain integrity to Jehovah?
15 Not just knowing that there is a resurrection, but knowing the One who is the Source of that provision is what enables us to be strong. This fortifies us to be loyal to God even if threatened with death at the hands of violent persecutors. Satan has long used fear of untimely death as a means of holding people in slavery. But Jesus did not give in to such fear; he proved faithful to Jehovah right down to death. By what his death accomplished he provided the means for emancipating others from such fear. (Heb. 2:14, 15) As a result of their faith in that provision, his true followers have built up an outstanding record as integrity keepers. When put under pressure, they have proved that ‘they do not love their own souls’ more than they love Jehovah. (Rev. 12:11) Wisely, they do not try to save their present life by abandoning Christian principles, only to lose the prospect of eternal life. (Luke 9:24, 25) Do you have that kind of faith? You will if you truly love Jehovah and have taken to heart what the resurrection hope means to you.
● Why does a person need to understand what the soul is and the condition of the dead before he can appreciate the resurrection?
● Who will return from the dead? How should this knowledge affect us?
● How does the resurrection hope strengthen us?