“The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”—1 CORINTHIANS 15:45.
1-3. (a) What should we include as one of our main beliefs? (b) Why is the resurrection so important? (See opening picture.)
IF SOMEONE asked you what the main teachings of your faith are, what would you say? Certainly you would say that you believe that Jehovah is the Creator and the one who has given us life. You would probably also mention that you believe in Jesus Christ, who died as a ransom. Surely you would talk about the future Paradise on earth, where God’s people will live forever. But would you mention the resurrection as one of your most cherished beliefs?
2 We have good reasons to include the resurrection as one of our main beliefs, even if we hope to survive the great tribulation and live on earth forever. The apostle Paul showed why the resurrection is so important. He said: “If, indeed, there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised up.” If Jesus had not been resurrected, he could not be ruling as King in heaven, and our preaching would be useless. (Read 1 Corinthians 15:12-19.) However, we know that Jesus was resurrected. Because we believe in his resurrection, we are not like the Jewish Sadducees, who strongly denied that the dead can live again. Even when others make fun of us, our faith that God can resurrect the dead remains strong.—Mark 12:18; Acts 4:2, 3; 17:32; 23:6-8.
3 Paul said that the teaching of “the resurrection of the dead” was part of “the primary doctrine about the Christ.” (Hebrews 6:1, 2) He emphasized the resurrection as something he had faith in. (Acts 24:10, 15, 24, 25) Even though it is a primary doctrine, one of the basic things we learn from God’s Word, we still need to study about the resurrection carefully. (Hebrews 5:12) Why?
4. What questions might we ask about the resurrection?
4 When people begin to study the Bible, they usually read the accounts of past resurrections, such as the resurrection of Lazarus. They also learn that Abraham, Job, and Daniel were confident that in the future the dead would live again. Still, what would you say if someone asked you to prove from the Bible why we can trust resurrection promises that were made hundreds of years ago? And does the Bible say when in the future the resurrection will happen? The answers to these questions will strengthen our faith.
A RESURRECTION FORETOLD HUNDREDS OF YEARS IN ADVANCE
5. What will we discuss first?
5 It may be easy for us to imagine someone being brought back to life soon after his death. (John 11:11; Acts 20:9, 10) But can we trust a promise that someone will be resurrected years, even hundreds of years, in the future? Can we believe it whether it was made about a person who died a long time ago or someone who died just recently? Actually, you already believe in a resurrection that happened hundreds of years after it was promised. Which resurrection is that? And what does it have to do with your hope of a future resurrection?
6. How was Jesus involved in the fulfillment of Psalm 118?
6 Using Psalm 118, which may have been written by David, let us discuss a resurrection that was foretold many years in advance. This Psalm includes the words: “Jehovah, save us, please, we beg!” and “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of Jehovah.” People quoted this prophecy about the Messiah when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Nisan 9, a few days before his death. (Psalm 118:25, 26; Matthew 21:7-9) But how did Psalm 118 refer to a resurrection that would happen many years in the future? Notice what else this psalm said: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.”—Psalm 118:22.
7. How did the Jews reject Jesus?
7 “The builders” who rejected the Messiah were the Jewish leaders. They did much more than simply ignore Jesus or refuse to accept him as the Christ. Many Jews rejected him by demanding that Pilate execute him. (Luke 23:18-23) Yes, they were also responsible for Jesus’ death.
8. How could Jesus become “the chief cornerstone”?
8 If Jesus was rejected and killed, how could he become “the chief cornerstone”? That could happen only if he was resurrected. Jesus made that clear when he told a story about a landowner who sent messengers to the farmers working for him. The farmers mistreated those messengers. Eventually, the owner sent his own son, hoping that the farmers would listen to him. But they killed the owner’s son. After telling this story, Jesus quoted the prophecy at Psalm 118:22. (Luke 20:9-17) The apostle Peter used the same verse when he spoke to Jewish “rulers, elders, and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem.” He talked about “Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you executed on a stake but whom God raised up from the dead.” Then he said: “This is ‘the stone that was treated by you builders as of no account that has become the chief cornerstone.’”—Acts 3:15; 4:5-11; 1 Peter 2:5-7.
9. What remarkable event was foretold at Psalm 118:22?
9 Clearly, the prophecy at Psalm 118:22 foretold a resurrection that would occur hundreds of years later. The Messiah would be rejected and killed. But he would be raised to life again and would become the chief cornerstone. Once resurrected, Jesus became the only one whose name was “given among men by which we must get saved.”—Acts 4:12; Ephesians 1:20.
10 Let us consider another verse that told about a resurrection. It was fulfilled more than a thousand years later. This fact should give us confidence that a resurrection can happen long after it was foretold or promised. In Psalm 16, we read David’s words: “You will not leave me in the Grave. You will not allow your loyal one to see the pit.” (Psalm 16:10) David was not trying to say that he would never die and be in the Grave. God’s Word says very clearly that David grew old and died and “was laid to rest with his forefathers and was buried in the City of David.” (1 Kings 2:1, 10) So whom is this verse referring to?
11. When did Peter explain Psalm 16:10?
11 More than a thousand years after David wrote those words, Peter explained whom Psalm 16:10 was referring to. A few weeks after Jesus died and was resurrected, Peter spoke to thousands of Jews and proselytes. (Read Acts 2:29-32.) He reminded them that David had died and been buried. And the Bible does not say that any of them disagreed with Peter when he added that David “foresaw and spoke about the resurrection” of the Messiah.
12. How was Psalm 16:10 fulfilled, and what does that confirm about the promise of the resurrection?
12 Peter supported his point by quoting David’s words at Psalm 110:1. (Read Acts 2:33-36.) Peter’s reasoning from the Scriptures helped to convince the large crowd that Jesus was “both Lord and Christ.” The people recognized that Psalm 16:10 was fulfilled when Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Later, the apostle Paul used the same evidence when he spoke to Jews in the city of Antioch in Pisidia. This evidence really impressed them, and they wanted to hear more. (Read Acts 13:32-37, 42.) It should also convince us that those Bible prophecies about a future resurrection were reliable even though they were fulfilled hundreds of years later.
WHEN WILL THE RESURRECTION HAPPEN?
13. What questions might we ask about the resurrection?
13 It is encouraging to know that a resurrection can happen many hundreds of years after it was foretold. Still, some may ask: ‘Does that mean I will have to wait a long time to see my loved one? When will the resurrection happen?’ Well, Jesus told his apostles that there were things that they did not know and could not know. There are details about “the times or seasons that the Father has placed in his own jurisdiction.” (Acts 1:6, 7; John 16:12) However, we do have some information about when the resurrection will happen.
14. How was Jesus’ resurrection different from others before it?
14 The most important resurrection recorded in the Bible is Jesus’ resurrection. If he had not been raised from the dead, none of us would have any hope of seeing our dead loved ones again. People who were resurrected before Jesus, such as those resurrected by Elijah and Elisha, did not live on forever. They died again and became dust in the grave. But Jesus “has been raised up from the dead.” He “dies no more; death is no longer master over him.” In heaven, he lives “forever and ever.”—Romans 6:9; Revelation 1:5, 18; Colossians 1:18; 1 Peter 3:18.
15. Why is Jesus called “the firstfruits”?
15 Jesus’ resurrection to heaven as a spirit person was the first and most important resurrection of this kind. (Acts 26:23) However, he is not the only one to be resurrected to heaven. Jesus promised that his faithful apostles would rule with him there. (Luke 22:28-30) But they would receive this reward only after they died. Then, like Jesus, they would be resurrected with a spirit body. Paul wrote that “Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep in death.” Paul then said that there would be others who would be resurrected and go to heaven: “Each one in his own proper order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who belong to the Christ during his presence.”—1 Corinthians 15:20, 23.
16. What clue do we have about when the heavenly resurrection would happen?
16 Paul’s words give us a clue as to when the heavenly resurrection would happen. It would happen during Christ’s presence. For many years, Jehovah’s Witnesses have proved from the Bible that Christ’s “presence” began in 1914. We are still living during his “presence,” and the end of this wicked system is very near.
17, 18. What will happen to some anointed ones during Christ’s presence?
17 The Bible explains more about the heavenly resurrection: “We do not want you to be ignorant about those who are sleeping in death . . . For if we have faith that Jesus died and rose again, so too God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep in death . . . We the living who survive to the presence of the Lord will in no way precede those who have fallen asleep in death; because the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, . . . and those who are dead in union with Christ will rise first. Afterward we the living who are surviving will, together with them, be caught away in clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we will always be with the Lord.”—1 Thessalonians 4:13-17.
18 The first resurrection would occur sometime after Christ’s presence began. Anointed ones who are alive during the great tribulation will be “caught away in clouds.” (Matthew 24:31) What does that mean? Those “caught away” will not “fall asleep in death,” that is, they will not remain dead for a long time. Instead, when they die, they “will all be changed, in a moment, in the blink of an eye, during the last trumpet.”—1 Corinthians 15:51, 52.
19. What is the “better resurrection”?
19 Today, most faithful Christians are not anointed and are not chosen to rule with Christ in heaven. Instead, they are looking forward to “Jehovah’s day,” when he will end this wicked world. No one knows exactly when this end will come, but evidence shows that it is close. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3) When God’s new world comes, there will be a different type of resurrection. At that time, people will be resurrected to life on earth and will have the hope of becoming perfect and never dying again. This will be “a better resurrection” than that of those in the past who were resurrected but died again sometime later.—Hebrews 11:35.
20. Why can we trust that the resurrection will be organized?
20 The Bible says that those who go to heaven are resurrected “each one in his own proper order.” (1 Corinthians 15:23) So we can trust that the resurrection on earth will also be orderly, or organized. That might cause us to ask: Will those who died recently be resurrected near the start of Christ’s Thousand Year Rule and be welcomed back by loved ones who know them? Will faithful men from the past who were skilled leaders come back early to help organize God’s people in the new world? What will happen to people who never served Jehovah? When and where will they be resurrected? There are so many questions we could ask. But we do not need to worry about these things right now. It is better simply to wait and see. We can trust that it will be exciting to see how Jehovah will do things.
21. What is your hope?
21 Until then, we should strengthen our faith in Jehovah. He promised through Jesus that the dead are in His memory and that they will live again. (John 5:28, 29; 11:23) As additional proof that Jehovah will resurrect the dead, Jesus once said that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob “are all living to him.” (Luke 20:37, 38) Clearly, we have plenty of good reasons to say, as the apostle Paul did: “I have hope toward God . . . that there is going to be a resurrection.”—Acts 24:15.