Do You Believe In A Future Life?
SUPPOSE someone should ask you today, “Do you believe that you, or any part of you, is immortal or eternal?” You would probably answer “yes,” thinking that you are part of some universal soul or spirit that is indestructible. But if that same person should ask you why you believe this, what would you say? Maybe you have a strong feeling deep within you that you are immortal? Or that most people believe it?
You might even mention someone else who believes it, maybe a religious teacher. Or you might venture to say the Bible teaches that there is something immortal or undying about us. Here you may be astonished, for the Bible does not teach it. There is not a single text in the Bible that says our soul or spirit or personality is immortal, or undying, or indestructible.
FIRST: Are there any proofs that the life survives after death?
None. Speculations are many, and testimonials of people who claim to have been through a near-death state and revived, who tell what they experienced or remember. But tested, proven science has nothing to offer in support of life beyond death.
Physically, man is an animal, and his life processes from beginning to end are those of all the higher mammals. True, man possesses a reasoning mind, but there is no evidence that thought survives the destruction of the organ of thought. The Bible even says that when a man dies, “his thoughts perish” (Ps. 146:4).
SECOND: is there any logical proof of survival? So far man has failed to find it. The idea that we are eternal because the majority think they are does not appeal as sound logic.
In fact, this ancient and time-honored belief is definitely illogical and involves us, if we accept it, in serious difficulties. Natural immortality means that some disposition must be made of each “immortal soul” after the death of the body. It must live on somehow, somewhere. There are three major choices among the popular ideas of men: 1) re-incarnation, which has no scientific or biblical support; 2) universal salvation, which is also contrary to Bible teaching; and 3) eternal torment, which is another non-biblical doctrine of horror far worse than that perpetrated by any human fiend.
Human speculations on the subject must be dismissed as unworthy of serious attention, for the simple reason that no living man has any experience beyond the realm of this life. One man’s guess is as good as another’s. Any worthwhile information must come from our Creator, through His written Word.
THE SECRET AND SOURCE OF LIFE IS WITH GOD
We live in a vast universe. Our little world called Earth is, by comparison with the whole of God’s creation, but one tiny grain of sand on the ocean beach. As the Psalmist said, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). The order and expanse of creation are beyond our power to fathom. Astronomers now report discoveries of huge galaxies of stars that are 13 billion (13,000,000,000) light years away. How can anyone think even for a moment, “There is no God”? All screation testifies to the existence of a Creator.
Since the secret and source of life lies with the Giver of all life, any information as to our nature and our hope of survival must have its source in Him. This vital information is found in the Book He caused to be written for our instruction, the Bible, which we confidently believe to be the inspired Word of God. Fulfilled prophecy proves its authenticity, while the utterly non-human nature of its teachings testifies to its divine origin. Human works bear the imprint of human thought; the Bible bears the stamp of God. When the Bible speaks on any subject, it speaks with authority and agrees with reason, logic, though it may not agree with our way of thinking.
TEST YOUR BELIEFS BY THE BIBLE
What is man’s nature?
“Can mortal man be more righteous than God?” (Job 4:17). Man is mortal.
When death overtakes a man, how much does he know?
“The living know that they will die: but the dead know nothing” (Eccl. 9:5).
So far, this agrees with our experience.
Does thought survive the body? No. As the Bible says of man, “His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish” (Psalm 146:4)
The Bible answers are plain and straightforward, whether they appeal to us or not, and they disagree with many ideas of song and hymnal and the time-honored idea of singing praises to God when “this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.”
What does the Bible say? “The dead do not praise the Lord, nor any that go down into silence” (Ps. 115:17).
But what about the soul? Surely it cannot die!
Hear the clear statement of Scripture: “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezek. 18:20).
Just what is the “soul”? As used in Scripture, it is translated from the Hebrew word nephesh, and means “a living creature, an individual, a person, life, living, also applied to beasts.” We do not have souls; we are souls.
What about “spirits”?
The word “spirit,” taken from the Hebrew word ruach and the Greek pneuma, means the breath of life, which is composed of oxygen, nitrogen, etc., and possesses neither personality nor intelligence. In all the 1686 times that the words “soul” and “spirit” are used in the Bible, never once are they qualified as being immortal, deathless or neverdying.
In death, man is not superior to a beast. “For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust” (Ecclesiastes 3:19–20).
Deflating as this may be, it is in perfect accord with all physical phenomena and observations.
The New Testament also agrees. “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are fallen asleep” (1 Thess. 4:13). Asleep, not alive and intelligent.
These are only a few of the hundreds of passages of Scripture, plain, unmistakable, requiring no interpretation or explanation.
Will you believe them?
OUR ONLY HOPE—THROUGH A PHYSICAL, BODILY RESURRECTION
All future life hinges on a physical resurrection from the sleep of death.
The Resurrection at the last day was the confident expectation of all of God’s prophets. Job, after stating that he would “wait” in the grave until his “change” should come, wrote: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God” (job 14:14; 17:13; Job 19:25–26).
The Resurrection was the great event Isaiah looked forward to when he cried, “Your dead shall live; together with my dead body they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust;… the earth shall cast out the dead.” (Isaiah 26:19).
The prophet Daniel foresaw the Resurrection as the time when “many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake” (12:2).
The Resurrection was the glorious day Paul wrote of in his famous funeral sermon (1 Thess. 4:13-18); “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven…and the dead in Christ will rise… Therefore comfort one another with these words
The Resurrection was Paul’s only hope, for he stated plainly, “For if the dead do not rise…then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” (1 Corinthians 15:16–18).
All hope of future life depends upon the Resurrection. And the God who created us is able to reform us into living bodies as capable of motion, thought and memory as we were at the first.
Immortality is a reality, but it is a state reserved for those who meet certain qualifications. It is to be sought for and attained by “patient continuance in doing good” (Rom. 2:7). Jesus promised it to His followers at the “resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14). At the returning of Christ, the dead in Christ will be raised to life, judged and rewarded according to their life record (2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 22:12, 14). Those who have attained the standard God requires will receive immortal life. They shall become physical, eternally living beings, who will be able to enjoy life and learning and expansion through all eternity.
This is the Bible teaching of conditional immortality—eternal life shall be the gift of those who meet the qualifications, eternal death (unconsciousness, not torment) shall be the wages of sin.
Humanity is the vast reservoir from which God is selecting material for His Kingdom; this life is the time of probation, the proving-ground, the time given us to prove our interest in and our desire for the greater life He offers us. Is not this a just and righteous plan? Those who do not choose to seek a future life, who would rather get what they can from this life, are free to choose just that.
But to those who would rise above the level of human thought, who live the life prescribed by God, who not only wish for but work for future life, the Creator and Giver of all life has promised a glorious, pain-free, eternal existence, continually to grow in knowledge and power. When Jesus promised, “they that attain that age…[neither] can they die anymore for they are equal to the angels” (Luke 20:35-36). He meant that we can really become a part of the power which makes and sustains the universe! We can have our minds expanded to comprehend the magnitude of His universe in which countless immortal beings inhabit countless glorified worlds, all glorifying their great Creator!
When that resurrection of the body has taken place, “when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”” (1 Corinthians 15:54–55)