It is written that as Socrates was in his prison cell dying from drinking the hemlock, one of his disciples whispered to him, “Master, will we live again?”
Socrates answered, “I hope so, but no man can know for sure.”
Evidently, as wise as this famous philosopher was supposed to be, he did not express the kind of hope that believers have who follow the teachings of God’s Word.
Interestingly, the question posed to Socrates is similar to the question Job asked as he was struggling over his own problems: “If a man dies, will he live again?” (Job 14:14. New American Standard Bible.)
But that’s where the similarity of the question ends. Whereas Socrates didn’t know for sure about his hope of living again, Job did know. In fact, he emphatically answers the question in that same verse: “All the says of my struggle I will wait until my change comes.”
What is he referring to when he speaks of his change? In Job 19:25, Job declared, “And as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last day he will take his stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.” (NASB)
Unlike Socrates, Job had hope that one day he would see his Maker who would redeem him from his struggles by raising him to life. After having witnessed the death of his children, the loss of property and wealth, while suffering from his own physical affliction, he knew that all of us are mere mortals in this present life, susceptible to suffering and loss. No one, no matter how good and innocent and wise, is exempt from it.
Job was also fully aware that in death there is no hope. He said, “Where now is my hope? And who regards my hope? Will it go down to Sheol [hell, the grave]? Shall we together go down into the dust?” (Job 17:15-16, NASB.) Like Solomon later declared (Ecclesiastes 9:10), there is no hope when one is buried in hell [the grave] to rest in the sleep of death (Job 14:12; Eccl. 3:19-20). On the same token, Job never said his hope was to die and go to heaven. Rather, his hope was in the life that will come when believers will be resurrected from death to life through the physical resurrection of the body—a hope that the early church also taught and believed: 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18; Titus 2:12-13; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Revelation 22:12.
Job knew that sometime in the future, those mortals who claimed to believe in God and his promises would be raised to not only see life again, but to one day stand face to face with the very Creator of life—the Almighty God—himself. He knew that only an immortal person in his flesh could live to see his Maker with his own eyes (see v. 27).
Job, therefore, had the hope of the resurrection, the hope of all those who believe in God through Christ. Job could not have referred to redemption if he didn’t believe that God would provide Someone to arbitrate on his behalf in due course of time (“that latter day”), even though Job would be resting in the grave.
In Job 9:33, Job opines that his need is for someone who would argue his case for him and provide vindication in his case. At that time, he did not have anyone to plead his case before God. Job cries, “Oh that one might plead [literally, “umpire”] for a man with God, as a man pleads for his neighbour.” (16:21, King James Version) When Job declared, “I know that my Redeemer lives…” (19:25), as he spoke of “that latter day,” he was expressing his hope that God, the Redeemer, would provide the Man who would and could vindicate him. This text points forward to the man, Jesus Christ, the Mediator or Go-Between, (cp., 1 Timothy 2:5-6).
Job is, therefore, anticipating the redemption God would provide through a Chosen One whom he would send—the One who would qualify as God’s Redeemer for saving the righteous. This is none other than Jesus Christ.
Through Christ, there is hope for a future life. And not just a life, but eternal life. “For God so loved the world that whosoever believes in him shall not perish [second death] but shall have everlasting life,” (John 3:16, KJV) After Jesus has established God’s perfect Kingdom on the earth, Job along with all believers, will see God, and there will be no more sorrow, suffering, or death: Revelation 21:3-4; 22:1-5.
On the other hand, there is no hope for one who does not have Christ as his Saviour. The Bible clearly says that all will be raised again to life. But those who do not have Christ as their Saviour will be judged according to God’s perfect righteousness and wisdom. The result will end in eternal death for those who do not place their hope through Christ. (See Ecclesiastes 12:14; Isaiah 33:22; Daniel 12:2; Acts 24:25; Hebrews 9:27; 2 Peter 2:1-9; Revelation 21:7-8.)
Thus, the question posed by Job is answered in one word: Hope. Hope in the future life is good news since it enables our lives to be enriched and blessed in so many ways. For example, since Job had hope, he was able to endure his suffering. And since he was able to endure, he was able to have patience. He was patient knowing that although our Sovereign Lord puts us through difficult times (Job 2:10; 16:6-22; 19:21; 23:16-17), he is still in control.
Job knew that in spite of his own problems, God is compassionate and merciful. So, that in his time, God will correct all injustice and remove the evil that confronts all of us everyday. To illustrate this truth, because of his endurance and faith in God, God restored all that Job had lost and God gave him twice as many blessings than he ever had before: Job 42:10-17.
So, James writes, “As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful,” (James 5:10-11, NASB).
As you examine the question about living again in the future life, will your answer be the same as Socrates or Job? One did not have the firm hope of a future life; the other one did. Socrates had a fatal end without the sure, steadfast hope that believers have: “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast, and one which enters within the veil,” (Hebrews 6:19). If our hope is like Job’s, then we CAN know for sure if there is life again.
If you feel hopeless, remember this: You don’t have to be without hope if you have Christ. For as we learn from Job and the Word of God, hope of the future life gives us the opportunities to make the best of this life with all the rewards God has to offer through his beloved Son. Regardless of the successes or failures, joys or sorrows we face, life is worth living because of the hope we have in him.
God’s richest blessings!
Pastor Michael P. Brown