The book of Job asks the question about an afterlife very simply:
“If a man dies, will he live again?” (Job 14:14).
Asking the question is easy, but the difficult part is finding someone to answer the question with authority and experience.
“Death and Taxes” have said to be the two universals that everyone living can expect to deal with.
But while everyone is handled somewhat differently by government taxation, death is the great equalizer that treats everyone the same.
Because of this, it’s not uncommon for people to be afraid of death.
The ancient philosopher Epicurus (341–270 B.C.) recognized that the fear of death was present in everybody, and he sought a way to remove that fear. Epicurus taught that humanity not need fear death because human beings are nothing more than a composition of atoms, which at death simply disperse, and that is the end of things. Epicurus didn’t believe there were any gods to fear or anything to face once a person breathed his last. His teaching of maximum pleasure in this life with minimum pain and suffering dictated that everything ends when death occurred.
One of the groups the apostle Paul encountered in his trip to Athens were the Epicureans, who listened to Paul’s Mars Hill address up until he mentioned the resurrection of Jesus and then abruptly ended the discussion (Acts 17:32). They had been bathed in their teacher’s philosophy and likely knew well the statement made by Apollos the Epicurean, who said during the founding of the Areopagus where Paul was speaking, “When the dust has soaked up a person’s blood, once he is dead, there is no resurrection.“
But after thousands of years since that time, the fear of death remains fixed in many people.
The book of Job describes death as the “king of terrors” (Job 18:14).1)This fact is visible in the movie The Bucket List when the character played by Jack Nicholson, trying to come to grips with dying, says, “We all want to go on forever, don’t we? We fear the unknown. Everybody goes to that wall, yet nobody knows what’s on the other side. That’s why we fear death.”
But one person has gone to that wall, gone through to the other side, and come back to tell us what to expect.
He alone possesses the authority and knowledge to tell everyone the truth about the afterlife.
The Expert on the Afterlife
From a historical perspective, no credible scholar disputes the life of Jesus of Nazareth. There is no debate about His teachings or the fact that He reportedly did miraculous things, and there is universal agreement that He was put to death by crucifixion under the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate. Jesus went to the wall of death and through to the other side.
The resurrection puts Jesus in a place of being the sole authority and witness able to answer the question, “Is there an afterlife?” And what does He have to say?
Jesus makes 3 basic statements on life after death:
1. There is an afterlife.
2. When a person dies, there are two different eternities to which he/she may go.
3. There is a way to ensure a positive experience after death.
Jesus affirms there is an afterlife in a number of biblical passages:
In another passage, Jesus comforts His disciples (and us) by telling them specifically that they can look forward to being with Him in heaven: “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going” (John 14:1-4).
The Afterlife – Two Eternal Destinies
Jesus also speaks authoritatively about what types of destinies await every person who dies: one with God and one without God. In Luke’s account of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus says, “Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16:22–23).
One aspect of the story worth noting is that there is no intermediate state for those who die; they go directly to their eternal destiny. As the writer of Hebrews says, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
Jesus speaks about the two final destinies again when He is confronted by the religious leaders in John: “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment” (John 5:25-29).
Christ restates the matter very plainly in Matthew when He says, “These [unbelievers] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46).
The Afterlife – What Determines Our Eternal Destination?
Jesus also is clear on what determines each person’s eternal destination—whether he has faith in God and what he does with respect to Christ.
The Afterlife – Conclusions
The answer to both of Hardy’s questions is “yes.” One Person has both defeated death and provided a way for everyone who puts their trust in Him to overcome it as well. Epicurus may have believed that everyone fears death, but the truth is no one who trusts in Christ needs to be afraid.
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|1.||↑||This fact is visible in the movie The Bucket List when the character played by Jack Nicholson, trying to come to grips with dying, says, “We all want to go on forever, don’t we? We fear the unknown. Everybody goes to that wall, yet nobody knows what’s on the other side. That’s why we fear death.”|