Job 14:7-22

Sermon preached on January 28, 2018 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2018. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

What is death? What is the nature of death? Is it something to be feared, something to be depressed about? Or is it something to be celebrated? At his famous Stanford commencement speech in 2005 Steve Jobs said,

"Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It's life's change agent, it clears out the old to make way for the new."

Steve Jobs wasn't alone in his thinking. In his book, The Big Bang, Simon Singh writes, (p. 75)

"Death is an essential element in the progress of science, since it takes care of conservative scientists of a previous generation reluctant to let go of an old, fallacious theory and embrace a new and accurate one. Their recalcitrance is understandable, because they had framed their entire life's work around one model and were faced with the possibility of having to abandon it in favor of a new model. As Max Planck, one of the great physicists of the twentieth century, commented, 'An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents; it rarely happens that Saul becomes Paul. What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out, and the growing generation is familiarized with the ideas from the beginning.'"

I think it's fairly easy to speak so dispassionately about death when you're young or middle-aged. When death seems far off, not threatening you, it's easy to be cavalier about it. When you're in one of those groups it's also easy to ignore it, to pretend it isn't coming. Many people today do that. I've heard of people who don't like to go to visit their very sick friends in the hospital. They avoid as much as they can wakes and funerals. They don't want to think of death and they don't want any reminders of it. Ecclesiastes 7:2 warns us against doing that. It says,

"It is better to go to
a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of every man;
the living should take this to heart."

Others don't ignore death—they focus on it. They have a morbid obsession with it. Job was like that during some of his suffering. Indeed, he was suffering so much that he couldn't help think about death and the horrors that it entailed.

Last week we contrasted Job's sins haunting him to the biblical teaching on the forgiveness of sins. This morning we're going to contrast Job's foreboding about life after death to the glorious reality that Christians have in Christ.

First, consider Job's foreboding.

Job had a very depressing view of life after death.

Now don't misunderstand Job here. At other times during his suffering his faith soared to heights and he expressed his hopes of a Redeemer and of his resurrection. (Job 19:25-27) But here, he falters. He doesn't completely lose hope as we see in verse 13, but most of what he says here is very dark.

Among the points that Job makes in our text there are four that we should note.

    Let's look at them in order.

    First, There is no hope for man after death.

    In verses 7-9 Job compares human death to the death of a tree. He says that there is hope for a tree, even after it is cut down. The tree can sprout again, new shoots will come out. Even if it appears that the stump is dead, at the very scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots.

    But in contrast to a tree that is cut down, which has hope, man has no such hope. In verses 10-12 Job says,

    "But man dies and is laid low;
    he breathes his last and is no more.
    As water disappears from the sea
    or a riverbed becomes parched and dry,
    so man lies down and does not rise;
    till the heavens are no more,
    men will not awake
    or be roused from their sleep."

    Job says that there is nothing after death. Man breathes his last and is no more. Tremper Longman III summaries Job's thought here about men when they die, (Job, p. 212)

    "Once they die, they die."

    Job doesn't seem to hold out any hope of life after death. He says that when a man dies he lies down and does not rise till the heavens are no more. We are not to think that Job held out for a resurrection after the end of the universe. That's probably not what he means here. John E. Hartley writes, (Job, NICOT; p. 235)

    "Ancient people thought the continuance of the world was as certain as the movement of the sun and stars across the… The heavens would never disappear save in a special, catastrophic divine judgment… Therefore, Job sees no possibility for an individual to be brought back from the dead and given a second life on earth…"

    In verses 18–22 Job goes on to say that while he lives he has hope. But after death there is no hope.

    "But as a mountain erodes
    and crumbles and as a rock
    is moved from its place,
    as water wears away stones
    and torrents wash away the soil,
    so you destroy man's hope.
    You overpower him once for all,
    and he is gone;"

    Second, Job states that after death

    there is no fellowship with God.

    In verse 20 Job says of man's end,

    "You overpower him once for all,
    and he is gone;
    you change his countenance
    and send him away."

    Man is gone. God sends him away. God doesn't call man to himself after death—rather there is separation from God.

    Job's thought here is like that of the teacher in Ecclesiastes 3:19–21,

    "Man's fate is like that of the animals;
    the same fate awaits them both:
    As one dies,
    so dies the other.
    All have the same breath;
    man has no advantage
    over the animal.
    Everything is meaningless.
    All go to the same place;
    all come from dust,
    and to dust all return.
    Who knows if the spirit of man
    rises upward and
    if the spirit of the animal
    goes down into the earth?"

    Here Job didn't envision any fellowship with God after death.

    Third, Job's view of death is that

    the dead know nothing about what happens on earth after they die.

    In verse 21 Job says,

    "If his sons are honored,
    he does not know it;
    if they are brought low,
    he does not see it."

    In death, the dead have no knowledge of other things.

    Fourth, Job tells us that

    the dead know only their misery.

    In verse 22 Job says of someone who is dead,

    "He feels but the pain
    of his own body and
    mourns only for himself."

    John E. Hartley writes, (Job, NICOT; p. 240)

    "In Sheol that person is aware of only his own disembodied, shadowy existence."

    Job views Sheol as a place of misery, mourning.

    So that's Job's perspective.

    There are two things to say about this.

    First, for those outside of Jesus most of what Job says is true.

    There is no hope. There is no fellowship with God. There is no knowledge of what is going on on earth. People there know only misery.

    You need to make sure you're in Jesus.

    The second thing we should say for you Christians is that

    most of what Job says is wrong.

    Because of Jesus, we have great hope, we have fellowship with God, we have great knowledge of others, not about what is happening to them on earth, but certainly we will have fellowship with them in. And because of Jesus, instead of everlasting darkness there will be everlasting joy.

    So let's look at these contrasts.

    Now consider what we have because of Jesus.

    First, as a Christian, you have great hope.

    Because of Jesus we have hope of eternal life. In Revelation 14:13 we read,

    "Then I heard a voice from heaven say,
    'Write: Blessed are the dead
    who die in the Lord from now on.'
    'Yes,'says the Spirit,
    'they will rest from their labor,
    for their deeds will follow them.' "

    Jesus has defeated death for you. 1 Corinthians 15:51–57 says,

    "Listen, I tell you a mystery:
    We will not all sleep,
    but we will all be changed—
    in a flash,
    in the twinkling of an eye,
    at the last trumpet.
    For the trumpet will sound,
    the dead will be raised imperishable,
    and we will be changed.
    For the perishable must clothe itself
    with the imperishable,
    and the mortal with immortality.
    When the perishable has been
    clothed with the imperishable,
    and the mortal with immortality,
    then the saying that
    is written will come true:
    'Death has been swallowed up in victory.'
    Where, O death, is your victory?
    'Where, O death, is your sting?'
    The sting of death is sin,
    and the power of sin is the law.
    But thanks be to God!
    He gives us the victory
    through our Lord Jesus Christ."

    Notice the word 'must' there in verse 53. The perishable 'must' clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. Because of the work of Jesus, because of His resurrection—these things must happen to us. They are under necessity of happening. As Philippians 3:20–21 says,

    "But our citizenship is in heaven.
    And we eagerly await a Savior from there,
    the Lord Jesus Christ, who,
    by the power that enables him
    to bring everything under his control,
    will transform our lowly bodies
    so that they will be
    like his glorious body."

    For a Christian, new life must take place. Dwight L. Moody once wrote,

    "Someday you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody, of East Northfield, is dead. Don't you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now, I shall have gone up higher, that is all: out of this old clay tenement is a house that is immortal—a body that death cannot touch; that sin cannot taint; a body fashioned like unto His glorious body. I was born of the flesh in 1837. I was born of the Spirit in 1856. That which is born of the flesh may die. That which is born of the Spirit will live forever."

    Heaven is real. In his book, Lectures to My Students Charles Spurgeon, (p. 30)

    "tells the story of a Christian soldier who was mortally wounded in a battle. Later, as he lay dying on a couch, they heard him say, 'Here!' They asked him what he wanted, and he put up his hand and said, 'Hush! They are calling up the roll of heaven, and I am answering to my name.' A little while later he whispered, 'Here!' and was gone."

    We have such hope. 2 Peter 3:13 says,

    "But in keeping with his promise
    we are looking forward
    to a new heaven and a new earth,
    the home of righteousness."

    Christians, focus on this hope. In Ephesians 1:18–19 Paul wrote,

    "I pray also that
    the eyes of your heart
    may be enlightened
    in order that you may know
    the hope to which he has called you,
    the riches of his glorious inheritance
    in the saints, and
    his incomparably great power
    for us who believe."

    The second great contrast to Job's belief is that

    In heaven we will have fellowship with God.

    Jesus has brought us into God's family. We are now the children of God. 2 Corinthians 5:6–8 says,

    "Therefore we are always confident
    and know that as long as we are
    at home in the body
    we are away from the Lord.
    We live by faith,
    not by sight.
    We are confident, I say,
    and would prefer to be
    away from the body
    and at home with the Lord."

    John Whitecross writes, (The Shorter Catechism Illustrated" p. 62)

    "Rev. Robert Bruce, just before he died was having breakfast with his children. He had asked for a little more- but just then he said, 'Hold, daughter, my Master calls me.' With these words his sight failed him: on which he called for a Bible, and said, 'Turn to the 8th chapter of Romans, and set my finger on the words, 'I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, etc. shall be able to separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus my Lord.' When this was done he said, 'Now God be with you, my dear children: I have breakfasted with you, and shall sup with my Lord Jesus Christ this night.'

    At that he died. What hope was his!"

    We have that hope as well. In Philippians 1:22–24 the apostle Paul wrote,

    "If I am to go on living in the body,
    this will mean fruitful labor for me.
    Yet what shall I choose?
    I do not know!
    I am torn between the two:
    I desire to depart and be with Christ,
    which is better by far;"

    Do you have that hope? You should. In Revelation 21:1–4 we read,

    "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth,
    for the first heaven and
    the first earth had passed away,
    and there was no longer any sea.
    I saw the Holy City,
    the new Jerusalem,
    coming down out of heaven from God,
    prepared as a bride
    beautifully dressed for her husband.
    And I heard a loud voice
    from the throne saying,
    'Now the dwelling of God is with men,
    and he will live with them.
    They will be his people,
    and God himself will be with them
    and be their God.
    He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
    There will be no more death
    or mourning or crying or pain,
    for the old order of things
    has passed away."

    We will see His face. Revelation 22:4–5 says of us.

    "They will see his face,
    and his name will be on their foreheads.
    There will be no more night.
    They will not need the light
    of a lamp or the light of the sun,
    for the Lord God will give them light.
    And they will reign for ever and ever."

    How wonderful our life with God will be.

    The third great contrast with Job's thought is that in glory,

    we will have great knowledge of others.

    I was once at a funeral where the minister basically said that the deceased was looking down on us, watching us, aware that we were at her funeral. I've heard other people say that a deceased loved one is watching over them, protecting them, looking out for them.

    I don't believe the Bible teaches that. We need to be careful that we believe only what the Bible teaches and where the Bible is silent we make no decision.

    But what the Bible teaches is that we will have wonderful fellowship with other believes. In Matthew 8:11 Jesus said,

    "I say to you that many
    will come from the east and the west,
    and will take their places
    at the feast with Abraham,
    Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven."

    On the Mount of Transfiguration Moses was with Elijah. They knew about each other and had fellowship with each other. If our children are in heaven we will know that and have fellowship with them forever.

    After the consummation will know about the earth too, and what happens there. I've already quoted from 2 Peter 3:13 which says we are looking forward,

    "to a new heaven and a new earth,
    the home of righteousness."

    We are going to know all about the new heaven and the new earth and what happens there. It will be our home.

    The fourth great contrast with Job's thought here,

    in heaven we will have everlasting joy.

    In Matthew 13:36f Jesus spoke about the end of the age and how the sons of the kingdom will be brought to glory. He said,

    "Then the righteous
    will shine like the sun
    in the kingdom of their Father.
    He who has ears,
    let him hear."

    So I ask you, what kind of hope do you have? Are you looking forward to it, seeking to bring it to pass?

    Today not many Christians would say what Paul said,

    "I desire to depart and be with Christ,
    which is better by far;"

    Instead we want to cling to this life, this earth.

    On the day that John Owen died, a friend, William Payne, visited Owen and told him that his book,
    Meditations on the Glory of Christ was at that very hour going to press. Owen knew he was going to die that day. He replied, (Sinclair Ferguson, Some Pastors and Teachers, p. 36)

    "I am glad to hear it; but O brother Payne! the long-wished-for day is come at last, in which I shall see that glory in another manner than I have ever done, or was capable of doing in this world."

    "The long-wished-for day has come at last…" How different was Owen's attitude toward death than ours. How many of you are looking forward to the day of your death, wishing that it would come sooner so that you could be with your Lord? I would say that most of us dread the day of our death. Unless we're greatly sick, most of us want to put the day of our death off as long as possible.

    Here's how the death of Dwight L. Moody is described,

    "The night before his death, he was fading in and out and insisted he was not dreaming, but saw the most beautiful place. He knew there would not be any more valleys for him there. He told his son-in-law who was caring for him that God was calling him Home and he needed to go. He gave instructions of what family members would take each part of his work. Then he said,

    'This is my triumph; this is my coronation day! I have been looking forward to it for years.' "

    Jesus has defeated death. We don't have to fear it or what is beyond. Christians your future is going to be glorious. Believe it. Live accordingly.