Summary: Christians are assured that physical death is not the end of life. Christians have the promise of always being in God’s presence and experiencing God’s love.
THE SEVEN SERVICE
JULY 7, 2002
I Corinthians 15:12-26 “What Happens After I Die?”
The drama that we just save pointed out a central truth of humankind. We all fear death. Ernst Becker, in his award winning book, Denial of Death, concludes that our fear of death is the greatest motivational force in our lives; it shapes who we are.
· We are constantly denying death. Only a small percentage of adults have a will. A significant number of people don’t wear seatbelts, and a majority of motorcyclists don’t wear a helmet.
· We spend the rest of our lives attempting to do something that is lasting. We have children whom we hope will have pleasant memories of us. We achieve awards, get our names in the paper and have our names printed on bricks, brass plaques, or written in memorial books.
It is no use, however. We all die.
PAUL AND THE CORINTHIANS
One of the major beliefs of the early Christian Church was the fact that Jesus was going to return at any minute and in the very near future. With such a belief, one doesn’t need to deal with death in a normal manner. The Corinthians were facing a crisis of belief. Paul was writing his letter to them around 50 AD. Some of the Corinthians had died, and some were dying. For some reason Jesus was not returning as quickly as the early Christians thought he would. Because of this, the question that haunted them was, “What will happen to us when we die?”
Jesus didn’t spend a great deal of time talking about death, heaven, or hell. He spent much more time talking about money and our use of it. We have a few pictures from his stories. He talked about a gulf between the rich man in hell and the poor man in heaven. He talked about a mansion with many rooms where he would prepare a place for all who believed in him.
When Paul addresses the questions of the Corinthians, he correctly observes that the greatest thing we know about death is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection is the lynch pin of the Christian faith.
· The resurrection of Jesus Christ proclaims to us the Jesus conquered death. It is no longer something to be feared.
· The resurrection also tells us that there is life after death. Our existence is not limited to the three score and ten of this life. Our life has an eternal dimension to it.
ETERNAL LIFE NOW
A few years after Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he dashed off a letter to the Romans. In this letter, Paul turned the timetable for the life and death of Christians on its ear. In the sixth chapter of Romans, Paul writes that everyone who has been baptized in Christ was baptized into his death. We have died with him so that we may live with him.
It is common for modern day Christians to believe that their eternal life begins at the point of their physical death. Paul disagrees with this. He writes that at the moment of our baptism we have died. The moment we entered God’s family, we died and started a new life—our eternal, everlasting life. In a sense, we have already died and gone to heaven.
It is true our lives now are only almost heaven. But they do have heavenly elements to them.
· We live each day in the reality of God’s unconditional forgiveness and steadfast love.
· God is ruler of our lives, as we seek to be God’s faithful and obedient servants.
· God is present in our lives in the person of the Holy Spirit. We are never alone.
· The Holy Spirit gives us the power to carry on the ministry of Jesus Christ. As followers of Jesus Christ we are commissioned to proclaim the gospel, heal the sick, cast out demons and raise the dead. (Perhaps the reason that this is not overly evident in our lives is not that we can’t do it, but that we don’t believe that we can.)
Our lives now, are merely a taste of heaven. Paul writes about a kernel of wheat. It falls into the ground, dies, and then comes back to life. It’s life after death is beyond imagination’ it is so much greater, in every way, that what could ever be conceived.
What happens after we die? The only thing we know centers on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is based on the empty tomb and the witness of over five hundred people. Jesus has conquered the grave. There is life after death.
It is also our assurance that this new life—this eternal life—is not just available to a select few. God offers life to any to live by faith in him, as it is written in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whosoever believes on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Do you want to find out what follows death? Come and walk with God today.