Earthly Opportunity Opened Up by Resurrection
1. When will the resurrection of the earthly dead take place, and why will this have to be prepared for?
THE resurrection of the earthly dead from the sea and from Haʹdes or Sheol will begin after the “war of the great day of God the Almighty and the binding and confining of Satan the Devil and his demons in the abyss for a thousand years. At that time the “former heaven and the former earth” will have fled away and will have been replaced altogether by a “new heaven and a new earth.” (Rev. 20:1-3, 11-15; 21:1) Certainly the return of such dead ones will need to be prepared for, inasmuch as it will mean a steady increase in the population of the earth, as in the case of feeding the resurrected daughter of Jairus.—Luke 8:55.
2. (a) After due preparation, whom will the sea and Haʹdes or Sheol give up? (b) Whom will the “righteous ones” include?
2 When the proper preparations have been made, the King Jesus Christ will cause the sea and Haʹdes or Sheol to begin giving up the dead people in them. This will include good and bad, as the apostle Paul told the Roman Governor Felix in court. (Acts 24:15) There will be the “resurrection of the righteous ones,” and doubtless such righteous ones will be given earlier consideration, especially those belonging to the pre-Christian “cloud of witnesses” from John the Baptist all the way back to righteous Abel. This would include also any of the modern-day “other sheep” who died in righteousness before the battle of Armageddon. (Luke 14:14; Heb. 11:4-40; 12:1; John 10:16) This resurrection will not be confined, as some orthodox Jews believe, to their Holy Land, the land of Palestine. It alone will not be the “land of the living,” but all the earth will become the land of the living ones under God’s Messianic kingdom. In due time there will also be the resurrection of the unrighteous ones, whom Haʹdes and the sea will give up and many of whom the Bible identifies.
3. Why will not only the unrighteous ones but also the righteous ones benefit by having a resurrection on earth?
3 Not only the unrighteous ones but also the righteous ones will benefit from having the resurrection to an opportunity to live on earth under the all-powerful, perfect, heavenly kingdom of God’s dear Son, Jesus Christ, their Redeemer. As Isaiah 26:9, 19 assures us: “When there are judgments from you for the earth, righteousness is what the inhabitants of the productive land will certainly learn. Your dead ones will live. A corpse of mine—they will rise up. Awake and cry out joyfully, you residents in the dust! For your dew is as the dew of mallows, and the earth itself will let even those impotent in death drop in birth.” Even the resurrected “righteous ones” will not become perfect instantly; and Hebrews 11:39, 40 is not correctly interpreted to mean that.
4. Why not let the people remain in ignorance, since the “unrighteous” ones are to have a resurrection as well as the righteous ones?
4 Because there will be a resurrection of the unrighteous as well as the righteous (Acts 24:15), some may ask, What is the need for all this preaching of God’s kingdom? Why not let the people remain in ignorance, unbothered by the Kingdom message, inasmuch as they will have a resurrection with an opportunity for salvation anyhow? In answer we must say, The Kingdom preaching must be carried out in fulfillment of Bible prophecy. (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:16-21; Matt. 24:14; Mark 13:10) God’s prophecy must come true.
5. Because of what danger must warning be given by God’s “watchman”?
5 Furthermore, the warning of the coming execution of God’s vengeance upon the symbolic “goats” must be given before Babylon the Great is destroyed and before the “war of the great day of God the Almighty” is fought at Armageddon, when those not acting on the warning will be wiped out everlastingly in “second death.” As Jehovah God told his watchman, the prophet Ezekiel: “‘As I am alive,’ is the utterance of the Lord Jehovah, ‘I take delight, not in the death of the wicked one, but in that someone wicked turns back from his way and actually keeps living. Turn back, turn back from your bad ways, for why is it that you should die, O house of Israel?’” (Ezek. 33:11) So there is danger of execution, even of ignorant ones.
6. (a) Is there salvation, or even resurrection, because of ignorance? (b) Since Jesus’ ministry on earth, has God wanted mankind everywhere to remain in ignorance?
6 Consequently, it is Scripturally wrong to think that there is salvation through ignorance. There will indeed be a resurrection of many ignorant people, the vast majority of dead mankind; but their ignorance is not what makes them worthy of a resurrection and of eternal life. Considerable ignorance obtained throughout the earth during the more than two thousand years prior to the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ in the years 29-33 of our Common Era, and God winked at such ignorance of the peoples and nations who were not God’s chosen race. In proof of this the apostle Paul told the ignorant Athenians: “True, God has overlooked the times of such ignorance, yet now he is telling mankind that they should all everywhere repent. Because 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.” (Acts 17:30, 31) The man appointed was Jesus Christ, whom God resurrected in 33 C.E.
7. Will there be ignorance on the part of the “righteous ones,” and, if so, to what extent?
7 The ignorance of the resurrected dead, righteous and unrighteous, will be relative ignorance. Even the righteous ones of the “so great a cloud of witnesses” of those four thousand years before Christ’s resurrection will be ignorant in a number of respects. They will be ignorant of many things about the outworking of God’s purpose and his provision for salvation through Jesus Christ, whom God resurrected and appointed to be the Judge of the living and the dead. Even they will have to learn much, at least what is contained in the twenty-seven books of the Christian Greek Scriptures, from Matthew through Revelation. They will also have to be tested with regard to this knowledge.
8. What will that impaled evildoer who got the Paradise promise from Jesus have to learn after his resurrection?
8 Even the evildoer who was impaled alongside Jesus, who at first began to reproach Jesus but afterward became sympathetic toward Jesus, will have much to learn. At least there on the stake he learned about Jesus’ coming kingdom and asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus came into that kingdom. But the evildoer did not know that it would be a heavenly kingdom. In fulfillment of Jesus’ words to him: “Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise,” that evildoer will have a resurrection to life on earth under Christ’s reign, the earth then being made a Paradise. (Luke 23:43) Yet the resurrected evildoer will have much to learn about the way of salvation, and he will have to walk intelligently in that way.
9. Through what will there be salvation, as indicated by Jesus in John 17:3?
9 Hence salvation will not be through ignorance, but will be through knowledge. That is one of the reasons why there has to be a resurrection of the dead, that they may learn. Knowledge of the truth is one of the vital things needed for salvation, whereas ignorance is death-dealing. In prayer to his heavenly Father, Jesus Christ said in the presence of his faithful apostles: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the One whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”—John 17:3.
10. (a) Will the resurrection of the earthly people mean their final salvation? (b) In all cases, through what is their salvation, and what is needed with regard to this?
10 The resurrection of people, the unrighteous as well as the righteous, will not mean their final salvation. It will merely open up to them an opportunity for everlasting salvation. Salvation of mankind on a Paradise earth is in no case through ignorance. It is through the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ in all cases, and concerning this ransom sacrifice there has to be accurate knowledge. This knowledge has to be given in full measure to all the resurrected dead, and this will be done by God’s Messianic kingdom in the hands of Jesus Christ and his 144,000 associate kings and priests during his reign of a thousand years.
11. For salvation to be made everlasting, what will be necessary on the part of the saved ones?
11 Then, for salvation to be made everlasting, there has to be an acceptance of this ransom sacrifice. (1 Tim. 2:3-6) This must be followed by full, loyal, unswerving obedience forever to God’s anointed King Jesus Christ and to God’s eternal universal sovereignty, even to and through the final test. (Rev. 20:7-10) All who rebel against this requirement will be destroyed.—Rev. 20:15.
A PRIESTHOOD FOR HUMAN SALVATION
12. (a) What work of God has been going on during the past nineteen centuries? (b) How is the accomplishment of this to result in the blessing of mankind in general?
12 Thus, under God’s kingdom by Christ for a thousand years, there will be for the first time world conversion Up till this millennial reign of Christ, Jehovah God has never been attempting world conversion, not even using Christendom to try to do so. To the contrary, during these past nineteen centuries of our Common Era God has been taking out of all the nations a people for his name Jehovah. These taken-out ones will finally number 144,000 joint heirs of Jesus Christ who will all be “happy and holy” by having part in the “first resurrection.” (Acts 15:14; Rev. 20:4-6) As these 144,000 are to be priests of God and of Christ and are to reign with Christ in heaven for a thousand years, the remainder of mankind, living and dead, are to be blessed through them. Jesus Christ himself will be the High Priest of God.—Heb. 3:1.
13, 14. (a) Who are “those under the ground” spoken of in Philippians 2:8-11? (b) How will they be enabled to bend the knee and openly acknowledge Christ as Lord?
13 Only because of including a resurrection of the dead, of the righteous and of the unrighteous, can there be a fulfillment of the apostle Paul’s words, in Philippians 2:8-11, concerning Jesus Christ: “When he found himself in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake. For this very reason also God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”
14 By Paul’s expression “those under the ground” are meant the dead who are in Sheol or Haʹdes awaiting a resurrection. Whether they will have known it before the resurrection or not, they will thereafter know that “Jesus Christ is Lord.” If they want everlasting life in God’s righteous new system of things, they will then have to treat or act toward Jesus Christ as Lord, and their tongues will have to acknowledge that fact openly. Also, in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord they will have to bend the knee in prayer and worship to God the heavenly Father.
15. (a) As God’s High Priest, what did Jesus Christ give, and what did he come into the world to save? (b) Hence of whom must there be a resurrection on earth, and how?
15 Jesus Christ, as God’s High Priest, “gave himself a corresponding ransom for all.” (1 Tim. 2:5, 6) The purpose of this is nicely stated by the apostle Paul in these words: “Faithful and deserving of full acceptance is the saying that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am foremost.” (1 Tim. 1:15) That is why there will be a resurrection of sinners, which will include the unrighteous as well as those who are relatively righteous. God’s High Priest Jesus Christ would come far short of his priestly work if he did not do something for the benefit of the earthly dead. So, to this end, there must be a resurrection of the sinners for whom he died in order to provide a “corresponding ransom.” To raise the dead he will use the “keys of death and of Haʹdes.” (Rev. 1:17, 18) Thus Haʹdes or Sheol will have to give up the dead that are in it. It will thus be destroyed forever.
16. God decreed Jesus Christ to be the judge of whom, and what will the carrying out of the judgment require to take place?
16 The High Priest Jesus Christ is the “One decreed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone putting faith in him gets forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:42, 43; 17:31; 2 Tim. 4:1) In order that there may be a righteous judgment of the dead as well as of the sheeplike people who live through the battle of Armageddon, the dead must be resurrected from Haʹdes or Sheol.
17. (a) In the fulfillment of Revelation 20:11-15, is final judgment pronounced as soon as people are resurrected on earth? (b) What full benefit does God’s High Priest have in view for the resurrected ones?
17 This need of a resurrection is the point that Jesus argued in John 5:28, 29. However, in Revelation 20:5, 11-15 Jesus Christ gave us a prophetic picture of the millennial judgment day and its final results toward those of mankind who do not have part in the “first resurrection.” The High Priest and Judge Jesus Christ does not pronounce final judgment upon the earthly dead as soon as they are resurrected on earth or as soon as the sea and Haʹdes or Sheol gives them up. The resurrected humans as well as the sheeplike survivors of Armageddon must first get the benefits of his kingdom and of his sacrificial priesthood for a thousand years. The full benefit that God’s High Priest Jesus Christ has in view is the cleansing and lifting up of all the willing and obedient to human perfection and sinlessness on a Paradise earth.
18. What will the heavenly High Priest be able to do for those on earth that Jewish priests and sacrifices could not do for worshipers?
18 As the apostle Peter said, in the words quoted above, “everyone putting faith in him gets forgiveness of sins through his name.” Jesus Christ, when on earth as a perfect man, healed the crippled, the blind and the deaf, and cured the sick and even raised the dead. During his millennial reign as the heavenly High Priest, Jesus will be able to do the same things. He will really remove sin from human flesh and bring about human perfection, something that all the Jewish priests and all their animal sacrifices could never do under the law of Moses, either on Atonement Day each year or during all the 1,545 years that the Mosaic law covenant was in force between Jehovah God and the nation of Israel.—Heb. 10:1-4.
19. At the end of the thousand years, how will people prove whether theirs has been a “resurrection of life” or a “resurrection of judgment”?
19 At the close of this thousand years of kingly and priestly aid comes the loosing of Satan and his demons from the abyss, to test all these perfected inhabitants of the earthly Paradise. By their conduct under this final, deciding test, the determination will be made of the two classes, (a) those who deserve everlasting destruction in “second death,” and (b) those who are worthy of the guaranteed gift of everlasting life in the Paradise earth. In this manner those then under test will themselves prove whether theirs has been a “resurrection of life” or a “resurrection of judgment” (condemnatory judgment).—John 5:28, 29.a
THE POWER OF THE RESURRECTION HOPE
20. (a) How may we living today be yet dependent upon the miracle of the resurrection? (b) How, therefore, should we live each day?
20 The divine purpose of the resurrection of the dead through Jesus Christ will be fully realized to Jehovah’s eternal praise. What a miracle of divine mercy is the resurrection of the dead! How much all of us should appreciate God’s loving provision for the resurrection of the dead! Even we, who are today alive but who are living so close to the outbreak of the “war of the great day of God the Almighty,” may yet have to depend upon God’s fulfillment of the resurrection of the dead in our behalf. If we should die during this short interval before Almighty God executes judgment and destroys all the enemies of his kingdom, we shall have to get the benefit of the resurrection. Otherwise, there will be no future life for us through the reign of God’s kingdom by Christ. Each day, therefore, we should live in such a manner that, should the enemy death overtake us by some means, we shall not be judged by God as unworthy of resurrection through Christ.
21, 22. (a) How did Paul’s appreciation and hope of resurrection help him? (b) In Philippians 3:8-11, how did Paul show the extent to which he valued the resurrection?
21 The Christian apostle Paul was one who deeply appreciated God’s provision for the resurrection of the dead. It was a hope that sustained him and strengthened him to face even a martyr’s death. It especially stimulated him to keep a good conscience toward God and man, as he himself expressed it in these words: “In this respect, indeed, I am exercising myself continually to have a consciousness of committing no offense against God and men.” (Acts 24:15, 16) And in expression of the extent to which he valued the resurrection, particularly the “first resurrection,” above all other things, Paul said, when writing from prison:
22 “I do indeed also consider all things to be loss on account of the excelling value of the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord. On account of him I have taken the loss of all things and I consider them as a lot of refuse, that I may gain Christ and be found in union with him, having, not my own righteousness, which results from law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness that issues from God on the basis of faith, so as to know him and the power of his resurrection and a sharing in his sufferings, submitting myself to a death like his, to see if I may by any means attain to the earlier resurrection from the dead.”—Phil. 3:8-11, NW; Ro.
23. (a) As to faith in the resurrection, whom do we do well to imitate? (b) In what respects do we want the resurrection hope to help us, and for what do we give thanks to God?
23 We do well to imitate the apostle Paul. But primarily we imitate the Lord Jesus Christ, who also rested his hope in the power of Almighty God to resurrect him from the dead on the third day and who now himself has been entrusted with the power of raising the dead during his kingdom. Imitating both Jesus Christ and his apostle, may we by the resurrection hope be made courageous like them. May the resurrection hope comfort us respecting those who have fallen asleep in death for whom there is reserved an awakening. May the resurrection hope spur us to continue on doing the work of the Lord God, even in the face of death now before Armageddon, because we know that, because of the resurrection of the dead, our faithful “labor is not in vain in connection with the Lord.” Thanks be to God Almighty who gives us the victory over death through our Lord Jesus Christ!—1 Cor. 15:57, 58.
a The two classes here mentioned are thus seen to be not identical with those mentioned in Acts 24:15, who are righteous or unrighteous on coming out of the sea or Haʹdes.