Summary: A Biblical exploration of the age old mystery and questions of immortality.
Once a broken man, covered with hideous and painful sores from the sole of his feet to the top of his head and adorned with sack cloth and ashes, sat mourning amid the ruins of his own household. He finds scarce comfort in his grieving from his faithless fair-weather friends and his carping and critical companion. They have gathered as vultures to the corpse of his crisis; to confront rather than comfort.
Just a few days before he had been known as the richest and most prosperous man in all his known world. He had been blessed with ten lovely, loving and loyal sons and daughters and their offspring. Happiness had filled his household. The vibrant and joyful laughter of his descendents constantly echoed up and down the corridors of his life.
Then it happened. In a flash his family and all his worldly possessions were snatched away by one swift, cruel blow from the evil one. One moment God was in his heaven and all was right with his world, then tragedy struck and all was lost. His world was turned upside down and his life lay in shattered shreds at his feet.
A bruised, battered and broken being, bent down and reflected upon the vacuum that death had left in his heart and the emptiness that now filled his life. He is crushed as he sits and contemplates his cruel fate. A terrible and tortuous cry of torment and anguish is torn from the depths of his very soul. In a great sob of sorrow he shouts out to his great creator God, "If a man dies, shall he live again?"
Job’s rhetorial question brings us face to face with the shocking common denominator of all men, death. He speaks to those who have seen all earthly hope collapse and lie in shattered fragments at their feet. He touches those who in one moment of time have had their world turned upside down to come crashing down around them. He cries out those who have realized that eyes that once smiled have closed, lips that once spoke have fallen into cold silence and the warm loving grasp of a vibrant hand has forever relaxed.
He addresses all men who, no matter how lightly they may treat the matter or how desperately they may try to circumvent or delay the issue, must someday stand on common ground as their hearts ponder the same age-old question of the mystery of immortality.
The stark reality of man’s mortality is made evident in the life of even the most sceptical. He cannot avert his eyes from the spectre of death that overshadows his every step. He cannot silence the voice that shatters his self-imposed naivete. The timeless question of Job of old breaks loudly into the false sanctity of his consciousness with all the force of a wailing siren, "If a man dies, shall he live again?"
The resurrection story urges man to break out of the shell of self-deception and face the issue squarely. God implores man to come to grips with the implications of man’s mortal existence, no matter how painful the encounter with reality might be. He insists man admit the hopelessness of his dilemma, unless an answer comes from a higher source and authority.
Job’s is not a question flung as a scornful cry into the face of an unyielding fate. But rather, it is framed as an intelligent appeal, from the heart of a man of spiritual wisdom. A man who recognizes that the answer to life’s central question can only come from the one from whom life issued.
Are we, as Job would later attest, justified in holding that in spite of death, we have a valid hope of immortality? Some scoff at such a proposition as a ridiculous paradox. Some shudder at it as a dreadful possibility. Some, not as wise as Job, turn to history outside God’s Word and are led only to the grave and left there. Because secular history is merely mute about the matter. It neither confirms nor denies the prospect of an afterlife.
Some turn to science, but find no laboratory, apparatus or technique for analyzing life or death or discovering the fate of a soul. Some rely upon philosophy and find themselves free to speculate, postulate, formulate and posit theories, but in the end find their hypotheses unreliable, for philosophy has no reliable means of testing its conclusions.
Some of us turn to the only true and reliable source, the Word of God, to find there the only authoritative and satisfying answer to man’s perpetual quest for immortality. We cherish this hope as the established answer. Our hearts vibrate within us as we contemplate Paul’s climatic cry in his resurrection chapter, "O death where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be unto God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!"