Questions From Readers
■ Does Jesus’ promise of everlasting life, as given at John 11:25, 26, apply only to the anointed, or do these words embrace also the “great crowd,” who look forward to life in the Paradise earth?
At certain times in the past The Watchtower has suggested that the application of this scripture is limited to those Christians who gain heavenly life. Evidently this view was taken because Jesus was there speaking to persons who later would be given that hope. But a careful examination of these scriptures shows that Jesus was not making such a limitation. As the articles for study in this issue of The Watchtower confirm, our viewpoint on John 11:25, 26 must be the broader one that includes those persons whose hope is to live forever in the Paradise earth. Why do we make this statement?
Note what Martha says about the dead Lazarus at John 11:24: “I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.” Which resurrection did she there have in mind? Why, the resurrection that Abraham, and other integrity-keeping Jews looked forward to in faith—an earthly resurrection! How, then, would Jesus’ following words appeal to Martha? They would convey to her the situation with regard to the earthly resurrection.
Jesus next identified himself as the one who would raise the dead. But he did not say that he was talking only about some of the dead who exercised faith in him. He is “the resurrection and the life” for all who attain to everlasting life, whether in heaven or on earth. All of what Jesus goes on to say, in Joh 11 verses 25 and 26, may be applied to both groups, though in different ways. Anointed Christians “come to life” in that they are raised to immortal heavenly life. Those of the dead who will live forever on earth are resurrected and then are gradually brought to perfection.—Compare Revelation 20:4.
It is certainly true of the anointed, as stated in Joh 11 verse 26, that they will “never die at all” after being resurrected. They then ‘see God just as he is,’ so that they are no longer “walking by faith.” (1 John 3:2; 2 Corinthians 5:7) So when Jesus says, “Everyone that is living and exercises faith in me,” he introduces a factor that is especially significant with regard to those today whose hope is to attain to everlasting life on earth. Righteousness is already imputed to the “great crowd” because “they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” They are already living in the flesh with the hope of surviving the great tribulation, and their lives are considered righteous lives, like that of Abraham of old. They, together with resurrected mankind, must continue to exercise faith during Christ’s millennial reign in order to attain to everlasting life in human perfection.—Revelation 7:9, 10, 14, 15; 21:3, 4.
Actually, this is not an entirely new viewpoint. From time to time through the years, the Watch Tower Society’s publications have suggested a broader application of John 11:24-26. For example, The Watchtower of June 1, 1959, page 337, said of the witnesses of Jehovah gathered out of all nations: “Those who expect to live on this earth hope also to survive the end of this world, and to live on into the new world without ever dying.” It cited Hebrews 11:1, 6 and John 11:26 in support. And The Watchtower of April 15, 1976, page 243, likewise included resurrected mankind along with the “great crowd” of Armageddon survivors in those same words of Jesus: “Everyone that is living and exercises faith in me will never die at all. Do you believe this?”