Future Life by Resurrection
“Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves.”—John 6:53.
1, 2. What did Jesus say in John 6:53, 54, and believers in what teaching should find it hard to understand those words?
THE teaching of the immortality of the human soul is quite widespread. Believers in it should therefore find it hard to see how the words of Jesus Christ could be true, as recorded in the Bible at John 6:53, 54:
2 “Most truly I say to you, Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I shall resurrect him at the last day.”
3. What are the reasonable questions raised by believers in immortality respecting “life in yourselves” and resurrection?
3 If, as claimed by so many, the human soul is already immortal, living on after its present bodily encasement dies, why do we have to eat the flesh of Jesus Christ, “the Son of man,” and to drink his blood in order to have ‘life in ourselves’? If the soul is freed at the body’s death and escapes alive into the spirit world, why does a human have to be resurrected in order to live again? All of us must admit that this is logical reasoning.
4. Who, among Jesus’ listeners, found it difficult to grasp what Jesus was saying, and how about today?
4 Even the followers of Jesus Christ found difficulty over what he said, for we read: “But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were murmuring about this, said to them: ‘Does this stumble you?’” (John 6:61) Even today some of our readers may find Jesus’ words hard to grasp. Yet Jesus knew what he was talking about at that time, for he himself did not believe in the immortality of the human soul. His own words prove that fact.
5. By what statements did Jesus show that he did not believe in the immortality of the human soul?
5 Once Jesus said to his disciples: “Be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” (Matt. 10:28) Later, before his arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, he said to his disciples: “My soul is deeply grieved, even to death.” (Matt. 26:38; Mark 14:34) Jesus quoted the prophecy of Isaiah frequently and agreed with what it said concerning him: “He will make his burial place even with the wicked ones, and with the rich class in his death, . . . he poured out his soul to the very death.”—Isa. 53:9, 12.
6. According to John 6:53, 54, what would some do about the human sacrifice of Jesus before “the last day,” and what would happen to these at that day?
6 That is why, in John 6:53, 54, Jesus indicated that he would become a human sacrifice, and there would be those who would eat or feed on his flesh and drink his blood before “the last day.” These would die in course of time, but, as respects each one of these, Jesus said: “I shall resurrect him at the last day.” According to what Martha of Bethany said, at John 11:24, the time of the resurrection of the dead was considered to be that “last day.” Where Martha lived was near Jerusalem. Here, some time after the Passover of 31 C.E., Jesus had spoken of his God-given commission to resurrect the dead. He had come under religious criticism because on the Sabbath day he had healed a man and told him to pick up his cot and go home. In response to such criticism, Jesus said:
7, 8. (a) Whom does Jesus Christ make alive from the dead, and like whom does he deserve to be honored, and why? (b) Who is it that now passes over from death to life? (c) To what kinds of resurrections will the Son of man call forth all those in the memorial tombs?
7 “For just as the Father raises the dead up and makes them alive, so the Son also makes those alive whom he wants to. For the Father judges no one at all, but he has committed all the judging to the Son. . . . He that does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Most truly I say to you, He that hears my word and believes him that sent me has everlasting life, and he does not come into judgment but has passed over from death to life.
8 “Most truly I say to you, The hour is coming, and it is now, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who have given heed will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted also to the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to do judging, because Son of man he is. 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 5:21-30.
9. In the aforequoted words of Jesus the emphasis is particularly laid on what matter?
9 In the above words we notice the emphasis that is laid on the matter of judgment, the words “judge,” “judges,” “judging” and “judgment” occurring together for a total of seven times. Also, a “resurrection of judgment” awaits a practicer of vile things.
10. During Christ’s reign of a thousand years the judging of mankind is turned over to whom, and why will there be no appeal from such judging?
10 Thus the subject of resurrection is associated with judgment. Because the Son of God from heaven became the “Son of man” on earth, he has been given the authority to do the judging of all the members of humankind. So God the Father has made his faithful Son to be his associate judge. During the thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ the judging of all mankind is first turned over to the Son of God as Associate Judge. There will be no appeal from the judgment rendered by the Son of God, because it will be perfect. The judging that Jehovah God does after the thousand-year Day of Judgment will not be because of any appeal by restored mankind to Jehovah as the Supreme Justice, the Final Judge.—1 Cor. 15:24-28.
PASSING FROM DEATH TO LIFE NOW
11. In John 5:24, 25, how did Jesus explain why his believers passed over “from death to life”?
11 On earth Jesus Christ acted as God’s mouthpiece to man. So any hearer’s believing what Jesus the Son of God said was the same as believing what God the Father said. The benefit that this would bring to the Jews who heard Jesus, he indicated when he said the following words to the Jews: “Most truly I say to you, He that hears my word and believes him that sent me has everlasting life, and he does not come into judgment but has passed over from death to life.” How does this come about? Jesus explains by next saying: “Most truly I say to you, The hour is coming, and it is now, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who have given heed will live.” (John 5:24, 25) Of course, back there those who were literally dead in the graves could not hear Jesus’ spoken word and heed it, at the “hour” about which he was speaking. So, of what “dead” ones was Jesus then speaking?
12, 13. (a) What “dead” ones did Jesus mean when speaking about their hearing his word and living as a result? (b) Because of such a divine provision, what could Paul write to those “dead” in trespasses and sins, according to Ephesians 2:4-7?
12 Since Jesus said that the “hour” for this to happen “is now,” he could only mean those humans who were walking about on earth but who were under the condemnation of death due to imperfection and sinfulness inherited from Adam. From God’s standpoint all mankind in general are “dead”; they have no right to life and the “wages” that sin pays to them is death. (Rom. 6:23) But by hearing and heeding Jesus’ “word” they would come out from under God’s condemnation of them to death and would thus, figuratively, ‘pass over from death to life.’
13 Because of such a divine provision, the apostle Paul could write to the “holy” believers at Ephesus who were “in union with Christ Jesus” the following words: “Furthermore, it is you God made alive though you were dead in your trespasses and sins . . . God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, made us alive together with the Christ, even when we were dead in trespasses—by undeserved kindness you have been saved—and he raised us up together and seated us together in the heavenly places in union with Christ Jesus, that in the coming systems of things there might be demonstrated the surpassing riches of his [then past] undeserved kindness in his graciousness toward us in union with Christ Jesus.”—Eph. 1:1; 2:1, 4-7.
14. Those thus made spiritually alive sit where and form what kind of group and must remain in union with whom?
14 Those who were relieved of the condemnation of death and made spiritually alive to sit with Christ Jesus “in the heavenly places” were made members of the congregational body of Christ. They were also formed into a “temple” class in which God could dwell by his holy spirit as in a “holy temple.” (Eph. 1:22, 23; 2:20-22) Because of being Christ’s “body,” they are specially “in union with Christ Jesus.” They need to remain in union with him.—John 15:4.
15. What questions arise about the Father’s having “life in himself”?
15 To these ones Jesus’ words apply: “Just as the Father raises the dead up and makes them alive, so the Son also makes those alive whom he wants to.” (John 5:21) This means that the Son also has power to impart life to others. The reason for this Jesus stated when he said: “For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted also to the Son to have life in himself.” (John 5:26) What does the Father’s having “life in himself” really mean? Does it mean merely that he is alive as the only “living and true God”? (1 Thess. 1:9) Does it mean that he has independent life or inherent life? In other words, immortality? An American Translation understands the matter that way, for it renders John 5:26 this way: “For just as the Father is self-existent, he has given self-existence to the Son.” In line with this, The Holy Bible in Modern English by Farrar Fenton understands the name Jehovah to mean “Ever-Living,” and so renders Isaiah 42:8: “I am Ever-Living;—for that is my name.” Jehovah has been called “The Self-Existent One.”
16. If the giving of “life in himself” to the Son of God meant merely giving him perfect life, why would the Son not be outstanding in this respect?
16 However, according to the line of argument in the immediate context the expression “life in himself” has a more forceful meaning than his self-existence. The expression means that the heavenly Father has a reservoir of life in himself, so that, like a father, he is able to impart life to others. In the face of this fact, he was able to impart life to his Son in such quantity that he also would be able to impart life to others. If the Father’s giving the Son the ability to have “life in himself” meant merely giving him perfect life, then the Son would not be outstanding. Why not? Because God gave perfect life also to the heavenly angels. Not only that, but he gave perfect life to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. But why was the Son of God given “life in himself”?
17. Why was “life in himself” given to the Son, and how does his prayer, in John 17:1, 2, harmonize with this?
17 It was because the Son of God laid down his perfect human life as a ransom sacrifice for all mankind. (Matt. 20:28; 1 Tim. 2:5, 6) In this way he could buy back mankind from the death to which they were condemned due to inherited imperfection. With this thought in mind Jesus could open up his prayer on Passover night with the words: “Father, the hour has come; glorify your son, that your son may glorify you, according as you have given him authority over all flesh, that, as regards the whole number whom you have given him, he may give them everlasting life.”—John 17:1, 2.
18. How does the translation by R. A. Knox of John 5:26 make the truth evident, and when was Christ authorized and empowered to impart life?
18 The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Ronald A. Knox captures that truth and makes it evident in its translation of John 5:26. There it reads: “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.”* After his sacrificial death, his resurrection and his presenting the value of his perfect human life to his heavenly Father, Jesus Christ could be authorized and empowered to impart the benefits of it to those in need of it—all condemned and dying mankind. Hence, we read, in Romans 6:23: “The wages sin pays is death, but the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord.”
19. Why is Jesus Christ the rightful one for God to use in judging mankind?
19 As a human of flesh and blood, Jesus the “Son of man” could offer to God the exact equal of what Adam had forfeited for all his descendants by his willful sin in Eden. (Heb. 2:9, 14, 15; John 1:14) Inasmuch as Jehovah God uses him in the giving of life to condemned, dying mankind, Jesus Christ the “Son of man” is the rightful one for Jehovah to use in judging redeemed mankind.
20. At John 5:26, 27, what did Jesus say about authority to do judging, and how did Paul confirm this in his speech on Mars Hill?
20 In harmony with that fact, Jesus went on to say: “So he [the Father] has granted also to the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to do judging, because Son of man he is.” (John 5:26, 27) Because the now glorified Jesus Christ was once a man himself in the midst of a corrupt worldly system of things, he can be a judge both merciful and righteous toward those whom he redeemed from death. This fact was clearly stated to the highest judicial body in ancient Athens, Greece, when the apostle Paul stood among the judges on Mars Hill and said: “He [the God unknown to them] 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 17:23, 31.
Regarding John 5:25, 26, we read: “The life denoted by this zésousin [Greek for they will live], seeing the subjects of it were dead, must be something which is in process of being imparted to them,—a life which comes from the Son, the quickener. But He could not impart it if He had not in Himself a divine and independent fountain of life, like the Father, which the Father, the absolutely living One (Joh vi. 57), gave Him when He sent Him into the world to accomplish His Messianic work; comp. Joh x. 36.”—Page 184, of the Critical and Exegetical Hand-Book to the Gospel of John by Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer, published in English in 1884.
The Good News Bible renders John 5:26: “Just as the Father is himself the source of life, in the same way he has made his Son to be the source of life.” (Published by American Bible Society in 1976)