Cancer, life-threatening diseases, losing loved ones, and other existential threats can lead to a faceoff with your mortality and death.
Questions abound. How much time do I have left? What to do with the rest of my life? With whom, do I want to spend it. Can I right the wrongs? What about my unrealized dreams? Could the doctors be wrong? Could I be the next miracle?
Above and beyond all of these is the most pressing and important inquiry of all, what people are dying to know: What happens when I die? What happens after death?
After a life time of being a Christian, 18 years of pastoral ministry, a seminary education, surviving cancer, and authoring a book, these are some of my most important beliefs about life after death. They are admitted limited, but I hope you will be encouraged by these heavenly insights.
Each major Faith has its beliefs about life after death. Even those with no faith in God have strong beliefs about what follows death, even if it's nothing. I can truly only speak of these matters from my perspective as a Christian.
1) The end of this life can be the beginning of an eternal life with God.
Through faith in Jesus we can begin to live eternal life now so that our physical death really is a transition from earthly body to a celestial body. The Bible tells when we have worn out our earthly tent (body), we will leave it behind for our eternal house in heaven built by God (2 Corinthians 5:1). Talk about an upgrade!
2) Jesus came so that none would perish but all could have everlasting life through believing in him (John 3:16).
After Jesus raised back to life his beloved friend Lazarus, who had been dead and buried for three days, Jesus said, “The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (John 11:26). This miracle foreshadowed Jesus’ own death and resurrection. It also proved his promise to likewise raise his believers from the dead.
3) While being crucified, Jesus assured the thief hanging crucified beside him, who in that moment believed in him, “TODAY you will be with me in Paradise (Luke 23:43, emphasis mine).
In other words, Heaven. All of us are thieves, having stolen from others and from God. Nonetheless, your last breath here can be followed by your first breath in Paradise. Jesus wouldn’t have called Heaven Paradise, if it wasn’t great!
4) No one besides Jesus and all those in Heaven really know what it's like, but the Bible reveals enough for us to know it will be awesome!
Saint Paul proclaimed, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9, NLT). As one popular Christian contemporary song declares, “I can only imagine.”
5) Jesus promised that when we die, he will come and take us to his Father’s house, in which there are many rooms, one of those he has specifically prepared for you.
“I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3). He promised not to orphan you but to adopt you into the family of God so you can live forever with the Father.
One Bible translation uses “mansion” rather than “room” to describe the place Jesus prepared for you. You will be living large in Heaven! The Biltmore house comes to mind. It’s the biggest mansion I have ever been in or seen. It’s easy imagine heaven to include a huge table for eating and fellowship, a beautiful garden, singing and music, and every joyful thing imagine.
In the Father’s Heavenly home, you forever will be with God and your brothers and sisters in Christ, all the Saints, enjoying perfect fellowship with God and each other. You will see those you hoped to see and some you didn’t expect to see. Quite likely some may not be expecting to see you! In heaven, all that separated us on earth will have been dissolved, leaving only love for God and each other.
6) Despite the familiar language, Heaven will be vastly different, and so will you. Jesus said in your resurrected body, “[you] will be like the angels in heaven (Matthew 22:30).
Our new body will be imperishable, glorious, powerful, spiritual, and immortal (1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 53). Death will be swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:52-54).
7) In Heaven, we will have front row seats to Christ return, his second coming to judge the living and the dead, defeat once and for all the Devil and all his evil allies, and create the new heaven and new earth.
Jesus will wipe every tear from your eyes. “There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4).
8) After death and in Heaven, the concept of time will be irrelevant.
If you’re like me, you wonder about the timing of all this. When I die, how long until Jesus comes and raises me up? Are we talking minutes or millions of years? Will I be resurrected before the second coming of Christ? If there’s time between, what will we be doing?
I confess; I don’t know. I think that’s ok. The Bible recommends that “I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me” (Heaven certainly qualifies as one of those.); instead completely trust God (Psalm 131:1). When you come to the end, close your eyes, let go, and let God. Jesus will be there and let you know what’s next. As far as “how long?”, in heaven, we will be beyond time. A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by (Psalm 90:4).
The kingdom of God and of Heaven are always both here and, on the way, now and not yet. It’s like a wave crossing an endless ocean over and beyond all time. We have our toes in the water now. One day, we will be completely submerged. Heaven is happening now. Listen and you may hear the choir of angels. You may catch a peek through the open window is the Father’s house.
9) You can go to heaven.
No matter how you lived your life, there’s a place for you. Only one thing is required: believe in Jesus. Accept him as your Lord and Savior. Ask for and receive God’s forgiveness made possible through Christ’s sacrifice. Be born again; as a child of god. Put all your trust in Jesus from now to the end always believing that he will do all that he has promised and infinitely more.
10) Do not be afraid. Jesus, facing his own death, said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
God will not let you, his child, who believes in his son, die and be gone forever. God created you to live and to love. My first lesson in my catechism, basic faith instruction I received as a child, was this: “What is the chief end (that is, purpose) of man? To love God and enjoy him forever! Nothing, not even death, will separate you from God’s love (Romans 8:38).
When your time comes, Jesus Christ, the Good Shepard, will be with you. Indeed, as you pass through the valley of the shadow of death, Jesus will comfort, sustain, and take you home to the Fathers house (Psalm 23).
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. Psalm 23, KJV
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