1-3. What has imprisoned all of us, and how will Jehovah release us?
IMAGINE that you have been sentenced to life in prison for a crime you didn’t commit. There is no chance of your ever being released. Your future seems hopeless, and there is nothing you can do about it. But just when you’ve lost all hope, you find out that someone has the power to release you and that he has promised to help you! How would you feel?
2 We are all prisoners of death. No matter what we do, there is no escape. But Jehovah has the power to release us from death. And he has promised that “the last enemy, death, is to be brought to nothing.”—1 Corinthians 15:26.
3 Imagine the relief you will feel when you don’t have to worry about dying! But Jehovah will not only remove death. He will also bring those who have already died back to life. Think what that will mean for you. He promises that those “powerless in death” will live again. (Isaiah 26:19) This is what the Bible calls the resurrection.
WHEN A LOVED ONE DIES
4. (a) What can give us comfort when a family member or a friend dies? (b) Who were some of Jesus’ close friends?
4 When a family member or a close friend dies, our pain and grief can be unbearable. We feel helpless. There’s nothing we can do to bring that person back to life. But the Bible gives us real comfort. (Read 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4.) Let us consider one example that shows how much Jehovah and Jesus want to bring our loved ones back to life. When Jesus was on earth, he often visited Lazarus and his sisters, Martha and Mary. All three were good friends of Jesus. The Bible says: “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” Then one day Lazarus died.—John 11:3-5.
5, 6. (a) What did Jesus do when he saw Lazarus’ family and friends grieving? (b) Why is it comforting to know how Jesus felt about death?
5 Jesus went to comfort Martha and Mary. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went outside the city to meet him. She was happy to see Jesus, but she said to him: “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Martha thought that Jesus was too late. After that, Jesus saw her sister, Mary, crying. Seeing their sadness, he felt hurt and cried. (John 11:21, 33, 35) He felt the deep pain that comes when we lose someone we love.
6 Knowing that Jesus feels the way we do about death is a comfort to us. And Jesus is just like his Father. (John 14:9) Jehovah has the power to remove death forever, and that is what he will do very soon.
“LAZARUS, COME OUT!”
7, 8. Why did Martha not want the stone to be removed from Lazarus’ tomb, but what did Jesus do?
7 When Jesus arrived at the grave where Lazarus’ body had been placed, the entrance had been sealed with a large stone. Jesus said: “Take the stone away.” But Martha didn’t want them to. Lazarus’ body had already been in the tomb for four days. (John 11:39) She did not know what Jesus was about to do to help her brother.
8 Jesus said to Lazarus: “Come out!” What Martha and Mary saw next was amazing. “The man who had been dead came out with his feet and hands bound with wrappings.” (John 11:43, 44) Lazarus had been brought back to life! He was reunited with his family and friends. They could hold him, touch him, and talk to him. What a miracle! Jesus had resurrected Lazarus.
“LITTLE GIRL, I SAY TO YOU, ‘GET UP!’”
9, 10. (a) Who gave Jesus the power to resurrect people? (b) Why are the resurrection accounts valuable to us?
9 Did Jesus resurrect people by his own power? No. Before he resurrected Lazarus, Jesus prayed to Jehovah, and Jehovah gave him the power to resurrect Lazarus. (Read John 11:41, 42.) Lazarus wasn’t the only person who was resurrected. The Bible tells us about a 12-year-old girl who was very sick. Her father, Jairus, was desperate, and he begged Jesus to heal her. She was his only child. While he was talking to Jesus, some men came up and said: “Your daughter died! Why bother the Teacher any longer?” But Jesus said to Jairus: “Have no fear, only have faith, and she will be saved.” He then walked to Jairus’ home with him. As they came near the house, Jesus could see and hear people crying. Jesus told them: “Stop weeping, for she did not die but is sleeping.” Her father and mother must have wondered what Jesus meant. Jesus asked everyone to leave and took her father and mother into the room where their little girl was lying. Jesus gently took her by the hand and said to her: “Little girl, I say to you, ‘Get up!’” Imagine the joy of her parents when she immediately got up and started walking! Jesus had resurrected their daughter. (Mark 5:22-24, 35-42; Luke 8:49-56) From that day on, when they saw their little girl, they would remember what Jehovah had done for them through Jesus.*
10 Those whom Jesus brought back to life died again later. But what we read about these people is valuable because it gives us real hope. Jehovah wants to resurrect people, and he will.
WHAT WE LEARN FROM THE RESURRECTION ACCOUNTS
11. What does Ecclesiastes 9:5 teach us about Lazarus?
11 The Bible clearly says that “the dead know nothing at all.” That was true of Lazarus. (Ecclesiastes 9:5) Just as Jesus said, it was as if Lazarus had been sleeping. (John 11:11) While he was in the grave, Lazarus knew “nothing at all.”
12. How do we know that the resurrection of Lazarus really happened?
12 When Jesus resurrected Lazarus, many people saw it. Even Jesus’ enemies knew that he had performed this miracle. Lazarus was alive, and this proved that the resurrection really happened. (John 11:47) Also, many people went to visit Lazarus, and as a result, they started to believe that Jesus had been sent by God. Jesus’ enemies didn’t like that, so they planned to kill both Jesus and Lazarus.—John 11:53; 12:9-11.
13. Why can we be sure that Jehovah will resurrect the dead?
13 Jesus said that “all those in the memorial tombs” will be resurrected. (John 5:28) This means that all those whom Jehovah remembers will come back to life. But for Jehovah to resurrect someone, he has to remember everything about that person. Can he really do that? Well, there are billions of stars in the universe. The Bible says that Jehovah knows the name of every single star. (Read Isaiah 40:26.) If he can remember the name of each star, then surely he can easily remember everything about all those he will bring back to life. More important, Jehovah created everything, so we know that he has the power to bring people back to life.
14, 15. What do Job’s words teach us about the resurrection?
14 The faithful man Job believed in the resurrection. He asked: “If a man dies, can he live again?” Then he said to Jehovah: “You will call, and I will answer you. You will long for the work of your hands.” Yes, Job knew that Jehovah is looking forward to the time when he will resurrect the dead.—Job 14:13-15.
15 How does the hope of the resurrection make you feel? You may be wondering, ‘What about my family and friends who have died, will they be resurrected too?’ It comforts us to know that Jehovah really wants to bring the dead back to life. Let us see what the Bible says about where they will live and who will be resurrected.
THEY “WILL HEAR HIS VOICE AND COME OUT”
16. What kind of life will those who are resurrected to life on earth enjoy?
16 In the past, those who were resurrected were reunited with their family and friends here on earth. This will also happen in the future, but it will be much better. Why? Because those who are brought back to life on earth will have the opportunity to live forever and never die again. And they will live in a world very different from the one we live in today. There will be no war, no crime, and no sickness.
17. Who will be resurrected?
17 Who will be resurrected? Jesus said that “all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out.” (John 5:28, 29) And Revelation 20:13 tells us: “The sea gave up the dead in it, and death and the Grave gave up the dead in them.” Yes, billions of people will live again. The apostle Paul also said that both “the righteous and the unrighteous” will be resurrected. (Read Acts 24:15.) What does that mean?
18. Who are “the righteous” who will be resurrected?
18 “The righteous” include faithful servants of Jehovah who lived before Jesus came to earth. People like Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Ruth, and Esther will be resurrected to life here on earth. You can read about some of those men and women in Hebrews chapter 11. What about Jehovah’s faithful servants who die in our time? They are also “righteous,” so they will be resurrected.
19. Who are “the unrighteous”? What opportunity will Jehovah give them?
19 “The unrighteous” include billions of people who did not have the opportunity to know Jehovah. Even though they died, Jehovah hasn’t forgotten them. He will resurrect them, and they will have the opportunity to learn about him and serve him.
20. Why won’t everyone be resurrected?
20 Does this mean that everyone who has died will be resurrected? No. Jesus said that some people would not be brought back to life. (Luke 12:5) Who will decide whether a person will be resurrected or not? Jehovah is the final Judge, but he has also given Jesus the authority “to be judge of the living and the dead.” (Acts 10:42) Anyone who is judged as wicked and unwilling to change will not be resurrected.—See Endnote 19.
RESURRECTION TO HEAVEN
21, 22. (a) What does it mean to be resurrected to heaven? (b) Who was the first person to be resurrected to life in heaven?
21 The Bible also tells us that some people will live in heaven. When someone is resurrected to heaven, he is not brought back to life as a human with a human body. He is resurrected to life in heaven as a spirit person.
22 Jesus was the first person to receive this type of resurrection. (John 3:13) Three days after Jesus was killed, Jehovah resurrected him. (Psalm 16:10; Acts 13:34, 35) Jesus was not resurrected with a human body. The apostle Peter explains that Jesus “was put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18) Jesus was brought back to life as a powerful spirit person! (1 Corinthians 15:3-6) But the Bible says that he would not be the only one.
23, 24. Who are the “little flock” that Jesus spoke about, and how many will there be?
23 Just before he died, Jesus told his faithful disciples: “I am going my way to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2) This means that some of his followers would be resurrected to live with him in heaven. How many? Jesus said that it would be a small number, a “little flock.” (Luke 12:32) The apostle John gave the exact number when he saw Jesus “standing on [heavenly] Mount Zion, and with him 144,000.”—Revelation 14:1.
24 When would the 144,000 Christians be resurrected? The Bible tells us that this would happen after Christ started to rule in heaven. (1 Corinthians 15:23) We are living in that time right now, and most of the 144,000 have already been resurrected to heaven. Those who are still on earth and who die in our day will instantly be resurrected to life in heaven. However, the majority of people will be resurrected in the future to life in Paradise here on earth.
25. What will we learn about in the next chapter?
25 Very soon, Jehovah will free all humans from death, and death will be gone forever! (Read Isaiah 25:8.) But what will those who go to heaven do there? The Bible explains that they will rule with Jesus in a Kingdom government. We will learn more about that government in the next chapter.