The Question of the Afterlife

The Question of the Afterlife

by Greg Laurie

Think of one of your greatest moments in life. Maybe it was with your wife or husband or children, or maybe it was with some friends. It was one of those moments where you said, “That was great. I wish life could always be that way.”

Of course, life isn’t that way, is it? Deep down inside, we want lives that are fulfilling. We want lives that are happy. We want lives that have purpose. God has made us like this. He has effectively prewired us this way.

C. S. Lewis wrote, “If we consider the . . . staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us.”

We settle for less. Yet God has so much waiting for us on the other side. Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2 nkjv) . Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people.

Generally, most people believe in the afterlife. Fascinating survey results published in 2011 revealed that 51 percent of people polled in 23 countries believe there is an afterlife. And if we look at many of the beliefs of the world historically, we will find that most people believe in an afterlife.

The ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead is filled with stories about life after death. For instance, in the tombs of one of the Pharaohs who died 5,000 years ago, archaeologists discovered a solar boat intended for him to use to sail to the heavens.

The ancient Greeks often put a coin in the mouth of the dead to pay the fare across what they called the mystic river of death as they made their way to the land of immortal life.

Some Native American warriors would be buried with a pony and a bow so they could go to the happy hunting grounds.

Norsemen would be buried with their horses so they could ride proudly into the afterlife.

Romans believed they would ride to the Elysian Fields, so they often would have their horses buried with them.

Eskimos of Greenland were customarily buried with their dogs to guide them through the cold wasteland of death.

These are all misconceptions about life beyond the grave, yet there is a commonly held belief that there is something on the other side.

In Jesus’ day, there were two religious groups that joined forces against him: the Pharisees and the Sadducees. They could not have been more different theologically. But the one thing they held in common was their mutual hatred for Christ and their desire to stop him from his ministry.

The Sadducees were a curious group. They did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. They did not believe in the afterlife. They did not believe in miracles. That is a pretty bleak outlook: no afterlife, no miracles, no hope of heaven, and no bodily resurrection.

People still hold this view today. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Natalie Portman had this to say about an afterlife: “I don’t believe in that. I believe this is it, and I believe it’s the best way to live.”

George Clooney once told CBS News , “I don’t believe in happy endings. But I believe in happy travels, because I think that ultimately, the ending is that . . . you die at a very young age, or you live long enough to watch your friends die. It’s a mean thing, life. Life can be very mean.”

The only credible source on the afterlife, the only one who has been there and has returned to describe it to us is Jesus Christ. He said of himself, “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man” (John 3:13 niv). He also said, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38 niv).

Jesus told the Sadducees, “But now, as to whether there will be a resurrection of the dead—haven’t you ever read about this in the Scriptures? Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, God said, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ So he is the God of the living, not the dead” (Matthew 22:31–32 nlt).

A believer who is a follower of Jesus Christ never dies. Notice that Jesus said, “[God] is the God of the living, not the dead.”

Someone might say, “Are you delusional? Have you ever been to a cemetery?”

I actually have been up close and personal with death. I understand that the body goes into the ground. But I will tell you this much. The soul lives on forever. According to the Bible, death for the Christian is not the end; it is merely a transition.

In his final address, General Douglas MacArthur made this famous statement before Congress: “Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.” I would add that old Christians never die; they just move away. They move to a different place. They move to a better place.

Yes, the body dies but the soul lives on. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25–26 nkjv). Then he followed up with this question: “Do you believe this?”

This is the great hope that Christians have.