I write today with a heavy heart as one my friends has passed away. I, like all who knew him are mourning his loss. Death for me has never been easy; it’s a shock, a wakeup call and has always shaken me to my core. It causes me to simplify everything in my mind and makes me realize what is important and what is not. As I reflect upon my friends life with all the good memories I have had with him, it has once again opened my eyes to realize that life is short. I told my wife this morning we must prepare for death. I asked her everything I need to know if she were to die. I talked about what I desire upon my death and we both discussed the hard truths. Death is real and there is no escaping it. We can be here today and gone tomorrow without any warning. From what I understand that’s what happened to my friend, he was hanging out with his family in the daytime and that night everything changed in an instant.
The question of what is next after death is another topic that many people including myself havewrestled with. Questions like: Is there a heaven and a hell? Do we come back as something else, like an animal in reincarnation? Is there nothingness, when we die that is it, we cease to exist any further?
Being a Christian I do see death from the lenses of the bible, but that’s not without studying other major religions such as Islam, Hindu and Buddhism and what they believe. I don’t claim to be an expert in their religious beliefs, but I do feel I have a firm grasp in what they believe about death and life after death. For instances, Islam believes that the soul lives on after death, awaiting The Day of Judgment. They believe that Allah judges the souls of the dead and sends them to Paradise or to Hell based on how much good or evil they have done.
This belief has some resemblances that are similar in part to what Christians believe, but with a major difference. Christians believe eternal life is not based upon how good or evil we have been, but solely on believing in the blood of Jesus, His resurrection and His righteousness as it says in Romans 3:25. Paul an apostle of Jesus wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9 “that we are saved by God’s grace, through our faith in Jesus—and this is not from our good works because it is a free gift that God gives us” and it has nothing to do with how good we have been or how much we have done for God. Why? So that no one can boast.
The God of the Bible knows that we humans like to boast about our accomplishments and it’s natural for us to think we are hot stuff when we live a disciplined life. We begin to look at other people that have not achieved success as much as we have as inferior and we begin to believe that we are better than them. Islam, like all religions is set up with a do good and get something format, which leaves the door open for pride. The bible takes that format away and lets people know that Gods love for them has nothing to do with how good they are. God hates pride Proverbs 8:13. In Romans 3:23 it says “we have all sinned and fallen short of Gods glory.” No matter how good we might feel we are,when we see ourselves in the light of Christ perfection, we are desperately wicked deserving eternal damnation. Paul goes on to say in Romans 3:11 “that there is none righteous, no, not one.” So if we believe we are righteous and that our good works will get us into heaven, then the Islamic faith might be right for you. As for me, I have taken a long look in the mirror and realize that I am in desperate need of a Savior. I wish I was perfect, but I realize that I am not and to take a chance on my “good merits” to get me into heaven is a tall task to ask. I will simply rest in knowing that Jesus says salvation is a free gift and I will rest in His grace and believe its big enough to cover all of my sins.
I except Jesus at his word and there is nothing I can do to be saved other than believe in His son and what He did for us. With that belief, I also choose to live for Him and know that when I die I will be with him for all eternity. Romans 14:8 says,“For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” It’s a wonderful thing to know that we are Gods children in whom he loves much.
This brings memuch courage for my life today. In 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 Paul says “So we are always of good courage.” We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord”. Knowing that heaven awaits me allows me to live a fulfilled life here on earth. I live with the knowledge that this body is only temporary and one day I will be with Jesus for all eternity.
Without going into much detail, both Hindu and Buddhism believe in karma and good works as well. Hinduism believes in a soul and that the journey of life continues on in reincarnation from one life to another. Buddhism believes in rebirth based upon your karmic seeds that you sow in this life that will determine your next. I don’t know about you, but these religions would have me wondering if I am good enough for heaven. Or even good enough to qualify for my next life with something half way decent. If people are honest with themselves there is no way they can think they are good enough all the time. What if that time you fail miserably is the time you lost your opportunity to have a good life in the next? What lack of courage would you have to even to continue on in confidance? I can see why people fear death and have no or little hope for the next life.
Sure you might be able to put on a good front and say you have no fear of death, but I am certain you can have uncertainty about it. Charles Spurgeon said “When the time comes for you to die, you need not be afraid, because death cannot separate you from God’s love.” As a follower of Jesus you can have certainty of where you will go after death. Jesus took away all of the “what ifs”. He is our guarantor and it’s in Him we can live today knowing that tomorrow has already been taken care of.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
My friends’ daughter posted this reminder the day of my friend’s death on Facebook. She said “My dad has passed from here to eternity. He is worshipping the creator of the universe right now. I am so jealous of him. But oh man, am I going to miss that studly (he would say) witty, generous, funniest man on earth (again his words) God fearing, educated, patient, fun, kind, chivalrous..the list goes on and on. Daddy of mine. Thank you for loving us so well. She then went on to post Luke 23:42-43 “Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Jesus answered him and said. Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
My friends’ daughter understands where her dad is and she has certainty of this. She knows this by the way her dad lived his life and by his outward proclamation to the world that he was saved by God’s grace. She knows he was one of Gods sheep aka children. Jesus said in John 10:27-29 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”
What comfort these words speak in knowing we are Gods. Regarding death Jesus says it best in John 14:1-4 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”
Today each and every one of us can know for certain if we were to die where we would end up. Or we can take a chance and try to get there with our own good works. As for me, taking a chance is not going to happen. As the singer Mathew West would say “I’m ALL in!” Jesus take my life and lead me according to your will and purposes. I choose to put my trust in Jesus. The questions we must all ask ourselves regarding death is does what I believe bring me absolute hope for what is next? If not, in Jesus you can have that absolute hope, if you choose to put your trust in Him today. I would love to hear from you, please comment below.