|Topical Bible Study||December 1961|
God’s Plan for Man—Lesson XX
The General Resurrection
THE whole world of mankind will be awakened from the sleep of death in the general resurrection, with the exception of the overcoming classes who will previously have been resurrected, the ones, that is, who have “done good.” (John 5:28,29) Those awakened from death in the general resurrection are described by Paul as the “unjust.” (Acts 24:15) These are “unjust,” or unjustified, because, through lack of understanding or opportunity, they had never fully given themselves over to do God’s will.
The general resurrection of the dead is taught in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament, although the word resurrection does not appear in the Old Testament. One of the words used in the Old Testament to describe the resurrection is “return.” In a prayer Moses used this word to describe his hope of the resurrection.—Ps. 90:3
The dead are to be restored to life because they have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, or “ransomed.” The Prophet Isaiah wrote of the time when the “ransomed of the Lord” would “return.”—Isa. 35:10
The word “return” is also used by the Prophet Ezekiel to describe the awakening of the dead. Ezekiel foretold the “return” from death of the Israelites, the Sodomites, and the Samaritans, assuring us that they will be restored to “their former estate” of life.—Ezek. 16:55
The Prophet Jeremiah records a promise by the Lord which assures mothers that children who die will be restored to life. (Jer. 31:15-17) In this promise, the living and the dead are poetically represented as dwelling in two different countries, or lands. The restoration to life is described as a crossing over the border from the land of death to the land of life. The expression, “come again,” is used to denote this return to the land of the living.
In the Old Testament the restoration of the dead is also likened to an awakening from sleep. (Dan. 12:2) In this promise the dead are spoken of as sleeping in the dust of the earth. This language takes our minds back to the Genesis record of man’s disobedience and condemnation to death, when the Lord told Adam that he would return to the dust. (Gen. 3:19) The promise that those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake indicates that all who were condemned to death through Adam will be restored to life through Christ.—I Cor. 15:21-23
On more than one occasion Jesus referred to those who had died as being asleep. A ruler in Israel besought Jesus to restore his dead daughter to life. When Jesus arrived at the home, he said that the girl was not dead but asleep. (Matt. 9:24-26) Jesus restored the dead girl to life, thus, symbolically speaking, awakening her from sleep. This was an illustration of the general resurrection of the dead, when all who sleep in death will be awakened.
Jesus also referred to the dead Lazarus as being asleep, and told his disciples that he was going to awaken him out of sleep. (John 11:11-14) Returning to Bethany, and to the home of Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus, Jesus called him forth from death, thus providing another illustration of the general resurrection.—John 11:43,44
The only hope of life beyond the grave is based upon the promises of God to restore the dead to life, but do you realize how many promises of the resurrection there really are in the Bible?
Who are to be raised from the dead in the general resurrection?
What is one of the words used in the Old Testament to describe the resurrection of the dead? Which prophets use this word?
Explain the illustration used in Jeremiah pertaining to the living and the dead. In this promise, how is the resurrection described?
How did the Lord describe the awakening of the dead to the Prophet Daniel; and what is implied by sleeping in the dust of the earth?
Cite and comment on two instances in which Jesus referred to the dead as being asleep.
“The New Creation,” pages 712-718.
SUMMARY OF IMPORTANT THOUGHTS
The Bible’s teaching concerning the resurrection of the dead is not confined to the New Testament. In addition to the word “resurrection,” the Bible uses several other words to convey the idea of the dead being restored to life. This promised resurrection of the dead is the only hope of life beyond the grave.