Everlasting Life on Earth—A God-Given Hope
“The creation was subjected to futility . . . on the basis of hope.”—ROM. 8:20.
1, 2. (a) Why is the hope of everlasting life on earth important to us? (b) Why are many people skeptical about everlasting life on earth?
PERHAPS you recall the joy you felt when you first learned that in the near future, people will no longer grow old and die but will live forever on earth. (John 17:3; Rev. 21:3, 4) You have probably enjoyed sharing that Scriptural hope with others. After all, the hope of everlasting life is an essential aspect of the good news that we preach. It molds our very outlook on life.
2 For the most part, the religions of Christendom have ignored the hope of everlasting life on earth. Whereas the Bible teaches that the soul dies, the majority of churches teach the unscriptural doctrine that man has an immortal soul that survives death and lives on in the spirit realm. (Ezek. 18:20) Hence, many people are skeptical about everlasting life on earth. We might therefore ask: Does the Bible really support that hope? If so, when did God first reveal it to humans?
“Subjected to Futility . . . on the Basis of Hope”
3. How was God’s purpose for man evident from the start of human history?
3 Jehovah’s purpose for mankind was made evident at the very beginning of human history. God clearly indicated that Adam would live forever if he was obedient. (Gen. 2:9, 17; 3:22) Adam’s early descendants no doubt learned about man’s fall from perfection, which was confirmed by visible evidence. The entrance to the garden of Eden was blocked, and people grew old and died. (Gen. 3:23, 24) With the passing of time, the human life span declined. Adam lived for 930 years. The Flood survivor Shem lived for only 600 years, and his son Arpachshad for 438 years. Abraham’s father, Terah, lived for 205 years. The life span of Abraham was 175 years, that of his son Isaac was 180 years, and that of Jacob was 147 years. (Gen. 5:5; 11:10-13, 32; 25:7; 35:28; 47:28) Many people must have realized what this decline meant—the prospect of everlasting life had been lost! Did they have reason for hope in its restoration?
4. What basis did faithful men of old have for believing that God would restore the blessings that Adam had lost?
4 God’s Word says: “The [human] creation was subjected to futility . . . on the basis of hope.” (Rom. 8:20) What hope? The very first prophecy of the Bible pointed to a “seed” that would ‘bruise the serpent in the head.’ (Read Genesis 3:1-5, 15.) To faithful humans, the promise of that Seed provided a basis for hope that God would not abandon his purpose for mankind. It gave men like Abel and Noah a reason to believe that God would restore the blessings that Adam had lost. These men may have realized that the ‘bruising in the heel of the seed’ would involve the shedding of blood.—Gen. 4:4; 8:20; Heb. 11:4.
5. What shows that Abraham had faith in the resurrection?
5 Consider Abraham. When being tested, Abraham “as good as offered up Isaac, . . . his only-begotten son.” (Heb. 11:17) Why was he willing to do this? (Read Hebrews 11:19.) He believed in the resurrection! Abraham had a basis for his belief in the resurrection. After all, Jehovah had brought back to life Abraham’s reproductive powers and had made it possible for him and his wife, Sarah, to produce a son in their old age. (Gen. 18:10-14; 21:1-3; Rom. 4:19-21) Abraham also had Jehovah’s word. God had said to him: “It is by means of Isaac that what will be called your seed will be.” (Gen. 21:12) Therefore, Abraham had sound reasons for expecting that God would resurrect Isaac.
6, 7. (a) What covenant did Jehovah make with Abraham? (b) How did Jehovah’s promise to Abraham provide hope for mankind?
6 Because of Abraham’s outstanding faith, Jehovah made a covenant with him regarding his offspring, or “seed.” (Read Genesis 22:18.) The primary part of the “seed” proved to be Jesus Christ. (Gal. 3:16) Jehovah had told Abraham that his “seed” would be multiplied “like the stars of the heavens and like the grains of sand that are on the seashore”—a number unknown to Abraham. (Gen. 22:17) However, later that number was revealed. Jesus Christ and the 144,000, who will rule with him in his Kingdom, constitute the “seed.” (Gal. 3:29; Rev. 7:4; 14:1) The Messianic Kingdom is the means by which “all nations of the earth will . . . bless themselves.”
7 Abraham could not possibly have understood the full significance of the covenant Jehovah made with him. Nevertheless, “he was awaiting the city having real foundations,” states the Bible. (Heb. 11:10) That city is God’s Kingdom. To receive blessings under that Kingdom, Abraham will have to live again. Everlasting life on earth will be possible for him through the resurrection. And life eternal will be possible for those who survive Armageddon or those who will be raised from the dead.—Rev. 7:9, 14; 20:12-14.
“Spirit Has Brought Pressure Upon Me”
8, 9. Why is the book of Job not merely an account of one man’s trials?
8 During the time period between the lives of Abraham’s great-grandson Joseph and the prophet Moses, there lived a man named Job. The Bible book of Job, likely composed by Moses, explains why Jehovah allowed Job to suffer and how the matter turned out for him. However, the book of Job is not merely an account about one man’s trials; it centers on issues of universal importance. The book provides insight into Jehovah’s righteousness in exercising his sovereignty, and it reveals that the integrity and life prospects of all of God’s earthly servants are involved in the issue raised in Eden. Although Job did not understand this issue, he did not allow his three companions to make him think that he had failed as an integrity keeper. (Job 27:5) This should strengthen our faith and help us to realize that we can maintain our integrity and uphold Jehovah’s sovereignty.
9 After Job’s three so-called comforters had finished speaking, “Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite proceeded to answer.” What moved him to speak? “I have become full of words,” he said. “Spirit has brought pressure upon me in my belly.” (Job 32:5, 6, 18) Although what Elihu spoke under inspiration was fulfilled in Job’s restoration, his words are also meaningful to others. They hold out hope for all integrity keepers.
10. What shows that Jehovah’s message to an individual sometimes has a broader application to mankind in general?
10 Jehovah sometimes gives a message to an individual that also has a broader application for mankind in general. This can be seen from Daniel’s prophecy involving Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream about the chopping down of an immense tree. (Dan. 4:10-27) While that dream had a fulfillment in connection with Nebuchadnezzar, it pointed to something far greater. It indicated that divine sovereignty toward the earth expressed by a kingdom in the line of King David would be manifested again after a period of 2,520 years, beginning in 607 B.C.E.* God’s sovereignty toward our globe began to be asserted anew with the installation of Jesus Christ as heavenly King in the year 1914. Just think of how Kingdom rule will soon fulfill the hopes of obedient mankind!
“Let Him Off From Going Down Into the Pit!”
11. Elihu’s words indicated what about God?
11 In making a reply to Job, Elihu speaks of “a messenger, a spokesman, one out of a thousand, to tell to man his uprightness.” What if this messenger makes “entreaty to God that he may take pleasure in him”? Elihu says: “Then he [God] favors him and says, ‘Let him off from going down into the pit! I have found a ransom! Let his flesh become fresher than in youth; let him return to the days of his youthful vigor.’” (Job 33:23-26) Those words indicated God’s willingness to accept “a ransom,” or “covering,” in behalf of repentant humans.—Job 33:24, ftn.
12. The words of Elihu provide what hope for mankind in general?
12 Elihu probably did not understand the full significance of the ransom, even as prophets did not completely comprehend everything they wrote. (Dan. 12:8; 1 Pet. 1:10-12) Still, Elihu’s words reflect the hope that God would one day accept a ransom and set man free from the process of aging and from death. Elihu’s words presented the wonderful prospect of everlasting life. The book of Job also shows that there will be a resurrection.—Job 14:14, 15.
13. Christians find what meaning in Elihu’s words?
13 Today, Elihu’s words continue to have meaning for millions of Christians who hope to survive the destruction of the present system of things. Elderly ones among the survivors will return to the days of their youthful vigor. (Rev. 7:9, 10, 14-17) Moreover, the prospect of seeing resurrected ones restored to the days of their youth continues to delight faithful people. Of course, both immortality in heaven for anointed Christians and everlasting life on earth for Jesus’ “other sheep” depend on the exercising of faith in Christ’s ransom sacrifice.—John 10:16; Rom. 6:23.
Death Swallowed Up From the Earth
14. What shows that something more than the Mosaic Law was needed in order for the Israelites to entertain the hope of everlasting life?
14 The offspring of Abraham became an independent nation when they entered into a covenant relationship with God. When giving them the Law, Jehovah stated: “You must keep my statutes and my judicial decisions, which if a man will do, he must also live by means of them.” (Lev. 18:5) Since they could not live up to the Law’s perfect standards, however, the Israelites were condemned by the Law and needed a release from that condemnation.—Gal. 3:13.
15. About what future blessing was David inspired to write?
15 After Moses, Jehovah inspired other Bible writers to mention the hope of everlasting life. (Ps. 21:4; 37:29) For example, the psalmist David concluded a psalm about the unity of true worshippers at Zion with the words: “There Jehovah commanded the blessing to be, even life to time indefinite.”—Ps. 133:3.
16. Through Isaiah, what did Jehovah promise about the future of “all the earth”?
16 Jehovah inspired Isaiah to prophesy about everlasting life on earth. (Read Isaiah 25:7, 8.) Like a suffocating “envelopment”—a blanket—sin and death have weighed heavily on mankind. Jehovah assures his people that sin and death will be swallowed up, or removed, “from all the earth.”
17. What prophetic role of the Messiah opens the way to everlasting life?
17 Consider also the procedure stipulated in the Mosaic Law concerning the goat for Azazel. Once a year, on Atonement Day, the high priest ‘laid both his hands upon the head of the live goat and confessed over it all the errors of the sons of Israel, and he put them upon the head of the goat and the goat carried upon itself all their errors into a desert land.’ (Lev. 16:7-10, 21, 22) Isaiah foretold the coming of the Messiah, who would play a similar role and carry away “sicknesses,” “pains,” and “the very sin of many people,” thus opening the way to everlasting life.—Read Isaiah 53:4-6, 12.
18 Through Isaiah, Jehovah told his people Israel: “Your dead ones will live. A corpse of mine [“my killed ones,” ftn.]—they will rise up. Awake and cry out joyfully, you residents in the dust! For your dew is as the dew of mallows, and the earth itself will let even those impotent in death drop in birth.” (Isa. 26:19) The Hebrew Scriptures clearly set forth the hope of a resurrection and life on earth. When Daniel was almost 100 years old, for example, Jehovah assured him: “You will rest, but you will stand up for your lot at the end of the days.”—Dan. 12:13.
19 Because of the resurrection hope, Martha could say to Jesus concerning her dead brother: “I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.” (John 11:24) Did the teachings of Jesus and the inspired writings of his disciples change this hope? Is everlasting life on earth still the hope that Jehovah offers to mankind? We will consider the answers to these questions in the next article.
See chapter 6 of the book Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy!
Can You Explain?
• The human creation was “subjected to futility” on the basis of what hope?
• What shows that Abraham had faith in the resurrection?
• What hope do Elihu’s words to Job hold out for mankind?
• How do the Hebrew Scriptures stress the hope of a resurrection and everlasting life on earth?
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Elihu’s words to Job provide hope that man will be set free from the process of aging and death
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Daniel was assured that ‘he would stand up for his lot at the end of the days’