This verse expresses a hope and expectation of countless millions of people who live in the world today. Some say it is a Christian hope, others that it is an inborn hope. Which ever it may be, there is the expectation of very many people that death is not final.It is everyone’s experience, that death ultimately comes to every person. To a few it might come within the first few days of life – or earlier. To a few it may be delayed until they are a hundred years of age. There has been no “cure” found for what has been called, “man’s greatest enemy”.
But what is “death”? Is it the end of existence, or a gateway to the skies? A gateway to Paradise?
“Safe from all earth’s sorrow
Safe from all its pains,
Now this child of Adam
Hymns Ancient and Modern, N 750
Do We Know?
The question of what happens at death is one that many have pondered. If someone who has previously died, could come back and explain the situation to us, then we would have a solution to the problem. There are, of course, various claims made that such re-visits have been made, and the message has been that they “are alive and well in heaven’. However, it is to be noted that, despite these messages, the situation still remains in grave doubt and that no actual proof, or evidence of an afterlife has been sufficient to satisfy the question of what happens after death. If there is life after death, one must ask the inevitable question as to why there has not at least one of those in all the countless millions who have died, returned to earth to tell us plainly, and publicly, that life continues after death?
There are a number of alternatives that could be possible:
- The dead are not able to contact the living.
- The dead are prohibited from contacting the living.
- The dead choose not to contact the living.
If the dead haven’t provided the answer, is there another source of information available to us?
If we look around us, we see a world of incredible design. We can, like many, consider such design as a quirk of chance, or we can, like many, consider it as the handwork of a Designer of superb talent. If the latter option is the one considered, then we are able to turn to a very valuable source of information. For the Holy Bible claims to be the message of God, that is, God’s Word.
“Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:20,21 NIV
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correction and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16,17
It stands to reason, then, that if the Bible has these credentials, then it has the potential for informing us on many things relevant to our lives. Such things should include:
- Why we are here.
- What we should be doing.
- What is in store for us.
- What happens when we die.
Although each aspect is of vital interest to us, we will look to the Bible at this time solely to see what it states concerning what happens after death.
Certainly, the popular opinion that the souls of the dead go to heaven, is said to be a teaching of the Bible. The alternative destination – hell – is not so readily accepted by many Bible readers, as it is an unpleasant thought that such a destination even exists. So if such is the Bible teaching, then it can be summarised as follows:
The souls of the righteous dead go to heaven at death. The souls of the wicked dead go to hell at death.
But who is “righteous’, and who is “wicked”? A $64 000 question! Some people believe that, ultimately, such a categorisation doesn’t matter: in the end all will be accounted to be righteous, and so eventually all will arrive in heaven.
It does not need a great search of the Bible to find that the above suppositions are ill-founded.