Scriptures

Is Death The End?

Introduction

Whatever our situation in life, most of us are likely to have reflected on the fact that, whilst the universe around us has an appearance of permanency, our own span of life, by contrast, is relatively short, and we ask the question which is the title of this study, ‘is death really the end?’ For the answer, Christians looks with confidence to Jesus Christ and His teaching.

Jesus taught that death isn’t the end

Throughout His public ministry, He spoke with authority about His own origin and destiny. On one occasion, He told His hearers that He came from Heaven and would return to Heaven, John 3:13 / John 6:62.

Towards the end of His life on earth, He prayed to His Father in Heaven and in that prayer looked forward to His return to, ‘the glory which I had with you, before the world was made’. John 17:5

Because He shared God’s nature He declared that death had no power over Him, John 10:15-18.

His comforting words to Martha of Bethany, who was mourning the death of her brother Lazarus continue to strengthen and console believers even today, whenever they stand by the open grave, John 11:25-26.

Again, in John 14:1-3, He assured his closest disciples that there is life after death, and a heavenly home for His people.

Throughout the centuries, these words have given Christians peace and confidence, and on the basis of such statements, Christianity declares that this life is only a beginning and that, through Jesus Christ, God had made possible a biter, fuller life with Him in eternity. This is the good news! Jesus Christ grants His faithful followers to share that which He, as the Son of God, possesses by right.

The Rich Man and Lazarus, affirms the after-life. Luke 16:19-31

Jesus paints a graphic picture of man’s destiny. He speaks about two men from opposite ends of the social spectrum. One is known only as ‘a certain rich man’.

The other, ‘a beggar, covered with sores’, named Lazarus. Both of these men eventually died, and, says Jesus, at death their circumstances changed dramatically.

Lazarus, who, not surprisingly, was the first to die, found himself comforted in the presence of the patriarch, Abraham, a description of happiness with which those listening to Jesus would be familiar. The Rich Man, who had lived in self-indulgent luxury, ignoring the beggar lying outside his gate, found himself in torment in Hades.

There are several important lessons to be drawn from this vivid picture presented by Jesus

1. This is a positive assertion that our existence doesn’t end at death.

2. It declares that there will be a time when this life’s injustices will be redressed.

3. It warns that, in the after-life, there are two separate states, from which no change will be possible.

4. It declares that it’s in this life that we determine our eternal destiny.

We realise that His teaching concerning the future life was given by Jesus to his followers before the Christian era began, that is, before His own death and resurrection; but it is consistent with the later teaching of the New Testament.

The Resurrection of Jesus demonstrated that death isn’t the end

1 Corinthians 15, provides further fascinating teaching in answer to our question, is death really the end? Paul affirmed that the fact that Christ Himself rose from the dead and is alive today, is of prime importance and is a keystone of the Christian’s faith, 1 Corinthians 15:4, ‘he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures’.

He also claimed that many saw Christ after his resurrection and who were therefore able to testify that He really had risen. These witnesses included, Peter the apostle, a group consisting of all of the apostles who had been close to Jesus during his ministry, and a crowd of more than 500 disciples who saw Him ‘at one time’ 1 Corinthians 15:5-7

some of whom were still alive at the time of the writing of his letter.

ln Acts 1:3, the writer Luke expresses the same truth in these words, ‘He presented Himself alive after His passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God’.

Indeed, Paul was so thoroughly convinced of the resurrection of Jesus, that he told the Christians at Corinth, that, ‘But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.’ 1 Corinthians 15:12-14

But!

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is a fact, which establishes the reality of life after death, since, by his own resurrection, Jesus became ‘the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep’.

In other words, because He was raised from the dead, others will follow. 1 Corinthians 15:20. This is the unique claim of Christianity. Although men crucified Jesus, the grave could not hold Him, and, as He had earlier promised, He rose from the dead on the third day. This is a fact which could not and still cannot be denied.

The future of the believer

It’s important to bear in mind that Paul was writing to Christians and about Christians. He reminded his readers that, ‘all in Adam die’, 1 Corinthians 15:22

This refers to the fact that every human being ever born has, like Adam, been guilty of sin and therefore, like Adam, earned ‘the wages of sin which is death’. Romans 6:23

But the Good News is that ‘all, in Christ, shall be made alive’. 1 Corinthians 15:22.

Paul had already stated that Christ is ‘the firstfruits’. In 1 Corinthians 15:23 he added that His resurrection means that ‘at His coming those who belong to Christ’, will also be raised. In this way, the great apostle reaffirms and echoes what Jesus had already taught, namely, that death is assuredly not the end of our existence.

The nature of the hereafter

At the beginning of this study we saw that the promise of eternal life is, for the Christian, a truly great blessing, because it means that, after death, he will be with his Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, in the presence of God. We should understand that term, ‘eternal life’, doesn’t merely describe its duration, that is, it isn’t just ‘life that goes on and on’, without end, but, more importantly, it describes a quality of life.

It is in fact, the blessing which we first begin to enjoy when we accept the salvation which God offers us through the Gospel of Christ. The relationship with God, Jesus Christ and fellow-believers, into which we enter when we became Christians, is something that will continue in God’s presence when this earthly life draws to a close.

The destiny of the wicked

There is, however, another very serious aspect to this subject, seen in the Bible’s teaching about the prospects of the wicked people of our world. That is, those who live in denial of God and in disobedience to His will. It shouldn’t surprise us to be warned of that, at the heart of the subject of man’s future destiny, there lies the supremely important matter of divine justice.

The natural human desire is for justice

But there are many in our world who are cruel and vicious, who abuse their fellow-men, are immoral, liars, frauds and cheats. These people appear to escape punishment, because they are never brought to stand before an earthly court.

The sad fact is that any human-legal system is flawed and weak, so that often, even when offenders are brought before the court, they manage to escape the penalty their wickedness deserve.

But, this is God’s world and He is the final Judge and His Word, the Bible, makes it plain that no one will escape His righteous judgment. As we have already seen, Jesus taught this clearly in the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. At the end of this life, there will be impartial justice for all, Revelation 20:11-15.

This disturbing and consequently neglected aspect of Bible teaching is quite unambiguous and unmistakable when it deals with the question of the future of the ungodly. For example, Jesus speaks in terms which warn of banishment and exclusion from His presence, Matthew 25:1-13. He warns of ‘everlasting punishment’, Matthew 25:46

The same warning is given by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 ‘and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marvelled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.’

God doesn’t desire that anyone should be lost

These warnings must be seen in the light of all that God has done to make our salvation possible, John 3:16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ and we must bear in mind that it is His desire ‘that all men should be saved’, 2 Peter 3:9

Matthew 25:41 makes it clear that banishment from His presence is not the destiny which God planned for mankind, ‘Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’

When we read this verse in the context of Matthew 25:31-46, we see that this is a punishment ‘prepared for the Devil and his angels’.

However, we mustn’t forget that, like the Rich Man and Lazarus, we determine our own eternal destiny, by the choices we make.

What will the hereafter be like?

Although it is impossible for us to speak precisely about many aspects of the nature of the existence which awaits us in the after-life, we may, as Christians experience a foretaste of the happiness of heaven as we share in times of fellowship with other believers in Christ.

As for the furfure of the wicked, we see around us in this present life the appalling misery which is inflicted on mankind by godless and evil men, and we learn from this that Sin always results in suffering. As yet, we can’t possibly imagine how intense will be the eternal joy of faithful Christians, or how bitter the misery and sorrow of those who reject the gift of life, which God has made through Jesus Christ.

We do know this, however; that, if all mankind accepted Christ and His teaching, human experience, even in this present life, would very quickly undergo a marvellous transformation for the better, and our present appreciation of the fuller joys of heaven would, here and now, be intensified and sharpened. God can, will and does, bless His people. There is no need for man to experience Hell, either now or in eternity.

Eternal life!

As we have already stated, we should not think of ‘eternal life’ in terms of ‘length of time’ merely, but should understand that it describes a quality of life. Eternal life in God’s presence is a state of existence quite different from our life on earth. All that sin has defaced and defiled for us here, will have been removed, and Christians will inherit a fuller, better life.

The Book of Revelation describes that glorious life in these terms, ‘He (God) shall wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning not crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.’ Revelation 21:4

Read Revelation 21:1-8 for the context.

The sum of the matter

We see, therefore that ‘eternal life’ is an endless state of happiness, peace and fulfilment enjoyed by those who have become, through Christ, the sons and daughters of the Living God. It is by His grace, which we accept by faith in Jesus Christ, that we may look forward with confident anticipation to that new life.

When we believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, suffered and dies that we might receive God’s forgiveness, we experience sorrow for the sin in our lives, and we determine, with God’s help, to live better lives.

This is what the Bible calls ‘repentance’. This desire to live a new life leads us to obedience to the command or Jesus, when He said, ‘He that believes and is baptised shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned.’ Mark 16:16

The result of this demonstration or our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is that we receive forgiveness and reconciliation with God, and we begin the new life in Christ, the life which is eternal.

Remember Jesus’ words to Martha in John 11:25?

‘I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.’

Is death really the end?

Listen to 1 Corinthians 15:55-57, ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks, be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

MENU