“[…] The hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, and those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.”
Was Jesus referring to a future judgment in heaven or on earth?
The Hebrew Scriptures describe the resurrection hope as taking place on earth:
“He will swallow up death forever, And the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will wipe away the tears from all faces. The reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth […].” (Is. 25:8)
Who are those “in the memorial tombs?”
The term used here is derived from the Greek verb meaning to remember (mimneskomai), implying that the person who has died is remembered by God, regardless of where their body winds up physically.
Jesus used the verb when he offered hope of living in paradise to the felon being executed alongside him on a stake. (Luke 23:40-43)
Jesus made a covenant for a heavenly resurrection with those who stuck out his trials with him. (Luke 22:28-30)
But for most of us, faith in being in Jehovah’s memory and the promise of an earthly resurrection is our most viable longterm hope.
In the restored paradise, we will have a clean slate to chose eternal life or destruction by the choices we make then. (Ro. 6:7; Rev. 20:12,15)
“God did not send his Son into the world for him to judge the world, but for the world to be saved through him. Whoever exercises faith in him is not to be judged. Whoever does not exercise faith has been judged already […].”
Does the Bible teach faith-based salvation?
While faith is a key component of our salvation, it is not the sole requirement.
God’s Word later explains that faith without works is useless. (Jas. 2:24,26)
What kind of works satisfy God’s standards?
To exercise true faith, we must follow in Jesus’ footsteps, sharing the message of God’s kingdom motivated by love. (Matt. 10:7,8; Jas. 2:8)
Still, we need to understand that faith and salvation are gifts from Jehovah God that are only possible through his own arrangement. (Eph. 2:8)
One Watchtower likens it to how we pray for our daily bread, and yet we understand we still have to go out and work for it.
Likewise, we have faith and work towards salvation, but left entirely on our own we could never attain it.
“[…] I have seen it, and I have given witness that this one is the Son of God.”
Before Jesus converted water to wine, healed the sick, tamed storms or resurrected the dead, John the Baptist already had faith that he was the Son of God.
John literally “cried out” about Jesus’ pre-human existence. (John 1:15)
He prophesied about Jesus’ sacrificial death. (John 1:29)
He even encouraged his own disciples to leave him for Jesus. (John 1:35-37)
This makes me wonder about my own zeal in the witnessing work.
Do I show the same enthusiasm and conviction John showed when it comes to announcing the good news of God’s kingdom?
After all, Jesus already fulfilled all the prophecies which proved he was God’s son.
Now it is our turn to imitate John and help others realize what God’s kingdom will bring. (Ps. 72:16; Is. 33:24; John 5:28,29; Rev. 21:4)
“[…] There was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, who was a good and righteous man. (This man had not voted in support of their scheme and action.) He was from Arimathea, […] and was waiting for the Kingdom of God.”
Joseph had previously put faith in Jesus but had kept it private because he was a member of the Jewish high court. (John 9:22; 12:42)
He did not vote in favor of Jesus’ execution.
Upon witnessing it, he was moved to openly promote his faith by facing the Roman governor and requesting responsibility for Jesus’ body. (Mark 15:43,44)
Many of Jesus’ disciples had expected Jesus to own his kingship and overthrow Roman imperialism. (John 12:13)
This false hope became a stumbling block to some of those who did not understand why he had to die.
But in the above passage, even after Jesus’ death, Joseph “was waiting for the kingdom of God.”
Opposite of stumbling, Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice served to solidify Joseph’s faith in God’s son.
Furthermore, by preparing Jesus’ body for burial, he risked becoming ceremonially unclean during the Passover celebrations. (Num. 19:11; John 19:38-40)
By ‘taking courage’ and overcoming his fear of man, Joseph not only provided a burial place for the Christ, but the site of the greatest miracle recorded in the Bible. (Luke 24:1-7)
“[…] Will not God cause justice to be done for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night, while he is patient toward them?”
When we or someone we love is undergoing an unusual amount of suffering due to illness or persecution, we may wonder how God can be so patient. (2 Pet. 3:9; Rev. 6:9,10)
He promises to remove all evil, pain and even death, but as we personally face trials, that relief can seem far off in the horizon. (Ps. 37:9; Rev. 21:4)
Jesus said we should pray tirelessly, like the widow who sought justice in his illustration.
But Jehovah is a much more speedy judge than the one who initially ignored the widow.
How can we be sure Jehovah isn’t ignoring us?
Jesus made it clear that we need to pray with an extraordinary amount of faith. (Luke 18:8)
Though we may not physically see the answer to our prayers, we can be sure Jehovah has already taken the necessary steps to ensure lasting justice to us both individually and globally. (2 Pet. 3:13)
The real question is, can we endure the wait?
“After looking around at them all, he said to the man: ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He did so, and his hand was restored.”
Did Jesus expect his followers to be charismatic faith healers?
Unlike religious faith healers, Jesus’ healings were not characterized by sensationalist drama and were usually rather casual.(Matt. 8:14, 15; Luke 8:43-48; 17:12-19)
The healings were physically visible. Had they been merely psychosomatic healings, the effects would have worn off sooner or later.
For instance, in the case of the man whose hand was paralyzed, Luke the medic says the hand was literally restored.
That is why not even Jesus’ enemies ever denied that the healings were really taking place.
Instead, they planned to kill Jesus (Luke 6:11; John 11:47,48)
Jesus’ healings served the purpose of signaling him as the messiah and savior of mankind. (Heb. 2:3,4)
But after the Christian congregation were established, some would perform “powerful works” in his name without his approval.(Matt. 7:21-23)
Such miracles would no longer be necessary because love was to be the hallmark trait of true Christians.(1 Cor. 12:27–13:2, 8)
His disciples would display that love by spreading the good news of God’s kingdom to everyone. (Matt. 24:14; 28:19,20)
“And the curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.”
Jehovah’s spiritual temple arrangement to replace the physical temple of animal sacrifices began upon Jesus’ anointing during his baptism three and a half years before his death. (Heb. 5:5; 10:5)
At that time, the heavenly “Holy of Holies” was set up for Jesus to later enter and present himself before Jehovah’s throne as high priest. (Da. 9:24; Heb. 6:20; 8:2; 9:24)
But Jesus could not enter in the flesh. (1 Cor. 15:50)
Therefore, the literal curtain being torn illustrates how the barrier holding Jesus back from entering the heavenly Holy of Holies was removed upon the death of his fleshy body.
The removal of that barrier also opened the way for others who were later anointed to be able to enter heaven. (Acts 2:33; Heb. 4:14-16)
“From now on you will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Jesus knew he was about to be executed, but he never lost sight of the greater picture. (Matt. 26:55,56)
He understood his role in God’s purpose and was positive he would fulfill it. (Da. 7:13,14)
He had resolved to obey his father, even at great personal cost. (Matt. 26:39,42,44)
He became the “Perfecter of our faith,” the model whom we can follow when we start to lose hope. (Heb. 12:2,3)
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away.”
Are Jesus’ words to be taken literally?
The Bible teaches God made the earth to last forever. (Ps. 37:29; Is. 45:18)
In a previous similar statement, Jesus said: “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to go unfulfilled.” (Luke 16:17)
Jesus was not alluding to a future destruction of the physical universe.
Rather, he was making reference to the opposite.
He was using the permanent nature of the physical world to illustrate how certain the fulfillment of his prophecies is.
In other passages, the phrase “heaven and earth” actually refers to government and mankind. (2 Pet. 3:13)
Jesus was speaking in the context of a coming judgment day, like the one that came through the deluge in the times of Noah. (Matt. 24:37)
Since his kingdom is going to thereafter rule over humans deemed righteous, the current heaven and earth will have come to pass in a symbolic sense. (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:19-21)
“[…] The sons of the Kingdom will be thrown into the darkness outside.”
Jesus knew his Jewish contemporaries would reject him as the Messiah.
As God’s people, they were the first to have the opportunity of joining Jesus in his heavenly kingdom. (Gal. 3:29; Heb. 6:17,18)
But most rejected the signs that its king, Jesus, was walking amongst them. (Matt. 12:38-40)
Perhaps they expected the Messiah to rebel against Roman rule and establish God’s kingdom there and then. (Dan. 7:14; Luke 23:2; John 18:33-35)
Still, Jesus continued to carry out his ministry until the end, confident that God would bless all who eventually followed him. (Matt. 8:11, 20:28)
We do not know who will listen to us when we share God’s kingdom message in our communities, and most reject it.
But we can imitate Christ by enduring with a positive attitude.