Some people say, “When you are dead, you are dead” without any faith in an afterlife. Others hope, but are not certain. In Jesus’ time, a religious sect called the Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection or in angels. In those days, if a man died, his brother was supposed to marry his widow, thus ensuring her care, so they tried to trap Jesus with a question about marriage.
They asked Him if a woman consecutively married seven brothers who all died, whose wife would she be in the resurrection. They thought this would mess with the idea of any afterlife or heaven, but…
Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.” (Mark 12:24–27)
Jesus’ answer stopped them, but it also touches several issues that are still a struggle today. The first one is that most people, even many Christians, don’t know what the Bible says about death and the afterlife. Some have the mistaken notion that people sprout wings, sit on clouds and play harps. They might call heaven “a better place” or “up there” thinking their loved ones look down on them and cheer them on. Others have convinced themselves that death is the end of everything.
The current books about those who have come back from death-like experiences catch a lot of interest. While those people had a genuine experience, it seems much of what they “saw” is related to their preconceived ideas because the stories do not agree with each other. A far more reliable source is the One who came down from heaven to live and walk among us and to show us the glory of God. What does He say about it?
Second, Jesus said these religious leaders did not know the power of God. I have told several people about the supply of food brought to the farm the week prior to the flooding. (See yesterday’s post.) The farm woman didn’t know why so many brought her food, and they didn’t know either. This illustrates the power of God. His Spirit nudges in ways that may not be spectacular yet nonetheless are convincing.
I can remember a couple came to a church we were attending. They had just moved from a distance and were settling into their new home. I was “nudged” to take them a big bag of rhubarb. At the time, it seemed odd. Many people don’t like rhubarb, but the nudge was clear. When I gave it to them, they were almost in tears. They said the thing they missed the most from their former yard was their rhubarb!
Third, Jesus says that heaven is not about marriage. We will not become angels, but we will be like them in that marriage is not an issue. In my mind, this raises other questions, but the Bible doesn’t answer all of them. Jesus did confirm though, that the idea of us becoming angels is not true.
Forth, Jesus also spoke about resurrection. His own had not yet happened, but even the Old Testament Scriptures strongly hinted that this was going to happen. God is the God of the Old Testament saints. Jesus didn’t say God was their God but that He is their God. They are alive, hundreds of years after they died.
Of all that the Word of God says about the afterlife, the clearest is that it is a fact. When I die, I will live. My personality will remain. I will be recognizable (just as Peter and John recognized Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8). I will also have a body like the resurrected body of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15). There will be no more mourning, tears and crying, pain or sorrow, and I will be with God forever (Revelation 21:3-4).
In my recent studies, I’ve read ancient documents about the existence of Jesus Christ and the attempts to disprove both that and His resurrection. No one tries to disprove a world-changing event that didn’t happen, unless of course they don’t want it to be true.
This is the part that baffles me. Why would anyone not want eternal life to be true? Perhaps they are afraid of one other thing the Bible says about death: “…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Perhaps they don’t like the idea of harps and forever having nothing to do (both false concepts). Whatever their reasons, as long as they are still breathing, there is still time read the Bible, take another look at the Redeemer, and reconsider.