Life After Death

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Life After Death

17 April 2013 Hits:3085

A belief in life after death is important for two reasons. Firstly, it gives meaning to this life, to our often-boring routine, to the predictability of life. Think about it: you’re born, you get an education, you work, you get married (maybe), you have children, then grandchildren, you retire, you die. Even a sceptic like Woody Allen admits, “It’s all meaningless if physical death is the final curtain.” A belief in life after death gives meaning to the personal development of our character and knowledge. The things we work on for a lifetime do not cease at death but we take them with us into the next life. It also gives meaning to our relationships. Not one of us wants to think when we attend the funeral of a loved one that that’s the last time we’ll see them.

Secondly, a belief in life after death brings hope into this life. It deals with the problem of injustice – what about those who seem to get away with gross wickedness in their lifetime? The Christian belief in an ultimate reckoning means that every injustice will be corrected – if not in this life then certainly in the one to come. It also deals with the problem of inequality. It seems so unfair that some people have such terrible lives, have more than their fair share of suffering, are born in places of extreme poverty or in a Caste from which they cannot escape. Life after death means that God has all of eternity to make up for the inequalities of this life (Luke 16:19-31). The Bible speaks of a life after death in which God “will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

The Bible describes death as an enemy that Jesus defeated when He was resurrected. Many people fear death because of the unknown, so there’s nothing like being the friend of One who’s been there and come back! This is clearly illustrated by looking at the last words of some famous people:

Some are tragic: Elizabeth 1 who reigned for 45 years and cruelly persecuted Christians, “All my possessions for a moment of time.” Confucius said, “No wise ruler comes, no prince invites me to be his counsellor; it is time to die.” Napoleon Bonaparte said, “What an abyss lies between my deep misery and the eternal kingdom of Christ.” The French philosopher Voltaire who said Christ was powerless and who boasted that within 100 years of his death the Bible would be obsolete. At his death in 1778 he was overpowered with remorse and signed a recantation of his philosophy with these words, “O Christ, O Lord Jesus. I must die abandoned of God and man. I wish I had never been born.” Incidentally, 100 years later Voltaire’s residence was being used by the Geneva Bible Society to print Bibles. T.H. Huxley, a friend of Charles Darwin who coined the term “agnostic,” on his death bed suddenly looked up at a sight invisible to mortal eyes, after staring a while he whispered, “So, it is true.” And Joseph Stalin’s daughter Svetlana wrote, “My father died a difficult and terrible death. God grants an easy death only to the just. At what seemed the very last moment he opened his eyes and cast a glance over everyone in the room. It was a terrible glance, insane, full of anger and fear. Then he lifted his left hand as though pointing to something above and bringing a curse down on us all. The gesture was full of malice. The next moment the spirit wrenched itself free of the flesh.”

Contrast this with the last words of people like Mother Teresa: “Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you.” Michelangelo (written in his will), “I commit my soul to God, my body to the earth, my possessions to my nearest relatives. I die in the faith of Jesus Christ and in the firm hope of a better life.” William Shakespeare in his last will and testament one month before death, “I commend my soul into the hands of God, my Creator, hoping and assuredly believing only through the merits of Jesus Christ my Saviour, to be made partaker of life everlasting.” Sir Michael Faraday, the greatest experimental scientist of all time. As he laid dying journalists questioned him regarding his speculations of life after death. “Speculations, I know nothing of speculations. I am resting on certainties. I know that my Redeemer lives and because he lives I shall live also.” Martin Luther: “O my heavenly Father, my eternal and everlasting God. Thou hast revealed to me your son, our Lord Jesus Christ. I have preached him, I have confessed him, I love him and worship him as my dearest Saviour and Redeemer. Into thy hand I commit my spirit.” Dietrich Bonheoffer, the German theologian hanged in Nazi Germany during the Second World War. On his way to the gallows he said, “This is the beginning of a new life, eternal life.” And the evangelist D.L. Moody: “Earth recedes and heaven opens before me. It is beautiful. It’s like a trance. There’s no valley here, and God is calling me and I must go. This is my triumph, this is my coronation day, it is glorious. I’ve been looking forward to it for years. No pain, no valley. If this is death it is not bad at all, it’s sweet.”

Finally, just in case this blog is too serious, let’s here some of the funny last words people have spoken: Roman Emperor, Gaius Caligula, who was stabbed by his own guards said, “I’m still alive!” Of course his guards made sure he wasn’t moments later! General John Sedgwick, who was killed in battle during US Civil War said, “They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist…” Author H. G. Wells, “Go away. I'm all right.” Writer Oscar Wilde, “Either that wallpaper goes or I do.” And my all time favourite is from Mexican revolutionary, Pancho Villa, “Don't let it end like this. Tell them I said something!”

But in all seriousness, there is life after death. Jesus has experienced death for you – and defeated it – why not place your faith and trust securely in Him?

Rob Buckingham

Senior Minister

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