“Our friend has fallen asleep, but I am traveling there to awaken him.”—JOHN 11:11.
1. What was Martha sure would happen to her brother? (See opening picture.)
MARTHA, a close friend and disciple of Jesus, was grieving. Her brother, Lazarus, had died. Was there anything that could comfort her? Yes. Jesus promised her: “Your brother will rise.” Of course, those words could not take away all her sadness. Yet, Martha trusted Jesus’ promise, and she said: “I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.” (John 11:20-24) She was sure that there would be a resurrection in the future. But then, Jesus performed a miracle. He resurrected Lazarus that very day.
2. Why would you like to have the same conviction that Martha had?
2 We have no reason to expect that Jesus or his Father will resurrect our dead loved ones right now. But are you just as sure as Martha was that there will be a future resurrection for your loved ones? Perhaps you have lost your husband or wife, your mother, your father, a beloved grandparent, or even a precious child. You cannot wait to hug, speak with, and laugh with that dear one. Happily, like Martha, you have good reasons to say, ‘I know that my loved one will rise in the resurrection.’ Still, it is good for each Christian to think about the reasons why we have this conviction.
3, 4. What had Jesus recently done, and how did that strengthen Martha’s confidence?
3 Martha lived near Jerusalem, so she might not have seen Jesus resurrect the son of a widow near Nain in Galilee. However, she probably heard about it. And she probably also heard that Jesus resurrected Jairus’ daughter. Everyone at the girl’s house “knew she had died.” Still, Jesus took her hand and said: “Child, get up!” And immediately she did. (Luke 7:11-17; 8:41, 42, 49-55) Both Martha and her sister, Mary, knew that Jesus could cure the sick. So they believed that if Jesus had been there, Lazarus would not have died. Now that he was dead, though, what did Martha expect? Notice that she said that Lazarus would come back to life in the future, “on the last day.” Why was she so sure? And why can you be sure that in the future, there will be a resurrection that may include your loved ones?
4 There are good reasons to have faith in the resurrection. We will now discuss some of them. In fact, you might find points in God’s Word that you do not often think about but that can strengthen your faith that you will see your loved ones again.
EVENTS THAT GIVE US HOPE!
5. Why was Martha sure that Lazarus would be resurrected?
5 Notice that Martha did not say: ‘I hope my brother will rise.’ She said: “I know he will rise.” Why was Martha so confident? Because she knew about resurrections that had happened in the past. She probably learned about them at home and at the synagogue when she was a child. We will now examine three of those resurrections mentioned in the Scriptures.
6. What miracle had Martha certainly learned about?
6 The first resurrection happened during a time when God was giving the prophet Elijah the power to perform miracles. North of Israel, in a Phoenician town called Zarephath, there was a poor widow who showed hospitality to the prophet. Then, Jehovah performed a miracle. He made sure that her flour and oil did not run out so that she and her son could stay alive. (1 Kings 17:8-16) Later, her son got sick and died. But Elijah helped her. While touching the boy, Elijah prayed to Jehovah: “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 recorded in the Bible. (Read 1 Kings 17:17-24.) Certainly, Martha knew about that remarkable event.
7, 8. (a) How did Elisha comfort a grieving mother? (b) What does Elisha’s miracle prove about Jehovah?
7 The second resurrection recorded in the Bible was performed by the prophet Elisha. In a city called Shunem, there lived an Israelite woman who did not have any children. Because she showed great hospitality to Elisha, Jehovah blessed this woman and her elderly husband with a son. A few years later, though, the boy died. Imagine how sad this mother felt. Her grief was so strong that she traveled 30 kilometers (19 miles) to find Elisha at Mount Carmel. Elisha sent his attendant Gehazi before them to Shunem to resurrect the boy. But Gehazi was not able to bring him back to life. Then the grieving mother arrived home with Elisha.—2 Kings 4:8-31.
God proved that he has the ability to resurrect the dead
8 Elisha went into the house where the dead boy was, and he prayed. Jehovah answered Elisha’s prayer and miraculously brought the boy back to life. When the mother saw her son alive, she was overjoyed! (Read 2 Kings 4:32-37.) Maybe she remembered the words of Hannah’s prayer. Hannah was unable to have a child until Jehovah blessed her with a son, Samuel. Hannah then praised Jehovah because he “brings down to the Grave, and he raises up.” (1 Samuel 2:6) By literally raising up the boy in Shunem, God proved that he has the ability to resurrect the dead.
9. Describe the third resurrection recorded in the Bible.
9 Another amazing event happened after Elisha’s death. He had served as a prophet for over 50 years, and then he “became ill with the sickness from which he eventually died.” Time passed, and all that remained of Elisha were his bones. One day, some Israelites were burying a man. Suddenly, they saw some enemies coming. The Israelites tried to escape as quickly as they could, so they threw the dead man into the grave or tomb of Elisha. The Bible says: “When the man touched the bones of Elisha, he came to life and stood on his feet.” (2 Kings 13:14, 20, 21) These accounts proved to Martha that God has power over death. They should also convince you that God’s power is immense, unlimited.
EVENTS DURING THE APOSTLES’ TIME
10. How did Peter help a Christian sister who had died?
10 The Christian Greek Scriptures also contain accounts of resurrections performed by God’s faithful servants. We already mentioned the resurrections Jesus performed near the city of Nain and at the home of Jairus. Some time later, the apostle Peter resurrected Dorcas, also called Tabitha. Peter came to the room where her body was, prayed, and then said: “Tabitha, rise!” She immediately came to life, and Peter “presented her alive” to the other Christians who were there. This event was so convincing that many in that city “became believers in the Lord.” These new disciples could tell others the good news about Jesus and also tell everyone about Jehovah’s ability to raise the dead.—Acts 9:36-42.
11. What did the doctor Luke report about a young man, and how did that event affect others?
11 There were 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 until midnight. A young man named Eutychus was listening, seated at a window. But he fell asleep and fell from the third story to the ground. Perhaps Luke was the first one to reach Eutychus. As a doctor, he realized that the young man was not simply injured and unconscious. He was dead! Paul also came downstairs. He embraced Eutychus and then amazed everybody, saying: “He is alive.” This miracle deeply affected all those who saw what had happened. Knowing that the young man had died and then was resurrected, they “were comforted beyond measure.”—Acts 20:7-12.
A RELIABLE HOPE
12, 13. Based on the resurrections we have discussed, what questions might we ask?
12 The resurrections we discussed should give you the same confidence that Martha had. We can be confident that our God, the one who has given us life, can bring a dead person back to life. It is interesting that a faithful servant of God, such as Elijah, Jesus, or Peter, was present at each one of those resurrections. And they happened during a time when Jehovah was performing miracles. So, what about those who died at other times, when such miracles were not being performed? Could faithful men and women expect that God would raise the dead in the future? Could they be as confident as Martha was when she said about her brother: “I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day”? Why could she believe that there would be a future resurrection, and why can you?
13 Several accounts in God’s Word show that his loyal servants knew that there would be a resurrection in the future. Let us consider some of these.
14. What does the account about Abraham teach us about the resurrection?
14 Think about what Jehovah asked Abraham to do with Isaac, the son he had waited so long for. Jehovah said: “Take, please, your son, your only son whom you so love, Isaac, and travel to the land of Moriah and offer him up there as a burnt offering.” (Genesis 22:2) How do you think Abraham felt when he heard this command? Jehovah had promised that through Abraham’s descendants all nations would be blessed. (Genesis 13:14-16; 18:18; Romans 4:17, 18) Also, Jehovah said that the blessing would come “through Isaac.” (Genesis 21:12) But how could that happen if Abraham sacrificed his son? Paul was inspired to explain that Abraham believed that God was able to resurrect Isaac. (Read Hebrews 11:17-19.) However, the Bible does not say that Abraham thought that Isaac would come back to life right away, perhaps in a few hours, a day, or even a week. Abraham could not know when his son would be resurrected. But he trusted that Jehovah would bring Isaac back to life.
15. What hope did the faithful man Job have?
15 The faithful man Job also knew that there would be a resurrection in the future. He knew that if a tree is cut down, it can grow again and become like a new tree. But that cannot happen with a man. (Job 14:7-12; 19:25-27) If a man dies, he cannot bring himself back to life. (2 Samuel 12:23; Psalm 89:48) Of course, that did not mean that God could not resurrect a person. In fact, Job believed that Jehovah would remember him. (Read Job 14:13-15.) Job could not know when in the future this would happen. Still, Job trusted that the Creator of human life could and would remember him and resurrect him.
16. What encouragement did an angel give Daniel?
16 Think about another faithful man, Daniel. He was a loyal servant of Jehovah throughout his life, and Jehovah supported him. At one point, an angel called Daniel a “very precious man” and told him to “have peace” and to “be strong.”—Daniel 9:22, 23; 10:11, 18, 19.
17, 18. What did Jehovah promise Daniel?
17 When Daniel was almost 100 years old and near the end of his life, he may have thought about what would happen to him. Did Daniel expect to live again? Absolutely! At the end of the book of Daniel, we read what God promised him: “As for you, go on to the end. You will rest.” (Daniel 12:13) Daniel knew that the dead are at rest and that there is no “planning nor knowledge nor wisdom in the Grave,” where he would soon be. (Ecclesiastes 9:10) Yet, this would not be the end for Daniel. Jehovah gave him a wonderful promise for the future.
18 Jehovah’s angel said to him: “You will stand up for your lot at the end of the days.” Daniel did not know exactly when that would happen. He understood that he would die and then rest. But when Daniel heard the promise, “You will stand up for your lot,” he understood that he would be resurrected in the future. That would happen long after he had died, “at the end of the days.” Or, according to the Jerusalem Bible: “You will rise for your share at the end of time.”
19, 20. (a) What do the events we discussed have to do with Martha’s statement to Jesus? (b) What will we consider in the next article?
19 Clearly, Martha had good reasons to be sure that her faithful brother, Lazarus, would “rise in the resurrection on the last day.” Jehovah’s promise to Daniel, as well as Martha’s strong faith in a future resurrection, should give us confidence today. There will be a resurrection.
20 We have learned about actual resurrections that were performed in the past. These prove that the dead can live again. We have also seen that men and women who served God faithfully expected a future resurrection. However, is there any evidence that a resurrection could happen long after it was promised? If so, that would give us even more reason to look forward to a resurrection in the future. But when would that time be? We will discuss these points in the next article.