What actually happens when you take your last breath and your heart stops? It’s a big question, one we maybe don’t think about enough.
What you believe about death and eternity will determine how you live now.
So many people believe different things which answers a lot of questions on how they conduct life. Some believe that at death, it’s over and there’s no reason to live with an eternal motivation. Some people believe in purgatory, that once you die, people can pray you out of purgatory. Islam teaches that at the end, Allah will judge the works of those who have gone before and weigh your good and bad deeds to determine your eternal destination. Some people believe in reincarnation and think, depending on how you live, you come back as a higher or lower life form.
None of that is what the Bible says though. Let’s look at eight evidences for life after death. These are pulled from a variety of sources. No single one of these are a slam dunk proof. But they do build a case.
8 Evidences for an Afterlife
There is a pattern and cycle in nature. There’s winter where there’s death, but then it turns to spring. Seeds go into the earth, die and then bring forth life.
There’s a cycle in nature that’s obvious to us all… I’m not sure what is after death but nature seems to give us a picture of what it will be like. Some kind of new life after death. -Plato
Anthropologists say that every culture on earth, from those who live in primitive parts of the Amazon, the Himalayas, to urban cultures, all believe in some kind of afterlife. Most societies treat death not as an end into nothingness, but as a transition into some unknown state. It seems that there is something built into the human soul that not only transcends culture, but intuitively knows that physical death is a door, not a dead end.
We have a sense that there has to be more than this. The human experience is one of seeking fulfillment. What we know is, as soon as you get the thing that you think will satisfy, it doesn’t quite do it. We’re made for something this broken world cannot provide.
If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world. -C.S. Lewis
The reasoning of ethics says that to have morality there has to be justice. When all of us look at what’s going on in the world, we often see people do bad things, but good can still happen to them. We also see good people experiencing bad things. The reasoning from ethics is that things have to get leveled out somewhere. For justice to occur, it doesn’t always occur in this life so there has to be some judgement of good and evil.
Justice doesn’t always occur in this life, so there has to be another time of judgment or reconciliation of good and evil.
If there is a good God and there is morality, there has to be an afterlife for any of life to make sense. -Immanuel Kant
Scientific research, specifically the study of near death experiences continually suggests an afterlife. In 2014, the largest medical research study ever conducted on cardiac arrest patients was released. The UK-based team spent four years analyzing survivors’ interviews. Nearly 40% experienced some form of awareness during the time they had been declared dead. The experts held a belief that once the heart stops beating, the brain ceases functioning within twenty to thirty seconds and awareness is no longer possible. The results of this study contradicts this belief.
Research, published in the Journal of Resuscitation, included 2,060 patients in fifteen hospitals in the US, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Of those who survived their cardiac arrest, 46% experienced a broad range of mental recollections, 9% had what was called a “classical near-death experience,” and 2% had an out-of-body experience.
We think the greatest evidence is in the only person who has died, come back to life and came from heaven, Jesus. Take a look at last week’s post, about the proof of the resurrection. Jesus was alive for 40 days in a resurrected body with over 500 eye witnesses in 12 different locations here on earth before ascending to heaven.
8. The Bible
We believe in the authority of scripture and what it says about life after death. Normally we’d just start with Jesus and the Bible and go from there, but consider that,
The cumulative evidence from nature, anthropology, psychology, ethics, philosophy, science, the Bible and the testimony of Jesus make belief in an afterlife the most rational, plausible, and intellectually defensible conclusion to the question “Is there life after death?”
In short, it’s not a far-fetched leap of faith to believe in life after death. So what do we know about death and the afterlife?
What Do We Know About Death?
- Death is certain.
Death can be sudden, it can be too early, it can be tragic, but it’s never a surprise. Scripture says it very simply,
“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” Hebrews 9:27-28
What will happen at judgment depends on what you did with Christ in your lifetime. Jesus is so important in our spiritual destiny, because we are born with a sin nature and that sin separates us from a holy God. The Gospel says “for God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, Jesus…”
Jesus was born of a virgin, therefore, not inheriting the sin nature, but lived the perfect and sinless life. Jesus shed His innocent blood, died on a cross and He didn’t stay dead. On the third day, He rose again, and because of His perfect sacrifice, by faith, when we believe in Him, we are called righteous by God and we are adopted into the family of God by our faith in Christ. Scripture says that anyone, no matter what you’ve done, no matter how dark your life has been, anyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus will be saved. Your sins, can be forgiven and gone. And then, when you die a physical death, you will not die eternally, you’ll live with God in heaven.
2. The soul and the body separate.
You are not your body, your skin and flesh is not the real you. Your body is called a tent. It is a house for the real you, but it’s not the real you. When you die, your heart stops beating, but you continue to live.
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28
One day, when your physical body dies, you will be as alive as you ever have been. In fact, Jesus said this way in John 11 when He has resurrected a man named Lazarus from the grave. Lazarus died physically, and Jesus called his name and raised Lazarus physically, and then Jesus took the opportunity to make a much larger point about life and death…
“…He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” John 11:25-26
3. You will face judgment.
“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” Hebrews 9:27
The thought of being judged by God is very sobering. After you die, you will face judgment and there will be two different judgments.
- The Great White Throne Judgment
Only non-believers will be at this judgment to determine where they will spend their eternity.
“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it…And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:11-12, 15
At the Great White Throne Judgment, there’s the Book of Life and other books which evidently contain our deeds and maybe even our sins. If your name is not found written in the Book of Life, you are judged by your works to see if you were good enough by your works to qualify for Heaven.
Scripturally, we know that no one is. The Bible says very clearly that we are only saved by grace through faith in Jesus. So, if your name is not written in the Lambs Book of Life, you are judged by your works and will be thrown into the lake of fire. This is everlasting destruction and separation from God in a very real place.
- The Judgment Seat of Christ
This judgment is for believers. Their eternal destination is not judged here. That was already determined on earth, when they responded to the grace and the work and the love of Jesus. Instead, their works are judged to see whether or not they are worthy of rewards in Heaven.
“For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.” Romans 14:10b
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10
Just imagine, being face to face with Jesus, and he comes to you and says, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Then, He will ask you to kneel slightly as He puts a crown upon your head. We’ll wear crowns in God’s Kingdom.
The Bible tells us about five crowns in heaven. There may be more, but we do know about these five.
Incorruptible Crown: for those seeking maturity in Christ. They desire to know Christ more. They fast and pray and stay consistent in their pursuit and desire of Him and His Word. They also help other people know Him better.
Crown of Righteousness: for those who know that this world is not their home. These people know that true joy doesn’t come from possession of things, but they long for the return of Christ.
Crown of Rejoicing: for those who care for people who don’t know Christ. This is the Soul Winner’s Crown. Their heart breaks for anyone who has not heard the gospel. They look for opportunities, not just to talk about spiritual things, but to show people spiritual things.
Crown of Glory: for those who care for others. The pastors, shepherds, leaders. These people serve and lead in kid’s ministry. They are the parents who points their kids to Christ.
Crown of Life: for those who endure trials and hard times and yet, hang on to Jesus. Today, around the world, there are people who will die the death of a martyr. Today, there will be people who embrace Christ, even unto death, and they will receive this crown.
“(A person’s) work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” 1 Corinthians 3:13-15
Believers, one day your work or your lack thereof will be judged. Many will be rewarded so handsomely, because they are amazing servants.
Others, who are also believers, have done hardly anything but receive from Christ. They have received Christ, but have done almost nothing with it. On judgement day, they will be filled with regret when they get into Heaven, as only one escaping through the flames. These people would give anything to do it over when they see just how real and just how good He is.
Take a look at this final observation. Note how many of these verses have to do with life. It’s even called the Book of Life.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
When you read about philosophers and other religious writings, there is some truth to them. If Jesus was just wisdom, He’s not that unique. We wouldn’t desire to worship Him, we’d just be learning from Him. We worship Him because he’s full of truth and He’s full of wisdom, but we also worship him because he can raise the dead.
Only our God can raise the dead and give life.
If all you’re looking for is some lessons that you can apply to your life or if you are just trying to be better, there are many places to go for that. But if what you’re looking for is resurrection and you want your name written in the Book of Life, then there’s only one person who does that and who can do that. There’s one name you can call to be raised to life again.
Your physical heart is still beating blood through your veins, but is your spiritual heart stone cold? God can take a heart of stone and give a heart of flesh.
You owe Jesus Christ your life, your future, and every ounce of energy. Ask God, “What do you want me to do? This is your life, and I don’t want to just narrowly escape the flames, I want to do what gives you glory, I want to be crowned.”
Check back on your week. Did anyone have any thoughts from their daily devotions or from reflecting more on what you discussed last week about the resurrection?
Hear the Word
What you believe about death and eternity will determine how you live now.
The cumulative evidence of nature, anthropology, psychology, ethics, philosophy, science, the testimony of Jesus and the Bible make belief in an afterlife the most rational, plausible, and intellectually defensible conclusion to the question “Is there life after death?”
What do we know about death?
1. Death is certain. (Hebrews 9:27-28)
2. The soul and the body separate. (Matthew 10:28)
3. We will face judgment. (Hebrews 9:27)
- The Great White Throne Judgment. (Revelation 20:11-12, 15)
- The Judgment Seat of Christ. (Romans 14:10, 2 Corinthians 5:10)
- What was your family’s perspective on heaven and afterlife growing up?
- How can ones belief about eternity affect the way they live today?
- Did anything in this message change your perspective on eternity?
- Spend a little time studying the crowns. Look up these verses and read aloud.
- Incorruptible Crown 1 Corinthians 9:25-27
- Crown of Righteousness 2 Timothy 4:8
- Crown of Rejoicing 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20
- Crown of Glory 1 Peter 5:4
- Crown of Life James 1:12, Revelation 2:10
Which of the five crowns stood out to you the most?
- Reread 1 Corinthians 3:13-15. If you died today and stood at the judgment seat of Christ, when your works and motives are revealed, would you feel good about your life? Why or why not?
- Since you still have an opportunity to change, what is God showing you to do differently?
Tell Someone Else
Who do you need to share this message with? Is there someone you’re better equipped to have a conversation with because of this message?
For more on what the Bible has to say about life after death, the theology of Heaven and hell, and living in light of Heaven, see “HEAVEN” by Randy Alcorn