C – LIFE, DEATH, LIFE HEREAFTER – 3
James Gibbons from Sword and Staff
In retrospect, the writer of the book of Hebrews in the N.T., looking back at the old patriarchs of long ago, seems to have a deeper insight into their thinking than we do. In that great chapter on the heroes of faith, he wrote (Heb.11:8-10) By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed, and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Then we further read (Heb.11:13-16) These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city. Obviously, they had hope of life beyond the grave, although their knowledge was incomplete. The Savior had not come.
Unexpected Expressions of Hope
During this span of time called the Old Testament, in the Psalms we find David extolling his relationship to God as his good shepherd. And, finally, these unexpected words appear in Ps.23:6. …and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Then Daniel in his marvelous prophetic writings from Babylonian Captivity anticipated another time of great trouble for the people of God, but encouragingly looking ahead, said, (Dan.12:2,3) And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt…[Read Heb. 11:33-40 on your own.] (Heb.11:35) Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection. This was before the coming of Christ. It seems that in their dealing with God they had assuredly come to a decided conviction that there was life after death. It was only left to the coming of the Savior to spell out the details and to fully confirm their assurance of this awakened hope.
The “Seed” and the Resurrection
In keeping with the promise of the coming “seed” (Gen.3:15), we read many other related Scriptures. Gen.12:1-3; Gen.18:18; Gen.26:4; Gen.28:14 There are others. Prophetic words of the book of Psalms (sometimes veiled in language almost obscure to our modern mentality) sets the stage for the great things to come, and in the process of their being fulfilled the truths become plainly evident. Sometimes it involves language, not only having reference to the first David, but with a dual and spiritual reference and application to the second David, Christ (the type and anti-type harmoniously corresponding). In several such Scriptures we find truths that are highlighted in the N.T.
Ps.2:1,2 (Acts 4:25,26); Ps.16:10 (Acts 13:35); Ps.22:1,7 (Matt.27:43,46); Ps.118:22 (1 Pet.2:6,7) We find one psalm, among others, that was effectively used by the early preachers in preaching the gospel, that is, Ps.16:8-10. …for thou will not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Acts 2:26-28 In anticipation, it looked forward to the resurrection of someone from the dead, even before their body had time to decay. Obviously these words didn’t refer to the first David as would be explained in the N.T.
Prevalent Conviction and Hope
As the O.T. age was drawing to a close, there seemed to be a settled conviction among believing Jews that there would be a resurrection and life after death (and with a lingering anticipation they looked forward to the fulfillment of Gen.3:15). However, their society had been put into an upheaval by the cultural wars in the years that followed the conquests of Alexander the Great (and its subdivision among his generals).Two opposing schools of thought emerged among the Jews, the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The Sadducees largely imbibed the Greek thinking while the Pharisees staunchly stood for the old ways. Acts 23:8 Paul pretty well summed up the state of affairs then when he says that the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit; but the Pharisees confess both. The hypothetical case made up by the Sadducees of the woman who had successively been married to 7 different brothers, and they die, as to whose wife she would be in the resurrection, typifies the ongoing clash between the two views. This is found in Matt.22:23-33. What Jesus said to the Jews in Jhn.5:39 fits in with the answer he gave to the rich young ruler, who asked him, “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? Jesus answers in Mk. 10:19-21. Jesus pointed to the Ten Commandments (the Jewish way of thinking), attesting to their belief in life after death. According to Paul, not only did they believe in the resurrection in spite of their incomplete O.T. revelation, that string of promises that we find throughout the Bible of the coming one had been kept very much alive (that hope of the one who would crush the head of the serpent in victory over death). In his defense before the Jews, Paul spoke of the resurrection from the dead. Acts 26:6-8; Acts 28:20