Life After Death - a Biblical Perspective
Life After Death – a Biblical Perspective
Since time immemorial humans have believed in a spiritual world that exists beyond this physical world in which we are caught. A recent visit to caves in the Southern Drakensberg of South Africa, illustrated this in the paintings that seemed to indicate a belief in another world. In ancient Egypt, the tombs of Pharaohs clearly showed that people believed that there is life in another world. Preparation needed to be made for the after- life by placing in the tombs with them servants, animals and equipment to make that life as pleasant as the life they were used to.
In many traditional African Societies a strong belief exists that it is possible to communicate with the spirits of the fore - fathers. Somewhere in the human psyche there seems to be a belief that there is more to life that the physical existence that we share with animal and other life.
In the Old Testament there are hints of an existence after physical death, which we can read about in the Psalms and the Wisdom Writings like Job. By the time of Jesus there were two main lines of thought that was present in Judaism. The Sadducees rejected the idea of life after death but the Pharisees taught that such life indeed existed. In trying to trap Jesus, a question was asked by the Sadducees about life after death as to what would be the situation with someone who had had more than one wife here on earth. Jesus then introduced some interesting information regarding this topic when he reprimanded them for their ignorance. “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage: they will be like angels in heaven. Now about the dead rising – have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead but of the living. You are badly mistaken!” (Mark 12: 24-27 N.I.V.)
The amazing claim that Jesus made in his teaching is that he had come to bring eternal life in the heavenly realm. This was central to his claims to be the Son of God. “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14: 6). To his worried disciples John records these words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms: if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me than that you may also be where I am” (John 14:1-3).
It is to the Apostle Paul that we need to go for more information about life after death - something he longed for as he came towards the end of his life. Earlier in his life he explained to the Corinthian Church that; “If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:44). He continued to argue that “the first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven” (vs.47). He then continued to give information regarding the eternal body; “I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we all will be changed.” (vs. 50-52).
Obviously it is difficult for us with our physical limitations to really see what will happen after we die, but if we read carefully the promises that Jesus made and the other New Testament writers explained later, we can look forward to a better future in eternity. Like Paul, we to can enjoy the abundant life now and can look forward to a better future in God’s eternal kingdom. Only once we accept that fact will we be able to enjoy “the peace that passes understanding”, as Paul describes it in Philippians 4:7. Then we will be able to quieten the longing in our soul that will always be there, because we have been created “in the image of God”.(Genesis 1:27).
References: The Baker Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Longman, 2013
N.I.V. Translation of the Bible
Scriptures taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
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