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A Sure Hope for the Dead

A Sure Hope for the Dead

A 25-year-old woman wrote: “In 1981 my adoptive mother died of cancer. Her death was very hard on me and my adoptive brother. I was 17, and my brother was 11. I missed her so much. Having been taught that she was in heaven, well, I wanted to take my own life to be with her. She was my best friend.”

It seems so unfair that death should have the power to take away someone you love. And when it happens, the thought of never again being able to talk to, laugh with, or hold your loved one can be most difficult to bear. That pain is not necessarily erased by being told that your loved one is up in heaven.

The Bible, however, holds out a much different hope. As we have previously noted, the Scriptures indicate that it is possible to be reunited with your dead loved one in the near future, not in an unknown heaven but right here on earth under peaceful, righteous conditions. And at that time humans will have the prospect of enjoying perfect health, and they will never have to die again. ‘But surely that is wishful thinking!’ some may say.

What would it take to convince you that this is a sure hope? To believe in a promise, you would need to be certain that the one making the promise is both willing and able to fulfill it. Who, then, is it that promises that the dead will live again?

In the spring of 31 C.E., Jesus Christ boldly promised: “Just as the Father raises the dead up and makes them alive, so the Son also makes those alive whom he wants to. Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his [Jesus’] voice and come out.” (John 5:21, 28, 29) Yes, Jesus Christ promised that millions now dead will live again on this earth and have the prospect of remaining on it forever under peaceful, paradisaic conditions. (Luke 23:43; John 3:16; 17:3; compare Psalm 37:29 and Matthew 5:5.) Since Jesus made the promise, it is safe to assume that he is willing to fulfill it. But is he able to do so?

Less than two years after making that promise, Jesus demonstrated in a powerful way that he is both willing and able to perform the resurrection.

“Lazarus, Come On Out!”

It was a touching scene. Lazarus was gravely ill. His two sisters, Mary and Martha, sent word to Jesus, who was across the Jordan River: “Lord, see! the one for whom you have affection is sick.” (John 11:3) They knew that Jesus loved Lazarus. Would not Jesus want to see his sick friend? Curiously, instead of going to Bethany immediately, Jesus stayed where he was for the next two days.​—John 11:5, 6.

Lazarus died some time after the message about his sickness was sent. Jesus knew when Lazarus died, and he intended to do something about it. By the time Jesus finally arrived in Bethany, his dear friend had been dead four days. (John 11:17, 39) Could Jesus bring back to life someone who had been dead that long?

On hearing that Jesus was coming, Martha, a woman of action, ran out to meet him. (Compare Luke 10:38-42.) Touched by her sorrow, Jesus assured her: “Your brother will rise.” When she indicated her faith in a future resurrection, Jesus plainly told her: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life.”​—John 11:20-25.

Upon arriving at the tomb, Jesus directed that the stone closing its entrance be taken away. Then, after praying aloud, he commanded: “Lazarus, come on out!”​—John 11:38-43.

All eyes were fixed on the tomb. Then, out of the darkness, a figure emerged. His feet and hands were bound with wrappings, and his face was bound with a cloth. “Loose him and let him go,” ordered Jesus. The last of the unraveled bandages fell to the ground. Yes, it was Lazarus, the man who had been dead four days!​—John 11:44.

Did It Really Happen?

The account of the raising of Lazarus is presented in the Gospel of John as a historical fact. The details are too vivid for it to be a mere allegory. To question its historicity is to question all the miracles of the Bible, including the resurrection of Jesus Christ himself. And to deny the resurrection of Jesus is to deny the Christian faith as a whole.​—1 Corinthians 15:13-15.

Actually, if you accept the existence of God, you should have no problem believing in the resurrection. To illustrate: A person can videotape his last will and testament, and after he dies, his relatives and friends can see and hear him, in effect, as he explains how his estate is to be handled. A hundred years ago, such a thing was unthinkable. And to some people now living in remote parts of the world, the technology of video recording is so beyond comprehension as to seem miraculous. If scientific principles established by the Creator can be used by humans to reconstruct such a visible and audible scene, should not the Creator be able to do far more? Is it not reasonable, then, that the One who created life is capable of re-creating it?

The miracle of Lazarus’ restoration to life served to increase faith in Jesus and the resurrection. (John 11:41, 42; 12:9-11, 17-19) In a touching way, it also reveals the willingness and desire of Jehovah and his Son to perform the resurrection.

‘God Will Have a Yearning’

The response of Jesus to Lazarus’ death reveals a very tender side of the Son of God. His deep feelings on this occasion clearly indicate his intense desire to resurrect the dead. We read: “Mary, when she arrived where Jesus was and caught sight of him, fell at his feet, saying to him: ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ Jesus, therefore, when he saw her weeping and the Jews that came with her weeping, groaned in the spirit and became troubled; and he said: ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him: ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus gave way to tears. Therefore the Jews began to say: ‘See, what affection he used to have for him!’”​—John 11:32-36.

Jesus’ heartfelt compassion is here indicated by three expressions: “groaned,” “became troubled,” and “gave way to tears.” The original-language words used in recording this touching scene indicate that Jesus was so deeply moved by the death of his dear friend Lazarus and the sight of Lazarus’ sister weeping that His eyes brimmed over with tears. *

What is so remarkable is that Jesus had previously brought two others back to life. And he fully intended to do the same with Lazarus. (John 11:11, 23, 25) Yet, he “gave way to tears.” Restoring humans to life, then, is not a mere procedure for Jesus. His tender and deep feelings as manifested on this occasion clearly indicate his intense desire to undo the ravages of death.

Jesus’ tender feelings when resurrecting Lazarus reflected his intense desire to undo the ravages of death

Since Jesus is ‘the exact representation of Jehovah God’s very being,’ we rightly expect no less of our heavenly Father. (Hebrews 1:3) Of Jehovah’s own willingness to perform the resurrection, the faithful man Job said: “If an able-bodied man dies can he live again? . . . You will call, and I myself shall answer you. For the work of your hands you will have a yearning.” (Job 14:14, 15) Here the original-language word that is rendered “you will have a yearning” denotes God’s earnest longing and desire. (Genesis 31:30; Psalm 84:2) Clearly, Jehovah must keenly anticipate the resurrection.

Can we really believe the resurrection promise? Yes, there is no doubt that Jehovah and his Son are both willing and able to fulfill it. What does this mean for you? You have the prospect of being reunited with dead loved ones right here on earth but under very different conditions!

Jehovah God, who started mankind off in a lovely garden, has promised to restore Paradise on this earth under the rule of His heavenly Kingdom in the hands of the now glorified Jesus Christ. (Genesis 2:7-9; Matthew 6:10; Luke 23:42, 43) In that restored Paradise, the human family will have the prospect of enjoying life without end, free from all sickness and disease. (Revelation 21:1-4; compare Job 33:25; Isaiah 35:5-7.) Gone, too, will be all hatred, racial prejudice, ethnic violence, and economic oppression. It will be into such a cleansed earth that Jehovah God through Jesus Christ will resurrect the dead.

The resurrection, based on the ransom sacrifice of Christ Jesus, will bring joy to all the nations

That is now the hope of the Christian woman mentioned at the beginning of this section. Several years after her mother died, Jehovah’s Witnesses helped her to make a careful study of the Bible. She recalls: “After learning about the resurrection hope, I cried. It was wonderful to know that I will see my mother again.”

If your heart similarly yearns to see a loved one again, Jehovah’s Witnesses will gladly assist you to learn how you can make this sure hope your very own.

^ par. 20 The Greek word rendered “groaned” is from a verb (em·bri·maʹo·mai) that signifies to be painfully, or deeply, moved. One Bible scholar notes: “Here it can only mean that such deep emotion seized Jesus that an involuntary groan was wrung from His heart.” The expression translated “troubled” comes from a Greek word (ta·rasʹso) that indicates agitation. According to a lexicographer, it means “to cause one inward commotion, . . . to affect with great pain or sorrow.” The expression “gave way to tears” comes from a Greek verb (da·kryʹo) that means “to shed tears, weep silently.”