The Resurrection Hope—What Does It Mean for You?
“You are opening your hand and satisfying the desire of every living thing.”—PSALM 145:16.
1-3. What hope do some entertain for the future? Illustrate.
NINE-YEAR-OLD Christopher and his brother had spent the morning, along with their uncle, aunt, and two cousins, calling from house to house in their Christian ministry near Manchester, England. Our companion magazine, Awake!, explained what happened. “In the afternoon, they set out together on a sight-seeing trip to Blackpool, a nearby seaside resort. All 6 were among 12 people killed instantly in a motorway crash, described by the police as ‘an absolute holocaust.’”
2 The night before the tragedy, the family had attended the Congregation Book Study, where the subject of death had been discussed. “Christopher was always a very thoughtful boy,” related his father. “That night, he spoke clearly about a new world and his hope for the future. Then, as our discussion continued, Christopher suddenly said: ‘The thing about being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses is that while death hurts, we know we will see each other again on earth one day.’ Little did any of us present realize how memorable those words were going to be.”*
3 Years earlier, in 1940, an Austrian Witness named Franz was faced with the prospect of execution by guillotine for his refusal to be disloyal to Jehovah. Franz wrote to his mother from a Berlin detention center: “With what I knew, if I had taken the [military] oath, I would have committed a sin deserving death. That would be evil to me. I would have no resurrection. . . . And now, my dear Mother and all my brothers and sisters, today I was told my sentence, and don’t be terrified, it is death, and I will be executed tomorrow morning. I have my strength from God, the same as it always was with all true Christians away back in the past. . . . If you will stand firm until death, we shall meet again in the resurrection. . . . Until we meet again.”*
4. What effect do the experiences related here have on you, and what will we next consider?
4 The resurrection hope meant much to both Christopher and Franz. It was real to them. Surely these accounts touch our heart! To deepen our appreciation for Jehovah and to strengthen our hope in the resurrection, let us consider why the resurrection will occur and how this should affect us personally.
Vision of the Earthly Resurrection
5, 6. What does the vision recorded by the apostle John at Revelation 20:12, 13 reveal?
5 In a vision of events during the Millennial Reign of Christ Jesus, the apostle John saw the earthly resurrection taking place. “I saw the dead, the great and the small,” he reported. “And the sea gave up those dead in it, and death and Hades gave up those dead in them.” (Revelation 20:12, 13) Of whatever rank or station—whether “great” or “small”—all those held captive within Hades (Sheol), the common grave of mankind, will be released. Those who lost their lives at sea will also return to life at that time. This wonderful occurrence is part of Jehovah’s purpose.
6 Christ’s reign of a thousand years begins with the binding of Satan and his abyssing. None of those resurrected nor any of the survivors of the great tribulation will be misled by Satan during that reign, for he will be inactive. (Revelation 20:1-3) A thousand years may appear to you to be a long time, but in fact, Jehovah views it “as one day.”—2 Peter 3:8.
7. What will be the basis for judgment during Christ’s Millennial Reign?
7 According to the vision, Christ’s Millennial Reign will be a time for judgment. The apostle John wrote: “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. . . . And they were judged individually according to their deeds.” (Revelation 20:12, 13) Notice that the basis for this judging is not what the person had or had not done before he died. (Romans 6:7) Rather, it relates to “scrolls” that are to be opened. A person’s deeds performed after he learns the contents of the scrolls will furnish the basis for determining whether his name is written in “the scroll of life.”
“Resurrection of Life” or “Resurrection of Judgment”
8. What two possible outcomes will there be for the resurrected ones?
8 Earlier in John’s vision, Jesus is described as having “the keys of death and of Hades.” (Revelation 1:18) He serves as Jehovah’s “Chief Agent of life,” empowered to judge “the living and the dead.” (Acts 3:15; 2 Timothy 4:1) How will he do this? By bringing back to life those who sleep in death. “Do not marvel at this,” Jesus said to the crowds to whom he preached, “because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out.” He then added: “Those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28-30) So, what future awaits faithful men and women of old?
9. (a) On returning in the resurrection, what will many no doubt learn? (b) What vast educational work will be undertaken?
9 When these ancient faithful ones return in the resurrection, they will soon find out that the promises they trusted in are now a reality. How interested they will be to learn the identity of the Seed of God’s woman, mentioned in the first prophecy in the Bible, at Genesis 3:15! How happy they will be to hear that this promised Messiah, Jesus, proved faithful to death, thereby giving his life as a ransom sacrifice! (Matthew 20:28) Those welcoming them back to life will find great joy in helping them to appreciate that this ransom provision is an expression of Jehovah’s undeserved kindness and mercy. When resurrected ones discover what God’s Kingdom is accomplishing in fulfilling Jehovah’s purpose for the earth, their hearts will no doubt overflow with expressions of praise to Jehovah. They will have ample opportunity to demonstrate their attachment to their loving heavenly Father and his Son. Everyone living will delight in sharing in the vast educational work needed to teach the billions returning from the grave, who will also need to accept God’s ransom provision.
10, 11. (a) The Millennium will afford what opportunities to all on earth? (b) How should this affect us?
10 The resurrected Abraham will find great comfort in experiencing the reality of life under the rule of that “city” to which he looked forward. (Hebrews 11:10) What a thrill faithful Job of old will have when he learns that his life course strengthened other servants of Jehovah who faced tests of their integrity! And how much Daniel will want to know about the fulfillment of the prophecies he was inspired to write!
11 Indeed, all who gain life in the righteous new world, whether by resurrection or by surviving the great tribulation, will have much to learn about Jehovah’s purpose for the earth and its inhabitants. The prospect of living forever and praising Jehovah for all eternity will surely make the Millennial education program a real delight. However, it will be what we do individually as we learn the contents of the scrolls that will count the most. Will we apply what we learn? Will we meditate on and take to heart the vital information that will strengthen us to resist Satan’s final attempt to divert us from the truth?
12. What will help each one to have a full share in both the educational work and the transformation of the earth into a paradise?
12 Not to be forgotten are the wonderful blessings that will result from the application of the benefits of Christ’s ransom sacrifice. Those restored to life in the resurrection will not have the kind of infirmities or disabilities presently experienced. (Isaiah 33:24) A sound body and the prospect of perfect health will allow all inhabitants of the new world to share fully in the educational work of instructing those billions resurrected in the way of life. Those inhabitants will also share in the greatest undertaking ever attempted on earth—that of transforming the whole planet into a paradise to Jehovah’s praise.
13, 14. What is the purpose of Satan’s release at the final test, and what outcome will be possible for us individually?
13 When Satan is released from the abyss for the final test, he will try to mislead humans once again. According to Revelation 20:7-9, all the ‘misled nations,’ or groups of people, who fall under Satan’s wicked influence will meet their judgment of destruction: ‘Fire will come down out of heaven and devour them.’ For those among them who experienced a resurrection during the Millennium, this destruction will make theirs a resurrection of condemnatory judgment. By contrast, resurrected integrity-keepers will receive the gift of everlasting life. Truly, theirs will be “a resurrection of life.”—John 5:29.
14 How can the hope of the resurrection comfort us even now? Indeed, what must we do to ensure that we will receive its benefits in the future?
Lessons to Learn Now
15. How can belief in the resurrection be of help now?
15 You may recently have lost a loved one in death and may be coping with the big adjustment that such a great loss brings. The resurrection hope helps you to gain an inner calm and strength that those who do not know the truth fail to obtain. “We do not want you to be ignorant concerning those who are sleeping in death,” Paul consoled the Thessalonians, “that you may not sorrow just as the rest also do who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13) Do you see yourself in the new world, witnessing the resurrection? Find comfort now by meditating on the prospect of meeting your loved ones again.
16. What may well be your feelings when the resurrection occurs?
16 You may at present be suffering the physical consequences of Adam’s rebellion, perhaps in the form of ill health. Do not let the distress this brings cause you to forget the joyful prospect of personally experiencing the resurrection and coming to life again with renewed health and vigor in the new world. Then when your eyes open and you see welcoming faces eager to share with you their joy at your resurrection, you will not fail to thank God for his loving-kindness.
17, 18. What two important lessons should we take to heart?
17 In the meantime, consider two lessons that we should take to heart. One is the importance of whole-souled service to Jehovah right now. In imitation of our Master, Christ Jesus, our life of self-sacrifice demonstrates love for Jehovah and our neighbors. If opposition or persecution rob us of our livelihood or our freedom, we resolve to remain firm in the faith whatever trials we may face. Should opposers threaten us with death, then the resurrection hope comforts and strengthens us to remain loyal to Jehovah and his Kingdom. Yes, our zeal for the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work keeps us in line for the eternal blessings Jehovah has in store for the righteous.
18 A second lesson relates to how we face temptations caused by the fallen flesh. Our knowledge of the resurrection hope and our appreciation for Jehovah’s undeserved kindness strengthen our resolve to remain firm in the faith. “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world,” warned the apostle John. “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world. Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:15-17) The world’s allure in the form of materialism will hold little attraction for us when we compare it to “the real life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19) If tempted to commit immorality, we will firmly resist. We realize that should we die before Armageddon, a continued course of conduct displeasing to Jehovah could put us in the same position as those who have no prospect of a resurrection.
19. What inestimable privilege should we not forget?
19 Above all, we should never forget the inestimable privilege of making Jehovah’s heart glad now and forever. (Proverbs 27:11) Our faithfulness until death or our continued integrity-keeping until the end of this wicked system shows Jehovah on whose side of the issue of universal sovereignty we stand. Then what joy it will be to live in the earthly Paradise either by surviving the great tribulation or by experiencing a miraculous resurrection!
Satisfying Our Desires
20, 21. What will help us to remain faithful even if we have unanswered questions about the resurrection? Explain.
20 Our discussion of the resurrection leaves some questions unanswered. How will Jehovah arrange matters for those who were married when they died? (Luke 20:34, 35) Will resurrections take place in the area where people died? Will the resurrected come back to life close to their families? A host of other questions about the arrangements for the resurrection remain. Nevertheless, we have to keep in mind the words of Jeremiah: “Good is Jehovah to the one hoping in him, to the soul that keeps seeking for him. Good it is that one should wait, even silently, for the salvation of Jehovah.” (Lamentations 3:25, 26) In Jehovah’s due time, all will be revealed to our fullest satisfaction. Why can we be sure of this?
21 Reflect on the psalmist’s inspired words when he sang of Jehovah: “You are opening your hand and satisfying the desire of every living thing.” (Psalm 145:16) As we age, our desires change. What we hoped for when we were children is not our desire today. How we look at life is affected by what we experience as well as by our hopes. Still, whatever our proper desires will be in the new world, Jehovah will certainly satisfy them.
22. Why do we have good reason for praising Jehovah?
22 What concerns each of us now is to be faithful. “What is looked for in stewards is for a man to be found faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:2) We are stewards of the glorious good news of God’s Kingdom. Our diligence in proclaiming this good news to all we meet helps keep us in line for life. Never overlook the fact that “time and unforeseen occurrence” befall us all. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) To counteract any unnecessary anxiety caused by life’s uncertainties, hold fast to the glorious hope of the resurrection. Know that if it appears that you are going to die before the start of Christ’s Millennial Reign, you can take comfort in the certainty that relief will come. At Jehovah’s time you will be able to echo Job’s words addressed to the Creator: “You will call, and I myself shall answer you.” Praise be to Jehovah, who yearns to bring back to life all those who are in his memory!—Job 14:15.
See Awake! July 8, 1988, page 10, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, page 662, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Do You Recall?
• On what basis will people be judged during the Millennium?
• Why will some have “a resurrection of life” and others “a resurrection of judgment”?
• How can the resurrection hope comfort us now?
• How do the words of Psalm 145:16 help us to deal with unanswered questions about the resurrection?
[Pictures on page 21]
How can belief in the resurrection help us now?