I think that it is pretty safe to say that Americans do not like talking about death. This may be true for other people groups, but I know in our culture death is an off limits conversation. Yet, it is something that we all think about, especially as we grow older. It is something that we ponder to ourselves. We are not surprised that the Bible has a lot to say about Death and the Afterlife. Jesus spoke often on this important area.
This past Sunday we looked at what the Bible has to teach us about “What Happens After I Die?” in our current series “The God Questions.” What I find interesting is that people all over the world seem to have an inkling that there is something after death. Some religions teach that you become one with the spirit in the universe, others teach that heaven is a place of celebration, others believe that you are reincarnated until you get it right and even the atheist believes that life ends with death (this is a belief too because it cannot be proven.) God’s Word teaches that all men have this vague idea that there is something beyond death. “[God] has put eternity into man’s heart,” (Ecclesiastes 3:11b)
So I am going to need you to put on your thinking caps. If there is an afterlife, what does the Bible teach about it? Well the Bible is clear that you only live one life. “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,” (Hebrews 9:27). This verse makes two points; first, you only die one time and second, you have to give an account to God for your life. I should add that when our physical body dies it is our soul that lives on to wind up in one of two possible destinations. In the parable of the Sheep and Goats recorded in Matthew 25 Jesus reminds us that our spiritual condition at death leads to one of two places. “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46) What we learn here is that one group will face suffering apart from God while a second group enjoys comfort in God’s presence. The account of Lazarus and the Rich Man in Luke illustrates where our souls go after physical death. Now, what determines a persons destination is what they do (or don’t do) with the teachings of Jesus. “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24) So this means that this life offers the only opportunity to get right with God.
The Bible also teaches us that the follower of Jesus and the non-follower of Jesus will at some point experience a resurrection where their souls are recombined with a spiritual body. Jesus current followers will be resurrected at an event known as the Rapture. The resurrection of those not known by Christ will be at the Great White Throne Judgement.
We live in a culture that has allowed its focus to be on this life and living as long as possible. Jesus reminds us that our focus should not be on our physical death but on being prepared for what comes after it. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)
-Pastor Joe Parkinson