The Land of the Living

OUR LESSON IS taken from Psalm 27:13, which reads this way: “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” We realize that the goal for which we are seeking is “glory, honor, and immortality,” to “reign” with our Lord Jesus during his millennial kingdom. (Rom. 2:7; Rev. 3:21; 20:4) Yet if someone were to ask us just exactly what would be involved once we arrived in the heavenly realm, we would have very few words to describe the details of the place or condition or work promised to us in God’s Word. Little specific information has been given to us in the Bible concerning it, no doubt because our finite human minds could not conceive of spiritual conditions, places, beings, or work, in any case. The way we will live and what we will do, other than what the Bible tells us concerning our influence upon the world of mankind, is veiled in mystery, and will continue to be so, requiring our absolute faith and trust in God, the remainder of our earthly lives.

In fact, we have not been instructed at all as to our way of life in heaven. But we have been given information concerning the new ‘way of life’ which we will teach in that select day to all mankind, and which we will use to help guide them up the highway of holiness. That way of life has to be learned by us during our lives here upon earth, in order for us to be in a position to teach it to the world. What is the way? It is the way of love expressed in the development of the fruits and graces of the Holy Spirit—love, kindness, mercy, gentleness, forgiveness, and goodness.

How empty our calling and election to live in heaven would be were it not for the privilege of blessing all the families of the earth. If we were to have a blessed existence in heaven while this whole earth remained dead, or were dying in sin and sickness and despair, and we alone, by the grace of God, would have an endless, perfect, spiritual life—how empty, how hollow, and how miserable it would be, even in our minds, to realize that so few people had been saved out of so many.

If we, like David, had not this hope, “unless we had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living,” we too would have fainted—we would have no desire to continue living. When we ponder our lives we realize that we are living in a cemetery. There have been over thirty billions of people upon this earth. There are 5.5 billion people alive today, so it is possible that at least twenty-seven billion people have gone down into death, and are lying in the dust of the earth.

The word cemetery is not found in the Bible. It is derived from a Greek word which actually means ‘sleeping chamber’. This is an interesting way of stating the matter, because the Bible, throughout, calls the death of each member of the human race ‘a sleep’. Man sleeps in the dust of the earth, awaiting his time of awakening in the ‘new day—the morning’. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning”!—Ps. 30:5

How we long for the time of the kingdom of God to come so that we can see the dead raised to life, when all people can receive God’s promised blessings—the crippled, the maimed, the halt, the blind, the deaf, the mentally disabled, the physically deformed, the chronically ill—all of these will be released from their bondage of illness and pain to enjoy the goodness and blessing of God!

Psalm 103 promises that our God is one “who forgiveth all thine iniquities; [and one] who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (vss. 3-5) This will take place when “the Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.” (vs. 6) And we have been taught by God’s Word that this time will be during the millennial reign of Christ and his church.

Psalm 104 also beautifully expresses the plan of God ‘in a nutshell’. The chapter shows the fall of man and the effects which ensued upon the earth. It emphasizes God’s position in this experience. We read: “Thou [Jehovah] givest them [all that] they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good. Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.” This is what happened when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. Their ‘breath’ was taken away, and they were placed under the penalty of death. God then told Adam, “From the dust thou was taken and unto dust shalt thou return.”—Ps. 104:29; Gen. 3:19

David pictorially related that God ‘hid his face’ from mankind because they were sinners. “Thou takest away their breath, they die and return to their dust.” But a bright ray of hope appeared upon the scene. David said this: “Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth. The glory of the Lord shall endure forever: the Lord shall rejoice in his works.” (Ps. 104:30,31) Yes, he will restore Adam and all his posterity to their heritage upon the earth. This promise is ‘yea and amen’ because our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ paid the price for every man, and released them from the curse of sin and death.

The call of the church to honor and glory—to live and reign with Christ was for one purpose; the selection of the Ancient Worthies—from Abel to John was for one purpose; and the provision of those who do not meet the requirements for the High Calling, which we designate the Great Company, this had one purpose. These all were called and selected for one particular purpose—to bless all the families of the earth.

Understanding these clear and simple truths is sometimes called ‘the milk of the Word’. But there is no more important work in this world than publishing and sending forth that ‘milk of the Word’ to all the hungry and thirsty souls who are longing for a small hope—and instead find a tremendously huge hope—to have faith in and to cling to in these difficult days.

Let us turn to Psalm 102 which indicates to us how important the plan of God is. It says, starting with the 15th verse: “So the heathen [all nations] shall fear [reverence] the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth thy glory. When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory.” Zion typified the church—spiritual Israel—so when the church is complete. God will appear in his glory. And “then he is going to regard the prayer of the destitute and not despise their prayer.”—Ps. 102:16,17

What does this mean? Think of the millions of times, perhaps billions that the prayer has gone up before the Lord’s throne over the past nearly two thousand years: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done upon earth as it is in heaven.” Despite the fact that much of the time those who offered it did not understand just what that prayer involved of blessing and joy; nevertheless, it was indeed the heartfelt longing of broken and contrite hearts for a better time. And long before the Christian age, sincere, earnest prayers were offered for help and blessing all the way back to Abel’s day. This verse assures us that those prayers will be answered.

“This shall be written for the generation to come, for the people that shall be created shall praise the Lord.” (Ps. 102:18) The whole world of mankind is going to be ‘created’—recreated, resurrected—with their new bodies which God will provide for them. (I Cor. 15:38) How we long for the time when these things will take place, and when mankind will so appreciate God that all together they will “praise the Lord.” The records of the Bible—“this” which was written “for the generation to come”—will serve as a wonderful teaching tool as mankind begins to understand the character of their God, his longsuffering, and his righteous ways.

“He [God] hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the Lord behold the earth.” (Ps. 102:19) Remember when the Lord was on Mt. Sinai speaking to Moses? The Tabernacle was just about to be built and God said, “Let them make me a Sanctuary; that I may dwell among them [the children of Israel].” (Exod. 25:8) Again, John the Revelator was taken in vision to see the church; and it was pictured as a bride being adorned for her husband. Then John said: “Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.”—Rev. 21:1-3

Next John tells us, “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.”—vss. 4,5

This is what the ancient Tabernacle in the wilderness of Israel pictured—God dwelling in a sanctuary in order to bless all the families of the earth. Jehovah looked down from the heights of his sanctuary in heaven to the time of the establishment of his new sanctuary—New Jerusalem—which will be established here upon the earth to assure the blessing of all the families of mankind.

We read (Ps. 102:19-22): “From heaven did the Lord behold the earth; to hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death. To declare the name of the Lord in Zion and his praise in Jerusalem; when the people are gathered together and the kingdoms, to serve the Lord.” They will be ‘gathered together’ in unity, because in that day they shall all call upon the name of the Lord to serve him with one consent.

In Jeremiah 31:11,12 there is another, quite similar and very interesting, expression which says this: “The Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he. They shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the Lord.” Is not that a beautiful expression—‘flowing together to the goodness of the Lord!’ This indicates that the majority of people will integrate into the kingdom in a very pleasant, tranquil way.

This is what our hope is all about. This is why you and I are willing to walk day by day in the paths and footsteps of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, because we have this hope. If we did not have this hope before us, we would have fainted along ago. But it is because we look forward to that land of the living wherein the goodness of God will dwell that we find fresh courage every day to keep on in the narrow way which leads to life, not only for ourselves, but for all mankind.

Exodus 33:18-22 reads: “He [Moses] said, I beseech thee show me thy glory. And he [Jehovah] said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will show mercy. And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me and live; And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: and it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand as I pass by.”

Moses did not actually see God face to face. He was safely inside the cleft of the rock with God’s hand shielding him, and saw only the ‘back parts of God’, or only what a natural man could see—the character and the goodness of God. This Scriptural record agrees with the thought of David when he wrote: “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living,” and it agrees also with our present experience.

What was the first thing that we knew about the divine plan of the ages? Was it God’s promised blessing of all the families of the earth? In general this is the first facet of truth which appeals to our hearts and minds. When we learned that God had a plan which included the benefiting of every man, we instinctively knew it was the truth. It was our idea of just what a loving God would be like. God showed to us his kindness and his love toward man, and from that time on we began to see the goodness of our God in the land of the living. We realized and accepted God’s promise that this whole earth would blossom as the rose (Isa. 35:1) that men were no longer going to die, or be sick, or live in sin, but that they were going to learn to rejoice in living unto God.

And ever since, we have been beholding the beauty of the Lord. Just as Moses, we have not actually seen God face to face, to see what his great and marvelous being looks like. But we have known him by his character and plan, which makes us love and reverence him deeply.

As recorded in John 14:8-11, the Apostle Philip went to the Lord Jesus and requested that he allow him to see God. He said, “Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.” Do you remember Jesus’ answer? He said, “Have you been so long time with me and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?”

And it is so with us—we have seen the goodness and mercy of God through the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, and through the Word of God. Therefore we dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of our life and behold the beauty of the Lord, and inquire in his temple. This is surely one of the thrilling things in the life of a Christian—to look at the Word of God day after day and to see God reflected in his Word more clearly all the time.

Hebrews 12:2 reads: “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus could look ahead far down the corridors of the future, and see into that land of the living. Sometimes perhaps we try to picture this in our own minds—the time when man will sing and laugh upon this earth, and be wholly in heart-harmony with the Lord, walking always in the ways of righteousness. This is the time that Jesus looked forward to; this is the reason why he was willing to endure the cross and why he despised—or ignored—the shame.

Think what shame was connected with a perfect, sinless man being brought forcibly before the bar of justice such as Jesus was. He was accused of something grossly shameful hypocrisy and blasphemy—and this accusation was absolutely false. Jesus knew he had the truth of God’s Word to support him, as well as the power to overturn their unjust decision. He could have countermanded the death sentence at any time by calling upon more than twelve legions of angels! But because of the joy that was set before him he willingly endured it all silently and patiently, knowing that, in God’s plans, it was necessary.

Returning to the 27th Psalm, let us consider its conclusion. After David pondered the fact that he would have “fainted, unless [he] had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living,” he said, “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” This test has been made upon the church today, as well as throughout the Gospel Age. We are not only told to wait, but also to watch.

What are we to watch for? Our Lord Jesus told us to watch for his return. How will we prove worthy by watching? It is because in watching we must become acquainted with the Word of God, in order to know the signs, and thereby we also become familiar with his life and his ways, his principles and his character. We must learn, in watching, to do so in his prescribed way, following in his footsteps. By preparing ourselves, by walking in the footsteps of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we will, by his grace, be worthy of living and reigning with him in God’s due time. Watching means more than just knowing the time or the fact of the second presence of our Lord.

We read: “Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.” (Gal. 6:9) We must not only watch, but we must also wait; and besides these two concerns we must also be concerned with walking in a manner well pleasing to our Father. We have the grandest hope God has ever placed before any of his creatures, or ever will again! He has allowed us to look prophetically into the land of the living and see his plans and purposes fulfilled, and to see our part in them.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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