When you are a child, life seems to go so slowly.
When I was in the third grade, it felt as though it lasted 20 years. Now decades go by. Today there are satellite radio channels for ’50s music, ’60s music, ’70s music and so on. It occurred to me the other day as I was looking for a good song to listen to on the radio that I have lived through all those decades. It is a sad day when the ’90s are considered oldies. It doesn’t seem that long ago to me.
The older we get, the reality of the afterlife gets stronger.
It is something we think about quite often. We know it is coming. We start losing friends and maybe even some family members. We know our day will come.
Some people claim to have died and gone into the afterlife and, specifically, to heaven. I find it interesting that all these people who have had these so-called near-death experiences never went to hell. Have you noticed that? Instead, they say they experienced a beautiful bright light, and they felt great peace. Those who aren’t Christians may find a certain measure of comfort from descriptions like these because they’re hopeful it will be OK for them on the other side. But my question is, Are you willing to bet all eternity on that?
I read an article recently about a new study, which revealed that “fewer Americans pray or believe in God than ever before.” However, the article went on to say, “Americans have become slightly more likely to believe in an afterlife, even as they are abandoning prayer, belief in God and rituals.”
People aren’t sure whether they believe in God or the Bible, but they believe in heaven. Yet we wouldn’t even have the word heaven without the Bible. We wouldn’t have the concept of heaven without the Bible. I believe in heaven because God said there is a heaven. The only reliable source on the afterlife is the Bible, which tells us a lot about what is coming on the other side.
Heaven is the dwelling place of God, and it will be home for Christians one day as well. Sometimes we ask what heaven is like. I think a better question to ask is what earth is like at its best. Think of the most amazing sunset or the most incredible waterfall you have ever seen. Think about the most amazing architecture you have ever laid your eyes on or the greatest city you have ever visited. Or, go back in your life for a moment and remember some of the greatest moments you’ve had with family and friends. Those are glimpses of heaven. Heaven is not an imitation of earth; earth is an imitation of heaven. The best that you have ever experienced on this earth will be far better in heaven.
When I want to know about a place, I try to talk to someone who has been there. I will ask about a good place to stay, what the weather is like and, most importantly, what are the best places to eat. I want to talk to a person who actually has been there.
The only one who is a reliable source on the afterlife, one who has been there and returned, is Jesus Christ. In fact, Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38 NIV).
Heaven is a real place for real people to do real things. And because of the resurrection of Jesus, if you are a Christian you will have life after death in heaven. Heaven is not the default destination of every person; it is only the destination of the person who has put his or her faith in Jesus Christ.
That brings us to the question of what happens when we die. That all depends. If you are a Christian, you will go straight to heaven. The apostle Paul wrote that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (see 2 Corinthians 5:8). Jesus overcame death at the cross. So when a Christian dies, his or her body goes into the ground, but his or her spirit goes right into the presence of God.
Here is one way to think about it. A Christian does not have to fear death any more than he or she should fear taking nap. The Bible often describes death for a Christian as falling asleep. After Lazarus died, Jesus said, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up” (John 11:11 NIV). When Stephen was dying a violent death at the hands of wicked men, we read that “he fell asleep” (Acts 7:60 NIV). That is how the Bible often describes death for a Christian.
But the Bible also teaches there is a generation (and we could be that generation) that will not see death. They will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Christians call it the Rapture. By the way, I’ve put in for that. I want to be in that. But it isn’t up to me. Whether I get to heaven by the Rapture or by death, I don’t really care. I know that I’m getting there, and that is all that matters. All Christians have this hope as followers of Jesus.
The Bible promises that one day, heaven will come to earth. God will make all things new. The Bible, speaking of this, says that God “will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4 NIV).
This passage goes on to say that God will make “all things new” (verse 5). In the new world that is coming, it will be out with the old and in with the new. No more terminal diseases. No more hospitals. No more wheelchairs or funerals. No more suffering, separations, or accidents. No more courts. No more prisons. No more divorces. No more breakups or breakdowns. No more suicide. No more rape. No more missing children. No more drug problems. No more heart attacks, strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, or cancer. No more famines. No more disasters.
God will make all things new. And it is because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.