The Resurrection—A Teaching That Affects You
“I have hope toward God . . . that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.”—ACTS 24:15.
1. How did the resurrection become an issue before the Sanhedrin?
AT THE end of his third missionary tour in 56 C.E., the apostle Paul was in Jerusalem. After being arrested by the Romans, he was permitted to appear before the Jewish high court, the Sanhedrin. (Acts 22:29, 30) As Paul observed the members of that court, he noted that some were Sadducees and others were Pharisees. These two groups differed in one outstanding way. The Sadducees denied the resurrection; the Pharisees accepted it. To show where he stood on that issue, Paul declared: “Men, brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. Over the hope of resurrection of the dead I am being judged.” In so doing, he threw the assembly into confusion!—Acts 23:6-9.
2. Why was Paul prepared to make a defense of his belief in the resurrection?
2 Years earlier, when he was on the road to Damascus, Paul saw a vision in which he heard Jesus’ voice. Paul even asked Jesus: “What shall I do, Lord?” Jesus answered: “Rise, go your way into Damascus, and there you will be told about everything it is appointed for you to do.” On arrival in Damascus, Paul was found by a helpful Christian disciple, Ananias, who explained: “The God of our forefathers has chosen you to come to know his will and to see the righteous One [the resurrected Jesus] and to hear the voice of his mouth.” (Acts 22:6-16) Little wonder, then, that Paul was prepared to make a defense of his belief in the resurrection.—1 Peter 3:15.
Publicly Declaring the Resurrection Hope
3, 4. How did Paul prove to be a staunch advocate of the resurrection, and what can we learn from his example?
3 Paul later appeared before Governor Felix. On that occasion, Tertullus, “a public speaker” who presented the Jews’ case against Paul, accused him of being the leader of a sect and guilty of sedition. In answer Paul forthrightly declared: “I do admit this to you, that, according to the way that they call a ‘sect,’ in this manner I am rendering sacred service to the God of my forefathers.” Then, coming to the main issue, he continued: “I have hope toward God, which hope these men themselves also entertain, that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.”—Acts 23:23, 24; 24:1-8, 14, 15.
4 About two years later, Felix’ successor, Porcius Festus, invited King Herod Agrippa to join him in examining the prisoner Paul. Festus explained that the accusers disputed Paul’s assertion that “a certain Jesus who was dead . . . was alive.” In his defense Paul asked: “Why is it judged unbelievable among you men that God raises up the dead?” Then he declared: “Because I have obtained the help that is from God I continue to this day bearing witness to both small and great, but saying nothing except things the Prophets as well as Moses stated were going to take place, that the Christ was to suffer and, as the first to be resurrected from the dead, he was going to publish light both to this people and to the nations.” (Acts 24:27; 25:13-22; 26:8, 22, 23) What a staunch advocate of the resurrection Paul was! Like Paul, we too can proclaim with conviction that there will be a resurrection. But what reaction can we expect? Likely the same as Paul received.
5, 6. (a) The apostles’ advocating the resurrection prompted what reaction? (b) As we express our hope in the resurrection, what is vital?
5 Consider what occurred earlier during Paul’s second missionary tour (about 49-52 C.E.) when he visited Athens. He reasoned with people who believed in many deities, and he urged them to note God’s purpose to judge the inhabited earth in righteousness by a man whom He had appointed. This was none other than Jesus. Paul explained that God had furnished a guarantee of this by resurrecting Jesus. What was the reaction? We read: “Well, when they heard of a resurrection of the dead, some began to mock, while others said: ‘We will hear you about this even another time.’”—Acts 17:29-32.
6 That reaction mirrored what Peter and John had experienced shortly after Pentecost 33 C.E. Again the Sadducees figured prominently in the controversy. Acts 4:1-4 relates what happened: “Now while the two were speaking to the people, the chief priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, being annoyed because they were teaching the people and were plainly declaring the resurrection from the dead in the case of Jesus.” Others, however, reacted favorably. “Many of those who had listened to the speech believed, and the number of the men became about five thousand.” Evidently, we can expect varied reactions when we speak about the resurrection hope. In view of that, it is vital that we strengthen our faith in this teaching.
Faith and the Resurrection
7, 8. (a) As shown in a letter to the first-century Corinthian congregation, how can faith be in vain? (b) How does a correct understanding of the resurrection hope set true Christians apart?
7 Not all who became Christians in the first century C.E. found it easy to accept the resurrection hope. Some who found it difficult were associated with the congregation in Corinth. To them Paul wrote: “I handed on to you, among the first things, that which I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, yes, that he has been raised up the third day according to the Scriptures.” Paul then attested to this truth by stating that the resurrected Christ had “appeared to upward of five hundred brothers,” most of whom, added Paul, were still alive. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8) He further reasoned: “If Christ is being preached that he has been raised up from the dead, how is it some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If, indeed, there is no resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ been raised up. But if Christ has not been raised up, our preaching is certainly in vain, and our faith is in vain.”—1 Corinthians 15:12-14.
8 Yes, so fundamental is the teaching of the resurrection that the Christian faith is in vain if the resurrection is not accepted as a reality. Indeed, the correct understanding of the resurrection sets true Christians apart from the false. (Genesis 3:4; Ezekiel 18:4) Thus, Paul includes the teaching of the resurrection in “the primary doctrine” of Christianity. May our determination be to “press on to maturity.” “And this we will do,” exhorts Paul, “if God indeed permits.”—Hebrews 6:1-3.
The Resurrection Hope
9, 10. What does the Bible mean when it refers to the resurrection?
9 To strengthen our faith in the resurrection further, let us review such questions as: What does the Bible mean when it refers to the resurrection? How does the teaching of the resurrection magnify Jehovah’s love? Answers to these questions will draw us closer to God and at the same time help us to teach others.—2 Timothy 2:2; James 4:8.
10 “Resurrection” is the translation of a Greek word that literally means “a standing up again.” What does that expression involve? According to the Bible, the resurrection hope is the conviction that a dead person can live again. The Bible further shows that the person is restored in either a human or a spirit body, depending on whether he has an earthly or a heavenly hope. We marvel at Jehovah’s love, wisdom, and power manifest in this wonderful resurrection prospect.
11. What resurrection prospects are offered to God’s anointed servants?
11 The resurrection of Jesus and his anointed brothers provides them with a spirit body fit for service in heaven. (1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-53) Together they will serve as rulers of the Messianic Kingdom, which will bring Paradise conditions to the earth. Under Jesus as High Priest, the anointed constitute a royal priesthood. They will apply the benefits of Christ’s ransom sacrifice to mankind in the new world of righteousness. (Hebrews 7:25, 26; 9:24; 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 22:1, 2) In the meantime, those of the anointed still alive on earth desire to remain acceptable to God. At their death, they will receive their “award” through resurrection to immortal spirit life in heaven. (2 Corinthians 5:1-3, 6-8, 10; 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52; Revelation 14:13) “If we have become united with him in the likeness of his death,” wrote Paul, “we shall certainly also be united with him in the likeness of his resurrection.” (Romans 6:5) But what about those for whom the resurrection will mean life on earth again as humans? How can the resurrection hope draw them closer to God? We can learn much from the example of Abraham.
The Resurrection and Friendship With Jehovah
12, 13. What powerful basis for faith in the resurrection did Abraham have?
12 Abraham, who was described as “Jehovah’s friend,” was a man of outstanding faith. (James 2:23) Paul referred to Abraham’s faith three times in his listing of faithful men and women recorded in the 11th chapter of Hebrews. (Hebrews 11:8, 9, 17) His third reference focuses on the faith Abraham displayed when he obediently prepared to offer up his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham was convinced that the promise of a seed through Isaac was guaranteed by Jehovah. Even if Isaac were to die as a sacrifice, Abraham “reckoned that God was able to raise him up even from the dead.”
13 As events turned out, when Jehovah saw the strength of Abraham’s faith, he arranged for an animal to substitute as a sacrifice. Still, Isaac’s experience served as an illustration of the resurrection, as Paul explained: “From there he [Abraham] did receive him [Isaac] also in an illustrative way.” (Hebrews 11:19) More than that, Abraham already had a powerful basis for his belief in the resurrection. Had not Jehovah brought back to life Abraham’s reproductive powers when he and his wife, Sarah, came together in their old age and produced their son, Isaac?—Genesis 18:10-14; 21:1-3; Romans 4:19-21.
14. (a) According to Hebrews 11:9, 10, what did Abraham await? (b) To receive Kingdom blessings in the new world, what must yet happen to Abraham? (c) How can we receive Kingdom blessings?
14 Paul described Abraham as an alien resident and a tent dweller who was “awaiting the city having real foundations, the builder and maker of which city is God.” (Hebrews 11:9, 10) This was not a literal city like Jerusalem, which was the location of God’s temple. No, this was a symbolic city. It was God’s heavenly Kingdom made up of Christ Jesus and his 144,000 corulers. The 144,000 in their heavenly glory are also spoken of as “the holy city, New Jerusalem,” the “bride” of Christ. (Revelation 21:2) In 1914, Jehovah enthroned Jesus as Messianic King of the heavenly Kingdom and commanded him to rule in the midst of his enemies. (Psalm 110:1, 2; Revelation 11:15) To receive the blessings of Kingdom rule, Abraham, “Jehovah’s friend,” will have to live again. Likewise, for us to receive Kingdom blessings, we must be alive in God’s new world, either as members of the great crowd of Armageddon survivors or as those resurrected from the dead. (Revelation 7:9, 14) What, though, is the basis of the resurrection hope?
God’s Love—The Basis of the Resurrection Hope
15, 16. (a) How does the first prophecy in the Bible lay the basis for our resurrection hope? (b) How can belief in the resurrection draw us closer to Jehovah?
15 Our close relationship with our loving heavenly Father, our strong faith like that of Abraham, and our obedience to God’s commands allow us to be declared righteous and to be viewed by Jehovah as his friends. This brings us in line to benefit from Kingdom rule. Indeed, the very first prophecy recorded in God’s Word, at Genesis 3:15, lays the basis for the resurrection hope and friendship with God. It foretells not only the crushing of Satan’s head but also, by contrast, the bruising in the heel of the Seed of God’s woman. Jesus’ death on the stake was a figurative bruising in the heel. His resurrection on the third day healed that wound and paved the way for decisive action against “the one having the means to cause death, that is, the Devil.”—Hebrews 2:14.
16 Paul reminds us that “God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Appreciation for this undeserved kindness truly brings us closer to Jesus and to our loving heavenly Father.—2 Corinthians 5:14, 15.
17. (a) What hope did Job express? (b) What does Job 14:15 reveal about Jehovah, and how does this make you feel?
17 Job, a faithful man from pre-Christian times, also looked forward to a resurrection. He suffered greatly at Satan’s hands. Unlike his false companions, who never mentioned the resurrection, Job drew comfort from this hope and asked: “If an able-bodied man dies can he live again?” In answer Job himself declared: “All the days of my compulsory service I shall wait, until my relief comes.” Addressing his God, Jehovah, he acknowledged: “You will call, and I myself shall answer you.” Concerning the feelings of our loving Creator, Job noted: “For the work of your hands you will have a yearning.” (Job 14:14, 15) Yes, Jehovah eagerly anticipates the time when faithful ones return to life in the resurrection. How this draws us closer to him as we meditate on the love and undeserved kindness that he shows us even though we are imperfect!—Romans 5:21; James 4:8.
18, 19. (a) What prospect does Daniel have for living again? (b) What will we review in the next article?
18 The prophet Daniel, described by God’s angel as a “very desirable man,” lived a long life of faithful service. (Daniel 10:11, 19) His integrity to Jehovah remained intact from his exile in 617 B.C.E. until his death some time after he received a vision in 536 B.C.E., the third year of Cyrus, king of Persia. (Daniel 1:1; 10:1) Some time during that third year of Cyrus, Daniel received a vision of the march of world powers that culminates in the coming great tribulation. (Daniel 11:1–12:13) As he could not fully understand the vision, Daniel asked the angelic messenger who delivered it: “O my lord, what will be the final part of these things?” In answer the angel called attention to “the time of the end,” during which “the ones having insight will understand.” As for Daniel himself, what were his prospects? The angel acknowledged: “You will rest, but you will stand up for your lot at the end of the days.” (Daniel 12:8-10, 13) Daniel will return “in the resurrection of the righteous ones,” during Christ’s Millennial Reign.—Luke 14:14.
19 We live deep in the time of the end and nearer the start of Christ’s Millennial Rule than when we first became believers. Therefore, we must ask ourselves, ‘Will I be there in the new world to associate with Abraham, Job, Daniel, and other faithful men and women?’ We shall be, provided we stay close to Jehovah and obey his commands. In our next article, we will review the resurrection hope in further detail so as to identify who will be resurrected.
Do You Recall?
• What reaction did Paul encounter when he declared his hope in the resurrection?
• Why does the resurrection hope set true Christians apart from the false?
• How do we know that Abraham, Job, and Daniel had faith in the resurrection?
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Paul, appearing before Governor Felix, proclaimed with conviction the resurrection hope
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Why did Abraham have faith in the resurrection?
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Job drew comfort from the resurrection hope
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Daniel will return in the resurrection of the righteous ones