Will You See Your Dead Loved Ones Again?
ALL of us have lost in death persons whom we loved and who loved us. Most of us greatly desire to see them again, but on contemplating the coming back, we might shake our heads and say: “Well, from a selfish standpoint, I would like to see them back, but when I think of all the trouble they would have to endure and then die again, I would say, ‘No, let them rest.’” From a strictly human way of reasoning we would be right; yet, we would be very much wrong because we would be overlooking what the One who conceived the idea of resurrection tells us about the purposes, conditions and circumstances of the resurrection.
Some of those whom we have loved tried to live Christian lives; others did not. Some not professing any religion at all have, nonetheless, been honest and decent and have displayed some fine qualities. All have been imperfect and have, to a greater or lesser extent, exhibited bad qualities. In connection with the resurrection, the disturbing thought arises that there may be categories or different locations in which the dead are, such as purgatory, hellfire, limbo, nirvana, a world of shades or disembodied spirits, as taught by various religions of earth. If such were the case, our chances of seeing our loved ones on earth would be small. But these ideas are entirely unscriptural. We can see what the Creator of all living souls purposes for the dead by considering what He has to say about it in the twentieth chapter of Re the Bible book of Revelation or Apocalypse.
It is true that Revelation’s description does tell us that there are some who will receive a heavenly resurrection, being called “the first resurrection,” and that they will be priests of God and of Christ. This number, however, is extremely small compared to the billions who have lived on earth. It is only 144,000, a “little flock” indeed. These, being priests in heaven, will, of necessity, see those who are resurrected to live on earth, for they will be ministering to them to assist them.—Luke 12:32; Rev. 20:4, 6; 14:1.
Students of the Bible know that, when the Bible was written, it was not divided into chapters and verses. This was a later man-made division for convenience in Bible study. So chapters in the Bible do not necessarily confine themselves to one subject or one phase of a subject. The apostle John, in the Revelation, completes the account of the things that are to take place at this time of the end and the defeat of all of God’s enemies, including Satan, who is hurled into the abyss of deathlike inactivity and at the end of the thousand years comes back for a short time and is then annihilated forever. Thus disposing of the destiny of God’s enemies, John now turns back to the beginning of the thousand-year reign of Christ and the accomplishments to take place during that time. He has already informed us that there will be a “great crowd” of unspecified number out of all nations who will, by taking a righteous stand now, survive destruction of this system of things. (Rev. 7:9, 14-17) With wickedness gone and the righteous rule of Christ dominating the earth, these will be on hand to welcome the resurrected ones.
JUDGMENT BEFORE THE “GREAT WHITE THRONE”
All who have read the Bible realize that there will be a judgment day for the dead. Here, at Revelation 20:11-15, we find just what it is. In the Re 20 eleventh verse John writes: “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.” The “great white throne” is the throne of Jehovah God himself, the “Judge of all.” (Heb. 12:23) It is pure, just, established on righteousness. (Ps. 89:14) When God sits to judge those then living and the dead, the old symbolic earth with the “wild beast” and the “false prophet” who dominated it under Satan’s control will be in the “lake of fire and sulphur,” from which there is no return. The Devil and his invisible demons will also have been put out of the way, namely, in the abyss. After the thousand years are ended, he and his demons will be hurled into the “lake of fire and sulphur” to join the “wild beast” and the “false prophet.”
Jesus Christ is the one appointed to do the judging according to the judgments of his Father, Jehovah God. (Acts 17:31; 10:42; Rom. 14:9-12) Included in this judgment work are the associate kings and priests who have a share in the first resurrection, for the power of judging as associates of Jesus Christ is given to those 144,000. (Rev. 20:4, 6) The ones to be judged are the ones John mentions in passing at Re 20 verse 5: “The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.” Concerning these there is some very comforting information: “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.
What is so comforting about this? Well, first you will notice that John saw “the great and the small”—they are all standing before the throne, in the one place, on the earth. Some have made great names for themselves during their life on earth, others have been insignificant, but there is no partiality in the judgment. Another thing you will notice is that they are standing there for judgment, and it includes all those who are in Hades (the equivalent of the Hebrew Sheol), which is the common grave of dead mankind in the earth, as well as those who may have died in the sea and so not been buried in the earth and whose bodies may have been eaten by the fishes of the sea. All these dead ones are remembered, as if being in memorial tombs from which they will come forth when Christ calls them.—John 5:22-29.
The “great crowd” of unspecified number who have survived the destruction of this old system of things will be there to welcome the resurrected ones, but all, including this “great crowd,” will have to stand before the throne of judgment. Why? Because none of them are yet perfect. The “great crowd” have been following Jehovah’s principles in order to make over their minds and personalities. Those resurrected will not experience a resurrection of the aforetime human body, for God gives the ones resurrected to earth a fleshly body to suit his purpose, but it is the personality that is resurrected, the soul—you. Now, we know that the personalities we have are imperfect, because we have inherited death from our first human father, sinful Adam, so that we all have been born sinful. (Rom. 5:12) Even the “great crowd,” if left to themselves and not relieved of this condemnation to death, would all die off in time and need a burial.
From this standpoint those before the throne will still be in death or under a liability of death as inherited from sinful Adam, and they will need to be brought out of this condition. How will they get rid of this death-dealing state? By the priestly work of the great King, Jesus Christ. Christ is a priest, like Melchizedek of ancient Salem. (Ps. 110:1-4; Heb. 5:5, 6, 10; 6:20 to 7:17) He is Jehovah’s High Priest, and the 144,000 are underpriests, which fact is why it is said that “they will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.”—Rev. 20:6.
The procedure of Jehovah’s High Priest now corresponds with that of Israel’s high priest Aaron on the annual Day of Atonement. We remember that he entered into the Most Holy of the sacred tabernacle to present to God, not only the blood of the bull for the priestly tribe, but afterward the blood of the sacrificial goat that was shed for all the other twelve tribes of Israel.—Lev. 16:15; Heb. 13:11, 12.
JUDGED ON WHAT BASIS?
What are the scrolls that will be opened during that thousand years? They are not the record of the past earthly life of the ones being judged. There would be no sense in bringing forth this record, for, since no one is righteous in his own works, it would only condemn him. It is this imperfection that they are trying to get rid of. The “scrolls” are the law books of Jehovah, publications setting forth his will for all people on earth during Christ’s millennial reign. Under the full rule of the Kingdom arrangement there will be many new additions and many things to be done, requiring these books of instruction that will come from Jehovah through his Kingdom government under Christ. Depending on the way that those facing judgment obey what is written in these scrolls, according to these deeds, they will be judged.
With the government in the hands of Jesus Christ, and assisted by his 144,000 subordinate kings and priests, people will be able successfully to make over their personalities and to practice complete righteousness. (Isa. 26:9) While those resurrected will likely not be brought back all at the same time, they will be received from the dead as the educational and judgment program progresses and as those living are able to equip themselves to care for the greater numbers of those coming back from the graves.
TRAINING FOR ALL RESURRECTED EASILY POSSIBLE
A question has arisen about the possibility of all the dead coming back for judgment without overwhelming those on earth who will represent the heavenly Kingdom in controlling, assisting and educating them. As to the number of persons who have lived on earth, a fairly liberal estimate of twenty billion (twenty thousand million) has been made. If this figure is divided by one thousand, it gives twenty million a year or nearly 55,000 a day. This is a great number of persons for whom food, living quarters, clothing and employment would have to be provided. But let us view the problem in the light of Jehovah’s past dealings with his people.
Among Jehovah’s witnesses, whose work is to preach and teach the good news of the Kingdom, it is a big task to study the Bible with a person, help him to apply Bible principles to his life to bring it around to God’s way, train him in the ministry and assist him to become a mature Christian, able, in turn, to help someone else. In their work, the Witnesses have seen annual increases in number, from 2 percent to 20 percent or more. A 10-percent increase has been considered normal, giving a ratio of one new person to ten who are able to aid him during an entire year. This has been successfully done so that a firm, solid organization has existed, a very small percentage dropping out or falling away. The number preaching nearly doubled in the ten-year period 1955-1965.
Let us, therefore, not as making a prophecy, but merely for the purpose of illustrating the point, start our calculation with the figure of a million Armageddon survivors. With even this small start, and with only, say, a 3-percent increase each year (a ratio of one resurrected for each thirty-three living on earth), the number of persons living would double about every twenty-four years. If twenty billion (twenty thousand million) are resurrected, it could be done in less than four hundred years. Ample time would thereby be allowed and ample help would be available for the training and disciplining of all, bringing the obedient ones to the point where they, in turn, could train others without any disturbance to the progress of that new order of things. With earth’s production and resources brought up to their potentiality and properly distributed and used for mankind’s benefit, there would be no food problem, as present-day economists envision.
DEATH AND HADES OUT OF EXISTENCE
The time will come, of course, when the resurrection will stop. Hades and the sea will have given up the last of the dead people in them. Likewise Adamic death, the death that resulted to all mankind from Adam’s original sin, will cease; it will be the “last enemy” to be brought to nothing. This will be true when there will be no one having any trace of the inherited effects of Adam’s sin. They will have first exercised faith in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and will have had its cleansing merit applied to them with the forgiveness of their confessed sins, and, furthermore, they will have practiced works in harmony with their faith, in obedience to the scrolls written. Only when mental and physical imperfection and weakness have been worked out of them and they stand in the human perfection that the innocent Adam and Eve originally had in the garden of Eden, only when the last trace of sin, which is the sting that brings forth death, is destroyed, will they be able to obey all of God’s law perfectly, including the things written in the scrolls.—1 Cor. 15:56.
At that point will be fulfilled Revelation’s prophecy that death and Hades are to be “hurled into the lake of fire.” The lake of fire pictures complete annihilation, “the second death,” not a place of conscious torment, for how could death and Hades be tormented? When Hades, the grave of mankind, is emptied and when death inherited from Adam has no more existence among mankind and cannot therefore have any hold or influence on them, death and Hades will be no more—completely annihilated.—Rev. 21:4.
Long ago in the Gehenna or rubbish dump outside the wall of ancient Jerusalem the city trash, including the bodies of criminals who had first been put to death, used to be destroyed by fire and sulphur. (Matt. 10:28; Mark 9:43-48) As if pitched into Gehenna, Adamic death and Hades or Sheol (“hell”) will be destroyed forever. This will occur before Satan is loosed from the abyss at the end of the thousand years.
NAMES IN JEHOVAH’S SCROLL OF LIFE
Jehovah’s scroll of life is different from the Lamb’s scroll of life, in which the names of the 144,000 are written as being worthy to enjoy immortal life forever with the Lamb of God in heaven. (Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 21:27) Jehovah’s scroll of life will have in it the names of those deserving of everlasting life in a paradise earth. Righteous Abel is the first one to have his name in the scroll and many others have been added, but anytime during the thousand-year reign one may get his name blotted out of the scroll by willful disobedience. (Matt. 23:35; Heb. 11:4) At the end of the thousand years, with all living mankind perfected and having the complete ability to obey God’s law perfectly, they will be put through their final and decisive test. If anyone lets the Devil mislead him because he lets a bad heart condition develop in him, even as Adam did in Eden, he will be hurled into the lake of fire, which means everlasting wiping out of existence, endless destruction. He will have committed the sin against the holy spirit of God, the sin that incurs destruction, and his name will not be “found written in the book of life.” (Rev. 20:15) Those, however, who hold on to their integrity through the final test will show that it is an integrity of the unbreakable type, qualifying them to have their names written indelibly, as it were, into Jehovah’s scroll of life, being declared righteous, justified to everlasting life, with certainty of living forever.—Matt. 12:31, 32; 1 John 5:16, 17; Rom. 8:33.
The words of Jesus will then be completely fulfilled. Viewing all those to be resurrected, both those to heaven and those to the earth, he said: “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.” Here Jesus was speaking from the standpoint of the end of his thousand-year rule and looking back to the judgment, first of the 144,000 and then of the rest of mankind. The resurrection of all, by the thousand years’ end, has turned out to be one of life or one of judgment to destruction, according to their practice of either good or vile things.—John 5:28, 29.
Christ’s 144,000 faithful footstep followers who eventually reign as kings and priests with him receive the full merit of Christ’s sacrifice during their earthly life course and they are fully judged by the time of their death. They “did good things.” They are resurrected to the heavens and their resurrection has turned out to be a “resurrection of life.” For the “great crowd” of Armageddon survivors and those dead in Hades and the sea, the final determination of their future will be made by their obedience to the things written in the scrolls during the thousand years and by their successfully passing the test at its end. Then, at that time, they will also be those who “did good things,” theirs proving to be a “resurrection of life.” All those who will at that time have been destroyed will be those who “practiced vile things,” their resurrection proving to be a “resurrection of judgment,” that is, adverse judgment, condemnation.
RANSOM TRIUMPHS OVER SIN AND DEATH
So, then, it is a marvelous thing to anticipate with the joyful realization that all the evil that has been brought on through the sin of Adam and under which all mankind was subjected, not of its own will, will be absolutely removed so that it will not have brought permanent damage. (Rom. 8:20) In God’s judgment of mankind, each one will be judged, not according to the condemnation he received from Adam, but individually, according to his deeds. (Rev. 20:13) The ransom sacrifice of Christ and his priestly services prove stronger, therefore, than the sin of Adam. All have inherited sin and death from Adam and many have died, but in the final result it will be found that no one will be deprived of life because of what Adam did. If anyone does not live in God’s righteous new order, it will be because he does not want righteousness. Of his own choice he follows unrighteousness and comes to be in the annihilated, nonexistent condition of the “lake of fire and sulphur.”—1 John 3:8.
Should we, then, look forward to seeing our dead loved ones? From the proper, Bible-based viewpoint we can gladly say, “Yes,” in every respect. Since such loving-kindness and mercy are extended by God to mankind, does this mean it makes no difference how we live today, because the above-described judgment is coming in the very near future? No, it does not. If we follow that reasoning we will find ourselves to be willful sinners against God and fighting against him at the time that he annihilates all his earthly enemies along with the “wild beast” and “false prophet” at Armageddon. Moreover, the greater the effort that we make now to conform our lives to God’s eternal principles and to make over our personalities to be in harmony with his Word of truth, the more rapid will be our progress in the righteous new order and the greater our opportunity to help others. This will include our loved ones who will come back and whom we can assist to make progress on the pathway to life. Let us, then, equip ourselves in full, helping as many as possible now to be of that “great crowd” who survive Armageddon and then having the indescribable joy of being part of God’s reception organization who will welcome back from the dead our loved ones and others. We will have a share in being educators, aiding them to walk upward on the road to everlasting life and also sharing in the beautifying of the earth as a paradise, to the praise of the eternal King, Jehovah God.