One of the first things we learn of in life is death. I was still very young, a preschooler, when a family member died – Uncle Clark, my dad’s brother. I remember him as a gentle, kind and friendly sort. He never seemed grouchy or perturbed by little kids, like others certainly were; and I enjoyed being around him. Then he was gone. I wasn’t allowed to sit up with the dead (like folks used to do) or attend his funeral, but I clearly remember the feeling of loss knowing that I would not see Clark again. And, in as much as my family attended a Holiness, Pentecostal, Bible believing, Jesus loving, salvation preaching, soul saving church (we really did), I heard it said multiple times: “It is appointed unto men once to die,” (Hebrews 9:27 King James Version).
To be sure – everyone dies. But inquiring minds want to know – is there anything beyond? Is there life after death? Now likely is that you do; but just let me prove it to you!
The Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture in a 2014 article entitled “Do people still believe in life after death” reported that most Americans do. Specifically, 72% of Americans still believe in an afterlife. By religious affiliation – “Mormons reported the highest rate of belief in a conscious afterlife (98 percent), followed by evangelicals, Pentecostals, and fundamentalist Protestants (94 percent) …, those without a religious affiliation (or who called themselves atheists or agnostics) were least confident in life after death, at 32 percent.” On belief in heaven and hell, the figures are lower. “Among afterlife believers, 68 percent said, “Yes, I think both heaven and hell are real places.” If we presume that Americans who do not believe in an afterlife also do not believe in heaven or hell, (stands to reason) then belief that heaven and hell are real places can be said to be characteristic of 51 percent of American adults. An additional 8 percent believe in heaven only, but not hell.” (I wonder why that is?) And what about a bodily resurrection – “Overall, 37 percent of Americans believe there will be a bodily resurrection of the dead.” [http://relationshipsinamerica.com/religion/do-people-still-believe-in-life-after-death]
Dinesh D’Souza, American philosopher, author and film maker says: “If there is no life after death, then we are like passengers on the Titanic. We can rearrange the deck chairs and turn up the music a little bit, but ultimately, we are doomed. . .If there is an afterlife, then we are in a better position to face death. We have to face death in any case, but now we can face it in the expectation that it is not a final defeat, . . .” [Dinesh D’Souza in an interview on life after death with Paul Kengor, 12/9/09]
The night before He was crucified, Jesus was preparing His disciples (followers) for His impending death. After having supper with them, He said: “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” He went on to say, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:19,27 NIV)
Jesus’ resurrection matters to you, me and everyone because:
- It DEMONSTRATES death is not the end. Craig D. Lounsbrough writes, “Easter is a time when God turned the inevitability of death into the invincibility of life.” Jesus’ death was inevitable, but His life is invincible! In John 11:25-26 Jesus said, “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.” (NIV)
- It LIBERATES believers from the fear of death. Following His crucifixion and death, the unbelieving world would not see Him again. But His disciples, those who believed in Him, loved and followed Him, did see Him again. Multiple times over a period of forty days following His resurrection. Paul said as many as 500 saw Him at one time (1 Corinthians 15:6).
- It SUBSTANTIATES our hope in Jesus. Had He not risen, then everything His death means to us (our sins forgiven, peace with God, eternity with Him in heaven, and more) would be a hoax. 1 Corinthians 15:14 says, “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (NIV)
- It VALIDATES the Christian view of afterlife as correct. All the major religions of the world teach there is an afterlife. Only Christianity claims its founder died and rose again. Again, Dinesh D’Souza says: “the vast majority of historians would accept—the fact that Christ lived and preached, that he made enemies, that his enemies killed him, that he was buried in a tomb, that his disciples claim to have found the tomb empty, that they said Jesus appeared before them several times after his crucifixion, and that this event filled them with conviction and propelled a movement of conversion that was sustained even in the face of Roman persecution and resistance. So, these are the facts, and how do we account for them? If the resurrection stands up to historical scrutiny, if it is an historical event by the standards of historical verification, then the Christian view of the afterlife rises above the pack. It is the one to take seriously.” [Dinesh D’Souza in an interview on life after death with Paul Kengor, 12/9/09]
- It AUTHENTICATES Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Romans 1:4-5 says, “he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord.” (NLT)
Hebrews 9:27-28 says, “And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.” (New Living Translation) We are destined to die. We are also destined to face judgment after death. God is the eternal judge and both the verdict and sentence are already determined against us. Our one and only hope of pardon is in Jesus Christ who died to take away our sins. “Confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, and you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)