There is an old saying that goes, “There were only two things certain in life: death and taxes.”Unless Jesus tarries, I know the first half of that statement is true. I’m not certain about taxes. Time will tell if that’s true.

Unfortunately, a friend of mine recently experienced the death of a loved one. It doesn’t matter what time of year, the death of a loved one is difficult; however, it’s seeming more difficult around the holidays. In this case, the loved one passed away just before Christmas.

When a family member dies, it’s customary for friends to attempt to comfort the family with encouraging words. This is especially true when it comes to those that believe in GOD, or those who consider themselves “spiritual”.

I’ve been around many memorials over the years. Both relatives close to me passed away, and when I paid my respects to the family who was grieving their loved one. Many times, I hear the same statements used to comfort the grieving.

“At least they’re not suffering anymore.”

“They’re in a better place.”

“You will see them again, and you all will be together again.”

“They’re in heaven shining down upon you.”

And finally, “GOD needed another angel, so HE took them to heaven.”

I must admit that I’m guilty of using some of the phrases above. I also must admit there are one or two phrases that annoy me every time I hear them.

Currently, my friend seems to be coping well with everything. But I’ve been around long enough to know that people may require additional support after the services are over. As I thought about my friend, I also began to think about death and the afterlife.

I was curious about what other people thought about death and the afterlife. So, I decided to research it online.

When researching online, there are many different beliefs about death, and whether or not there’s an afterlife. To simplify the research, I had to contain this to people only in the United States. In the United States alone, there are many different beliefs so I will only discuss a few findings.

In the US, approximately 75 percent of people believe in heaven. They only believed in a type of heaven after death. It wasn’t clear what they meant by heaven. So, heaven differed for each person.

About 62% of people when asked if they believed in a hell responded yes. Again, like the question about heaven, there were many different concepts of hell and what it entailed.  

About 66% of all Americans believe that they will be reunited with loved ones after death.

 69% of those surveyed believe that they will be free from suffering in their afterlife.

And almost 40% of United States adults believe people who do NOT believe in GOD will still go to heaven.

Above data from the Pew Research Center

One-in-six Americans do not believe in an Afterlife.

I believe we must ask the question, What does the Bible say about the afterlife?

Simply put, the Bible explains that the afterlife is separated two ways, eternal life, and eternal death. However, to explain where someone goes when they die is a bit more complicated.

Let’s start with eternal death.

Jesus told a parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16: 19-31 KJV). There was a rich man who was arrayed in fine clothes and lived in luxury. There was also a beggar who lay by the rich man’s gate named Lazarus that was full of sores. Lazarus wished just to eat from the crumbs off the rich man’s table.

One day, both the rich man died and was taken to Hell, and Lazarus died and was taken to Abraham’s bosom. The Bible says that the rich man being in torment, lifted his eyes and saw Abraham and Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom. The rich man cried to Abraham to send Lazarus to dip his finger in water to cool his tongue because he was being tormented in a hot flame.

But Abraham reminded the rich man that he was comforted in his life and Lazarus suffered. Now, the rich man suffered, and Lazarus was comforted. In addition, there was a gulf between hell and Abraham’s bosom, so it was not possible for them to reach each other.

The next part of this parable always amazed me. The rich man asked for Abraham to send Lazarus to testify to his five brothers, so they didn’t go to Hell. The rich man thought that Hell was so bad, that he didn’t want his brothers to go there. Even though, he could have been together with them again.

Jesus also gave examples about hell in his teachings. He said that it was better to go into heaven maimed than to go into hell with all your limbs. (Mark 9: 43 KJV). When teaching on the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus said that at the end of the world, the angels will separate the just from the wicked. The wicked will be thrown, “into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:49-50 KJV).

 Jesus warns not to go to hell in his teaching, but hell is not the final destination of the dammed.

“Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:” (Matthew 25: 41 KJV).

This passage of scripture was taken from the Great White Throne Judgement, where those who are sentenced to everlasting punishment are sent to the Lake of Fire. Both death and hell will be thrown into the lake of fire where the Devil and his angels will be placed. If the rich man was tormented in hell, how much more will the torment be in the Lake of Fire? ( Revelation 20:11-15 KJV).

As Christians, we must do all we can to win the lost, as Jesus has commanded us. Hell nor the Lake of Fire was meant for people that were made in the image of GOD.

So, we’ve discussed one place of life after death. Now, let’s discuss Heaven. Jesus spoke about hell in his teachings on many occasions. However, he mentioned heaven almost three times more than hell.

When describing what’s heaven like, Jesus often used the phrase “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” This depiction of heaven was typically used as a system. In other words, a way of doing things. In these teachings, we find that the way we operate on earth is different from how they operate in Heaven.

In heaven, Jesus is seated on the right hand of GOD. He told his disciples before he died that he would go and prepare a place for them. In his Father’s house are many mansions. He also said, “Where I am, there ye may be also”. (John 14: 2-3 KJV). When he was on the cross, Jesus told the repented thief, today he would be with him in paradise.

When discussing heaven, the apostle Paul said he was taken up to heaven. He also said to be absent with the body is to be present with the Lord. Before Paul died, he spoke of the rewards that were laid up for him in heaven. There is no doubt that Paul believed in heaven and believed that he was going there after he died.

The Apostle John was given a great vision of heaven in the book of Revelation. John was able to describe in detail the throne of GOD, and the future events that will take place. He was able to see the believers who were martyred for the testimony of Jesus that came out of the Great Tribulation. They were in heaven with GOD.

Jesus also showed John the Great White Throne Judgement. Earlier, we discussed the fate of those who rejected Jesus and their punishment. However, there is another side to the judgement, the righteous.  

Like hell is not the final destination of the dammed, heaven is not the final destination of the righteous. The righteous final home is New Jerusalem. New Jerusalem is a great city that GOD the Father, will present to Jesus as his bride. Heaven and earth will pass away, and those whose name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will dwell with GOD and Jesus in New Jerusalem. Once again, GOD, Jesus, and the body of Christ will all be together again forever and ever.


G. Edward Wyche   

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