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Why doesn't the OT say more about what happens after death?

Questions are powerful things: absolutely vital for anyone who wants to be wise, but also a way for the foolish to try to tear down. So let's pretend, for a moment, that this was a hostile question. "We're going to live again after we die?" the mocker asks, "Then why doesn't God didn't tell anyone in the Old Testament about the afterlife?" A good rule of thumb, when faced with someone trying to tear down the Bible, is to question his query. We shouldn't assume that a fool is going to fight fair. So before we try to find an answer to his why we should back up, and first see if his accusation is true: was God silent about the afterlife in the Old Testament? And, as is often the case when someone is trying to take down the Bible, things aren't quite as they've presented them. While God doesn’t give the same detail as in the New Testament, we do find in the Old Testament too, that God is repeatedly pointing to a future hope – one that will occur after the hearer’s death. Some examples include: The promise to bruise the serpent’s head in Genesis 3. The conclusion of the book of Ecclesiastes of coming justice: “For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” Daniel 12:2 echoes this thought: “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Job speaks of seeing his coming Redeemer in chapter 19: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” In Psalm 16 David speaks of knowing that the Lord “will not abandon my soul to Sheol” (Sheol being the realm of death). Psalm 110 speaks of a future judgment – the day of wrath – in which the Lord will execute judgment among the nations (and this “day of wrath” pops up in many places too). Hosea 13:14 speaks of God being able to take the sting from death. There are others texts, and maybe even some clearer than these. But there was enough in the Old Testament for most of the Jews of Jesus’ time to know that there was going to be a resurrection. The Sadducees denied it, in part because they held only to the first five books (the Pentateuch) of the Bible. However, Jesus pointed out that even they should have known better because in the Pentateuch God describes himself as “the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (Gen. 28:13, Ex. 3:6, 4:5) repeatedly. Jesus continues: “He is not the God of the dead but of the living” so if He remains the God of these men, though they died long ago, then they must have experienced a resurrection from the dead. If we’re paying attention there are more than hints in the OT. Now let’s return to our question: why didn’t God tell the Old Testament saints more about what comes after death? No certain answer is available to us – God doesn’t spell it out in his Word – but here’s a possibility to consider. Even though God gave us more information in the New Testament, that hasn’t been enough to quell Christians thirst for more and more detail. Books about supposed visits to Heaven (and even visits to Hell) are bestsellers, and one has even been made into a major motion picture. Many Christians are already far too obsessed with Heaven, so perhaps God has been sparse on the details to keep our focus on what’s going on in this life here on Earth. You’ve heard the saying “Don’t be so heaven-minded that you are of no earthly good.” Well, God has given us a planet, and everything on it, to have dominion over, to care for, and develop to His honor. We have stuff to do – children to raise, poor to feed, orphans and widows to care for, friends to encourage, and talents to develop – down here! But wait, you might say, doesn’t God warn us against being too Earth-focused? True – we are supposed to build up treasures in Heaven, rather than here on Earth (Matthew 6:19-20). But even passages like this point us back to what we are to be busy doing here on Earth. Storing up treasure is out, but loving the Lord your God and showing that by loving your neighbor as yourself? That is definitely in. More importantly still, the Bible reveals what God was planning for right here on this Earth – the Bible is His story, His grand narrative, His rescue plan. So perhaps the reason God didn’t tell the OT saints, and even us today, more about what comes after death, is because that isn’t nearly as important as what He is up to, and what we should be up to, here on Earth. In the past RP had a column called "Short and Simple" in which we tracked down brief answers to questions that were sent in. Do you have questions? You can send them to the editor via a form here....


"And behold, I come quickly" - the dying need to hear the gospel

He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still; and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still; and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be. (Rev. 22:11-12)  ****  Many people harbor the delusion that when they will die, they will simply continue in the state they are in. They exhibit no visible doubt, no terror, about the passage from this brief life to eternity. Nearing the end In the fall of 2015, during the course of a sunny morning, my husband, daughter, and daughter-in-law were beginning to slaughter fourteen meatbirds by our chicken coop. They were skinning and gutting with gusto, each heartily approaching their respective jobs, when the dog began to bark and bark. He generally only barks when people approach. As it was my job to wash and bag the birds, and as none were ready yet, I took it upon myself to investigate. Following the sound of the barking, I walked past the side of our house towards the driveway. There was a small car parked at the very end of the driveway, close to the road. My first thought was that it was the mailman who sometimes personally delivers packages. As I began to approach the car, thinking the man might be a little worried about encountering our still barking canine, a voice spoke behind me. "Hello there." Turning, I saw an older fellow emerge from our garage. He rather startled me. Very well-dressed in a grey suit, it occurred to me immediately that our mailman had changed, had grown older, and had discarded his usual tee shirt. But it was not the mailman. I observed this in the second instant as I noted the Bible and a Watchtower tract clasped in the gentleman's veined hands. He smiled, exhibiting wonderfully white dentures, reminding me strongly of a friend we had a long time ago – a Dutch gentleman who has since died. It's strange how many thoughts can pass through your mind in the space of a few seconds. The old fellow extended his hand and I shook it, admonishing Spurgeon, our faithful watchdog, to stop barking. (But the truth was that he was being a faithful Spurgeon.) "You are a Jehovah's Witness," I said. He nodded in agreement. Perhaps I should have given him time to get into his spiel but thinking of the chickens to which I had to return, I immediately followed with, "I'm sorry, but you and I are going to disagree on a very basic truth - the truth that Jesus Christ is God." He nodded happily and enthusiastically in apparent total agreement. "Jesus was a good man," he smiled, “and a god." There is a certain amount of sadness about disagreeing with pleasant people. It is much easier to disagree with nasty people. Here was a feeble, old man, possibly 90 plus, with one foot in the grave, willfully denying the Savior. There is nothing more dismal. "Yes", I replied, "I know that you believe that He is a good man, but He is also God. I do respect your zeal in going door to door, but your zeal is not based on the right knowledge." "The doctor has only given me a year to live," he responded, "I have cancer." I was totally caught off guard and shocked at this revelation and asked what kind of cancer he had. He told me it was bone cancer and prostate cancer. "I've stopped taking the radiation and chemo treatments," he said, "and feel so much better since I have stopped. And now I spend time doing this." I told him he had done well to stop the treatments and passed on some information about natural treatments he could look into. I also asked him over for supper some time in the future as he lived in a town not too far from our home. And, guess what? He was Dutch. He said he'd check it out with his wife who was waiting in the car. He was, humanly speaking, such a very nice gentleman. I patted his arm, gave him our name, and said, "Before you leave I have to tell you once more that Jesus is the only way. He is truly God and our only Savior." And there he went, smiling affably, thin as a rail, cheerfully on his way to hell unless God opened his eyes. Unsure of the end The next day there was another strange encounter as I was waiting in the line-up at the TD bank. It was raining outside and leaves were swirling around on the sidewalk. The sixty-plus lady waiting in front of me turned around. She was very talkative. "You look happy," she said to me, "Why is that?" Not waiting to hear an answer, she went on to conduct a diatribe against the weather. I interposed by saying it was rather cozy and that when she went home, she could turn on the lights and curl up in a comfy chair with a good book. She thought this was a good idea but then, jumping from one thought to another, said she was sorry she was getting older. "Well," I replied," you wouldn't want to not get older." "Yes, I would," she said, "I don't like getting older.” She was a well-groomed woman, a trifle shorter than I was, with an immaculate hairdo and tailored clothes, and she repeated emphatically, "I don't want to get older." "Well," I countered, "you know what the alternative is." For a minute she gazed at me, wide-eyed, and then I asked her if she was a Christian. The immediate response was “Yes.” "Well, in that case," I smiled, "you know where you are going in the long run." She broke up laughing at this statement, as if I had told her a joke. "Heaven or hell," she chortled. I nodded and then, again changing the subject, she asked if I didn't just love the pope? Wasn't it marvelous how he identified with the poor, and wasn't he a wonderful example? I responded by saying that we should all be examples, but that we couldn't be unless our hearts were changed. She eyed me a little warily now, and I added that I would like to hear the pope say that people's hearts should be changed instead of hearing him speak about climate change. She pondered this, clearly at a loss for words for a moment, but then was called to the bank wicket. "Nice chatting," she said. What a strange bank visit! **** We did visit the Jehovah Witness gentleman and his wife several times. We were received graciously. He died several months later, confident that he had no need of Jesus as God at all. In pursuit of exceptions It is a sobering thought, as Octavius Winslow, (1808-1878), pointed out in one of his devotions, that human character, …which time has been shaping for years, yields to the demands of eternity in the precise mold in which it was formed. Death hands over the soul to the scrutiny and the decision of the judgment exactly as life relinquished it. , the “king of terrors,” has received no commission and possesses no power to effect a moral change in the transit of the spirit to the God who gave it. Its office is to unlock the cell and conduct the prisoner into court. It can furnish no plea, it can suggest no argument, it can correct no error, it can whisper no hope to the pale and trembling being on his way to the bar. The warden must present the criminal to the Judge precisely as the officer delivered him to the warden, with all the marks and evidences of criminality and guilt clinging to him as at the moment of arrest.... Do not men die mostly as they have lived? The infidel dies in infidelity, the profligate dies in profligacy, atheists die in atheism, the careless die in indifference, and the formalist dies in formality. There are exceptions..." We will, all of us, have encounters each day with neighbors and strangers, on driveways and in shopping malls, encounters in which possibly we might be allowed to address that exception.   Christine Farenhort’s new devotional The Sweet Taste of Providence is available in Canada at and can be ordered by phone 1-800-563-3529....


If only for this life we have hope in Christ...

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? ....if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ we are to be pitied more than all men (1 Cor. 15:12-19). **** My husband and I have already attended a few funerals this last year. They were peaceful funerals – funerals of saints who lived in the hope of Christ and saints who are now rejoicing in heaven with our Lord. There were tears at these funerals, to be sure, but they were tears that were spilled into the cup of the new covenant established by Jesus' blood. The truth is that we live on a slope. That truth is that all life tilts towards the grave. Human beings – from the very first moment of conception, slide towards death. Most people are afraid of burial. There are many who quip: "I'm not planning to die" and then they laugh. To be put into a coffin, into a small confined space, and to have a lid closed over your face – that is not a pleasant thought. For people who have not spent much time contemplating a Savior, it is an experience they would rather avoid. WHERE THE SCARY STORIES BEGAN? Stories abound about people having been buried alive throughout history. There is the tale of Alice Davies. In 1656, Alice married a man by the name of William Blunden of Basingstoke. The Blundens were a well-established family who ran a flourishing business. Alice could consequently be congratulated on her very fine match. William was a maltster, that is to say, he was a brewer of malt. The malting process converts raw grain into malt. Malt is used mainly for brewing or whiskey making, although it can also be used to make malt vinegar. William Blunden seems to have brought his work home with him. Both Alice and William often enjoyed downing a glass of ale. It is not surprising therefore that an old text describes Alice as “a fat, gross woman who had accustomed herself many times to drink brandy.” Perhaps Alice was, for some unknown reason, deeply unhappy and tried to drown whatever it was that discomfited her. She did have two children and was not in any material want. Besides brandy she also regularly imbibed poppy-tea. Poppy-tea is an herbal infusion brewed from poppy seeds. The dried pods contain opiate alkaloids, primarily consisting of morphine. The tea is consumed for its narcotic effect, and in small amounts was used as a sedative. Alone one evening, her husband having traveled to London on business, Alice, drank a sizable quantity of this tea. Afterwards she fell into a deep sleep – a sleep from which she could not be wakened. The household servants called the local Basingstoke apothecary. After checking her, the apothecary concluded that Alice had died. Alice was, as stated previously, a very heavy woman. Although husband William had sent instructions that the funeral be deferred until he returned from London, other relatives deemed it necessary that the body be interred as quickly as possible. Old manuscripts spell out that “the season of the year being hot, and the corpse fat, it would be impossible to keep her.” They did not heed William's request to wait and Alice was buried without any delay. A few days later some boys, playing a game near the cemetery, heard a voice calling out. It is not recorded what the voice said. In panic they ran home and told their parents. Initially no one believed these boys, but then the same voice was heard by others passing the graveyard. Following the sound of the voice, they arrived at poor Alice's grave. Upon opening the coffin, they discovered her body to be most “lamentably beaten.” It was concluded that Alice appeared to have regained consciousness in the coffin and had tried very hard to escape. No one could detect any signs of life in the woman at this point and so the lid was put back on and the coffin lowered into the earth once more. A coroner was sent for to examine the body the next day. Great was everyone's consternation, however, when upon opening the coffin for the second time, the body was found to have “torn off a great part of the winding sheet, scratched herself in several places and beaten her mouth until the blood ran.” The coroner, upon examining the body very carefully, did pronounce Alice Blunden finally dead. She was reinterred once more. Those responsible for her initial burial were summoned to court, but although they were fined for neglect of duties, no one was ever convicted. A fairly gruesome tale, to be sure. A “safety coffin” featured in the January 1, 1901 Medical Art and Indianapolis Medical Journal: Volume 4. The fellow inside demonstrates how he can ring a bell, raise a small ball high up in the air to alert passersby, and also open a passageway for air. SO VERY FEARFUL There is another story of a man by the name of Robert Robinson who lived in the mid 1700s. In his youth Robert attended the dissenting seminary at Plasterer's Hall – an academy which trained young Christian men for the ministry and a school which had teachers who were devoted to Calvinism. Robert abandoned Calvinism, however, while at the academy, and began leaning heavily towards Unitarianism. After graduating, he served several parishes, but resigned amidst controversy in 1777. Uncomfortable with the thought of dying and worried about being buried alive, Robert Robinson made preparations for his interment. When he died one day in December of 1791, his coffin was placed in a square, red-brick building which had been built on his property. At his instructions a movable glass pane was inserted into the coffin, and his little mausoleum also had an inspection door. A watchman was instructed to pass along daily after Robert's death to see if there were signs of breath on the glass pane. His relatives, as well, were requested to visit his grave periodically and to check for signs of life. These are interesting stories, telling stories and stories which reveal a great deal about human nature. The truth is that if people rely on their own reasoning and philosophy, they have no hope at all. The fear of being buried alive is called taphephobia (Greek for grave + fear). In the early 1900s this rather widespread fear led to the creation of so-called safety coffins. These coffins had some sort of mechanism installed in them for communicating with the living – mechanisms such pulleys and ropes which were attached to bells above ground. Hence the term “saved by the bell.” Hans Christian Andersen, the fairy-tale writer, was petrified of being buried alive. A note on the table next to his bed read, “I only appear to be dead” and when he was not sleeping he wore the note around his neck. Frederic Chopin wrote to someone: “The earth is suffocating. Swear to make them cut me open so that I won't be buried alive.” President George Washington requested of his secretary: “Have me decently buried; and do not let my body be put into a vault in less than three days after I am dead.” THE ANSWER TO FEAR Most people are afraid to die, let alone be buried in a coffin. Most people are afraid of what happens after they die. God has, however, in His great mercy, given us a note, and has left us instructions with regard to our fears of death and burial. He has penned, through the Holy Spirit, the factual story and the reality of an empty tomb in all four of the Gospels – an empty tomb, a resurrection and an ascension. The answer to the fear of death and burial is to become well-acquainted with this reality of the empty tomb; to become well-acquainted with the Savior, Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God. He teaches that although our earthly sojourn will end one day, and that physical death will end our earthly life, it is but our doorway into eternal fellowship with Him. The tomb did not hold Jesus. “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (I Cor. 15:20), and it will not hold anyone who believes in Him. “The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable” (I Cor. 15:42b). ...thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (I Cor. 15:57).   Christine Farenhorst is the author of many books, her latest being Katherina, Katherina, a novel taking place in the time of Martin Luther. You can read a review here, and buy it at


When marriage means only: "a way to avoid taxes"

Matt Murphy and Michael O’Sullivan are good friends – they’ve been friends for almost 30 years. They are also straight. And, as of the Dec. 22, according to the Irish government, they are husband and husband. The two decided to get “married” so that 85-year-old Murphy could pass on his house to the younger 58-year-old Sullivan, tax-free. As O’Sullivan explained the arrangement to "I was homeless, sleeping in my car and needed someone to move into his home and take care of him. He was losing his sight and needed a full-time . He told me that he couldn't afford to pay me but said that I could live with him and he would give me his house when he passed away as payment.” The problem was, if Murphy simply deeded the house to O’Sullivan in his will, O’Sullivan would be faced with a €50,000 tax bill under Ireland’s inheritance tax. And since the formerly homeless O’Sullivan doesn’t seem to have a lot of money lying about, such a bill might well have forced him to sell the home to pay the taxes. And then he’d be homeless again. However, spouses seem to be exempt from this inheritance tax, and when the two straight men heard of this option they decided it only made sense to get “married.” There’s an obvious problem here, and another lurking underneath. Marriage becomes meaningless First up, we can see here that when God’s standards are abandoned, the State’s replacement has no foundation. Redefining marriage hasn’t left us with a different version of this institution, but only turned “marriage” into a meaningless term. As God defined it, marriage is a man and a woman becoming one flesh, for life. The State undermined the “for life” part with no-fault divorce, and the “man and woman” part by recognizing same-sex couplings. The act of homosexual sex makes a mockery of the “one flesh” part, and, in a different way, the Murphy/O’Sullivan “friendship marriage” does too. So what then are we left with? Marriage has been redefined to mean only “a means of tax-avoidance.” Death taxes are problematic Another problem lurking in the background of this story is the nature of the tax they are working so hard to avoid. Of course, taxes are never popular, but inheritance taxes are particularly problematic. How so? Well, consider the basis on which the State is taking in these taxes. Normally taxes are justified as a trade of sorts. We fund the government and in exchange we get benefits from that government, like policing, roads, healthcare, unemployment insurance, etc. But what services will Murphy get? None at all – the tax only kicks in after he has departed. It is something for nothing. Consider also that while elections give us a say in how taxes are used, an inheritance tax is “taxation without respiration.” A death tax is revenue without accountability, since (at least in most electoral districts) the dead don’t get to vote. This type of taxation also undermines property rights. Do we really own something if we can’t give it to whomever we wish? Murphy wants to give his home to his friend, but he can’t (or at least he can’t unless he resorts to these extreme measures). He can only given a portion of it, with the State demanding the rest. But Murphy’s wealth has already been taxed when he first earned it, so why isn’t the remainder – the after tax portion – now finally his to do with as he wishes? Finally, we should consider what such a tax encourages. If parents spends all their wealth and leave their children nothing, then the State is satisfied. But if parents save, and invest, and build a business that they want to hand on to the next generation, then the State demands a share. So such a tax encourages spending, and penalizes investing....