NO, DO NOT BE SURPRISED—the time is coming when all those who are dead and buried will hear His voice and out they will come— those who have done right will rise again to life, but those who have done wrong will rise to face judgment!
That is how J. B. Phillips rendered some words of Jesus in St. John’s Gospel.1
St. John described a similar scenario of people coming back to life in another book: "Then the sea gave up its dead. Death and the world of the dead also gave up the dead they held. And all were judged according to what they had done." 2
All. When we read that word we think of every human being—past, present, and future—our ancestors, people here and now, and those yet to come.
But is that "all"? Are human beings only those who are like us, folks we can see, touch, and interact with? What about those many of us only hear about, or are vaguely aware of? The little ones who die before they are born? Should they be included in "all"?
In my grandmother’s time, a pregnant woman carried her child under her heart. Yes, that’s how she described her unborn baby. I believed my grandmother, and I still do.
In the meantime—not all that long ago as history goes—some fellows had come along and told pregnant women that what they had in their wombs was either an embryo or a fetus, depending on what stage of development it was in. Embryo is Greek for "something that swells inside", and fetus can be traced to the Latin verb "feurere," which means "to bring forth"; so it’s something that is about to be brought forth, if you like. Almost looks as if they had to come up with some Latin and some Greek to get away from the words "baby" and "child."
You won’t find words like embryo or fetus in the Bible, because worldly fellows didn’t write it. Men who were inspired by God did. And God made people with the ability to multiply, and I believe Him—just as my grandmother did.
St. Luke was a doctor 3, and he also wrote what we now call the third Gospel. By way of introduction he tells us he had studied the reports of others and thought it would be good to write an orderly account, and that the full truth about everything would be known.4 Who could be better qualified than a doctor like St. Luke to tell us about pregnancies and babies?
First, he reported the case of an old lady named Elizabeth becoming pregnant. She was a priest’s wife, and she had been barren, but God wanted her to have a son to serve Him in a unique way—on special assignment we would say nowadays.
Then we read what happened when Mary, a young woman who would be the mother of Jesus, visited Elizabeth: the six month old baby in Elizabeth’s womb jumped for joy.5 Yes, the Greek text has the word for "baby," and ancient as well as modern translators have rendered it as "infant," "baby," or "child."
Many pregnant women throughout the ages have told of similar experiences, and many a mother will readily tell us the capers of the child she carries in her womb. Some of our five children were more lively than the others. Domna and I somehow seemed to know what they might be like long before they were born. Talk about personalities! They were real people already, and we had not yet had a chance to set eyes on them.
Right from the moment of conception, a baby’s influence on its mother can become evident; some sooner, some later, but it’s there. I always knew when Domna was pregnant. She would do things she normally wouldn’t do, such as eat raw vegetables straight from her garden. Come to think of it, we didn’t need a doctor to tell us.
These are all part and parcel of a happy family life. Then, living in the world we live in, there are the sad moments. An unborn child dies. What we think at times such as these may be less important than what God thinks. What if God includes children who die before birth in the number of people to be resurrected, or, as J.B. Phillips put it, to rise again to life?
Look at the sentence at the beginning of this article again. It mentions those who have done right and those who have done wrong. Surely, unborn babies have done neither,6 just as those who are born—and we call them innocent, don’t we?
Imagine the multiple millions of moms and dads coming up in their resurrection, parents who lost children before they had a chance to be born. Imagine a loving, caring, and merciful God raising back to life those lost children, popping them into the laps of their moms and dads and saying: Here is your chance to love them and to rear them up.
Neither the parents nor the children saw justice in this life. At the resurrection they will rise to face judgment. At that time they will know and experience justice, because Jesus is the judge. And you couldn’t have a more compassionate judge than Him.
Impossible? The Bible is the book that tells us about the resurrection of the dead. It also contains a verse that records Jesus saying: "With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible."7
All things. And if someone is still in doubt—as I have said to many an atheist, just wait and see.
Better still, as J.B. Phillips worded it: "No, do not be surprised – ."
1. John 5:28-29 (p.211), The Gospels In Modern English
2. Revelation 20:13, Good News Bible
3. Colossians 4:14, Good News Bible
4. Luke 1:1-4, Good News Bible
5. Luke 1:5-45
6. Romans 9:11
7. Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27, New International Version
EMBRYOLOGY (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
17th-18th century: descriptive and comparative studies.
19th century: analytical and experimental approach.
Wilhelm Roux (1850 – 1924): first to envision the scope of analytical embryology. Pioneer studies on frog eggs in 1885.
Hans Spemann: Nobel prize in 1935 for his discovery of embryonic induction.