Joel Osteen is a copycat. He popularized among the great majority of evangelicals a “gospel” that was preached about 3,000 years ago! In those days, in the ancient Near East, a man name Job was so outrageously blessed by God that:
There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east (Job 1:2-3).
But God allowed Satan the Accuser to bring tragedy after tragedy upon him. He lost all his children, flock and livestock, and servants. And his whole body, from head to toe, was inflicted with “loathsome sores.”
The False Gospel of Prosperity
Then four of his friends came to comfort and counsel him in his sufferings, but they were false comforters. Instead, they were “miserable comforters” who brought him “empty nothings”
(Job 16:2, 21:34).
Their first “comfort” was this: If you are a good man, then God will make you happy, wealthy and wise again. Therefore, you are a sinful and wicked man, and you should repent. Because, Eliphaz says, only the wicked reap trouble and perish:
“Remember: who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off? As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same“ (Job 4:7-8).
[The wicked man] will not be rich, and his wealth will not endure, nor will his possessions spread over the earth (Job 15:29).
Bildad blamed Job’s sin and wickedness for his great afflictions, and if he repented, God will restore his “rightful habitation,” i.e., riches:
If your children have sinned against [God], he has delivered them into the hand of their transgression. If you will seek God and plead with the Almighty for mercy, if you are pure and upright, surely then he will rouse himself for you and restore your rightful habitation
Zophar echoed Bildad:
If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and let not injustice dwell in your tents. Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure and will not fear… And your life will be brighter than the noonday; its darkness will be like the morning
Their second “comfort” was this: If you give more to God, he will reward you with more blessings. Elihu started his counsel right, shifting the focus away from Job’s morality to God’s sovereignty. But he also blamed Job’s sin for his afflictions, saying, “If you return to the Almighty you will be built up” (Job 22:23). If Job does this and pays his vows, then he could “name it and claim it”:
You will make your prayer to him, and he will hear you, and you will pay your vows. You will decide on a matter, and it will be established for you, and light will shine on your ways
The True Gospel of the Living Redeemer
Both accusations, disguised as “comfort,” were vehemently rejected by Job. He reaffirms God’s earlier description of him as “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1), declaring to his three friends:
I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go; my heart does not reproach me for any of my days (Job 27:6).
In the face of horrible sufferings, Job continued to be faithful—and at the same time honest and straightforward—to God with his feelings,
“Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face” (Job 13:15).
So he not only argues against his friends’ accusation, but also pleads with God to vindicate his righteousness and faith. But he realizes that he alone cannot do this. His friends are no help to him. So he realizes his need for an Arbiter, a Mediator:
For [God] is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together. There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both. Let him take his rod away from me, and let not dread of him terrify me. Then I would speak without fear of him, for I am not so in myself (Job 9:32-35).
Later, he is confident that there is a Witness who testifies on his behalf in heaven:
Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and he who testifies for me is on high… that he would argue the case of a man with God, as a son of man does with his neighbor
(Job 16:19, 21).
Then at last, he declares his trust not only in someone who is his Mediator and Witness, but also his Redeemer, one Who would redeem him not only from his suffering, but also from sin and death:
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another (Job 19:25-27).
This Redeemer would give Job true righteousness—not his own—because he knows his sinfulness, “I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).
Who is this Mediator, Witness and Redeemer? It is none other than Jesus Christ. He is the only “mediator between God and men” (1Ti 2:5). He is the only Witness in heaven, “the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us”
(Rm 8:34). On the cross, “Christ [alone] redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal 3:13).
In the end, Job’s friends’ ancient prosperity gospel was condemned by God:
The LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has… For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7-8).
God’s anger burns against all those who have taught false prosperity “gospel”—including these three false teachers of Job 3,000 years ago, today’s prosperity preachers, and all those in between them—for speaking lies about God.
Prosperity in the Eschaton
But those who have faith in Christ Jesus the Redeemer who forgives their sin will truly be blessed with unspeakable riches and glory in heaven. After Job prayed a prayer of repentance and mediation for himself and his friends, the LORD restored him, “And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends.” Job’s restoration was complete and overflowing, “twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10):
And the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. He had also seven sons and three daughters… And in all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters (Job 42:12-15).
So Job is commended in the New Testament for his steadfastness in the face of extreme suffering:
As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful (Jas 5:10-11).
This is the real, true prosperity gospel. Job’s suffering was a picture of the Christian’s suffering in this world. This is why Jesus, all the apostles, and all the New Testament writers exhort us to persevere in our afflictions. But the promise is sure: when Christ returns from heaven at the end of this age, we will receive full and perfect restoration, a double inheritance, since we are “firstborn” children of God
(Hb 12:23), a type of the unimaginable overflowing cup of blessing God will give to all his people:
Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy (Is 61:7).
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Rm 8:18).
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal
May the Spirit help us affirm with Job, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).