Summary: What happens after death is widely argued among non-Christians. The simple truth is: when you die, you will continue to exist and where you spend eternity depends on the choices you make in the here and now.
What Happens After You Die?
by David O. Dykes
How old were you when you began to realize people die? One of my earliest memories was when I was about five years old and my family was traveling to Panama City, Florida to attend my grandfather’s funeral. I recall peppering my mother with questions about death and heaven. My mother told me everyone has to die. As my mother’s words began to sink in, I began to cry when I realized my granddaddy wouldn’t be there to hold me in his arms and tickle me again. I suppose I was also crying because I realized for the first time my mother and daddy would die someday, and I too, would die. From the time we learn as a child about death, we spend the rest of our lives knowing in the back of our minds death is somewhere down the road. We try to eat healthy and exercise in hopes we can delay that day–but we all know it’s coming. Jack Kornfield wrote an interesting poem called “Reverse Living.”
I think that the life cycle is backwards.
You should die first, get it out of the way.
Then you live in an old-age home.
You are kicked out when you’re too young.
You get a gold watch and you go to work.
You work forty years until you are young enough to enjoy your retirement.
You go to college, you party until you’re ready for high school.
You become a little kid, you play, you have no responsibilities.
You become a little boy or a little girl.
You go back to the womb.
You spend your last nine months floating.
And you finish off as a gleam in someone’s eye.
That would be nice, but we can’t live life in reverse. So, we must prepare ourselves for death and what happens after we die. Throughout history, mankind suspected there was another life after death. That’s why the Egyptians built the pyramids. That’s why the Vikings dressed their warriors and released them to the wind in a burning ship. The Chinese built enormous tombs for their emperors. The Bible has a lot to say about what will happen to you after you die.
There are basically three un-Biblical views of the afterlife:
(1) REINCARNATION is the belief you have lived many previous lives and after you die you will return in another life form. If you have lived a good life, you come back as a higher life form, but if you haven’t, you will be reborn as a bug or snake. Reincarnation is embraced by the Eastern Religions and the New Age Religion in America.
(2) ANNIHILATION is the belief you cease to exist when you die–you are simply annihilated. The word comes from the Latin word nihil meaning “nothing.” Death is the end of everything; it leads to utter nothingness. This is basically the belief held by atheists and agnostics. Sometimes this belief leads to the idea, “this life is all there is, so you might as well have as much fun as you can.”
(3) UNIVERSALISM is the belief that all people will be “universally restored” after they die. In other words, it teaches that everyone, regardless of how they lived their lives on earth will eventually end up redeemed in heaven. Universalism is embraced by some who call themselves Christians such as the Unity School of Christianity and the Unitarians. These three views are contrary to what the Bible teaches about the afterlife.
Jesus Christ spoke many times about the afterlife, and He never suggested anything like reincarnation, annihilation, or universalism. In Luke 16:19-31, He tells us exactly what happens when a person dies.
There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus at his side. So he called to him, “Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.”
But Abraham replied, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.”