“But Jesus touched them and said, “Get up, and don’t be afraid!” As they raised their heads, they saw no one but Jesus.” Matthew 17:7-8, GW
How we live our lives on earth in the here and now depends on what we believe about life beyond death. If we believe that there is no life after death, then it is logical to seek to live life to the fullest now by enjoying the pleasures of this world – “let’s eat and drink, for tomorrow we’re going to die!”1
However, if we believe that there is life beyond death because there is a loving God who created us to be His masterpieces and to be His children, we will see that even the mindset to eat and drink and find satisfaction in our work comes from the hand of God.2 Having lived past my 75th birthday, I have a vested interest to reflect on the existential question, “Is there life beyond death?”
The greatest evidence of life beyond death is the resurrection of Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ is rooted in His resurrection. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, we cannot have any victory over sin, death and evil. Our faith is worthless as sin will still have power over us. And as the apostle Paul reminds us, if Christ is our hope only for this life, we deserve more pity than any other people.3
Jesus brought Peter, James and John to a high mountain where they could be alone. There the disciples saw Jesus transfigured in the presence of Moses and Elijah. But Jesus ordered them:
“Don’t tell anyone what you have seen. Wait until the Son of Man has been brought back to life.”
The story of the transfiguration of Jesus makes sense only in the light of the resurrection of Christ. It is a dramatic revelation that Moses lives on after death and Elijah was taken up into heaven. Hearing the voice of God was an awesome experience. The disciples were terrified when they heard a voice from a bright cloud telling them, “This is my dearly beloved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” Then Jesus touched them and said, “Get up, and don’t be afraid!”4
The good news is that Jesus came to show us that God is our Heavenly Father and His greatest joy is in our listening to Christ as our Shepherd of Love. The transfiguration of Jesus points to a spiritual dimension beyond death. If we believe that there is life beyond death, we have to face the reality of heaven and hell. Taoists observe the “Hungry Ghosts Festival” during the seventh month of the lunar year – a time they believe the gates of hell are opened. Christians also believe that hell exists. But we do not have to come before God with the awful fear of an angry Judge but with the awesome fear of God as our loving Heavenly Father. The reality of life beyond death also reminds us that there is a spiritual battle against evil which Jesus has won for us on the cross.
When Jesus reigns as King in our hearts, life on this earth is a foretaste of life after death. God’s Kingdom is seen on earth when the Risen Christ is in our hearts and we are living our lives according to God’s will and not ours. Without Christ, we live like Adam, hiding from God. With Christ, we are restored to an intimate relationship with God through transforming listening conversations. The resurrection of Jesus Christ empowers us to live with hope in this life as we face pain, suffering and loss.
The most powerful witness of our faith in the Risen Christ is seen in our joy and peace in the midst of our sorrows. Jesus died and rose from the dead so that we are blessed when we feel we have lost what is most precious to us. For only then can we be embraced by the One who is most dear to us..5 Through faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit transforms our grief to the glory of God:
“Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He is the Father who is compassionate and the God who gives comfort. He comforts us whenever we suffer. That is why whenever other people suffer, we are able to comfort them by using the same comfort we received from God. Because Christ suffered so much for us, we can receive so much comfort from him.”6
As I care for the dying, the nearing death awareness experiences of some of my patients have reinforced my belief that there is life after death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us the hope for a life beyond death – something we cannot see but we eagerly wait patiently and confidently for it,7 And with this hope we can face the unknown, uncertain and unpredictable future without fear but with faith in our Risen Savior:
“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives”8
Lord, thank You for the power of the resurrection to help me overcome sin, death and evil.
1. How does the belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ help me to face death?
2. How does a belief in life beyond death help us in our grief of losing a loved one?
3. What changes in my life do I need to make if I believe that there is a life beyond death?
Song of Praise
Because He Lives
1 Isaiah 22:13, NLT; 1 Cor 15:32, GW
2 Ecclesiastes 2: 24, NLT
3 1 Corinthians 15:19, GW
4 Matthew 17:1-13, NLT
5. Matthew 5:4, MSG
6. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, GW
7 Romans 8:25, NLT
8 Because He Lives – Bill Gaither