In Psalm16, David rejoices that the life God gives cannot be canceled by the grave. But generally speaking, the Old Testament offers little insight into life after death, but here David’s faith carries him to a deeper understanding. The apostles Peter and Paul understand this psalm as prophesying about the resurrection of Jesus. (See Acts 2:25-28, 13:35-37). Because of the resurrection of Jesus, David and “all God’s people” will come to a new life in him.
People have always wanted an answer to the question: “What happens to you after you die?” and the Psalmists were no different. They lived in an age without effective medicine, in an age when wars were fought hand to hand. Dead bodies were a familiar reality. Yet death, however familiar, remained mysterious and frightening.
The Israelites called the dark and shadowy place where dead people go “Sheol.” When you got there, your life seemed thoroughly finished. The psalmists emphatically did not want to go there, and they ask God when praying for his help, what possible good there might be in death. “Are your wonders known in the place of darkness, or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?” (Psalm 88:12) Sheol was the great leveler: it meant the end of plans, of worship, of a relationship with God (Psalm 30:9; 146:4). The dead were found there, not the living.
Yet many of the psalms seem to understand “God’s Power Over Death.” They reveal a happier view, that God’s authority is unmistakable. He holds the key that unlocks the mystery of the grave. Only God can redeem a person from there. (Psalm 49:7-9, 15). God will not let his Holy One see decay, speaking of the resurrection of his son Jesus. Just as Jesus was raised from the dead, we too can now pass from death to life eternal, in the presence of the Lord. (Revelation 21:1-5).
Psalm 17:15, And I — in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.