Out of the Tombs to a “Resurrection of Life”
1. Into what kind of life have those who become associate judges with Christ entered while yet on earth, and how?
DOWN through the past nineteen centuries the persons whom God has chosen to become associate judges with his Son in the heavenly kingdom have heard the voice of the Son of God and, because of giving heed to what his voice told them to do, they have entered into a spiritual life while yet on this earth. They have been justified from the condemned condition of the world of mankind that is dead in its trespasses and sins and hateful spirit. God has relieved them of the condemnation of death through the sacrificial death that his Son suffered for all believers.—Rom. 5:1; 8:1-4.
2. To what, in John 5:26, did Jesus refer by the expression “life in himself”?
2 Jesus Christ referred to his part in connection with God’s act of bringing the believers from death across to life, when Jesus next said: “For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted also to the Son to have life in himself.” In view of how Jesus argued in his discourse here, he did not refer to what some persons call “inherent life” in either his heavenly Father or himself, or ‘self-existence’ according to An American Translation. (John 5:26) According to his argument Jesus referred to the power to impart life. Hence the New English Bible (of 1961) puts Jesus’ words this way: “For as the Father has life-giving power in himself, so has the Son, by the Father’s gift.” The Roman Catholic translation by Monsignor Ronald A. Knox conveys the same idea, reading: “As the Father has within him the gift of life, so he has granted to the Son that he too should have within him the gift of life.” The New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, of 1950, presents the same thought: “For just as the Father has in himself the gift of life, so he has granted to the Son to have also in himself the gift of life.”
3. Why could God and why did God grant to the Son to have “life in himself”?
3 How, when and why did the heavenly Father grant to his Son Jesus Christ to have life-imparting power within himself? As Jehovah God is the “source of life,” he could grant to his Son to have lifegiving power in himself. (Ps. 36:9) Why he did so was because the human family was dying as a result of the sin committed by its first human father, Adam.—Rom. 5:12.
4 Everlasting life could be imparted to the condemned, dying race of mankind only by means of a human sacrifice. To provide this human sacrifice for offsetting mankind’s sin and relieving them of their condemnation to death Jehovah God the heavenly Father sent his Son, transferring his life from heaven to earth. Miraculously he had his Son born as the babe Jesus in Bethlehem of Judea. Jesus grew up to be a perfect man at the age of thirty, the equivalent of the perfect man Adam in Eden. True, he now had perfect human life, free from condemnation, but he had to make this human life of his available for mankind by sacrificing it in the service of his heavenly Father. So at the age of thirty years Jesus presented himself for this sacrificial service, to serve as a priest of God. In Hebrews 10:5-10 the inspired writer applies the words of Psalm 40:6-8 to Jesus and says:
5 “Hence when he comes into the world he says: ‘“Sacrifice and offering you did not want, but you prepared a body for me. You did not approve of whole burnt offerings and sin offering.” Then I said, “Look! I am come (in the roll of the book it is written about me) to do your will, O God.’” After first saying: ‘You did not want nor did you approve of sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sin offering’—sacrifices that are offered according to the Law—then he actually says: ‘Look! I am come to do your will.’ He does away with what is first that he may establish what is second. By the said ‘will’ we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time.”
6. In harmony with that, what did Jesus have done to himself, and what did God then give to him to a limited extent?
6 In order to symbolize this presentation of himself to God’s special service even to the death, Jesus had himself baptized in water by John the Baptist. (Matt. 3:13-17) Right after Jesus was baptized in water Jehovah God baptized his now dedicated Son with holy spirit from heaven and declared him to be his spiritual Son. There at that baptism the Father granted to the Son to have in himself life-giving power to a limited extent. It was because of this fact that the Son was able to cure the man who lay sick for thirty-eight years and also to raise Jews from the dead, even bringing his dear friend Lazarus back to life after four days of entombment. But Jesus did not yet have power to impart everlasting life to members of the condemned human family. Why not? Because he had not yet sacrificed his perfect human body in actual death.
7. (a) What power did God exercise on the third day after Jesus’ death, and how? (b) With what did Jesus ascend to heaven, and why with this?
7 However, a dead Jesus Christ could not impart life to dying mankind. Hence Jehovah God the Father, who has lifegiving power in himself, raised his Son from the dead on the third day to immortal life in heaven, in the spirit realm. When Jesus ascended to heaven forty days after his resurrection from the dead, he did not take the sacrificed human body to heaven with him—an impossibility!—but took with him the value of his sacrificed perfect human life, in order to present this to the heavenly Father in behalf of mankind. God the Father accepted this sacrificial presentation and he made Jesus Christ his High Priest in behalf of man.—Heb. 9:24-26.
8. What kind of person did Jesus become in his resurrection?
8 Accordingly, the apostle Paul, when writing about the resurrection of the Christian dead and about the sort of body with which such dead come to life, says: “It is sown a physical body, it is raised up a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual one. It is even so written: ‘The first man Adam became a living soul.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” (1 Cor. 15:44, 45) The apostle Paul calls Jesus Christ “the last Adam” and says he became a “lifegiving spirit” in his resurrection.
9. (a) As what was the Son of God now able to act? (b) Why was it necessary for him to become the “Son of man,” and why is the death of the majority of mankind no hindrance to him?
9 That is how Jehovah God the Father granted to his Son Jesus Christ to have life-giving power in himself. This enabled the Son to act as judge, not only of the living, but also of the dead whom he could raise to life at the time of his heavenly kingdom. For this reason Jesus Christ continued his argument and added the words: “And he has given him authority to do judging, because Son of man he is.” (John 5:27) If the heavenly Son of God had not become the “Son of man” for sacrificial purposes, he could not have come into this privilege of obtaining lifegiving power and being appointed the Judge of mankind, the Judge of the dead and the living. Of course, the majority of the human race would be dead by the time that his kingdom is established. However, that fact would not keep him from judging them, for now he has life-giving power and can summon them before him by raising them from their graves.
A GREATER MARVEL STILL
10. Of what greater marvel did Jesus tell those murderminded Jews in John 5:28-30?
10 When Jesus spoke about his being granted life-giving power and about his being authorized to do judging, it doubtless caused the Jews who wanted to kill him to marvel. But if they marveled at such things, then there was something still more marvelous to occur. They had not heard the climax of the matter. So Jesus went on to say: “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. I cannot do a single thing of my own initiative; just as I hear, I judge; and the judgment that I render is righteous, because I seek, not my own will, but the will of him that sent me.”—John 5:28-30.
11, 12. (a) How many will come out, and will it be all together at one time? (b) Why does Jesus’ use of the word “hour” not require the coming out to be all at one time?
11 Observe that Jesus here said that “all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out” in obedience to him, the Judge who has life-giving power. This requires that there should be a resurrection of them all, that is, all the dead, good and bad, who are kept in mind to be raised. This does not mean, however, that they are all resurrected or must all be resurrected at the same time, on the same day. True, Jesus did say that the “hour” is coming in which all this will occur. Certainly, though, the word “hour” here does not mean just sixty minutes, or 3,600 seconds exact.
12 Certainly the apostle John, when writing about the year 98 C.E., did not mean a twenty-fourth part of a full day when he wrote: “Young children, it is the last hour, and, just as you have heard that antichrist is coming, even now there have come to be many antichrists; from which fact we gain the knowledge that it is the last hour.” (1 John 2:18) So Jesus’ use of the word “hour” here means a period of time under God’s established kingdom, which time period will be a critical one, as it were, a critical “hour.”
13. Because of all coming out of the tombs, what kind of resurrection does Jesus mean, and why does this not argue for their all coming out at one time?
13 When Jesus said that all the dead in the memorial tombs will hear his judicial voice and come out, it meant that there will be one big, general, all-inclusive resurrection. He points out, though, that the results to people having part in this comprehensive resurrection will be different. But that this all-embracing resurrection does not also mean their coming out all at the same time, on the same day, in the same year, is indicated for us elsewhere.
14. How, in 1 Corinthians 15:22, 23, does the apostle Paul indicate there will be order in the resurrection?
14 The apostle Paul, when discussing the certainty of the resurrection, said: “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 first fruits, afterward those who belong to the Christ during his presence.” (1 Cor. 15:22, 23) Not all the spiritual Christians who will be associate judges with Jesus Christ in his kingdom will be dead at the time of his arrival. Some will have to finish their earthly lives in sacrificial death later, when finishing their God-given work on earth.
15. How does Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17, indicate a difference in time of resurrection?
15 Thus there will not be a simultaneous resurrection of them all at the time of Jesus’ arrival, but, in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17, the apostle Paul says: “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. 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.” Those words “first” and “afterward” denote a difference in time of resurrection.
16, 17. In Revelation 20:4-6, what does John have to say about those who will be associate judges with Jesus Christ in heaven?
16 Concerning those who will sit on heavenly thrones to act as associate judges with the Superior Judge Jesus Christ, the apostle John has this to say, in Revelation 20:4-6:
17 “And I saw thrones, and there were those who sat down on them, and power of judging was given them. Yes, I saw the souls of those executed with the ax for the witness they bore to Jesus and for speaking about God, and those who had worshiped neither the wild beast nor its image and who had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand. And they came to life and ruled as kings with the Christ for a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Happy and holy is anyone having part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no authority, but they will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.”
18. In what resurrection do they take part, and why is it rated in that way?
18 Those who sit on the heavenly thrones and to whom the “power of judging” is given take part in what the apostle John calls “the first resurrection.” The word “first” distinguishes their resurrection from that of the rest of mankind. It is first, not only in the matter of importance, but also in the matter of timing.
19. (a) How, in Philippians 3:11, does Paul refer to timing of the resurrection? (b) Whom will the partakers in the first resurrection include?
19 The apostle Paul had this matter of time in mind when he wrote of his efforts that, as he says, “by any means I may advance to the early resurrection, which is from among the dead.” (Phil. 3:11, Rotherham’s translation; NW) Those who take part in the “first resurrection” and sit down on those thrones of judging will include the twelve faithful apostles of Jesus, as he himself promised. (Matt. 19:27, 28) The apostle Paul said that it would also include his faithful, sanctified Christian brothers. (1 Cor. 1:1, 2; 6:2) All together, they will number 144,000, whom the apostle John in vision saw sealed in the foreheads with the seal of the living God and standing with the sacrificed Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, on the heavenly Mount Zion.—Rev. 7:4-8; 14:1-3.
“THE REST OF THE DEAD”
20, 21. (a) In what resurrection do the “rest of the dead” have part? (b) How does the apostle John describe their resurrection and being judged?
20 The resurrection of the 144,000 partakers of the first resurrection, who sit on thrones with the “power of judging,” leaves the “rest of the dead” to be accounted for. Since these have no part in the first resurrection, they must have part in a second or after resurrection. In the same vision the apostle John saw the resurrection of the “rest of the dead” and described it this way:
21 “And I saw a great white throne and the one seated on it. From before him the earth and the heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. 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. And death and Hades were hurled into the lake of fire. This means the second death, the lake of fire. Furthermore, whoever was not found written in the book of life was hurled into the lake of fire.” (Rev. 20:11-15) The “lake that burns with fire and sulphur” is mentioned again in Revelation 21:8, but there in connection with Christians who were in line to become part of the 144,000 but who fail because of not overcoming this world through cowardice, lack of faith and turning to wickedness.
22. Why are the earth and the heaven that flee away not literal?
22 The earth and the heaven that flee away from the one seated on the great white throne of judgment are, of course, symbolic, and not the literal earth and heaven. Otherwise, where would resurrected people stand before the judgment throne? Or how could they come out of the memorial tombs that are on the literal earth, or come out of Hades, which is the common grave of dead mankind in the literal earth, or come out of the sea where many have drowned? So the earth and the heaven that fled away are symbolic.
23. When or in what way will the symbolic earth flee away, and then the symbolic heaven?
23 The symbolic earth flees away when Babylon the Great is destroyed and immediately thereafter the symbolic wild beast and the “false prophet” and the kings of the earth and their armies are destroyed in the war of Har–Magedon, as described in Revelation 16:13-16; 17:15-18; 19:19-21. The symbolic heaven flees away when Satan the Devil and his demons are chained and shut up in the abyss for the thousand years of Christ’s reign over the earth, as described in Revelation 20:1-3. Thus those wicked earthly and heavenly powers will not be present to interfere with the judgment of the earthly dead during the thousand years of Christ’s reign.
24. (a) Why is it unreasonable to think that this Judgment day is only twenty-four hours long? (b) How do we figure the length of that judgment day?
24 Remember that the apostle Paul indicates that there is to be order and rank in the resurrection of the dead. So we must not conclude that those earthly dead are raised out of Hades and the sea all at the same time or all in one twenty-four-hour day. There is no need for such a hurried judgment procedure. In view of so many humans being dead, tens of billions of them, how could they all be properly judged in one twenty-four-hour day, even by the 144,000 associate judges along with their Superior Judge, Jesus Christ? Since the 144,000 associate judges live and reign with Christ for a thousand years, the judgment day of the human dead will be a thousand years long. This will allow enough time for each resurrected one to be put on trial and to determine whether his name should be written on the scroll of life or not. Does not 2 Peter 3:8 say: “Let this one fact not be escaping your notice, beloved ones, that one day is with Jehovah as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day”? Yes. So let us reason Scripturally.
25, 26. (a) How is order and rank with regard to the earthly human resurrection suggested in Hebrews 11:35? (b) For whom was this reserved, and what were they called for a long time?
25 Now note something that suggests order and rank with regard to the earthly human resurrection. In Hebrews 11:1 to 12:1 the writer gives a brief account of “so great a cloud of witnesses,” who lived before Jesus Christ died and was resurrected and who were Jehovah’s witnesses back there. (Isa. 43:10-12; 44:8) In the thirty-fifth verse of chapter eleven Heb 11:35 the writer evidently speaks of them all as due for a better resurrection. The verse says: “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.”
26 This “better resurrection” was evidently what was reserved for all this “so great a cloud of witnesses,” for which reason some were even willing to be tortured to death in order to attain it. After we are told about their hardships and sufferings, Hebrews 11:38 says about these ancient witnesses: “The world was not worthy of them.” Consequently, for a long time Christian Bible students used to call them and refer to them as “the ancient worthies.”*
27. (a) How does Hebrews 11:39, 40 indicate a difference in resurrections, and what is the difference? (b) How is the resurrection of the ancient witnesses a “better” one?
27 That there would be a difference between the resurrection of that ancient “cloud of witnesses” and the resurrection of the 144,000 Christians who become associate judges with Christ in the heavens, Hebrews 11:39, 40 says this about these ancient witnesses: “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, in order that they might not be made perfect apart from us.” Yes, God foresaw something better for Christ’s faithful followers, something better than what the ancient “cloud of witnesses” get when resurrected. The “cloud of witnesses” do not have part in the first resurrection, which is a heavenly or spiritual resurrection. They have an earthly resurrection. Yet their resurrection is better than what those persons got whom the ancient prophets raised from the dead, the persons meant in the words, “women received their dead by resurrection.” Their resurrection will be under God’s kingdom with Christ as King. Hence they will not need to die again if they remain faithful.
28. To whose forefathers does Psalm 45:16 refer, and what will be done with them?
28 Psalm 45 refers to some of those ancient pre-Christian witnesses who are in line for that “better resurrection.” Psalm 45 talks prophetically about the Messianic King, Jesus Christ, and about his marriage to the bride class, the 144,000 joint heirs of him in the heavenly kingdom. Then, in addressing the King Jesus Christ, Psalm 45:16 prophetically says: “In place of your forefathers there will come to be your sons, whom you will appoint as princes in all the earth.” Among the forefathers of Jesus Christ as a man are Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and King David, who were faithful men, faithful witnesses of Jehovah.
29, 30. (a) What can be said about whether the appointment of princes in all the earth will be limited to Christ’s forefathers? (b) What does their appointment as princes argue about people’s coming forth in the resurrection?
29 In order to appoint his faithful forefathers as “princes in all the earth” under his heavenly kingdom, Jesus Christ will have to resurrect them from the memorial tombs. If the other people on earth are to get the benefit of the princely rule of Christ’s faithful forefathers during his thousand-year reign, such forefathers need to be resurrected early during his reign, even though they died thousands of years ago. If the reigning King Jesus Christ restricted the appointment of princes in all the earth to only the godly forefathers of his, there would not be many such princes in all the earth. Other ancient men were equally faithful among that “so great a cloud of witnesses.” So it is only reasonable that such faithful witnesses would likewise be considered worthy to be appointed as princes in various parts of the earth.
30 Their appointment to princely office argues that they would be resurrected earlier than the other earthly subjects of God’s kingdom. This suggests that order and rank will be observed in the earthly resurrection. That being so, then the earthly dead will not be given up by Hades and by the sea all at one time, without making arrangements beforehand to care for the returning dead.*
“RESURRECTION OF LIFE”
31. (a) How have some Bible commentators wondered about John 5:28, 29? (b) How did Jesus Christ split up those having a resurrection?
31 Jesus spoke of the coming out of the memorial tombs as one general operation. However, he points out that such a resurrection of all will lead to different results for different persons. In John 5:28, 29 he says: “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.” Hence some Bible commentators have wondered whether this meant two resurrections along these two lines, of the two classes here indicated.* However, here Jesus Christ is not discussing resurrection and splitting it up according to the “first resurrection” and the resurrection of all “the rest of the dead.” He splits up mankind only as to the outcome of the resurrected ones.
32. Whom do the doers of good who gain the “resurrection of life” include?
32 In John 5:29 we find the only place in the Bible where the expression “resurrection of life” occurs. Jesus said that those who enjoy it are “those who did good things.” Whom do such doers of good things include? The Bible answers, ALL those resurrected ones who attain to everlasting life in God’s coming righteous new order of things under his Messiah, regardless of whether that life is immortal life in heaven as joint heirs and associate judges of Jesus Christ or is life in human perfection on earth under God’s kingdom of his Messiah.* Such life is gained through Jesus Christ.
33, 34. (a) In itself does the expression “resurrection of life” mean an instantaneous entering into perfection of life? (b) What, though, can be said about the resurrection of Christ and his 144,000 joint heirs and the remnant of these?
33 The “resurrection of life” does not in itself mean an awakening from death to an instantaneous entering into perfection of life either in heaven as spirit creatures or on earth as human creatures. In the case of the 144,000 Christians who prove worthy of becoming associates of Jesus Christ as judges, kings and priests in heaven, their resurrection will indeed mean an instantaneous perfecting of them as immortal, incorruptible spirit sons of God. When their Leader Jesus Christ was resurrected, it was an instantaneous perfecting of him as the chief spirit Son of God. Like his, will be the resurrection of his 144,000 joint heirs. (Rom. 6:5) When the apostle Paul discusses the resurrection he speaks of faithful Christians who survive on earth till their Lord arrives and who do not need to sleep in death when finishing their earthly career, sleeping till his return. In 1 Corinthians 15:49-54 Paul writes:
34 “And just as we have borne the image of the one made of dust [the first man Adam], we shall bear also the image of the heavenly one [Jesus Christ]. However, this I say, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom, neither does corruption inherit incorruption. 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. For this which is corruptible must put on incorruption, and this which is mortal must put on immortality. But when this which is corruptible puts on incorruption and this which is mortal puts on immortality, then the saying will take place that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up forever.’”
35. Do the 144,000 undergo a judging before their resurrection to instantaneous perfection, and what does 2 Corinthians 5:10 indicate?
35 Since the 144,000 are resurrected to instantaneous perfection of heavenly spiritual life, does this mean that they are not first put under a judging? No! In 2 Corinthians 5:10 the apostle Paul writes to the congregation of Christ’s faithful followers: “For we must all be made manifest before the judgment seat of the Christ, that each one may get his award for the things done through the body, according to the things he has practiced, whether it is good or vile.” Thus Christ’s joint heirs are under a judging now.
36. Accordingly, what warning does 1 Peter 4:17, 18 give to the 144,000?
36 This is what the apostle Peter warns them about, in 1 Peter 4:17, 18, saying: “For it is the appointed time for the judgment to start with the house of God. Now if it starts first with us, what will the end be of those who are not obedient to the good news of God? ‘And if the righteous man is being saved with difficulty, where will the ungodly man and the sinner make a showing?’”
37. When and where do the 144,000 have to be proved “those who did good things”?
37 Therefore before ever they die and enjoy the “resurrection of life” the Judge must prove the fact that they are of “those who did good things.” Since in the resurrection these 144,000 joint heirs experience an instantaneous perfecting of life as spirit creatures in heaven, they must be proved to be doers of good in this era, in the flesh. This has to be done before ever they are instantaneously clothed upon with immortality and incorruptibility in heaven.
THE OTHER DOERS OF GOOD
38. As regards those resurrected to an opportunity for everlasting life on earth, what will determine their being written or staying written in the “scroll of life”?
38 What about persons who have an earthly resurrection with a hope of perfect life in an earthly paradise under God’s kingdom? These do not need or have an instantaneous transformation to human perfection on being awakened from death in the memorial tombs. Works will determine whether they will be written on the scroll of life or stay written there, but such works are not yet all in the past. What will their works on earth be during the thousand-year reign of Christ? Besides that, there lies ahead of them all the final testing when Satan and his demons are loosed from the abyss at the end of the thousand years. (Rev. 20:7-10) At that future time it will be decisively established whether they are “those who did good things” by remaining faithful under this test.
39, 40. (a) What will that “so great a cloud of witnesses” have to learn, even including John the Baptist? (b) What will that “cloud of witnesses” have to prove themselves, and of what provision for sins will they be able to avail themselves?
39 Take, for instance, that “so great a cloud of witnesses” of ancient times, including Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses, King David, John the Baptist. These we expect to be made “princes in all the earth.” They will have much to learn, especially about the Messiah Jesus and what part he plays in God’s purpose and arrangements. They will have to come to an understanding of this and be tested as to this information given to them after their resurrection. John the Baptist was beheaded about two years before Jesus Christ died and was resurrected and went back to heaven. So John has much to learn and to be tested upon after he is resurrected to life on earth. Even from his prison cell John the Baptist sent to inquire of Jesus whether he was the complete fulfillment of the Messiah or a different one was yet to come to complete matters.
40 Consequently, down to the end of Christ’s thousand-year reign the members of that “so great a cloud of witnesses,” who enjoy a “better resurrection,” will need to prove themselves doers of good things. In ancient times they had the benefit of only animal sacrifices that could not really take away human sins; but after they are resurrected on earth they will be able to avail themselves of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice and of his services as God’s High Priest for human sinners. Their everlasting life depends on this.
41. (a) To what class does the “great crowd” of Revelation 7:9-17 belong? (b) What is their hope of survival, and will they be transformed instantly to human perfection?
41 In Revelation 7:9-17 a “great crowd” is described. This is an earthly class of people. They are not a class begotten by God’s spirit. So they are not a class having a heavenly destiny. They belong to the “other sheep” whom the Fine Shepherd Jesus Christ brings into his one fold of saved persons, according to what he said in John 10:16. All the “other sheep” are to live in the “new earth” under God’s heavenly kingdom. But many of the “great crowd” of today expect to survive the war of Har–Magedon with which this system of things ends, just as the sons and daughters-in-law of Noah survived with Noah and his wife in the ark. Thus they expect to live on into the new system of things after Har–Magedon without dying. They will not be transformed instantaneously into perfect human creatures right after the war of Har–Magedon. As a class they will not attain to human perfection till the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ through the help of his kingdom.
42. When will those of the “great crowd” who die before the war of Har–Magedon gain human perfection and prove to be “those who did good things”?
42 Many of this “great crowd” have already died faithful in God’s service. Others of them will yet die before the war of Har–Magedon. So they will need to hear the voice of the glorified Son of man and come out of the memorial tombs in resurrection. They will not be raised instantaneously to human perfection any more than earthly survivors of the war of Har–Magedon will be transformed in an instant to human perfection right after Har–Magedon ends. Like such earthly Har–Magedon survivors those coming out of the memorial tombs will not attain to human perfection till at the end of Christ’s thousand-year reign. And then they will have to face the loosing of Satan and his demons, to prove whether they will keep on doing good things. Only those “who did good things” despite the brief loosing of Satan will gain everlasting life on earth.
43. Whom do the dead ones mentioned in Revelation 20:11-13 include?
43 As regards the dead of mankind in general, Revelation 20:11-13 says that both Haʹdes and the sea will give up the dead that are in them. Such dead ones will include the faithful prophets and witnesses from Abel down to John the Baptist, and also those of the present-day “great crowd” who die before Har–Magedon, and all the rest who are then, as Jesus said, “in the memorial tombs.”
44. What will then be the question with regard to them and according to what will they be judged?
44 Then the question is, Who will get his name written or keep his name written on the “scroll of life”? Evidently those who are finally judged as “those who did good things.” To be finally pronounced such, they must bring their lives into harmony with the symbolic “scrolls” of divine instruction that will be opened during the thousand-year reign of Christ. They will need those opened scrolls as a guide to their deeds during Christ’s reign, because it is “according to their deeds” that people standing before the “great white throne” will be judged.—Rev. 20:12.
45. (a) When will any of these be judicially pronounced “those who did good things?” (b) What will happen to those not found written in the book of life?
45 When the deciding test comes upon them by the loosing of Satan and his demons for a little while at the close of the thousand-year reign of Christ, they will have to pass this test faithfully. First after they pass this final, decisive test they will be judicially pronounced as being unchangeably “those who did good.” Their names will be “found written in the book of life.” Yes, some will be found written in the book of life, for what will happen to those who are then not found written in it is told in Revelation 20:15. Those unwritten ones will die the “second death.” In this way it will at last be determined who of those persons who came out of the memorial tombs came out to a “resurrection of life.”
The Greek word here translated “memorial tombs” is the word mneméion in the plural number, and not táphos. On this fact the book entitled “Word Pictures in the New Testament” (Volume 5), by Dr. A. T. Robertson, says, on page 87, regarding John 5:28:
“In the tombs (en tois mnemeiois). Taphos (grave) presents the notion of burial (thapto, to bury) as in Matthew 23:27. mnemeion (from mnaomai, mimnesko, to remind) is a memorial (sepulchre as a monument).”
See the book Government, published in 1928, pages 274, 276. Also, the book Reconciliation, published in 1928, pages 292, 293.
“Here it is as little said that all shall be raised at the same time, as in Joh 5 verse 25 that all the spiritually dead shall be quickened simultaneously.”
On page 88, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Volume 5, by A. T. Robertson (1932 edition), says: “There are two resurrections as to result, one to life, one to judgment.” Thus two only as to result.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Volume 4 (1955 edition), discusses “Resurrection” and on page 2564a refers to John 6:39, 40, 44, 54; 11:25 and John 5:28, 29 and says: “Whether these passages imply two resurrections or emphasize only the extreme difference in conditions at the one [resurrection] cannot be determined.”
For many years Christian Bible students understood the “resurrection of life” to include (1) the church or congregation of the 144,000 joint heirs of Christ, and (2) an unnumbered “great company” of spiritual Christians not included in the 144,000 but serving under them in heaven, and (3) the so-called “ancient worthies,” the ones spoken of in Hebrews 11:1 to 12:1. For example, see the book The New Creation, published in 1904, page 709, paragraph 2; page 707, paragraph 1, and its footnote.