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In my Internet travels, I come across many a God-revering individual who doesn’t believe in a bodily resurrection. That is, most of these folks do not believe in any kind of conscious afterlife.
Case in point, I recently asked an orthodox Jewish rabbi what he thought about afterlife. Understand, there are many different beliefs of Judaism—just like every other religion—and this particular rabbi told me that he does not believe in a resurrection (or that the Hebrew Scriptures—OT—speak of one). After we die, he told me, we are basically absorbed back into God, unconscious. At this point, I pictured a sponge wiping up water on the counter. All memory gone in one swipe. Now that is really inspiring!
In light of the rabbi’s suggestion and in light of many other well meaning folks who don’t believe in an afterlife, I asked myself, is there any evidence of a resurrection in the OT? I mean, if the NT is merely a further revelation of the OT, we must surely be able to find potential evidence somewhere. Here’s some of what I found…
Job 19:25-27: “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; Whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes will see and not another. My heart faints within me!”
Ps. 16:9-10: “Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely. For You will not abandon my soul (soul= entire being) to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.”
Ps. 49:15: “But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol (the grave), for He will receive me. Selah.”
Isaiah 26:19: Your dead will live; their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, for your dew is as the dew of the dawn, and the earth will give birth to the departed spirits.”
Ezekiel 37:12-14: “Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves…Then you will know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life…’”
Daniel 12:2 (Septuagint): “And many of the ones sleeping in the earth shall waken…”
Hosea 6:2: “After two days will He revive us: in the third day He will raise us up.”
I realize these passages don’t prove that there is a resurrection. I get that. But still, I believe in a resurrection. Because without “more to the Story,” what’s the point of any of this? Why?
I once told an a-theist friend that I don’t know what gets people up every day who don’t believe in an (improved) afterlife for everyone. He said that that is ridiculous reasoning because he gets up every day to enjoy his life now, and that what happens after he dies (a.k.a. nothing) doesn’t have any bearing on his life now. He is able to find enough enjoyment and satisfaction in this brief, oftentimes disappointing life, and doesn’t need anything more to hope in.
Hmmm, really? I wonder if people who believe this way will still feel the same at the close of the chapter, when it seems that their journey began only yesterday, yet it is already ending today? There was so much life yet to be lived—so much left to do and experience. Time was the stealer of so much potential and becoming.
I can’t help but think that people who are just fine with a few decades of human frailty and struggle, before lights out forever, must have a freaking great Disney Life. For me, a lot of days have been more like getting stuck on the sizzler at a cheesy carnival. There have been a lot of days spent wishing I didn’t wake up or wondering what difference it made if I did.
Seriously, if we’re being honest, there is a certain percentage of this mortal life that really sucks, no matter who you are. It feels a lot like work and not a lot like play or joy (not that we are entitled to this, but we are wired to want it). At times is hard, laborious, fragile, monotonous, sad, painful, miserable, lonely, discouraging, stressful, tiring, overwhelming, hopeless, toilsome, and some days/seasons seemingly pointless. And—before you go pop a handful of Prozac—let me say this. While I do find a lot of enjoyment and even joy living in the here and now a majority of the time, especially since I now understand that there is no eternal BBQ and that God/Love wins, would this periodically miserable existence allotted to man (Solomon’s real “song”) be enough for me if this was all there is?
For me, no. Not in the least.
And, if my life has a lot of meaningful moments—good relationships and plenty of good ‘ol American comforts (food, warm house, clean water, soft bed, good paying job)—yet some days still feels like it lacks a lot of purpose, answers, or enjoyment, what about 25% of the world living in extreme poverty? These include 145 MILLION+ orphans who have never had a chance at prosperous ease, satisfied stomachs, or any kind of meaningful, comforting relationships. Is this one shot at life “good enough” for them? Would a “loving Father” subject anyone to a life of misery only to die…and that’s it? Would that be FAIR? Would there be any point in living at all? Would not these people have been better off had they never been born?
I know, I know…the scoffers reading along are thinking I’m FOS for suggesting that God is any more fair to allow them that kind of life now. And that is certainly a valid point. But at least I can deal better with the idea of a few years of misery on the way to a better forever. At least I believe in hope. And while scoffers scoff, they are probably enjoying a comparative Disney Life, so what does it matter to them if hope is desperately needed and desirable?
The bottom line is that I unashamedly, unabashedly admit that I am living for both now AND later. In addition to this part of my story, I am also living for the belief in something better—something that will seem like rest and play and beauty and creativity and fulfilling relationships and unrelenting purpose…especially compared to what is not all those things now.
Stay tuned for next time when I cover even more thoughts on resurrection. For now, I will try to dodge bullets.