The Herald of Jehovah's Kingdom
The Herald of Jehovah's Kingdom
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.
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The International Association Jehovah's Witnesses

Themes Archive

 
RESTORATION TO LIFE BY RESURRECTION
 
    Jehovah God the Creator was the only One that could conceive of such a thing as the resurrection of the dead. He was the only One that could bring it to pass. It takes faith for us to believe God could raise the dead, and it was for the purpose of testing men’s faith in him that he gave the promise of a resurrection, doing so at the very time that "sin entered into the world, and death by sin". (Rom. 5: 12) The resurrection of dead men had to be by a special arrangement. Something preliminary had to provide grounds for it. For this reason the first resurrection that God foretold was, not that of a man dying for his sin. It was of a son of God who would die martyrlike for his absolute faithfulness to Jehovah God. For this he would be worthy of being raised from death to life in a state more exalted than this faithful son of God had ever enjoyed before. At the same time the human life that he would thus sacrifice forever would be the basis for God to raise human sinners from the dead to avail themselves of the benefit of the sacrificed life of the son of God.
    All this wonderful arrangement was concealed in the declaration that Jehovah God made in Eden, saying to the wicked introducer of sin: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed; he shall crush your head, and you shall lie in wait for his heel." (Gen. 3:15, Catholic Confrat. trans.) How could the woman’s Seed, after being bruised to death at the heel, crush the wicked Serpent’s head? Only after being resurrected from the death inflicted by that wicked one. What could this resurrection prove but that Jehovah God has the power to raise the dead? And what would the death of the son of God as a sacrifice mean but that Jehovah God would raise humans that had died because of being born in sin in the midst of a sinful world? All the sacred Scriptures assure us they will be raised to life in fulfillment of Jehovah’s Edenic promise.
    Men who held true to Jehovah as God treasured his Edenic promise and exercised faith in the resurrection of the dead and let this hope for the future influence their lives in the right direction. They taught it to their offspring. Under Jehovah’s guidance the doctrine of the resurrection was delivered to those who descended from faithful Abraham to make up the nation of Israel, the Jews. Thus to these were committed the divine pronouncements or utterances, including the doctrine of the resurrection. No one of any religion can dispute what the Jewish-Christian writer argues concerning this, when he says : "What advantage is there then in being a Jew, and what is the use of circumcision? A great deal, from every point of view. In the first place, the Jews were intrusted with the utterances of God." - Rom. 3 : 1, 2, Am Amer. Trans.
    Because the Jews entertained the resurrection hope, this same writer when brought into court by Jewish accusers said to Judge Felix: "I believe everything that is taught in the Law or written in the prophets, and I have the same hope in God that they themselves hold, that there is to be a resurrection of the upright and the wicked." Before a strictly Jewish court he had also said : "It is for my hope for the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial!" And so, showing that the Jews, including himself, looked for the realization of the resurrection hope, he said later to King Herod Agrippa I: "To-day I am standing my trial for hoping in the promise made by God to our fathers, a promise which our twelve tribes hope to gain by serving God earnestly both night and day. And I am actually impeached by Jews for this hope, 0 king! Why should you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?" - Acts 23:6 and 24: 14, 15, An Amer. Trans., and Acts 26 : 6-8, Molfatt.
    Not only King Agrippa, but also all the non-Jewish world thought the resurrection of the dead incredible, or had never heard of such a thing. It was because non-Jews believed in the false teaching of the inherent immortality of the human soul. They understood such soul to be an immaterial, intelligent thing dwelling in the human body and acting through it until death overtook the body, and then leaving the body to continue its conscious existence elsewhere. The pagan believers in such immortality of the human soul reasoned that if the soul did not die, how could there be a resurrection of the dead and why was a resurrection of the dead even necessary? They did not have or believe in the divine utterance : "The soul that sinneth, the same shall die." (Ezech. 18:4, 20, Cath. Douay) Hence it is that we read about Paul’s first visit to Athens and his talking to the pagan Greeks there: "And certain philosophers of the Epicureans and of the Stoics disputed with him; and some said: What is it, that this word sower would say? But others: He seemeth to be a setter forth of new gods; because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection." - Acts 17:18, Douay.
    So it was not strange that Paul should be met with unbelief or wonder when he climaxed his speech to the Greek council of the Areopagus by saying: "While God overlooked those times of ignorance, he now calls upon all men everywhere to repent, since he has fixed a day on which he will justly judge the world through a man whom he has appointed, and whom he has guaranteed to all men by raising him from the dead." The reaction to this on the part of those Grecian believers in human immortality is described as follows: "When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, We should like to hear you again on this subject.’" (Acts 17: 19-32, An Amer. Trans.) This in itself proves that the Bible doctrine of the resurrection cannot be harmonized with the teaching of the immortality of the human soul, because e latter teaching is of pagan source and is false.
    The apostle Paul based himself upon the inspired Scriptures when he said to the Athenians that Almighty God had fixed a day for judging the world in righteousness. That day will not be forever coming, but will begin at God’s pre-determined time. For this judgment day he had raised his beloved Son Jesus Christ from the dead. Jesus having died as a man and as a sacrifice for sinful humankind, the work of judgment would properly be committed to him by God his iResurrector. The Son of God testified to this very fact when he told the Jews: "For the Father passes judgment on no one, but he has committed the judgment entirely to the Son, so that all men may honor the Son just as much as they honor-the Father. And he has given him the authority to act as judge, because he is a son of man. Do not be surprised at this, for the time is coming when all who are in their graves will listen to his voice, and those who have done right will come out to resurrection and life, and those who have done wrong, to resurrection and judgment." - John 5:22, 23, 27-29, An Amer. Trans.
    The day for this judgment is the time of his rule as King in the kingdom of God. The apostle Paul associates the judgment with the time of Christ’s appearing and kingdom, saying: "I charge you in the sight of God and Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom." (2 Tim. 4: 1, An Amer. Trans.) By all the world conditions fulfilling Bible prophecies since A.D. 1914, we have every reason to know and be assured that the Kingdom is at the door and the resurrection of the human dead to life on earth under that Kingdom is near.
    Much speculation has taken place as to how the resurrection of these dead will occur. We recall the address, reported in the public press, as given about 1891 by a very learned Presbyterian clergyman to an audience in our city of Brooklyn. He tried to explain that the resurrection would consist in a regathering and revivifying of all the bones and sinews and all the flesh and skin, etc., that had ever constituted human bodies, no matter how they had been disposed of, by fire, disintegrating in the grave, or otherwise. Yes, no matter if parts had been taken out by surgeons, or destroyed by accident, or eaten by fishes, birds, or beasts of prey; or if they had rotted and gone as fertilizer into various fruits, vegetables, grasses, etc., and thus been transformed over and over again and assimilated by other living creatures. To him, the "last day" was to be one of 24 hours before the final burning up of our earthly sphere. The after part of the 24-hour day would be devoted to a work of judging the world, while the fore part would be occupied by the resurrection work, during which the air would be black with hands, arms, feet, fingers, bones, skins, sinews, etc., of the billions who have lived and died, all these seeking the other parts of their respective bodies. After the bodies were thus fitted together, the human souls would come from heaven and hell and be imprisoned in such resurrected bodies.
    Thus the clergymen tried to explain what his religious creed calls "the resurrection of the body". The Bible does, indeed, speak much of the resurrection of the dead, but speaks nowhere of the "resurrection of the body", meaning the identical original body with which a person died, bit for bit, atom for atom. Therefore the Bible doctrine of a resurrection does not call for any such fantastic scene prior to the time of the world’s judgment as the religious clergyman described. Today we appreciate how the absolute basis of all earthly matter is a particle of electrical energy and that all particles of energy are alike. We can see how one particle is as good as another and that to recreate a person it would not require Almighty God, the Supreme Scientist of the universe, to use exactly the same, identical particles that formed the person’s body at the time he died. What difference would it make, as the electronic building blocks of all matter are alike ? The creedal doctrine of the "resurrection of the body" with its ghastly conception of the resurrection day is not only unscientific but unscriptural as well. What makes a recreated human the same individual character he was before? It is not the same material out of which he was constructed before, but it is a body belonging to his nature with all the peculiar traits, propensities, knowledge, memory and mental development that he had in his previous existence. That is what makes, what distinguishes You.
    Religionists of Christendom teach the "resurrection of the body". They do so in spite of the scientific statement made by the apostle Paul in his wonderful resurrection chapter, as follows: "But someone will say, ’How can the dead rise ? What kind of a body will they have when they come back?’ You foolish man, the very seed you sow never comes to life without dying first; and when you sow it, it has not the form it is going to have, but is a naked kernel, perhaps of wheat or something else; and God gives it just such a form as he pleases, so that each kind of seed has a form of its own. Flesh is not all alike; men have one kind, animals another, birds another, and fish another. There are heavenly bodies, and there are earthly bodies, but the beauty but the heavenly bodies is of one kind, and the beauty of the earthly bodies is of another. The sun has one kind of beauty, and the moon another, and the stars another; why, one star differs from another in beauty. It is so with the resurrection of the dead." Here the apostle is discussing only the resurrection of members of the true Christian church, the members of the "body of Christ", of which Jesus the Messiah is the Head. This must be so, because it is only of the resurrection of such body-members of Christ, and not of the resurrection of dead mankind in general, that the following words of the apostle are true: "The body is sown in decay, it is raised free from decay. It is sown in humiliation, it is raised in splendor. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in strength. It is a physical body that is sown, it is a spiritual body that is raised. If there is a physical body, there is a spiritual body also." - 1 Cor. 15 : 35-44, An Amer. Trans.
    Without discussing now the subject of the spiritual resurrection of the members of the body of Christ or Christian congregation, we turn our attention to another speculation as to how the resurrection will take place. Back in the days when Charles T. Russel was president of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society the suggestion was made by a man interested in the truth that the resurrection would occur by what is called metempsychosis, or the transmigration of the human soul. His view was that the soul of a person who had died would be transferred to a human body that was newly being born to a married couple. He quoted the prophecy of Jehovah God at Malachi 4: 5, 6: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of Jehovah come. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers; lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." (Am. Stand. Vet.) About four hundred years later John the Baptist was born to the Jewish priest Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth in the hill country of Judea. John the Baptist performed his life work, and died by beheading at the hands of King Herod Antipas. Then the following discussion occurred between Jesus’ disciples: "And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elijah must first come? And he answered and said, Elijah indeed cometh, and shall restore all things: but I say unto you, that Elijah is come already, and they knew him not, but did unto him whatsoever they would. Even so shall the Son of man also suffer of them. Then understood the disciples that he spoke unto them of John the Baptist" - Matt. 17 : 10-13, Am. Stand. Vet.
    Hence this advocate of transmigration argued that John the Baptist was literally the prophet Elijah come back from the dead. How? Why, his soul, from the body which he had hundreds of years before in the days of Queen Jezebel, transmigrated into the body of the babe born by natural reproduction to John’s parents. But the transmigration theorist failed to note the following facts:
    The angel Gabriel who announced the coming birth of John the baptizer to Zacharias did not say that John would be the literal Elijah resurrected from the dead through the process of human reproduction. Gabriel said that John would have merely the spirit and power of Elijah and would do a work like Elijah’s of old: "And many of the children of Israel shall he turn unto the Lord their God. And he shall go before his face in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to walk in the wisdom of the just; to make ready for the Lord a people prepared for him." (Luke 1 : 16, 17, Am. Stan. Vet.) By these words did Zacharias understand that the son resulting from his reproductive union with Elizabeth would be, not his own child, but a child born to him with the soul of the original Elijah superimposed upon it? No! but Zacharias correctly understood that the child Elizabeth would conceive would be his very own son, but would perform a work corresponding to Elijah’s, the work foretold at Malachi 4:5, 6. Malachi’s prophecy was no prophecy of the resurrection of the original Elijah. It was a prophecy of a work that would be performed like Elijah’s, which work would be performed before the "great and terrible day of Jehovah" arrived.
    Zacharias was not a Cabalist. Cabalists were Jewish rabbis who indulged in a mystical interpretation of the Holy Scriptures and interwove into their interpretation the doctrine of transmigration of the soul. Says their Zohar, or Book of Light: "All the souls are subject to the trials of transmigration." They did not know how many transformations and mysterious trials these souls must undergo or how many souls and spirits come into this world without returning to the palace of the divine King. But such souls finally had to re-enter the absolute substance out of which they had emerged. To accomplish this end they had to develop all the perfections, the germ of which perfections was planted in the soul; and if they did not fulfill this condition during one life on earth they must commence a second, a third, and so on, until they had attained the condition fitting them for reunion with God. On the ground of this doctrine the Cabalists held that the soul of Adam migrated into David, and will come into the Messiah; that the soul of Noah’s son Japheth is the same as that of Simeon, and that the soul of Abraham’s father Terah migrated into Job. In the time of Jerome, translator of the Holy Bible into Latin, the doctrine of transmigration was taught as a tradition to be communicated to only a select few who were supposed to have inside knowledge; and the more speculative or mystical ones among the religious fathers of the Roman Catholic Church resorted to that doctrine in order to explain what they did not Scripturally understand.
    Astounding as it may seem, yet certain ones today claiming to be Christians teach that the resurrection of the dead will shortly occur, yes, has already begun to occur, by what is nothing less than transmigration. Yes, transmigration of the souls of those dead in the grave to bodies now being born and yet to be born to married Christians by natural reproduction, but into which newborn bodies the germ of the dead is being injected by divine power to bring them back to life on earth. Nothing could have more condemnation by the Scriptures concerning the resurrection than such a disguised pagan doctrine. Transmigration was a Persian religious belief before the time of Zoroaster and was drawn from East Indian sources. Pherecydes, the Greek philosopher of the island of Syros, of the sixth century B.C., taught the existence of the human souI after death; and his disciple Pythagoras, if he did not get this doctrine of transmigration from Pherecydes who taught him, got it in Babylon from the Magi. Quite to be expected, the ancient pagan Egyptians taught transmigration. For this reason they embalmed the dead so as to oblige the departed soul to return to the body it had once occupied and so prevent its passage into other forms, animal or plant. Professed Christians who speculate turn to the doctrine of transmigration in order to explain the resurrection.
    These do not take fully Jehovah’s unmistakable statement: "The soul that sinneth, the same shall die." He hath delivered his soul unto death." (Ezech. 18:4 and Isa. 53: 12, Douay) No, they claim that some germ from the dead remains over as a definite something for preservation, and that in the resurrection time this germ is superimposed upon the bodies of children produced by Christians through natural reproduction. By not taking God’s Word in its pure meaning these speculating Christians open their minds unwittingly to the "doctrines of demons", for the demons under Satan their prince are the source of the transmigration idea.
    In our article of last November 15 , 1948, entitled "When Immortality Came to Light", we produced overwhelming proof to show that God’s Word, the Bible, teaches that the human soul is the human creature himself and that the human soul dies and ceases to exist. The human soul would never exist again were it not for Jehovah’s provision to resurrect all the dead that are in the graves. The resurrection of the dead is not dependent upon some immortal germ or deathless seed that carries over after the individual dies. God does not have to preserve such a thing and in the resurrection day transplant it into a body that married Christians will produce. God respects the right of a Christian father to raise up seed to his own name, and God would not cheat a Christian husband of this privilege by superimposing upon his intended offspring the germ and characteristics of someone not his own but Iong ago born to other parents. The law of levirate marriage which God established among the ancient Israelites for the sake of men who died leaving a childless widow was established out of divine respect for a married man to have a child to bear his name. (Deut. 25:5-10) Christ Jesus, whom God uses to raise the dead, will not act contrary to God’s law and arrangement and impose upon a woman’s ovum anything from the dead and thus cheat her husband. If God were dependent upon such a method to resurrect the dead, why use husbands at all! Why not have virgin birth for the dead?
    Jesus’s birth may not be held forth as an illustration of how this might be done. His birth was not of a woman who had already had contact with a husband. So his life was never superimposed upon a sperm that had been communicated to Mary by a husband. Joseph had not touched her before Jesus was born, and so Jesus was born of a virgin. His birth cannot be viewed as a resurrection of the dead, for he had not died when he left heaven in order to be born as a human.
    It was not a case of his dying, but the miraculous power of God his Father transferred the LIFE of his Son who laid aside all his heavenly glory, transplanting this life into the womb of the Jewish virgin, in order for him to be born in due time as any other humans are born. Thus Jesus’ birth was not an incarnation of a spirit, as when the angels materialized fleshly bodies and appeared to men. His birth was a real production of a perfect human child, since his life forces from heaven were perfect. Hence his mind underwent the regular development of any other born child. He knew nothing about his miraculous birth and the circumstances connected with it except what Joseph and Mary his mother could tell him. From this he knew that God was his Father. It was not till he quit carpentering at about thirty years of age and devoted himself exclusively to God’s ministry, symbolizing this step by being baptized, that God’s spirit came upon him. There his memory of his prehuman life in heaven with Jehovah God returned to him. There he was begotten of God as a new creature, for then God’s voice came to him from the heavens: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." - Matt. 3:13-17.
    This was the start, therefore, of Jesus’ return to heaven from which he had come down. It was therefore fitting that the memory of his previous life up there should then come back to him. As he said to the Jews: "What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?" (John 6: 62) So from the time of his anointing with God’s spirit he was no longer just a human Son of God, but was a spiritual Son. Presenting his human life in sacrifice for sinful mankind, he was made God’s High Priest and was called to enter heaven itself to appear in God’s presence, there to offer the value of his human life which he was laying down. Thus, to experience this being born again, from heaven, Jesus did not have to do as Nicodemus suggested, saying: "How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?" (John 3:4) No; but God started Jesus off on a new life as a Son, with a new relationship to God, calling him back to heaven and hence commanding him to lay his human life down forever in sacrifice in behalf of condemned mankind. How Jesus must undertake this sacrificial course in order that a resurrection might come and the dead might live again, he said: "The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. Truly, truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains a single grain; but if it dies, it bears rich fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who cares not for his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, let him follow me, and where I am, there shall my servant also be." (John 12: 23-26, Moffatt) Thus unless he died an innocent death, Jesus would remain alone as a perfect man, without imparting eternal life to others of mankind. But if he did not show selfish love for this earthly life in this world, but laid it down sacrificially in obedience to God’s will, what? Then he would be the means of imparting eternal life to all of mankind that would accept it. Those of men who now became his servants, following in his steps even till death, would be glorified in heaven with him, that where he is, they might be also. He should have many with him enjoying eternal life with him. This would not be by any transmigration of immortal souls, so to speak. It would be by virtue of the ransom sacrifice which he provided as God’s High Priest, and, as a result, by the resurrection of the dead.
    Jesus referred to this life-giving arrangement of God for sinners and this life-giving course of God’s Son for them. After performing a work of healing he said: "For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth him all things that himself doeth: and greater works than these will he show him, that ye may marvel. [What greater works?] For as the Father raiseth the dead and giveth them life, even so the Son also giveth life to whom he will. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live. [Why?] For as the Father hath life in himself, even so gave he to the Son also to have life in himself: and he gave him authority to execute judgment, because he is a son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour cometh, in which all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment." - John 5 : 20, 21, 24-29, Am. Stan. Ver.
    Mark that statement, "As the Father hath life in himself, even so gave he to the Son also to have life in himself." (John 5 : 26, Am. Stan. Vet.) Taken by itself, this would seem to refer to the immortality possessed by Jehovah God the heavenly Father and to the immortality which he conferred upon his Son when resurrecting him from the dead. In harmony with this thought An American Translation renders John 5:26 as follows: "For just as the Father is self-existent, he has given self-existence to the Son." Hence it renders John 6: 53: "I tell you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no self-existent life."
    However in the light of the context, the Father’s having life in himself and the Son’s also having life in himself appears to mean having the power to give life to dying and dead sinners. By consulting any standard Greek dictionary, such as Liddell and Scott’s (Greek-English) or John G. Schneider’s (Greek-German), you will find that in the Greek text of the Bible the word which Jesus used (zo ee) stands in some cases for "a living, that is, means of life". Hence, in harmony with the argument Jesus is making about resurrecting and giving others life, he said : ’As the Father has in himself the means of life for condemned sinners, so he has granted his Son to have in himself the means of life for such sinners.’ In agreement with this line of argument the 1944 translation by the Roman Catholic monsignor, Ronald A. Knox, renders John 5 : 25, 26 as follows : "Believe me, tho time is coming, nay, has already come, when the dead will listen to the voice of the Son of God, and those who listen to it will live. As the Father has within him the gift of life, so he has granted to the Son that he too should have within him the gift of life."
    Other scriptures agree with this, to show that God’s gift of life to sinners is by his Son Jesus Christ. For example, Romans 6: 23, which reads: "Sin’s wage is death, but God’s gift is life eternal in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Moffatt) Jesus himself said: "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live [that is, by a resurrection]: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." Also: "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." (John 11: 25, 26 and 17:3) To illustrate that the means of life was like life-sustaining bread and that the imparting of life to sinners included the resurrecting of the dead, Jesus compared himself to heavenly manna and said: "For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s wilI which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but shouId raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day." - John 6: 33, 38-40.
    Then, to show that faith in his sacrifice of flesh and blood was necessary and that spiritual Israelites must exercise such faith in order to live with him and to dispense the blessings of life to others, Jesus further said: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever." (John 6:53-58) From all this it is clear that the heavenly Father has the means or gift of life for his repentant creatures upon earth. The privilege of being the means of giving life to human sinners God bestows upon his Son. Hence as God the Father raises those already dead in the graves, so his Son does also. (John 5: 21) This giving of life to creatures by the Son is very different from the Son’s activity in heaven when he created all other creatures in the universe, including the perfect man and woman, Adam and Eve on earth. Such creatures had never existed before. When created, they were sinless creatures, in original perfection as God’s handiwork by his Son. But as for giving life to sinful, dying mankind Jesus could not do this life-giving work until God authorized him to do so by his ransom sacrifice.