Millions Now Dead Will Live Again
MILLIONS now dead will live again—what a heart-stirring hope! But is it realistic? What would it take to convince you? To believe in a promise, you would need to be sure that the one making the promise is both willing and able to fulfill it. Who, then, is it that promises that millions now dead will live again?
In the spring of 31 C.E., Jesus Christ boldly stated that he had been empowered by Jehovah God to resurrect the dead. Jesus promised: “Just as the Father raises the dead up and makes them alive, so the Son also makes those alive whom he wants to. Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his [Jesus’] voice and come out.” (John 5:21, 28, 29) Yes, Jesus Christ promised that millions now dead will live again on this earth and have the prospect of remaining on it forever. (John 3:16; 17:3; compare Psalm 37:29 and Matthew 5:5.)a Since Jesus made the promise, it is safe to assume that he is willing to fulfill it. But is he able to do so?
According to the Bible record, up to the time that Jesus made that promise, he had never resurrected anyone. But less than two years later, he demonstrated in a powerful way that he is both willing and able to perform the resurrection.
“Lazarus, Come On Out!”
It was a touching scene. Lazarus was gravely ill. His two sisters, Mary and Martha, sent word to Jesus, who was across the Jordan River: “Lord, see! the one for whom you have affection is sick.” (John 11:3) Yes, Jesus loved this family very much. He had been a guest at their home in Bethany, perhaps frequently. (Luke 10:38-42; compare Luke 9:58.) But now Jesus’ dear friend was very sick.
What, though, did Mary and Martha expect Jesus to do? They did not ask him to come to Bethany. But they knew that Jesus loved Lazarus. Would not Jesus want to see his sick friend? Undoubtedly they hoped that Jesus would miraculously heal him. After all, by this time in his ministry, Jesus had performed many miracles of healing, and not even distance was a barrier for him. (Compare Matthew 8:5-13.) Would he do any less for such a dear friend? Curiously, instead of going to Bethany immediately, Jesus stayed where he was for the next two days.—John 11:5, 6.
Lazarus died some time after the message was sent, perhaps by the time that Jesus received the news. (Compare John 11:3, 6, 17.) But no further message was necessary. Jesus knew when Lazarus died, and he intended to do something about it. Speaking about Lazarus’ death, he told his disciples: “Lazarus our friend has gone to rest, but I am journeying there to awaken him from sleep.” (John 11:11) Jesus had previously raised two persons from the dead, in each case shortly after the person died.b This time, however, would be different. By the time Jesus finally arrived in Bethany, his dear friend had been dead four days. (John 11:17, 39) Could Jesus bring back to life someone who had been dead that long and whose body had already begun to decompose?
On hearing that Jesus was coming, Martha, a woman of action, ran out to meet him. (Compare Luke 10:38-42.) As soon as she met Jesus, her heart prompted her to say: “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.” Still, she expressed her faith: “I know that as many things as you ask God for, God will give you.” Touched by her sorrow, Jesus assured her: “Your brother will rise.” When she indicated her faith in a future resurrection, Jesus plainly told her: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life.”—John 11:20-25.
Upon arriving at the tomb, Jesus directed that the stone closing its entrance be taken away. At first Martha objected: “Lord, by now he must smell, for it is four days.” But Jesus assured her: “Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” Then, after praying aloud, he commanded: “Lazarus, come on out!” At Jesus’ command Lazarus came out, even though he had been dead four days!—John 11:38-44.
Did It Really Happen?
The account of the raising of Lazarus is presented in the Gospel of John as a historical fact. The details are too vivid for it to be a mere allegory. To question its historicity is to question all the miracles of the Bible, including the resurrection of Jesus Christ himself.c And to deny the resurrection of Jesus is to deny Christian faith as a whole.—1 Corinthians 15:13-15.
Actually, if you accept the existence of God, you should have no problem exercising faith in the resurrection. To illustrate: A person can videotape his last will and testament, and after he dies his relatives and friends can see and hear him, in effect, as he explains how his estate is to be handled. A hundred years ago, such a thing was unthinkable. And to some people now living in remote parts of the world, the “miracle” of video recording is beyond comprehension. If scientific principles established by the Creator can be used by humans to reconstruct such a visible and audible scene, should not the Creator be able to do far more? Is it not reasonable, then, that the One who created life is capable of resurrecting a person by reproducing his personality in a newly formed body?
The miracle of Lazarus’ restoration to life served to increase faith in Jesus and the resurrection. (John 11:41, 42; 12:9-11, 17-19) In a touching way, it also reveals the willingness and desire of Jehovah and his Son to perform the resurrection.
‘God Will Have a Yearning’
The response of Jesus to Lazarus’ death reveals a very tender side of the Son of God. His deep feelings on this occasion clearly indicate his intense desire to resurrect the dead. We read: “Mary, when she arrived where Jesus was and caught sight of him, fell at his feet, saying to him: ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ Jesus, therefore, when he saw her weeping and the Jews that came with her weeping, groaned in the spirit and became troubled; and he said: ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him: ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus gave way to tears. Therefore the Jews began to say: ‘See, what affection he used to have for him!’”—John 11:32-36.
Jesus’ heartfelt compassion is here indicated by three expressions: “groaned,” “became troubled,” and “gave way to tears.” The original-language words used by the apostle John in recording this touching scene indicate the degree to which Jesus was moved with emotion.
The Greek word rendered “groaned” is from a verb (em·bri·maʹo·mai) that signifies to be painfully, or deeply, moved. Bible commentator William Barclay notes: “In ordinary classical Greek the usual usage of [em·bri·maʹo·mai] is of a horse snorting. Here it can only mean that such deep emotion seized Jesus that an involuntary groan was wrung from His heart.”
The expression translated “troubled” comes from a Greek word (ta·rasʹso) that indicates agitation. According to The New Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, it means “to cause one inward commotion, . . . to affect with great pain or sorrow.” The expression “gave way to tears” comes from a Greek verb (da·kryʹo) that means “to shed tears, weep silently.” This is in contrast with the “weeping” of Mary and the Jews with her, mentioned at John 11:33. There the Greek word (from klaiʹo) used means to weep audibly or loudly.d
Jesus, then, was deeply moved by the death of his dear friend Lazarus and the sight of Lazarus’ sister weeping. Jesus’ heart was so filled with emotion that his eyes brimmed over with tears. What is so remarkable is that Jesus had previously brought two others back to life. And on this occasion he fully intended to do the same with Lazarus. (John 11:11, 23, 25) Yet, he “gave way to tears.” Restoring humans to life, then, is not a mere procedure for Jesus. His tender and deep feelings as manifested on this occasion clearly indicate his intense desire to undo the ravages of death.
Since Jesus is ‘the exact representation of Jehovah God’s very being,’ we rightly expect no less of our heavenly Father. (Hebrews 1:3) Of Jehovah’s own willingness to perform the resurrection, the faithful man Job said: “If an able-bodied man dies can he live again? . . . You will call, and I myself shall answer you. For the work of your hands you will have a yearning.” (Job 14:14, 15) The original-language word that is rendered “you will have a yearning” denotes earnest longing and desire. (Genesis 31:30; Psalm 84:2) Clearly, Jehovah must keenly anticipate the resurrection.
Can we really believe the resurrection promise? Well, there is no doubt that Jehovah and his Son are both willing and able to fulfill it. What does this mean for you? You have the prospect of being reunited with dead loved ones right here on earth under peaceful conditions!
That is now Roberta’s hope (as mentioned in the previous article). Several years after her mother died, Jehovah’s Witnesses helped her to make a careful study of the Bible. She recalls: “After learning about the resurrection hope, I cried. It was wonderful to know that I will see my mother again.” If your heart similarly yearns to see a loved one again, no doubt you will want to learn more about this marvelous prospect. The certainty of this hope is discussed in greater detail on pages 18-28 of this magazine.
a See the article “Exercise Faith for Everlasting Life,” pages 23-8.
b During the time that elapsed after Jesus made the promise recorded at John 5:28, 29 and the death of Lazarus, Jesus raised the son of the widow of Nain and the daughter of Jairus.—Luke 7:11-17; 8:40-56.
c See chapter 6, “The Miracles—Did They Really Happen?” in the book The Bible—God’s Word or Man’s? published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
d Interestingly, the Greek word for weeping audibly (klaiʹo) is used of Jesus on the occasion when he foretold the coming destruction of Jerusalem. Luke’s account says: “When he got nearby, he viewed the city [Jerusalem] and wept over it.”—Luke 19:41.
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Jesus’ raising of Jairus’ daughter gives basis for faith in a future resurrection of the dead
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Jesus was deeply moved by the death of Lazarus
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The joy of those who witness the resurrection will be like the joy of the widow of Nain when Jesus resurrected her dead son