Job’s Hope

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Perhaps the earliest clear reference to the coming resurrection in the Bible is found in the book of Job. When contemplating the fact that he is mortal, he places all his hope in a coming Redeemer:

“As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God.”[1]

The meaning seems obvious, but perhaps I am reading too much Christian teaching into this text. Wharton insists that “the traditional Christian conception of Christ as the ‘Redeemer’ of Job 19:25 simply won’t do.”[2] He feels that assuming Job anticipates Christ’s redemption reads too much later theology into Job’s words. Instead, he argues that Job looks forward to being vindicated.

Yet Job’s words seem to say so much more here. He argues not that he is going to be vindicated in this life, but that he is going to see God in the next life. He expresses a hope not in survival after death, but in a complete restoration to bodily life. In short, he is predicting a resurrection. If that sounds too Christian to be acceptable, perhaps commentators need to come to grips with the fact that the Christian gospel is God’s plan for humanity from the beginning.

P. S. Johnston argues that Job may be referring to “vindication in the non-material world.”[3] But, again, all one has to do is look at the text to see that Job’s hope was in a real resurrection, not some shadowy existence in a bodiless afterlife.

The text of Job 19:25-26 affirms three things:

1. Job knew his redeemer was alive.

The word he used for redeemer was go’el. This word is the same used for a kinsman redeemer. In Ruth, it referred to a person living who had the answer to Ruth’s problem. Boaz was the one who made all the difference for Ruth and Naomi. If it were not for Boaz, Ruth’s story would have ended quite differently. Without rescue, there would have been no David, and no Jesus.

But that does not mean that Job assumed that his redeemer was a human being like him. His trust was in God. His hope was that from his flesh he would see God. The real person who would make a real difference for Job is God himself.

What Job affirms is that his own ability to stay alive is not the critical issue. What matters is that the Redeemer lives. Job had graduated from being like his miserable comforters. They were the “hands on” kind of people. They insisted that if there was a problem, there had to be something they could do about it. Job was learning that sometimes you have to take your hands off the situation and trust God. His confidence was not in his own ability to fix things, but in someone other than himself. He knew that he had a Redeemer, and it was not himself. Lahaye says that “regardless of the fate that would befall Job in the near future, he possessed confidence that God remained alive and well, and in perfect control of all creation.”[4]

2. Job Knew that God would take action in the future.

His confidence that the Redeemer would take his stand on the earth at the last was an eschatological belief. He was able to look beyond his present personal struggles and see that God had a plan. He knew that God was going to personally work out his plan for planet earth by visiting the planet.

The idea that God would take his stand is consistent with the concept of incarnation, but goes beyond it. It suggests not just Christ’s first coming, but also his second. The Psalms often use the term in prayers to God to arise and save his people.[5] The psalmists were not primarily thinking soteriology (salvation from sin) but eschatology (ultimate deliverance from evil. Job’s hope was in a God who delivers both spiritually and ultimately.

3. Job knew that he would be alive to see that ultimate restoration.

Job did not doubt the reality of death, he doubted its permanence. He knew that he was mortal. He knew that should the Redeemer delay his return to earth, it would mean his death. It would mean that his skin and flesh would decompose and return to the dust. He entertained no delusion that death was a gateway to a better life. Death was death – the destruction of the flesh, and total unconsciousness.

Instead of deluding himself with fanciful notions that he could live forever, Job aligned himself with his inevitable demise. But he was able to look beyond that dark time of unconsciousness to a time of new resurrected life. His confidence was that not only is God going to take his stand in the future, but that he (Job) would be standing right there observing it. His confidence was in a resurrection.

Notice how specifically Job describes his hope. He says “from my flesh I shall see God.” He does not say “as a spiritual entity I shall see God”. He anticipates his own, newly resurrected eyes will see God restore his creation. He even goes on to emphasize this hope by saying “whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.”[6] His confidence is not in life for someone else, but in restored life for himself.

If I had no other text in the Bible to affirm my confidence in the resurrection, Job 19:25 would suffice. In this text, I see the reality that no matter what happens to me today, my Redeemer will be alive. I may not survive the troubles of this day, but my Redeemer will. My hope is in him. My confidence is not in something I can do, but in something he will do. My God is going to arise, and save his people ultimately. And when he does, I will be there witnessing it with my own resurrected eyes. Job and I will be standing there, with our eyes and mouths wide open, in awe of what our God is doing. This is our hope.


[1] Romans 19:25-26 NASB.

[2] James A Wharton, Job (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1999), 89.

[3] P.S. Johnston, “Afterlife” in Dictionary of the Old Testament. (Nottingham, England: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 6.

[4] Tim Lahaye, Exploring Bible Prophecy from Genesis to Revelation: Clarifying the Meaning (Eugene Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2011), 101.

[5] Psalm 3:8; 7:7; 9:20; 10:12; 17:3, etc.

[6] Job 19:27 ESV.

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