george_hancockstefanThe apex of the Holy Week in the Christian calendar is the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. This is the foundation of our faith and this is the major distinction of the Christian faith from others.  The founder of no other faith claims resurrection. Buddha is dead, Confucius is dead, Mohammed is dead.  The religions that they founded do not depend on their resurrection.  The religion that Jesus Christ founded is completely false if Jesus Christ is not alive.

When we survey the Old Testament, we find some interesting facets of life and the afterlife.  The Book of Genesis introduces us to two different concepts of longevity. Before the flood, people lived much longer, with the champion being Methusalah who lived for 968 years and Enoch who did not taste death because he was taken to heaven by God. The post-Noahic patriarchs are aware of the shortness of life in comparison. For a while, it hovers over 100 years, but then precipitously falls under 100. The strong, writes Moses, live to be 80 (Psalm 90:10).

The age in which the Psalms are written presents a new dilemma about the span of life and the possibilities of the afterlife. The center of worship on Earth becomes the temple during this period. In Psalm 88, one almost feels that there is bargaining going on when the Psalmist tells us that God should prolong the his life on earth because when he departs for Sheol he may no longer be able to praise God (Psalm 88:10).

Another period that is filled with new events concerning life and continuity after death is the period of Elijah and Elisha. In this period when there was great wickedness and the hearts of many Israelites were turned towards evil and idolatry, God sent these two powerful prophets. In addition to their many miracles, each one of them performed a resurrection. Elijah performed one while he is living in exile with the Sidonian family (1 Kings 17:7-24) Likewise, Elisha performed one in the house where he lived as a guest (2 Kings 4:8-37). The climax of this period reminds one of the Genesis period because Elijah does not taste death – God takes him to heaven in a fiery chariot while his disciples (the new prophets) are looking towards heaven

(2 Kings 2:1-11).

The conclusion of Ecclesiastes provides a watershed moment because it presents the reality of judgment for the deeds that were done in this life. “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). This passage can either be interpreted to mean that God will judge and bless one in this life or that God will judge and reward in a future life.

This development may be nebulous in Ecclesiastes, but it is very clear in Job, Isaiah and Daniel.  The statement of the first one has been made popular by Handel in his masterpiece ‘The Messiah’ when we hear “I know that my Redeemer liveth” (Job 19:25).  Job sets the resurrection in the midst of what can be known as one of the most tormenting episodes by the Devil.  He was attacked with everything that the Devil had in his arsenal so that Job would curse God. Not only is Job victorious because he remains strong in his faith, but in the midst of excruciating pain, he states that even if he will be slain, with his own eyes He will see God.  This statement is one of the oldest statements detailing that death is not the final abode for humanity (Job 19:25-27).

Isaiah’s book brings two ideas into focus – the Suffering Servant will see the fruits of his death and there is a new Kingdom coming in which life will be completely different.  It is in regard to this life that Daniel is told, “As for you, go your way until the end.  You will rest, and then at the end of the days, you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.” (Daniel 12:13)


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Rev. Dr. George Hancock-Stefan

George Hancock-Stefan

Pastor George Hancock-Stefan completed 30 years as the pastor of the great congregation at Central Baptist Church in Atlantic Highlands in 2020. Those 30 years have been a blessed time for him, his wife...