Otsego Festival Question Series: Is There Truly An Afterlife?

The Bible is absolutely clear on the answer to this question.  However, before I tell you how the Bible answers this question, I want to provide the following observations:

  • Ancient Egyptians believed there was an afterlife.  Excavations reveal that Pharaohs were buried with mind-boggling wealth, supplies, food, slaves, and even children to take with them to the next life (think King Tut).  Ancient Egyptian papyri also depict the journey to the afterlife.
  • Two prominent cults, Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses, teach that there is an afterlife.
  • Islam teaches about heaven in Sura 55:54-60 and Sura 56:15-25.  It is interesting to note that the Quran fashions heaven from the view-point of a desert-dwelling male.
  • Hinduism affirms a “revolving door” approach called reincarnation.  It is always upward, not downward.  The ultimate state is Nirvana which means one has been absorbed into the great unconsciousness of the universe.  It takes multiple times of living well and dying well to achieve Nirvana.  Hindu scholars say it can take up to 600,000 times.
  • Buddhism came out of Hinduism.  Nirvana is achieved by enlightenment.  This can be achieved as a human (as opposed to a non-human reincarnation)
  • Greek philosophers expected a life beyond this one.  In Plato’s Phaedo, the author recounts the final days of Socrates, including the death scene when he drinks the hemlock and dies.  Just before Socrates drinks the hemlock he declares, “ . . . yet I may and must pray to the gods to prosper my journey from this to that other world . . .”

I offer these observations to prove a single point: historically, people of all colors and cultures have believed that there is an afterlife.  In recent decades the phenomenon of so-called “near-death experiences” has heightened our interest in what happens after we die.    

Now to return to the core of your question, the Bible answers your question unequivocally: Yes, there is truly an afterlife.  Let me give you a sampling of Bible verses that teach this:

  • In what many Biblical scholars understand to be the earliest book of the Bible written, Job confidently exclaims, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. [26] And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, [27] whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me” (Job 19:25-27)!
  • Ecclesiastes 12:7 states, “and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”
  • In the Gospel of Luke 16:19-31 there is an account of a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus.  After they die they find themselves in the next life, Lazarus in Paradise and the rich man in hell.  
  • Hebrews 9:27 says, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”
  • 1 Timothy 4:8 teaches, “for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”

So very clearly the Bible teaches that there is truly an afterlife.  We must make one more important observation about the afterlife.  The Bible makes it plain that there are only two destinies after this life: heaven and hell, both are real and eternal.    

  • Daniel 12:2 “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
  • Matthew 25:46 “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Jesus spoke about final destinies this way, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. [14] For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14).  How do we enter the way that leads to life?  Through Jesus Christ.  John 14:6 says, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”  

In conclusion, historically, the existence of an afterlife has been universally embraced.  The Bible is crystal clear that there is truly an afterlife.   Finally, the Bible teaches that there are only two destinies after this life: heaven and hell, both are real and eternal.  The only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ.  If you want to know more about going to heaven I invite you to watch this video: “Bad News/Good News.”  The most important thing any person can do is to prepare for the life to come.