A Sure Hope
“From the moment of birth there is the constant possibility that a human being may die at any moment; and inevitably this possibility is going to become an accomplished fact.”—ARNOLD TOYNBEE, BRITISH HISTORIAN.
1. What reality has mankind had to come to terms with, raising what questions?
WHO can argue with the above-mentioned historical truism? Mankind has always had to come to terms with the terrible reality of death. And what a sense of helplessness we experience when someone we love dies! The loss then seems totally irreversible. Is it possible to be reunited with our dead loved ones? What hope does the Bible hold out for the dead? Consider the following account.
‘Our Friend Has Died’
2-5. (a) When his friend Lazarus died, how did Jesus demonstrate his willingness and ability to resurrect him? (b) Besides bringing Lazarus back to life, what did the miracle of resurrection accomplish?
2 The year was 32 C.E. In the small town of Bethany, two miles [3 km] outside Jerusalem, lived Lazarus with his sisters Martha and Mary. They were close friends of Jesus. One day, Lazarus became gravely ill. Promptly, his concerned sisters sent this news to Jesus, who was across the Jordan River. Jesus had affection for Lazarus and his sisters, so in time he set out for Bethany. On the road, Jesus told his disciples: “Lazarus our friend has gone to rest, but I am journeying there to awaken him from sleep.” Since the disciples did not immediately grasp the meaning of this statement, Jesus said plainly: “Lazarus has died.”—John 11:1-15.
3 On hearing that Jesus was coming to Bethany, Martha ran out to meet him. Touched by her sorrow, Jesus assured her: “Your brother will rise.” Martha answered: “I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus then told her: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life.”—John 11:20-25.
4 Jesus then went to the tomb and directed that the stone closing its entrance be taken away. After praying aloud, he commanded: “Lazarus, come on out!” And as all eyes were fixed on the tomb, Lazarus did indeed come out. Jesus resurrected Lazarus—restoring life to a man who had been dead for four days!—John 11:38-44.
5 Martha already had faith in the promise of a resurrection. (John 5:28, 29; 11:23, 24) The miracle of Lazarus’ restoration to life served to reinforce her faith and instill faith in others. (John 11:45) But exactly what is meant by the term “resurrection”?
“He Will Rise”
6. What does the term “resurrection” mean?
6 The word “resurrection” is translated from the Greek word a·naʹsta·sis, which literally means “a standing up again.” Hebrew translators of the Greek have rendered a·naʹsta·sis with the Hebrew words techi·yathʹ ham·me·thimʹ, meaning “revival of the dead.”* Thus, resurrection involves raising the person from the lifeless condition of death—reactivating the life pattern of the individual.
7. Why will the resurrection of individuals pose no problem for Jehovah God and Jesus Christ?
7 Being infinite in wisdom and perfect in memory, Jehovah God can easily resurrect a person. Remembering the life pattern of dead ones—their personality traits, their personal history, and all the details of their identity—is not a problem for him. (Job 12:13; compare Isaiah 40:26.) Jehovah is also the Originator of life. Hence, he can readily bring back to life the same person, giving him or her the same personality in a newly formed body. Moreover, as the experience of Lazarus indicates, Jesus Christ is both willing and able to resurrect the dead.—Compare Luke 7:11-17; 8:40-56.
8, 9. (a) Why are the resurrection and the idea of the immortality of the soul incompatible? (b) What is the remedy for death?
8 The Scriptural teaching of the resurrection, however, is not compatible with the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. If an immortal soul survived death, no one would need to be resurrected, or brought back to life. Indeed, Martha expressed no thought about an immortal soul that was living on elsewhere after death. She did not believe that Lazarus had already gone to some spirit realm to continue his existence. On the contrary, she showed her faith in God’s purpose to reverse the effects of death. She said: “I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.” (John 11:23, 24) Likewise, Lazarus himself related no experiences of some afterlife. There was nothing to report.
9 Clearly, according to the Bible, the soul dies and the remedy for death is the resurrection. But billions of people have died since the first man, Adam, walked the earth. So who will be resurrected, and where?
‘All in the Memorial Tombs’
10. What promise did Jesus make regarding those in the memorial tombs?
10 Jesus Christ said: “The hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his [Jesus’] voice and come out.” (John 5:28, 29) Yes, Jesus Christ promised that all those in Jehovah’s memory will be resurrected. Billions of people have lived and died. Who among them are in God’s memory, awaiting the resurrection?
11. Who will be resurrected?
11 Those who have pursued a righteous course as Jehovah’s servants will be resurrected. But millions of other people have died without showing whether they would comply with God’s righteous standards. They were either ignorant of Jehovah’s requirements or lacked sufficient time to make needed changes. These too are in God’s memory and thus will be resurrected, for the Bible promises: “There is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.”—Acts 24:15.
12. (a) What vision did the apostle John receive about the resurrection? (b) What is “hurled into the lake of fire,” and what does that expression mean?
12 The apostle John had a thrilling vision of resurrected ones standing before the throne of God. Describing it, he wrote: “The sea gave up those dead in it, and death and Hades gave up those dead in them, and they were judged individually according to their deeds. And death and Hades were hurled into the lake of fire. This means the second death, the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:12-14) Think of what that means! All the dead who are in God’s memory will be released from Hades, or Sheol, mankind’s common grave. (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:31) Then “death and Hades” will be hurled into what is called “the lake of fire,” symbolizing complete destruction. The common grave of mankind will cease to exist.
13. Why has God arranged for some to be resurrected to heaven, and what kind of body will Jehovah give them?
13 A small number of men and women will be resurrected to life in heaven. These will rule with Christ as kings and priests and will share in undoing all the effects of the death that mankind inherited from the first man, Adam. (Romans 5:12; Revelation 5:9, 10) According to the Bible, they number only 144,000 and are selected from among the followers of Christ, starting with the faithful apostles. (Luke 22:28-30; John 14:2, 3; Revelation 7:4; 14:1, 3) Jehovah will give each one of these resurrected ones a spirit body so that they can live in heaven.—1 Corinthians 15:35, 38, 42-45; 1 Peter 3:18.
14, 15. (a) To what kind of life will the vast majority of those who have died be resurrected? (b) What blessings will obedient mankind experience?
14 The vast majority of those who have died, however, will be resurrected to life on earth. (Psalm 37:29; Matthew 6:10) What kind of earth? The earth today is filled with strife, bloodshed, pollution, and violence. If the dead were to come back to life on such an earth, surely any happiness would be short-lived. But the Creator has promised that he will soon bring an end to the present world society that is under Satan’s control. (Proverbs 2:21, 22; Daniel 2:44) A righteous new human society—“a new earth”—will then be a reality. (2 Peter 3:13) At that time “no resident will say: ‘I am sick.’” (Isaiah 33:24) Even the anguish of death will be done away with, for God “will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”—Revelation 21:4.
15 In God’s promised new world, the meek ones “will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.” (Psalm 37:11) The heavenly government of Christ Jesus and his 144,000 associates will progressively bring obedient mankind back to the perfection that our original parents, Adam and Eve, lost. Included among the inhabitants of the earth will be the resurrected ones.—Luke 23:42, 43.
16-18. What joy will the resurrection bring to families?
16 The Bible gives a glimpse of the joy that the resurrection will bring to families. Imagine the happiness the widow of Nain felt when Jesus stopped the funeral procession and resurrected her only son! (Luke 7:11-17) Later, near the Sea of Galilee, when Jesus brought back to life a 12-year-old girl, her parents “were beside themselves with great ecstasy.”—Mark 5:21-24, 35-42; see also 1 Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:32-37.
17 For millions who are now asleep in death, a resurrection will mean life in a peaceful new world. Just think of the thrilling prospect this opens up for Tommy and for the businessman, mentioned in the opening section of this brochure! When Tommy awakens to life in Paradise on earth, he will be the same Tommy his mother knew—but without ailments. She will be able to touch him, hold him in her arms, and love him. Similarly, rather than being trapped in an almost endless cycle of rebirths, the businessman from India has the marvelous prospect of opening his eyes in God’s new world and beholding his sons.
18 Knowing the truth about the soul, about what happens to us when we die, and about the hope of the resurrection can also have a profound effect on those who are living now. Let us see how.
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Resurrection will bring lasting joy