How often have you wondered about life after death? If you ask ten people their opinion you’ll probably get ten different answers. Some people will tell you that we become angels while others will say that there is nothing beyond the grave. Some even think that reincarnation is true.
“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many: and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9:27-28)
That discounts reincarnation. Truth is always found in the Bible. This verse says we don’t die over and over until we get it right, but there is a judgment after death. Christ offered Himself as the sacrifice for our salvation.
Is it possible that we become angels after death? No. Angels are created beings and existed prior to God creating Adam. In the book of Job we’re given an account of a very tragic time in Job’s life. His children all died, he lost all of his livestock, and his health was impaired. Eventually God spoke to Job and wanted some answers from him.
“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7)
When God speaks of the “morning stars” and the “sons of god” He is talking about angels; they sang at the creation of the earth. That was prior to the creation of Adam so we humans don’t become angels when we die. Our body goes into the ground, but our soul lives on.
Prior to Jesus’ victory over the grave, a person’s soul would go to a temporary place to wait. This place was composed of two sides. One side was a place of comfort, called Paradise or Abraham’s Bosom, where those who had looked forward to the coming of the Messiah waited. The other side is a place of torment where souls who reject the Messiah await judgment and eternal death.
Jesus gave an illustration of two men who lived very different lives on earth and both faced very different eternities. There was a rich man. His god was money and prestige. Jesus doesn’t give his name. Then there was Lazarus who was very poor and in ill health. The rich man knew who Lazarus was but did nothing to ease his suffering. Both men died. Lazarus found himself in Abraham’s Bosom but the rich man served the wrong god and found himself in torments.
“And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” (Luke 16:23)
This man had gained riches on earth but lost his soul. He was very much aware of his pain and suffering; he also could recognize people he had known on earth and was able to speak with them.
“And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” (Luke 16:24)
He should have made a wiser choice before he died. The rich man also remembered his family who were still alive and still had a choice of where they would spend eternity.
“Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.” (Luke 16:27-28)
Even today we make our own choice as to where we will spend eternity. You cannot work your way into heaven, nor can you work your way out of hell. Purgatory is not biblical nor is the idea of annihilation. This does illustrate, though, that after death we will recognize people and remember those who we have left on earth.
A misunderstanding people have about the afterlife is that it’s an extension of this life. If you’re “good” you go to heaven. If you’re bad you go to hell where there will be one big party with all of your friends. In the above account of the rich man being in torments, we clearly see that there is no party.
The rich man was miserable and was very aware of his misery. In truth his misery was just beginning. He’s been in torments for over 2,000 years and is still very thirsty. At the end of time at the Great White Throne judgment he will find himself cast into the lake of fire.
“And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:14-15)
This will be a never ending place of fire and isolation. If you have not accepted Christ as your Savior, this is what eternity holds for you. If you have accepted Christ’s free gift of salvation you will have a mansion.
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:1-2)
Jesus is preparing a mansion for all who believe in Him.
The longer we have lived, the more friends and loved ones have died. Can they come and visit us? No. As much as we yearn to see our loved ones they cannot come to us. Grief grips our hearts when someone we love dies and King David was no exception. He made a very bad choice and committed adultery with Bathsheba.
Today this story would be featured in every gossip magazine. Bathsheba was married but became pregnant with David’s child and David made sure her husband was killed to cover up the situation. That doubled his sin instead of making things right with God. When we sin we affect people around us and so it was with this child, who became very ill. Nathan the prophet confronted David about his sin and David was repentant and grieved over his sin and over the sick child.
“David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth.” (2 Samuel 12:1).
David shouldn’t have given in to the sinful lust and murder, but now all he could do was go to God and pray. This little boy did die and David’s response surprised the servants who had been watching him grieve for seven days. David washed, went before the LORD and worshipped Him, then he ate a meal. The servants asked him why he had fasted and wept while the child was alive but didn’t grieve after the child died.
“And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:22-23)
This is an important lesson we all need to take note of. The child went to Abraham’s bosom upon death and David knew that the dead aren’t allowed to come back from the grave. He also knew that because he loved God, he would one day go to be with that child. David repented of his sin and one of the most beautiful psalms was written as David cried out to God.
“…Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.” (Psalm 51:1-3)
David could only go to see his child if he had repented and asked God to forgive him.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)
David would see his child again in Abraham’s bosom.
Jesus conquered death. On the third day after the crucifixion His sealed tomb was empty. As the disciples gathered in a locked room in fear and to comfort each other, Jesus appeared.
“Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.” (John 20:19)
This gives us another clue about the afterlife. Jesus was able to enter a locked room but the disciples recognized Him. Thomas wasn’t there, but a few days later Jesus appeared to him. Thomas was overwhelmed.
“And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28)
When we see Jesus in heaven I’m sure that our response will also be awe, joy, and worship. Jesus had appeared to them, but remember that He is God and He had a lesson to teach the men who would spread the gospel. If you’re in a locked room and someone who has died appears to you, this isn’t of God. Rebuke the spirit in the name of Jesus.
There is to be no communication between people who have died and we who live this side of heaven. Because Jesus is who He is, He did appear on several occasions. He even ate food with them. From this we understand that we will be able to recognize each other after death and to socialize with each other. That is, we can in heaven.
If you have not accepted Christ as your Savior then there is a different life awaiting you. One of torment. When Jesus died on the cross He took our sin upon Himself. We cannot enter heaven if we die in our sin, but by truly accepting Christ’s blood sacrifice we will never suffer with the rich man in torments.
“Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) we are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8)
Thank You, Jesus, for your sacrifice for me.
What’s on the other side? Either eternal life or eternal death. It’s your choice. There is only one way to live eternally in the presence of God, and that is by placing your faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians1:21)
That is only true for someone whose sins have been forgiven. Don’t delay in admitting you are a sinner and ask Christ to forgive you. It’s an eternal choice that you can only make on this side of heaven.
God bless you all,
Ron Graham’s previous commentaries archived at http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html
All original Scripture is “theopneustos” (God breathed).