Why You Can Believe in a Resurrection
MILLIONS today do not believe in a resurrection. Some even pride themselves in not being like people who, in their estimation, are gullible enough to believe in something so farfetched as the raising of the dead to life. But does their unbelief make it easier for them to face the prospect of death? Does it make them less sorrowful when their loved ones die? Would they not be far better off if they had the positive hope of living again and seeing dead loved ones return to life? Is such a positive hope possible?
For the person who believes that God exists, belief in a resurrection is not difficult. It is reasonable for him to conclude that the One who originally started off human life is also wise enough to restore the dead to life, to re-create dead humans. This One, Jehovah God, has promised a resurrection or re-creation and given reassurance that his promises are reliable.
Centuries ago, in the case of Abraham and Sarah, Jehovah God performed a miracle comparable to a resurrection. All human possibility was against Sarah’s bearing a son, for she had stopped menstruating. (Gen. 18:11) And Abraham was as good as dead in the sense of being unable to father offspring. Yet the humanly impossible happened. Jehovah God revived the reproductive powers of Abraham and Sarah, thereby preserving the family line of Abraham through his beloved wife Sarah. Concerning this miracle, the inspired letter to the Hebrews states: “By faith also Sarah herself received power to conceive seed, even when she was past the age limit, since she esteemed him faithful who had promised. Hence also from one man, and him as good as dead, there were born children just as the stars of heaven for multitude.”—Heb. 11:11, 12.
Stupendous as the reviving of the reproductive powers of Abraham and Sarah was, Jehovah God performed still other miracles that furnish faith-strengthening examples of his resurrection power. He empowered some of his devoted servants to perform actual resurrections. The prophet Elijah resurrected the only son of a widow at Zarephath. (1 Ki. 17:21-23) His successor the prophet Elisha raised the only son of a prominent, hospitable woman at Shunem. (2 Ki. 4:8, 32-37) Jesus Christ resurrected the daughter of Jairus, a presiding officer of a synagogue; the only son of a widow at Nain, and his dear friend Lazarus, who had been dead four days. (Mark 5:22, 35, 41-43; Luke 7:11-17; John 11:38-45) At Joppa, the apostle Peter raised Dorcas (Tabitha) from the dead. (Acts 9:36-42) And the apostle Paul resurrected Eutychus after a fatal accident.—Acts 20:7-12.
The most remarkable resurrection of all, however, was that of Jesus Christ. That resurrection provided the strongest proof that there will be a resurrection of the dead. As the apostle Paul told those assembled at the Areopagus in Athens, Greece: “[God] 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 17:31.
The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ was historically confirmed by many eyewitnesses. On one occasion he appeared to upward of 500 disciples, most of whom were still alive when the apostle Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was so well established that Paul could write in this letter: “If, indeed, there is no resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ been raised up. But if Christ has not been raised up, our preaching is certainly in vain, and our faith is in vain. 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?”—1 Cor. 15:13-15.
First-century Christians, like the apostle Paul, knew for a certainty that Jesus had been resurrected. They were willing to face hardships of all kinds, even death itself, in the full assurance that they would be rewarded in the resurrection.
WHAT WILL BE RESURRECTED?
The resurrection of Jesus Christ reveals that raising the dead does not mean the bringing back to life of the identical body. Jesus was not resurrected to human life but to spirit life. First Peter 3:18 tells us: “Why, even Christ died once for all time concerning sins, a righteous person for unrighteous ones, that he might lead you to God, he being put to death in the flesh, but being made alive in the spirit.” At his resurrection Jesus received a body, not of flesh and blood, but one suitable for heavenly life.—1 Cor. 15:40, 44-50.
To be seen by his disciples after his resurrection, Jesus Christ took on flesh along with appropriate clothing, just as angels had done earlier when they appeared to humans. This explains why Jesus’ disciples did not always recognize him at first and why Jesus could appear and disappear suddenly. (Luke 24:15-31; John 20:13-16, 26) Be it also remembered that Jesus was not buried with clothing but was wrapped up in fine linen bandages. After his resurrection the bandages remained in the tomb. So just as Jesus had to materialize clothing, he also took on flesh to make himself visible to his disciples.—Luke 23:53; John 19:40; 20:6, 7.
This may give rise to the questions, What about those who, unlike Jesus Christ, will be resurrected to earthly life? Will their bodies be exact duplicates of what they were at the moment of death? No, that would not be reasonable, as this would mean that they would be brought to life in a condition just short of death. Those who were resurrected in the past were not brought back in the sickly condition that led to their death. Though not perfect at the time of their resurrection, they had a whole, sound body.
Manifestly the same body, of exactly the same atoms, could not be restored to life. Through the process of decay the human body is reconverted into organic chemicals that may be absorbed by vegetation. People may eat this vegetation. As a result, the elements making up the original person can come to be in other people. Obviously the same atoms cannot be in the original person and in all the others at the time of the resurrection.
Jehovah God, however, can reconstruct the same person in the resurrection. We are what we are because of our personality, experiences and mental growth, not because of the physical substance making up our bodies. Approximately seven years ago the molecules that made up your body were different from what they are today. They have been replaced. So the gradual turnover that is accomplished in about seven years of your life can be performed instantaneously in the resurrection.
While this may sound almost unbelievable, yet it is not too different from what takes place at the time of human conception. The tiny cell that is formed by the uniting of the sperm and the egg has the potential of becoming a person different from any other person that has ever lived. Within this cell there is, in effect, a pattern of what the person to develop from it will be like. This pattern becomes part of the body of the human that develops. Is it not reasonable, therefore, that man’s Creator can resurrect or recreate a body with the personality and life record of the dead person?
Thus resurrection or re-creation actually depends upon God’s memory of the life pattern of humankind. We can have confidence in that memory. Why, even imperfect men can preserve and reconstruct visible and audible scenes by means of videotape. How much greater is God’s ability to keep records, for he calls all the countless stars by name! (Ps. 147:4) Because of his perfect memory of life patterns and his purpose to resurrect the dead, Jehovah God could count faithful men like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as being alive.—Luke 20:37, 38.
Truly there is abundant reason to believe in the resurrection or re-creation of the dead. Belief in the resurrection is based on God’s reliable promises, historically verified resurrections in the past and trust in God’s ability to preserve and reconstruct life patterns perfectly.