Is There Life After Death?
What happens after we die? Can we know? Our culture is fascinated by near-death experiences, a hope that people who’ve peered over the edge can give us a glimpse into the mystery of death. The skeptic argues that a near death experience is caused by the activity of a still living brain. What we really need then is not the testimony of a near death experience but a death experience. The problem is people don’t return from the dead.
“History however records one convincing
account of a person who came back from
the dead – Jesus Christ.”
His Jewish followers believed Jesus was the Christ, a Greek word meaning ‘Messiah’. The Hebrew word for Messiah means ‘anointed one’. The Jews were wanted for a man, like Moses, anointed by God to free them from Rome.
Although the disciples were convinced Jesus was anointed for that task, the message Jesus shared with His followers before His death did not sound like good news. Instead, he continually spoke of defeat.
Imagine the Messiah giving his strategy for ‘victory’: it starts with His arrest, beating, and death by crucifixion under the Roman authorities. Are you kidding me? The war hadn’t even started and Jesus was already speaking of defeat.Then it climaxes with His resurrection from the dead. Resurrection? What is that? Jews typically believed in an afterlife that began with a general resurrection of the dead at the end of the world. They had no concept of a crucified Messiah returning from the dead shortly after being crucified. And how was that going to free them from Rome? Unsurprising, when Jesus’ plan came together, all of his followers abandoned Him.
Then something happened. Something truly amazing that would rewrite history.
Jesus’ life became the central point of history – B.C. / A.D. He went from being a nobody from Nazareth to being the most famous person who has ever lived. Period. His story has held the number one best seller’s list for the last two thousand years with a message that quickly overtook the Roman Empire and eventually the world.
What happened? Resurrection. Three days after His death, Jesus’ family, followers and over 500 people witnessed a resurrection experience. Jesus defeated death with the scars to prove it!
Lacking the usual characteristics of legendary storytelling, the Bible records the facts surrounding the resurrection in all its shame and glory: His disciples abandoned Him, He was placed in a tomb belonging to a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, considered partially responsible for His death, it was His female followers that found the empty tomb and then many people including the disciples walked, touched and talked with the risen Jesus. Even Jesus’ own brother James, who had previously not believed Jesus, was convinced and ultimately stoned to death for following Him. In fact, all of Jesus’ disciples went from abandoning Him to dying for Him. How did a group of devout Jews, who previously had been ready to die for Christ, first abandoned Him, and then, three days later, recommitted their lives to Him because of a belief they had neither anticipated nor desired. It was the resurrection.
History tells us that Jesus’ Jewish followers went from hating the Romans to loving them. They went from seeing the Romans as the enemy, to embracing them as comrades. Jesus’ followers abandoned fundamental Jewish practices (e.g. circumcision, sacrifice…) placed all their hope in Him and interpreted everything as fulfilled though Him. Why? … Simple! Jesus lived, died and lives again, proving that His message of life after death was first hand knowledge.
The risen Messiah’s message completely changed their lives. Jesus’ message is that man is spiritually dead and separated from God because of sin. On the cross a battle that only Jesus was anointed to fight played out, Jesus took our sin and evil on Himself. Jesus fought the evil that enslaves all people. By placing your trust in Jesus as your Messiah or Savior, we share in His victory, and our spirit is restored to new life and relationship with God. The message Jesus shared from the grave is not only that there is life after death but real life is found in relationship with God, which can be experienced right now and then perfected when we meet God face to face.
Christianity is truly unique amongst the world religions. People can say whatever they want about life after death but it’s only talk. Jesus is different. He was there. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:14, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” Think about it, Christianity is testable! Research the facts for yourself. Either Jesus rose from the dead or He didn’t.
Beware though, the last two thousand years have led countless people to the same conclusion as His disciples: a radical, life-changing belief of hope, forgiveness and love … only found in the risen Jesus.