The Greek word a·naʹsta·sis literally means “raising up; standing up.” It is used frequently in the Christian Greek Scriptures with reference to the resurrection of the dead. The Hebrew Scriptures at Hosea 13:14, quoted by the apostle Paul (1Co 15:54, 55), speak of the abolition of death and the rendering powerless of Sheol (Heb., sheʼohlʹ; Gr., haiʹdes). Sheʼohlʹ is rendered in various versions as “grave” and “pit.” The dead are spoken of as going there. (Ge 37:35; 1Ki 2:6; Ec 9:10) Its usage in the Scriptures, along with the usage of its Greek equivalent haiʹdes in the Christian Greek Scriptures, shows that it refers, not to an individual grave, but to the common grave of mankind, gravedom. (Eze 32:21-32; Re 20:13; see HADES; SHEOL.) To render Sheol powerless would mean to loosen its hold on those in it, which would imply the emptying of gravedom. This, of course, would require a resurrection, a raising up from the lifeless condition of death or out of the grave for those there.
Through Jesus Christ. The foregoing shows that the teaching of resurrection appears in the Hebrew Scriptures. Nevertheless, it remained for Jesus Christ to “shed light upon life and incorruption through the good news.” (2Ti 1:10) Jesus said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Joh 14:6) Just how everlasting life would come, and more than that, incorruption for some, was brought to light through the good news about Jesus Christ. The apostle affirms that the resurrection is a sure hope, arguing: “Now if Christ is being preached that he has been raised up from the dead, how is it some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If, indeed, there is no resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ been raised up. But if Christ has not been raised up, our preaching is certainly in vain, and our faith is in vain. Moreover, we are also found false witnesses of God, because we have borne witness against God that he raised up the Christ, but whom he did not raise up if the dead are really not to be raised up. . . . Further, if Christ has not been raised up, your faith is useless; you are yet in your sins. . . . However, now Christ has been raised up from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep in death. For since death is through a man, resurrection of the dead is also through a man.”—1Co 15:12-21.
A Sure Purpose of God. Jesus Christ pointed out to the Sadducees, a sect that did not believe in resurrection, that the writings of Moses in the Hebrew Scriptures, which they possessed and claimed to believe, prove there is a resurrection; Jesus reasoned that when Jehovah said He was “the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (who were actually dead), He counted those men as alive because of the resurrection that He, “the God, not of the dead, but of the living,” purposed to give them. God, because of his power, “makes the dead alive and calls the things that are not as though they were.” Paul includes this fact when speaking of Abraham’s faith.—Mt 22:23, 31-33; Ro 4:17.
God’s ability to resurrect. For the One with the ability and power to create man in His own image, with a perfect body and with the potential for full expression of the marvelous characteristics implanted in the human personality, it would pose no insurmountable problem to resurrect an individual. If scientific principles established by God can be used by scientists to preserve and later reconstruct a visible and audible scene by means of videotape, how easy it is for the great Universal Sovereign and Creator to resurrect a person by repatterning the same personality in a newly formed body. Concerning the revitalizing of Sarah to have a child in her old age, the angel said: “Is anything too extraordinary for Jehovah?”—Ge 18:14; Jer 32:17, 27.
How the Need for Resurrection Arose. In the beginning a resurrection was not necessary. It was not a part of God’s original purpose for mankind, because death was not the natural, purposed thing for humans. Rather, God indicated that he purposed the earth to be full of living humans, not a deteriorating, dying race. His work was perfect, hence without flaw, imperfection, or sickness. (De 32:4) Jehovah blessed the first human pair, telling them to multiply and fill the earth. (Ge 1:28) Such blessing certainly did not include sickness and death; God set no limited life span for man, but he told Adam that disobedience is what would cause death. This implies that man would otherwise live forever. Disobedience would incur God’s disfavor and remove his blessing, bringing a curse.—Ge 2:17; 3:17-19.
Consequently, death was introduced into the human race by the transgression of Adam. (Ro 5:12) Because of their father’s sinfulness and resultant imperfection, Adam’s offspring could not get a heritage of everlasting life from him; in fact, not even a hope of living forever. “Neither can a rotten tree produce fine fruit,” said Jesus. (Mt 7:17, 18; Job 14:1, 2) The resurrection was brought in, or added, to overcome this disability for those of Adam’s children who would desire to be obedient to God.
Purpose of the Resurrection. The resurrection shows forth not only Jehovah’s unlimited power and wisdom but also his love and his mercy and vindicates him as the Preserver of those who serve him. (1Sa 2:6) Having resurrection power, he can go to the extent of showing that his servants will be faithful to him to the very death. He can answer Satan’s accusation that asserted that “skin in behalf of skin, and everything that a man has he will give in behalf of his soul.” (Job 2:4) Jehovah can let Satan go the full limit, even to killing some in a vain effort to support his false accusations. (Mt 24:9; Re 2:10; 6:11) The fact that Jehovah’s servants are willing to give up life itself in his service proves their service is, not for selfish considerations, but out of love. (Re 12:11) It also proves that they acknowledge Him as the Almighty, the Universal Sovereign, and the God of love, who is able to resurrect them. It proves they render exclusive devotion to Jehovah for his wonderful qualities and not for selfish material reasons. (Consider some of the exclamations of his servants, as recorded at Ro 11:33-36; Re 4:11; 7:12.) The resurrection also is a means by which Jehovah sees that his purpose toward the earth, as stated to Adam, is carried out.—Ge 1:28.
Essential to man’s happiness. The resurrection of the dead, an undeserved kindness on God’s part, is essential to mankind’s happiness and to the undoing of all the harm, suffering, and oppression that have come upon the human race. These things have befallen man as a result of his imperfection and sickness, the wars he has waged, the murders committed, and the inhumanities practiced by wicked people at the instance of Satan the Devil. We cannot be completely happy if we do not believe in a resurrection. The apostle Paul expressed the feeling in these words: “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied.”—1Co 15:19.
How Early Was Resurrection Hope Given? After Adam had sinned and had brought death upon himself and thereby introduced death for those who would be his posterity, God, in addressing the serpent, said: “And I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.”—Ge 3:15.
One originally causing death to be removed. Jesus said to the religious Jews who opposed him: “You are from your father the Devil, and you wish to do the desires of your father. That one was a manslayer when he began, and he did not stand fast in the truth, because truth is not in him.” (Joh 8:44) This is evidence that it was the Devil who spoke through the instrumentality of the serpent, and that this one was a manslayer from the beginning of his lying, devilish course. In the vision that Christ later gave to John, he revealed that Satan the Devil is also called “the original serpent.” (Re 12:9) Satan got his hold on mankind, gaining influence over Adam’s children, by inducing their father Adam to rebel against God. So in the first prophecy, of Genesis 3:15, Jehovah gave hope that this Serpent would be put out of the way. (Compare Ro 16:20.) Not only is Satan’s head to be crushed but also all of his works are to be broken up, destroyed, or undone. (1Jo 3:8; NW, KJ, AT) The fulfillment of this prophecy would of necessity require the undoing of the death introduced by Adam, including bringing back by a resurrection those of Adam’s offspring who go into Sheol (Hades) as a result of his sin, the effects of which they inherit.—1Co 15:26.
Hope of freedom entails resurrection. The apostle Paul describes the situation that God permitted to exist following man’s fall into sin and His end purpose in doing so: “For the creation was subjected to futility [being born in sin and with death facing all], not by its own will [the children of Adam were brought into the world facing this situation, though they themselves had no control over what Adam had done, and by no choice of their own] but through him [God, in his wisdom] that subjected it, on the basis of hope that the creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Ro 8:20, 21; Ps 51:5) In order to experience the fulfillment of this hope of glorious freedom, those who have died would have to have a resurrection; they would have to be freed from death and the grave. Thus, by his promise of the “seed” that would crush the serpent’s head, God set a marvelous hope before mankind.—See SEED.
Abraham’s basis for faith. The evidence in the Bible record reveals that when Abraham attempted to offer up his son Isaac he had faith in God’s ability and purpose to raise the dead. And as stated at Hebrews 11:17-19, he did receive Isaac back from the dead “in an illustrative way.” (Ge 22:1-3, 10-13) Abraham had a basis for faith in a resurrection because of God’s promise of the “seed.” (Ge 3:15) Also, he and Sarah had already experienced something comparable to a resurrection in the revitalizing of their reproductive powers. (Ge 18:9-11; 21:1, 2, 12; Ro 4:19-21) Job expressed similar faith, saying, in his intense suffering: “O that in Sheol you would conceal me, . . . that you would set a time limit for me and remember me! If an able-bodied man dies can he live again? . . . You will call, and I myself shall answer you. For the work of your hands you will have a yearning.”—Job 14:13-15.
Resurrections before ransom was given. Resurrections were performed by or through the prophets Elijah and Elisha. (1Ki 17:17-24; 2Ki 4:32-37; 13:20, 21) However, these resurrected persons died again, as did those resurrected by Jesus when he was on earth as well as those resurrected by the apostles. This reveals that resurrection is not to everlasting life in every case.
Because of having been resurrected by his friend Jesus, Lazarus was likely alive Pentecost 33 C.E., when the holy spirit was poured out and the first ones of the heavenly calling (Heb 3:1) were anointed and spirit begotten. (Ac 2:1-4, 33, 38) Lazarus’ resurrection was similar to those performed by Elijah and Elisha. But it probably opened up to Lazarus the opportunity of receiving a resurrection like Christ’s, which he otherwise would not have had. What a remarkable act of love on Jesus’ part!—Joh 11:38-44.
“A better resurrection.” There were those faithful persons of old times of whom Paul speaks: “Women received their dead by resurrection; but other men were tortured because they would not accept release by some ransom, in order that they might attain a better resurrection.” (Heb 11:35) These men exhibited faith in the resurrection hope, knowing that life at that time was not the all-important thing. The resurrection they and others will have through Christ comes after his resurrection and appearance in heaven before his Father with the value of his ransom sacrifice. At that time he repurchased the life right of the human race, becoming the potential “Eternal Father.” (Heb 9:11, 12, 24; Isa 9:6) He is “a life-giving spirit.” (1Co 15:45) He has “the keys of death and of Hades [Sheol].” (Re 1:18) With the authority now to give everlasting life, at God’s due time he performs “a better resurrection,” since those experiencing it can live forever; none of such unavoidably need to die again. If obedient, they will continue living.
Heavenly Resurrection. Jesus Christ is called “the firstborn from the dead.” (Col 1:18) He was the first ever to be resurrected to everlasting life. And his resurrection was “in the spirit,” to life in heaven. (1Pe 3:18) Moreover, he was raised to a higher form of life and a higher position than that which he had held in the heavens prior to coming to earth. He was granted immortality and incorruption, which no creature in the flesh can have, and was made “higher than the heavens,” second only to Jehovah God in the universe. (Heb 7:26; 1Ti 6:14-16; Php 2:9-11; Ac 2:34; 1Co 15:27) His resurrection was performed by Jehovah God himself.—Ac 3:15; 5:30; Ro 4:24; 10:9.
However, for 40 days after his resurrection Jesus appeared to his disciples on different occasions in various fleshly bodies, just as angels had appeared to men of ancient times. Like those angels, he had the power to construct and to disintegrate those fleshly bodies at will, for the purpose of proving visibly that he had been resurrected. (Mt 28:8-10, 16-20; Lu 24:13-32, 36-43; Joh 20:14-29; Ge 18:1, 2; 19:1; Jos 5:13-15; Jg 6:11, 12; 13:3, 13) His many appearances, and particularly his manifesting himself to more than 500 persons at one time, provide strong testimony to the truth of his resurrection. (1Co 15:3-8) His resurrection, so well attested, furnishes “a guarantee to all men” regarding the certainty of a future day of reckoning or judgment.—Ac 17:31.
Resurrection of Christ’s “brothers.” Those who are “called and chosen and faithful,” Christ’s footstep followers, his “brothers,” who are spiritually begotten as “God’s children,” are promised a resurrection like his. (Re 17:14; Ro 6:5; 8:15, 16; Heb 2:11) The apostle Peter writes to fellow Christians: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for according to his great mercy he gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance. It is reserved in the heavens for you.”—1Pe 1:3, 4.
Peter also describes the hope such ones possess as “precious and very grand promises, that through these you may become sharers in divine nature.” (2Pe 1:4) They must undergo a change of nature, giving up human nature to obtain “divine” nature, thus sharing with Christ in his glory. They must die a death like Christ’s—maintaining integrity and giving up human life forever—and then they receive immortal, incorruptible bodies like Christ’s by a resurrection. (Ro 6:3-5; 1Co 15:50-57; 2Co 5:1-3) The apostle Paul explains that it is not the body that is resurrected, but rather, he likens their experience to the planting and sprouting of a seed, in that “God gives it a body just as it has pleased him.” (1Co 15:35-40) It is the soul, the person, that is resurrected, with a body to suit the environment into which God resurrects him.
In the case of Jesus Christ, he gave up his human life as a ransom sacrifice for the benefit of mankind. The 40th Psalm is applied to him by the inspired writer of the book of Hebrews, who represents Jesus as saying, when he came “into the world” as God’s Messiah: “Sacrifice and offering you did not want, but you prepared a body for me.” (Heb 10:5) Jesus himself said: “For a fact, the bread that I shall give is my flesh in behalf of the life of the world.” (Joh 6:51) It follows that Christ could not take his body back again in the resurrection, thereby taking back the sacrifice offered to God for mankind. Besides, Christ was no longer to abide on earth. His “home” is in the heavens with his Father, who is not flesh, but spirit. (Joh 14:3; 4:24) Jesus Christ therefore received a glorious immortal, incorruptible body, for “he is the reflection of [Jehovah’s] glory and the exact representation of his very being, and he sustains all things by the word of his power; and after he had made a purification for our sins he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty in lofty places. So he has become better than the angels [who are themselves mighty spirit persons], to the extent that he has inherited a name more excellent than theirs.”—Heb 1:3, 4; 10:12, 13.
Christ’s faithful brothers, who join him in the heavens, give up human life. The apostle Paul shows that they have to have new bodies repatterned, or refashioned, for their new environment: “As for us, our citizenship exists in the heavens, from which place also we are eagerly waiting for a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will refashion our humiliated body to be conformed to his glorious body according to the operation of the power that he has.”—Php 3:20, 21.
Time of the heavenly resurrection. The heavenly resurrection of Christ’s joint heirs begins after Jesus Christ returns in heavenly glory, to give first attention to his spiritual brothers. Christ himself is called “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep in death.” Paul then says that each one will be resurrected in his own rank, “Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who belong to the Christ during his presence.” (1Co 15:20, 23) These, as “the house of God,” have been under judgment during their Christian life course, beginning with the first of their number at Pentecost. (1Pe 4:17) They are “certain [literally, some] firstfruits.” (Jas 1:18, Int; Re 14:4) Jesus Christ can be compared to the barley firstfruits offered by the Israelites on Nisan 16 (“Christ the firstfruits”), and his spiritual brothers as “firstfruits” (“certain firstfruits”) can be compared to the wheat firstfruits offered on Pentecost day, the 50th day from Nisan 16.—Le 23:4-12, 15-20.
These have been under judgment, so at Christ’s return it is time to give the reward to them, his faithful anointed ones, just as he promised his 11 faithful apostles on the evening before his death: “I am going my way to prepare a place for you. Also, . . . I am coming again and will receive you home to myself, that where I am you also may be.”—Joh 14:2, 3; Lu 19:12-23; compare 2Ti 4:1, 8; Re 11:17, 18.
“The Lamb’s marriage.” These as a body are called his (prospective) “bride” (Re 21:9); they are promised to him in marriage, and they must be resurrected to the heavens in order to take part in “the marriage of the Lamb.” (2Co 11:2; Re 19:7, 8) The apostle Paul looked forward to receiving his heavenly resurrection. (2Ti 4:8) When Christ’s “presence” takes place, there are some of his spiritual brothers yet alive on earth, “invited to the evening meal of the Lamb’s marriage,” but those of their number who have died are given first attention by a resurrection. (Re 19:9) This is explained at 1 Thessalonians 4:15, 16: “For this is what we tell you by Jehovah’s word, that we the living who survive to the presence of the Lord shall in no way precede those who have fallen asleep in death; because the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s voice and with God’s trumpet, and those who are dead in union with Christ will rise first.”
Paul then adds: “Afterward we the living who are surviving will, together with them, be caught away in clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (1Th 4:17) Thus, at the time that they finish their earthly course faithfully in death, the remaining ones who have the invitation to “the evening meal of the Lamb’s marriage” are immediately resurrected to join their fellow members of the bride class in heaven. They do not “fall asleep in death” in the sense of waiting in a long sleep, as did the apostles but, on dying, are “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 up incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1Co 15:51, 52) Evidently, though, “the marriage of the Lamb” does not take place until after judgment has been executed upon “Babylon the Great.” (Re 18) After describing the destruction of this “great harlot,” Revelation 19:7 says: “Let us rejoice and be overjoyed, and let us give him the glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has arrived and his wife has prepared herself.” When all the 144,000 have been finally approved and “sealed” as faithful ones and have been resurrected to the heavens, the marriage can proceed.
First resurrection. Revelation 20:5, 6 refers to the resurrection of those who will reign with Christ as “the first resurrection.” The apostle Paul speaks of this first resurrection also as “the earlier resurrection from the dead [literally, the out-resurrection the out of dead (ones)].” (Php 3:11, NW, Ro, Int) On the expression Paul uses here, Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament (1931, Vol. IV, p. 454) says: “Apparently Paul is thinking here only of the resurrection of believers out from the dead and so double ex [out] (ten exanastasin ten ek nekron). Paul is not denying a general resurrection by this language, but emphasizing that of believers.” Charles Ellicott’s Commentaries (1865, Vol. II, p. 87) remarks on Philippians 3:11: “‘The resurrection from the dead;’ i.e., as the context suggests, the first resurrection (Rev. xx. 5), when, at the Lord’s coming the dead in Him shall rise first (1 Thessalon. iv. 16), and the quick be caught up to meet Him in the clouds (1 Thess. iv. 17); compare Luke xx. 35. The first resurrection will include only true believers, and will apparently precede the second, that of non-believers and disbelievers, in point of time . . . Any reference here to a merely ethical resurrection (Cocceius) is wholly out of the question.” One of the basic meanings of the word e·xa·naʹsta·sis is getting up from bed in the morning; thus it can well represent a resurrection occurring early, otherwise called “the first resurrection.” Rotherham’s translation of Philippians 3:11 reads: “If by any means I may advance to the earlier resurrection which is from among the dead.”
Earthly Resurrection. While Jesus was hanging on a stake, one of the evildoers alongside him, observing that Jesus was not deserving of punishment, requested: “Jesus, remember me when you get into your kingdom.” Jesus replied: “Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.” (Lu 23:42, 43) In effect, Jesus said: ‘On this dark day, when my claim to a kingdom is to outward appearances highly unlikely, you express faith. Indeed, when I do get into my kingdom, I will remember you.’ (See PARADISE.) This would require a resurrection for the evildoer. This man was not a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. He had been engaged in wrongdoing, lawbreaking meriting the death penalty. (Lu 23:40, 41) Therefore, he could not hope to be one of those receiving the first resurrection. Additionally, he died 40 days before Jesus ascended into heaven and hence before Pentecost, which was 10 days after that ascension, when God through Jesus anointed the first members of those who will receive the heavenly resurrection.—Ac 1:3; 2:1-4, 33.
The evildoer, Jesus said, would be in Paradise. The word means “a park or pleasure ground.” The Septuagint rendered the Hebrew word for “garden” (gan), as at Genesis 2:8, by the Greek word pa·raʹdei·sos. The paradise in which the evildoer will be would not be “the paradise of God” promised to “him that conquers,” at Revelation 2:7, for the evildoer was not a conqueror of the world with Jesus Christ. (Joh 16:33) The evildoer would therefore not be in the heavenly Kingdom as a member of it (Lu 22:28-30) but would be a subject of the Kingdom when those of “the first resurrection” would, as kings of God and Christ, sit on thrones, ruling with Christ for a thousand years.—Re 20:4, 6.
“The righteous and the unrighteous.” The apostle Paul said to a group of Jews who also entertained the hope of a resurrection that “there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.”—Ac 24:15.
The Bible makes it plain who are “the righteous.” First of all, those who are to receive a heavenly resurrection are declared righteous.—Ro 8:28-30.
Then the Bible calls faithful men of old such as Abraham righteous. (Ge 15:6; Jas 2:21) Many of these men are listed at Hebrews chapter 11, and of them the writer says: “And yet all these, although they had witness borne to them through their faith, did not get the fulfillment of the promise, as God foresaw something better for us [spirit-begotten, anointed Christians like Paul], in order that they might not be made perfect apart from us.” (Heb 11:39, 40) So, the perfecting of them will take place after that of the ones having part in “the first resurrection.”
Then there is the “great crowd” described in Revelation chapter 7, who are not members of the 144,000 “sealed” ones, and who consequently do not have “the token” of the spirit as being spirit-begotten. (Eph 1:13, 14; 2Co 5:5) They are described as coming “out of the great tribulation” as survivors of it; this would seem to locate the gathering of this group in the last days shortly before that tribulation. These are righteous through faith, being clothed in white robes washed in the blood of the Lamb. (Re 7:1, 9-17) As a class, they will not need to be resurrected, but faithful ones of that group who die before the great tribulation will be resurrected in God’s due time.
Also, there are many “unrighteous” persons buried in Sheol (Hades), mankind’s common grave, or in “the sea,” watery graves. The judgment of these along with “the righteous” resurrected on earth is described in Revelation 20:12, 13: “And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened. But another scroll was opened; it is the scroll of life. And the dead were judged out of those things written in the scrolls according to their deeds. And 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.”
Time of the earthly resurrection. We note that this judgment is placed in the Bible in the account of events occurring during Christ’s Thousand Year Reign with his associate kings and priests. These, the apostle Paul said, “will judge the world.” (1Co 6:2) “The great and the small,” persons from all walks of life, will be there, to be judged impartially. They are “judged out of those things written in the scrolls” that will be opened then. This could not mean the record of their past lives nor a set of rules that judges them on the basis of their past lives. For since “the wages sin pays is death,” these by their death have received the wages of their sin in the past. (Ro 6:7, 23) Now they are resurrected that they might demonstrate their attitude toward God and whether they wish to take hold of the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ that was given for all. (Mt 20:28; Joh 3:16) Though their past sins are not accounted to them, they need the ransom to lift them up to perfection. They must make their minds over from their former way of life and thought in harmony with God’s will and regulations for the earth and its population. Accordingly, “the scrolls” evidently set forth the will and law of God for them during that Judgment Day, their faith and their obedience to these things being the basis for judgment and for writing their names indelibly, at last, into “the scroll of life.”
Resurrection to Life and to Judgment. Jesus gave the comforting assurance to mankind: “The hour is coming, and it is now, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who have given heed will live. . . . 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, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.”—Joh 5:25-29.
A judgment of condemnation. In Jesus’ words here, the word “judgment” translates the Greek word kriʹsis. According to Parkhurst, the meanings of this word in the Christian Greek Scriptures are as follows: “I. Judgment. . . . II. Judgment, justice. Mat. xxiii. 23. Comp. xii. 20. . . . III. Judgment of condemnation, condemnation, damnation. Mark iii. 29. John v. 24, 29. . . . IV. The cause or ground of condemnation or punishment. John iii. 19. V. A particular court of justice among the Jews, . . . Mat. v. 21, 22.”—A Greek and English Lexicon to the New Testament, London, 1845, p. 342.
If Jesus, in speaking of judgment, meant a trial the result of which might be life, then there would be no contrast between this and the “resurrection of life.” Therefore, the context indicates that Jesus meant by “judgment” a condemnatory judgment.
“The dead” that heard Jesus speak on earth. In considering Jesus’ words, we note that when Jesus spoke, some of “the dead” were hearing his voice. Peter used similar language when he said: “In fact, for this purpose the good news was declared also to the dead, that they might be judged as to the flesh from the standpoint of men but might live as to the spirit from the standpoint of God.” (1Pe 4:6) This is so because those hearing Christ were ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ before hearing but would begin to ‘live’ spiritually because of faith in the good news.—Eph 2:1; compare Mt 8:22; 1Ti 5:6.
John 5:29 refers to end of judgment period. But a very important thing to notice, something that helps to determine the time feature of Jesus’ words concerning the ‘resurrection of life and the resurrection of judgment,’ is what he said earlier in the same context, in speaking of those living then who were spiritually dead (as explained under the subheading ‘Passing Over From Death to Life’): “The hour is coming, and it is now, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who have given heed [literally, word for word, “the (ones) having heard”] will live.” (Joh 5:25, Int) This indicates that he was not speaking merely of someone audibly hearing his voice but, rather, of the ones “having heard,” namely, those who, after hearing, accept as true what they hear. The terms “hear” and “listen” are used very frequently in the Bible with the meaning of “give heed” or “obey.” (See OBEDIENCE.) Those who prove to be obedient will live. (Compare the use of the same Greek term [a·kouʹo], “hear or listen,” at Joh 6:60; 8:43, 47; 10:3, 27.) They are judged, not on what they did before hearing his voice, but on what they do after hearing it.
Jesus was therefore evidently taking a similar position in time in speaking of “those who did good things” and “those who practiced vile things,” namely, a position at the end of the period of judgment, as looking back in retrospect or in review of the actions of these resurrected persons after they had opportunity to obey or disobey the “things written in the scrolls.” Only at the end of the judgment period would it be demonstrated who had done good or bad. The outcome to “those who did good things” (according to “those things written in the scrolls”) would be the reward of life; to “those who practiced vile things,” a judgment of condemnation. The resurrection would have turned out to be either to life or to condemnation.
The practice of stating things as viewed from the standpoint of the outcome, or stating them as already accomplished, considering them in retrospect, is common in the Bible. For God is “the One telling from the beginning the finale, and from long ago the things that have not been done.” (Isa 46:10) Jude adopts this same viewpoint when he speaks of corrupt men who slipped into the congregation, saying of them: “Too bad for them, because they have gone in the path of Cain, and have rushed into the erroneous course of Balaam for reward, and have perished [literally, they destroyed themselves] in the rebellious talk of Korah!” (Jude 11) Some of the prophecies use similar language.—Compare Isa 40:1, 2; 46:1; Jer 48:1-4.
Consequently the viewpoint taken at John 5:29 is not identical with that at Acts 24:15 in which Paul speaks of the resurrection of “the righteous and the unrighteous.” Paul is plainly referring to those who have had a righteous or unrighteous standing before God during this life, and who will be resurrected. They are “those in the memorial tombs.” (Joh 5:28; see MEMORIAL TOMB.) At John 5:29, Jesus views such persons after their coming out of the memorial tombs and after they, by their course of action during the reign of Jesus Christ and his associate kings and priests, have proved themselves either obedient, with eternal “life” as their reward, or disobedient, and so deserving “judgment [condemnation]” from God.
Soul Recovered From Sheol. King David of Israel wrote: “I foresaw the Lord always before my face; for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved . . . moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell [Sheol], neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” (Ps 15:8-10, LXX, Bagster [16:8-11, NW]) On the day of Pentecost, 33 C.E., the apostle Peter applied this psalm to Jesus Christ, in declaring to the Jews the truth of Christ’s resurrection. (Ac 2:25-31) The Scriptures, both the Hebrew and the Greek, therefore show that it was the “soul” of Jesus Christ that was resurrected. Jesus Christ was ‘put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.’ (1Pe 3:18) “Flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom,” said the apostle Paul. (1Co 15:50) This would also exclude flesh and bones. Flesh and bones do not have life unless they have blood, for the blood contains the “soul” or is that which is necessary for the life of the creature of flesh.—Ge 9:4.
Throughout the Scriptures it is evident that there is no “immaterial soul” separate and distinct from the body. The soul dies when the body dies. Even of Jesus Christ it is written that “he poured out his soul to the very death.” His soul was in Sheol. He had no existence as a soul or person during that time. (Isa 53:12; Ac 2:27; compare Eze 18:4; see SOUL.) Consequently, in the resurrection there is no joining again of soul and body. However, whether spiritual or earthly, the individual must have a body or organism, for all persons, heavenly or earthly, possess bodies. To be again a person, one who has died would have to have a body, either a physical or a spiritual body. The Bible says: “If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual one.”—1Co 15:44.
But is the old body reassembled in the resurrection? or is it a precise replica of the former body, made exactly as it was when the person died? The Scriptures answer in the negative when they deal with the resurrection of Christ’s anointed brothers to life in the heavens: “Nevertheless, someone will say: ‘How are the dead to be raised up? Yes, with what sort of body are they coming?’ You unreasonable person! What you sow is not made alive unless first it dies; and as for what you sow, you sow, not the body that will develop, but a bare grain, it may be, of wheat or any one of the rest; but God gives it a body just as it has pleased him, and to each of the seeds its own body.”—1Co 15:35-38.
The heavenly ones receive a spiritual body, for it pleases God for them to have bodies suitable for their heavenly environment. But those whom Jehovah pleases to raise to an earthly resurrection, what body does he give them? It could not be the same body, of exactly the same atoms. If a man dies and is buried, by process of decay his body is reconverted into chemicals that can be absorbed by vegetation. Persons may eat that vegetation. The elements, the atoms of that original person, now are in many persons. In the resurrection it is obvious that the same atoms cannot be in the original person and in all the others at the same time.
Neither is the resurrected body necessarily one constructed to be the exact duplicate of the body at the moment of death. If a person has had his body mutilated before death, will he return in the same way? That would be unreasonable, for he might not be in a condition even to hear and to do “those things written in the scrolls.” (Re 20:12) Say a person died from having the blood drained from his body. Would he return without blood? No, for he could not live in an earthly body without blood. (Le 17:11, 14) Rather, he would be given a body as it pleases God. Since God’s will and pleasure are that the resurrected person must obey the “things written in the scrolls,” it would have to be a sound body, possessing all its faculties. (Even though Lazarus’ body was already partially decomposed, Jesus resurrected Lazarus in a whole, sound body. [Joh 11:39]) In this way the individual could properly and justly be held responsible for his deeds during the judgment period. Yet the individual would not be perfect when brought back, for he must exercise faith in Christ’s ransom and must have the priestly ministrations of Christ and his “royal priesthood.”—1Pe 2:9; Re 5:10; 20:6.
‘Passing Over From Death to Life.’ Jesus spoke of those who ‘have everlasting life’ because they hear his words with faith and obedience and then believe on the Father who sent him. He said about each one of such: “He does not come into judgment but has passed over from death to life. Most truly I say to you, The hour is coming, and it is now, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who have given heed will live.”—Joh 5:24, 25.
Those who have ‘passed over from death to life now’ would not be those who had literally died and were in actual graves. At the time when Jesus spoke, all mankind were under the condemnation of death before God the Judge of all. So the ones Jesus referred to were evidently persons on earth who had been dead in a spiritual sense. Jesus must have referred to such spiritually dead ones when he said to the Jewish son who wanted to go home first to bury his father: “Keep following me, and let the dead bury their dead.”—Mt 8:21, 22.
Those who become Christians with true belief were once among the spiritually dead people of the world. The apostle Paul reminded the congregation of this fact, saying: “It is you God made alive though you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you at one time walked according to the system of things of this world . . . But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, made us alive together with the Christ, even when we were dead in trespasses—by undeserved kindness you have been saved—and he raised us up together and seated us together in the heavenly places in union with Christ Jesus.”—Eph 2:1, 2, 4-6.
Thus, because of their no longer walking in trespasses and sins against God, and because of their faith in Christ, Jehovah lifted his condemnation from them. He raised them up out of spiritual death and gave them hope of everlasting life. (1Pe 4:3-6) The apostle John describes this transfer from deadness in trespasses and sins to spiritual life in these words: “Do not marvel, brothers, that the world hates you. We know we have passed over from death to life, because we love the brothers.”—1Jo 3:13, 14.
An Undeserved Kindness of God. The provision of a resurrection for humankind is indeed an undeserved kindness of Jehovah God, for he was not obligated to provide a resurrection. Love for the world of mankind moved him to give his only-begotten Son so that millions, yes, even thousands of millions who have died without a real knowledge of God might have opportunity to know and love him, and so that those who love and serve him can have this hope and encouragement to faithful endurance, even as far as death. (Joh 3:16) The apostle Paul comforts fellow Christians with the resurrection hope, writing to the congregation at Thessalonica about those of the congregation who had died and who had hope of a heavenly resurrection: “Moreover, brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant concerning those who are sleeping in death; that you may not sorrow just as the rest also do who have no hope. For if our faith is that Jesus died and rose again, so, too, those who have fallen asleep in death through Jesus God will bring with him.”—1Th 4:13, 14.
Likewise, for those faithful to God who died with hope of life on earth under God’s Messianic Kingdom, and also for others who have not come to know God, Christians should not sorrow as the rest do who have no hope. When Sheol (Hades) is opened, those in there will come out. The Bible mentions many who have gone there, including the people of ancient Egypt, Assyria, Elam, Meshech, Tubal, Edom, and Sidon. (Eze 32:18-31) Jesus indicated that at least some formerly unrepentant people from Bethsaida, Chorazin, and Capernaum would be among those on hand for Judgment Day. Even though their former attitude would make it very hard for them to repent, they would be given opportunity to do so.—Mt 11:20-24; Lu 10:13-15.
Ransom applied to all for whom it was given. The greatness and expansiveness of God’s love and undeserved kindness in giving his Son that ‘whoever should believe in him might have life’ would not limit the application of the ransom to only those whom God chooses for the heavenly calling. (Joh 3:16) In fact, the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ would not be completely applied if it left off with those who become members of the Kingdom of heaven. It would fall short of accomplishing the full purpose for which God provided it, because God’s purpose was that the Kingdom have earthly subjects. Jesus Christ is High Priest not only over the underpriests with him but also for the world of mankind who will live when his associates also rule as kings and priests with him. (Re 20:4, 6) He has “been tested in all respects like ourselves [his spiritual brothers], but without sin.” Therefore he can sympathize with the weaknesses of persons who are conscientiously trying to serve God; and his associate kings and priests have been tested in the same way. (Heb 4:15, 16; 1Pe 4:12, 13) On behalf of whom could they be priests if not on behalf of mankind, including those resurrected, during the Thousand Year Reign and judgment period?
Servants of God have anxiously looked forward to the day when the resurrection will complete its work. In the outworking of his purposes, God has set exactly the proper time for it, in which his wisdom and long-suffering will be fully vindicated. (Ec 3:1-8) He and his Son, being both able and willing to perform the resurrection, will complete it in that set time.
Jehovah joyfully anticipates the resurrection. Jehovah and his Son must anticipate the full carrying out of that work with great joy. Jesus showed this willingness and desire when a leper entreated him: “‘If you just want to, you can make me clean.’ At that [Jesus] was moved with pity, and he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him: ‘I want to. Be made clean.’ And immediately the leprosy vanished from him, and he became clean.” This touching incident demonstrating Christ’s loving-kindness for mankind was recorded by three of the Gospel writers. (Mr 1:40-42; Mt 8:2, 3; Lu 5:12, 13) And of Jehovah’s love and willingness to help mankind, we call again to mind the words of faithful Job: “If an able-bodied man dies can he live again? . . . You will call, and I myself shall answer you. For the work of your hands you will have a yearning.”—Job 14:14, 15.
Some Not Resurrected. While it is true that Christ’s ransom sacrifice was given for mankind in general, Jesus indicated that its actual application nevertheless would be limited when he said: “Just as the Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Mt 20:28) Jehovah God has the right to refuse to accept a ransom for anyone he deems unworthy. Christ’s ransom covers the sins an individual has because of being a child of sinful Adam, but a person can add to that by his own deliberate, willful course of sin, and he can thus die for such sin that is beyond coverage by the ransom.
Sin against the holy spirit. Jesus Christ said that one who sinned against the holy spirit would not be forgiven in the present system of things nor in that to come. (Mt 12:31, 32) A person whom God judged as having sinned against the holy spirit in the present system of things would therefore not profit by a resurrection, since his sins would never be forgiven, making resurrection useless for him. Jesus uttered judgment against Judas Iscariot in calling him “the son of destruction.” The ransom would not apply to him, and his destruction already being a judicially established judgment, he would not receive a resurrection.—Joh 17:12.
To his opposers, the Jewish religious leaders, Jesus said: “How are you to flee from the judgment of Gehenna [a symbol of everlasting destruction]?” (Mt 23:33; see GEHENNA.) His words indicate that these persons, if they did not take action to turn to God before their death, would have a final adverse judgment entered against them. If so, a resurrection would accomplish nothing for them. This would also appear to be true of “the man of lawlessness.”—2Th 2:3, 8; see MAN OF LAWLESSNESS.
Paul speaks of those who have known the truth, have been partakers of holy spirit, and then have fallen away, as falling into a condition in which it is impossible “to revive them again to repentance, because they impale the Son of God afresh for themselves and expose him to public shame.” The ransom could no longer help them; hence they would receive no resurrection. The apostle goes on to liken such ones to a field that produces only thorns and thistles and is therefore rejected and ends up being burned. This illustrates the future before them: complete annihilation.—Heb 6:4-8.
Again, Paul says of those who “practice sin willfully after having received the accurate knowledge of the truth, [that] there is no longer any sacrifice for sins left, but there is a certain fearful expectation of judgment and there is a fiery jealousy that is going to consume those in opposition.” He then illustrates: “Any man that has disregarded the law of Moses dies without compassion, upon the testimony of two or three. Of how much more severe a punishment, do you think, will the man be counted worthy who has trampled upon the Son of God and who has esteemed as of ordinary value the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and who has outraged the spirit of undeserved kindness with contempt? . . . It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” The judgment is more severe in that such ones are not merely killed and buried in Sheol, as were violators of the Law of Moses. These go into Gehenna, from which there is no resurrection.—Heb 10:26-31.
Peter writes to his brothers, pointing out that they, as “the house of God,” are under judgment, and he then quotes from Proverbs 11:31 (LXX) warning them of the danger of disobedience. He here implies that their present judgment could end with a judgment of everlasting destruction for them, just as Paul had written.—1Pe 4:17, 18.
The apostle Paul also tells of some who will “undergo the judicial punishment of everlasting destruction from before the Lord and from the glory of his strength, at the time he comes to be glorified in connection with his holy ones.” (2Th 1:9, 10) These would therefore not survive into the Thousand Year Reign of Christ, and since their destruction is “everlasting,” they would receive no resurrection.
Resurrection During 1,000 Years. The exact number of humans who have ever lived is unknown to humans. However, by way of illustration, if Jehovah resurrects 20 billion (20,000,000,000) people, there would be no problem as to living space and food for them. The land surface of the earth at present is about 148,000,000 sq km (57,000,000 sq mi), or about 14,800,000,000 ha (36,500,000,000 acres). Even allowing half of that to be set aside for other uses, there would be more than a third of a hectare (almost 1 acre) for each person. As to earth’s potential food production, a third of a hectare will actually provide much more than enough food for one person, especially when, as God has demonstrated in the case of the nation of Israel, there is abundance of food as a result of God’s blessing.—1Ki 4:20; Eze 34:27.
On the question of the earth’s food-producing power, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization maintains that, with only moderate improvements in agricultural methods, in even the developing areas the earth could easily feed up to nine times the population that scientists have estimated for the year 2000.—Land, Food and People, Rome, 1984, pp. 16, 17.
How, though, could the thousands of millions be adequately cared for, in view of the fact that most of them did not in the past know God and must learn to conform to his laws for them? First, the Bible states that the kingdom of the world becomes “the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he [rules] as king forever and ever.” (Re 11:15) And the Bible principle is that “when there are judgments from you [Jehovah] for the earth, righteousness is what the inhabitants of the productive land will certainly learn.” (Isa 26:9) In his due time, when it is necessary to make it known to his servants, God will reveal how he purposes to take care of this work.—Am 3:7.
How would it be possible in 1,000 years to resurrect and educate the billions now in the grave?
Nevertheless, an illustration reveals what a simple, practical thing Jehovah has in mind for mankind. Not to prophesy, but merely for the purpose of illustration, let us assume that those who compose the “great crowd” of righteous persons who “come out of the great tribulation” on this system of things alive (Re 7:9, 14) number about 6,000,000 (about 1/1000 of earth’s present population). Then if, after allowing, say, 100 years spent in their training and in ‘subduing’ a portion of the earth (Ge 1:28), God purposes to bring back three percent of this number, this would mean that each newly arrived person would be looked after by 33 trained ones. Since a yearly increase of three percent, compounded, doubles the number about every 24 years, the entire 20 billion (20,000,000,000) could be resurrected before 400 years of Christ’s Thousand Year Reign had elapsed, giving ample time for training and judging the resurrected ones without disrupting harmony and order on earth. Thus God, with his almighty power and wisdom, is able to bring his purpose to a glorious conclusion fully within the framework of the laws and arrangements he has made for mankind from the beginning, with the added undeserved kindness of the resurrection.—Ro 11:33-36.