Job's Epitaph (Phil Johnson)

Job 19:25-27   |   Sunday, March 8, 2015   |   Code: 2015-03-08-PJ


This morning we're going to look together at one of the

oldest confessions of faith recorded in Scripture. It's found in

the book of Job, chapter 19. This passage has always

intrigued and encouraged me, because it reveals that the faith

of Job was doctrinally robust. It shows how even the most

primitive forms of Old Testament religion were full of the

same beliefs that are the heart and soul of Christianity.

The text is Job 19:25-27. I believe this is probably the

oldest text in the canon dealing with the subject of bodily

resurrection. It is filled with early messianic hope. And it

illustates the fact that the hope of redemption from sin has

always has been at the heart of saving faithCand the essence

of that faith is not confidence in any kind of self-atonement

or innate human goodness. But true saving faith looks

outside of self for a Redeemer (who in the Old Testament

was hidden in mystery but in the New Testament is revealed

as none other than Christ, the eternal Son of God). Christ

was the object of Job's faith, and that is seen in this great

confession.

(If you have trouble finding the book of Job, it's just

before the book of Psalms in the order of the canonCand you

can easily find Psalms, of course, by opening to the very

Job 19:25-27 2

center of your Bible. Then just turn a few pages backward till

you find Job. Job 19, starting in verse 25.)

Before I read the text, turn to Job chapter 1 and let's

remind ourselves of the context. Job is in extreme agony.

There's no easy way to describe the depth of his agony. It's a

mixture of extreme sorrow, depression, loneliness, physical

pain, frustration, intense grief, and profound confusion.

Imagine the worst depression you have ever experienced and

multiply it by the sorrow of losing everything you ever

loved. Now multiply that by the dread you would feel if you

thought God himself had suddenly turned completely against

you.

Satan is sifting Job like wheat. Job was, according to Job

1:8, "a blameless and upright man, who fear[ed] God and

turn[ed] away from evil." He was "blameless" in the sense that

he was a justified manCa believerCwho feared God, hated

evil, and lived an upright life. The text isn't suggesting that

Job was sinless, because Scripture clearly teaches than no

one is sinless. But as this text demonstrates, Job was a

believer, and he was therefore counted perfectly righteous in

the sight of God. He also lived his life as a faithful man in

submission to God.

In fact, in that same verse (Job 1:8), God himself

acknowledges Job's uprightness and testifies "that there is

none like him in the earth."

Job's Epitaph 3

The devil's response is full of evil cynicism (Job 1:9-10):

"Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge

around him and his house and all that he has, on every side?"

So Satan sought and obtained permission to put Job to the

test to see if he would still glorify God if he lost every

earthly blessing God had given him. Satan then unleashed

wave after wave of personal assaults against Job. In a single

day, Job's flocks and herds and his herdsmen all perished in

what sounds like a violent volcanic eruption; His camels

were captured and stolen by some regiments of marauding

Chaldeans. And while Job was still receiving the report that

everything he valued was being destroyed or taken from him,

he got news that the house where his sons and daughters had

gathered to hold a celebration had been destroyed by a rogue

wind, and all his beloved children were now dead.

Everything he had was instantly taken from him in a single

day.

Job's famous response to all that disaster was an

affirmation of God's righteousness. Job 1:21: "He said, 'Naked

I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The

LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of

the LORD.'" Then Job 1 closes with these amazing words: "In

all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong."

Still, despite everything Job had suffered, it wasn't enough

for the devil. So in chapter 2, Satan shows up in the court of

God, still cynical and still burning with hatred for Job. And

Job 19:25-27 4

he wants to up the ante (Job 2:4-5): "Then Satan answered the

LORD and said, 'Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for

his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his

flesh, and he will curse you to your face.'" So verses 7-8 say

Satan "struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot

to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery

with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes." So (v.

11) three of Job's friends "made an appointment together to

come to show him sympathy and comfort him." And you know

the story: As comforters, these three guys were seriously

lame, and their counsel was so bad and so judgmental that it

only added to Job's sufferings. It was like rubbing salt in his

wounds. Chapter 2 closes with a profound understatement (v.

13) "[Job's] suffering was very great."

Now with that as background, we turn over to our text,

starting in chapter 19, verse 25. Job is well into his trial at

this point. Disease and disaster have caused his body to

waste away to virtually nothing. He literally looks like skin

and bones, and he feels like the only thing left intact in his

body is the surface of his teeth. Verse 20: "My bones stick to

my skin and to my flesh, and I have escaped by the skin of my

teeth." The counsel of his friends has been so hurtful to him

that he feels as if they view him as an enemy (v. 19): "All my

intimate friends abhor me, and those whom I loved have turned

against me." He pleads with them for pity (v. 21): "Have

mercy on me, have mercy on me, O you my friends, for the hand

Job's Epitaph 5

of God has touched me! Why do you, like God, pursue me? Why

are you not satisfied with my flesh?" That's a common Hebrew

expression ("not satisfied with my flesh"). It means their

accusations against him are slanderous. As if they weren't

satisfied to see his body destroyed, they were trying to

destroy his reputation as well. At least that's what it felt like

to Job.

This is unimaginable sorrow, the distilled essence of

every conceivable kind of human anguishCpure misery,

physical pain, unrelenting grief, the deepest kind of

emotional distress, and on top of that, Job had to endure

cruel barbs and accusations from these unbelievably

insensitive friends who hadn't a clue what was in Job's

heartCbut they were certain he must hiding some gross evil

secret. By now Job had reached the deepest, most distressing

point in his trials. A person of lesser faith might have

contemplated suicide, or turned against God, since it seemed

clear to everyone from an earthly perspective that God was

already against him. In fact, isn't that precisely the counsel

Job's own wife gave him? Job 2:9: "Curse God and die."

And yet, in the midst of a heartbreaking plea for pity, Job

utters one of the most amazing, triumphant, definitive

expressions of ultimate assurance ever recorded anywhere.

Job's confession absolutely defied his circumstances. He was

facing bitter confusion in the here and now, but expresses

settled assurance about eternity. He has been reduced to utter

Job 19:25-27 6

poverty, but he is well anchored in beliefs and values that

have eternal worth. He has a sick and disintegrating body but

he is still clinging to a living hope.

What Job affirms here, is, I believe, the very core and the

marrow of faith itself. The juxtaposition of eternal hope

alongside human agony is what makes authentic faith

different from temporary faith, hypocritical piety, phony

self-righteousness, and every other type of counterfeit

religion. Nowhere is the triumph of true faith sounded with a

clearer note than in our text. And it is not without

significance that the truth that becomes an anchor for Job in

all his suffering is the promise of bodily resurrection.

Listen to what he says (Job 19:25-27):

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will

stand upon the earth.

26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my

flesh I shall see God,

27 whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold,

and not another. [and then he punctuates that confession

of faith with another expression of he agony he was

feeling at that moment] My heart faints within me!

Perhaps I should mention that when I say this is one of the

earliest credos in the Bible, I'm speaking in chronological

terms. I'm not talking about how far it is from the front

cover. Based on clues in the text itself, the story told in the

book of Job clearly pertains to one of the earliest eras of

Job's Epitaph 7

human historyCthe patriarchal period, or perhaps even

earlier.

In other words, Job seems to have lived during the time of

Abraham or before. That seems clear from the fact that

according to Job 42:16, Job lived for more than 140 years

after suffering all the trials described in the book of Job. That

was a typical lifespan in Abraham's time. Abraham himself

was 175 years old when he died, and that would have been

considered a short lifetime by most of Abraham's ancestors.

Abraham's father lived 205 years, and his great grandfather,

great-great grandfather, and great-great-great grandfather

each lived between 230 and 240 years. Go back a generation

earlier, and Abraham's fourth great-grandfather lived 464

years. He even outlived Abraham.

But you see a clear, steady pattern of decline in the human

lifespan after the flood, extending from Noah to the time of

Moses. Moses was 120 when he died, according to

Deuteronomy 34:7. But Moses wrote Psalm 90, and in Psalm

90:10, he said, "The years of our life are seventy, or even by

reason of strength eighty." And ever since the time of Moses,

the typical human lifespan has been about thatC70 or 80

years (give or take a few decades based on the health and

hygiene of the culture we live in).

So if you take the trajectory of human life-spans as a clue

by which we can date the life of Job, he seems to have lived

Job 19:25-27 8

during Abraham's era, and he may have even been born a

hundred years or more before Abraham.

Furthermore, it is significant that Job carried out the

priestly function in his own family, according to Job 1:5.

That's something no believer would have done after the time

of the Exodus. As a matter of fact, Job's story gives us the

clearest picture of patriarchal religionCdevoid of any

institutionalized ceremony and ritual, without priesthood or

templeCbut with a burnt offering at the heart of it. Job 42:8

describes the kind of sacrifice Job made for his

familyC"seven bulls and seven rams"Cso it was a bloody

sacrifice, anticipating the Mosaic priesthood, which in turn

foreshadowed Christ.

There are many other clues in the book of Job itself that

Job was a close contemporary of Abraham and the early

patriarchs. For example, his wealth is measured in livestock

rather than gold and silver. The Chaldeans are mentioned in

chapter 1:17 as marauding nomads rather than city dwellers.

So the book of Job clearly covers a very early period of

human history. There's no record of who wrote it, but if it

was written close to the events it describes, it must be the

oldest book in the Bible.

In our text, Job himself is speaking. As we've seen, he is

at the very lowest point of his life. Because Job rejected the

bad counsel of his friends, they have basically given up on

him, and their accusations are getting more sordid and more

Job's Epitaph 9

insistent. Job himself has in essence given up all hope for

this life.

But Job still declares his innocence from the kind of

wrongdoing his counselors had accused him of. Having

given up any hope for survival, he still longs to be

vindicated, and his faith is such that he knows he will

ultimately be vindicated, even though he is (to all human

appearances) about to die.

Verses 23-24 are a prelude to Job's confession of faith. It's

an emphatic declaration that what he is about to say is of the

utmost importance. He wants his words to be noted and

recorded and preserved. Verse 23: "Oh that my words were

written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! Oh that with an

iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever!" He

wishes what he is about to say could be memorialized and

inlaid in iron on a stone monumentCand frankly, I think he

was thinking in terms of a gravestone that he wanted erected

over his already-withering corpse.

And think about this: Job's plea was answered exceeding

abundantly beyond anything he ever imaginedCbecause the

words he wanted preserved are recorded for all eternity in a

form that will not pass away, even when heaven and earth

pass awayCbecause they are now part of "the word of God,

which liveth and abideth for ever." Furthermore, the first

phrase of Job's confession has literally been inscribed on

hundreds of thousands of blocks of granite and engraved in

Job 19:25-27 10

brass letters in countless places, because it's a common

epitaph on people's gravestones: "I know that my redeemer

liveth."

You recognize, I'm sure, that verse 25 was also adapted by

the librettist who compiled the texts for Handel's oratorio

Messiah. And that is fitting, because it's a text that has clear

Messianic significance. It isCit must beCa Spirit-inspired

utterance. Because it is a prophetic reference to Christ, and it

includes a specific affirmation of bodily resurrection.

Here, then, is a very early expression of Messianic hope,

along with an declaration of Job's confidence in the idea of a

bodily resurrection from the dead. Let me read the text once

more, this time in the more familiar words of the King James

Version (Job 19:25-27):

I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at

the latter day upon the earth:

26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet

in my flesh shall I see God:

27 Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall

behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed

within me.

I love old commentaries. In fact, I prefer really old

commentaries over most of the ones that are being published

today because sometime in the early part of the nineteenth

century, commentators began to worry more about sounding

scholarly than they did about commenting on the sense of the

Job's Epitaph 11

text. After modernism gained popularity in seminaries and

academic conclaves, German rationalism and cold British

detachment began to creep into religious scholasticism. And

commentators began to take a more and more skeptical tone.

For that reason I prefer the older Puritan commentaries. I

always like to see what men of God saw in a text before the

academic impulse got hold of it.

So I was perusing some of the older public-domain

commentaries that you can download for free, and I looked

this text up in Adam Clarke's commentary. He was a British

Methodist, a follower of John Wesley but about a generation

after Wesley. If you can get past his Arminianism, he

sometimes has very good observations about the biblical

text. But his ministry straddled the 18th and 19th centuries,

and he was sometimes beset with that tendency to approach

to the text as an academician rather than as a believer. And if

I can be candid with you (knowing we have some seminary

students who might not like to hear me say this), I think that

kind of scholastic approach to ScriptureCdriven by a concern

for impressing academic mindsCsometimes makes it hard for

an educated individual to see things that are pretty easy to

see with the eyes simple, childlike faith.

So anyway, I looked up this passage in Clark's

commentary, and here's what he said about it. These are his

first words of comment on verse 25 ("I know that my

Job 19:25-27 12

Redeemer liveth"). He writes: "Any attempt to establish the

true meaning of this passage is almost hopeless."

Seriously? When I read it just a minute ago, did you have

a hard time grasping what Job was saying? When you hear

the soprano sing that aria from Handel's Messiah, do the

words mystify you? The problem is not that the meaning of

this text is so obscureCbut that the truth it contains is so

stunning and so much at the heart of the Christian message

that someone who approaches the text with academic

detachmentCor worse, a measure of skepticismCfinds it hard

to believe that someone from Job's era could express so

much of the truth we associate with the New Testament. In

fact, this text has been deliberately translated in the Jewish

Masoretic text in a way that attempts to tone down both the

Messianic significance of Job's statement, and the reference

to resurrection. A Jewish interpreter would say the text is

nothing more than Job's wish for vindication after he dies.

Now, to be fair, this is a difficult passage to translate from

the Hebrew, but no matter how you translate it, the meaning

is still clear, and there's no way Christians who believe in the

inspiration of Scripture should doubt the prophetic

significance of this text as a reference to bodily resurrection.

Here's a literal rendering of the Hebrew: "But as for me, I

know that my kinsman lives, and that he will at last stand forth

upon the dust. This will happen when my flesh has been stripped

off, but in my flesh I will see God."

Job's Epitaph 13

The King James translators added two nouns in verse 26

to try to make the meaning more clear. It says, "And though

after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see

God." The words worms and body aren't in the original, but

the sense is the same without them. Here's the ESV: "And

after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see

God."

Now, if Job had died and been buried in the conventional

Old Testament manner, worms would soon finish the

destruction disease had already unleashed into his body. Job

doesn't expressly mention worms. He doesn't have to. It

ought to be clear that when his skin was utterly and

completely destroyed, he would be dead. He was near death

already. And although no help for him was on the immediate

horizon, he was very clearly expressing a confident

expectation that after his skin was destroyed he would

nevertheless see God through real eyes of human flesh.

This is an amazing confession of faith from a man who

was already on the cusp of death. His friends had given up

on him. His wife had urged him to give up on God. He had

lost every possession he ever had, and worst of all, it seemed

as if God was against him. He didn't know what we know

from chapters 1-2, that Satan was sifting and testing him. But

God was sustaining Job's faith, so that it did not fail. And

this powerful confession is an expression of that

divinely-empowered faith. Coming just when we might

Job 19:25-27 14

expect Job to cave in to utter discouragement, it's a powerful

statement of confidence and conviction. It's rich with

theological implications, full of prophetic understanding, and

abounding with the most confident kind of hope.

Whenever I read this text, it reminds me how drastically

different biblical theology is from every other religion.

Where do you think Job got his knowledge, his confidence,

and his perseverance? Those things weren't the product of

Job's free will or native intelligence. They were expressions

of God's lavish grace to Job. God was the one who sustained

Job in these horrible trialsCthe same God "who is able to keep

you [and me] from stumbling and to present [us] blameless

before the presence of his glory with great joy." (That, of

course, is what Jude 24 says). This is just like when Satan

desired to have Peter in order to sift him like wheat, but

Jesus told Peter (in Luke 22:32): "I have prayed for you that

your faith may not fail." And although Satan did sift Peter and

Peter's courage failed him, his faith never did failCbecause

God answered Christ's prayer and upheld Peter. It was

certainly not because Peter found strength in himself to keep

believing. It's painfully obvious that Peter was as weak as me

and you. But in the words of Romans 14:4, "The Lord is able

to make [us] stand." God does on our behalf what we cannot

do for ourselves. That emphasis is the distinctive feature of

biblical religion. It's the very thing we mean when we speak

of God's grace.

Job's Epitaph 15

In other words, as Christians we know that truth is

revealed by God, not merely "discovered" (and certainly not

imagined or made up) by the worshiper. We also know that

faith is a gift of God, not a virtue or an energy concocted by

us out of our own free will. And we know that perseverance

is a work of God, not a fleshly achievement we're left to earn

through our own merits.

It was God who revealed these truths to Job. It was God's

Spirit who inspired this utterance. One of the facts of divine

inspiration is that there is sometimes a depth of meaning in

the inspired text that is not fully understood by the human

author. Peter says (1 Peter 1:10-12), "The prophets who

prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and

inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of

Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings

of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them

that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that

have now been announced to you." How much Job knew about

his Redeemer we have no way of knowing. But it is

absolutely clear that he understood far more than he could

possibly have figured out on his own. He did not discover

these truths; they were revealed to him by God.

And there are three aspects of Job's confession that I want

to focus on this morning. Three facets of his hope that are as

relevant to me and you as they were to Job. These are also

three truths that Job could not possibly have known apart

Job 19:25-27 16

from some special revelation. They are three realities Job

anticipated, all of which assured his final vindication:

redemption, resurrection, and reward.

Although Job's comforters had become his accusers,

because it seemed to them (and even to Job himself) as if

even God had turned against him, he believedCor rather he

knewChe would be vindicated. He would be redeemed,

resurrected, and ultimately rewarded with an unhindered

view of God in His glory.

That may be the easiest outline I have ever given you.

Three points, one word each: redemption, resurrection, and

reward. Three future spiritual realities everyone who trusts

Christ can count on. Let's look at them in our text. FirstC

1. REDEMPTION

Remember what leads into our text from the verses

immediately preceding. Job is pleading with his friends for

pity (v. 21). He also entreats divine Providence (vv. 23-24),

wishing that the words he was about to utter could be

preserved for posterity: "Oh that my words were written! Oh

that they were inscribed in a book! Oh that with an iron pen and

lead they were engraved in the rock forever!" That plea implies

that Job knew the supreme importance of what he was about

to say.

And then our text is a simple but profound distillation of

the very heart and soul of Job's faithCimpressive faith

Job's Epitaph 17

indeed, when you remember that none of the Bible had been

written yet, so Job had no inspired volume full of promises

or prophesies. And yet the simple promise he cites here is

sufficient to answer all his distress. No wonder he wants it

written for later generations to see and learn from.

This is an amazingly robust affirmation of faith, coming

as it did from such a broken, frail, anguished man (v. 25):

"For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand

upon the earth."

Notice, first of all, that Job is looking into the far-off

future: "at the last." That speaks of the end of timeCeternity

future. It's the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek expression

Jesus uses in John 6, during the Bread of Life discourse,

where He says (John 6:39): "This is the will of him who sent

me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but

raise it up on the last day." "At the last." "On the last day." The

phrases are exact equivalents, and they refer to the same

eschatalogical era: the end of this world and the dawn of

eternity. More specifically, it is sometimes called "the Day of

Christ" (you see that in Philippians 1:10 and 2:16); or even

more frequently, "the Day of the Lord" (like in 1 Corinthians

5:5). "The Last Day"Cwhich Jesus twice referred to as a day

of resurrection (also in John 6, verses 44, 54): "No one can

come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will

raise him up on the last day. . . . Whoever feeds on my flesh and

Job 19:25-27 18

drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the

last day."

So Job likewise had this expectation that on the last day

he would be totally vindicatedCredeemed, resurrected, and

rewarded.

"For I know that my Redeemer lives." I love that. It just

reverberates with a confidence that absolutely defies Job's

circumstances. Spurgeon said, "To reach the marrow of

consolation you must say, 'I KNOW.' Ifs, buts, and

perhapses, are sure murderers of peace and comfort. Doubts

are dreary things in times of sorrow."

Amazingly, while it is clear that Job is looking into the

future at the end of days, he uses the present tense. Not, "My

Redeemer will live." Present tense: He lives.

The Hebrew word for "Redeemer" is a vital biblical term,

full of significance. It's the Hebrew word go'el, and it refers

to a kinsman-redeemer, like Boaz in the story of Ruth, or like

Abraham, rescuing Lot from marauding kings who had taken

him captive. The Law of Moses spelled out in detail the

duties of a go'elCa kinsman-redeemer.

Because each family's land was so vital to the next

generation's inheritance, if poverty or some other crisis ever

made it necessary to sell family lands in Israel, such sales

were never regarded as permanent. Every fiftieth yearCafter

a cycle of seven Sabbaths, or 49 yearsCthere was a Jubilee

year, which was a kind of extended Sabbath. And in the year

Job's Epitaph 19

of Jubilee, sold lands were returned to their ancestral owners'

families. But if circumstances forced you to sell family land,

there was also a way to get the land back without having to

wait for the Jubilee year. Those lands could be redeemed (or

purchased back) at any time by a relative with means,

someone willing to act as go'el, or kinsman-redeemer.

Likewise, the go'el could redeem unfortunate relatives

from slavery. Not only did he redeem property and thus

protect the family inheritance; he sometimes redeemed the

people of his family from servitude, bondage, captivity, or

other similar difficult circumstances.

And in extreme cases, when the go'el could not redeem

with money, he could redeem by might. That's what

happened in the case of Lot. Abraham literally went to war to

free Lot from his captors.

Job was confident that God had appointed a Redeemer to

do all of that for himCOne who would not only pay the price

of Job's forgiveness, but one who would go to battle against

Job's enemy and accuser and utterly destroy him. That is, in

fact, the very role Christ takes as Redeemer of His people.

Hebrews 2:14-15: Christ took on human form and

surrendered to the cross so "that through death he might

destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,

and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to

lifelong slavery." Christ, of course, is the living Redeemer

Job 19:25-27 20

whom Job spoke of. He is the only One who could possibly

fulfill Job's hope.

I love how Job describes him as standing on the

earthCand he uses a word that means "dust." You could

literally translate it this way: "at the last he will stand upon

[this pile of dust]." Remember that according to Job 2:8, Job

himself was sitting in a pile of ashes, scraping his boils with

a broken piece of pottery. And he pictures his Redeemer

standing there in triumph. The language Job uses anticipates

Zechariah 14:4, a famous prophesy about the return of

Christ: "On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives."

Such an image of triumph! coming from a man who had been

reduced to nothing by unthinkable affliction, calamity, and

the sudden loss of everything he loved.

And that gets us to the very heart of this text, and perhaps

the most amazing aspect of Job's testimony. This is the

second aspect of Job's hopeC

2. RESURRECTION

The hope of resurrection is the theme and the centerpiece

of Job's confession of faith. It is frankly astonishing to find

such a clear and explicit text on the doctrine of bodily

resurrection here in what is undoubtedly the oldest book in

the Old Testament canon.

We know from Paul's experience in Athens (Acts 17) that

the idea of bodily resurrectionCthe Christian belief that our

Job's Epitaph 21

actual, physical human bodies will be raised to life even after

decayingCthat idea struck the best philosophers of

first-century Greece as dangerously subversive, ridiculously

novel, and utterly bizarre. Most of them mocked Paul for

preaching it.

Jewish theologians also tended to be unsure and

uncomfortable with the idea of bodily resurrection. One of

the hallmarks of Sadduceeism was their denial that the dead

can be resurrected. That led to a denial of practically

everything supernatural. According to Acts 23:8, "the

Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor

spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all." So there was a

conflict between Sadducees and Pharisees over the idea of

resurrectionCbut it's noteworthy that the Sadducees held

most of the reigns of Jewish power in Jesus' time. The high

priest and all the chief priests were Sadducees, and they

regarded the Pharisees' belief in resurrection as mere

speculation.

But here in their Sacred Scriptures was a clear affirmation

of the doctrine of bodily resurrection. And in all candor, on

this doctrine Job's faith seems sounder to me than the faith of

many Christians I know. Many Christians in our era seem to

think of life after death as some kind of permanent, ethereal,

disembodied spiritual existence in some cloudy, immaterial

dimension that is nothing like this world.

Job 19:25-27 22

That's not what biblical eschatology teaches. The

resurrection spoken of in the New Testament is distinctly and

emphatically a physical resurrection. These same bodies you

and I now inhabit will one day be raised and glorified. We'll

be changed, but it is these present bodies that will be raised,

reconstituted, transformedCglorified. If you think we will

float around heaven for all eternity in some totally different

form of existence, you need to adjust your thinking.

The New Testament proclaims the resurrection of the

bodyCnot just the eternality of the believer's soul. Your

body, the same physical body in which you now sit, will be

changed in a momentCglorified, given properties like

Christ's resurrection body. You'll be completely transformed

and flawlessCfrom weakness to strength, from an earthly

state to a heavenly state. Everything corruptible will put on

in corruptibility. But it will be the same body, changed, not a

whole new and different entity. That is one of the distinctive

ideas of authentic Christianity, in contrast to every religion

invented by humans or demons. We don't achieve nirvana by

escaping our bodies or shunning the physical realm. Our

bodies themselves will be redeemed and made fit for heaven.

I can't imagine all that entails, but I am looking forward to

running marathons again in the new heavens and new earth.

Remember that Christ was resurrected in the same body

that went to the cross. Even His wounds were still visibleCin

some glorified form that you can be certain was not morbid

Job's Epitaph 23

or creepy. It's true that Jesus' appearance was changed

enough that Mary and the disciples on the road to Emmaus at

first failed to recognize Him. John describes His appearance

in Revelation 1:14-15: "The hairs of his head were white, like

white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet

were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice

was like the roar of many waters." And yet it was the same

body, still recognizable enough that when the witnesses saw

who it really was, all their doubts evaporated.

If you struggle with understanding how resurrection

bodies can be the same as these bodies and yet so different,

just consider how our bodies change in the normal course of

life. This is the very same body I had when I was an infant.

Same fingerprints; same pattern in the iris of my eyes. Same

genetic makeup. And yet, few if any of the actual molecules

that make up my body today were present when I was a

baby. My features have changed enough that you if you had

only known me then, you would not recognize me today. My

hair, in places, is already turning white (though not as rapidly

as some of you).

In the resurrection my body will be glorifiedCperfected in

every sense. I presume that all the things that look like scars

and flaws at the moment will be removed or somehow

transformed into enhancements. But it is this bodyCthese

very hands and feet and ears and eyesCthat at the last day,

despite whatever state it has disintegrated into, no matter

Job 19:25-27 24

how scattered my dust might be, it will be brought to life and

made fit for heaven.

Somehow, Job understood that. The fulness with which he

expresses his hope of resurrection is stunning. Verses 26-27:

"And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I

shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall

behold."

There is no way Job figured out that truth by studying

natural theology. He didn't arrive at it by the scientific

method, either. He could not have read it in Scripture,

because not a page of the Bible was written yet. But it had to

come to him through some kind of direct special revelation.

As I said earlier: he did not "discover" it; God had to reveal it

to him.

Now it was the only hope he could cling toChis last hope

of being fully vindicated. And it's important, too, that what

Job craved was full vindication, not merely an escape from

his trials. Because without the hope of bodily resurrection,

Job could never be truly and fully vindicated.

Think with me about this: Why would someone who had

been through everything Job went through want a bodily

resurrection as opposed to a spiritual existence in some

heavenly realm? If Job ever had any reason to set his

affections on earthly things, Satan had unwittingly torn that

temptation away from him. Every earthly possession was

gone, and for Job that alone was a sizable loss. His body was

Job's Epitaph 25

sick and a constant source of pain, humiliation, gnawing

hunger, and relentless fatigue. The longer he stayed in that

body, the longer he was prolonging his own anguish. There

may have even been a note of misguided compassion in his

wife's suggestion that he should just go ahead and die. That

would have at least brought relief from the physical

suffering.

But there would be no full vindicationCno complete

redemptionCin that. In the words of one commentator:

One hope alone was left [to Job]Ca vindication in a future

life: [but] it would be no full vindication . . . without the

body. . . . It was his body that had chiefly suffered: the

resurrection of his body, therefore, alone could vindicate

his cause.

To see God with his own eyes, in a resurrected and glorified

bodyCthat was the vindication Job craved.

There's prophetic significance in that, too, I think. Christ

on the cross was placed in the very same situation as

JobCsuffering innocently (though Jesus was innocent in a

pure, sinless way; whereas Job was innocent of all the secret

sins his friends and others suspected of him). But vindication

of Christ's righteousnessCa full exoneration of His

innocence, His deity, the sufficiency of His atoning work,

and the ultimate proof that He was God's SonCall of that was

publicly declared and forever settled by the resurrection of

Christ from the dead. Even though Christ died between two

Job 19:25-27 26

thieves, looking for all the world like a guilty criminal, God

vindicated Him by raising him from the dead. And when the

apostle Paul writes the church at Rome, he opens his epistle

with that very truth (Romans 1:3-4)Cthat "[Jesus Christ our

Lord] was descended from David according to the flesh and was

declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of

holiness by his resurrection from the dead."

Job hoped for a similar vindication by the resurrection

power of God. He knew he was innocent of any sin that

might have unleashed the fury of God against him like this.

Yet he looked to all the world like someone "stricken, smitten

by God, and afflicted." True vindication would only come

when God resurrected Job's tortured body and somehow

made it whole again. Job knew such vindication must

eventually come, because he knew God is just. And his own

great wish was to stand before God and see the Almighty

with redeemed, glorified new eyes.

That is really the third element of Job's faith that we want

to take note of. He longed for Redemption; he hoped for

Resurrection; and now finally, he cravedC

Job's Epitaph 27

3. REWARD

Juxtaposed alongside Job's wish for physical, bodily

resurrection is his hope of heavenly reward. That perspective

is exactly right. The reward Job hoped for was exactly the

right kind of prize, too. It wasn't the restoration of his wealth

or the recovery of any of his earthly comforts. He wanted

one thing, and that was to see God with his own eyes.

Verses 26-27: "Yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall

see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. The

sense of that last phrase is ambiguous. Does he mean, "I shall

see God . . . and not [some other image]"? Or should it be read

like this: "I [and not another person] shall see [God] for myself."

Or even "my eyes [and not another person's eyes] shall behold

Him." I think both the context and the words themselves work

best if we understand Job to be stressing the reality that he

shall see God for himself, with his own eyes, and not in some

ghostly or spiritual sense of seeing, but with these very eyes.

It's an amazing hope, but as I have said very often, that is

the deepest longing and greatest desire of every truly

redeemed person. It will be our greatest reward in heaven to

see the glory of God with our own eyes. It's what Moses

desired to do on the mountainCand because of the infirmity

of his fallen flesh, God allowed him to see only a tiny

glimpse of the glory as it receded, while Moses was held in a

cleft of the rock, covered with the hand of God.

Job 19:25-27 28

David, likewise, wrote in Psalm 17:15: let the wicked

have all the earthly blessings, but "as for me, I shall behold

your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied

with your likeness." Paul echoed the same expectation (1

Corinthians 13:12): "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then

face to face." And the apostle John wrote in 1 John 3:2,

"Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has

not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be

like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who

thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure." That is the

reward all true believers long for most of all: to see God's

glory, and to be transformed by that glory into the very

likeness of Christ.

These truths lie at the core of the gospel message. That's

why the gospel is such good news. I think Job understood the

ramifications of what he was writing only in a very dim and

shadowy sense. But we have the privilege of seeing that truth

under the bright light of the gospel. In the words of 2

Timothy 1:10, "Christ Jesus . . . abolished death and brought

life and immortality to light through the gospel." The way Jesus

"abolished death and brought life and immortality to light" was

by dying and then bursting the bonds of death for Himself

and for all who are united with Him by faith. That truthCthe

same truth on which Job hung all his hopesCis the very

pinnacle of triumph in the gospel narrative.

Job's Epitaph 29

The life of ChristCand the historical basis of the gospel

itselfCculminates in two related events: the cross, where sin

was atoned for, and the empty tomb, where death was

defeated and abolished forever. That's how life and

immortality were brought to light "through the gospel." The

glorified body of the risen Christ put "life and immortality" on

display in physical, tangible form. The apostle John

described it as "That . . . which we have seen with our eyes,

which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled" (1

John 1:1). "Life and immortality" were thus brought to the

bright light of day so that "through the gospel" we have a far

better conception of what eternity entails and what heaven

will be like than any Old Testament saint ever dared to hope

for.

And Scripture makes this promise to every authentic

Christian (Philippians 3:21): that Christ "will transform our

lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that

enables him even to subject all things to himself." So life and

immortality have been brought to life by the gospel,

specifically revealed to us in the resurrection body of Christ.

Though our text comes from the lips of an Old Testament

believer, the truth it expresses is the heart and soul of

Christian conviction. This is the truth that gives us courage

to live for Christ in a hostile worldCor to die for Him if He

calls us to that.