Life After Death

Chapter 1: Life After Death

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DIE?  This is the big vital question that we must all face, whoever we are. Death is the biggest fact of life - the one certain thing is that we will die. Death is the great leveller. Whoever we are and whatever status or money we have in the natural it makes no difference when it comes to facing death. 
 
 As 1Timothy 6:7 says: “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” Whether small or great, rich or poor, male or female, we are equally vulnerable in the face of this great unknown. Job expressed the big question facing man: “If a man die, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14). 
 
 This question is not to be answered by SCIENCE or SENTIMENT but by SCRIPTURE, for only God knows what lies beyond the grave for us. In His Word, He tells us in great detail as we will see. 
 
 Some wrong ideas in the world: 
1. Death is an illusion. It is not real as Christian Science claims. This is the ultimate denial of reality!
 
 2. Universalism. There is life after death. We will all go to a better place and be happy there, however we have lived in this life. They believe everyone will go to heaven. There is no danger of going to a hell. This is an optimistic view. However it contradicts the Bible, which tells us clearly there is a HEAVEN to gain and a HELL to shun. Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was particularly strong in warning us about the very real dangers of hell.

3. Reincarnation. This idea from Eastern philosophy has become popular. It says we are on a cycle of birth and rebirth. If we live a good life we will have positive karma leading to being born as a higher form next time round. As well as being unbelievable, it is contradicted by the Bible which declares: “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement” (Hebrews 9:27). 
Again it is a case of ‘when people stop believing in God they will believe in anything’, however absurd.
 
 4. Oblivion. This is what materialists and atheists believe, for they think we are just a body, so when the body dies, that is it, we stop existing. However this is a weak position philosophically, because we must be more than just MATTER, for we also have a MIND, and THOUGHT is something quite distinct from matter, and so cannot be explained as a product of matter alone. 
 
 5. Greek Philosophy. Many Greek philosophers realised that mind and spirit something distinct from matter, and therefore could live on past death. In fact they saw the material universe and especially the body as corrupt and inferior, and so at death the spirit is released from the prison of the body to a higher level. So they believed at death we live on as mind or spirit - which is correct. But they also believed that at death we are finished with the body forever, which disagrees with Hebrew (Biblical) thinking, which says that although we can exist outside our body as a spirit, this is not the ideal, for our body was created by God and is an essential part of our humanity. Therefore our full restoration, salvation and perfection must include the resurrection of our body.
 
 6. Sentimentality. Some who do not believe in life after death, try and console themselves with the thought that we live on in our children and achievement, and in other people's memories. But, if that is all they can cling onto they are to be pitied, because the people who remember them will all die anyway! Therefore ultimately their lives and all their achievements will be forgotten, and therefore in the final analysis all is vanity. This is the message of Ecclesiastes, which proves that if you live 
as if this natural life ‘under the sun’ is all there is, then all our attempts to find purpose and meaning in it are bound to fail.His conclusion is that ‘all is vanity’, for there can be no ultimate meaning or purpose if there is no God and no life after death. 
 
 However, universally man has believed in life beyond death, for: “God has put eternity in our hearts” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Deep down we know that there has to be more than this life, for this life is so incomplete and so many potentialities are unrealised. 
 
 There is a universal fear of death, so that people avoid thinking about death and its consequences, and so they don’t prepare for it. 
 
 1. There is a universal fear of death, because the unknown always makes us nervous. In 600 AD, King Edwin of Northumberland was visited by missionaries. When a sparrow flew into the Hall and then out into the dark again, the King said: “that's like my life, I come into the light of day for a short time and then out into the dark unknown. Does your religion tell us about the after-life?” They told him the Gospel of eternal life , and his whole kingdom became Christian!
 
 2. There is a universal fear of death, because after death we know we must face God’s judgement. However much they repress it, God has put the knowledge of His existence and His laws into men’s hearts and a realisation that one day they must give an account to God for how they have lived. Deep down they know that there is a God and that they have sinned against Him, and so they rightly live in fear of death for they know they are not ready to meet their Maker. “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this comes the judgement” (Hebrews 9:27). We must give an account to God. Death means a completed life. The time of sowing is over and now it is time for the reaping. The ultimate fear of man is to enter Hell - a State of Eternal Punishment for our sin, separated forever from God’s goodness. 
  
 1 Corinthians 15:55 says: “The sting of death is sin.” We have all been bitten by a serpent called sin, and its poison results in death. Physical death is the outward sign and proof of inward sin, that man has sinned and is under the judgement of a righteous and holy God. Man is infected with a killer disease called sin, which will continue to control our destiny on the other side of death, if no remedy or antidote is found and applied. For if we die in a state of sin, our physical death will lead to us standing before God and receiving final judgement and everlasting condemnation for our sin. So because of sin, physical death itself has a terrible sting to it, and it is knowing this that causes man to have a deep fear of death.

This fear of death either leads to a man preparing for death by seeking God and the salvation He has provided for us in His abundant mercy. Or he goes into an irrational denial, refusing to think about death or God, getting defensive when the subject of religion comes up, and even denying the existence of God, because he cannot face thinking about his future judgement. The Bible says: “the fool says in his heart there is no God” (Psalm 14:1, 53:1). He is being foolish because burying his head in the sand and refusing to think about death and judgement, and denying there is a God is not going to make God go away. It will not change the fact that there is a God who will judge him when this life is over.

 
 The Biblical Attitude to Death 
1. Death is real. It is a fact that we must face. At the centre of Christianity is the Cross, where the issue of death is faced head on. 
 
 2. Death is not of God, but is the result of man's sin: “through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). “By man came death” (1 Corinthians 15:21). Death is not a normal part of our human nature, but an alien intrusion upon it because there has been a breakdown. We were created to live in dependence upon God, but when we turned from God in sin, we were cut off from the life of God and death entered in. Therefore death is an enemy to be fought and resisted, for it is part of the curse of sin: “For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:25,26). 
 
 However God uses even physical death for our good. Being under the sentence of death tells us there is something badly wrong and that we urgently need salvation. Imagine if God allowed us to live on without dying in this body, despite being sinners. We would be deceived into thinking everything was OK, even if God were to warn us that He will judge us soon. The fact of death makes us much more aware that something is badly wrong with us, and that there is a judgement awaiting us and that we need salvation. It focuses our attention to the fact that we need to get right with God.Man is on `death-row.' The certainty of death should motivate us to seek God for forgiveness. We have this life alone to repent and obtain pardon, or else be condemned to eternal everlasting death (that the Bible calls the second death). Without physical death, man would not be alerted to his need of salvation until it was too late. 
 
 3. The empty grave proclaims there is life after death. Jesus took the sting of death (sin) upon Himself in His death in order to release us from the dominion of death (Genesis 3:15, John 3:14-16). Through His death and resurrection, He took on our enemy and defeated it for us so that we might live for ever in a glorified resurrected body! He conquered death once and for all in His resurrection. For us who trust Him as Saviour there is no fear of death for He has taken the sting out of it. So we can look death in the face and say: “0 death, where is your sting? 0 grave, where is your victory?, thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55,57). Jesus died for us so that by His death: “he might destroy him with the power of death (the devil) and deliver them who by fear of death were all their life in bondage” (Hebrews 2:14,15). Our attitude to death is not to be afraid of it, because for believers, Death and Hell are defeated foes. Jesus promised that the Gates of Death and Hell would not prevail against the Church because He has conquered it for us (Matthew 16:18), so that now: “we are more than conquerors (over death) through Christ who loved us (in His death and resurrection)” (Romans 8:37). Our victorious attitude to death is one of our greatest witnesses to the world. We stay as long as we can in this life and fight death, to bear fruit for God and lay up our treasure in heaven, preparing for a glorious journey into eternity. 
 
 4. Death is never the end of a person. Your spirit will live forever. Man is not just a body. He is spirit, soul and body. You are a spirit, you have a soul, and you live in a body. There is an invisible inward man (his spirit and soul) as well as a visible outward body. When the outward shell dies, the inward man will continue to live on. “Fear not them who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28). The real you is a spirit for you are created in the image of God, Who is an eternal Spirit. Therefore the deepest and essential part of your being is your spirit, and that will continue to live on after your body dies. 
 
 “The LORD (1) formed man of the dust of the ground (BODY), and (2) breathed into his nostrils the breath (SPIRIT) of life, and (3) (as a result) man became a living SOUL” (Genesis 2:7). When God created Adam, He breathed into his BODY the breath or spirit of life, which brought forth his SPIRIT and as a result of the fusion of his spirit and body, he became a living SOUL or personality with mind, will and emotions. Notice the body (the material and visible part of man) and the spirit (the immaterial, invisible part of man) are clearly distinguished. The body is made of the dust of the earth and so can be destroyed (killed), but the spirit of man is made from God's eternal breath which cannot die. Therefore our spirit does not cease to exist after death but lives on.
 
 5. However the Bible forbids 'spiritism' (the attempt to make contact with the dead). Prayers for the dead are futile.We are to leave them in God's hands, He will do the right thing. There is no purgatory. 
 
 6. Our existence is in 3 Phases
 Phase 1 is this life in a mortal body. 
Phase 2 is the Intermediate State as a disembodied spirit. 
Phase 3 is the Eternal State in a resurrected body. 
 
 This life is just the first phase and is short compared to eternity. Even a long-life of 120 years is nothing compared to eternity which is forever and ever and ever and ever. After a million years, eternity will only have just begun. That is why James 4:14 says: “For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”Even though this life is short, yet this phase of our existence is extremely important for it is the choices that we make in this life and this life alone, that will determine our eternal destiny, whether we go to heaven or hell, as well as determining our degree of glory, honour and authority in heaven, or our degree of punishment and torment in hell.
 
 Death is just a transition or JOURNEY to the next phase of our existence. At death our spirit leaves our body and departs to another place. A wise man going on a journey makes preparations to ensure they will end up at the right place and that they bring the right things with them. The greatest journey you will ever take lies ahead of you, at the moment of your death. Are you ready for it? Have you made preparations for this great journey? Have you made sure that you will go to heaven rather than hell? Have you stored up treasures in heaven that will be there waiting for you? You only have this life to determine your eternal destination. A fool is one who does not face death and so makes no preparations for the journey he will go on when he dies. As a result he will certainly end up at the wrong destination.
 
 That is why Ecclesiastes 7:2 says it is better for our soul to go to a funeral than a wedding: “Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men and the living will take it to heart.”Funerals remind us that this life will soon end and so we urgently need to prepare for eternity.Material things evidently cannot be taken with us past the grave. 
 
 1Timothy 6:7: “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” However spiritual things can be brought through with us into eternity in the form of eternal rewards. Therefore our priority, once we have made sure we are going to the correct destination, should be to store up our treasures in heaven as Jesus told us inMatthew 6:19-21: 
 
 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” 
 
 7. Beyond death there are only 2 possible destinations (not 3, there is no Purgatory): Torments or Paradise; Heaven or Hell, and only 2 possible destinies: Eternal Life or Eternal Death, Destruction and Damnation.   
 
 8. There are no second chances after death. It is in this life alone that we decide which way we go (our choice is made now). Making no choice is making a bad choice, because mankind is automatically on the road to hell and if we just unthinkingly follow the crowd we will end up at the wrong place. As Jesus said in Matthew 7:13,14: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” If we make no decision we are just being swept along with the world on the broad road to destruction. The way to hell is straight on. The way to heaven is to wake up to the danger, turn around and enter through the narrow gate into life by receiving Christ. Then you will be the road to eternal life. You do not go to heaven by accident, but on purpose, by choosing to receive Christ. 
 
 9. After death we enter Phase 2 - the Intermediate State, where we will be disembodied spirits awaiting resurrection and final judgement. Believers (the righteous) all go to Paradise. Unbelievers (the unrighteous) all go to Torments.
 
 10. At Christ's Return we will enter Phase 3, the Final and Eternal State, through resurrection and final judgement. This is our real ultimate hope. The Intermediate State, when we exist just as a spirit, is just a temporary waiting period until the day of final judgement. Ultimately we will all receive a resurrection body and then stand before Christ to face His judgement, at which point He will release us into our eternal state, either of eternal punishment (for the unrighteous) or of eternal glory in Heaven (for the righteous.
 
 Unbelievers will stand already condemned before the Judge and will receive their final sentencing of eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire, the degree of punishment being determined by the degree of their sin against God in their life.Believers have already been forgiven and justified through their faith in Christ, and so will not be condemned like unbelievers, but their lives (works) will be judged and they will be rewarded with a degree of eternal glory that is according to how faithful they have been to God in their life. 

How then can we prepare for death? Face the fact this life is short - it is not forever (Psalm 90:12). We have one chance, one life now to make the right choices for our eternal destiny. Realise that the choices we make now will affect our eternal future. It is in this life alone we decide where and how we will spend eternity. First, make sure you are going to the right destination by receiving Christ as your Lord and Saviour! Then you will be a citizen of the kingdom of heaven with a valid passport. Then, while you can, lay up treasure (eternal glory) in heaven. Make the best of the time God gives you. Don't waste it all with things of no eternal value. Seek God's plan for your life now. This life is just a breath in eternity, but it determines everything for your eternity.

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