The Power of the Resurrection Hope
1. Without the resurrection hope, what prospect would the dead have?
HAVE you lost loved ones in death? Without the resurrection, there would be no hope of ever seeing them again. They would remain in the condition that the Bible describes when it states: “As for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all, . . . for there is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol [the grave], the place to which you are going.”—Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10.
2. What marvelous prospect is made possible by the resurrection?
2 Mercifully, by means of the resurrection, Jehovah has opened up the priceless opportunity for untold multitudes of people who have died to come back from the dead and enjoy eternal life. This means that you can have the heartwarming hope that someday, in God’s new world, you will be reunited with loved ones who have fallen asleep in death.—Mark 5:35, 41, 42; Acts 9:36-41.
3. (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 a source of strength to us?
3 Because of the resurrection, we do not need to have a morbid fear of death. Jehovah can, without lasting harm to his faithful servants, let Satan go to the limit in trying to prove his malicious charge that “everything that a man has he will give in behalf of his soul.” (Job 2:4) Jesus was faithful to God even to death, and therefore God resurrected him to heavenly life. Thus, Jesus was able to present the value of his perfect human sacrifice before his Father’s heavenly throne, with lifesaving benefit to us. By means of the resurrection, those of the “little flock,” as joint heirs with Christ, have the hope of being united with him in the heavenly Kingdom. (Luke 12:32) For others, there is the hope of a resurrection to everlasting life on a paradise earth. (Psalm 37:11, 29) All Christians find the resurrection hope to be a source of strength “beyond what is normal” when they undergo trials that bring them face-to-face with death.—2 Corinthians 4:7.
Why Fundamental to Christian Faith
4. (a) In what sense is the resurrection a “primary doctrine”? (b) What does the resurrection mean to the world in general?
4 The resurrection is, as stated at Hebrews 6:1, 2, a “primary doctrine.” It is part of the foundation of faith without which we could never become mature Christians. (1 Corinthians 15:16-19) However, the Bible’s teaching of the resurrection is alien to the thinking of the world in general. Lacking spirituality, more and more people see only this life as real. Thus, they live in pursuit of pleasure. Then there are those adherents of traditional religions—both inside and outside of Christendom—who think that they have an immortal soul. But that belief cannot be reconciled with the Bible’s teaching of a resurrection, since a resurrection would be unnecessary if humans had an immortal soul. Trying to merge these two concepts is more confusing than hope-inspiring. How can we help honesthearted ones who want to know the truth?
5. (a) Before a person can appreciate the resurrection, what does he need to know? (b) What scriptures would you use to explain the soul? the condition of the dead? (c) What may be done if someone uses a Bible translation that seems to obscure the truth?
5 Before such ones can appreciate what a wonderful provision the resurrection is, they need to have the correct understanding about the soul 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 Bible truth. (Genesis 2:7; Psalm 146:3, 4; Ezekiel 18:4) However, some modern translations and paraphrase editions of the Bible obscure the truth about the soul. So it may be necessary to consider the expressions used in the Bible’s original languages.
6. How could you help a person understand what the soul is?
6 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.” In the appendix of this translation are listed many texts where these terms are found. Many other Bible versions are not consistent but 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,” “you.” A comparison of other Bible translations with the New World Translation will help a sincere student to appreciate that the original-language terms rendered “soul” refer both to people and to animals. But never do these terms convey the idea that a soul is an invisible, intangible thing that can escape from the body at death and have continued conscious existence somewhere.
7. How would you explain from the Bible the condition of those in Sheol? in Hades? in Gehenna?
7 The New World Translation is also consistent in using the word “Sheol” to transliterate the Hebrew term sheʼohlʹ and in its use of “Hades” for the Greek term haiʹdes and “Gehenna” for the Greek term geʹen·na. “Sheol” is the equivalent of the word “Hades.” (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27) The Bible makes it clear that both Sheol and Hades refer to mankind’s common grave and are associated with death, not life. (Psalm 89:48; Revelation 20:13) The Scriptures also point to the prospect of return from the common grave by means of a resurrection. (Job 14:13; Acts 2:31) In contrast, no hope of future life is held out for those who go to Gehenna, and the soul is never spoken of as having conscious existence there.—Matthew 10:28.
8. How can properly understanding the resurrection influence a person’s attitude and actions?
8 With those matters cleared up, a person can then be helped to grasp what the resurrection might mean to him. He 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 be softened by the joyful anticipation of reunion in God’s new world. Understanding these matters is also the key to understanding the meaning of the death of Christ. First-century Christians realized that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is fundamental to the Christian faith, opening the way for the resurrection of others. They zealously preached about Jesus’ resurrection and the hope that it gives. So, too, those today who appreciate the resurrection are eager to share this precious truth with others.—Acts 5:30-32; 10:42, 43.
Using ‘the Key of Hades’
9. How does Jesus first use “the keys of death and of Hades”?
9 All who are to be associated with Christ in his heavenly Kingdom must eventually die. But they well know the assurance that he gave when he said: “I became dead, but, look! I am living forever and ever, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.” (Revelation 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. (Acts 2:32, 33; 10:40) In addition, 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 he possesses those keys, Jesus is able to raise his faithful followers from the dead. He resurrects the spirit-anointed members of his congregation first, giving them the precious gift of immortal life in heaven, just as his Father gave him.—Romans 6:5; Philippians 3:20, 21.
10. When does the resurrection of faithful anointed Christians take place?
10 When would faithful anointed Christians experience that heavenly resurrection? The Bible indicates that it has already begun. The apostle Paul explained that they would be raised ‘during Christ’s presence,’ which presence began in the year 1914. (1 Corinthians 15:23) When anointed faithful ones finish their earthly course now during his presence, they do not have to remain in death until 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, since the good works they did “go right with them”!—1 Corinthians 15:51, 52; Revelation 14:13.
11. What resurrection will there be for people in general, and when will it begin?
11 But the resurrection of Kingdom heirs to heavenly life is not the only resurrection. The fact that it is called “the first resurrection” at Revelation 20:6 indicates that another must follow. 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”—the present wicked system of things, with its ruling authorities—are removed. That end of the old system is very near. Thereafter, at God’s appointed time, the earthly resurrection will begin.—Revelation 20:11, 12.
12. Who will be included among the faithful ones raised to life on earth, and why is that a thrilling prospect?
12 Who will be included in that earthly resurrection? Among them will be faithful servants of Jehovah from earliest times, men and women who because of their strong faith in the resurrection “would not accept release by some ransom.” That is, they would not compromise their integrity to God in order to escape a violent, premature death. 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! Also resurrected to earthly life will be Abel, the first faithful witness of Jehovah; Enoch and Noah, fearless proclaimers of God’s message of warning before the Deluge; Abraham and Sarah, 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. In addition, there will be many loyal men and women who died during these last days of this present wicked system of things.—Hebrews 11:4-38; Matthew 11:11.
13, 14. (a) What will happen to Hades and the dead therein? (b) Who will be included in the resurrection, and why?
13 In time, others besides faithful servants of God will also be raised from the dead, leaving no one in the common grave of mankind. The extent to which that grave is emptied of its dead can be seen in the use that Jesus will make of ‘the key of Hades’ in behalf of mankind. This is shown in a vision given to the apostle John, in which he saw Hades “hurled into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:14) What does that mean? It means that Hades, the common grave of mankind, is totally destroyed. It goes out of existence, being completely emptied of its dead, because in addition to resurrecting all faithful worshipers of Jehovah, Jesus will also mercifully bring back even unrighteous ones. God’s Word assures us: “There is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.”—Acts 24:15.
14 None of these unrighteous ones are raised simply to be judged worthy of death again. In the righteous environment that will prevail earth wide under God’s Kingdom, they will be helped to bring their lives into harmony with Jehovah’s ways. The vision showed that “the scroll of life” will be opened. Hence, they will have opportunity to get their names entered in it. They will be “judged individually according to their deeds” performed after their resurrection. (Revelation 20:12, 13) 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.
15. (a) Who will not be resurrected? (b) How should knowledge of the truth about the resurrection affect us?
15 However, not all who have ever lived and died will be resurrected. Some committed sins for which no forgiveness is possible. Such ones are, not in Hades, but in Gehenna, where they experience everlasting destruction. Included among these will also be those executed in the “great tribulation,” now near. (Matthew 12:31, 32; 23:33; 24:21, 22; 25:41, 46; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9) Thus, while extraordinary mercy is shown by Jehovah in releasing the dead from Hades, the resurrection hope provides no basis for our being indifferent about how we live now. No resurrection is possible for those who willfully rebel against Jehovah’s sovereignty. This knowledge should motivate us to show that we deeply appreciate the undeserved kindness of God by living our lives according to his will.
Strengthened by the Resurrection Hope
16. How can the resurrection hope be a source of great strength?
16 Those of us who have made the resurrection hope our own are able to draw great strength from it. At present, when we near the end of our life, we know that we cannot indefinitely postpone death—regardless of the medical procedures used. (Ecclesiastes 8:8) If we have loyally served Jehovah with his organization, we can look to the future with full confidence. We know that by means of the resurrection, we will enjoy life again, in God’s due time. And what a life it will be! “The real life,” as the apostle Paul called it.—1 Timothy 6:19; Hebrews 6:10-12.
17. What can help us maintain integrity to Jehovah?
17 Knowing that there is a resurrection and knowing the One who is the source of that provision enables us to be strong in the faith. 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 have such fear. He proved faithful to Jehovah right down to death. Through his ransom sacrifice, Jesus provided the means for freeing others from such fear.—Hebrews 2:14, 15.
18. What has helped Jehovah’s servants to build up such an outstanding record of integrity?
18 As a result of their faith both in the provision of Christ’s sacrifice and in the resurrection, Jehovah’s servants 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. (Revelation 12:11) Wisely, they do not abandon Christian principles trying to save their present life. (Luke 9:24, 25) They know that even if they lose their life now because of loyally upholding Jehovah’s sovereignty, he will reward them by means of the resurrection. Do you have that kind of faith? You will if you truly love Jehovah and if you take to heart what the resurrection hope really means.
• Why does a person need to have understanding regarding the soul and the condition of the dead before he can appreciate the resurrection?
• Who will return from the dead, and how should this knowledge affect us?
• How does the resurrection hope strengthen us?
[Picture on page 84, 85]
Jehovah promises that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous