Resurrection—for Whom, and Where?
1, 2. How do we know that ancient servants of God believed in the resurrection?
GOD’S SERVANTS have always believed in the resurrection. Of Abraham, who lived 2,000 years before Jesus was born as a human, the Bible says: “He reckoned that God was able to raise him [his son Isaac] up even from the dead.” (Hebrews 11:17-19) Later God’s servant Job asked: “If an able-bodied man dies can he live again?” In answer to his own question, Job said to God: “You will call, and I myself shall answer you.” Thus he showed that he believed in the resurrection.—Job 14:14, 15.
2 When Jesus Christ was on earth, he explained: “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 20:37, 38) In the Christian Greek Scriptures the word “resurrection” is used more than 40 times. Indeed, the resurrection of the dead is a main Bible teaching.—Hebrews 6:1, 2.
3. What faith in the resurrection did Martha express?
3 When her brother Lazarus died, Jesus’ friend Martha showed faith in the resurrection. On hearing that Jesus was coming, Martha ran out to meet him. “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died,” she said. Seeing her sorrow, Jesus comforted her with the words: “Your brother will rise.” Martha answered: “I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.”—John 11:17-24.
4-6. What reasons did Martha have for believing in the resurrection?
4 Martha had strong reasons for her faith in the resurrection. She knew, for example, that many years earlier God’s prophets Elijah and Elisha, with God’s power, had each resurrected a child. (1 Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:32-37) And she knew that a dead man had come to life when he was thrown into a pit and touched the bones of dead Elisha. (2 Kings 13:20, 21) But what had strengthened her faith in the resurrection the most was what Jesus himself had taught and done.
5 Martha may have been present in Jerusalem less than two years before, when Jesus spoke of the part that he would have in resurrecting the dead. He said: “For just as the Father raises the dead up and makes them alive, so the Son also makes those alive whom he wants to. 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.”—John 5:21, 28, 29.
6 Up until the time Jesus spoke those words, there is no Bible record that he had resurrected anyone. But shortly afterward he raised to life a young man, the son of a widow in the city of Nain. The news of this was carried south to Judea, so Martha was sure to have heard about it. (Luke 7:11-17) Later, Martha also would have heard what happened near the Sea of Galilee in the home of Jairus. His 12-year-old daughter had become very sick and had died. But when Jesus arrived at Jairus’ home, he went over to the dead child, and said: “Girl, get up!” And she did!—Luke 8:40-56.
7. What proof did Jesus give Martha that he can resurrect the dead?
7 Still Martha did not expect Jesus to resurrect her brother at this time. That is why she said: “I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.” However, to impress on Martha the part he has in raising the dead, Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life; and everyone that is living and exercises faith in me will never die at all.” Jesus was soon afterward taken to the tomb where Lazarus had been laid. “Lazarus, come on out!” he cried. And Lazarus, who had been dead four days, came out!—John 11:24-26, 38-44.
8. What evidence is there that Jesus was resurrected?
8 A few weeks later Jesus himself was killed and placed in a tomb. But he was there only parts of three days. The apostle Peter explains why, saying: “This Jesus God resurrected, of which fact we are all witnesses.” The religious leaders could not stop God’s Son from coming out of the tomb. (Acts 2:32; Matthew 27:62-66; 28:1-7) There can be no doubt that Christ was raised from the dead, for afterward he showed himself alive to many of his disciples, once to some 500 of them. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8) So strongly did Jesus’ disciples believe in the resurrection that they were willing to face even death to serve God.
9. What nine persons does the Bible say were resurrected?
9 Further proof that the dead can be raised was given later through the apostles Peter and Paul. First, Peter resurrected Tabitha, also called Dorcas, of the city of Joppa. (Acts 9:36-42) And then Paul brought back to life young Eutychus, who had died when he fell from a third-floor window while Paul was speaking. (Acts 20:7-12) Surely these nine resurrections recorded in the Bible give certain proof that the dead can be brought back to life!
WHO WILL BE RESURRECTED?
10, 11. (a) Why did God arrange for the resurrection? (b) According to Acts 24:15, what two classes of people will be resurrected?
10 In the beginning it was not God’s purpose to resurrect anyone, because if Adam and Eve had remained faithful no one would have had to die. But then Adam’s sin brought imperfection and death upon everyone. (Romans 5:12) So to make it possible for any of Adam’s children to enjoy everlasting life, Jehovah God arranged for the resurrection. But what determines whether a person is resurrected or not?
11 The Bible explains: “There is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15) This may surprise some. ‘Why bring the “unrighteous” back to life?’ they may wonder. What happened while Jesus was hanging on the torture stake will help us to answer this question.
12, 13. (a) What promise did Jesus make to a criminal? (b) Where is the “Paradise” Jesus spoke about?
12 These men next to Jesus are criminals. One of them has just finished insulting him, saying: “You are the Christ, are you not? Save yourself and us.” However, the other criminal believes Jesus. He turns to him and says: “Remember me when you get into your kingdom.” At that, Jesus promises: “Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.”—Luke 23:39-43.
13 But what does Jesus mean when he says: “You will be with me in Paradise”? Where is Paradise? Well, where was the paradise God made at the beginning? It was on earth, was it not? God put the first human pair in the beautiful paradise called the garden of Eden. So when we read that this former criminal will be in Paradise, we should picture in our minds this earth made into a beautiful place in which to live, for the word “paradise” means “garden” or “park.”—Genesis 2:8, 9.
14. In what way will Jesus be with the former criminal in Paradise?
14 Jesus Christ, of course, will not be right here on earth with the former criminal. No, Jesus will be in heaven ruling as king over the earthly Paradise. So he will be with that man in the sense that He will raise him from the dead and care for his needs, both physical and spiritual. But why will Jesus permit a man who was a criminal to live in Paradise?
15. Why are the “unrighteous” resurrected?
15 It is true that this man did bad things. He was “unrighteous.” Also, he was ignorant of God’s will. But would he have been a criminal if he had known about God’s purposes? To find out, Jesus will resurrect this unrighteous man, as well as thousands of millions of others who died in ignorance. For instance, in past centuries many people died who did not know how to read and who had never seen a Bible. But they will be raised from Sheol, or Hades. Then, in the paradise earth, they will be taught God’s will, and they will have the opportunity to prove that they really do love God by doing his will.
16. (a) Who of the dead will not be resurrected? (b) Why should we not try to judge matters? (c) What should be our main concern?
16 This does not mean that everyone will receive a resurrection. The Bible shows that Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, will not. Because of his willful wickedness, Judas is called “the son of destruction.” (John 17:12) He went to the symbolic Gehenna from which there is no resurrection. (Matthew 23:33) Persons who willfully do what is bad after knowing God’s will may be sinning against the holy spirit. And God will not resurrect those who sin against his holy spirit. (Matthew 12:32; Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26, 27) However, since God is the Judge, there is no reason for us to try to figure out whether certain wicked people in the past or in modern times will be resurrected or not. God knows who is in Hades and who is in Gehenna. For our part, we should do everything we can to be the kind of persons that God wants in his new system.—Luke 13:24, 29.
17. Who will not need to be resurrected to enjoy everlasting life?
17 The fact is that not all who receive everlasting life will need to be resurrected. Many servants of God now living in these “last days” of this system of things will live through Armageddon. And then, as part of the righteous “new earth,” they will never need to die. What Jesus said to Martha can in a literal way be true of them: “And everyone that is living and exercises faith in me will never die at all.”—John 11:26; 2 Timothy 3:1.
18. Who are the “righteous” that will be resurrected?
18 Who are the “righteous” that are to be resurrected? These will include faithful servants of God who lived before Jesus Christ came to earth. Many of these persons are mentioned by name in Hebrews chapter 11. They did not hope to go to heaven, but hoped to live again on earth. Also among the “righteous” to be resurrected are faithful servants of God who have died in recent years. God will see to it that their hope of living forever on earth is realized by raising them from the dead.
WHEN AND WHERE RESURRECTED
19. (a) In what sense was Jesus the first to be resurrected? (b) Who are resurrected next?
19 Jesus Christ is spoken of as “the first to be resurrected from the dead.” (Acts 26:23) This means that he was the first to be resurrected of those who would not have to die again. Also, he was the first to be raised as a spirit person. (1 Peter 3:18) But the Bible tells us that there would be others, saying: “Each one in his own rank: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who belong to the Christ during his presence.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23) So in the resurrection some would be raised up before certain others.
20. (a) Who are “those who belong to the Christ”? (b) What resurrection do they have?
20 “Those who belong to the Christ” are the 144,000 faithful disciples chosen to rule with him in the Kingdom. Of their heavenly resurrection, the Bible says: “Happy and holy is anyone having part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no authority, but they will . . . rule as kings with him for the thousand years.”—Revelation 20:6; 14:1, 3.
21. (a) When does “the first resurrection” begin? (b) Who no doubt have been raised already to heavenly life?
21 So following the resurrection of Christ, the 144,000 are the next to be raised. They have part in “the first resurrection,” or “the earlier resurrection.” (Philippians 3:11) When does this take place? “During his presence,” the Bible says. As we have learned in earlier chapters, Christ’s presence began in the year 1914. So the “day” for “the first resurrection” of faithful Christians to heaven has already come. No doubt the apostles and other early Christians have already been raised to heavenly life.—2 Timothy 4:8.
22. (a) Who else will have part in “the first resurrection”? (b) When are they resurrected?
22 But there are Christians living now during Christ’s invisible presence who have this same hope of ruling in heaven with Christ. They are the remaining ones, a remnant of the 144,000. When are they resurrected? They do not need to sleep in death, but they are raised immediately when they die. The Bible explains: “We shall not all fall asleep in death, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, during the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised.”—1 Corinthians 15:51, 52; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17.
23. How does the Bible describe the change to spirit life?
23 Of course, this “first resurrection” to heavenly life is unseen to human eyes. It is a resurrection to life as spirit creatures. The Bible describes the change to spirit life this way: “It is sown in corruption, it is raised up in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised up in glory. . . . It is sown a physical body, it is raised up a spiritual body.”—1 Corinthians 15:42-44.
24. (a) What resurrection follows “the first resurrection”? (b) Why is it called a “better resurrection”?
24 However, the very expression “first resurrection” shows that another one will follow. This is the resurrection to life on the paradise earth of both righteous and unrighteous persons. This will occur after Armageddon. It will be a “better resurrection” than that of the boys resurrected by Elijah and Elisha and of others once resurrected on earth. Why? Because if those resurrected after Armageddon choose to serve God they will never need to die again.—Hebrews 11:35.
A MIRACLE OF GOD
25. (a) Why is it not the body that died that is resurrected? (b) What is resurrected, and what is given to those who are resurrected?
25 After a person dies, what is resurrected? It is not the same body that died. The Bible shows this when it describes the resurrection to heavenly life. (1 Corinthians 15:35-44) Even those who are resurrected to life on earth do not receive the same body they had when they lived before. That body probably decayed and returned to the ground. In time the elements of the dead body may have become a part of other living things. So God resurrects not the same body but the same person that died. To persons who go to heaven, he gives a new spiritual body. To those who are raised to live on earth, he gives a new physical body. This new physical body will no doubt be similar to the one the person had before he died so that he will be recognized by those who knew him.
26. (a) Why is the resurrection such a wonderful miracle? (b) What inventions of humans can help us to understand God’s great ability to remember people who have died?
26 The resurrection is indeed a wonderful miracle. The person that died may have built up a great amount of experience and knowledge and many memories over a lifetime. He developed a personality that made him different from any other person that ever lived. Yet Jehovah God remembers every detail, and will restore this complete person when He resurrects him. As the Bible says of the dead to be resurrected: “They are all living to him.” (Luke 20:38) Humans can record voices and pictures of people, and play them back long after the people have died. But Jehovah can, and actually will, bring back to life all persons who are living in his memory!
27. What questions regarding the resurrection will we have answered later?
27 The Bible tells us much more about life in Paradise after the dead are resurrected. For example, Jesus spoke of persons coming out, some to “a resurrection of life” and others to “a resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:29) What did he mean? And will the situation be any different for the “righteous” that are resurrected from what it will be for the “unrighteous”? A consideration of Judgment Day will answer such questions for us.
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“I know he will rise in the resurrection”
Elijah resurrected a widow’s son
Elisha resurrected a child
A man who touched Elisha’s bones came to life
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Persons resurrected by Jesus:
Widow of Nain’s son
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Others who were resurrected:
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Where is the Paradise that Jesus promised the evildoer?