“Our friend has fallen asleep, but I am traveling there to awaken him.”—JOHN 11:11.
SONGS: 54, 51
1. What was Martha confident about regarding her brother? (See opening picture.)
JESUS’ close friend and disciple Martha was grieving. Her brother, Lazarus, had died. Could anything ease her sorrow? Yes. Jesus assured her: “Your brother will rise.” That may not have erased all her sadness; yet, Martha accepted Jesus’ assurance. She said: “I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.” (John 11:20-24) She was sure that would occur in the future. Jesus then performed a miracle. He brought Lazarus back to life that very day.
2. Why would you like to have the conviction that Martha had?
2 We have no basis to expect that Jesus or his Father will now perform such a miracle for us. Are you, though, just as sure as Martha was of a future resurrection for a loved one? Maybe it is your deceased mate, your mother, your father, or a beloved grandparent. Or you may be grieving over the loss of a child. You long to hug, to speak with, and to laugh with that dear one. Happily, like Martha, you have good reason to say, ‘I know that my loved one will rise in the resurrection.’ Still, it will do each Christian good to reflect on why that is a valid conviction.
3, 4. How might Martha’s conviction have been strengthened by what Jesus had recently done?
3 It is unlikely that Martha, living near Jerusalem, observed Jesus resurrect the son of a widow near Nain in Galilee. Yet, she had probably heard about it. And it is similar with Jesus’ bringing Jairus’ daughter back to life. Those at the girl’s house “knew she had died.” Still, Jesus took her lifeless hand and said: “Child, get up!” And she did, immediately. (Luke 7:11-17; 8:41, 42, 49-55) Both Martha and her sister, Mary, were aware that Jesus could cure the sick. For that reason, they felt that had Jesus been present, Lazarus would not have died. Now that Jesus’ dear friend was dead, though, what did the future hold? Note that Martha spoke of Lazarus’ coming back to life in the future, “on the last day.” Why could she be certain of that? And why can you be sure that there will be a future resurrection that may include your loved ones?
4 There are good reasons for your conviction. As we review some of them, you might find things in God’s Word that you do not often link with your valid hope of seeing your loved one again.
EVENTS THAT PRODUCE HOPE!
5. What contributed to Martha’s confidence that Lazarus would be resurrected?
5 Note that Martha did not say: ‘I hope that my brother will rise.’ She said: “I know he will rise.” Martha was convinced because of miracles that she likely learned about even before Jesus’ ministry began. She had learned of these as a youth at home and at the synagogue. Three accounts recorded in the inspired Scriptures may come to mind.
6. Elijah performed what outstanding miracle, and how does that relate to Martha?
6 The first resurrection occurred at a time when God was empowering his prophet Elijah to work miracles. Up in Zarephath, a Phoenician coastal town, a poor widow showed hospitality to the prophet. God then miraculously maintained her supply of flour and oil, so that she and her son stayed alive. (1 Ki. 17:8-16) Later, her son got sick and died. Elijah came to her aid. While touching the corpse, Elijah prayed: “God, please, let this child’s life come back into him.” And it happened! God heard Elijah, and the child came back to life. That was the first resurrection of Bible record. (1 Ki. 17:17-24) Martha had certainly learned of that remarkable event.
7, 8. (a) Relate what Elisha did to relieve a woman’s grief. (b) What does Elisha’s miracle prove about Jehovah?
7 The second resurrection related in the Scriptures was performed by Elijah’s successor, the prophet Elisha. A prominent Israelite woman in Shunem showed Elisha exceptional hospitality. Through the prophet, God rewarded this childless woman and her elderly husband with a son. Some years later, the boy died. Imagine the mother’s crushing grief. With her husband’s permission, she traveled about 19 miles (30 km) to Elisha at Mount Carmel. The prophet sent his attendant Gehazi back to Shunem ahead of them. Gehazi was not able to bring the dead boy back to life. Then the grieving mother arrived with Elisha.—2 Ki. 4:8-31.
8 There by the body at the house in Shunem, Elisha prayed. Miraculously, the dead boy came to life and was reunited with his now elated mother! (2 Ki. 4:32-37) She might well have recalled what formerly barren Hannah had prayed when she brought Samuel to serve at the tabernacle: “Jehovah . . . brings down to the Grave, and he raises up.” (1 Sam. 2:6) Clearly, God in a very literal way raised up the boy in Shunem, proving His ability to resurrect.
9. Explain how Elisha was involved in the third resurrection related in the Bible.
9 But that was not the final startling event involving Elisha. He had served for over 50 years as a prophet, and then he “became ill with the sickness from which he eventually died.” Later, when Elisha’s body had been reduced to mere bones, an enemy band came into the land. Some Israelites were on their way to bury a man. Rushing to escape their enemies, they threw the dead man into the grave or tomb where Elisha’s bones lay. We read: “When the man touched the bones of Elisha, he came to life and stood on his feet.” (2 Ki. 13:14, 20, 21) Think what those resurrection accounts would have meant to Martha! God definitely has power over death. And reflect on what they should mean to you. They certainly should convince you that God’s power is vast, unlimited.
EVENTS IN THE FIRST CENTURY
10. How did Peter help a Christian sister who had died?
10 In the Christian Greek Scriptures, we also read that resurrections took place in the presence of God’s representatives. We can see that from the resurrections Jesus performed when outside of Nain and when in the home of Jairus. The apostle Peter was responsible for another one, that of the Christian woman Dorcas (Tabitha). Peter came to where her body was awaiting burial. While near the corpse, Peter prayed. Then, he said: “Tabitha, rise!” She came to life right away, and Peter “presented her alive” to fellow Christians. That event was so convincing that “many became believers in the Lord.” They could testify both in general about the Lord and specifically about Jehovah’s ability to raise the dead.—Acts 9:36-42.
11. What did the physician Luke report happened to a young man, and how did that affect others?
11 Others became eyewitnesses to another resurrection. One time, the apostle Paul was at a meeting in an upper room in Troas, in what is now northwest Turkey. Paul spoke till midnight. A young man named Eutychus was listening, seated at a window. But he dozed off and fell from the third story to the ground below. Perhaps the physician Luke was the first to reach Eutychus, and Luke made a medical assessment: Eutychus was not merely injured and unconscious—he was dead! Paul came downstairs and embraced the corpse, and then he made the dramatic announcement: “He is alive.” What a profound impact that would have had on eyewitnesses! Knowing the facts and grasping that a resurrection had occurred, they “were comforted beyond measure.”—Acts 20:7-12.
A SOLID HOPE
12, 13. In the light of the resurrections discussed, what questions do we need to consider?
12 The accounts mentioned above should give you something that Martha had. That is, assurance that our God and Life-Giver has the ability to bring a dead person back to life. It is interesting, though, that a faithful servant of God, such as Elijah, Jesus, or Peter, was present on each of those occasions, during the time when Jehovah was performing miracles. What can we say, however, about those who died at other times in history? If in a certain era God was not performing resurrections, could faithful men and women expect that God would raise the dead at a future time? Could they feel as did Martha, who said: “I know [my brother] will rise in the resurrection on the last day”? Just why could she believe that, and why can you?
13 There are actually a number of passages in God’s inspired Word that show that Jehovah’s loyal servants knew that a future time of resurrection was in store. Consider a few.
14. We can learn what about the resurrection from the account about Abraham?
14 Think of what God told Abraham to do with Isaac, the long-awaited heir. Jehovah said: “Take, please, your son, your only son whom you so love, Isaac, and . . . offer him up . . . as a burnt offering.” (Gen. 22:2) Imagine the feelings that such a command would stir up. Jehovah had promised that through Abraham’s offspring all nations would be blessed. (Gen. 13:14-16; 18:18; Rom. 4:17, 18) Also, Jehovah said that the blessing would come “through Isaac.” (Gen. 21:12) But how could that occur if Abraham put Isaac to death as a sacrifice? Paul was inspired to explain that Abraham believed that God was able to raise Isaac from the dead. (Read Hebrews 11:17-19.) The Bible does not say that Abraham felt that if he obeyed, in a mere few hours, a day, or a week, Isaac would come back to life. Abraham could not know when his son would be raised to life again. But he trusted that Jehovah would resurrect Isaac.
15. What hope did the patriarch Job express?
15 The patriarch Job similarly looked to a future resurrection. He realized that if a mere tree is cut down, it might sprout again and be like a new plant. Not so with a man. (Job 14:7-12; 19:25-27) If a man dies, he cannot raise himself up from the grave and live again. (2 Sam. 12:23; Ps. 89:48) Of course, that did not mean that God could not resurrect a person. In fact, Job believed that Jehovah would set a time to remember him. (Job 14:13-15) Job could not know when in the future that time would be. Still, he trusted that the One who created human life in the first place could and would remember him and resurrect him.
16. An angel gave the prophet Daniel what encouragement?
16 Daniel is another faithful man whom we know about from the Hebrew Scriptures. He served God loyally for many decades, and Jehovah supported him. At one point, an angelic messenger urged Daniel, that “very precious man,” to “have peace” and “be strong.”—Dan. 9:22, 23; 10:11, 18, 19.
17, 18. Daniel was given what promise about his future?
17 Daniel was almost 100 years old and nearing the end of his life. He might have been thinking about what the future held for him. Would Daniel get to live again? Absolutely! At the end of the book of Daniel, we read God’s assurance to him: “As for you, go on to the end. You will rest.” (Dan. 12:13) Elderly Daniel knew that the dead are at rest, with no “planning nor knowledge nor wisdom in the Grave.” Daniel would soon be going there. (Eccl. 9:10) But that would not be the end of him. He was promised a future.
18 The message to the prophet Daniel continued: “You will stand up for your lot at the end of the days.” No date or length of time was given. Daniel was to come to his end in death and then rest. Yet, saying that he would ‘stand up for his lot’ in the future amounted to a clear promise of a resurrection to come—long after he had died. That would be “at the end of the days.” The Jerusalem Bible renders the promise to Daniel: “You will rise for your share at the end of time.”
19, 20. (a) How does what we have considered so far relate to Martha’s statement to Jesus? (b) What will we yet consider?
19 Martha clearly had reason to be confident that her faithful brother, Lazarus, would “rise in the resurrection on the last day.” The promise given to Daniel, as well as the certainty reflected in Martha’s reply to Jesus, should reassure Christians today. There will be a resurrection.
20 We have seen that actual events in the past prove that a resurrection is possible—the dead can be brought back to life. And men and women who served God anticipated that a resurrection would occur sometime in the future. Is there any indication, however, that a resurrection could take place long after it was promised? If so, that would give us added reason to look forward, as Martha did, to a time of resurrection. Still, when would that happen? Let us address these aspects in the following article.