Is There Life After Death?
PEOPLE normally desire to believe that there is life beyond death. For without life there is no consciousness, hence no enjoyment of any kind.
Nevertheless, an increasing number of persons who claim to be realists maintain that death ends all. There is no basis, they say, for believing that there is life after death.
But the majority of persons today have no strong convictions on the subject. They may feel that death does not end human existence, yet they are not certain about this. At the same time, they are curious and wonder about the matter. Perhaps this is how you feel.
WHY PEOPLE DESIRE TO KNOW
Such interest is only natural, for death eventually affects everyone on earth. As one grows older and the human organism begins to deteriorate, one is conscious of death’s approach. Even the young are impressed by its apparent inevitability. As the Bible says: “The living are conscious that they will die.”—Eccl. 9:5.
So it is normal for you to wonder what happens when you or your loved ones die. Does death actually end all? Or is there a firm basis for believing that there is life after death? Can the person who dies really live again?
THE TRADITIONAL CONCEPT
It has long been a common belief that humans possess an immortal, invisible soul that survives death of the physical body. The ancient Egyptians believed this. However, the ancient Greeks are credited with developing this traditional concept. Catholic priest Anthony Kosnik, writing in The Michigan Catholic of January 23, 1969, explains:
“They [the ancient Greeks] conceived man as consisting of two distinct parts—a material, mortal body and a spiritual, immortal soul. When united, these elements formed a living person. When separated, they produced the effect of death. At death, the body was known to decompose and the soul was thought to continue on in separate existence in another world.”
In the centuries following the death Of Christ, as church leaders became influenced by Greek thought, this view also was adopted by Christendom. Kosnik notes: “This philosophical explanation appealed to St. Thomas Aquinas (a prominent church father] who borrowed freely from these ancient philosophers.” Thus, it eventually became a dominant belief in Christendom that ‘the human soul does not perish with the body, but lives on to receive reward or condemnation.’ Perhaps this has been your belief too.
IS THERE A FIRM BASIS FOR BELIEVING?
Is there a firm basis for believing this concept of life after death? Is it a realistic belief that is in full harmony with the Bible? Interestingly, although the Catholic church holds to the traditional concept set out above, Catholic priest Kosnik goes on to admit:
“The biblical understanding of man is quite different [from the traditional concept]. In the Bible, man is never presented as a ‘body-soul’ combination. In both the Old and New Testament, man is always thought of as a single totality. . . . What is more—this body-soul totality was regarded as being essentially mortal. Man does not possess immortality—neither in the whole nor in part of his being . . . Death, therefore, is equivalent to extinction. There is no immortal soul to survive or continue on.”
Yes, in no place does the Bible teach that the soul is immortal. Rather, such a concept was adopted from non-Christian philosophers. Acknowledged a special commission of forty-three Protestant theologians appointed by the United Church of Canada: “The idea that man consists of two separable parts, soul and body, does not come from the Bible; it comes from the Greek philosophers.”—Life and Death—A Study of the Christian Hope by the Committee on Christian Faith of the United Church of Canada.
Also, though Presbyterians in general believe in the immortality of the human soul, a Presbyterian minister reported, according to The Age of Melbourne, Australia, December 8, 1967:
“In our theological training it was pointed out fairly clearly, and to me conclusively, that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul was not one which is derived from the New Testament; that it was a concept which originated, it seems in Greek philosophy, particularly with Plato.”
The belief that man has a soul that lives on after death has no foundation in the Bible. God’s Word says: “The soul that is sinning—it itself will die.” “As for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all.” (Ezek. 18:4, 20; Eccl. 9:5) It is an unchristian myth that the soul survives the death of the body. It is not Bible truth.
A REAL BASIS FOR HOPE
Does this mean, then, that life cannot be restored? Is there no hope for those who have died? Are they eternally extinct?
Happily this is not the case, for the Creator of man is a God of love. (1 John 4:8) And it simply is not reasonable for such a loving God to create man with an intense desire for life, and then not provide a prospect for fulfilling that desire.
In order to dramatize the fact that human life can be restored, Jesus Christ actually raised persons from the dead while he was on earth. The man Lazarus, for example, had been dead for four days, so that his sister said: “Lord, by now he must smell.” Yet, Lazarus lived again. Through God’s power Jesus brought him back to life again.—John 11:17-44.
Later, while hanging upon the torture stake, Jesus told the repentant evildoer: “Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) Jesus left no room for doubt. That man would live again. This promise of Jesus is in harmony with what he said earlier: “The hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out.”—John 5:28, 29.
So there is hope indeed for a return to life after death! However, life does not come through the release of a so-called “immortal soul.” Rather, it comes by means of a resurrection from the dead. This is the truth of the matter.
Now consider: Is God going to be pleased with persons who cling to untrue concepts that are in conflict with his Word the Bible? Is he pleased with those who openly acknowledge that church doctrines conflict with Bible teachings, but then choose to stay with the church? Would you yourself not rather enjoy associating with persons who really respect the Word of God? Your own life depends on doing so.