Saturday, July 23, 2016

Does Job Teach "Soul Sleep"?

"Why did you bring me out from the womb?
     Would that I had died before any eye had seen me and were as though I had not been, 
     carried from the womb to the grave.
Are not my days few?
     Then cease, and leave me alone, that I may find a little cheer
before I go—and I shall not return—
     to the land of darkness and deep shadow,
the land of gloom like thick darkness,
     like deep shadow without any order,
where light is as thick darkness."
- Job 10:18-22 

The book of Job is often considered the earliest biblical book, set in a time before the revelations given to the faithful, even in the first books of the Old Testament. That means that Job was dealing with harsh spiritual experiences with very little knowledge of God's covenants or of His dealings with believers in history. Thus, we cannot look to him for an advanced theology of eternal life or the destinies of men. Some, as we can see in Job 19:25-27, but nothing compared to what a modern Christian knows as we read the book.

Given that limitation, what does he describe here? He is miserable, as can only be expected, after losing not just his material wealth, but also his ten children, all in one calamitous moment. In his misery, he is wishing that he had never lived. In the verses above, he is lamenting that he had not died at birth, so that the gap between birth and death would have been brief, with no opportunity for hardship. But now, his only relief is in the knowledge that his suffering will soon end in death, so that he can have a little cheer in that knowledge before he goes. Ah! Goes where? Not into the grave to sleep until the resurrection, but rather to a dark place. Not "dark" in the sense that he won't be able to see, but "dark" in the sense of unknown. As I pointed out above, he didn't have the revelation that we have of heaven and Christ's presence there. Job feared the realm of death, not as a bad place, but simply as a place about which he had no knowledge. Yet he had enough knowledge that he was headed to a place, one from which he could - hypothetically, but not actually, for now - return, a place that he calls "a land."

Seventh-Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses like to find obscure verses in the Old Testament to deny the orthodox view of the afterlife. Their view is that the souls of the dead are in the grave, unconscious, with their bodies, a doctrine often called "soul sleep." However, even the earliest and most-obscure passages refute their error.

Job with His Friends

I also have a broader view of "soul sleep" here.

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