The Kingdom and the Resurrection Hope
“I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is destined to judge the living and the dead, and by his manifestation and his kingdom.”—2 Timothy 4:1.
1. Considering the number of humans who have ever lived, why is the resurrection hope so important, but what questions come to mind?
THERE are estimates of how many humans have ever lived on earth that vary from 14 billion to 20 billion. Whatever the correct figure may be, two facts are certain: (1) Jehovah God knows the exact number of people who have ever lived, and he has the power to bring back to life whomever he chooses; (2) the present unprecedented world population of some 4.4 billion persons apparently is only a small fraction of the total number of humans who have ever lived. The conclusion is inescapable: by far the greater number of humans are dead and depend on the resurrection for any hope of future life. But why did they die? And what hope is there of their ever living again?
2. What did Peter state concerning Christ’s resurrection and His connection with the resurrection hope?
2 In the year 36 C.E. the apostle Peter stated: “For a certainty I perceive that God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him. . . . God raised this One [Jesus Christ] up on the third day and granted him to become manifest, not to all the people, but to witnesses appointed beforehand by God, to us, who ate and drank with him after his rising from the dead. Also, he ordered us to preach to the people and to give a thorough witness that this 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 10:34-43.
3. (a) Why have so many billions of people died? (b) Explain how Christ’s death and resurrection are the basis for the resurrection hope.
3 Yes, the reason for the accumulation of billions of dead humans in the grave is sin, inherited from the first man Adam. “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men. . . . By the trespass of the one man death ruled as king.” (Romans 5:12, 17) But Christ died and was “made alive in the spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18) Through faith in his shed blood, “everyone,” from among “the living and the dead,” can get “forgiveness of sins” and be delivered from the tyrannical rule of King Death. For this, most of mankind will need a resurrection. So Paul writes: “Since death is through a man [Adam], resurrection of the dead is also through a man [Jesus].” (1 Corinthians 15:21) Christ confirmed this, stating to Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life.” (John 11:25) Christ’s death and resurrection are the basis for the resurrection hope.
The “First Resurrection”
4, 5. (a) What did John write about the “first resurrection,” and what power and office is given to those who share in this resurrection? (b) What did Jesus say to the 11 faithful apostles about their future office?
4 The Bible shows that Christ will not be alone to judge “the living and the dead.” Describing an inspired vision, the apostle John wrote: “And I saw thrones, and there were those who sat down on them, and power of judging was given them. Yes, I saw the souls of those executed with the ax for the witness they bore to Jesus and for speaking about God, and those who had worshiped neither the wild beast [Satan’s political organization] nor its image and who had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand. And they came to life and ruled as kings with the Christ for a thousand years. Happy and holy is anyone having part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no authority, but they will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.”—Revelation 20:4, 6.
5 Among the first of these future kings and judges who died as faithful witnesses of Jesus and his Father, Jehovah, were the 11 loyal apostles. At Luke 22:28-30, Jesus describes these as sitting on thrones with him in his kingdom, “to judge the twelve tribes of Israel [nonpriestly, representing the rest of humanity].”
6. How many associate judges will assist Christ when he judges the living and the dead, and what transformation do they undergo when they are resurrected?
6 Other scriptures show that this unique privilege of being associate kings and judges with Christ in his kingdom is limited to a “little flock” of 144,000 faithful Christians “bought from the earth,” “bought from among mankind.” (Luke 12:32; Revelation 14:1-4) These give up the normal and natural hope of living forever on earth in order to “be united with him [Christ] in the likeness of his resurrection.” (Romans 6:5) Of such ones, Paul also wrote: “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption, it is raised up in incorruption. . . . It is sown a physical body, it is raised up a spiritual body. . . . Flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom . . . This which is mortal must put on immortality.”—1 Corinthians 15:42-53.
7. What does a dictionary state concerning immortality, and what did Paul and Peter write about the heavenly hope?
7 Interestingly, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology gives the lie to the unscriptural idea of everyone’s having an immortal soul, stating: “Immortality is not a present possession of all men but a future acquisition of Christians. According to 1 Cor. 15:42, 52 ff., it is only after the resurrection transformation that believers ‘put on’ the garment of immortality. . . . there can be no immortality without prior resurrection.” Actually, the prize of immortality is granted, not to all Christians, but to those only who share in “the earlier resurrection from the dead.” For these, “an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading . . . inheritance is reserved in the heavens.”—See Romans 8:20-22; Philippians 3:10, 11; 1 Peter 1:3, 4.
Time of the “First Resurrection”
8 The Scriptures link this “first resurrection” with Christ’s “presence [Greek, parousia].” (1 Corinthians 15:23) The apostle Paul writes: “The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s voice and with God’s trumpet, and those who are dead in union with Christ [starting from the first century and up to Christ’s coming to the spiritual temple in 1918] will rise first.” Paul then goes on to say that the anointed Christians “who survive to the presence [parousia] of the Lord,” and who therefore die during the parousia, will be immediately resurrected and “caught away in clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17) They do not have to “sleep” in the grave, awaiting the resurrection. At death they are “changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.”—1 Corinthians 15:51, 52, Revised Standard Version.
9. (a) When did Christ’s invisible presence begin? (b) What was due to occur during his presence, and why can anointed Christians who die during Christ’s presence be considered “happy”?
9 Events in fulfillment of Bible prophecies indicate that Christ’s presence, or parousia, began in the momentous year 1914. (Matthew 24:3, 7-14) Then “the kingdom of the world did become the kingdom of our Lord [Jehovah] and of his Christ.” After this world-shaking event “the appointed time for the dead to be judged” came. This judging and the rewarding of those worthy began with those sharing in the “first resurrection” from Christ’s coming to the temple onward. (Revelation 11:15-18) Those anointed Christians who die faithful after the setting up of God’s kingdom are called “happy.” Why so? Because theirs is an instantaneous resurrection, allowing them immediately to take up their new duties with Christ Jesus in heaven.—Revelation 14:13.
10. For what reasons is the resurrection of the 144,000 termed the “first resurrection”?
10 The resurrection of the entire number of 144,000 anointed Christians called to reign with Christ in heaven is appropriately called the “first resurrection.” This is so because it precedes in time the resurrection to life on earth of mankind in general, the 144,000 becoming “firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 14:1, 4; James 1:18) This puts them in a position of importance, since no other humans can “be made perfect apart from” these 144,000 priests, kings and judges. (Hebrews 11:40b; Revelation 22:1, 2) Furthermore, it is superior to any earthly resurrection, the 144,000 being raised “in the likeness of his Christ’s resurrection” to incorruptible, immortal life as spirit sons of God.—Romans 6:5.
The Earthly Resurrection
11. What further resurrection is mentioned in Revelation, chapter 20?
11 If there is a “first resurrection,” there must logically be a later resurrection. Describing what will occur during the millennial judgment day mentioned earlier in the same chapter, the apostle John wrote:
“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.”—Revelation 20:12.
12, 13. (a) Why is it illogical to say that the rest of the dead will not be resurrected until after the millennium? (b) What, then, is the meaning of the expression “come to life” used in Revelation 20:5? (c) How will it be determined whose names are finally recorded in “the scroll of life”?
12 These “dead” are the same as “the rest of the dead” mentioned in Re 20 verse five of the same chapter, and of whom it is stated that they “did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.” This cannot mean that they are not resurrected until after the millennial judgment day, because those who share in the “first resurrection” are given “power of judging” and will be “priests” and “rule as kings” with Christ “for the thousand years.” (Revelation 20:4-6) Whom will they judge and rule over as kings, and on behalf of whom will they act as priests, if “the rest of the dead” are not resurrected until the end of the millennium?
13 Consequently, the expression “come to life” must refer to the situation at the end of the 1,000-year-long Judgment Day. It means that these persons “come to life” in that they finally attain human perfection. They will be in the same perfect condition as were Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. How will Jehovah then determine whose names are to be written in “the scroll of life,” or “book of life”? It will be by means of a final test upon humankind. (Revelation 20:7-10, 12, 15) Those who prove faithful to God through the final test will be ‘declared righteous’ by Jehovah himself and enter into “the glorious freedom of the children of God” on earth. (Romans 8:21, 33) They will receive the divine guarantee of life everlasting, unlike Adam, who failed under test and so was debarred from access to the “tree of life” by God-sent cherubs.—Genesis 2:9; 3:22-24.
14. In what respects will the resurrection of people on earth during the millennium be one to better opportunities?
14 Since all “the rest of the dead” that are resurrected during Christ’s 1,000-year reign will thus have the opportunity of proving themselves worthy of having their names inscribed permanently in Jehovah’s “scroll of life” and of living forever under God’s kingdom, their resurrection is one to better opportunities than that of those few people resurrected in Bible times but who died again. (1 Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:17-37; 13:20, 21; Matthew 9:18, 23-26; Luke 7:11-15; John 11:38-44; Acts 9:36-41; 20:7-12) It was in order to attain a “better resurrection” under the kingdom, or “city,” of the Messiah that men and women of old remained faithful to Jehovah until death.—Hebrews 11:10, 13, 14, 35.
Resurrection and Judgment
15, 16. (a) Is Judgment Day something to fear? Explain. (b) Who will do the judging, and on what basis?
15 We have seen that “the rest of the dead” are resurrected during the millennium in order to be “judged . . . according to their deeds” then. (Revelation 20:12) The gruesome idea of a doomsday when everyone who has ever lived will have to answer for his past sins is not Bible based. The context shows that divine “scrolls,” or law books, will be opened and that the risen dead will be judged “out of those things written in the scrolls according to their deeds,” that is, according to their obedience or disobedience to such divine instructions.
16 Who will do the judging? The apostle Paul wrote that Christ Jesus “is destined to judge the living and the dead,” and at the same time he spoke of Christ’s “manifestation and his kingdom.” (2 Timothy 4:1) Seated on “thrones” with Christ during his millennial kingdom will be 144,000 associate judges. (Luke 22:28-30; Revelation 20:4, 6) Paul wrote: “Do you not know that the holy ones will judge the world?”—1 Corinthians 6:2.
17 Referring to what will occur during his millennial reign, which is also a 1,000-year Judgment Day, Jesus stated: “For the Father judges no one at all, but he has committed all the judging to the Son. . . . 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.”—John 5:22-29.
18 Does this contradict Revelation 20:12, where we read that the dead will be “judged out of those things written in the scrolls,” which scrolls will not be “opened” until during the millennium? Not at all. Jesus’ words in John chapter five must be understood in the light of his later revelation to John. (Revelation 1:1) Both “those who did good things” and “those who practiced vile things” will be among “those dead” who will be “judged individually according to their deeds” performed after their resurrection. (Revelation 20:13) When contrasting “resurrection of life” with “resurrection of judgment [Greek, a·naʹsta·sis kriʹseos],” Jesus was referring to the end result of such resurrections. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon defines a·naʹsta·sis kriʹseos as resurrection “followed by condemnation.” The person is not resurrected in order to be condemned automatically, but his resurrection will be followed by condemnatory judgment if he refuses to follow the “things written in the scrolls” and thus fails to have his name “written in the book of life.” He would then die “the second death,” with no future hope of a resurrection.—Revelation 20:14, 15; 21:8.
19 and footnote. (a) How does a French Bible translation render John 5:29, and when only will it become apparent that a resurrection was one “of life” or “of judgment”? (b) Do the “righteous” and the “unrighteous” mentioned in Acts 24:15 come forth respectively to a “resurrection of life” and a “resurrection of judgment”? Explain.
19 It is interesting to note that the French Ecumenical Translation (published by a group of both Catholic and Protestant scholars) renders John 5:29: “Those who have done good will come out for the resurrection that leads to life; those who have practiced evil, for the resurrection that leads to judgment.” Only when the end result of a person’s resurrection becomes clear will it be known whether his resurrection was a “resurrection of life” or a “resurrection of judgment.”a
20. (a) Who will need to drink the “water of life,” and why? (b) What question will be examined in the following article?
20 Both the resurrected dead and the “great crowd” who survive the “great tribulation” that is just ahead will need to drink the “water of life,” that is, gratefully accept Christ’s ransom sacrifice and all the other provisions Jehovah makes to deliver mankind from sin and death. (Revelation 7:9, 10, 14, 17; 22:1, 2) These provisions will be administered by Christ and his 144,000 associate priestly judges during the millennial Kingdom. But will all the dead come back to be judged, including the victims of the approaching “great tribulation”? The next article will go into that.
a Those who are raised to a “resurrection of life” or a “resurrection of judgment” should not be considered to be identical with the “righteous” and the “unrighteous” mentioned by Paul in Acts 24:15. Paul is speaking of the standing of persons when they are resurrected, based on their conduct before death. The “righteous” will have to continue their righteous course of action by obedience to the things written in the “scrolls.” Otherwise their resurrection could turn out to be one “of judgment.” Conversely, if any “unrighteous” persons repent, accept Christ’s ransom sacrifice and obey the things written in the “scrolls,” their resurrection could prove to be one “of life.”
□ In what way is Christ “the resurrection and the life”?
□ Who share in the “first resurrection,” and in what activities will they assist the King Jesus Christ?
□ Why is the term “first resurrection” appropriate?
□ In what way do “the rest of the dead” “come to life” after the millennium, and in what respect is theirs a resurrection superior to that of persons raised in Bible times to life on earth?
□ On what basis will the resurrected dead be judged, and what will they need to be delivered from sin and death?
[Blurb on page 21]
“Immortality is not a present possession of all men but a future acquisition of Christians. . . . there can be no immortality without prior resurrection.”—The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology
[Picture on page 23]
The Bible shows that there will be a resurrection of many to life on earth