The Dead Who Will Be Resurrected

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Many men and women of ancient history looked forward to a resurrection of the dead. Countless others had no knowledge of such a thing as a resurrection and had no such expectation. Their religions taught them otherwise. Will they be surprised with a resurrection from the dead when Almighty God uses his power during the reign of his kingdom over the earth?

Only one ancient book of religion has the authority to answer that question. It is the only book that teaches such a thing as the resurrection of the dead by means of God’s kingdom, in which kingdom his most beloved Son will rule as king for the blessing of all mankind. This unusual religious book is the Holy Bible, which even today, nineteen hundred years since its completion, ranks first among all the books on the earth, religious or nonreligious. In its opening fifty chapters the Holy Bible points to a resurrection of the human dead. In its last twenty-two chapters it speaks of (1) the resurrection of the faithful Son of God, Jesus Christ, (2) the resurrection of his faithful disciples in what is called “the first resurrection,” and (3) the resurrection of mankind in general.  In that final statement of the resurrection the writer of that last section of the Bible says:

“And I saw a great white throne and the one seated on it. From before him the earth and the heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And 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. And the sea gave up those dead in it, and death and Ha′des gave up those dead in them, and they were judged individually according to their deeds. And death and Ha′des were hurled into the lake of fire. This means the second death, the lake of fire.”—Rev. 20:11-15.

Notice, in verse 12 above quoted, that the writer, the Christian apostle John, does not say that those resurrected are either good or bad. He does not say, ‘I saw the dead, the good and the bad,’ but says: “I saw the dead, the great and the small.” In other words, people of all ranks of life. But whether great or small, they all came in for a judgment before the throne of the Judge of all creation, the Most High and Almighty God. At that time, if they have never known it before, they will know what Psalm 83:18 (King James Version) says to this supreme Judge, who is God: “That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.” Thus the dead cannot escape a judgment by the Most High God named Jehovah.

Death is the state of being dead. But from what place will the dead ones about whom Revelation 20:11-14 prophesies come forth? Verse 13 says: “And the sea gave up those dead in it, and death and Ha′des gave up those dead in them.” All of us know what the sea is and know that many have found a watery grave in it. But what is Ha′des? To most people this has been explained incorrectly, that is, not Biblically. The apostle John, although being a Christian, was a Hebrew or Jew by birth. He wrote Revelation 20:11-14 in the international language of his day, the common Greek, and so he used the Greek word Ha′des. But if he had written in Hebrew, John would have used the Hebrew word Sheol. In fact, nine modern Hebrew translations of the Revelation to John use the word Sheol; and the Syriac translation, which was read in the Middle East, uses the related word Shiul.

In other words, in the complete Holy Bible made up of the inspired Hebrew Scriptures and the inspired Greek Scriptures, Ha′des and Sheol mean the same thing. Ha′des or Sheol means the common grave of mankind dead in the dust of the ground. In fact, the Authorized or King James Bible Version translates the Hebrew word Sheol thirty-one times as “the grave.” So, now, by finding out from the Holy Bible who it says are in Sheol or Ha′des, we can know who will be resurrected from there, aside from the sea.

THOSE WHO ARE IN SHEOL 

 More than seventeen hundred years before our Common Era people in the Middle East used the word Sheol to mean the common grave of those dying on land, not of those dying at sea. In the year 1750 B.C.E., when Joseph was kidnaped and sold into Egypt, his responsible brothers reported that he had been killed. So his father Jacob (or Israel) refused to take comfort from his other children and said: “I shall go down mourning to my son into Sheol!” (Gen. 37:35) Twenty-two years later nine of Jacob’s older sons wanted to take his youngest son Benjamin down to Egypt to help them to get food from there for the famine. At first Jacob refused and said: “My son will not go down with you men, because his brother is dead and he has been left by himself. If a fatal accident should befall him on the way on which you would go, then you would certainly bring down my gray hairs with grief to Sheol.” (Gen. 42:38) Later, Jacob’s fourth son Judah repeated those very words of his father when Benjamin seemed in danger of being kept as a slave down in Egypt. (Gen. 44:29) Judah also said:

 “Then it is certain to occur that as soon as he sees that the boy is not there he will simply die, and your slaves will indeed bring down the gray hairs of your slave our father with grief to Sheol.”—Gen. 44:31. (The Greek LXX translates Sheol as Ha′des.)

At that critical time Jacob’s beloved son Joseph was found to be alive in Egypt as its Food Administrator. So there was a happy reunion there of all the sons of Jacob. The aged man Jacob was sent for and brought down to Egypt to live there the rest of his one hundred and forty-seven years. As his death drew near, Jacob said to his son Joseph, the prime minister of Egypt: “I must lie with my fathers, and you must carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their grave.” (Gen. 47:30) Joseph swore to do this.

On his deathbed Jacob blessed all twelve of his sons and said to them: “I am being gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah that is in front of Mamre in the land of Canaan, the field that Abraham purchased from Ephron the Hittite for the possession of a burial place. There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife. There they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah.” (Gen. 49:29-31, 33) This last request of Jacob was carried out, and thus the earthly remains of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob came to rest together in the same burial place, the cave of Machpelah, in what became the territory of Judah. (Gen. 50:12-14) Thus Jacob finally went down, not to his son Joseph, but to his forefathers, in Sheol.

The rich man feasts in the parable of the rich man and LazurusFrom the Holy Bible it is thus established that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are in Sheol. Many centuries later Abraham was still there when his descendant, Jesus Christ, was on earth and told about a “certain rich man” and a “certain beggar named Lazarus.” Knowing as we do what the Holy Bible teaches about Sheol or Hades, we know that what Jesus said about this “rich man” and this “beggar” must have been a parable or illustration. Thus Jesus talked in picture language, even using Abraham as a picture. To prove this to yourself, note how Jesus worded this story, in Luke 16:22-26, American Standard Version Bible:

“And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and that he was carried away by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: and the rich man also died, and was buried. And in Ha′des [Sheol, Hebrew; Shiul, Syriac] he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things: but now here he is comforted, and thou art in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that they that would pass from hence to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from thence to us.”

Now let the reader ask himself, Did Jesus really mean that the angels carried the dead body of Lazarus, full of sores, to the cave of Machpelah in front of the city of Hebron and there laid the dead Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham, crowding out Abraham’s dead wife Sarah? Furthermore, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are all in Ha′des or Sheol. So did Jesus really mean that there is flaming fire in Ha′des or Sheol, the place in which, Jesus said, the dead and buried “rich man” found himself? And does that flaming fire torment certain ones in Ha′des or Sheol and not torment others? Can those in Ha′des or Sheol see one another and talk back and forth across a “great gulf”? And is there water down in Ha′des or Sheol into which a person can dip the finger?

Rich man cast into hell artist's depictionMany religious Bible readers say that Jesus was not telling a parable or pictorial illustration but was telling things as they actually are. This makes Jesus ridiculous. It makes him talk contrary to the rest of the Bible as to what it has to say about Ha′des or Sheol. Go, please, to the Middle East today, to the traditional location of the burial place of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the city of Hebron, under a Mohammedan mosque. Will they tell you that either the beggar Lazarus or the “certain rich man” (the so-called Di′ves) lies buried there? No! Furthermore, the Holy Bible says that Ha′des or Sheol is not the location of Paradise for some dead ones and of fiery torment for others, but that it is the place of silence and of inactivity in every respect; that the dead ones there do not speak even to laud and praise God, and that there is no work nor device nor knowledge nor wisdom in Ha′des or Sheol.—Isa. 38:18; Eccl. 9:5, 10; Ps. 6:5.

The honest-hearted Bible readers have eyes of understanding to see that in Luke 16:19-31 Jesus Christ was telling a parable or pictorial illustration. Such readers see that Jesus was using Abraham as a picture of the heavenly Father, Jehovah God, who made the promise to his earthly friend Abraham to bless all the families of the earth by means of Abraham’s seed or offspring. Just as Abraham at God’s command presented his son Isaac for human sacrifice, so Jehovah God actually sacrificed his Son Jesus Christ, the real promised Seed of Abraham for the blessing of all the nations of the earth.—Gen. 22:1-18; John 3:16.

Accordingly, the “certain rich man” and the “certain beggar named Lazarus” were not literal men; they simply pictured two classes of people. The one class died to its favored position with the Greater Abraham, Jehovah God, and thereafter had a tormenting religious experience on earth. The other class died to its unfavorable religious condition and was conducted by angelic power into the favor of the Greater Abraham, Jehovah God, through his sacrificed Son, Jesus Christ. This understanding and explanation of Jesus’ prophetic parable is based upon the actual historical experience of the two general religious classes among the natural descendants of the patriarch Abraham in Jesus’ day.

Abraham attempts to offer his only son, Isaac, angel of Jehovah intervenesAbraham, Isaac and Jacob in Sheol are awaiting the fulfillment of Revelation 20:12-14 by their resurrection from the dead, when Sheol will give them up. Long ago when Abraham obediently attempted to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, he displayed his own faith in the resurrection of the dead. Hebrews 11:17-19 tells us so in these words: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, as good as offered up Isaac, and the man that had gladly received the promises attempted to offer up his only-begotten son, although it had been said to him: ‘What will be called “your seed” will be through Isaac.’ But he reckoned that God was able to raise him up even from the dead; and from there he did receive him also in an illustrative way.”

Thus, when Abraham received his son Isaac back alive from the altar and was provided with a ram to offer as a substitute sacrifice, it illustrated how the Greater Abraham, Jehovah God, would receive his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ from the dead by a resurrection, thereby fulfilling Psalm 16:10: “Thou wilt not leave my soul to Sheol; neither wilt thou suffer thy holy one to see corruption [or, the pit].”—AS, margin.

The coming resurrection of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is a certainty. The words of Jesus Christ strengthen this certainty. The religious sect of the Sadducees of Jesus’ day did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. To try to prove that the resurrection would be an unreasonable thing, they put a tricky question to Jesus, one having to do with a woman seven times married.

Rembrandt painting of Abraham offering IsaacTo show that their problem would furnish no difficulty for God in the resurrection, Jesus said to these Sadducees: “You are mistaken, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God; for in the resurrection neither do men marry nor are women given in marriage, but are as angels in heaven. As regards the resurrection of the dead, did you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob’? He is the God, not of the dead, but of the living.” (Matt. 22:29-32) In other words, if those three patriarchs were to stay dead forever, God would not have said regarding Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: “I am the God.” He would properly have said, ‘I was the God.’ But, knowing His own purpose to have those three faithful men “living” again by means of the resurrection, Jehovah said: “I am the God” of them.—Mark 12:24-27.

That Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would live again by a resurrection from the dead was so definitely fixed that God spoke to Moses as if they were already alive, “living.” According to Luke 20:37, 38, Jesus said: “But that the dead are raised up even Moses disclosed, in the account about the thornbush, when he calls Jehovah ‘the God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob.’ He is a God, not of the dead, but of the living, for they are all living to him.” At the time that Jehovah God spoke to Moses at the burning thornbush in the wilderness of Arabia, Jehovah did not mean that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were then alive. If they had been then alive in the days of Moses, there would have been no need for resurrecting them from Sheol or Hades and Jehovah’s words would have been no proof that there will be a resurrection of the dead. But only because it was God’s purpose that there be a resurrection, He spoke of the three patriarchs as though they were already living. From the standpoint of the coming resurrection they all are “living” to God.

WHAT OF THE FOREFATHERS?

At this point, however, the question of Abraham’s ancestors or forefathers comes up for attention. These being dead now for thousands of years, where are they? Will they also have a resurrection? How shall we settle these questions? By the written Word of God! According to Genesis 15:15, Jehovah God said to Abraham in the Promised Land: “As for you, you will go to your forefathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age.” The fulfillment of this came ninety years later, concerning which we read: “Then Abraham expired and died in a good old age, old and satisfied, and was gathered to his people. So Isaac and Ishmael his sons buried him in the cave of Machpelah in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite that is in front of Mamre, the field that Abraham had purchased from the sons of Heth. There Abraham was buried, and also Sarah his wife.”—Gen. 25:8-10.

Thus, as God had said, Abraham went to his forefathers in peace; he was gathered to his people. Who were Abraham’s forefathers, and who were his people? Abraham’s immediate father was Terah of the city of Ur of the Chaldeans; and chapter eleven of Genesis lists the forefathers of Abraham all the way back, through nine generations, to Shem, the son of Noah. Noah died two years before Abraham was born, whereas Shem died only twenty-five years before Abraham died. To these men as his people Abraham was gathered, and to these as his forefathers Abraham went in peace at death. What, then, does this mean? This, that, if at death Abraham went to Sheol or Hades, to which place Isaac and Jacob followed him, then Abraham’s people or forefathers back to Noah must also be in Sheol or Ha′des, and there they too are awaiting the resurrection of the dead under God’s kingdom by his Christ.

Isaac’s half-brother Ishmael was the son of Abraham by his Egyptian concubine Hagar. Ishmael lived one hundred and thirty-seven years, and then, as Genesis 25:17 tells us, “he expired and died and was gathered to his people.” His people included his father Abraham, whom both Ishmael and Isaac buried ninety years previously. Ishmael, too, was thus gathered to Sheol or Ha′des, the common grave of the human dead who lie in earth’s dust.

God’s written Word mentions the gathering of others to their forefathers at death. Just a hundred and fifteen years after the patriarch Jacob died down in Egypt, his great-great-grandson Aaron was born and three years later Aaron’s brother, who became the prophet Moses. When Aaron was a hundred and twenty-three years old God said: “Aaron will be gathered to his people, for he will not enter into the land that I shall certainly give to the sons of Israel.” So God’s high priest Aaron died on Mount Hor east of the Promised Land. (Num. 20:23-29) Later that same year Jehovah said to the prophet Moses: “You must be gathered to your people, yes, you, just as Aaron your brother was gathered.”—Num. 27:13.

Before this occurred, Jehovah had Moses execute vengeance upon the enemy Midianites. (Num. 31:1, 2) On the day of Moses’ death in 1473 B.C.E., Jehovah told him to climb Mount Nebo and view the Promised Land from there and then be gathered to his people. (Deut. 32:48-52) Moses obeyed this command; and the postmortem report about him says: “After that Moses the servant of Jehovah died there in the land of Moab at the order of Jehovah. And he proceeded to bury him in the valley in the land of Moab in front of Beth-peor, and nobody has come to know his grave down to this day.” (Deut. 34:5, 6) But wherever Moses’ grave was, he went to Sheol or Hades. From there God can deliver him and also Aaron through a resurrection by means of Jesus Christ the King.

Who succeeded Moses as the visible judge of God’s chosen nation? It was Joshua the son of Nun. He led the chosen people across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. He was faithful to God until he died. Concerning Joshua and others of his day Judges 2:8-10 tells us: “Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Jehovah, died at the age of a hundred and ten years. So they buried him in the territory of his inheritance in Timnath-heres in the mountainous region of Ephraim, on the north of Mount Gaash. And all that generation too were gathered to their fathers, and another generation began to rise after them.” The gathering of all these to their fathers signifies that they all descended to Sheol, Hades.

Centuries later David of Bethlehem became king of all twelve tribes of Israel. He was the first Jewish king to rule at Jerusalem. In a number of the psalms that David wrote he speaks about deliverance from Sheol or Hades. He lived to see his wise son Solomon installed as his successor on the throne of Jerusalem. “Then David lay down with his forefathers and was buried in the city of David.” (1 Ki. 2:10; Acts 13:36) He joined his forefathers in Sheol or Ha′des. Long afterward, on the festival day of Shabuoth (Pentecost) of 33 C.E., David was reported to be still in Sheol or Ha′des. On that day the Christian apostle Peter reported that Psalm Sixteen (composed by David) had then been fulfilled in David’s promised descendant, Jesus Christ. As Peter said concerning David: “He saw beforehand and spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was he forsaken in Hades nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God resurrected, of which fact we are all witnesses. . . . Actually David did not ascend to the heavens.” (Acts 2:1-34) According to Peter’s words David’s resurrection is yet future. (Life, Death and Beyond)

One of David’s faithful successors to the throne of Jerusalem was Josiah of the seventh century before our Common Era. By turning back his people to the law of Jehovah God, Josiah tried to do what he could to prevent national calamity from coming upon them. When he inquired through the prophetess Huldah what the future held for his nation, Josiah was given this promise from God: “Here I am gathering you to your forefathers, and you will certainly be gathered to your own graveyard in peace, and your eyes will not look upon all the calamity that I am bringing upon this place.”—2 Ki. 22:20.

 Josiah died from a wound received in battle at Megiddo. So it was not during the terrible calamity that was to come upon Jerusalem. After Josiah was fatally wounded, “his servants took him down from the chariot and had him ride in the second war chariot that was his and brought him to Jerusalem. Thus he died and was buried in the graveyard of his forefathers; and all Judah and Jerusalem were mourning over Josiah.” (2 Chron. 35:22-24) Not all the kings of Jerusalem who preceded Josiah were buried in the same place at Jerusalem, in the “burial places of the kings of Israel.”—2 Chron. 28:27; 21:20; 24:25; 32:33; 16:14.

For all these kings and patriarchs to be gathered to their people or to go to their forefathers and to lie with their forefathers, it did not mean that they all had to be buried in the same grave or tomb. Certainly when the patriarch Abraham died and was “gathered to his people,” he was not buried in the same grave with his father Terah, who died up north in Haran in the Mesopotamian valley, nor in the same graveyard or cemetery with Noah and Shem.

Certainly when high priest Aaron died at Mount Hor and his brother Moses died at Mount Nebo and they were gathered to their people, they were not buried with their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the cave at Machpelah near Hebron in the Promised Land. Yet they were all gathered to Sheol or Hades. They all lie dead in the one Sheol or Hades; and from there, Revelation 20:13 tells us, the dead will come forth in a resurrection.

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Abrahamic Covenant

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Abraham had just proved that he was willing to sacrifice Isaac, his only son by his first wife, Sarah. From earliest times Christians have seen in this episode a prefiguration of Jehovah’s sacrificing his Son and then receiving him back by means of the resurrection. Yes, “God loved the world [of mankind] 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.”—John 3:16.

So in this prophetic picture Abraham prefigured Jehovah God, and Isaac—a young man who could have resisted his 125-year-old father—pictured Jesus Christ, who willingly laid down his human life as the ransom sacrifice.

Because of Abraham’s great faith, Jehovah had earlier made with him a covenant that took effect in 1943 B.C.E.  Some 50 years later, after having seen the tested quality of Abraham’s faith, even in connection with Isaac, Jehovah repeated and enlarged upon this covenant promise, as recorded in Genesis chapter 22. This fully expressed Abrahamic covenant supplied details as to the outworking of God’s wonderful purposes. It showed that the seed of deliverance promised in Eden would appear on earth as a descendant of Abraham, that it would be a multiple seed (the precise number not being revealed at that time), that it would vanquish its enemies and, finally, that by means of that seed all nations of the earth would get blessings for themselves.—Genesis 3:15.

Identifying the Seed of Abraham

Every detail of that promise is of interest to persons who share Abraham’s faith and who want to be blessed by Jehovah. Who, primarily, was the seed of Abraham, by means of whom all nations of the earth would eventually bless themselves? The apostle Paul identifies this primary Seed as being Christ.—Galatians 3:16.

Further, since Jehovah promised Abraham that he would multiply his seed, what persons would make up the secondary part of Abraham’s seed? Who would be the “heirs with reference to a promise,” “joint heirs” with the primary Seed, Christ? For some 2,000 years even the number of those who would make up this secondary ‘seed of Abraham’ remained unknown to humans, like “the stars of the heavens” or “the grains of sand that are on the seashore.” Then, toward the end of the first century C.E., the apostle John heard “the number of those who were sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel.”—Genesis 22:17; Revelation 7:4.

Still, from among whom would these 144,000 “sons of Israel” be chosen and sealed? If sufficient fleshly Israelites had followed the Law covenant as a “tutor leading to Christ [the primary Seed of Abraham],” they could have supplied the entire 144,000 members of the secondary seed of Abraham and thus become “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” for the blessing of all nations of the earth. But did enough prove themselves to be true children of Abraham, “the father of all those having faith”?—Romans 4:11.

Even before Jesus began his earthly ministry John the Baptizer warned Jewish religious leaders: “Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘As a father we have Abraham.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. Already the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree, then, that does not produce fine fruit is to be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 3:9, 10) By Paul’s time the wonderfully wise manner in which Jehovah would raise up the full number of the secondary seed of Abraham had been revealed. Paul explains this in detail in his letter to the Romans.

Paul’s Letter to the Romans

The Jews were very conscious of being God’s chosen people. Regarding the expression “chosen people,” The Concise Jewish Encyclopedia states: “A designation expressing the belief that the Jews have a special relationship with God. The concept is based on the covenant with Abraham.” Proud of being Abraham’s offspring, the Jews thought they were the seed whereby all other nations would be blessed, and that they could justify themselves before God by works carried out under the Law covenant. It was against this background that the apostle Paul wrote to the Christian congregation in Rome. Some of the Jews in Rome had become Christians, but by far the majority of them refused to put faith in Jesus as the Messiah. The Christian congregation in Rome was made up also of many non-Jewish Christians.

For different reasons both Jews and Gentiles had feelings of superiority—the Jews because they came from the original Abrahamic stock—the Gentiles because they had been admitted into special Abrahamic-covenant privileges as a result of lack of faith on the part of the unbelieving Jews. Paul sought to convince Christians of Jewish and non-Jewish origin that both groups owed their righteous standing before God to their faith in Christ rather than to works. (Romans 3:21-27) In writing his letter, Paul’s aim was Christian unity and productivity, to the glory of Jehovah for the wonderful manner in which he moves forward in fulfilling the promises of the Abrahamic covenant.

A Symbolic Olive Tree

The apostle Paul expresses grief that “not all who spring from Israel are really ‘Israel,’” and states: “Neither because they are Abraham’s seed are they all children [part of Abraham’s spiritual seed].” Then he goes on to illustrate how Jehovah ‘raises up children to Abraham.’ To describe how the Abrahamic covenant produces the full number of members of the spiritual seed of promise, he uses the symbol of a specially cultivated olive tree.

Paul mentions the root before speaking of the tree itself, and he says “the root is holy.” Jehovah God is the “Most Holy One.”  He is frequently called “the Holy One of Israel,” particularly in the book of Isaiah.  The apostle Peter counsels anointed Christians, saying: “In accord with the Holy One who called you, do you also become holy yourselves in all your conduct.” Jehovah God, the Greater Abraham, is the root of the symbolic olive tree.

As the patriarch Abraham was the root of the nation of Israel, so Jehovah gives life to spiritual Israel. As the 12 tribes of Israel stemmed from Abraham through his son Isaac, through Jacob and the 12 patriarchs, the 12 symbolic tribes of spiritual Israel stem from Jehovah through the Greater Isaac, Christ Jesus. He, as the primary Seed of Abraham, is symbolized by the olive tree’s stock, or trunk.  Jehovah, the root, produces the full number of members of the secondary seed through his Son, Christ Jesus. But how or in what manner does Jehovah produce the required number of symbolic branches?

Some Branches Lopped Off, Others Grafted In

Paul goes on to explain this wonderful arrangement. He writes: “For I do not want you, brothers, to be ignorant of this sacred secret, in order for you not to be discreet in your own eyes: that a dulling of sensibilities has happened in part to Israel until the full number of people of the nations has come in, and in this manner [Greek, kai hou′tos] all Israel will be saved.” (Romans 11:25, 26; compare Ephesians 3:3-6.) Jehovah would “raise up children to Abraham” by admitting into the secondary seed of Abraham the required number, or “full number of people of the nations [Gentiles].” By showing “the faith of Abraham” this limited number of non-Jews would prove to be spiritual Jews, part of spiritual Israel, “the Israel of God.”

Paul illustrated the outworking of this “sacred secret” by an unusual horticultural procedure. The normal procedure is to graft shoots from a cultivated tree onto a wild stock, in order to make it productive, as Paul was well aware. He told the Gentile Christians that they had been “grafted contrary to nature into the garden olive tree.” (Romans 11:24) He thus likened the non-Jews who would be admitted into the Abrahamic covenant to scions, or shoots, from a wild olive that would be grafted onto the trunk of a “garden olive tree.” They would replace the natural branches that had been lopped off, these representing the fleshly Jews who had been rejected because of their lack of faith. This unusual illustration served as a forceful exposure of the proud and haughty unbelieving Jews, who considered the Gentiles to be as lifeless as stones or as incapable of producing fine fruit as wild olive branches. It confirmed that Jehovah had “power to raise up children to Abraham,” even as John the Baptist had forewarned.—Luke 3:8.

Nevertheless, non-Jewish Christians who had been “grafted contrary to nature” into the Abrahamic-covenant tree as part of the spiritual seed had no reason to feel superior to the Jews. Paul explained: “They also [Jews], if they do not remain in their lack of faith, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again.”

 A small remnant of natural Jews accepted the primary Seed and became permanent branches in the symbolic tree.  But the majority of the Jews had been broken off the Abrahamic-covenant tree in 36 C.E., at the end of the 70th week of years foretold by Daniel. (Daniel 9:27) After that, however, some Jews had been grafted back “into their own olive tree” by putting faith in the Messiah, Jesus, the primary Seed of Abraham. (Romans 11:24; Acts 13:5, 42, 43; 14:1) By pointing these things out Paul promoted unity among the anointed Christians, for all had become ‘sharers in the olive’s root of fatness’ through “God’s kindness.”—Romans 11:17, 22.

A Fully Productive Olive Tree

Throughout the centuries, and particularly in the favorable part of this time of the end, other Jews and non-Jews were grafted into the symbolic olive tree. Thus the Abrahamic covenant produces the “full number” of Jews and Gentiles needed to complete the spiritual seed. “In this manner all Israel will be saved,” not fleshly Israel, but those who are “really ‘Israel,’” the 144,000 members of spiritual Israel.

The wonderful manner in which Jehovah has fulfilled this most important part of the Abrahamic covenant, by producing the trunk and the full number of branches of this symbolic tree should fill us with wonder. Like Paul, we exclaim: “O the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable his judgments are and past tracing out his ways are! For ‘who has come to know Jehovah’s mind, or who has become his counselor?’ Or, ‘Who has first given to him, so that it must be repaid to him?’ Because from him and by him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.”—Romans 11:33-36.

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God’s Oath

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In the Holy Bible the first person who is reported as swearing is God’s own friend, Abraham.  This was in the twentieth century before our Common Era. The patriarch Abraham had put to rout the four marauder kings and had recovered his nephew Lot and his family and also the goods that had been taken from the city of Sodom near which Lot had been living. When Abraham offered to restore all the king’s goods to him, the king of Sodom said: “Give me the souls, but take the goods for yourself.” But Abraham answered: “I do lift up my hand in an oath to Jehovah the Most High God, Producer of heaven and earth, that, from a thread to a sandal lace, no, I shall take nothing from anything that is yours, in order that you may not say, ‘It was I who made Abram rich.’ Nothing for me!” (Gen. 14:11-24) Abraham thus swore by the highest Personage alive. He could swear by no higher.

Abraham’s swearing or taking an oath was indicated by his raising his hand when he made the statement in reply to the offer of the king of Sodom, lifting it toward “Jehovah the Most High God, Producer of heaven and earth.” This illustrates what an oath is. Says one exhaustive Bible Cyclopædia concerning Oath:

(Jewish), an appeal to God, or to authorities recognized by the respective adjurers, or to anything esteemed sacred, in attestation of an assertion or in confirmation of a given promise or a duty undertaken. . . . “Oath” is the rendering of the Authorized Version of two Hebrew words, alah′, אלה and shabuah′, שבועה, each of which is used in three significations: . . .

1. An oath as in appeal to God in attestation of the truth of a statement (Nehemiah 10:30; Exodus 22:10);

2. A sworn statement (Genesis 26:28; 2 Samuel 21:7);

3. A curse or imprecation (Numbers 5:21; Daniel 9:11). . . .

The two words alah′ and shabuah′, however, are by no means synonymous. They denote two different modes of swearing, or rather two classes of oaths. Thus alah′ (from alal′, to lament, to wail, to express woe, . . . ) properly means the invocation of woe upon oneself, and shows that the mode of swearing which it describes was connected with an invocation of divine vengeance on the party, if the asseveration made was not true; whereas shabuah′ (from she′baʽ, seven) literally signifies to seven one’s self, to produce seven, that is, to make a declaration confirmed by seven victims, or before seven witnesses, because . . . seven animals were used in ancient times when mutual promises were given and when alliances were effected (Genesis 21:28-30). . . . The primary distinction, therefore, between the two oaths is, that in the case of the former [alah′] an imprecation was used, while in the latter [shabuah′] no imprecation was employed.

Do you know that, in the Holy Bible, God is reported as swearing more than anyone else? Do you know that in the inspired Hebrew Scriptures there are seventy or more references to where Jehovah God swears? And yet never in connection with Him is the Hebrew word alah′ used, namely, the word that indicates that the swearer calls down evil upon himself to give assurance against lying or failure to perform. When Jehovah God swears, he never needs to call for some evil to come upon himself in case the statement that he makes is not true or in case he fails to carry out his promise or his prophecy or fails to fulfill the duty that he undertakes.

There is never any possibility of such a thing. So there is no need for Jehovah God to ask for something terrible to happen to him if his word should prove to be a lie or should he not carry out his word or live up to it. Such a thing he could not even suggest with regard to himself. Hence in all cases in the Hebrew text where God is reported swearing, the Hebrew word shabaʽ′is used in the reflexive form, for it means “to seven one’s self.” That means for one to go to the point of perfection, for in the Bible the number seven is used to stand for perfection of degree.

In that first oath reported in the Bible, God’s friend Abraham swore by His name. In turn, in the first case reported of where the Most High God swears, he swears in connection with his friend, Abraham. Since the Most High God, who is “the God of truth,” felt moved to swear, the circumstances must have been unusual, extraordinary. They really were. Moreover, the statement to Abraham to which God swore was of importance to all mankind from the founding of the world down till now, yes, down till the last human baby is born. God’s statement was of particular importance to 144,000 members of the human family who were to begin appearing on earth nineteen centuries afterward. What, then, was the statement? How did it come about?

The sworn statement was made in the nineteenth century before our Common Era and at Mount Moriah. Away back in that time the walls of the city of Salem (later Jerusalem) did not enclose the top of Mount Moriah. An altar was there, but it was not the altar of the temple of King Solomon of Jerusalem, as that temple was built on Mount Moriah first in the eleventh century before our Common Era. It was an altar of unhewn stones that Abraham had built on which to offer up his son Isaac as a human sacrifice to Jehovah God. In obedience to God’s command Abraham had proceeded to sacrifice Isaac, his only son by his wife Sarah. But just as Abraham was about to kill Isaac, who was lying bound on the wood on top of the altar, God’s angel called out Abraham’s name and said: “Do not put out your hand against the boy and do not do anything at all to him, for now I do know that you are God-fearing in that you have not withheld your son, your only one, from me.”

Abraham’s notice was called now to a ram entangled nearby in a thicket. Accepting this animal as God’s provision, Abraham offered it up as a sacrifice instead of Isaac. “And Jehovah’s angel proceeded to call to Abraham the second time out of the heavens and to say: ‘“By myself I do swear [shabaʽ′],” is the utterance of Jehovah, “that by reason of the fact that you have done this thing and you have not withheld your son, your only one, I shall surely bless you and I shall surely multiply your seed like the stars of the heavens and like the grains of sand that are on the seashore; and your seed will take possession of the gate of his enemies. And by means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves due to the fact that you have listened to my voice.”’”—Gen. 22:1-18.

What do you think? Was the “utterance of Jehovah” on that occasion one of world importance? Yes, because it takes in “all nations of the earth,” including those of today. Fulfillment of it means blessing for us no matter of what nation we are part. Without exception we ought all to be interested in it to the point of doing what we can to bless ourselves by means of Abraham’s promised seed. Ah! but someone may say that Jehovah’s utterance was made almost thirty-nine centuries ago, and all the families of the earth have not yet blessed themselves by means of Abraham’s seed through Isaac, for look, please, at the terrible international conditions today. Look, too, at the condition of the natural circumcised Jews who claim to be the seed of Abraham by birth.

However, the objector is overlooking something, is he not? He overlooks the fact that all the nations of the earth began blessing themselves in the promised seed of Abraham nineteen centuries ago, and this even though the nation of natural circumcised Israelites were cast off by Jehovah God. And today more than a million persons of about two hundred known nations are blessing themselves by means of Abraham’s true seed. How could that be possible? It is possible according to the explanation of one of the inspired Bible writers, the apostle Paul. He wrote at about the middle of the first century of our Common Era.

At that time the apostle Paul was writing to congregations of fellow Christians in the Roman province of Galatia, in Asia Minor. A number of these believers who were not Israelites had been wrongly persuaded to think that they had to make Jews of themselves and get circumcised and subject themselves to the ancient law that God gave through his prophet Moses. The apostle Paul wrote his letter in order to straighten them out. He reminded them that primarily Jesus Christ was the promised Seed of Abraham. This Jesus was actually the only-begotten Son of God and, like the patriarch Abraham, Jehovah God had offered his only-begotten Son as a human sacrifice outside the northern wall of Jerusalem, or near Mount Moriah where Abraham had presented Isaac for sacrifice. However, Jehovah God had said that Abraham’s true seed would be, not one person, but many, the number of whom was then unknown just like the number of the stars or of sand grains on the seashore.

True, Jesus Christ the Son of God was born and circumcised as a Jew and thus he was a natural descendant of the patriarch Abraham. So through him the blessing of the nations of the earth could be literally fulfilled, exactly as it had to be. The rest of the seed of Abraham did not need to be natural Jews in the flesh. Why not? Because the rest of the seed of Abraham needed, all of them, to become sons of Abraham by means of faith. Abraham was a man of faith in Jehovah God. Because of his faith he was justified or declared righteous in God’s sight, even before Abraham got circumcised in his ninety-ninth year of age. (Rom. 4:9-22) True sons of Abraham, who are counted as part of the promised seed, must have faith in Jehovah, that they may be justified by faith as Abraham was. Then, after their justification or being declared righteous, God begets them by his holy spirit and they become sons of Jehovah God, who was prefigured by his friend Abraham.

They thus become spiritual sons of the Greater Abraham, Jehovah God, and are counted in as part of the promised seed of Abraham. Even Jesus Christ himself, though a natural son of his earthly forefather Abraham, was begotten by God’s spirit and in this way became a spiritual son of the Greater Abraham. His begetting took place at the time that he came up out of the waters of baptism and God’s spirit descended upon him and God announced him to be a spiritual Son, saying: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matt. 3:13-17) Eventually the seed of Abraham for blessing all the nations of the earth will be all a spiritual class.

It is an unspeakable blessing for anyone to be begotten by God’s spirit and to be made a part of the promised seed of Abraham along with Jesus Christ. This blessing comes from the Greater Abraham, Jehovah God the Father, and through his only-begotten Son Jesus, the Greater Isaac. The first ones to receive this blessing of becoming members of the seed of Abraham for the blessing of still others were natural Jews, a hundred and twenty of them, to begin with, on the festival day of Pentecost of the year 33 of our Common Era. Later Jewish proselytes and Samaritans were added to these. However, the blessing of Abraham was declared to be, not for Jews only, but for all nations, even though not circumcised.

In harmony with this, three and a half years from that Pentecost of 33 C.E., the blessing was extended to uncircumcised Gentiles, Italians in Caesarea of Judea being the first ones to receive the blessing of Abraham. This opened the way for the blessing to go to people of all the nations, without distinction, those thus blessing themselves by means of the Seed of Abraham being begotten by the holy spirit of the Greater Abraham, Jehovah God, to become part of the Seed of Abraham, even down till now. So God has not failed in fulfilling his sworn promise to Abraham.

Note, now, how Paul explains the matter, when writing to fellow members of that Seed in Galatia. He refers to himself as “He, therefore, who supplies you the spirit and performs powerful works among you,” and after that he asks:

“Does he do it owing to works of law or owing to a hearing by faith? Just as Abraham ‘put faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’ Surely you know that those who adhere to faith are the ones who are sons of Abraham. Now the Scripture, seeing in advance that God would declare people of the nations righteous due to faith, declared the good news beforehand to Abraham, namely: ‘By means of you all the nations will be blessed.’ Consequently those who adhere to faith are being blessed together with faithful Abraham. For all those who depend upon works of law are under a curse; for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone that does not continue in all the things written in the scroll of the Law in order to do them.’ The purpose was that the blessing of Abraham might come to be by means of Jesus Christ for the nations, that we might receive the promised spirit through our faith. “Brothers, I speak with a human illustration: A validated covenant, though it is a man’s, no one sets aside or attaches additions to it. Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. It says, not: ‘And to seeds,’ as in the case of many such, but as in the case of one: ‘And to your seed,’ who is Christ.

“You are all, in fact, sons of God through your faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one person in union with Christ Jesus. Moreover, if you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham’s seed, heirs with reference to a promise.

 “Now we, brothers, are children belonging to the promise the same as Isaac was.”—Gal. 3:5-10, 14-16, 26-29; 4:28.

By now, in this year 1965, how many of this seed of Abraham must there be, that is, counting in those from the first century onward? The Scriptural answer is, Not more than 144,000 of these spiritual sons of Abraham. This definite number is given in the very last book of the Holy Bible. This number, 144,000, in no way compares with the number of the stars that science has been able to count thus far. But the actual number remained unknown to Christians for forty or more years after the apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Christian congregations in Galatia, just as the number of the stars that Abraham saw with his natural eyes.

Then, about the year 96 of our Common Era, in two of the visions that the apostle John recorded in the book Revelation the exact number of the spiritual seed of Abraham who are joined to the Principal Seed was revealed, namely, the perfectly balanced number of 144,000. (Rev. 7:1-8; 14:1-3) These spirit-begotten 144,000 followers of the Principal Seed Jesus Christ must all be sacrificed with him on earth. Proving faithful to the death of their flesh, they will become joint heirs with him in the heavenly kingdom by resurrection from the dead.—1 Cor. 15:29-57; 2 Cor. 5:1-9.

So it is that, at the celebration of the Lord’s evening meal on Nisan 14 of this year 1965, there were about 11,500 who partook of the emblematic bread and wine to indicate that they were members of the spiritual seed of Abraham, heirs of the heavenly inheritance with the Principal Seed Jesus Christ.  To this tiny remnant of the 144,000 the sworn oath that Jehovah God added to his promise to Abraham on Mount Moriah ought to be of special comfort and encouragement to keep faithful. Why?

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Father of All Those with Faith