The Resurrection Hope Has Power
“I have taken the loss of all things . . . so as to know [Jesus Christ] and the power of his resurrection.”—PHILIPPIANS 3:8-10.
1, 2. (a) Years ago, how did one clergyman describe the resurrection? (b) How will the resurrection take place?
IN THE early 1890’s, the public press reported on a unique sermon given by a clergyman in Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A. He said that the resurrection will consist of regathering and revivifying all the bones and flesh that ever made up a human body, whether it was destroyed by fire or by accident, was eaten by a beast or became fertilizer. The preacher held that on a certain 24-hour day, the air would become black with hands, arms, feet, fingers, bones, sinews, and skin of the billions of human dead. These parts would be seeking other portions of the same body. Souls would then come from heaven and hell to inhabit these resurrected bodies.
2 Resurrection through a reorganization of original atoms is illogical, and humans do not have an immortal soul. (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10; Ezekiel 18:4) Jehovah, the God of resurrection, does not need to reassemble atoms of matter that originally constituted a human body. He can fashion new bodies for those resurrected. To his Son, Jesus Christ, Jehovah has granted the power to raise the dead, with the possibility of everlasting life. (John 5:26) So Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life.” (John 11:25, 26) What a heartwarming promise! It strengthens us to endure trials and even to face death as faithful Witnesses of Jehovah.
3. Why did Paul need to make a defense of the resurrection?
3 The resurrection does not harmonize with the idea that humans have an immortal soul—a view held by the Greek philosopher Plato. So, what happened when the apostle Paul witnessed to prominent Greeks on the Areopagus in Athens, alluded to Jesus, and said that God resurrected him? “Well,” says the account, “when they heard of a resurrection of the dead, some began to mock.” (Acts 17:29-34) Many who had seen the resurrected Jesus Christ were still alive and, despite ridicule, testified that he had been raised from the dead. But false teachers linked with the congregation in Corinth denied the resurrection. Paul therefore made a powerful defense of this Christian teaching in 1 Corinthians chapter 15. Careful study of his arguments proves beyond doubt the sureness and power of the resurrection hope.
Solid Proof of Jesus’ Resurrection
4. What eyewitness proof of Jesus’ resurrection did Paul give?
4 Note how Paul opened his defense. (1 Corinthians 15:1-11) Unless the Corinthians became believers to no purpose, they will hold fast the good news of salvation. Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was raised up. In fact, the resurrected Jesus appeared to Cephas (Peter), “then to the twelve.” (John 20:19-23) He was seen by some 500, perhaps when he commanded: ‘Go, make disciples.’ (Matthew 28:19, 20) James saw him, as did all the faithful apostles. (Acts 1:6-11) Near Damascus, Jesus appeared to Saul “as if to one born prematurely”—as though he had already been raised to spirit life. (Acts 9:1-9) The Corinthians became believers because Paul preached to them, and they accepted the good news.
5. What was Paul’s line of reasoning as recorded at 1 Corinthians 15:12-19?
5 Observe Paul’s line of reasoning. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19) Since eyewitnesses preach that Christ was resurrected, how can it be said that there is no resurrection? If Jesus was not raised from the dead, our preaching and our faith are in vain, and we are liars who bear witness against God by saying that he resurrected Christ. If the dead are not raised up, ‘we are still in our sins,’ and those dead in union with Christ have perished. Moreover, “if in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied.”
6. (a) What did Paul say in affirmation of Jesus’ resurrection? (b) What is “the last enemy,” and how will it be brought to nothing?
6 Paul affirms Jesus’ resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:20-28) Inasmuch as Christ is “the firstfruits” of those asleep in death, others too would be resurrected. As death resulted from the disobedience of the man Adam, resurrection is through a man—Jesus. Those belonging to him were to be raised during his presence. Christ brings “to nothing all government and all authority and power” in opposition to God’s sovereignty and rules as King until Jehovah puts all enemies under his feet. Even “the last enemy”—death inherited from Adam—will be brought to nothing through the merit of Jesus’ sacrifice. Then Christ will hand the Kingdom over to his God and Father, subjecting himself to “the One who subjected all things to him, that God may be all things to everyone.”
Baptized for the Dead?
7. Who are “baptized for the purpose of being dead ones,” and what does this mean for them?
7 Opponents of the resurrection are asked: “What will they do who are being baptized for the purpose of being dead ones?” (1 Corinthians 15:29) Paul did not mean that the living are to be baptized in behalf of the dead, for Jesus’ disciples must personally learn, believe, and get baptized. (Matthew 28:19, 20; Acts 2:41) Anointed Christians are “baptized for the purpose of being dead ones” by being immersed into a life course that leads to death and resurrection. This type of baptism begins when God’s spirit engenders the heavenly hope in them and ends when they are raised from death to immortal spirit life in heaven.—Romans 6:3-5; 8:16, 17; 1 Corinthians 6:14.
8. Of what can Christians be sure even if Satan and his servants should kill them?
8 As Paul’s words indicate, the resurrection hope enables Christians to stand in jeopardy hourly and to face death daily for doing the Kingdom-preaching work. (1 Corinthians 15:30, 31) They know that Jehovah can resurrect them if he permits Satan and his servants to kill them. Only God can do away with their soul, or life, in Gehenna, symbolizing eternal destruction.—Luke 12:5.
A Need to Be Alert
9. If the resurrection hope is to have sustaining power in our life, what must we avoid?
9 The resurrection hope sustained Paul. While he was in Ephesus, his foes may have thrown him into the arena to fight wild beasts. (1 Corinthians 15:32) If that occurred, he was delivered, even as Daniel was rescued from the lions. (Daniel 6:16-22; Hebrews 11:32, 33) Since he hoped in the resurrection, Paul did not have the attitude of Judah’s apostates in Isaiah’s day. They said: “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.” (Isaiah 22:13, Septuagint) If the resurrection hope is to have sustaining power in our life as it did in Paul’s, we must avoid those having such an unhealthy spirit. “Do not be misled,” warned Paul. “Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) Of course, this principle applies to various aspects of life.
10. How can our resurrection hope be kept alive?
10 To those doubting the resurrection, Paul said: “Wake up to soberness in a righteous way and do not practice sin, for some are without knowledge of God. I am speaking to move you to shame.” (1 Corinthians 15:34) In this “time of the end,” we need to act in harmony with accurate knowledge of God and Christ. (Daniel 12:4; John 17:3) This will keep alive our resurrection hope.
Resurrected With What Body?
11. How did Paul illustrate the resurrection of anointed Christians?
11 Paul next dealt with certain questions. (1 Corinthians 15:35-41) Perhaps in an effort to cast doubt on the resurrection, an inquirer might ask: “How are the dead to be raised up? Yes, with what sort of body are they coming?” As Paul showed, a seed planted in the soil in effect dies as it changes to become a seedling. Similarly, a spirit-begotten human must die. Just as a plant rises from a seed as a new body, so the resurrected body of the anointed Christian is different from human flesh. Though he has the same life pattern that he had before dying, he is raised up as a new creature with a spirit body able to live in heaven. Naturally, those resurrected on earth will be raised in human bodies.
12. What is meant by the expressions “heavenly bodies” and “earthly bodies”?
12 As Paul said, human flesh differs from that of animals. Even animal flesh varies from one kind to another. (Genesis 1:20-25) The “heavenly bodies” of spirit creatures differ in glory from “earthly bodies” of flesh. There are also differences in the glory of the sun, moon, and stars. But resurrected anointed ones have far greater glory.
13. According to 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, what is sown and what is raised up?
13 Having mentioned differences, Paul added: “So also is the resurrection of the dead.” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44) He said: “It is sown in corruption, it is raised up in incorruption.” Here Paul may mean the anointed as a group. Sown in corruption at death, it is raised up in incorruption, free from sin. Though dishonored by the world, it is raised to heavenly life and made manifest with Christ in glory. (Acts 5:41; Colossians 3:4) At death it is sown “a physical body” and raised “a spiritual body.” Since this is possible in the case of spirit-begotten Christians, we can be sure that others can be raised to life on earth.
14. How did Paul contrast Christ with Adam?
14 Paul next contrasted Christ with Adam. (1 Corinthians 15:45-49) Adam, the first man, “became a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7) “The last Adam”—Jesus—“became a life-giving spirit.” He gave his life as a ransom sacrifice, first in behalf of his anointed followers. (Mark 10:45) As humans, they ‘bear the image of the one made of dust,’ but when resurrected they become like the last Adam. Of course, Jesus’ sacrifice will benefit all obedient mankind, including those resurrected on the earth.—1 John 2:1, 2.
15. Why are anointed Christians not resurrected in the flesh, and how are they raised during Jesus’ presence?
15 When anointed Christians die, they are not raised in the flesh. (1 Corinthians 15:50-53) A corruptible body of flesh and blood cannot inherit incorruption and the heavenly Kingdom. Some anointed ones would not have to experience a long sleep in death. Finishing their earthly course in faithfulness during Jesus’ presence, they would “be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” They would be raised instantaneously to spirit life in incorruption and glory. Eventually, Christ’s heavenly “bride” will number 144,000.—Revelation 14:1; 19:7-9; 21:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17.
Victory Over Death!
16. According to Paul and earlier prophets, what will happen to death inherited from sinful Adam?
16 Paul triumphantly declared that death would be swallowed up forever. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57) When the corruptible and mortal put on incorruption and immortality, these words will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up forever.” “Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?” (Isaiah 25:8; Hosea 13:14) The sting producing death is sin, and sin’s strength was the Law, which condemned sinners to death. But because of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection, death inherited from sinful Adam will no longer be victorious.—Romans 5:12; 6:23.
17. How do the words of 1 Corinthians 15:58 apply today?
17 “Consequently, my beloved brothers,” said Paul, “become steadfast, unmovable, always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in connection with the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) Those words apply to today’s anointed remnant and to Jesus’ “other sheep” even if they die in these last days. (John 10:16) Their labors as Kingdom proclaimers are not in vain, for a resurrection awaits them. As Jehovah’s servants, then, let us keep busy in the Lord’s work while awaiting the day when we can joyously cry out: “Death, where is your victory?”
The Resurrection Hope Fulfilled!
18. How strong was Paul’s hope in the resurrection?
18 Paul’s words recorded in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 make it evident that the resurrection hope had power in his life. He was absolutely certain that Jesus was raised from the dead and that others would also be released from mankind’s common grave. Do you have such strong conviction? Paul considered selfish advantages “a lot of refuse” and ‘took the loss of all things’ so that he might ‘know Christ and the power of his resurrection.’ The apostle was willing to submit to a death like that of Christ in the hope of receiving “the earlier resurrection.” Also called “the first resurrection,” it is experienced by Jesus’ 144,000 anointed followers. Yes, they are raised to spirit life in heaven, whereas “the rest of the dead” will be resurrected on the earth.—Philippians 3:8-11; Revelation 7:4; 20:5, 6.
19, 20. (a) What individuals of Bible record will be raised to life on earth? (b) To whose resurrection do you look forward?
19 The resurrection hope has become a glorious reality for anointed ones who have been faithful unto death. (Romans 8:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18; Revelation 2:10) Survivors of “the great tribulation” will see the resurrection hope realized on earth as ‘the sea gives up those dead in it, and death and Hades give up those dead in them.’ (Revelation 7:9, 13, 14; 20:13) Among those raised to life on earth will be Job, who suffered the loss of seven sons and three daughters. Imagine his joy in welcoming them back—and how delighted they will be that they have seven more brothers and three other beautiful sisters!—Job 1:1, 2, 18, 19; 42:12-15.
20 What a blessing it will be when Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah—yes and so many others, including “all the prophets”—are raised to life on earth! (Luke 13:28) One of those prophets was Daniel, who was promised a resurrection under Messianic rule. For some 2,500 years, Daniel has rested in the grave, but by the power of the resurrection, he will soon ‘stand up for his lot’ as one of the “princes in all the earth.” (Daniel 12:13; Psalm 45:16) What a thrill it will be to welcome back not only faithful ones of old but also your own father, mother, son, daughter, or other dear ones taken from you by the enemy death!
21. Why should we not delay in doing good things for others?
21 Some of our friends and loved ones may have served God for decades and are well along in years. Advanced age may make it difficult for them to meet the challenges of life. How loving it is to give them whatever help we can right now! Then we will have no regrets about having failed them in some way if death should claim them as its victims. (Ecclesiastes 9:11; 12:1-7; 1 Timothy 5:3, 8) We can be certain that Jehovah will not forget the good things we do for others, regardless of their age or circumstances. “As long as we have time favorable for it,” wrote Paul, “let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.”—Galatians 6:10; Hebrews 6:10.
22. Until the fulfillment of the resurrection hope, what should we be determined to do?
22 Jehovah is “the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4) His Word comforts us and helps us to comfort others with the powerful resurrection hope. Until we witness the fulfillment of that hope by the raising of the dead to life on earth, let us be like Paul, who had faith in the resurrection. May we especially imitate Jesus, whose hope in God’s power to resurrect him was realized. Those in the memorial tombs will soon hear Christ’s voice and come out. May this bring us comfort and joy. But above all, may we be thankful to Jehovah, who has made victory over death possible through our Lord Jesus Christ!
What Is Your Answer?
• What eyewitness proof of Jesus’ resurrection did Paul give?
• What is “the last enemy,” and how is it to be brought to nothing?
• In the case of anointed Christians, what is sown and what is raised up?
• What individuals of Bible record would you like to meet when they are raised to life on earth?
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The apostle Paul made a powerful defense of the resurrection
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The resurrection of Job, his family, and so many others will be a cause of boundless joy!