Despite man’s best efforts, there is still no cure for death and two things are certain about every living thing. 1. There was a process by which the organism sprouted, or was born. 2. The organism will eventually die. So what is death? Is there anything following after, or some kind of an afterlife? Do humans get dispatched off to some faraway land after death? Since no one has ever given us an eyewitness account of what it is like to die, let’s start by saying what death is not. There are biblical records of people who have been raised from the dead. Our Lord Jesus rose from the dead (Matt. 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20 & 21), as did Lazarus (John 11:11-43), and in Ezekiel 37, for example, the valley was full of bones which became living beings – “an exceedingly great army” (Ezek. 37 1, 10). What is interesting about all of these, is that in none of these passages does anyone have any recollection of what happened while they were dead. There is a belief going around that Jesus, while he was in the tomb, was being tortured in hell by Satan; but where is the evidence for this? Of all the people in Scripture who were raised from the dead, none of them ever told what happened while they were dead. In the passages I mentioned above where Lazarus dies and is raised by Jesus, our Lord tells us that Lazarus is “asleep”, and uses sleep as a metaphor to describe death. In Ecclesiastes 9:5 it says that “the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten“. Country singer and songwriter Colin Buchanan laments on this fact in his song “Will I Be Missed”, in describing “the guy who invented the iPhone” who in the songwriters opinion, was a “visionary, genius and icon” and who then “laid down in the grave”. The chorus of the song goes like this:
Just a few who will notice that I’ve gone away
The noise of the living
Drowns out the dead
What they thought and they learnt
What they did and they said
Well the sorrow blows by
Tears will be gone
These words pretty well sum up what was written by Solomon in Ecclesiastes 9:5-6. I can only imagine that for those who don’t believe in God, and who think that we all just came to be through chance-based processes, life on earth must be a pointless and dare I say – unworthwhile process. I mean let’s face it, according to Evolution, we’re born, we do our thing, have our careers, our jobs and then we die. Steve Jobs may have changed the world, and you’re at liberty to your own opinion as whether it has changed for the better or for the worse, but let’s just assume that it has changed for the best. Jobs isn’t here to experience that world any more. Sure, people will remember who he was and what he did for a while, or a generation, maybe even a hundred years or more; but eventually he will be forgotten on this world. Sure, we all know who “Ceasar” was, and who “Alexander the Great” was, and sure we have a few facts about the military campaigns of these historical people, but who can actually tell me what was their favourite food? or their favourite colour? Only their close friends knew that, and they too, are dead, and no one today really knows who their close friends were anyway. Yes, what Solomon wrote, is very true – “the memory of them is forgotten”. I have been blessed to live in a family where we have been able to trace our ancestry quite a fair way back into the past, in fact, back to 17th century Scotland to a man named “Alexander McDonald”, and we can’t trace back any further. “Why?” you may ask. And the answer is simple. McDonald and it’s variants, was, and still is one of the largest Scottish clans, and there were hundreds of men named “Alexander McDonald” (with varied spelling, “Mac”, and “Mc”) who lived in Scotland at the same time, so unless we were to speculate on which one he “probably” was, without certain proof, we’re unable to trace back any further. Since there’s on a 1 in 100 chance of “guesstimating” the correct Alexander McDonald, there’s a pretty good chance that if we tried to continue the story back further we would end up with the wrong story. The story of those before Alexander McDonald has been forgotten, his father’s memory is forgotten.
So that brings me to the next part of this blog, and I bet you’re probably wanting to know. We know now that dead people don’t know anything, and we know that Jesus referred to death as a type of sleep and when a person is asleep they don’t know what happened during a good nights’ sleep. So what about where the Bible talks abut heaven and hell? Again, I believe the answer is strikingly simple. The bible tells us in 1 Thess. 4:16-17 says this:
For the LORD Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel and the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the LORD in the air.
In other words, when we die, we are asleep. Jesus will wake up those who are sleeping in Him, just as He “woke up” Lazarus. Hell, in the Greek vernacular (sheol) simply refers to the place where the dead are – the cemetery. So do I believe in Hell? Sure! I drove past it the other day! This is a vital point, because those who teach that a person goes straight to heaven or hell when they die, ultimately must deny the resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15:12-19, Paul warns strongly against denying the resurrection.
Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
So, in summing up; for there to be a resurrection of Christ, there has to be a resurrection after death. Not “going straight to heaven or a fiery hell” as some would have us believe, because in that teaching is no possibility of a resurrection. And if there is no resurrection, then Christ is not risen, and without Christ having been risen, those who die will stay dead forever just as evolution teaches.
Yes, evolution is wrong to teach that there is no God and no creation, but the belief that humans go straight to heaven or hell when they die is equally wrong. In fact by a rather bizarre paradox, to believe this really leaves a logically thinking person with no choice but to accept evolution and deny Christ! Death is real, evolution has got that right, and people don’t go straight to heaven after death. The bible confirms this to be the case.There was however, a resurrection of Christ, a glimpse of things to come, a First Fruits, that there will be a general resurrection of the dead in Christ when Jesus returns to our suffering planet.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. – John 14:3