In our previous article we discussed what the Patriarchs and Moses believed about the question “Mankind’s hope for the future. Where will it be?”
Where there any changes during the time the Psalms were written, and the Prophets wrote down their prophecies? We will now examine what were the beliefs of the Psalmists, Solomon and the Prophets to ascertain the answers to these questions.
In Psalm 37:9, 11, 22, 27, 29, 34 David wrote a description of a future time on earth where humans would experience very different conditions to what people experienced at that time and also what we experience today. These verses read as follows:
“9 For evildoers themselves will be cut off, But those hoping in Jehovah are the ones that will possess the earth.”
”11 But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, And they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace”
“22 For those being blessed by him will themselves possess the earth, But those upon whom evil is called by him will be cut off.”
“27 Turn away from what is bad and do what is good, And so reside to time indefinite.”
“29 The righteous themselves will possess the earth, And they will reside forever upon it.”
“34 Hope in Jehovah and keep his way, And he will exalt you to take possession of the earth. When the wicked ones are cut off, you will see [it].” (NWT)
We can see that the common theme throughout this whole Psalm is that ‘the meek shall inherit / possess the earth’ and the wicked will be removed from the earth. There is no mention of Heaven in the sense of Jehovah’s presence or outer space/spirit realm as the destination of the righteous.
Jesus repeated this same promise of possessing the earth in Matthew 5:5. The Hebrew word used here is ‘yarash’ or ‘yaresh’, which means ‘to take possession of, inherit’, particularly land and carries the sense of replacing the existing owner. As the existing owner would be on earth, so too logically would be the possession of, or inheritance be, of and on the earth.
We find a similar passage in Proverbs 2:20-22 which reads as follows: “20The purpose is that you may walk in the way of good people and that the paths of the righteous ones you may keep. 21 For the upright are the ones that will reside in the earth, and the blameless are the ones that will be left over in it. 22 As regards the wicked, they will be cut off from the very earth; and as for the treacherous, they will be torn away from it.” (NWT)
“20But, smooth are the roads that the righteous have found; for the meek will inherit the land, and the honest are those who’ll remain. 21 Then only the upright will camp in the land, and those who’ll be left are the holy. 22 Disrespectful ways will be gone from the land, and those who break laws will be banished.” (2001T).
Perhaps it was the Septuagint version of Proverbs 2 which Jesus was referring to when he gave the Sermon on the Mount as recorded in Matthew 5. Once again, we see that the hope given was that of being able to live on (“reside in”) and inherit the earth.
The Hebrew Interlinear reads “for the upright shall dwell in the land and the perfect shall remain in [it – referring to the land]” and “dwell” carries the meaning of permanently staying.
What did Jesus say in Matthew 5:5? He said to the gathered crowd the following: “Happy are the meek, because they shall inherit the earth.” (NWT).
(The book of Matthew is considered in more depth later, but this scripture is included here to assist in understanding the phrase “inherit the earth”.)
The phrase translated “inherit the earth” comes from the Greek (1093): ‘gen’ meaning “the earth, land” and Greek (2816): ‘kleronomeo’ meaning ‘to inherit, a specific allotment of inheritance, apportioned by casting lots’.
It is helpful to read how the apportioning of land by lots was done when the Israelites entered the Promised Land. This enables us to understand the full flavour of the phrase “inherit the land”. (Leviticus 25:46, Deuteronomy 1:37-38, Deuteronomy 3:28, Deuteronomy 19:14, Joshua 14:1-5, Ezekiel 47:13-14)
From these Scriptures cited and Matthew we can conclude that the understanding of Israelite readers of Proverbs 2 and Jesus’s listeners would have been the following; that, if they were righteous and meek, they would have the opportunity to inherit the land with the wicked removed from the scene.
A Prayer of the Afflicted one
The same understanding would have been obtained from Psalm 102:24-28 which reads as follows:
“24“I proceeded to say: “O my God, Do not take me off at the half of my days; Your years are throughout all generations. 25 Long ago you laid the foundations of the earth itself, And the heavens are the work of your hands. 26 They themselves will perish, but you yourself will keep standing; And just like a garment they will all of them wear out. Just like clothing you will replace them, and they will finish their turn. 27 But you are the same, and your own years will not be completed. 28 The sons of your servants will continue residing; And before you their own offspring will be firmly established.””
Here we see clearly that God’s Servants and the sons of the servants were/are living on earth with their offspring and would/will continue to do so. Additionally, once again the ‘residing’ or ‘dwelling’ conveys the permanence of the time and location.
Elijah and Elisha
We now turn to the encouraging record of the resurrection performed by Elijah. This account is how Elijah resurrected the son of the widow Zarapheth. This is recorded for us in 1 Kings 17:17-23. There the account tells us:
“Finally Jehovah listened to Elijah’s voice, so that the soul of the child came back within him and he came to life.”
The root Hebrew word translated ‘came to life’ is ‘chayah’ [Strong’s Hebrew 2421] and is used here in this account. It is describing a coming to life again in the exact same place as the child was lying dead.
- The same Hebrew word ‘chayah’ is used in Job 14:13, Isaiah 26:14, 2 Kings 13:21 and Ezekiel 37:1-14.
The account in 2 Kings 13:21 is regarding the rather unusual resurrection of a man thrown into Elisha’s burial place. He was hurriedly thrown there when a marauding party of Moabites were spotted while burying the man. As the Bible account says “When the man touched the bones of Elisha, he immediately came to life and stood upon his feet.” It was a coming to life again. As the person died on earth and came to life when his bones touched Elisha’s bones then the coming to life was also on earth.
- The root Hebrew word translated ‘came to life’ is ‘chayah’ [Strong’s Hebrew 2421] as also used in Job 14:13, Isaiah 26:14, 1 Kings 17:22 and Ezekiel 37:1-14.
In Isaiah 26:19 we find the prophet Isaiah here foretelling a time when both the dead ones of his audience and even his future dead body, would be ‘reborn’ [will live again] and rise up [stand up, be resurrected] causing a crying out joyfully to come from all those [now formerly] in the dust.
“19Your dead ones will live. A corpse of mine – they will rise up. Awake and cry out joyfully, you residents in the dust! For your dew is as the dew of mallows, and the earth itself will let even those impotent in death drop in birth”.
- The root Hebrew word translated ‘will live’ is ‘chayah’ [Strong’s Hebrew 2421], and the same word is used in Job 14:13, 1 Kings 17:22, 2 Kings 13:21 and Ezekiel 37:1-14.
A few hundred years after Isaiah’s prophecy, Ezekiel was inspired to prophesy about Jesus. The passage in Ezekiel 37:12-14, 24-25 clearly alludes to Jesus (“my servant David”) in his role as king with Israel under him as the one shepherd dwelling on the land of Israel forever. Verses 12-14 also talk of a resurrection, a raising to life back to the land from which they died. Verse 25 states “they will actually dwell upon the land I gave to my servant, to Jacob, in which your forefathers dwelt.” This is clearly referring to earth.
The passage reads:
“Therefore prophesy, and you must say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said: “Here I am opening YOUR burial places, and I will bring YOU up out of YOUR burial places, O my people, and bring YOU in upon the soil of Israel. 13 And YOU will have to know that I am Jehovah when I open YOUR burial places and when I bring YOU up out of YOUR burial places, O my people.”’ 14 ‘And I will put my spirit in YOU, and YOU must come to life, and I will settle YOU upon YOUR soil; and YOU will have to know that I myself, Jehovah, have spoken and I have done [it],’ is the utterance of Jehovah.”
“24 And my servant David will be king over them, and one shepherd is what they will all come to have; and in my judicial decisions they will walk, and my statutes they will keep, and they will certainly carry them out. 25 And they will actually dwell upon the land that I gave to my servant, to Jacob, in which YOUR forefathers dwelt, and they will actually dwell upon it, they and their sons and their sons’ sons to time indefinite, and David my servant will be their chieftain to time indefinite.”
- The root Hebrew word translated ‘come to life’ is ‘chayah’ [Strong’s Hebrew 2421], and the same word is used in Job 14:13, 1 Kings 17:22, 2 Kings 13:21 and Isaiah 26:19.
In the book of Daniel, we find the first references to the “holy ones”, or “chosen ones” as commonly referred to in the Greek scriptures.
The account in Daniel 7:14,18 relates that the holy ones receive the kingdom, but there is no statement as to in what location. This is where context is so important as the context, verse 17 discusses huge beasts, saying “Four kings that will stand up from the earth.” The next statement is referring to the holy ones receiving the kingdom, in spite of these four earthly kings. The natural reading would therefore be to understand that the holy ones receiving the kingdom are also on earth and rule there instead of these beast-like kings. (See the whole chapter of Daniel 7 for more information on the Holy ones)
- “14And to him (someone like a son of man) there were given rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him. His rulership is an indefinitely lasting rulership that will not pass away and his kingdom one that will not be brought to ruin.”, “18But the holy ones of the Supreme One will receive the kingdom, and they will take possession of the kingdom for time indefinite, ever for time indefinite upon times indefinite”
Further on in Daniel 12:2 we find a reference to a future resurrection. The account reads:
The Hebrew word for “wake up” [‘quts’ Hebrew 6974] is also used in 2 Kings 4:31 when discussing the raising to life of the son of the Shunammite woman by Elisha. (Also “not wake up” for remaining dead in Jeremiah 51:39, 57).
The context is that this event takes place at some indeterminate time after Michael stands up on behalf of Israel, and Israel suffers a time of distress such had not occurred since the nation came into being. This time of distress logically has to be the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD as since that time Israel has not existed as the entire nation it originally was.
Taking the passage literally at its word it indicates that after that time of destruction many would be resurrected, some to everlasting life, some to judgement, [echoes of the resurrection of the righteous and unrighteous], but some [those not resurrected] will remain in death. The unrighteous would need to show shame for their previous conduct and rejection of it to gain life. This is the understanding prevalent in the first Century AD. Jesus’s words in John 5:28-29 repeat almost word for word, this verse in Daniel[i]. (See also Acts 24:14-15).
A few verses later in Daniel 12:13, Daniel is given a promise that he would be one of those who would wake up or stand up. That promise was:
“13And as for you yourself [Daniel], go toward the end; and you will rest, [in the grave], but you will stand up [be resurrected on earth] for your lot at the end of the days.”
Through this promise Daniel was given encouragement to remain faithful until death. He would then rest in Sheol [the common grave of mankind as if asleep] until “the end of days” [last day] when he would stand up [be resurrected] as opposed to being prostrate in death. Daniel would have understood this to be on earth. It would also be for his ‘lot’ meaning for his portion of land allotted, again referring to a physical inheritance or allocation on earth.
The Psalmists, Solomon and Prophets believed in resurrection back to life on earth. They neither had nor introduced a concept of being resurrected to heaven as a spirit creature. In this they agreed with the beliefs of the Patriarchs and Moses.
In the third article of our series we will go on to examine the beliefs of the 1st Century Jews. This lays the groundwork for how the Jews would have understood Jesus teachings.
IMPORTANT REQUEST: It is requested that any comments (which are very welcome) be confined to the Bible books and period covered by this article. The whole of the Bible will be covered in sections so later Bible writers and periods will be covered by later articles and would be the best place for relevant comments to those sections.
[i] See Part 4 of this series for a more in-depth discussion