Bible Study Series: Resurrection, Rapture & the Redeemer
Job's hope in the resurrection and Redeemer!
by I Gordon
Ok... we are starting a new series and I have been thinking lately about the resurrection and the rapture. I'm not sure about you but as time goes by I feel less at home in this world and find myself dwelling more on what is to come. Maybe it is just that I am getting older... Though not quite the old man just yet, time does seem to go by quickly these days! Maybe it is because I have a few around me that are possibly nearing the end of their life and we are talking more about the next one. Maybe it is because the world that I knew and grew up in has changed so much lately and not for the better. Maybe, well probably, it is all of these things. But do you feel that? Do you feel that God is loosening your grip on this world and turning your attention to the life to come? Or is it just me? : )
So I've been thinking again about the resurrection and the rapture and wanted to do a short series on this topic. I haven't planned too far ahead, but as we go through this series we'll likely explore questions and topics like:
- What is the first mention and hope in the resurrection seen in the Bible?
- What did the Old Testament teach concerning the resurrection?
- What proof is there for Jesus' resurrection?
- What hope does this give all believers today?
- What is the power of the resurrection right now?
- What does the New Testament teach about the coming rapture and resurrection of the dead?
- What is it going to be like in our new body?
For some, whose body is giving you a few creaks and groans, you'll be longing for the life to come. I get that! So this message is just to get the ball rolling so to speak. It is an introduction and to do so I want to go to the oldest mention of resurrection in the Bible. Do you know where that is? Who was it that actually spoke about the resurrection hope first? Moses? David? Isaiah? Daniel? Nope... it actually comes in what is considered to be the oldest book in the Bible - the book of Job. It is our good friend Job who first considered the resurrection and that may not be surprising given that he was certainly a man in need of hope... as we shall see!
First mention - Quick background on the book of Job
Now you probably know all about Job right? He is an important figure in the Bible and his story is both unique and amazing1. In fact there is no other book in the Bible that gives such insight into how Satan works, with God's permission and restrictions, like the book of Job. Here are some quick points:
- Scholars don't know exactly who wrote the book of Job. Some point to Moses or to Job himself. Others point to one of his friends. The detail and continuity suggest it was written by an eyewitness.
- The date when he lived is also unknown though it is widely held that Job lived before the law (as there is no reference to the law in Job) just prior to the birth of Abraham (around 2000 BC).
- Job was a wealthy man who lived in Uz - often thought to be in Edom, south east of Israel.
- Job is one of the few in the Bible where God Himself commented on what an upright and blameless man he was! (Job 1:8) In fact he is mentioned by the Lord in Ezek 14:14 alongside Noah and Daniel as the most righteous men.
- Because of this, some cross hairs were placed on Job with Satan specifically asking the Lord if he could "test" Job in various ways (Job 1:10-11). The Lord agreed to this though with limits placed on what Satan was allowed to do.
- This resulted in tremendous hardship for Job. Firstly he lost his livestock and servants (Job 1:13-17). Then, while he was still hearing this news, he heard that all his 7 sons and 3 daughters had died in a mighty wind (Job 1:18-19). To top it off Satan then afflicted Job himself with painful boils from his head to his toe.
- Despite all of this, and with even his own wife saying he should 'curse God and die', the Bible tells us that Job did not sin (Job 2:7-10)
- Job's three friends came and initially they sat in silence with him for 7 days (Job 2:11-13), Unfortunately for Job, this was probably the best that they had to say! Once they opened their mouths it got worse as they essentially blamed Job for all that had come upon him. As the saying goes, 'With friends like these who needs enemies' right?
So that is the background to our study. Job is suffering big time! It is easy to gloss over it all but do you know someone that has lost a child? Can you remember their pain? Imagine losing all your children! Imagine your wife and friends then turning against you as if it is your fault! Imagine trying to cope with all this mentally and emotionally while being in daily pain physically? Yikes! It is into this setting that we now explore what Job was thinking. Specifically we'll see that he was thinking about resurrection and the life to come... which is completely understandable! So let's pick up the story in Job chapter 14 where Job asks some very pertinent and deep questions!
Job - Asking the deep questions...
Job 14:1-10 "Man, who is born of woman, Is short-lived and full of turmoil. (2) "Like a flower he comes forth and withers. He also flees like a shadow and does not remain. (3) "You also open Your eyes on him And bring him into judgment with Yourself. (4) "Who can make the clean out of the unclean? No one! (5) "Since his days are determined, The number of his months is with You; And his limits You have set so that he cannot pass. (6) "Turn Your gaze from him that he may rest, Until he fulfills his day like a hired man. (7) "For there is hope for a tree, When it is cut down, that it will sprout again, And its shoots will not fail. (8) "Though its roots grow old in the ground And its stump dies in the dry soil, (9) At the scent of water it will flourish And put forth sprigs like a plant. (10) "But man dies and lies prostrate. Man expires, and where is he?
So Job begins with a realization most eventually see... that life is short and difficult. 'Man, who is born of woman, is short lived and full of turmoil' Job says. It is true! As a personal example, at the moment by best friend's mother, a lady I have known for 40 years, is likely in the last stages of her life with pancreatic cancer. My cousin last week had her 5th round of chemotherapy for stage 4 ovarian cancer. And by that I don't just mean her 5th dose of chemo. No each round has several doses. Over the last several years she has gone into remission four times and now, for a fifth times, it has come back. Three weeks ago my mother had a brain tumor removed and will likely need follow up radiation treatment. Life isn't easy but, as I have mentioned previously, God has been amazing to each of these women during their difficult times. They each have their own testimony how God has strengthen them and even used this for His good.
In the midst of his trials, Job likened life to a flower saying 'Like a flower he comes forth and withers.' Do you remember when you were young and a year seemed to last forever and everything was ahead of you? Then, somehow, you get to be middle aged and realized it is all starting to fly on by! Maybe what you hoped for didn't eventuate. Or maybe life has been harder that you expected. That's why some have a mid-life crisis! Soon, to put it like Job, the flower that came forth starts to wither. Now I'm not trying to depress you! I promise... I'm not! It is just the reality of life. It goes very fast. Isaiah and James also spoke of this:
Isa 40:6-8 A voice says, "Call out." Then he answered, "What shall I call out?" All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. (7) The grass withers, the flower fades, When the breath of the LORD blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. (8) The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.
Jas 4:14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.
The greatest surprise in life to me is the brevity of life... There comes a moment when we all must realize that life is short, and in the end the only thing that really counts is not how others see us, but how God sees us.
So as Job ponders the brevity of life2 this is exactly the question that he has. He asks 'who can make the clean out of the unclean'? He realizes that his days are numbered and determined by God and therefore wonders how someone who is sinful can ever be pure in God's sight. This is a deep and critical question that all must ask. How can I be right with God? With all that I have done, how can I be pure in His sight? Job was asking this question thousands of years ago and hopefully you have done the same. I know I have. If I am going to meet my Maker, I want to know that we are good! But the deep questions don't stop there for Job as he ponders life after death. 'There is hope for a tree' he says... When it is cut down it will sprout again... it can spring forth again.
Here, pictured, is a tree in my city that I always look at when I drive out to my brother's place. It was a huge grand old tree that was eventually cut down so that only a 15 foot solid trunk remained. For a few years, for all intent and purposes, the tree seemed dead. There was rot in its trunk and no signs of life. Until it sprouted again that is! Right in the middle of it's impressive wide-girthed trunk came a small new shoot which has continued to grow! I always look at this tree when driving past and think of Job.
There is hope for a tree when it is cut down, Job said, but what about man? Where is he once he dies? Will he spring forth ever again? That was what Job pondered. If you give a corpse a scent of water will he pop back up out of the coffin or tomb? Ok, that might be a little off-putting! But too many people just live their life thinking only of today and not asking the deeper more important questions. Job wanted to know what happens. What happens when a person dies? With all his difficulties and trials we can fully understand why his thoughts had moved to the possibility of a life to come. Could he, like a cut down tree, spring forth again?
Is a man dies, will he live again?
Job 14:11-15 "As water evaporates from the sea, And a river becomes parched and dried up, (12) So man lies down and does not rise. Until the heavens are no longer, He will not awake nor be aroused out of his sleep. (13) "Oh that You would hide me in Sheol, That You would conceal me until Your wrath returns to You, That You would set a limit for me and remember me! (14) "If a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my struggle I will wait Until my change comes. (15) "You will call, and I will answer You; You will long for the work of Your hands.
Job uses an illustration of a sea or river slowly becoming parched and drying up. Once the water is evaporated, it is gone. Man is like this Job says. He lies down and will not awake out of his sleep. Now this all sounds pretty hopeless does it not? It all sounds very final. But is death the final chapter in our book? There are a lot of people who think it is. They think that death is the end and that there is no consciousness or resurrection after it. 'You just go into the ground and become fertilizer, worm food, and that's it' they'll say. "So live it up today as this is all ya got!" But in the midst of this despair, a question comes to Job; a thought comes to mind - 'If a man dies, will be live again?' Maybe, just maybe there is hope!
We need to remember that Job lived in a day when the revelation of what happened after death had not been disclosed. One of the things that it says in the New Testament and the coming of Jesus is that he 'destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.' (2 Tim 1:10) Light was shone on immortality and life through the gospel and Jesus' victory over death. Jesus Himself was incredibly clear when he said:
Joh 11:25-26 "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
Unfortunately for Job, he lived far before this so he ponders if there is hope. 'If a man dies will he live again?' And yet he is given some light. There is hope... a hope that can sustain him even through the current extremely tough times. He says 'all the days of my struggle (his current life) I will wait until my change comes. You will call, and I will answer You; You will long for the work of your hands'. He may not understand it all yet but he knows that at some point God Himself will have a burning desire for the work of His hands - the one He created, namely Job. And on that day God will call and Job will answer.3 Job may not have had all the answers on what was to come but this thought of a future hope, as clouded as it may be, sustained him through his trials. And it is the same for us. All three of the ladies that I mentioned earlier who have cancer all know that they could die. And yet all are sustained in their current trials by the the present day grace of our Lord and the tremendous hope of what's next in the life to come! And for Job, more clarity and greater hope was soon to be seen!
There is hope... The Redeemer lives!
Job 19:23-27 "Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! (24) "That with an iron stylus and lead They were engraved in the rock forever! (25) "As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. (26) "Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God; (27) Whom I myself shall behold, And whom my eyes will see and not another. My heart faints within me!
If we move forward a little to chapter 19 we see that Job wished that his words would be recorded in a book. Well, he got that wish granted and we are still reading them 4000 years on! But you see he has something important to say. He has seen something deeper concerning the life to come. He says 'As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed yet from my flesh I shall see God!' What an amazing statement! So wonderful in fact that the great composer Handel wrote an entire song around it including it in his monumental work 'Messiah'! Look at what Job has seen and announced:
- He knows, categorically, that there is a redeemer and that his redeemer lives!
- He knows that at the very end of the age this same Redeemer will stand upon the earth
- He know that though he goes the way of all and becomes worm food, yet from his flesh He shall see God. In other words, there will be a resurrection of his body!
Job had emphatic hope for the first time! And it was through a 'redeemer'. Let have a quick look at that...
If Job is the oldest book as often thought, then this is the earliest mention of a Redeemer in scripture. Just to take a short detour down Insightful avenue (argh, hopefully... I'll try to avoid lame-duck drive!), as we explore other scriptures we find four things that the kinsman redeemer had to do:
- Redeem those from his family that had fallen into slavery: Lev 25:48 then he shall have redemption right after he has been sold. One of his brothers may redeem him,
- Redeem any family land that was sold or lost: Lev 25:25 'If a fellow countryman of yours becomes so poor he has to sell part of his property, then his nearest kinsman is to come and buy back what his relative has sold.
- Avenge the blood of a murdered close relative: Num 35:19 'The blood avenger himself shall put the murderer to death; he shall put him to death when he meets him.
- Marry the childless widow for a brother: Deu 25:5 "When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husband's brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her.
Jesus is our great redeemer! Have you ever thought how he fulfils all these aspects of a redeemer? Take a look!
- We were slaves but Jesus came as our Redeemer to to set the captives free! (Luke 4:18)
- At Jesus' return He will redeem the earth restoring that which was lost in the first Adam (Matt 19:28)
- At Jesus' return He will act as the avenger of blood to take down the ultimate murderer - Satan (John 10:10, Rev 20:1-3)
- Jesus has redeemed the widow (you and me), taken them as His own and has planned for the greatest marriage in the history of the world still to come! (Rev 19:7)
To conclude there are a lot of questions in the book of Job. In fact just to make you happy I looked it up and found 329! These questions came from Job, Job's friends, Satan and even God. Now that is a lot of questions and Job himself was pondering and asking many deep ones! He had a lot of questions and rightfully so given the extreme difficulty that he found himself in. But they are questions that we all have at some point so to quickly summarise, here are some great questions from Job as well as the conclusion they led to.
Job 3:11 Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?
Job 9:2 How can a mortal be righteous before God?
Job 14:10 Man dies and lies prostrate. Man expires, and where is he?
Job 14:14 If a man dies, will he live again?
Job 17;15 Where then is my hope? Who can see any hope for me?
And these questions led to the greatest statement - one of a future and a hope:
Job 19:25-27 I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes--I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
Again, what an emphatic statement that is. This is not 'man expires, and where is he?' Or 'if a man dies will live live again?' This is 'I know!' I know there is a redeemer! I know that He is alive! I know that He will redeem me and I know that He will raise me and I'll see God! This is the hope that we have as believers. This is the hope that we have in Christ. We'll speak a lot more about the resurrection hope that we have in our redeemer but for now let me conclude with my own question. Do you have that hope? Can you say 'I know!' like Job did? Are you established and grounded in the fact that you are saved and have a future heavenly hope? Let me close again with an emphatic statement by Jesus mentioned earlier and notice the question He poses...
Joh 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do... you... believe... this?"
Job came to know this in his own way. He came to see that even if he lost everything in this life, even his own life, there was still his Redeemer that would call him to Himself and raise him up on the last day. May we all be rock solid in that future hope that we have in the Lord! Amen!
Even commenting on Job as literature, William MacDonald writes: "The great Reformer, Martin Luther, who was himself a gifted writer and translator, said that Job was "more magnificent and sublime than any other book of Scripture." Alfred Lord Tennyson, who as poet laureate of England could be expected to recognize great poetry, called Job "the greatest poem whether of ancient or modern literature."
For the more science minded among you, though it is considered the oldest book in the Bible, MacDonald also gives "several statements in the Book of Job are often said to reveal an advanced knowledge of science:
1. The evaporation-precipitation cycle (Job 36:27-28).
2. Wind and weather directions (Job 37:9, Job 37:17).
3. Composition of the human body (Job 33:6).
4. Suspension of the earth (Job 26:7).
5. Ocean-bottom phenomena (Job 38:16).
6. Cloud-lightning relationship (Job 37:11).
7. The orbits of heavenly bodies and their influence upon the earth (Job 38:32-33)."
It is not the first time Job has been pondering the brevity of life. Some other earlier examples:
Job 7:6 My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and they come to an end without hope.
Job 8:9 for we were born only yesterday and know nothing, and our days on earth are but a shadow.
Job 9:25-26 My days are swifter than a runner; they fly away without a glimpse of joy. (26) They skim past like boats of papyrus, like eagles swooping down on their prey.
The thought here is expressed in the Jamieson, Bausset and Brown's commentary where they write about this 'longing of God':
"Literally, “become pale with anxious desire:” the same word is translated “sore longedst after” (Gen 31:30; Psa 84:2), implying the utter unlikelihood that God would leave in oblivion the “creature of His own hands so fearfully and wonderfully made.”
It should be pointed out that Job's last question in the book is one where he realizes that he cannot answer God and nor should he ask any other questions! (Or speak at all, in doubting God, for that matter.)
Job 40:4 I am unworthy--how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth.