Hold Fast the “Good News”!
“You are holding it fast, unless, in fact, you became believers to no purpose.”—1 Cor. 15:2.
1. Why did Paul argue fervently in behalf of the resurrection?
THE apostle Paul climaxes his first letter to the Corinthians with a masterful discussion of the resurrection. Why did he argue so fervently in behalf of the resurrection? It was for a timely purpose. Those Corinthian Christians were surrounded by a greedy, immoral world, and some had even fallen into Satan’s snares. Paul did not want his beloved brothers to be “believers to no purpose,” for that would mean their destruction. Rather, he wanted them to stand firm in the “good news” that he declared to them.
2. (a) Why should we today work hard in behalf of the “good news”? (b) How is the resurrection tied in with the “good news”?
2 Likewise today, we live in a world that does not know God. Therefore, we who ‘have rested our hope on the living God’ must work hard and exert ourselves in behalf of the “good news.” (1 Tim. 4:10) This “good news” now focuses on the established “kingdom of our Lord [Jehovah] and of his Christ.” It is by resurrection that Christ Jesus and his 144,000 associate kings gain that kingdom, the heavenly Mount Zion. Also, it is by resurrection that the great majority of mankind will attain to the earthly realm of the Kingdom. (Rev. 11:15; 14:1; 20:12) Hence, the resurrection becomes an outstanding feature of the “good news.”
THE RESURRECTION HOPE
3. In what way does the resurrection teaching conflict with that of the immortality of the soul?
3 What, then, is this resurrection hope? It is not a hope based on the supposed immortality of the soul, as taught by the world empire of false religion, both inside and outside Christendom. No, it is a hope for mortal souls! The word “resurrection” (Greek, an·asʹtas·is) occurs some 40 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. It means a standing up again to life. In order to rise again to life, a person must first be dead, for life is the opposite of death.—Deut. 30:19, 20; Isa. 38:17-19.
4. What shows that the early Jews believed not in human immortality but in an earthly resurrection?
4 In the Hebrew Scriptures, there is no teaching of human immortality. The idea was entirely foreign to the Jews. However, there are many indications that these believed in an earthly resurrection. Apparently that is why they conjectured that Jesus might be the risen ‘John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or another of the prophets.’—Matt. 16:14.
5. In line with God’s purpose, to what prospect did Abraham and other ancient servants of God look forward?
5 After describing the faithful course of Abel, Enoch, Noah and Abraham’s household, the apostle Paul tells us: “In faith all these died, although they did not get the fulfillment of the promises, but they saw them afar off and welcomed them and publicly declared that they were strangers and temporary residents in the land.” They looked forward to a resurrection, which would be on earth under the rule of “the city having real foundations”—God’s kingdom by Messiah. When tested with regard to offering up Isaac, faithful Abraham “reckoned that God was able to raise him up even from the dead.” Also, Abraham believed God’s promise to him that “by means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves.” Logically, the vast majority of the people of those nations would need to be resurrected in order to enjoy such blessings through that “seed.”—Gen. 22:18; Heb. 11:4-19.
6. What do the words of Job and of the sons of Korah indicate as to the resurrection?
6 Later, integrity-keeping Job asked the question: “If an able-bodied man dies can he live again?” Job believed that a man could. And he indicated that faith by asking God to conceal him in Sheol (mankind’s common grave) and remember him after a set time. (Job 14:13-15) In Psalm 45:16, the sons of Korah prophesied that Messiah would have “sons” whom he would appoint as “princes in all the earth,” during his millennial reign. These “sons” would include worthy “forefathers” of his to whom he will become a father by resurrecting them from the dead.—Matt. 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-38.
7. (a) How do the writings of the prophets support the hope of an earthly resurrection? (b) Why will the resurrection of Daniel and others be “a better resurrection”?
7 The inspired prophets also spoke of a resurrection, which they understood to be earthly. (Isa. 25:8; 26:19; Hos. 13:14) As death approached, the aged Daniel received the promise: “You will rest, but you will stand up for your lot at the end of the days.” (Dan. 12:13) Daniel, who “through faith . . . [even] stopped the mouths of lions,” looked forward to “a better resurrection.” This would be a resurrection to life under God’s established kingdom, in contrast to what Elijah, Elisha, Jesus and the apostles accomplished in raising persons who later died again.—Heb. 11:33, 35.
8. What view of the resurrection was entertained by the messengers of John and by Martha?
8 After Jesus had commenced his ministry, the imprisoned baptizer, John, sent messengers to ask whether Jesus really was the Messiah. After performing further miraculous cures, Jesus told them: “Go your way, report to John what you saw and heard: the blind are receiving sight, the lame are walking, the lepers are being cleansed and the deaf are hearing, the dead are being raised up, the poor are being told the good news.” (Luke 7:19-23) Thus, Jesus not only was establishing that he was the Messiah but also was building faith in what he would accomplish through his kingdom, even to raising the dead. Those people understood this to be a resurrection on earth. So did Martha, when later she said to Jesus concerning the dead Lazarus: “I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.”—John 11:24.
THE HEAVENLY RESURRECTION
9. How was Lazarus able to receive hope of a heavenly resurrection?
9 If Jesus had not raised Lazarus at that time, his hope would indeed have been an earthly one. But Jesus did perform that miracle, in temporarily bringing back Lazarus from the dead. Undoubtedly, Lazarus survived beyond the day of Pentecost, 33 C.E., and this would mean his receiving an additional favor from his Lord. For on that day of Pentecost he would be begotten by God’s spirit to the hope of heavenly life, with the prospect of a heavenly resurrection in view. How was this opportunity opened up?
10. What erroneous viewpoint arose in Paul’s day, but how did he refute this?
10 In his first letter to the Corinthian Christians, the apostle Paul discusses the resurrection. Some in the congregation there were arguing that “there is no resurrection of the dead.” Apparently they had taken the viewpoint that living Christians had already experienced some kind of spiritual “resurrection,” and perhaps some were combining this with Plato’s philosophy of the immortality of the soul. Whatever the details of their erroneous viewpoint, Paul saw fit to ‘put them in their place’ by presenting a masterly argument in behalf of the true teaching on the resurrection, laying stress on ‘the good news through which they were also being saved.’—1 Cor. 15:1, 2, 12.
11. How does the “good news” tie in with the resurrection hope?
11 What is this “good news”? It centers around the Christ. Paul includes among “first things” of importance the fact that Christ died, was buried, was raised up, and that he appeared, first to Cephas (Peter), then through various appearances to 500 and more other persons, and finally to Paul himself. Truly, Christ had been resurrected in the spirit! (1 Pet. 3:18) As Paul twice emphasized, these stirring events were “according to the Scriptures,” confirming all that Jehovah’s word had prophesied with regard to Messiah. Our faith would be useless were it not anchored in the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.—1 Cor. 15:3-8, 17.
“EACH ONE IN HIS OWN ORDER”
12. In what way does Christ become a “firstfruits”?
12 Further on, the apostle links the resurrection with Jehovah’s Kingdom purposes. With confidence Paul proclaims: “Now Christ has been raised up from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep in death.” If Christ is a “firstfruits,” then there must also be other resurrected ones, “but each one in his own order.” Others must wait until Christ’s “presence” with Kingdom power, when the ransomer, Jesus Christ, starts to ‘make alive’ those who “are dying” or who have died because of sin inherited from Adam.—1 Cor. 15:20-23, Kingdom Interlinear.
13. How does the resurrection proceed according to “rank”?
13 After Christ, resurrected ‘in their own order’ will be the 144,000 anointed Kingdom heirs, who have followed in Jesus’ footsteps to the death. This resurrection starts “during his presence [Greek, parousía],” which began in the eventful year 1914. A few remaining ones of Christ’s spiritual “brothers” are still serving on earth, and these likewise will be resurrected in this “rank,” “in the twinkling of an eye” at their human death. Thus the entire “[spiritual] Israel of God” will be gathered to the heavenly kingdom.—1 Cor. 15:22, 23, 50-52; Heb. 2:10-13; Rev. 7:4-8; Gal. 6:16.
14. How does Paul illustrate the heavenly resurrection?
14 The apostle beautifully illustrates the death and resurrection of spirit-begotten Christians. He does this by a comparison with the death of a bare grain of wheat or any one of the rest, from which a new plant sprouts. Yes, the body “sown in corruption” is “raised up in incorruption” as a glorious spiritual body that ‘bears the image of the last Adam’—the Lord Jesus Christ.—1 Cor. 15:35-49.
15. Where does the “better resurrection” take place, and who are included?
15 However, are the 144,001, including Christ, the only ones to be resurrected in proper order? Not at all! For Hebrews 11:40 tells us that their resurrection is to “something better,” a heavenly spiritual estate. This is better than what? Why, better than the estate attained in the resurrection that takes place next in order! This resurrection must include those who will be made “princes in all the earth,” and who reasonably will be among the first to be resurrected on earth following Jehovah’s decisive victory at Har–Magedon’s battle. Thus they will be able to take up their assigned duties in the “new earth”—the theocratic society of God’s people in the cleansed earth. Theirs is a “better resurrection,” for it takes place under God’s kingdom, with prospect of everlasting life for the resurrected ones. In this time group we expect to find faithful dedicated Christians who today have an earthly hope and who die from various causes prior to the coming in of the “new earth.”—Isa. 32:1; Rev. 16:14, 16; 21:1, 3, 4.
A FAVORED GROUP
16. Which other group enjoys special favor, and in what privileges do these share?
16 However, there is one group who are especially favored. And who might these be? They are the “great crowd” whom the apostle John describes in some detail at Revelation 7:9-17. Their hope is everlasting life in the “new earth.” As a group they pass through the “great tribulation” without ever having to die. What a precious privilege these enjoy as a result of ‘washing their robes and making them white in the blood of the Lamb’! In this most important finale to the “last days,” when a resounding witness must be given to the nations and people of earth, this “great crowd,” to the number of more than 2,300,000 at present, is seen to be performing such “sacred service” in the earthly courtyards of Jehovah’s arrangement for worship. This “great crowd” experiences no “scorching heat” of divine judgment. And why? “Because the Lamb [Jesus Christ], who is in the midst of the [heavenly] throne, will shepherd them, and will guide them to fountains of waters of life. And God will wipe out every tear from their eyes.”
17. (a) What joy awaits the “great crowd”? (b) How will the miracle of the resurrection move on to its finale?
17 No doubt the “great crowd” will be joyful as they move out into the cleansed earth and welcome resurrected faithful ones. Then, also, in God’s due time, and in orderly arrangement, the billions of mankind in the “memorial tombs” will come forth on earth in a general resurrection. (John 5:28, 29; Rev. 20:12) As the society of the “new earth” begins to function, and as Christ and his corulers apply the benefits of his ransom sacrifice in healing mankind and lifting them to perfection of mind and body, what rejoicing there will be among the happy, united families of mankind!—Isa. 65:17, 18; 2 Pet. 3:13.
18. How will God’s grand purpose toward our earth come to complete fulfillment?
18 One thousand years will pass like one day, at least from Jehovah’s standpoint. (2 Pet. 3:8) The earth will be filled with perfect humanity, just as Jehovah purposed when he first created man, some 7,000 years earlier. His 7,000-year “day” of rest will be at its end, and it will not have been in vain, for his grand purpose toward our earth will have been fulfilled. What now?
19. What happens after the “last enemy” is brought to nothing?
19 The apostle Paul tells us: “Next, the end, when [Christ] hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has brought to nothing all government and all authority and power [in opposition]. For he must rule as king until God has put all enemies under his feet. As the last enemy, death is to be brought to nothing. . . . then the Son himself will also subject himself to the One who subjected all things to him, that God may be all things to everyone.” (1 Cor. 15:24-28) Satan will then be released, as described at Revelation 20:7-10, to test individually the integrity of perfected mankind. Then he, and any who may follow him, will be hurled into the symbolic “lake of fire,” which signifies everlasting destruction.
20. What glorious prospect will face mankind as God’s rest day ends?
20 With God’s day of “resting from all his work” as regards earthly creation now ended, no doubt he will proceed to fresh works that will unfold into all eternity. Never will there be a dull moment as earth’s joyous inhabitants, rejoicing always in the freshness of youthful vigor, share in whatever activity the God of purpose assigns them to do.—Gen. 2:3; Isa. 66:22.
OF VITAL IMPORTANCE
21. How may we benefit from Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 15?
21 We must ‘hold fast the good news,’ including its resurrection hope, for the resurrection is of vital importance to all of God’s servants. Faithful men and women of ancient times believed in an earthly resurrection, and they looked forward to it. (Heb. 11:13-16) Christ Jesus was raised as the “firstfruits” of the resurrection, as testified to by hundreds of eyewitnesses. Anointed, spirit-begotten Christians have “preached in all creation that is under heaven,” both in apostolic and in modern times, so that the “good news” relating to the resurrection has circled the globe. (Col. 1:23) And as the remaining anointed ones finish their earthly course to gain their heavenly reward, a “great crowd,” again with hope of everlasting life on earth, has taken up the proclamation of the Kingdom “good news.”—Matt. 24:14.
22. What concluding admonition does Paul give in his letter, and why do we have every reason to follow it?
22 How privileged are all these groups as they attain to their goals, each one in his own order, or rank! Truly, we today have every reason to follow Paul’s further admonition: “Stay awake, stand firm in the faith, carry on as men, grow mighty. Let all your affairs take place with love.” (1 Cor. 16:13) Thus we will be believers to good purpose.
Can you answer the following?
▪ What shows that men and women of faith in early times looked forward to a resurrection on earth?
▪ After Christ the “firstfruits,” how many others share, “each one in his own order,” in the heavenly resurrection?
▪ When and in what groups does the resurrection on earth take place?
▪ How is one class particularly favored in gaining life on earth without a resurrection?
▪ What must we all do so as not to become “believers to no purpose”?
[Blurb on page 16]
A WORLD EMPIRE OF FALSE RELIGION CENTERS ITS HOPE ON THE PLATONIC TEACHING THAT ALL SOULS ARE IMMORTAL
[Blurb on page 17]
TRUE CHRISTIANITY HOLDS TO THE BIBLE-BASED HOPE OF THE RESURRECTION OF UNCONSCIOUS SOULS FROM GRAVEDOM
[Picture on page 16]
The “good news” focuses on God’s kingdom by Christ, the hope for restoring paradise to our earth