Can We Be Sure of Life After Death?

6125549012_1bb544c362_mRosalie lost her husband Keith after a long period of progressive heart failure and much suffering. He had been one of the first in America to receive a heart transplant.

In a pastoral contact several weeks after his death Rosalie said to me: “Pastor, I’ve been visiting Keith’s grave every day, but yesterday, I suddenly realized that Keith is not there, he’s with the Lord.”

It’s one of the great assurances of the Scriptures that believers snatched away by death are “absent from the body but present with the Lord.”

This assurance enables us to grieve in hope when we have lost someone dear to us. That is, at the same time that our grief is deep and enduring, we are comforted by the Christian hope of eternal life with Christ.

Yet, in the depth of grief, some believers do not rest easily on this promise. They sometimes require time to embrace it. Can that time be shortened?

The best way is for us to have stored in our hearts and minds in readiness some of the great scriptural assurances where the truth of our security in Christ is declared by God to those who believe.

Recall, for example, that at the moment Jesus on his cross yielded himself to death, he cried out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). His future was not blank; his destiny was assured and, as believers, so is ours.

Or consider the prayer of dying Stephen, the first martyr, when he was being stoned to death by his enemies. He prayed in triumph, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ (Acts 7:59–60).

There was spiritual connectedness with the Lord in that prayer, and even death could not break it. Every believer is offered that assurance.

Even the ancient sufferer, Job, found solace in the certainty of an afterlife which he could affirm in spite of the skeptical questions mounted by his friends. Here’s his statement:

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – and not another. How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25-27).

This assurance is repeated in various ways in the Scriptures, but it is especially reassuring in the promises of our Savior himself. For example, at the burial place of Lazarus, before Jesus called the dead man back to life he assured Martha, the sister of Lazarus:

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies; and whoever believes in me will never die” (John 11:25 -26).

As well, who can read the New Testament and miss the Apostle Paul’s radiant words of certainty? He writes, “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” (2 Corinthians 5:1)

It is half a century since Rosalie, while in deep sorrow over Keith’s death, nonetheless found comfort in the great promise of Scripture that, to be absent from the body meant to be present with the Lord. God wants all his children to have such assurance as revealed in Scripture.

Only by a living faith in Jesus Christ, the victor over death, can this assurance be appropriated.

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Photo credit: Paco Espinoza (via flickr.com)

 

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One thought on “Can We Be Sure of Life After Death?

  1. Can we be sure of life after death ? It’s an important question that bereaved people and those coming to the end of their earthly life, must surely ask.

    Christian believers have that question answered . The Bible conveys God’s assurance of life after death.Again and again in book after book of the Bible we are assured that if we faithfully believe in and follow Chriat Jesus,we will live after death.

    Perhaps the clearest promise ,given by Jesus, of eternal life , is witnessed in John’s gospel .It is when Jesus visits the family of Lazarus, when He comforts Martha.

    ‘Jesus said unto her,” I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

    And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” John 11:25-26 AV (Authorized version )

    Jesus’s words both comfort Martha and impress upon her how vital it is she believe with all her heart. ‘Believest thou this ? ” Christ asks. It seems both a question and an assurance,a command even.
    The whole message of the New Testament gives us ground to believe in life after death.It is the New Testament’s central promise.

    If we do not know there is life after death ,what have we gained from the Bible ? What have we gained from Christ’s message ? In his first letter to the church at Corinth,Paul underlines this .Faith without belief in the ressurection is vain.

    ‘And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.’ 1 Cor 15:7 AV
    To doubt the certainty of ressurection would be to miss the central message of the New Testament,to fail to grasp Christ’s message.

    The whole foundation of Christian faith is assurance in Christ’s promise of life after death.It is the whole reason why God became human,incarnate in Jesus Christ , It is the whole reason why Christ surrendered Himself to die upon the cross.

    Our sin debt is paid .Death has lost it’s sting and lost it’s power over us. Christ vanquished death’s power over us in order that we may live after death.We can be sure in Christ and sure of Christ.We can and must be assured of life after death.

    Life after death,freedom from sin and death,this is the loving gift ,loving God bestows us.When we understand this , naturally we love God with all our heart and strength and rely upon Him fully, as our loving Father .

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