Q. How do we respond when relatives or friends ask about what they call the “afterlife” or what our church thinks about best sellers that recount stories of supposed visits to Heaven.
A.These conversations offer us wonderful opportunities to lovingly stand with confidence on the foundation of Sola Scriptura; holding the Bible as our only rule of faith and practice. God’s Word has a lot to say about what happens after death. For example:
Jesus said, “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? ..." [continue reading John 14:1-7]
The Apostle Paul said, “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. ..." [continue reading 1 Corinthians 15:12-28]
Hebrews tells us, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” [Hebrews 9:27-28]
The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus says, “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. [continue reading Luke 16:19-31]
Here is the truth we have to share. We die, go to judgment and don’t come back. Even if we are very near death, our soul does not leave us or go anywhere. Once the soul leaves the body, even for a moment, that soul cannot return and our life on earth is over.
No one visits Heaven or Hell and returns to tell about it. That is fact, no matter how much publicity any other story might generate before it is inevitably debunked. This is the whole point of the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.
Compare that to the fantasies. None of them talks about dying, going to Hell and coming back! Instead all of the central figures in the stories, both believers and unbelievers, go to Heaven… always. The subtle message in these accounts is always about two things, both profoundly and poisonously unbiblical:
- Everyone is headed to Heaven (universalism). Faith in Christ is never factored into these stories (or rarely so).
- They are all told to return to earth, work harder at being good, love everyone, etc. (works righteousness). Again, in this message of redemption by good works the need for Jesus’ righteousness is seldom mentioned.
One last thing, when the Apostle John wrote the book of Revelation his descriptions of all he saw in his dream and heard from angel messengers he was recounting previews of the reality of Heaven. We simply cannot comprehend or describe what it will be like to see Jesus face to face. When we get to Heaven we will understand why not one of those redeemed by the blood of Christ or invited into the home He has prepared could be separated from His presence.