|Jonah's Tomb in Mosul, Iraq 2014, before its destruction.|
In almost graphic detail, Jonah proceeds to explain how he died! Note that he said here that “the waters closed in over me to take my life”! This makes Jonah the second mortal man, along with Lazarus, whom God raised from the dead! Of course, Jesus Christ rose from the dead as well and the Resurrection is the hope of every believer in Almighty God- from Adam to Abraham until the trumpet sounds for the Call to rise and meet the Lord in the air. There will be tribulation saints, after what is commonly called “The Rapture” occurs, because it is only at that time will the Gospel be literally be preached to the ends of the earth. This will not occur in the current church age for many reasons, which is a matter for another discussion.
Jonah said two very interesting things in this statement. He said “the bars closed upon me forever….yet you brought my life from the pit” Jonah was not just dead, he was in the abode of the lost. Only those who rebel against God end up in the pit! How many times we have read the psalmist David, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit say – “let me not be like them that goeth down into the pit”. Hell is described as a bottom less pit. Peter records that even though Jesus Christ the Lord was dead and buried in physical form, in a tomb, He nevertheless went down to the place of the dead and knocked down those same gates of hell (where the bars close around the lost) and preached the Victory He had just won on the Cross.
So what does this all mean? It would appear that just before Jonah was allowed to be conscious enough of his surroundings, that by ONLY the Grace of God, he was able to repent. In all his dying and going to the depths of Sheol, the place of the dead, he admits he only thought of the Lord when the very gates of hell were shut behind him! Isn’t this like the majority of mankind – from the time of Noah and before to now? Rebellious humans would rather face the uncertainty of eternal separation from God than cry out, even on their death beds, to the Only One Who has the power over life, liberty and love – God Himself.
What happened with Jonah is the only recorded example of such a thing in history and definitely, the Bible. We know from the Word of God that it is appointed once for a man (or woman) to die and then the Judgment. The only reason Jonah was rescued from where he landed in the next life was that God was not through with him! Jonah never said what his prayer was which reached to the very Throne of God, Who did what He had planned to do – let Jonah live to work for Him. All we can tell is – Jonah repented even in death and became the biggest evangelist ever recorded in the Bible – even bigger than Peter was at Pentecost where 5000 souls them 3000 were brought into the Kingdom by Peter’s preaching. Jonah preached and an entire city repented, believed and were saved. There is nowhere else in history, even with the great Billy Graham, where this was accomplished.
The story of Jonah appears incomplete, because we see the disagreeable prophet complaining to God that He saved the Ninevites as Chapter 4 ends abruptly. History and tradition tells us that Jonah actually stayed in the same region of Assyria, where he literally once had hated the people, and taught them about the Lord! Later on, this region of Assyria/Nineveh and now Mosul, Iraq, became one of the largest Christian communities for almost 2000 years until the Islamic state terrorists persecuted them by the thousand and ended up driving them out. The Christians who lived there for two millennia were the product of Jonah’s evangelism and discipleship. After the churches and homes of these Christians were destroyed, the modern day Philistines then proceeded to destroy Jonah’s tomb, which even their own religion held up as a prophet! That sacrilege was too late as Jonah already completed the work which God had sent him to do.