I remember growing up in Sunday School and knowing everything. Certainty was my drug of choice. I knew the ten commandments, the 12 apostles, and the fruits of the Spirit. I also knew the song for each. I wasn’t ever in Bible Bowl because God showed mercy on those other kids. I had all the answers (or so I thought).
Even those questions that no one has a firm knowledge of, I thought I knew for sure. Like heaven. I knew that I’d fly away (oh glory) to a mansion just over the hilltop, in that bright land where we’ll never grow old. I knew there’s a big, big house with lots and lots of rooms and a big, big table, with lots and lots of food. There’d be a big, big yard where we could play football because its a big, big house, and its my Father’s house. And most of all I knew, that when the roll is called up yonder, I’d be there.
These are all positive things to think about. It helps cope with loss, and it helps to think hopefully as we deal with worldly stuff. But I can’t help but wonder: what is it going to be like when we die?
I ponder this a lot. Will it be here on this planet? Will we go up into the sky or a cloud? People have gone up there before, but eventually they were in space, not heaven… So is it like a parallel universe? Do we go through some crazy sci-fi portal? Does it look like jumping into hyperspeed looks in Star Wars? Do we just wake up there after we die? Is it like King’s Cross from Harry Potter? HOW DO WE GET THERE!?
This afternoon, I met a guy who told me that in November, he had a heart attack and died 3 times. I thought that was interesting because he was standing right there in front of me looking really healthy for his age. So I asked something I had never asked any formerly dead person before, “Did you see anything?” In retrospect, that was probably a weird question, but I’ve been thinking about the afterlife a lot. He said that he didn’t see anything… Bummer! No best-selling novel coming about some heavenly revelation from him, and no viral blog post coming from me!
So to sum my ramblings up, I don’t know what happens when we physically die, and I’m pretty skeptical of anyone who says otherwise.
Later I got to thinking about death, specifically about being spiritually dead. I don’t know about you, but some days, hours, or minutes, I can feel spiritually dead. Often this is a result of sin which separates us from God (To my church family, it appears that even the youth minister isn’t perfect). And often throughout my life in those moments, I have felt the sting of shame, a product of the fallen world and a tool of the Enemy. Shame says because I have done something bad, I am bad. Shame can make anyone and everyone feel unworthy. Shame and death are both results of the fall from Eden and go hand-in-hand. Shame and death are the story of the Enemy, but they are not the story of the Almighty God.
Even though Paul (early church missionary) wrote letters to churches 2,000 years ago, I believe there is still much life for us to reap from his words today. In his letter to the church in Ephesus, he writes:
“Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world… BUT God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved! For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:1-2, 4-6… its in the Bible.
In Christ, we have life after death. And it’s not because we were in good enough shape that we could be revived. It is only grace that saves us. ONLY GRACE! One more time for the people in the back: ONLY GRACE!!
And this isn’t just a one time thing! After the Spirit enters into our hearts, we are made alive! But that doesn’t mean that we’ll never sin again. It doesn’t mean that we will never choose death over life again, but it does mean that time and time again, we are given life! The life that we have been gifted can never run out or be used up. Time and time again we choose death, and time and time again, the Almighty God lavishes his love and grace on us!
Furthermore, this is not just any old life that we have after death, we are united in Christ in the heavenly realms! And Paul doesn’t say that we will be united with Christ when we die, but he says we ARE united with Christ Jesus! Not “will be,” not “were,” but “are” right now!
I realize the amount of exclamation marks (!) I used in this post could be described as excessive or overbearing, but honestly, I just get excited sometimes. The Almighty has seen us as we are, dead in sin and separated from the fullness of the love of God, and out of immense love and care, God made a way for us.
So who knows what will happen when the hearts we have stop beating and we physically die in this reality? I certainly don’t! But I know that every single day of our lives, the unchanging, Almighty God offers us life after death.