The Memorial Day for Rejoicing
A memorial day is coming that will be one of the most joyful times in human history.
CHRIST Jesus told us about the memorial day for rejoicing in these words: “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.
What a time for rejoicing that will be—the time when Almighty God resurrects the dead who are in his memory! “All those in the memorial tombs,” those dead but yet in the memory of God, will hear the voice of Christ Jesus, the one who said: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life.” (John 11:25, 26) So what a cause for rejoicing it is to know that God’s memorial day foretold by the Bible is not one for sadness, not one for the mere decoration of graves or the mere remembrance of the dead but rather the time when “all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out”!
This teaching of the resurrection of the dead, then, is not man-made; only in the mind of Jehovah God, the Creator of heaven and earth, could such a doctrine originate. No wonder the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is one unknown by the wisest heathens, a doctrine unknown by the so-called great philosophers of ancient times! To an apostle of Christ the pagan philosophers of ancient Athens said: “You are introducing some things that are strange to our ears.” One of those things was the resurrection of the dead. “When they heard of a resurrection of the dead,” the Bible tells us, “some began to mock, while others said: ‘We will hear you about this even another time.’” The doctrine of the resurrection is strange only to those who do not know Jehovah God and his Word, the Holy Bible.—Acts 17:20, 32.
How often the Bible makes reference to the resurrection of the dead! In winning the approval of God, Abraham attempted to offer up his son Isaac. How was he able to do this? By faith “he reckoned that God was able to raise him up even from the dead.” And that man of integrity, Job, prayed to God: “O that in Sheol you would hide me, that you would conceal me until your anger turns back, that you would set a time limit for me and remember me!” It was an angel from heaven who told the prophet Daniel that he would rest in death until the time for the resurrection: “Go thou thy way till the end be; for thou shalt rest, and shalt stand in thy lot, at the end of the days.”—Heb. 11:19; Job 14:13; Dan. 12:13, AS.
DEAD NOT CONSCIOUS
There would be no purpose of a resurrection of the dead if the dead were living or conscious, experiencing either pain or pleasure. It is because the dead are actually dead, unconscious, nonexistent, that mankind needs a resurrection of the dead. Christ Jesus likened death to sleep. When Jesus’ friend Lazarus died, Jesus told his disciples: “‘Lazarus our friend has gone to rest, but I am traveling there to awaken him from sleep.’ Therefore the disciples said to him: ‘Master, if he has gone to rest, he will get well.’ Jesus had spoken, however, about his death.”—John 11:11-13.
Though dead for four days Lazarus was resurrected by God’s power through Christ Jesus. Lazarus, upon coming back to life again, said nothing about experiencing consciousness in death, because death is a state of total unconsciousness or nonexistence, as the Bible states: “The living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all, neither do they any more have wages.”—Eccl. 9:5.
So the dead in God’s memory are asleep in death, awaiting the time the Bible refers to in these words: “And the sea gave up those dead in it, and death and Haʹdes gave up those dead in them.”—Rev. 20:13.
THOSE IN GOD’S MEMORY
Who are in line to receive a resurrection from the dead, to enjoy life on earth, a peaceful, paradise earth? Christ Jesus identified two groups: “Those who did good things to a resurrection of life” and “those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.” The apostle Paul included these two groups in one of his many statements about the resurrection. “I have hope toward God,” he said, “that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.”—John 5:29; Acts 24:15.
The “resurrection of life” is for those who did good things, righteous things, things in harmony with God’s commandments. Such persons came to know Jehovah God, had faith in him and his Word and their lives were spent in serving him. Among such persons who did good things are Abraham, Job, Daniel and John the Baptist. The book of Hebrews, chapter eleven, gives the names of others who did good things and whose hope was “that they might attain a better resurrection.” (Heb. 11:35) Their resurrection will be “better” in the sense that they will not have to die again, as did those in ancient times who were resurrected.
What of the other group Jesus mentions, “those who practiced vile things”? These are not the willfully wicked; rather they are those who did not pursue a course of righteous living in harmony with God’s Word, those who did not come to know Jehovah God. Since God can read a man’s heart, he knows those who can profit by a resurrection from the dead. These persons, raised from the dead, will be judged, not by their past deeds, but by their future deeds on earth under the reign of Christ the King.
Among “those who practiced vile things” and who are in God’s memory is one of the evildoers who died alongside Christ Jesus at Calvary. This impaled evildoer said: “Jesus, remember me when you get into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, saying: “Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:42, 43) This evildoer is in God’s memory, in the memorial tomb, awaiting the time when a paradise earth is established after Armageddon during the thousand-year reign of Christ the King. In due time, then, that evildoer will come back from the dead along with those “who practiced vile things.” By his future deeds he can prove his worthiness of receiving the gift of everlasting life on earth.
BASIS FOR A RESURRECTION
Christ’s ransom sacrifice makes possible a resurrection from the dead. “Since death is through a man [Adam], resurrection of the dead is also through a man,” Christ Jesus. It is this one whom God has appointed judge of both the living and the dead. “To this end Christ died and came to life again, that he might be Lord over both the dead and the living.” By God’s resurrecting Christ from the dead to heavenly life, God has given us a guarantee that His memorial day for rejoicing is certain: “He has set a day in which he purposes to judge the inhabited earth in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and he has furnished a guarantee to all men in that he has resurrected him from the dead.”—1 Cor. 15:21; Rom. 14:9; Acts 17:31.
Yet despite this assurance there are persons today who find it difficult to believe in a resurrection of the dead. They are like the persons whom Christ’s apostle asked: “Why is it judged unbelievable among you men that God raises up the dead?” It is not really unbelievable, for God’s power through Christ makes possible the resurrection. “The things impossible with men,” said Jesus, “are possible with God.” And as the Almighty God said to Abraham: “Is anything too extraordinary for Jehovah?” God’s power, exercised through Christ, when Jesus was on the earth, shows that even a resurrection from the dead is not too hard for Jehovah. God’s prophets Elijah and Elisha each raised a person from the dead; so did the apostles Peter and Paul. Christ raised at least three from the dead—the widow’s son, Jairus’ daughter and Lazarus. How easy, then, for God to raise the dead!—Acts 26:8; Luke 18:27; Gen. 18:14.
The fact that there are many persons in the “memorial tombs” awaiting a resurrection poses no difficulty for God; for such persons are in the memory of God, and God’s memory is something marvelous. We even marvel at certain humans who have what we call photographic memories; how it amazes us that they can remember the things they want to! How much more marvelous is the mind of the Creator of our human brain, Jehovah God!
Through the Scriptures we can gain some insight into the Creator’s marvelous memory. God’s Word tells us: “He is counting the number of the stars; all of them he calls by name.” (Ps. 147:4) This the Creator does! Man cannot even count the stars, there are so many; nor can he see them all even with the 200-inch telescope. Yet God not only counts them but names them and remembers their name. This is truly something that reveals to us how easy it will be for God to remember those worthy of a resurrection.
Consider the number of stars that make up just one galaxy; they vary, but in our own Milky Way there are some 200,000,000,000 stars! And yet this galaxy is itself just one of hundreds of millions of other galaxies!
Think of the mind that can name and remember the names of countless billions of stars, their total number, if it could be known, surpassing with an immense greatness the total number of persons that have ever lived on earth! What a mind beyond human understanding! What a mind worthy of our richest exclamations of praise! In the words of Christ’s apostle: “Oh the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable his judgments are and past tracing out his ways are! For ‘who has come to know Jehovah’s mind?’”—Rom. 11:33, 34.
We can never come to know Jehovah’s mind. But from what the Scriptures tell us about his mind, we can understand how simple a thing it is for him to remember those deserving of a resurrection. Indeed, Christ Jesus tells us that those in God’s memory are just as good as living in God’s sight. “That the dead are raised up,” said Jesus, “even Moses disclosed, in the account about the thornbush, when he calls Jehovah ‘the God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob’. He is a God, not of the dead, but of the living, for they are all living from his standpoint.”—Luke 20:37, 38.
LIFE PATTERN RECONSTITUTED
The resurrection, then, of “all those in the memorial tombs” is absolutely certain. In the resurrection does God re-create the same body, atom for atom? No, God provides a new body, one made up of different atoms but one reasonably like the one a person had before death. It is not the identical body atoms that make one the same person in the resurrection, since even now the atoms in the human body are constantly changing. “In a year,” says Science Digest of December, 1954, “approximately 98 per cent of the atoms in us now will be replaced by other atoms that we take in in our air, food, and drink.” So in the resurrection it is not body atoms that God remembers and re-creates; what God holds in his memory is the life pattern of the creature. This is what makes the same person in the resurrection—the life pattern.
What is this life pattern God retains in his memory? It is the life-long record of the creature, a record made by the thoughts he thought, the experiences he had, the knowledge he stored up. So the life pattern results from one’s memories and mental abilities. The life pattern includes all intellectual growth and characteristics that make up one’s personality. This is what God faithfully reconstitutes in the resurrection.
We may be assured, then, that in the resurrection one will retain his personal identity, though having a body of different atoms. One worthy of receiving a resurrection from the dead will not be like those persons who, after an accident or shock of some kind, awaken or respond with a case of amnesia, a loss of memory, not even knowing who they are. No, but in the resurrection one awakening from the sleep in death will know who he is and will possess all his memories. It will be as if one merely went to sleep and woke up. Thus the last conscious thought or observation will connect up with the opening thought.
That happy day approaches, that grand day when God remembers the dead with a resurrection, His memorial day for rejoicing. What joy to be living when dead loved ones and friends are raised to life again! The time for this earthly resurrection of “those who did good things” and “those who practiced vile things” is during Christ’s thousand-year rule, due to follow God’s war of Armageddon. Since Armageddon is scheduled to come upon this generation in these “last days,” now is the time for those who long to see dead loved ones raised to life again to do good things. How?
Learn more of Jehovah’s purposes. Learn what you must do to survive Armageddon into God’s new world. Then by acting in harmony with Jehovah’s Word you may experience the unspeakable joy of greeting “those in the memorial tombs” when God remembers them with a resurrection from the dead.