Shining a light on the weekly Bible Lessons published in the Christian Science Quarterly® 

Probation After Death

from the Golden Text

Psalms 62:5

My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.

Wait is translated from a Hebrew term that alludes to silence (dāmam). Scottish theologian James Moffatt offers, “Leave it all quietly to God, my soul, my rescue comes from him alone; . . .”

from the Responsive Reading

I Peter 1:3–9

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.

First Peter is an epistle of encouragement to early Christians. In the midst of persecution they are to take heart, as their trials will assuredly culminate in salvation. 

Here the Greek word rendered end (telos) refers to maturity or completion rather than to a termination or stoppage. It occurs in Paul’s description of Christ Jesus, “Christ is the end [telos] of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Romans 10:4). And Revelation 22:13 uses this term in the announcement “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end [telos].”

undefiled: pure
manifold: many and varied
tried: tested
unspeakable: not able to be expressed in words; indescribable; wonderful

I Peter 1:18

Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers.

vain: useless; empty; worthless

from Section 1

1 | Jeremiah 29:11

I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Translation

“. . . I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

—New International Version

2 | Acts 17:24, 25

God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.

Translation

“He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need.”

—New Living Translation

3 | Psalms 118:17

I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.

In the ancient Near East, immortality was associated only with pagan gods. Israelite beliefs did not include resurrection, and death was seen as inevitable. Yet, several other references to an end of death and destruction appear in the Hebrew Bible (see examples in Job 19:25, 26Psalms 9:1349:15Isaiah 26:19). And the stories of Enoch and Elijah illustrate passing on without the death of the body (see Genesis 5:24II Kings 2:10, 11). 

Sāpar, the Hebrew term translated declare in this verse, conveys not merely casual conversation but the comprehensive recounting or celebrating of a fact or event.

from Section 2 

4 | Psalms 27:1, 8

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? . . . When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.

Translation

The LORD is my light and my salvation. 
Should I fear anyone? 
The LORD is a fortress protecting my life. 
Should I be frightened of anything? . . . 
Come, my heart says, seek God’s face. 
LORD, I do seek your face!

—Common English Bible

5 | Proverbs 10:28

The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish.

Translation

The hope of the righteous [those of honorable character and integrity] is joy, But the expectation of the wicked [those who oppose God and ignore His wisdom] comes to nothing.

—Amplified® Bible

6 | Romans 8:5–9

They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.

Translation

. . . those who are living according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh [which gratify the body], but those who are living according to the Spirit, [set their minds on] the things of the Spirit [His will and purpose]. Now the mind of the flesh is death [both now and forever—because it pursues sin]; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace [the spiritual well-being that comes from walking with God—both now and forever]; the mind of the flesh [with its sinful pursuits] is actively hostile to God. It does not submit itself to God’s law, since it cannot, and those who are in the flesh [living a life that caters to sinful appetites and impulses] cannot please God. However, you are not [living] in the flesh [controlled by the sinful nature] but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God lives in you [directing and guiding you].

—Amplified® Bible

carnal: fleshly; related to the physical body
enmity: hostility; hatred
subject to: ruled by; dependent on

from Section 3

8 | Luke 10:25

A certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

Belief in the possibility of eternal life is considered largely a New Testament concept by many scholars. The first—and only—Old Testament reference to everlasting life doesn’t occur until the book of Daniel (see 12:1, 2), written after the Babylonian exile. 

By Christ Jesus’ time, future resurrection and immortality were accepted ideas in Jewish teaching (as evidenced by the lawyer’s question). But Jesus introduces eternal life as present, found in a spiritual understanding of God (see instances in John 3:365:24–2910:27, 28)—as he demonstrates in his resurrection and ascension. 

“People who respond to Christ by constant trust,” suggests a commentator, “have eternal life (John 3:15). They have healing from . . . the destructive effects of sin. Here eternal life involves a present healing, a present reality.”

9 | Matthew 7:13, 14

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

Translation

“Go in through the narrow gate. The gate that leads to destruction is broad and the road wide, so many people enter through it. But the gate that leads to life is narrow and the road difficult, so few people find it.”

—Common English Bible

Concluding his Sermon on the Mount, the Master contrasts the way of Christian experience with the worldly path—the path “that leadeth to destruction.” Paul describes this distinction: “To be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:6). Scriptural authorities note that the metaphor of two ways depicts not a static, one-time choice but the continuing effort to follow Christ in thought and actions. Strait indicates the spiritual discipline needed for this effort.

10 | Romans 8:18, 19

I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.

Translation

The sufferings we have now are nothing compared to the great glory that will be shown to us. Everything God made is waiting with excitement for God to show his children’s glory completely.

—New Century Version

from Section 4

11 | Mark 14:55, 56

The chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none. For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together.

Chief priests were usually members of 24 priestly families descended from Moses’ brother, Aaron. As part of the Sanhedrin, the highest religious authority, they controlled the Temple and its activities. Council members were educated elders and scribes who monitored strict interpretation of Mosaic law. 

In their attempt to show Jesus’ guilt, these men apparently sought witnesses against him. But the false accounts didn’t match, a disparity that should have removed the possibility of a death sentence (see Deuteronomy 17:6). When Jesus identifies himself as Christ soon after this, though, he is immediately condemned to death for blasphemy (see Mark 14:60–64).

bare false witness against: told lies about

12 | Mark 15:1, 25

In the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate. . . . And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.

Pilate served as Roman ruler over Judea for over ten years (ad 26-37) , but he is remembered almost solely for his role in Jesus’ crucifixion. Responsible for maintaining law and order, he gives audience to Jewish leaders accusing Jesus of serious offenses—that Jesus calls himself a king and prevents others from showing allegiance to Caesar (see Luke 23:2). The synagogue officials understand that only Rome can sentence a man to death (see John 18:31)—thus their charges that Jesus has broken Roman law.

Although Pilate admits to Jesus’ innocence (see Luke 23:14John 19:6), he ultimately capitulates in the face of crowd violence, washing his hands to proclaim his faultlessness in the decision (see Matthew 27:24).

Over the centuries, Pilate’s actions have been viewed as weak and cowardly. Some sources, though, see them as a subtle exercise of power over the Hebrew elders, requiring pointed subservience to Roman authority before granting their request. Whatever his motivation, he unwittingly sets in motion events leading to Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.

consultation: meeting to discuss or decide something

13 | Mark 16:1, 5

When the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. . . . And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.

All four Gospels speak of women coming to Jesus’ tomb after the crucifixion (see also Matthew 28:1–10Luke 23:55, 56John 20:1–18). Some of these women had also stayed by Jesus during the crucifixion, when most of the Savior’s other followers fled (see Matthew 27:55, 56Mark 15:40, 41John 19:25–27).

Of the women listed here, likely only Mary Magdalene—named in all the Gospels—is familiar to Bible readers. “Mary the mother of James” describes this woman’s relation to a little-known disciple named James. Salome is thought to have been Zebedee’s wife, mother of the well-known disciples James and John.

sepulchre (sepulcher): tomb or cave used for burial of a body
affrighted: afraid

14 | I Corinthians 15:20

Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

Translation

. . . Christ has truly been raised from death—the first one and proof that those who are asleep in death will also be raised.

—International Children’s Bible

from Section 5

15 | Luke 24:13–15, 25, 27

Two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. . . . Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: . . . And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

Throughout his ministry, Jesus makes clear that his advent fulfills prophecy—for example, at his reading in the Nazareth synagogue, in answer to the Baptist’s inquiry, in predicting his coming passion, and in preparing the disciples for his ascension (see Luke 4:16–217:19–2318:31–3324:44–48). Now he grounds his response to the two followers in Scripture as well, explaining all its references to his coming.

The disciple Cleopas (see 24:18) is unknown, and scholars find no evidence of a connection with the Cleophas mentioned in John 19:25.

furlong: distance of 660 feet (about 200 meters)
communed: talked
expounded: explained

16 | I Corinthians 15:55

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

Paul has just cited Isaiah 25:8, “He will swallow up death in victory.” Now, recalling Hosea 13:14, he chooses a graphic image for death. The Greek noun translated sting (kentron) is also rendered goad or prick—a word from the arresting statement he heard on the road to Damascus, “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (Acts 9:5). 

The apostle’s point is emphatic: Death is powerless. For his listeners, Hebrew Bible quotations validate his message.

from Section 6

17 | II Peter 3:18

Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever.

Translation

. . . grow in the good will  and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Glory belongs to him now and for that eternal day!

—GOD’S WORD Translation

18 | John 21:3–6

Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a-fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No. And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.

Gospel author Luke tells of a miraculous catch of fish taken at the outset of the Master’s career—a catch that impels Simon, James, and John to follow Jesus (see Luke 5:1–11). At that time their net broke, and the ships began to sink from the quantity of fish. Here, even with the great draft of fish, the net remains intact. And though the catch hasn’t been brought to shore, Jesus has fish ready for the disciples to eat.

“The first and simplest aim of this story,” explains a Bible authority, “is to make quite clear the reality of the resurrection. The Risen Lord was not a vision, nor the figment of someone’s excited imagination, nor the appearance of a spirit or a ghost; it was Jesus who had conquered death . . . .”

19 | Colossians 3:4

When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

Translation

. . . when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.

—New Living Translation

While it is unclear whether Paul wrote the letter to the Colossians, calling Christ “our life” is a common theme in his epistles. To the Philippians he professes, “For to me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21). And to the Galatians he declares, “Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20). One source points out, “As Paul saw it, to the Christian Christ is the most important thing in life; more, he is life.”

Related healing ideas


Read a related poem: "En route to whatever Emmaus" by Barbara L. Kelly. 

The Bible Lessons serve as weekly study guides as well as the sermon in every Christian Science Sunday church service. Learn more at BibleLesson.com

Resources quoted in this issue

GT: Moffatt, James. A New Translation of the Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments. New York: Harper & Row, 1954.

Cit. 8: Butler, Trent C., ed. Holman Bible Dictionary. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 1991. Also available at studylight.org/dictionaries.

Cit. 18: Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of John, Vol. 2. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew, 1955. Revised and updated by Saint Andrew, 2001. Reprinted as The New Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of John, Vol. 2. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001–04.

Cit. 19: Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible: The Letters to Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew, 1955. Revised and updated by Saint Andrew, 2001. Reprinted as The New Daily Study Bible: The Letters to Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001–04.

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