Eternal Hope – Part 18

Eternal Hope – Part 18

Eternal Hope
Part 18


From the last half of the first century (BC) forward, an expectation of the imminent coming of Messiah finds expression in most of the Apocraphal writings. Although any answer to why this happened is conjecture, it seems most probable that the Jews read and followed the chronology of Daniel’s seventy weeks: “Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sin, and to forgive iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal vision and prophet, and to anoint the most holy place. Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem unto one anointed, a prince, shall be seven weeks; and for threescore and two weeks, it shall be built again, with broad place and moat, but in troublous times. And after the threescore and two weeks shall an anointed one be cut off, and be no more; and the people of a prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; but his end shall be with a flood; and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week; and for half of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the offering to cease; and upon the wing of detestable things shall be that which causeth appalment; and that until the extermination wholly determined be poured out upon that which causeth appalment.”[1] Daniel divides the seventy weeks of years into three sections: First, seven – equaling 49 years; Second, sixty-two – equaling 434 years; Third, one – equaling 7 years. During this last period “the wing of detestable things shall be that which causeth appalment.” Jesus tells us this takes place prior to His return,[2] and John talks about Daniel’s seventieth week in Revelation[3] where he refers to two three and a half year periods. Thus, although the Jews may not have known how to calculate exactly when the first two periods ended, they knew that they were living in the time of its fulfillment.

Reflections on the Wisdom Literature

Sirach – also called Ben-Sira’s Book of Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus – has 51 chapters. Fashioned after Proverbs it covers the full range of Wisdom Literature, seeking to address general questions of life. It was probably written sometime during 200 – 175 B.C. The author seems to follow the Psalms in viewing death as the end, not the beginning of eternal life. “Give, and take, and indulge yourself, because in Hades one cannot look for luxury… Every work decays and ceases to exist, and the one who made it will pass away with it.”[4] Although a person has no hope beyond the grave, he may be concerned about the perpetuation of his name: “He will find gladness and a crown of rejoicing, and will inherit an everlasting name.”[5]

“A gift is acceptable in the sight of every man living, and also from the dead withhold not kindness.”[6] As noted in Tobit 4:17, Old Testament believers thought that the living could assist the spirits of the dead (cf. also Deuteronomy 26:14).

“Who will sing praises to the Most High in Hades in place of the living who give thanks? From the dead, as from one who does not exist, thanksgiving has ceased; those who are alive and well sing the Lord’s praises.”[7] “The thought is that God’s delight is in those who live and can therefore praise Him, not in those who go down to Hades and are cut off from communion with Him; the teaching here coincides with the normal teaching of the O.T., that God’s interest in man is restricted to this world”[8] If God does not judge the sinner when he arrives in Sheol, then there can be no relationship between how a person behaves in this life and the consequences of that behavior in the future life.

“The days of a person’s life are numbered, but the days of Israel are without number. One who is wise among his people will inherit honor, and his name will live forever.”[9] “These verses give interesting expression to one ancient view of immortality. A man’s memory might live on in honor in the life of his people. The nation could be regarded as immortal. There is no hint of a survival of the personality of the individual (c. 2 Macc. 14:15).”[10]

“This is the Lord’s decree for all flesh; why then should you reject the will of the Most High? Whether life lasts for ten years or a hundred or a thousand, there are no questions asked in Hades.”[11] “Since in Sheol it will be found that the same fate has overtaken all men, it will be immaterial whether one man lived longer on earth than another; men will not quarrel about that.”[12] In essence, Solomon says the same thing: “Yea, though he live a thousand years twice told, and enjoy no good; do not all go to one place?”[13]

“Enoch pleased the Lord and was taken up, an example of repentance to all generations.”[14] Jewish commentary on this passage, combined with their commentary on Genesis 5:24, argued that Enoch in fact was not translated without dying. “In the Targum of Pseudo-Jonathan (on Genesis 5:24) he…is represented as a pious worshipper of the true God, who was translated to heaven and received the names and offices of metatron and ‘great scribe.’ This doubtless was made possible after controversy with Christians had ceased”[15] Note that Charles argues that When Christianity embraced the belief in the resurrection from the dead, the Jews, in reaction to Christianity, rejected the resurrection.

“May their bones send forth new life from where they lie, and may the names of those who have been honored live again in their children… May the bones of the Twelve Prophets send forth new life from where they lie, for they comforted the people of Jacob and delivered them with confident hope.”[16] “There is, of course, no reference to a resurrection here. The word means literally ‘to send out shoots’; here it has, no doubt, a metaphorical meaning such as, ‘May their memory flourish,’ or the like; but originally the idea of the bones ‘sprouting’ must be graves, which suggests the idea of causing something to grow. Among the Arabs one of the usual prayers for the dead was that Heaven might send rain upon their graves”[17]

He tells us of the inadequacy of sacrifices: “The Most High is not pleased with the offerings of the ungodly, nor for a multitude of sacrifices does he forgive sins.”[18] The sacrificial system was designed for those who keep the Law: “The one who keeps the law makes many offerings; one who heeds the commandments makes an offering of well-being.”[19]

The writer believes in the Law of the Harvest, but only in the temporal: “The sinner will not escape with plunder, and the patience of the godly will not be frustrated. He makes room for every act of mercy; everyone receives in accordance with his or her deeds.”[20]

Book of Wisdom – otherwise know as The Wisdom of Solomon. Although Jewish, the author was influenced by Greek philosophy. The first section deals with eschatology; “it would be difficult to find five other chapters in the OT Scriptures with so much departure from traditional views.”[21] Other sections in the book deal with “wisdom” and an historical retrospect of Israel in the Torah. The authorship of the book is unknown and was probably written after 50 B.C. The editor calls attention to “And I will bring clad in shining light those who have loved my holy name, and I will seat each on the throne of his honor”[22] as a cross reference for the eschatology found in the first section of this book.

Although he makes no mention of Messiah, the author does talk about what appears to be the Messianic kingdom: “Do not invite death by the error of your life, nor bring on destruction by the works of your hands; because God did not make death,
and he does not delight in the death of the living. For he created all things that they might exist, and the generative forces of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them; and the dominion of Hades is not on earth. For righteousness is immortal.”[23]

The opinions here put into the mouth of the godless were probably borrowed from Ecclesiastes. Note the purposelessness and futility of life: “For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves, ‘Short and sorrowful is our life, and there is no remedy when a man comes to his end, and no one has been known to return from Hades. Because we were born by mere chance, and hereafter we shall be as though we had never been; because the breath in our nostrils is smoke, and reason is a spark kindled by the beating of our hearts. When it is extinguished, the body will turn to ashes, and the spirit will dissolve like empty air. Our name will be forgotten in time and no one will remember our works; our life will pass away like the traces of a cloud, and be scattered like mist that is chased by the rays of the sun and overcome by its heat. For our allotted time is the passing of a shadow, and there is no return from our death, because it is sealed up and no one turns back.”[24] The same sentiments are put into the mouth of the ungodly in 1 Enoch 102:6-8.

The injustices of this life are compensated by the hope of immortality: “For though in the sight of men they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them. In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble. They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them for ever.”[25] The writer seems to make a reference to the Enoch of Genesis 5:22-24: “There was one who pleased God and was loved by him, and while living among sinners he was taken up.”[26]

The author calls attention to an eternal hope, one of the many benefits found in having “wisdom:” “But the righteous live for ever, and their reward is with the Lord; the Most High takes care of them. Therefore they will receive a glorious crown and a beautiful diadem from the hand of the Lord, because with his right hand he will cover them, and with his arm he will shield them… Because of her I shall have immortality, and leave an everlasting remembrance to those who come after me.” [27]

As for the ungodly, they will die without hope, subject to pain, and aware of what they missed in being unrighteous: “The unrighteous will see, and will have contempt for them, but the Lord will laugh them to scorn. After this they will become dishonored corpses, and an outrage among the dead forever; because he will dash them speechless to the ground, and shake them from the foundations; they will be left utterly dry and barren, and they will suffer anguish, and the memory of them will perish…Then the righteous will stand with great confidence in the presence of those who have oppressed them and those who make light of their labors. When the unrighteous see them, they will be shaken with dreadful fear, and they will be amazed at the unexpected salvation of the righteous.”[28]

Grateful for our eternal hope,


[1] Daniel 9:24-27, JPS
[2] Cf. Matthew 24:6-14
[3] Cf. e.g., Revelation 11:3, 13:5
[4] Sirach 14:16, 19
[5] Sirach 15:6
[6] Sirach 7:33
[7] Sirach 17:27-28
[8] Op cit, Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, Box and Oesterley, vol. I, pp. 377, 388
[9] Sirach 37:25-26
[10] Op cit, Charles, Box and Oesterley, p. 447
[11] Sirach 41:4
[12] Op cit, Charles, Box and Oesterley, p 466
[13] Ecclesiastes 6:6, JPS
[14] Sirach 44:16
[15] Op Cit, Charles, Box and Oesterley, p. 482
[16] Sirach 46:12; 49:10
[17] Op Cit, Charles, Box and Oesterley, p. 505
[18] Sirach 34:19
[19] Sirach 35:1
[20] Sirach 16:13-14
[21] Op Cit, Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, Holmes, vol. I, p. 518
[22] 1 Enoch 108:12
[23] Wisdom 1:12-15
[24] Wisdom 2:1-5
[25] Wisdom 3:4-8
[26] Wisdom 4:10
[27] Wisdom 5:15-16; 8:13
[28] Wisdom 4:18-19, 5:1-2