In the previous post Job focused solely on the inevitable and hopeless reality of death. Job now asks the ultimate question, “If a man dies, will he live again?” Notice he didn’t ask, “If a man dies, will he go to heaven?” “Will death turn out to be the doorway into something wonderful?” No, his question is a more unusual one than that, because it concerns whether or not a human being, once dead and doomed to Sheol, would live again. What is remarkable in this approach is that it neither sidesteps nor soft-pedals the reality of death. Instead, since it does not attempt to belittle death’s doubted finality, Job looks it straight in the eye. He accepts this dark destiny as his necessary due and so becomes, like Jesus Himself, “obedient to death” (Phil. 2:8).
Here he looks death square in the eye, and still asks whether someday, even though long dead and in the grave, will he brought back to life. It is important to grasp that this notion of a life-after-death had no place in the orthodox theological doctrine of Job’s day. Years later, Old Testament writers, from King David on, were to deliver startling prophecies of bodily resurrection (see, for example, Psalm 16:10; Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2). However, back in Job’s day, there was no such teaching. As commentator Norman Habel writes, “The resurrection terminology employed by Job’s speech seems to reflect a popular tradition against which standard Israelite teaching was directed.” To the ears of Job’s friends, in other words, all his fine prophetic fantasies would have been heresy, and Eliphaz says as much in his rebuttal (See Job chapter 15).
There is a funny thing about heresy, however, which is that in the odd case where the heretic turns out to be right, he is no longer a heretic, but a prophet. I immediately think about all of the church reformers, the apostles, and other believers who were murdered in the name of the Catholic Church. As it turns out, Job’s solution to the intolerable question mark of death just happens to be God’s own solution.
Look at Jesus’ proclamation in John 5:25, “I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” Try to imagine the charge Job must have gotten when he saw the enactment of this very event he predicted, “You will call and I will answer you; you will long for the creature your hands have made” (Job 14:15). Even above that, he declares that however long it might take, “I will wait for my renewal to come” (Job 14:14).
Job’s attitude has to be the epitome of New Testament faith, as Christians also “wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved” (Romans 8:23-24). Since Job posed the question, “If a man dies, will he live again?” he places so much confidence on a positive response. He as much as states with Paul, “If the dead are not raised . . . your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (I Corinthians 15:16-17).
In the light of all this, Job must certainly be seen as a very early Christian prophet of the resurrection. In this chapter, his thinking on the subject is still groping and tentative. In subsequent speeches, his statements grow increasing bolder, to the point where in 19:25-26 he will cry out, “I know that my Redeemer lives . . . and after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.”
This has to be the most essential hope and promise in the Christian life! So much so that the earthly life we now live consists simply in practicing for the moment of resurrection. “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14).
Other religions might be happy to let the old body rot in the ground, so long as the soul journeys onward or is reincarnated. To the Christian this is a horrifying evasion of reality. In the final analysis it isn’t so much the salvation of our souls that we human creatures are primarily concerned about, as the salvaging of our poor, dear, bedraggled hides. Because we don’t just have bodies—we are bodies. What we long for isn’t to become pure disembodied spirits, but rather to have our spirits harmoniously reunited with our bodies. (As long as our bodies can work the way they are meant to, without ever wearing out). And wow! —this very dream turns out to be exactly what our Savior has for us up His amazing sleeve!
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