A Chief Considers His Future
THE West African chief was a greatly loved and highly respected leader in his community. On his 78th birthday, his friends, family, and other well-wishers gathered to congratulate him. In a speech, the chief chose an unusual topic for such an occasion. He spoke of his ideas about life after death.
He said that beyond the grave “there is a new world devoid of deceit, envy and greed.” He described it as a world “shrouded in mystery,” one populated only by the righteous, who would interact with God.
Such beliefs are common among people throughout Africa. According to African traditional religion, death is not an end to life but merely a transition, a passing on to life in the spirit realm. At death a person is said to cross over from the visible world to the invisible. As a spirit, the individual then enters a domain inhabited by his or her ancestors.
Many West Africans believe that the ancestors, or ancestral spirits, ensure the well-being of their families on earth. States the book West African Traditional Religion: “There is no rigid distinction of influence between the members of the community still here on earth, and those that are in the world beyond. When here on earth, [the ancestors] were elders of their families. Now that they have been veiled from us, they are still elders in the world of the spirits. They do not cease to interest themselves in the general welfare of their families.”
Consequently, the elderly chief mentioned at the outset expected to join his ancestors and work along with them in the spirit realm. He said: “I have a strong conviction in life after death and the possibility of my continuing to serve—even after death.”
However, because of what the chief said next, the newspaper Sunday Times suggested that he “seemed not absolutely convinced” about life beyond the grave. He told the assembled crowd that he had heard about a book that discussed life after death. The chief had been searching for the book for five years. So anxious was he to read it that he offered the equivalent of about $1,500 (U.S.) to anyone who would bring him a copy.
The chief could have saved himself trouble by consulting a book that is not difficult to find. It is a readily available book produced not by a man but by the Creator of all men. (1 Thessalonians 2:13) That book is the Bible. What does it say about life after death?