Jehovah`s Witness/Biblical interpretation
QUESTION: Hello Mr Brenton Hepburn.
I have some questions that I cant find answer to. Im simply disappointed by all christian answers in this subject.
The Bible is almost the same(no matter the different translations) but each christian group may have a different interpretation in a subject. Each group claims this or that interpretation is the correct one, because they are guided by God's spirit.
1)But if interpretations have changed through the years how God's spirit guided people to make the previous and false one or even return back to the previous that is considered again correct? Would Holy Spirit play games guiding people back forth?
2)Could it be Bible's fault why people cant have a CLEAR interpretation so that no thousands of different views exist? Wouldnt it be better if the writers made crystal clear their words?
3)I have heard christians use the following reasoning "The Bible cant contradict itself so it doesnt contradict itself". I think this is circular reasoning. I know that if Bible writers express two different opinions in the same subject, then its not Gods word but their words, but the above reasoning is false. Noone can begin with the assumption that the Bible cant contradict itself. It must really not contradict itself and win the test despite the fact it has been written by different people of different times, cultures, positions etc.
ANSWER: Hello Chris,
Thank you from writing.
You have asked some very interesting questions, I hope that you will be able to follow my reasoning’s on these
First I do not know of any contradictions in the Bible. There are some places the appear to some to be contradictions, but when I have examined the claims I personally find none. If you have any particular places in mind, let me know.
Now you said - “ The Bible is almost the same(no matter the different translations) but each christian group may have a different interpretation in a subject” - and - “Wouldn't it be better if the writers made crystal clear their words?” -
I do not know of any Bible that is absolutely 100% error free from the original writings. For one thing, none of the original writings exist, only copies of copies. By careful comparison most errors have been eliminated. However even the few “MASTER” texts that Bible Translators use have slight differences in them. Another thing is that there is not one Bible that I know of that is free from theological bias in some form by the translators. There are passages where the translator must discern the intent of the original writer and translate accordingly. “Basic” Bible truths are found in all the Bibles. But some Bibles make it difficult to find them.
In general, the original writers did make it clear as to what they were saying. It would appear from the words of Daniel that the understanding of prophecy would not be found or understood until some time well in the future of his writing. He was told “shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (Daniel 12:4
). Poor translation - either by innocent mistake or deliberate attempt to change the meaning – has resulted in confusion in understanding on many basic Bible topics.
You said - “ Each group claims this or that interpretation is the correct one, because they are guided by God's spirit”-
I think that is the point of any religion. All Christian based religions say that they have the correct path. It depends on what they mean when they say “they are guided by God's spirit”. Do they mean that Gods holy spirit actually leads the people in understanding in the same way as a literal guide will lead someone to a destination. Personally, I do not agree with the idea that Gods holy spirit actually is involved in leading like a guide leads a person.
My understanding is that since the Bible was written under the influence of the holy spirit, then the holy spirit was the actual guide that lead the writer to write what they did. The Bible now becomes the guide. If and when we follow the Bible we are being guided by the spirit.
The problem as I see it, is, that before the Bible was “officially” put together, the Christian way of thinking had been compromised by pagan influences, So when the Bible cannon was finally compiled, pagan ideologies had taken a strong hold over Christian teaching. When the Bible was finally allowed to be translated into the common language of the people, the wrong ideologies that prevailed influenced the way the Bible was rendered. But that is not the only problem. The “master texts” used by translators of say the King James Bible were not as accurate as later “master texts”. Since the time of the KJV being made, more old manuscripts had been found, dating back many centuries. Comparisons with the older manuscripts showed up minor errors in the ones that were used by the KJV translators. Also the more scholars examined the old languages the better the understanding of those languages become. Even though the modern Bibles are more accurate that the ones like the JKV, they all have some
theological bias to them.
What do JWs mean when they say that they are guided by holy spirit in understanding the Bible? We do not mean that the holy spirit is actually involved in leading of guiding understanding. Let me illustrate this in the way we say that the men that are given the responsibility of being “elders” are “appointed by holy spirit”
This is from a 2001 Watchtower article of January 15 (Bold and underline mine)
“How is it that the holy spirit plays a pivotal role? First of all
, the record that sets out requirements
for spiritual oversight was inspired by holy spirit
. In his letters to Timothy and Titus, Paul outlined the standards to be met by overseers and ministerial servants. Altogether, he mentioned some 16 different requirements. For instance, overseers were to be irreprehensible, moderate in habits, sound in mind, orderly, hospitable, qualified to teach, and exemplary as family heads. They were to be balanced in the use of alcoholic beverages, were not to be lovers of money, and were to exercise self-control. Similarly, high standards were set for men reaching out for appointment as ministerial servants.—1 Timothy 3:1-10, 12, 13; Titus 1:5-9 ......Those meeting the Scriptural requirements
at the time of their appointment as overseers or ministerial servants may thus be said to have been appointed by holy spirit
Do you see the pint there. Because the Bible is inspired, and by displaying the qualities (at the time of their appointment), that is changing their lives to conform to the inspired qualifications, it is said that those men are “appointed by holy spirit”.
Very few religions are willing to change their understandings on different Bible subjects. They are happy to sit where they are.
Over the decades that I have been a JW there have been many changes in organisation procedures and understandings of different Bible passages. I would say that most of them have come about because of following the advice of Paul to the Hebrews “12 For, indeed, although YOU ought to be teachers in view of the time, YOU again need someone to teach YOU from the beginning the elementary things of the sacred pronouncements of God; and YOU have become such as need milk, not solid food. 13 For everyone that partakes of milk is unacquainted with the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to mature people
, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained
to distinguish both right and wrong. (Hebrews 5:11-14
). By continuing to carefully examine the way words were used by the original writers, knowledge increases. That is we continue to build on what we already know. That is just the same with, say medicine. Would you go to a doctor for an open heart operation that still used the best techniques that were used in the 1950's, or, would you go to a doctor that continues to keep up with new developments and uses the best practice of today?
That is the way I see religions. Most religions are stuck in the ideas of long ago. JWs continue to build on the knowledge that they have. By doing that they are letting the holy spirit, as it is in Gods word direct them. As individuals, we also understand that when we read something in the Bible that shows that our conduct or aspect of our life, is not in harmony with what God has recorded in his word, and we change our way of life to conform to the Gods requirements, then we say that the holy spirit is guiding us.
If you want to know what the Bible really teaches you have to be wiling to let it guide you. When I have study a particular theological idea I will use several Bibles as well as Hebrew and Greek dictionaries. Differences in Bible versions are often subtle but enough difference to lead one to a different conclusion.
So …. “ how [can] God's spirit guided people to make the previous and false one or even return back to the previous that is considered again correct?”... That is because Gods holy spirit does not actually guide anyone, otherwise they would be inspired. The last inspired person was the the apostle John, the last Bible writer. Understandings change if the Bible is very carefully followed and examined
. When one grows in knowledge of word usage and get better understandings of word meanings, we grow.
To illustrate the importance of understanding word usage. To most people the word “wicked” referees to something terrible. A few years back the word “wicked” when used in the moist part by teenagers, meant something good. My son, when he was in high school, would say something like “that was a really wicked movie” - By that he meant he enjoyed the movie. Now imagine at some future time a scholar finds an essay written by a teenager that uses “wicked” in that way. How is he going to understand what was meant? He could easily come to the opposite conclusion to what was intended. As the scholar learnt more about the way that person used “wicked” he would eventually come to the correct understanding.
The same with so many words. The TV cartoon series of the 1960's called “The Flintstones” had in the theme music the words “You will have a gay old time”. When another child of mine was learning music, they were given a TV Medley to learn and the words had changed slightly “You will have a happy old time”. The every day usage of the word “gay” had changed, and the primary school students were taught to use a different word.
Understanding what the Bible says will continue to develop. When writing his first letter to the Corinthians Paul said . . .” 9 For we have partial knowledge
and we prophesy partially; 10 but when that which is complete arrives, that which is partial will be done away with. 11 When I was a babe, I used to speak as a babe, to think as a babe, to reason as a babe; but now that I have become a man, I have done away with the [traits] of a babe. 12 For at present we see in hazy outline
by means of a metal mirror, but then it will be face to face. At present I know partially
, but then I shall know accurately even as I am accurately known. . .(1 Corinthians 13:9-12
) The context shows that Paul was referring to knowledge. Even as an inspired Bible writer he tells us his knowledge is hazy, but at some future time full knowledge would be abundant. We do not yet have full knowledge, so it must continue to grow
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: I think I understand what you say. God's spirit dont tell you the correct meaning, but guides to do what you do.
I see neither a contraction between the books of OT nor between the ones of NT. The "contradictions" in New Testament times were conflicts among the first christians, that were solved by God's spirit.
I dont even think there are contradictions between OT and NT, but I believe that people of the OT had some different beliefs than early christians. Of course these were THEIR OWN beliefs from what they understand and not God's words, otherwise the Bible contradicts itself!
For example in the OT Solomon says that man returns to dust and he is gone forever. God had told that man returns to dust but is this the end forever? In the NT Paul says he prefers to depart in order to be with the Lord, not 2000 years after but in the near future after he says these words. I dont think Paul believed that -Hey, Jesus will resurrect me after 2000 years to be with Him" in the Heavenly Kingdom.
Anyway, we see a difference in destination. One of them says total annihilation, the other spiritual department and resurrection. Surely Solomon had not the ideas of Paul. Theres only a verse in the end of the book(!) that talks about judgement for every good or bad work. This is only found 1 time during the whole book, sounds like someone added this line some centuries later because of newer revelation? Then, we have a judgement according to works, good or bad. Did Paul teach such a thing?
I DONT say Solomon is wrong, but it seems these words are HIS OWN or this was the BEST REVELATION OF HIS TIME. It is NOT INCORRECT but incomplete since it gives no hope. He doesnt use the phrase THUS SAYS THE LORD. He expresses his feelings for the awful vanity of human's life, but without hope. The hope seems lost forever. I greatly admire Solomon's book and it reminds me of Epic of Gilgamesh which is another great work for the vanity of mortals, but at the end theres no hope given!Everything is lost. It is plainly stated that humans do not possess the destiny of Gods, they work in misery and die in contrast with Gods who are immortal and dont need to work. We are told that we will never find the life we search - eternal life. Solomon, Hesiod, Gilgamesh ancient people BEFORE 6TH CENTURY all express the same idea. No hope for mortals after death. It is VERY true but theres no hope given and is different than NT savior Jesus Christ.
If JWs progress in knowledge, why do they keep OT view and why do you consider wise Solomon's words as God's words?
Thank you for the follow up and the questions. I wished I had the ability to summarise an answer for you in a reasonably brief reply. I see so many different subjects covering our understanding life and death that I find it very difficult to summarise it. To understand where we see how it all fits together we need to understand what Gods purpose is for the earth, why we grow old and die, the meaning of the word “soul”, what is “Life”, the “Resurrection” and why Paul had a heavenly hope. I have been told I give too much information so please forgive me if I go overboard. I am doing this because I have assumed that you do not know what it is that JWs believe on this matter, so I am trying to fill in the details. If the information raises more questions please ask
First of you say ….“I believe that people of the OT had some different beliefs than early christians. Of course these were THEIR OWN beliefs from what they understand and not God's words, otherwise the Bible contradicts itself!”
We do not see the differences as being different beliefs, but different in knowledge. The apostles were granted extra knowledge than what the OT writers had. The NT writers not only built on previous knowledge, but had new knowledge given them.
The first thing to remember is that we believe the words of Paul to Timothy that “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight. . .”(2 Timothy 3:16
) . We see no contradiction in what Solomon wrote as opposed to what Paul mentioned
At the moment I am pushed for time so I am going to cut and past information first of all about our understanding of what the “soul” is as well as the “spirit” then on “Life” as well as the “Resurrection”. Then I will give some details on how we understand Paul's hope. Through this material I hope that you will pick up on the way that examining ancient words more closely has lead to greater (clearer) understanding. I apologize for not being a more personal response
All the information below is available on line at http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/lv/r1/lp-e/0/19362
Many of the topics covered below have links to other related topics
In the Bible, “soul” is translated from the Hebrew ne′phesh and the Greek psy·khe′. Bible usage shows the soul to be a person or an animal or the life that a person or an animal enjoys. To many persons, however, “soul” means the immaterial or spirit part of a human being that survives the death of the physical body. Others understand it to be the principle of life. But these latter views are not Bible teachings.
What does the Bible say that helps us to understand what the soul is?
Gen. 2:7: “Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be a living soul.” (Notice that this does not say that man was given a soul but that he became a soul, a living person.) (The part of the Hebrew word here rendered “soul” is ne′phesh. KJ, AS, and Dy agree with that rendering. RS, JB, NAB read “being.” NE says “creature.” Kx reads “person.”)
1 Cor. 15:45: “It is even so written: ‘The first man Adam became a living soul.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” (So the Christian Greek Scriptures agree with the Hebrew Scriptures as to what the soul is.) (The Greek word here translated “soul” is the accusative case of psy·khe′. KJ, AS, Dy, JB, NAB, and Kx also read “soul.” RS, NE, and TEV say “being.”)
1 Pet. 3:20: “In Noah’s days . . . a few people, that is, eight souls, were carried safely through the water.” (The Greek word here translated “souls” is psy·khai′, the plural form of psy·khe′. KJ, AS, Dy, and Kx also read “souls.” JB and TEV say “people”; RS, NE, and NAB use “persons.”)
Gen. 9:5: “Besides that, your blood of your souls [or, “lives”; Hebrew, from ne′phesh] shall I ask back.” (Here the soul is said to have blood.)
Josh. 11:11: “They went striking every soul [Hebrew, ne′phesh] that was in it with the edge of the sword.” (The soul is here shown to be something that can be touched by the sword, so these souls could not have been spirits.)
Where does the Bible say that animals are souls?
Gen. 1:20, 21, 24, 25: “God went on to say: ‘Let the waters swarm forth a swarm of living souls* . . . ’ And God proceeded to create the great sea monsters and every living soul that moves about, which the waters swarmed forth according to their kinds, and every winged flying creature according to its kind. . . . And God went on to say: ‘Let the earth put forth living souls according to their kinds . . . ’ And God proceeded to make the wild beast of the earth according to its kind and the domestic animal according to its kind and every moving animal of the ground according to its kind.” (*In Hebrew the word here is ne′phesh. Ro reads “soul.” Some translations use the rendering “creature[s].”)
Lev. 24:17, 18: “In case a man strikes any soul [Hebrew, ne′phesh] of mankind fatally, he should be put to death without fail. And the fatal striker of the soul [Hebrew, ne′phesh] of a domestic animal should make compensation for it, soul for soul.” (Notice that the same Hebrew word for soul is applied to both mankind and animals.)
Rev. 16:3: “It became blood as of a dead man, and every living soul* died, yes, the things in the sea.” (Thus the Christian Greek Scriptures also show animals to be souls.) (*In Greek the word here is psy·khe′. KJ, AS, and Dy render it “soul.” Some translators use the term “creature” or “thing.”)
Do other scholars who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses acknowledge that this is that the Bible says the soul is?
“There is no dichotomy [division] of body and soul in the O[ld] T[estament]. The Israelite saw things concretely, in their totality, and thus he considered men as persons and not as composites. The term nepeš [ne′phesh], though translated by our word soul, never means soul as distinct from the body or the individual person. . . . The term [psy·khe′] is the N[ew] T[estament] word corresponding with nepeš. It can mean the principle of life, life itself, or the living being.”—New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967), Vol. XIII, pp. 449, 450.
“The Hebrew term for ‘soul’ (nefesh, that which breathes) was used by Moses . . . , signifying an ‘animated being’ and applicable equally to nonhuman beings. . . . New Testament usage of psychē (‘soul’) was comparable to nefesh.”—The New Encyclopædia Britannica (1976), Macropædia, Vol. 15, p. 152.
“The belief that the soul continues its existence after the dissolution of the body is a matter of philosophical or theological speculation rather than of simple faith, and is accordingly nowhere expressly taught in Holy Scripture.”—The Jewish Encyclopedia (1910), Vol. VI, p. 564.
Can the human soul die?
Ezek. 18:4: “Look! All the souls—to me they belong. As the soul of the father so likewise the soul of the son—to me they belong. The soul* that is sinning—it itself will die.” (*Hebrew reads “the ne′phesh.” KJ, AS, RS, NE, and Dy render it “the soul.” Some translations say “the man” or “the person.”)
Matt. 10:28: “Do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul [or, “life”]; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul* and body in Gehenna.” (*Greek has the accusative case of psy·khe′. KJ, AS, RS, NE, TEV, Dy, JB, and NAB all render it “soul.”)
Acts 3:23: “Indeed, any soul [Greek, psy·khe′] that does not listen to that Prophet will be completely destroyed from among the people.”
Is the soul the same as the spirit?
Eccl. 12:7: “Then the dust returns to the earth just as it happened to be and the spirit [or, life-force; Hebrew, ru′ach] itself returns to the true God who gave it.” (Notice that the Hebrew word for spirit is ru′ach; but the word translated soul is ne′phesh. The text does not mean that at death the spirit travels all the way to the personal presence of God; rather, any prospect for the person to live again rests with God. In similar usage, we may say that, if required payments are not made by the buyer of a piece of property, the property “returns” to its owner.) (KJ, AS, RS, NE, and Dy all here render ru′ach as “spirit.” NAB reads “life breath.”)
Eccl. 3:19: “There is an eventuality as respects the sons of mankind and an eventuality as respects the beast, and they have the same eventuality. As the one dies, so the other dies; and they all have but one spirit [Hebrew, ru′ach].” (Thus both mankind and beasts are shown to have the same ru′ach, or spirit....)
Heb. 4:12: “The word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul [Greek, psy·khes′; “life,” NE] and spirit [Greek, pneu′ma·tos], and of joints and their marrow, and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Observe that the Greek word for “spirit” is not the same as the word for “soul.”)
Does conscious life continue for a person after the spirit leaves the body?
Ps. 146:4: “His spirit [Hebrew, from ru′ach] goes out, he goes back to his ground; in that day his thoughts do perish.” (NAB, Ro, Yg, and Dy [145:4] here render ru′ach as “spirit.” Some translations say “breath.”) (Also Psalm 104:29)
An active condition that distinguishes plants, animals, humans, and spirit beings from inanimate objects. Physical living things generally have the capabilities of growth, metabolism, response to external stimuli, and reproduction. Vegetation has active life but not life as a sense-possessing soul. In earthly souls, animal and human, there are both active life-force to animate them and breath to sustain that life-force.
Life in the fullest sense, as applied to intelligent persons, is perfect existence with the right to it. The human soul is not immortal. But faithful servants of God have the prospect of everlasting life in perfection—on earth for many, in heaven for a “little flock” as heirs of the Kingdom of God. Upon their resurrection to spirit life, members of the Kingdom class are also granted immortality, a quality of life that does not need to be sustained by any created thing.
What is the purpose of human life?
Basic to having purpose in our lives is recognition of the Source of life. If life were the product of mindless chance, our existence would, of necessity, be without purpose, and there would be no dependable future for which we could plan. But Acts 17:24, 25, 28 informs us: “The God that made the world and all the things in it . . . gives to all persons life and breath and all things. For by him we have life and move and exist.” Revelation 4:11, which is addressed to God, adds: “You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created.” (See also pages 145-151, under the main heading “God.”)
Frustration results from a life course that conflicts with the Creator’s requirements and his guidelines for happiness. Galatians 6:7, 8 warns: “Do not be misled: God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap; because he who is sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh.”—Also Galatians 5:19-21.
The inheritance of sin from Adam prevents humans from having at present full enjoyment of life as God purposed at the beginning. Romans 8:20 states that, as a result of divine judgment following Adam’s sin, “the creation [humankind] was subjected to futility.” Regarding his own situation as a sinful human, the apostle Paul wrote: “I am fleshly, sold under sin. For the good that I wish I do not do, but the bad that I do not wish is what I practice. I really delight in the law of God according to the man I am within, but I behold in my members another law warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive to sin’s law that is in my members. Miserable man that I am!”—Rom. 7:14, 19, 22-24.
We find the greatest happiness possible now and our lives take on richness of meaning when we apply Bible principles and put first the doing of God’s will. We do not enrich God by serving him; he teaches us ‘to benefit ourselves.’ (Isa. 48:17) The Bible counsels: “Become steadfast, unmovable, always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in connection with the Lord.”—1 Cor. 15:58.
The Bible sets before us the prospect of eternal life in perfection if we put faith in Jehovah’s provisions for life and walk in his ways. That hope is solidly based; it will not lead to disappointment; activity in harmony with that hope can fill our lives with real meaning even now.—John 3:16; Titus 1:2; 1 Pet. 2:6.
Were humans made simply to live for a few years and then die?
Gen. 2:15-17: “Jehovah God proceeded to take the man [Adam] and settle him in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and to take care of it. And Jehovah God also laid this command upon the man: ‘From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.’” (God here spoke of death, not as an unavoidable circumstance, but as what would result from sin. He was urging Adam to avoid it. Compare Romans 6:23.)
Gen. 2:8, 9: “Jehovah God planted a garden in Eden, toward the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. Thus Jehovah God made to grow out of the ground every tree desirable to one’s sight and good for food and also the tree of life in the middle of the garden.” (After Adam’s sin the human pair were driven out of Eden so that they would not eat from the tree of life, according to Genesis 3:22, 23. So it seems that if Adam had remained obedient to his Creator, God would in time have permitted him to eat from that tree as a symbol of his having proved worthy to live forever. The presence of the tree of life in Eden pointed to such a prospect.)
Ps. 37:29: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.” (This promise makes it clear that God’s basic purpose regarding the earth and mankind has not changed.)
But in our own case today, is a brief existence, often marred by suffering, what life is meant to be?
Rom. 5:12: “Through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (That is what all of us inherited, not because God purposed it, but because of Adam’s sin.) (See also the main heading “Fate.”)
Job 14:1: “Man, born of woman, is short-lived and glutted with agitation.” (To a large extent that characterizes life in this imperfect system of things.)
However, even under these circumstances our lives can be richly rewarding, filled with meaning. See the material on pages 243, 244 on the purpose of human life.
On what basis can anyone hope to have more than his present brief human existence?
Matt. 20:28: “The Son of man [Jesus Christ] came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.”
John 3:16: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”
Heb. 5:9: “After he [Jesus Christ] had been made perfect he became responsible for everlasting salvation to all those obeying him.” (Also John 3:36)
How will the prospects for future life be realized?
Acts 24:15: “I have hope toward God, which hope these men themselves also entertain, that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (This will include persons who faithfully served God in the past as well as the large number who never knew enough about the true God to accept or to reject his ways.)
John 11:25, 26: “Jesus said to her [the sister of a man whom he thereafter restored to life]: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life; and everyone that is living and exercises faith in me will never die at all. Do you believe this?’” (So, besides the hope of resurrection, Jesus held out something else for persons living when the present wicked world comes to its end. Those with the hope of being earthly subjects of God’s Kingdom have the prospect of surviving and never dying at all.)
Is there any evidence in the makeup of the human body that it was designed to live forever?
It is widely recognized that the capacity of the human brain far exceeds any use to which we put it during our present lifetime, whether we live to 70 or even 100 years of age. The Encyclopædia Britannica states that the human brain “is endowed with considerably more potential than is realizable in the course of one person’s lifetime.” (1976, Vol. 12, p. 998) Scientist Carl Sagan states that the human brain could hold information that “would fill some twenty million volumes, as many as in the world’s largest libraries.” (Cosmos, 1980, p. 278) Regarding the capacity of the human brain’s “filing system,” biochemist Isaac Asimov wrote that it is “perfectly capable of handling any load of learning and memory which the human being is likely to put upon it—and a billion times more than that quantity, too.”—The New York Times Magazine, October 9, 1966, p. 146. (Why was the human brain endowed with such a capacity if it was not to be used? Is it not reasonable that humans, with the capacity for endless learning, were actually designed to live forever?)
A·na′sta·sis, the Greek word translated “resurrection,” literally means “a standing up again” and it refers to a rising up from death. The fuller expression “resurrection of (from) the dead” is used repeatedly in the Scriptures. (Matt. 22:31; Acts 4:2; 1 Cor. 15:12) The Hebrew is techi·yath′ ham·me·thim′, which means “revival of the dead.” (Matt. 22:23, ftn, NW Reference edition) Resurrection involves a reactivating of the life pattern of the individual, which life pattern God has retained in his memory. According to God’s will for the individual, the person is restored in either a human or a spirit body and yet retains his personal identity, having the same personality and memories as when he died. The provision for resurrection of the dead is a magnificent expression of Jehovah’s undeserved kindness; it displays his wisdom and power and is a means by which his original purpose regarding the earth will be carried out.
Is the resurrection a reuniting of an immaterial soul with the physical body?
For this to be possible, of course, humans would have to have an immaterial soul that could separate from the physical body. The Bible does not teach such a thing. That notion was borrowed from Greek philosophy.
Who will be resurrected to share heavenly life with Christ, and what will they do there?
Luke 12:32: “Have no fear, little flock, because your Father has approved of giving you the kingdom.” (These do not include all who have exercised faith; the number is limited. Their being in heaven is for a purpose.)
Rev. 20:4, 6: “I saw thrones, and there were those who sat down on them, and power of judging was given them. . . . Happy and holy is anyone having part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no authority, but they will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.”
Will those raised to heavenly life eventually have glorified physical bodies there?
Phil. 3:20, 21: “The Lord Jesus Christ . . . will refashion our humiliated body to be conformed to his glorious body according to the operation of the power that he has.” (Does this mean that it is their body of flesh that will eventually be made glorious in the heavens? Or does it mean that, instead of having a lowly body of flesh, they will be clothed with a glorious spirit body when raised to heavenly life? Let the following scripture answer.)
1 Cor. 15:40, 42-44, 47-50: “There are heavenly bodies, and earthly bodies; but the glory of the heavenly bodies is one sort, and that of the earthly bodies is a different sort. So also is the resurrection of the dead. . . . It is sown a physical body, it is raised up a spiritual body. . . . The first man [Adam] is out of the earth and made of dust; the second man [Jesus Christ] is out of heaven. As the one made of dust is, so those made of dust are also; and as the heavenly one is, so those who are heavenly are also. And just as we have borne the image of the one made of dust, we shall bear also the image of the heavenly one. However, this I say, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom.” (There is no allowance here for any mixing of the two sorts of bodies or the taking of a fleshly body to heaven.)
How did Jesus demonstrate what resurrection will mean for mankind in general?
John 11:11, 14-44: “[Jesus said to his disciples:] ‘Lazarus our friend has gone to rest, but I am journeying there to awaken him from sleep.’ . . . Jesus said to them outspokenly: ‘Lazarus has died.’ . . . When Jesus arrived, he found he [Lazarus] had already been four days in the memorial tomb. . . . Jesus said to her [Martha, a sister of Lazarus]: ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’ . . . He cried out with a loud voice: ‘Lazarus, come on out!’ The man that had been dead came out with his feet and hands bound with wrappings, and his countenance was bound about with a cloth. Jesus said to them: ‘Loose him and let him go.’” (If Jesus had thus called Lazarus back from a state of bliss in another life, that would have been no kindness. But Jesus’ raising Lazarus up from a lifeless state was a kindness both to him and to his sisters. Once again Lazarus became a living human.)
Mark 5:35-42: “Some men from the home of the presiding officer of the synagogue came and said: ‘Your daughter died! Why bother the teacher any longer?’ But Jesus, overhearing the word being spoken, said to the presiding officer of the synagogue: ‘Have no fear, only exercise faith.’ . . . He took along the young child’s father and mother and those with him, and he went in where the young child was. And, taking the hand of the young child, he said to her: ‘Tal′i·tha cu′mi,’ which, translated, means: ‘Maiden, I say to you, Get up!’ And immediately the maiden rose and began walking, for she was twelve years old. And at once they were beside themselves with great ecstasy.” (When the general resurrection takes place on earth during Christ’s Millennial Reign, doubtless many millions of parents and their offspring will be overjoyed when they are reunited.)
What prospects will await those raised to life on earth?
Luke 23:43: “Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.” (All the earth will be transformed into a paradise under the rule of Christ as King.)
Rev. 20:12, 13: “I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened. But another scroll was opened; it is the scroll of life. And the dead were judged out of those things written in the scrolls according to their deeds. . . . They were judged individually according to their deeds.” (The opening of scrolls evidently points to a time of education in the divine will, in harmony with Isaiah 26:9. The fact that “the scroll of life” is opened indicates that there is opportunity for those who heed that education to have their names written in that scroll. Ahead of them will be the prospect of eternal life in human perfection.)
Will some be raised simply to have judgment pronounced and then be consigned to second death?
What is the meaning of John 5:28, 29? It says: “All those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.” What Jesus said here must be understood in the light of the later revelation that he gave to John.... Both those who formerly did good things and those who formerly practiced bad things will be “judged individually according to their deeds.” What deeds? If we were to take the view that people were going to be condemned on the basis of deeds in their past life, that would be inconsistent with Romans 6:7: “He who has died has been acquitted from his sin.” It would also be unreasonable to resurrect people simply for them to be destroyed. So, at John 5:28, 29a, Jesus was pointing ahead to the resurrection; then, in the remainder of verse 29, he was expressing the outcome after they had been uplifted to human perfection and been put on judgment.
What does Revelation 20:4-6 indicate as to those who will be resurrected on earth?
Rev. 20:4-6: “I saw thrones, and there were those who sat down on them, and power of judging was given them. Yes, I saw the souls of those executed with the ax for the witness they bore to Jesus and for speaking about God . . . And they came to life and ruled as kings with the Christ for a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Happy and holy is anyone having part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no authority, but they will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.”
The parentheses are used in NW and Mo to help the reader to connect what follows the parenthetical statement with what precedes it. As clearly stated, it is not “the rest of the dead” who share in the first resurrection. That resurrection is for those who rule with Christ for the thousand years. Does this mean that no others of mankind will live during the thousand years except the ones who rule in heaven with Christ? No; because, if such were the case, it would mean that there was no one on behalf of whom they were serving as priests, and their domain would be a desolate globe.
Who, then, are “the rest of the dead”? They are all those of mankind who died as a result of Adamic sin and those who, though survivors of the great tribulation or those who may be born during the Millennium, need to be relieved of the death-dealing effects of such sin.—Compare Ephesians 2:1.
In what sense do they not “come to life” until the end of the thousand years? This does not mean their resurrection. This ‘coming to life’ involves much more than merely existing as humans. It means attaining to human perfection, free from all effects of Adamic sin. Notice that the reference to this in verse 5 occurs immediately after the preceding verse says that those who will be in heaven “came to life.” In their case it means life free from all effects of sin; they are even specially favored with immortality. (1 Cor. 15:54) For “the rest of the dead,” then, it must mean the fullness of life in human perfection.
Who will be included in the earthly resurrection?
John 5:28, 29: “Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice [the voice of Jesus] and come out.” (The Greek word translated “memorial tombs” is not the plural form of ta′phos [grave, an individual burial place] or hai′des [gravedom, the common grave of dead mankind] but is the plural dative form of mne·mei′on [remembrance, memorial tomb]. It lays stress on preserving memory of the deceased person. Not those whose memory was blotted out in Gehenna because of unforgivable sins but persons remembered by God will be resurrected with the opportunity to live forever.—Matt. 10:28; Mark 3:29; Heb. 10:26; Mal. 3:16.)
Acts 24:15: “I have hope toward God . . . that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Both those who lived in harmony with God’s righteous ways and people who, out of ignorance, did unrighteous things will be resurrected. The Bible does not answer all our questions as to whether certain specific individuals who have died will be resurrected. But we can be confident that God, who knows all the facts, will act impartially, with justice tempered by mercy that does not ignore his righteous standards. Compare Genesis 18:25.)
Rev. 20:13, 14: “The sea gave up those dead in it, and death and Hades gave up those dead in them, and they were judged individually according to their deeds. And death and Hades were hurled into the lake of fire. This means the second death, the lake of fire.” (So, those whose death was attributable to Adamic sin will be raised, whether they were buried at sea or in Hades, the common earthly grave of dead mankind.)
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Again I apologize for not being a more personal answer, however I do hope that I have been able to show you form the Bible with those brief discussions above how Solomon could say that life ended and yet Paul could say he had a heavenly hope.