Life Beyond Death
“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,” (Hebrews 9:27)
"Is there life after death?" This is an age-old question. From earliest times people have believed that life does not end with the grave. Is man's desire for life beyond death just wishful thinking? Or is there evidence to support this belief? Modern science seems to support it. For example, many people who have been pronounced "clinically dead" have come back to life and given vivid accounts of being fully conscious after they had been pronounced dead by medical personnel. Every day, some 80,000 people die on Earth. In another 90 years, nearly everyone who's on Earth today will be gone. It can happen at any time, to anybody. Some people logically seek this and ask, has science explained life after death?
I read a story of a neurosurgeon, for years he had dismissed near-death revelations of God and heaven as explainable by the hard wiring of the human brain. He was, after all, a neurosurgeon with sophisticated medical training. But then in 2008 Dr. Eben Alexander contracted bacterial meningitis. The deadly infection soaked his brain and sent him into a deep coma. While his body lay in coma, Alexander journeyed beyond this world and encountered an angelic being who guided him into the deepest realms of super-physical existence. There he met, and spoke with, the Divine source of the universe itself. Alexander’s story is not a castle in the sky. Before he underwent his journey, he could not reconcile his knowledge of neuroscience with any belief in heaven, God, or the soul. Today Alexander is a doctor who believes that true health can be achieved only when we realize that God and the soul are real and that death is not the end of personal existence but only a transition. Dr. Alexander, was so changed by the experience that he felt compelled to write a book, “Proof of Heaven,” is atop the New York Times bestseller’s list, which recounts his experience. Alexander’s recovery is a medical miracle. But the real miracle of his story lies elsewhere.
There seems to be an increasing number of people who claim they have died and returned to life. Most describe death as being the most wonderful and glorious thing they have ever experienced. There are only two basic reasons why a person would not fear death. Either he does not understand the true nature of death, or he has convinced and fully believed in the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ who is the "resurrection and the life."(John 11: 25)
The Bible speaks of physical death, spiritual death and eternal death. All men die physically because they are the sons of Adam. All men are born spiritually dead because of Adam's original sin. If physical death overtakes a man while he is still in the condition of spiritual death, he will experience eternal death which the Bible describes as eternal punishment, separated from the presence of God. The moment a person dies physically, the soul departs the body and goes either into the presence of God or into hell to await the final Day of Judgment. That is the reason why the Bible tells us "...it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes the judgment." If a person is not prepared for the final Day of Judgment, they have every reason to fear death. A right and proper fear of death is a great motivation to make sure one is rightly related to God through Christ the only mediator.
Now, no man would dispute that all men die sooner or later. Our text says here that
"it is appointed unto men once to die,"
We may observe few important facts:
First death is in all cases the result of "intelligent appointment.”
Second that appointment is for “the cause, or the reason” that is sin, in other words Physical death is a consequence of sin. “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." (Genesis 3:19.)
Third the universality of death proves the universality of sin. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—.. ”(Rom 5:12)
Fourth facts is death occurs to all "It is appointed unto men" - to the all human race. It is not an appointment for one, but for all.
The last is immediately after death comes, “judgment” when they pass into the eternal world, when their destiny will be made known to them. This seems to be necessarily implied in the supposition that they will continue to live, and to be happy or miserable after death. Good news for the believer's death he is "clothed upon" with a "house from heaven" pending the resurrection of the "earthly house," and is at once "with the Lord." (2Cor 5:1-8 Phil 1:23 Lk 23:43.)
Ecclesiastes 12:7 says, "Then the dust returns to the earth, and the Spirit or the soul returns to the God that gave it. At death all souls go back to God, and Ezekiel 18:4 tells us who exactly "owns" your soul. "Look! All the souls--to me they belong." Dear friends, the Bible declares that one day you will die and then stand face to face with God to be judged. Nothing in your entire life could be more important than to be ready for that day, for it will determine whether you will spend eternity in heaven or hell.
When God created the human being, there was no death. When he spoke to Adam concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God told him, “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). The generally-accepted assumption is that Adam and Eve would live forever, if they obeyed God. But, we know that they did not obey. When tempted with the appealing fruit and the opportunity to be like God, they ate of the tree. Thus, sin entered the world, “and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Since that time, man has had to deal with death as an unnatural occurrence.
Besides physical death, we must also consider the idea of spiritual death. When Adam and Eve sinned, they immediately died spiritually, and they began to die physically. Their spirit became dead to God, no longer understanding the things of God, and no longer desiring to be with God. It is just such a dead spirit that we all inherit from our first parents when we are born.
Bible speaks of two deaths. The first death is the separation of the spirit from the body. This is physical death, and for believers it is merely a passage to glory (Philippians 1:21-26). The second death is the separation of the spirit from God. This is spiritual death, and it is to be dreaded above all else. By the same token, we can see two resurrections for believers. The first is the deliverance of God’s elect from their state of death in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). The second will be that glorious day when the bodies of all who died in the Lord will be raised, reunited with their spirits, and ushered into the presence of God for all eternity.
The thought of death causes fear and anguish. We fear death for we do not know what to expect from it. We haven’t had someone go there and come back to really tell us what it is like. We fear it, because we see it as a cutting short of our life and activity. Death also causes anguish for the family and friends of the one who had died. In the passage from John 11, we see that Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus are very upset, because their brother has died. Their broken hearts cry out to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Later in the chapter we are told that even Jesus wept at the grave site. As God and man, he was deeply touched by the idea of death.
Death is the enemy of man; but it is the glory of the Gospel of Jesus that it teaches us how we may meet this last enemy with triumph. When Jesus Christ was on his way to the grave of Lazarus, he proclaimed, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26)
The story begins with a man named Lazarus who was sick with a deadly disease. This man was brother of Mary and Martha. He also had a close relationship with Jesus, as John specifically says that Jesus loved all three of them. Mary and Martha both went to Jesus to inform Him of Lazarus’ illness, hoping that He would heal him. Rather than heal him immediately, Jesus simply assures Mary and Martha that the illness will not end in death.
Lazarus finally succumbed to his illness and died. Jesus then goes to his disciples to inform them. He uses the euphemism of “fallen asleep” to state that Lazarus was dead and the metaphor “wake him up” to state that He intends to bring him back to life. Interestingly, Jesus’ disciples did not pick up on the figures of speech and thought that Lazarus had simply fallen asleep. They even said “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus then told them more directly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
By the time Jesus and His disciples finally got to Lazarus’ body, Lazarus had already been dead for four days. Martha says to Jesus that had He been with Lazarus, he would not have died. Jesus simply replies to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Jesus’ words were of no real surprise to Martha. Martha was fully aware of the Jewish doctrine of resurrection of the dead and she thought this was what Jesus was talking about. She say’s to Him, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
The grieving Martha wished that Jesus had arrived earlier so He could have healed her brother. And when Jesus spoke of resurrection, Martha assumed He was speaking of “the resurrection at the last day.” In both statements, Martha reveals that she considered Time an insurmountable obstacle. In effect, Martha was saying, “It’s too late to help Lazarus (the time is past), so now we must wait (allow more time).”
Jesus then proceeds to the tomb where Lazarus’ body was put. Jesus shows that neither Death nor time is an obstacle to Him. Outside the tomb, “Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth the dead man came out” (john 11:430).,” Lazarus comes back to life and walks out of the tomb. It is important to note that even though Lazarus walked out of the tomb in the context of both Martha and Jesus talking about resurrection, and the fact that this was clearly a demonstration of Jesus’ power over death. Its one thing to claim to be the resurrection and the life, but Jesus proved it by raising Lazarus, who was four days dead. Truly, with Christ, death is but “sleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Death has no dominion over Him who is Life itself, nor does death have dominion over those who are in Him (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). Because He lives, we live. Because He is Life, we have life eternally. Martha’s knowledge of eternal life was an abstract idea; Jesus proved that knowledge of eternal life is a personal relationship. Martha thought victory over death was a future expectation; Jesus corrects her, showing that victory is a present reality.
When Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” He was claiming to be the source of both. There is no resurrection apart from Christ, and there is no eternal life apart from Christ. Beyond that, Jesus was also making a statement concerning His divine nature. He does more than give life; He is life, and therefore death has no ultimate power over Him. It is only because of his accomplished work of redemption on the cross that sins are forgiven, guilt is removed, and believers are brought into the kingdom of God. Also, it is only through his defeat of death on that same cross that we are assured a resurrection to glory (Romans 6:8-9; 1 Corinthians 15: 20 & 57; Colossians 1:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:16). As we gaze up at the dying Jesus, we realize that it is only because he was willing die on the cross that we don't have to live lives of desperation. The darkness in our hearts that makes us surrender to the power of death, the darkness in our society which makes us victims of violence, war and destruction has been dispelled by the light that shines forth from the One who gave his life as complete gift.
At the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the French under the command of Napoleon were fighting the Allies under the command of Wellington. The people of England depended on a system of semaphore signals to find out how the battle was going. One of these signal stations was on the tower of Winchester Cathedral.
Late in the day it flashed the signal:
“W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N … D-E-F-E-A-T-E-D ….”
Just at that moment a sudden fog cloud made it impossible to read the complete message. The news of defeat quickly spread throughout the city. The whole countryside was gloomy when they heard the news that their country had lost the war. Suddenly the fog lifted, and the remainder of the message could be read. The complete message was:
“W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N…D-E-F-E-A-T-E-D… T-H-E … E-N-E-M-Y!”
It took only a few minutes for the good news to spread. Sorrow turned into joy, defeat turned into victory!
So it was when Jesus was laid in the tomb on the first Good Friday afternoon. Hope had died even in the hearts of Jesus’ disciples and his followers. After the frightful crucifixion, the fog of disappointment had crept in on the disciples of Jesus. They had “read” only part of the divine message. “Christ defeated” was all that they knew. But on the third day—resurrection Sunday— the fog of disappointment lifted and the world received the complete message: “Christ defeated death!” Defeat was turned into victory—death into life!
On the third day after Jesus’ crucifixion—Sunday—as the day began to dawn, “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.” There they were met by an angel who said to them, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him."
Resurrection of Christ symbolizes love of God, forgiveness and God’s gift of eternal life. We view the day of resurrection as a victory over sin, death, and all destructive forces in our lives. Jesus the son of God bravely gave His life to die for the sins of the world. One of the greatest assurances of life after death is anchored in the forty incredible days Jesus spent on the earth after His resurrection. During this dramatic season of heaven on earth in which Jesus made several appearances, we gain invaluable insight into the priorities of our life and following Christ. Resurrection is the cornerstone of Christian faith. It is precisely because the physical resurrection of Christ is at the very heart of our faith and Hope.
Bible says “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.’’
Jesus’ resurrection assures us that he has conquered death once and for all. This is the hope of the world in that all who believe in Jesus will also rise from death. This is because when Jesus died on the cross, he died in your place and mine to pay the just penalty for all our sins so we could be freely forgiven and given the gift of eternal life.
Christ's first coming 2,000 years ago is an indisputable fact of history. Equally profound is the assurance that Jesus is coming back to earth again. Jesus promised he would return. His disciples were troubled when he told them that he would soon be leaving them, so he assured them saying, "There are many homes where my Father [God] lives, and I am going to prepare them for your coming. When everything is ready, then I will come and get you, so that you can always be with me where I am going."
When Jesus left earth, two angels gave the same promise. Two angels appeared to the disciples and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."
And almost every writer in the New Testament confirms this promise. According to one Bible scholar there are 308 references to Christ's second coming in the New Testament alone. This promise pulsates throughout the entire Scriptures right through to the last page and the last word. "Yes, I am coming soon," Jesus said.
The reason Jesus Christ means so much to the world is because he brought mankind a great new hope- The hope of life beyond the grave. He robbed death of its sting and the grave of its victory. He brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel. 2Tim.1:10. Until Jesus Christ came, men died without hope. Death was feared, for death was an enemy. Men hated it, fought against it, and dreaded its arrival. Jesus promised a life of endless bliss and joy, a life where there would be no more pain, sickness, and death. Never before had men heard of such a glorious resurrection and a life of endless bliss with Christ.
A life with Christ in place where there would be joy unutterable and peace indescribable. What a prospect. Only Jesus was able to drawback the curtain and let us see beyond the grave. Only He could tell about the future. No one else could, for no one else knew. There was no uncertainty with Him. There is no sorrow like the sorrow of separation. One by one our friends and loved ones are taken away and we’re left with lonely, aching hearts. For the heathen there is no hope. They cry aloud in their agony, for the dear one is gone, and gone forever. There is no hope of reunion. So it is with the unsaved everywhere. When casket is closed and they have gazed at the beloved face for the last time, hope within them dies, and they wonder if they can go on living.
Jesus promised us a life beyond death. John 14:1-2. He opens the gate of heaven. We catch a glimpse of immortality and we learn that we may meet again in another world. Jesus said to His disciples Heaven as “My Father’s House” “The New Jerusalem” and “The Holy city.” What a beautiful expression. The city of God is larger by far than any city and beautiful beyond description. Bible says This city is 1500 miles wide, 1500 miles long and most amazing of all it is 1500 miles high. It would cover the wall of India from North, Kashmir to South, Kanyakumari and West Arabian Sea to the East Bay of Bengal. It is so high that if it were divided into storeys, each 150 feet above the other, it would be so commodious that it would be abundant for all people of all ages. The city itself is pure Gold. There is a beautiful river in the city that flows from all the way from the throne of the King and winds around in every direction. Its crystal clear, pure water is never contaminated. On the river’s side stands a tree full of life and capable of bringing healing to multiplied thousands. It is a city that no curse has ever blighted, and where nothing ever withers or decays. How I wish I could describe it, but I cannot. Words are so inadequate. You’ll have to see it for yourselves.
When a loved one dies, we are sorrowful because we miss them. This is natural; but we must remember that they are with God which is far better than being here. If we could see how beautiful it is in Heaven, we would never want to bring them back here. Jesus Christ will one day return and bring His children with Him. Death is not the tragic final act in this drama we call life, but instead death is a glorious Homecoming with our Heavenly Father and with our loved ones who have gone before us. Psalms 116:15 puts it so beautifully when it says, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones". The death of a faithful one is precious to the Lord because through death that loved one is now in the very presence of God, The Father. That loved one is home.
Do you want to go there? Remember, it is a prepared place but it is for prepared people.” Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord” declares God, “That they may rest from their labours” Rev.14:13. So to enjoy this promised rest and happiness you must “die in the Lord”. And if you die out of the Lord, Heaven will never be yours. To die in the Lord, you must live in the Lord. If you are now living in the Lord, then you will someday “die in the Lord”. To live in the Lord you must be saved, and to be saved, you must repent from your sin and accept the Lord Jesus as your Lord and Savior and put your trust in the Lord Jesus. (Acts 16:31). Then when you die, you’ll be with the Lord in that city through all the countless ages of eternity.