Life after Death
by Rev. David L. Hatton, RN
In a crusade during the Viet Nam War, Billy Graham preached that “war never increases death.” Death is everyone’s destiny in each generation. This is true about terrorism, disease, and accidents. None of these can multiply death. It comes universally to all of us as a fact of life. Billy Graham’s point was that one day this fact will bring each of us face to face with our Maker.
Another fact of life is our built-in survival instinct. We may risk death, but we call it a “risk” only because God gives us an instinct to want to avoid death. But this instinct reaches beyond physical existence into our very nature as spiritual beings. The human soul hopes to survive death. All cultures, through various creeds, express this innate hope for an afterlife.
Some try rationalizing away this inborn hope, but few do so honestly. Skeptics today, hiding in a false claim of being scientific, are simply ignoring the data! They face a growing, unanimous testimony gathered and reported by health-care workers from those surviving genuine clinical death: “I was out of my body.” Many doctors, hearing death-survivors give detailed descriptions of their medical resuscitation from their “floating above” vantage point, may once have been skeptics, but are now rethinking their unbelief. Some have even written about having these experiences themselves.1 Such reports join the survival instinct, saying, “This life isn’t all there is!"
There’s a third fact of life: an inborn sense of right and wrong. No one, not even the worst criminal, can go for a day in social life or conversation without referring verbally or mentally to this moral concept. Without it there are no arguments, no disputes about anything, no excuses defending any action, no regrets about any mistakes, no support for good causes or opposition to bad ones. This inborn concept of “right and wrong” is so foundational to politics, economics, and all functions of society, that without it, civilization would collapse.
These three facts taken together, the inevitability of death, the hope of surviving death, and the inborn sense of right and wrong, make any neglect to prepare for the afterlife utter foolishness. The latter two are actually a divine message about our worth in God’s eyes. Not only did he care enough to communicate, but he wants us around longer than just this life, and he even deems us worthy of the responsibility of making real choices.
Just think. God could have made us robots, like all other creatures on the planet whose behavior follows basic instincts and natural law. Instead, humans can make moral choices with a real moral destiny in view. However, we receive only glimpses of a spiritual life beyond this physical world (ie, near-death experiences, encounters with angels or demons, miracles in answer to prayer, etc.). This logically validates the need for faith in seeking to prepare for the after-life.
Why faith? Observations on this side of death give no specifics about getting ready for life after death. If we’re to have a safe landing on the other side, we need a clear revelation of “how to” from the same Author who engendered in us the instincts of hope and moral light. It would be cruel of our Creator only to whet human spiritual thirst without also revealing the proper drink to quench it. This is why it’s folly to think all religions are true. The only faith that can bring us safely through death is one that clings to the clear instructions given by the true God, not a god devised by religious thought.
In researching the philosophical foundations of religions, I have held them up to the light of one single standard: LOVE. That guiding concept has secured my faith squarely inside biblical Christianity, and I’ll tell you why. There’s no god in any other religion that has displayed the effort of the Bible’s God in trying to bring back into a relationship with himself those who have broken his moral law. To accomplish this he became one with humanity by incarnation as Jesus Christ. Then, as Christ, he himself paid our penalty for sinfully breaking his moral laws. No other religion has a Deity of such loving extravagance. No other theology proclaims such a wonderful concept as “grace for our forgiveness freely offered through faith.” Only the God of the Bible comes seeking us, while the religions tell us that we must work our way back to him. Above all, only the Christian God dared to taste human death for himself... and defeat it!
Does that extent of love in a Creator sound too good to be true? That’s what makes it believable. It’s so good, it wipes out all religious or philosophical competition.
Jesus promised in John 7:17 (NIV), “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” If you’re not ready to do God’s will, you’re not yet serious enough to prepare for eternity. But if you will honestly tell God, "I’m willing to give up my own will for yours,” you open the door for God to reveal his will to you. Then keep that “willing-to-do-God’s-will" attitude, while slowly reading through The Gospel of John in the New Testament, putting Jesus’ promise to the test. I believe you will soon conclude your own search by placing faith in this God of the Bible, who is too good not to be true!
Let me know what you find out.... (my email)
1 Return from Tomorrow, by George G. Ritchie, M.D. (Chosen Books, 1978); Caught Up into Paradise, by Richard E. Eby (Revell, 1978); To Hell and Back, by Maurice S. Rawlings, M.D. (Thomas Nelson, 1993).