- How final is death?
- Should we expect to live after our earthly lives?
If surveys are right, very few people believe death is the end of their existence.
But the last experience of this life for each person is death. It’s the most certain thing in life. “There is a time to be born and a time to die” (Ecclesiastes 3:2).
Some definitions for death use the word irreversible. One defines death as irreversible cessation of organismic functioning. This forecloses on the possibility of future bodily existence. Another defintion includes the irreversible loss of personhood. This is far worse.
Should we expect postmortem existence?
Not only do most people expect to experience some kind of life after death, they also fear the possibility of postmortem accountability. There might be a Creator one must answer to for this life.
But do we really expect dead people to rise from the dead in actual physical bodies? The earliest disciples of Jesus clearly did not expect His resurrection from the dead. Despite His repeated predictions of death and resurrection, the crucifixion of Jesus crushed their hopes of a kingdom with Jesus as their King.
The notion of a crucified Messiah (much less a resurrected one) was not part of their worldview. And, to be fair to them, the resurrection of Jesus is unparallel in Ancient Near Eastern Religion.
But after the unavoidable evidence that Jesus had broken the power of death and was alive again, the disciples became bold witnesses and the Christian Church was born. Apart from the actual resurrection of Jesus, it would have been unimaginable for the discouraged disciples to go everywhere spreading the message that Jesus had risen from the dead.
And they did not go to some distant town to preach the resurrected Christ. They began announcing it in the city where Jesus had been buried. Their message would not have lasted for one day if Jesus’ body were still in the tomb. The religious leaders who were eager to silence the message could have easily done so by revealing Jesus’ body.
Concerning Jesus, they boldly announced that, “God raised him up putting an end to the agony of death since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power” (Acts 2:24). If this was a story they had made up, there is no reasonable explanation for the birth and flourishing Christianity.
Even more incredulous are theories about a stolen or resuscitated body. It’s sheer nonsense to suppose that the disciples got past a Roman guard, rolled a massive stone aside, unwrapped the grave cloths and restored Jesus’ body to health after crucifixion.
The first recorded witnesses to the resurrection were women. This is significant because a woman’s testimony was not considered credible in first century legal systems. But the documents telling the story give the actual account of what happened without pandering to the expectations of the times. The facts are presented as they happened.
The four gospels were written by and on behalf of eyewitnesses. They were also circulated during the lifetimes of those who were alive at the time of Jesus’ resurrection. If Jesus’ body had still been in the tomb, these people could have easily discredited the accuracy of the accounts.
It is simply beyond imagination that Christianity and two thousand years of the legacy of Jesus would have flourished as it has based on a resurrection hoax. I realize that other religions have flourished based on lies but most of those who embraced them did so under coercion. Christianity is not spread by forced allegiance.
I expect to be resurrected one day. I base this on Jesus’ promise that, “…everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:39-40). But when I say I expect to be resurrected, I am not merely saying I expect to live after the death of my physical body. I do expect this but resurrection is more than life after death.
Resurrection is life after life after death. Yes, you read that correctly. Resurrection is bodily life after life after death. It’s postmortem existence stage two. I expect to return to identifiable bodily existence just as Jesus did.
If we take Jesus Christ at his word, everyone who has lived should expect to be resurrected. Jesus said, “a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28-29).
Everyone should also expect to face God in final judgment. Scripture says. “each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). The Apostle John wrote, “I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds” (Revelation 20:12-13).