The Miracle of Resurrection
“However, now Christ has been raise 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. For just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive. But each one in his own rank: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who belong to the Christ during his presence. Next, the accomplished end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed all government and all authority and power.”—1 Cor. 15:20-24, NW.
1. To whom does credit go for the resurrection hope? When was it first indicated?
ONLY Jehovah God could conceive the idea of a resurrection. His power alone could perform such a miraculous act. It was not invented by men. The very first prophecy, uttered by Jehovah himself, gave hope of a resurrection. speaking to the serpent God said: “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.” (Gen. 3:15, NW) Here he was setting forth the marvelous promise, later proved true, that the “seed,” after being bruised in death by the Serpent, would live again to destroy him. This would require a resurrection of the “seed.”
2. How do the Devil and his false religions try to nullify the resurrection hope, and with what effect?
2 The Serpent, the Devil, had put the false hope of human immortality into the mind of Eve. The Devil’s lie has since been used as ground for either denying the resurrection outright or nullifying it by confusing the doctrine so as to take away the comfort and hope it offers. For who gets any real comfort out of the false religious statement of a clergyman at the funeral of a loved one that this one is not really dead, but is living on in some shady world, either in bliss or in a burning hell? Our own better sense tells us he is dead. But if we believe he is alive we may think: “He may be suffering.” Or, “If he is in heaven, why did God have him first here on earth? What is the purpose of it all?” We are confused, and the vagueness and contradictoriness cause mental anguish. At the same time this false idea deprives us of the sure knowledge and solid comfort of the true resurrection hope the Scriptures give. If we would just look into the Bible we would see that our loved one is not suffering, but is awaiting a resurrection into far better conditions in the new world. We would thank God that his destiny is not dependent on where a clergyman places him, but on God’s own mercy and judgment.
3. Where do men’s schemes fall short of Jehovah’s promises?
3 We cannot have complete happiness without the hope of a resurrection. Life is very dear to each of us. How can we be happy if we believe that only in this life we have hope? 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.” (1 Cor. 15:19, NW) This world may offer riches and pleasure, medical and scientific advancement, perhaps lengthening our life span a few years, but it does not even presume to make man live forever, much less offer hope for life for those who have died. For this reason we should put our trust in God’s kingdom rather than a United Nations scheme of men. What if they could bring peace, better living standards and prosperity? They could bring at best only a few years of it to each of us. The Kingdom will give its subjects permanent life under conditions undreamed of by man, together with the wonderful reality of bringing back the dead to enjoy such things everlastingly.
HOW NEED FOR RESURRECTION AROSE
4. How did the need for a resurrection arise?
4 How did the need for a resurrection come about? In the beginning it was not necessary. It was not a part of God’s original purpose toward mankind, because death was not intended for man. Death is an unnatural thing for humans, brought in by sin, and the resurrection was added to overcome this disability for righteous men. Adam and Eve were perfect and had everlasting life before them if obedient. Their children would naturally inherit their perfection, filling the earth with lovely, obedient humankind, who would have no fear of death and would not know sickness and pain. But Satan the Devil induced the first human couple to go beyond the bounds of safe freedom set for them by their Creator. Adam and Eve followed the course of willful disobedience and open rebellion, forfeited the opportunity of being parents to a living society of humans and instead fostered a race in whom death reigned. Thus the need of a resurrection to overcome king death for those who would desire to take a life course opposite to that of their rebellious parents.—Gen. 3:4-6; Rom. 5:12, 14, 19.
5. Why is it entirely reasonable to accept the miracle of resurrection as true?
5 To be sure, resurrection is a miracle, a thing beyond man’s power to accomplish or even to understand. But why should that keep one from accepting it? Life itself is a miracle, not understood by men, but we accept it as a reality. Then there is the miracle of birth, the miracle of creation, the miraculous fact that life exists here on the earth and apparently on none of its sister planets. All these miraculous things beyond our power to control or even fathom, we accept. All are provisions by a loving Creator for our good. The resurrection is necessary to complete that good purpose toward us.
A PROVED, RELIABLE DOCTRINE
6. Where do we find the strongest proof of Jesus’ resurrection?
6 Why can we be so sure of the resurrection? Faith must be based on evidence attested by reliable authority. We do have such evidence for the resurrection. Chief of this is the testimony borne by the apostles and disciples of Jesus Christ. Paul, who was at first a violent opposer of Christ and a disbeliever in his resurrection, witnessed that he received a glimpse of the resurrected, glorified Son of God and said: “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. . . . 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.” (1 Cor. 15:12-20, NW) For the record of his testimony to the miraculous event of Christ’s postresurrection appearance to him, see Acts 9:1-9; 22:6-11; 26:12-18.
7, 8. Give some proofs that the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection were not perpetrators of a collusion or victims of hallucination.
7 By the mouth of many more than two or three witnesses Jesus’ resurrection is established—by more witnesses than many other fully accepted events of history. Thoroughly refuting the charge that it was an imposture, that his body was stolen, as the enemies who put him to death claimed, or that it was a visionary hallucination, or a collusion, we have these facts: The witnesses were not men of power or influence, to overcome or bribe the Roman guards stationed at Jesus’ tomb. There was little likelihood of a collusion among so many, especially as to something that would be of no personal gain to them. Their witnessing to the resurrection could have no selfish motive; it exposed them to suffering and death. They gave their testimony in the very place where the bitterest enemies were, where certainly a fraud could be uncovered. And they did not wait, but witnessed then, while the rage of the Jews was at its height. Furthermore, if it had been a mere vision or imagination, it would have been of the expected thing; but this was to them a great surprise in their despair and downcast condition—the unexpected. Really it was the very thing that gave them the courage to bear testimony that could not be broken down under the most violent persecution.
8 If one will read the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection recorded in the four gospels he will readily see the harmony and yet the lack of collusion in these accounts. That it was witnessed to by a great number and that it was accepted by many more right in that vicinity very soon afterward is attested to by the Bible and acknowledged by writers of profane history, such as Josephus.—Acts 2:41; 4:4.
9. What other proofs do we have that the teaching of the resurrection is true?
9 And what about the resurrections of Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter and the son of the widow of Nain? (John 11:43, 44; Mark 5:41, 42; Luke 7:14, 15) These were seen by many, testifying to Jehovah’s power in this respect. Yes, God’s power had been shown in this way in the days of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. (1 Ki. 17:21, 22; 2 Ki. 4:32-35) Abraham believed in a resurrection. (Heb. 11:19) It was repeatedly promised in the Hebrew Scriptures. We have a host of witnesses to the truth of Jehovah’s miraculous resurrection power.—Isa. 25:8; 53:10-12; Job 14:13, 14; Dan. 12:13; compare Exodus 3:15 with Luke 20:37, 38.
PURPOSE OF THE RESURRECTION
10, 11. What purposes are served by the resurrection?
10 Since Jehovah is the great Purposer, he has a purpose in the resurrection. When Adam sinned, Jehovah had the power to bring forth a new race to people the earth. But the resurrection shows forth not only his unlimited power but also his love and mercy and vindicates him as the Preserver of those who serve him. Having resurrection power, he is able to show that his servants will be faithful to him to the very death. He can answer Satan by letting him go the full limit of killing some in a vain effort to support his false accusations. The fact that Jehovah’s servants are willing to give up even life itself in his service proves their service is, not for selfish considerations, but for love. It also proves they acknowledge him as the Almighty, able to resurrect them, the Supreme Sovereign and the God of love. It proves they are dedicated to Jehovah for his wonderful qualities. Thus Satan is most thoroughly convicted as a liar in his challenge of Jehovah’s supremacy and of the integrity of his creatures’ devotion to him through love.—Job 1:9-11; 2:4, 5.
11 At the time of the judgment in Eden Jehovah purposed a new thing. The resurrection would be necessary to accomplish it. This was a new creation, a royal theocratic organization of 144,001 kings as the capital part of his universal organization. These would be selected from among men who would prove unbreakable integrity to death—a government the members of which the universe could ever depend on for justice, righteousness, adherence to Jehovah’s direction and principles of truth. By the resurrection Jehovah could also let his only-begotten Son, the closest one to him in the universe and his Chief Executive Officer, be tried to the limit and raised again to heaven, this time to immortal life to be the Forerunner and Head of all his 144,000 royal brothers. (Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:18; Rev. 14:1) In fact, it is through this One that the way is opened for a resurrection for others. His death and resurrection are a foundation for hope of all who desire life. This is the point of Paul’s argument: “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. For just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive.”—1 Cor. 15:20-22, NW.
THE FIRST RESURRECTION
12. What was Jehovah’s greatest miracle?
12 The Bible clearly outlines two kinds of resurrection: first and foremost, the heavenly; second, the earthly. In the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians Paul discusses mainly the heavenly resurrection, of which Christ was the first. What a miracle, this resurrection! It is the first resurrection, first in time and first in importance. (Rev. 20:6) Jehovah had performed many miracles in creating angels of might and power greater than man’s. His very first creation, his only-begotten Son, whom he used as Associate Creator thereafter, was his greatest creative work to that time. But this was not equal to his miraculous work of power on Nisan 16, A.D. 33, when he resurrected Jesus Christ the “firstborn from the dead”—the first to be raised from the dead to everlasting life.
13. How was Jehovah’s power magnificently demonstrated in Jesus’ resurrection?
13 Imagine the interplay of Jehovah’s supreme wisdom and limitless power in raising Jesus to immortality, giving him a divine organism, making him the exact representation of Jehovah’s very being, higher than any other creature, far above his previous station. (Phil. 2:9; Heb. 1:3) Furthermore, the resurrected Jesus was the same personality he had been at death. Jehovah’s power is more deeply appreciated when we consider the fact that here he reconstructed the second-greatest personality in the universe. What wonderful fruits of the spirit the Son had developed during his millenniums of prehuman heavenly service to Jehovah! How he had added to this by his earthly service under Satan’s test, where “he learned obedience from the things he suffered”! (Heb. 5:8) Now not one whit of his qualities of proved, unbreakable integrity had been lost by Jehovah in resurrecting him, re-creating his personality. What a marvelous accomplishment!
14. Is this astounding miracle to be repeated? Explain.
14 Now, this great miracle is to be repeated 144,000 times in raising the associate body members of the Christ to immortality. (1 Pet. 1:4; 1 John 3:2) Yes, these can say: “The Lord Jesus Christ, who will refashion our humiliated body to be conformed to his glorious body according to the operation of the power which he has, even to subject all things to himself.”—Phil. 3:20, 21, NW.
15. (a) When did the resurrection of Christ’s body members occur? (b) What about such ones still on earth today?
15 The time of their resurrection is shown in the words: “In the Christ all will be made alive. But each one in his own rank: Christ [Jesus] the firstfruits, afterward those who belong to the Christ during his presence.” (1 Cor. 15:22, 23, NW) His presence as immortal, reigning King is now here. Since 1918 he has turned his attention to these body members, and the dead ones he has raised up. Paul foretold it in these words: “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.” Christ Jesus, who also bears the title “Michael the archangel,” after casting Satan and his angels out of heaven, turns his attention to these dead ones and, during the time of the great trumpetlike announcement of the established Kingdom, raises them up. (Jude 9; Rev. 12:7, 10) From that time forward the remnant of these who are on earth, dying faithful, do not have to wait in death’s sleep, but are raised up at the very moment of death to join their fellow joint heirs with Christ in immortality. Paul explains this sequence of events, saying: “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.” “Look! I tell you a sacred secret: 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 up incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”—1 Thess. 4:16, 17; 1 Cor. 15:51, 52, NW.
THE EARTHLY RESURRECTION
16. For what others did Jesus show there is hope?
16 There are others, too, for whom the resurrection holds hope, persons whom God also retains in his memory as meriting the benefits of resurrection. Jesus showed there were others when he said: “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.”—John 5:28, 29, NW.
17. Who receive a resurrection to life?
17 Those receiving heavenly resurrection to immortality are surely among those resurrected to life. But there are many who proved faithful in times of old and who refused to compromise with Satan’s world, so that they would obtain a resurrection under the Kingdom. This would be better than the resurrections that took place in their days, before the ransom had been paid by the Messiah, and before his kingdom began. (Heb. 11:10, 35) Then there are, since Christ’s kingdom has been established, A.D. 1914, some of his “great crowd” of sheeplike ones who have died faithful to him and may yet so die before Armageddon’s war wipes out Satan’s system of things. (Matt. 25:34-40; Rev. 7:9) Some of the “great crowd” are now serving in position of “princes,” responsible servants in God’s New World society. (Isa. 32:1) Likewise, men of old were given that promise. (Ps. 45:16) It would reasonably follow that the faithful men of old and any of the present-day other sheep who die will receive a resurrection early in the new world, to join the Armageddon survivors in their work of making a paradise of the earth. Theirs would be a resurrection to life also, in that they would come forth with a good start, having already patterned their lives to a great degree in obedience to God. The stand they will take on coming forth is not one of doubt, but they will immediately take up again the way of obedience and conformity to new-world ways. These also would be “righteous” ones, as mentioned by Paul at Acts 24:15 (NW).
18. Who receive a resurrection of judgment?
18 But what about the “unrighteous,” or “those who practiced vile things,” coming out to a “resurrection of judgment”? This will be part of the earthly resurrection and will include those who did not know the way of service to Jehovah, but whose hearts could desire the principles of right. The malefactor to whom Christ spoke is one example of such. (Luke 23:39-43) They did not practice the things pleasing to God and leading to life, but they had right heart desires, a love of righteousness that God remembers. Some may have even shown good will toward God’s servants in times past. Such ones must come forth to judgment, the outcome of which depends on their obedience to the divine regulations governing God’s new world. This will occur after paradisaic conditions are well along, as Christ promised the malefactor.
“THE ACCOMPLISHED END”
19. How does the resurrection have a part in finally vindicating Jehovah’s word and name?
19 In harmony with Revelation 20:5, however, none on earth will have the grant of everlasting life until the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ. When he comes to this point of time, having lifted obedient humankind up to actual perfection, his priestly work toward them is done. Death due to Adam has then been destroyed by removal of all imperfection. The earth is filled and beautified according to Jehovah’s original purpose. Christ then steps aside to let them stand in their perfection before Jehovah himself, as Adam did in Eden. This is “the accomplished end, . . . when he has destroyed all government and all authority and power.” (1 Cor. 15:24, NW) Next, the test of Satan’s loosing for a little season is applied and those standing firm for Jehovah’s theocratic government are declared righteous, being granted a permanent place in that world without end. It is then that “the rest of the dead . . . come to life” in the fullest sense of the word. (Rev. 20:5, NW) Then Jehovah God is truly “all things to everyone,” because wholly in him resides the decision as to permanent life or extinction for each one of earth’s inhabitants. By the resurrection Jehovah’s name and purposes are vindicated. Happy are those who receive its benefits!