Every second of every minute of every hour of every day, someone in the world dies. One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand. Death is 100% consistent, completely methodical. And the fact that death is universal has led many to speculate regarding its finality: Is death but a doorway to an afterlife, to an eternal dwelling?
Today we will be examining a statement which answers both questions adamantly, holding that:
“WHEN A MAN DIES, HE SIMPLY CEASES TO EXIST. THERE IS NO IMMORTALITY OR ETERNAL LIFE.”
It is my position that Christians should reject this statement as a blatant contradiction of Biblical teaching and that those who hold such a belief are making an incomprehensibly dangerous assumption.
In the short time we have together today we’ll be contrasting the “no-life-after-death” theory with the Biblical belief in eternal life in Heaven and eternal death in Hell and comparing both beliefs in their ability to prepare a person for death and in their consequences.
First of all, it is important to understand that we are dealing with polar opposites; two entirely different conclusions regarding the length of human existence.
In his book, “A Short History of Nearly Everything”, Bill Bryson summarizes the “no-life-after-death” theory’s view of human existence when he says, “Even a long human life adds up to only about 650,000 hours. And when that modest milestone flashes past, or at some other point thereabouts, for reasons unknown your atoms will shut you down, silently disassemble, and go off to be other things. And that’s it for you.”
The phrase, “And that’s it for you” defines the no-life-after-death position:
“650,000 hours, and that’s it for you. The End.”
In contrast, consider the Biblical position on human existence: James 4:14 says, “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”
On this point both positions agree: “Life is short! Your 650,000 hours are ticking away!”
However, the black-and-white contrast between these two beliefs is shown by comparing the phrase, “and that’s it for you” with Ecclesiastes 12:5 which says, “Then man goes to his eternal home.”
Are we merely 650,000-hour-creatures or are we eternal ones? Is this it or is there more? We must choose our answers to these questions carefully because what we believe regarding the nature of life will seriously affect our ability to deal with death.
To a Christian this life is but a preview, an introduction to a life that lasts forever. And death is but the doorway to Eternity. Therefore we can say with 1 Corinthians 15:54-55, “Grave where is thy victory? Death where is thy sting?”
But death is terrifying if this is all there is. It means “Game Over” when you’re out of quarters. It means “The End” and no sequel. It means “goodbye” with no “see ya’ later”. To reject life-after-death is to reject all consolation regarding death.
However, that disadvantage pales in comparison to the terrible consequences of being wrong about death. Can we afford to gamble about such things?
The truth is that both belief in eternal life and rejection of eternal life are gambles. As Christians we have the clear teaching of Scripture, but even that must be accepted by faith. Meanwhile, those who reject life-after-death have an even shakier foundation to stand on, and arguably, no foundation at all.
We all must take a gamble. So which position should we choose?
Well, if I, as a Christian, died today, and discovered that I’m right about eternity, the rewards would be enormous: eternal life, never-ending life in Heaven. But if I’m wrong and simply ceased to exist, the only loss would be that I didn’t get more kicks out of my 650,000 hours of life because I was trying please God. In other words, Christianity holds the possibility of eternal gain while entailing only temporary loss.
But if someone who rejected life-after-death died, the benefits of being right would only be that he got more kicks out of his 650,000 hours of life. But if he was wrong the loss would be incomprehensible: eternal death, never-ending agony and suffering in Hell. This bet holds only temporary gain while entailing eternal loss.
Now I don’t mean to paint Christianity as merely “the wiser bet,” though I believe it is. But I do mean to show the foolishness of making the assumption that this life is all there is.
The harsh truth is that death is unavoidable. Now you can call it a bet or you can call it faith. But I would urge you to put your faith on the promises of Scripture and on eternal life. And, if you do believe in Heaven and Hell, ask yourself where you're headed. Are you going the wrong way?
Today we’ve examined two opposing beliefs; one that says, “This is it!” and one that says, “There’s more!” The Bible tells us that “God has put eternity in men’s hearts.” If we feel the cry in our heart that says, “There’s more,” then we mustn’t ignore it. We have seen that to reject life-after-death is to reject all consolation regarding death and we’ve examined the losses and the gains of both gambles of faith.
And so I leave you with Isaiah 28:16, which promises that Christ is “a sure foundation; the one that trust will never be dismayed.”