From one standpoint this question may seem to be one of mere speculation. From another it may seem to be one of relatively small importance. However, as soon as we change the wording of the question its importance suddenly soars!
When we asked the question: "Who is covered by the Ransom?" "Does the Ransom include those who died while still in the womb?" Now the matter takes on an enormous proportion! Will there be a resurrection of the unborn?
As Bible Students we look to the Word of the Lord first. There we are informed that at the end of the Gospel Age He would give the saints special guidance through a special messenger. – Rev. 1:1; Matt. 24:45-47; Eze. 9:3,4,11
There are two possibilities.
1. Those who die in the womb WILL have a resurrection.
2. Those who die in the womb will NOT have a resurrection.
Let us look at the "arguments" which have been used by Bible Students to support these two positions. Our goal is to see if we can answer all questions satisfactorily and in harmony.
We suggest reading all of E99:1-E100:3. Below are a few excerpts.
While several scriptures may be given in support of the fact that life is passed on from the Father, we suggest the following one.
Let us trace each usage of the Greek word for "babe" (G1025) as used in the New Testament so that we may be certain that this always refers to a living soul.
In each of the above there can be no doubt that God's word is speaking of a living soul. These are all cases where clearly the child has already been born.
The most obvious item to notice here is that the babe (John the Baptist) in Elisabeth's womb leaped for joy! If this is not a living soul, how could it possibly experience any emotion?
Further we note that Elisabeth was not coming up with this on her own for the scripture states clearly that "Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit."
The same Greek word (Strong's G1025) is used in every one of these references. Each one clearly referencing a living soul. Would it make any sense to claim that the one case of John the Baptist "leaping for joy" while he was still in the womb of his mother Elisabeth would somehow be an exception? Surely not!
We believe it is safe to say that John the Baptist was indeed a living soul prior to his birth.
"Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am." – John 8:58
So, what does this scripture (John 8:58) and the above remarks by Br. Russell have to do with our current discussion as to when live begins? Simple. Where was Jesus during the nine months of Mary's pregnancy? The scriptures seem to be clear that he was in the womb of his mother Mary. Was he a living soul during that time? His own answer to that question is "Before Abraham was, I am."
So now we have at least two clear cases (John the Baptist and our Lord Jesus) who are identified in Scripture as being living souls prior to their coming out of the womb.
"Jerusalem which now is, .. is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise." Gal. 4:25-26,28
"Now [while we are on earth, in the womb of the covenant] are we [not some day after we are born on the spirit plane, but now] the sons of God." 1 John 3:2
We are so alive now that, heaven forbid, we could leave our covenant arrangement (leave the womb of the covenant.) For us that would mean the second death, just as it would for a human child in the womb. If it is not developed enough to survive outside the womb, it will die. In either case (a human child or a spiritual child) in order to die one must first be alive.
Many years ago Br. Edward Lorenz told how Br. Russell handled Question Meetings. He normally received the questions in one of two ways. Brethren would simply hand him a question on a piece of paper, which he would immediately put in his pocket. The other way was questions, turned in to the convention chairman, would then be handed to Br. Russell during the question meeting. In either case the first time he saw the question was during the question meeting. This meant that his answers were all "off the top of his head."
Considering his answers to these questions have been so helpful to the Lord's people over the years, we are once again impressed that the Lord certainly knew what He was doing in His selection of that Faithful and Wise servant.
We may, however, make a difference between such answers he gave at such question meetings and those he had more time to consider and put in the Towers. While it is rare that we would look at his answers to these questions in such a manner, it seems appropriate in this case.
Is there a way for us to determine which of the questions we find in the Question Book ("What Pastor Russell Said") were given under these circumstances? Probably not with certainty. We may, however, make a reasonable guess. If the question has a Reprint (or Tower) reference given to it, then it was NOT likely one of these "off the top of his head" answers.
When looking at the answer to the question "Will there be a resurrection of the dead-born children?," we note that his answer does not contain a Tower reference. While the reasoning is logical, it does not appear to take into account the other points raised in the previous section.
Our thought is that this one remark appears to be in conflict with his statements about the spirit or spark of life coming from the father and not the mother. Also:
The argument here is that a woman with child is caused to mis-carry, the child in the womb dies. Yet the man who caused the death of the child does not forfeit his life (a life for a life.) This (supposedly) proves that the child in the womb is not considered to be a human being yet.
This appears to be rather direct. It would also then, at first glance, seem to be in conflict with the scriptures used above which show the living soul being still in the womb. Is there a way to harmonize these two seemingly contradictory scripture expressions?
Let us look at the context in Exo. 21:18-21.
It appears that the context is that of Property Law. This would explain why death of the unborn child was not to be considered as important as that of a mature full-grown individual (in this case, the woman.) This would be consistent with Joseph being sold for 20 pieces of silver, because he was not yet a full-grown man, for whom the going rate was 30 pieces of silver. Gen. 37:28; Zech. 11:12-13; Matt. 26:15.
Just a few verses later (Exo. 21:32) we are told that when an ox "pushes" a slave ("manservant or maidservant") the owner of the ox shall pay their master 30 pieces of silver. Thus, 30 pieces of sliver was the price of a slave.
This entire section from Exo. 21:18-36 appears to be what we might term "property law." If we read it with that thought in mind, the apparent contradiction with the prior section of scripture concerning life in the womb disappears.
We know the names of only three angels. Michael, Gabriel and Lucifer. Why?
Angels are messengers. When the message is from God it usually does not matter who had the privilege of relaying God's words to His people. The message is still from God.
However, it seems we needed to know the names of these three. Lucifer, Satan, the Devil. We need to know of him and his evil. We need to know that he is real and not some mythical creature. He was (and is) the Chief Enemy of Our Lord Jesus and of the True Church, the Bride of Christ.
Michael was made known to us in the book of Daniel. This is also where we learn of Gabriel. We are told in Dan. 12:1 that when Michael stands up several remarkable things would take place, including running to and fro, increase of knowledge and a great time of trouble.
Why do we need to know of Gabriel? We suggest that we (and more particularly Zacharias, Elisabeth and perhaps even Mary, the mother of Jesus) needed the assurance of someone who was familiar (by reference in Scripture) to give the message that she would have a son by a miraculous means.
In the case of Zacharias and Elisabeth, they may have needed to have their faith strengthened in this manner, so Gabriel identified himself.
What about Mary? Here was a righteous woman who was given such an incredible message, is it any wonder that it would be delivered by someone she knew of from the book of Daniel?
This brings us to the natural question. Why did God use Gabriel? Why not use Michael, the archangel, to deliver this most important message? The answer to this question is simple. Michael could NOT deliver the message. Why not? Because at that time God was in the process of transforming him from the spiritual to the human nature.
We have already established that Jesus (as the Logos) had a continued existence from the time of his creation until he died on the cross. When Jesus (still a living soul) was changed from the spirit nature into the human nature, where was he at that moment? Clearly he was now in the womb of Mary. Was he still a living soul or did his existence cease for nine months? "Before Abraham was, I am."
This would seem to be a valid principle, which oddly brings us to another subject.
So what does Br. Russell's remark about all life being a blessing from God have to do with Judas, and what does that possibly have to do with the subject of when human life begins?
If we assume that Judas was of similar age to Jesus, i.e., around 30 years old, how then do we explain the Master's words: "It had been good for that man if he had not been born?" Isn't all life a blessing from God? Even if Judas died the second death, weren't the first thirty years a blessing? How do the words of Jesus harmonize with this thought?
At first glance they appear to be at odds with the idea that all life is a blessing. At least until we examine what he said a little more closely. Jesus did NOT say: "It would have been good for that man if he never came into existence," but only that he had never been born! Once we recognize that life indeed comes from the father and that a child in the womb is already a living soul, then we are better able to understand the words of Jesus. If Judas had died prior to having been born, he would be brought up with the world of mankind in the resurrection and thus have life then, and would have the opportunity to walk up the highway of holiness and attain to perfect human life. But, since he was born, he did betray our Lord and, we believe, did die the second death, it would indeed have been better for him had he died from his mother's womb.
God could refer to them as "two nations" because they were already living souls while in the womb of Rebekah.
The reason the Bible calls death a "sleep" is because there will be an awakening from that sleep. In this verse Job is enduring such suffering that he is wishing that he had died while still in the womb. Then he would have a resurrection but would not have to endure the suffering he was then going through.