The following blog is based on my sermon in Hyderabad, India, Jan 26 and Doylestown, PA, USA, Feb 2, 2014. It was in response to the death of Moses’ mother and his request I preach about how we are sure of life after death and what it will be like. It is the second in a series.)
THE BEST PROOF OF LIFE AFTER DEATH comes from God’s inspired Word, the Bible. Giving us an accurate, true and inspired revelation is not too hard for God to do – it is well within the realm of His ability. Not only is it possible, but it is also necessary for without God revealing His truth to us we would be ignorant of it. He must reach out to man or we wouldn’t understand His plan and will for us. Jesus considered the Old Testament to be true and inspired. Paul and Peter did as well, also affirming that what the other wrote was also from God. There have been hundreds of clear, meticulous prophecies which have come true to the very last detail. The Bible speaks of many scientific facts which were unknown to man at the time it was written but which current science knowledge has affirmed time after time. Thousands of books have been written proving the Bible is indeed God’s inspired Word, so we can trust what it says. That includes what it says about heaven and hell.
David had assurance he would “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6). He knew when he died God would “take me to Himself” (Psalm 49:15) and “take me into glory” (Psalm 73:24). Solomon declares that “the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Job knew this as well. “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes — I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27).
Jesus Himself affirmed eternal life time after time. When the religious rulers tried to trap Him He quoted Exodus 6:3 where God affirmed “’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.” (Mark 12:26-27). Abraham, Isaac and Jacob still live at this moment, and God is still their God. “I Am” their God, not “I was” their God!
When He brought Lazarus back to life Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26) He brought three people back to life, and when He Himself was resurrected many who had been dead for some time came back to life (Matthew 27:50-53). Clearly Jesus was the victory over death.
One of the clearest statements affirming life after death was made by Jesus on the cross to the thief hanging alongside Him who believed in Him: “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). There is no soul sleep, no intermediary state, and no purgatory – just instantly to heaven. Paul affirms this in 2 Corinthians 5:8 “away from the body and at home with the Lord.”
Immediately at death His spirit went to heaven, and 3 days later His body was physically resurrected and changed into an eternal body, proving to all His power over death. He appeared 10 times to over 500 people. The disciples who saw Him became courageous instead of fearful, willing to give up their lives for Him. The early church was built on the truth of the resurrection and spread everywhere. Paul, Stephen and John saw Jesus themselves. The institution of Christian baptism attested to the resurrection after death, and switching worship from Friday to the First Day of the week, the day of Resurrection, also show the reality of Jesus’ coming back to life.
Without a doubt the Bible affirms there is immediate life after death for the believer. Yet often we fear death. We are like a bunch of caterpillars moping around an empty cocoon, mourning the loss of our loved one while forgetting that they are not gone, just transformed into what they were created to be in the first place, released from the confines of this mortal body to fly upwards in beauty and grace. Don’t look at the empty cocoon, look at the glorious butterfly! (Doylestown, PA February 7, 2014)