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The Afterlife

Introduction

In past years, we sang songs about heaven and heard sermons about heaven and hell but today very few churches focus on the afterlife except at funerals. Someone has said: “aim at Heaven and you get earth thrown in, but aim at earth and you get nothing.” C.S. Lewis said: “If you have read history, you will find Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next world. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world, that they have become so ineffective in this world.” Jesus warned us: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:19-31).

Each of us must ask the question: is our focus on heaven or on earth? Our focus today is primarily on the pleasures of this world. Few of us really take the time to wonder about where we will spend eternity. However, there are some who are so focused on the spirit world, that they have either entered or border on entering witchcraft. It is our purpose in this study to endeavor to understand both heaven and hell from God’s point of few. We will study what the Bible says about the afterlife and also look at some of the visions that God has given us through death-bed and other visions.

Each culture of history has reflected a burning desire for an afterlife – from the great pyramids of Egypt to the “happy hunting grounds” of the American Indian. Solomon said in Ecclesiastes “He has put eternity in their hearts” (Eccl. 3:11). God has put into mankind a desire for some kind of an afterlife. Mankind has been fascinated by the questions about what happens after we die.

Ancient manuscripts such as “The Egyptian Book of the Dead”, “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” and “The Aztec Song of the Dead” reveal man’s fascination with the dying process and the age old question of where will we spend eternity. These books tell of death-bed visions, out-of- the-body experiences and other visions. In many of these experiences, the visions show a loving form of light and also in many cases there is contact with a loved one who had died. Today, most out-of-the-body experiences have a vision of a being with a loving light. We may ask the question, what about hell? We need to remember in all our studies, that Satan is the father of lies and of deception. The apostle Paul said: “for Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14b).

The Old Testament is progressive in revelation about what happens after death. Job, in the oldest book of the Old Testament, asked the question: “If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, till my change comes” (Job 14:14). Yet he had insight into the future. ” For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God” (Job. 19:25-26). First, Job knew that he needed to be redeemed from his sin. He also realized that God would do the redeeming and that he would one day see him face to face. Then notice that Job’s focus on the afterlife was shifted to earth. Although Job was probably not a Jew, he held the Jewish belief that the future would be earth bound. At that point his thought was not about going to heaven. We will comment on this concept of the afterlife later.

Second Samuel, chapter eleven, records King David’s affair with Bathsheba. Out of this relationship a son was conceived but died shortly after his birth. Before the child died, David fasted and prayed that his life would be spared. His words after the child died are interesting. “Then his servants said to him, ‘What is this that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive, but when the child died, you arose and ate food.’ And he said, ‘while the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘who can tell whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me’” (2 Sam. 12:21-23). It is clear that David expected to join his son when he died, therefore, he understood that he would know and fellowship with his son in the afterlife. Today, many ask the question, will we know and be known by our departed love ones in heaven? David definitely believed that we would know and be known.

We get a lot of insight from the Psalms about heaven. Most of the Psalms were written by David. “Surely the righteous shall give thanks to Your name; the upright shall dwell in Your presence” (Ps. 140:13). “You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory” (Ps. 73:24). “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You” (Ps. 73:25). “But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave. For He shall receive me” (Ps. 73:25a). “For the LORD Most High is awesome; He is a great King over all the earth” (Ps. 47:2). “For those blessed by Him shall inherit the earth, but those cursed by Him shall be cut off” (Ps. 37:22). “If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there” (Ps. 139:8). David makes it clear that God is sovereign over both heaven and hell.

Perhaps the verse in the Psalms that we are most familiar with is: “Precious in the sight of the Lord Is the death of His saints” (Ps. 116:15). This serves as comfort to both the dying and those that are left behind. God is gracious and can take the fear out of dying because he has a far greater place prepared for our future lives. He will send angels and possibly family members to escort us to heaven.

Near the end of the Old Testament, the Jewish mindset is focused on soul sleep with a promise of a resurrection of the body to a Messianic Kingdom on earth. Daniel saw a bodily resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever” (Dan.12:2-3).

It is obvious that they believed that the soul slept from death until the resurrection. This is evident in the conversation that Jesus had with Martha after her brother’s Lazarus, died. “Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to Him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘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. Do you believe this’” (John 11:23-26). This is a great scripture verse that refutes the belief in soul sleep that exists today. Jesus made it very clear that our soul and spirit never dies. The Apostle Paul said, “absent from the body, present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8).

We learn so much about heaven and hell from the teachings of Jesus. He made it very clear that both existed. Today, many people do not believe in a literal hell, herefore, most do not believe that they will go there. They base their belief upon some standard of living that they have set for themselves. “I am as good as the next person.” Their standard of living is set by the lives of those around them. Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6b). Jesus died for our sins. We either accept him or we reject him, therefore, this decision will determine where we will spend eternity.
Resources

Listed below are some of the resources quoted in this study. You should be able to click on the web sites and go the source. I don’t agree with everything contained in all these books, but I have read each and have quoted or been influenced by materials from them. Not all of the books are still in print. I suggest that you read Don Piper’s or Roberts Liardon’s book as they both claim to have had visions of heaven. The Randy Alcorn books are also very good and provide great insight in what life will be like with a new heaven and a new earth. I also recommend Trudy Harris’ book on death-bed experiences.

1. Heaven, Randy Alcorn, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, IL.

2. Heaven Touchpoint, Randy Alcorn, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

3. In Light of Eternity, Randy Alcorn, Waterbrook Press, Colorado Spring, CO.

4. Death and the Life After, Billy Graham, Word Publishing, Dallas-London-Vancouver-Melbourne.

5. Angels, God’s Secret Agents, Billy Graham, Word Book Publishers, Inc., Waco, TX.

6. Life in the Afterlife, Tim LaHaye, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, Wheaton, IL.

7. One Minute After You Die, Erwin Lutzer, Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL.

8. Beyond Death, C. J. Baker, Distributed by Choice Books, Vienna, VA.

9. Voices from the edge of eternity, Compiled by John Myers, Distributed by Choice Books, Vienna, VA.

10. 90 Minutes in Heaven, Don Piper, Revell, Grand Rapids, MI.

11. Beyond Death’s Door, Maurice Rawlings, M.D., A Bantam Book – Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN.

12. Closer to the Light , Melvan Morse, M.D., Ivy Books, New York, NY.

13. Life After Life, Raymood A. Moody, Jr. M.D., Mockingbird Books, Atlanta, GA.

14. We saw Heaven , Roberts Liardon, Destiny Image Publishers, Shippensburg, PA.

15. Glimpses of Heaven, Trudy Harris, RN – Revell, Grand Rapids, MI.

16. Angels on Earth, A Guidepost Publication, Nov/Dec 1996, Carmel, NY.

17. Heaven is for Real, Todd Burpo, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN.


Web Sites

The following web sites provide additional information about various belief systems of the afterlife. Some of the material overlap, but there is enough variation to be helpful. Just click on the following.

Comparative Views of the Afterlife

How different religions view the Afterlife

Some Views of the Afterlife

How the major religions view the afterlife

The Jewish view of the afterlife

This study is divided into three parts.

Biblical Support and Views of the Afterlife

The first part of this study covers the Biblical support and views of the afterlife up to the present time. Each of the following is a separate study and should be read in sequence. Just click of the title.

1. Body, Soul and Spirit

2. The Place of the Dead before the Resurrection

3. Jesus’ Teaching on Heaven and Hell

4. Other Supporting Scripture

5. My View of Intermediate Heaven

6. Angels and Demons

Visions

The second section of this study is about visions. First, we will examine what the Bible says about sorcery and then we will look at some premonitions, death bed visions, near death experiences, and some of the other reported visions of heaven. By looking at Scripture and these visions, we may be able to understand more of what heaven and hell are really like. Each of the following is a separate study and should be read in sequence. Just click on the title

1. Thanatology, Visions and Witchcraft

2. Sorcery and Divination

3. Premonitions and Apparitions

4. Death Bed Experiences

5. Other Good Death Bed Visions

6. Bad Death Bed Experiences

7. Typical Out-of-body Experience

8. Problems with Out-of-body Experiences

9. Visions of Heaven

End Times

We now turn our attention to the last days and what life will be like in heaven throughout eternity. We will begin with the resurrection of our physical bodies. I do not believe that the coming of that event will be very long into the future. All the signs of Jesus returning are in place. We are just waiting. Each of the following is a separate study and should be read in sequence. Just click on the title.

1. The Biblical Resurrections

2. The Rapture of the Church

3. Judgment of Believer’s Works

4. The Marriage of the Lamb

5. The Millennium Kingdom

6. The New Heaven and New Earth

Thank you for completing this study. Please review our other studies if you have not read them.