In January 2018 I took one of my most emotional funerals. As a child I had spent more time living with, and being cared for by, my grandma than anyone else. She was a feeder. It’s how she showed me love. I was never hungry when I lived with her, although my uncle Johnathan and I would still steal chocolate bars from the fridge whenever my grand-parents weren’t around.
As it happened none of my family asked me what happens after we die. Maybe it because I’m a Pastor and they thought I’d give the same old preach that people believe most Christians give when it comes to the big questions.
I’ve been thinking about how I connect with these questions in recent times though.
I think we can look at three options for the question as to what happens when we die:
- There’s no afterlife: For some people the grim ‘truth’ that they believe is that we are just made of flesh and blood. Eventually this flesh and blood will reach it’s use by date, and we will all die. Although this may seem a logical explanation, or at some times even a comforting one if you’ve led a life that you’re ashamed of. It can be somewhat of a hopeless or brutal end to an otherwise wonderful life though for some. In natural terms what happens to our bodies when we die is either cremation or burial in our society. A burial is quite simple in that we are put into a cardboard or wooden coffin and then lowered into a hole in the ground. Eventually we decompose and become part of the soil there. Each plot can have up to two people buried in it. With cremation our body and the coffin that we are in are heated up to around 800 degrees. Everything burns although some of our bones are left behind. For a really small person there can sometimes be very little bone left for the family to bury.
- There are ghosts: Some people believe that there is some sort of residue left over from our lives, like a spirit or ghost. People often report seeing loved ones that have died, or feeling a sense of their presence around the house. My Grandma would often report smelling my Granddad after he had died. Some people report seeing figures or hearing noises. Some even report objects moving. I’m actually quite a skeptical person and rarely believe something unless I’ve seen it. I can’t help thinking that billions of people have died and yet I’ve never seen a ghost or spirit of a person. Having said that, I’m no expert in ghosts. Often times people that don’t have a religion take comfort in believing that their loved ones remain somewhat active after death.
- We go to heaven: I hear a lot of people who believe that their loved ones go to heaven. I often heard it said that loved ones are looking down on us. The problem I have with the notion that anyone and everyone is looking down us is that heaven came from the Bible. It actually says that Jesus created heaven. The majority of people think it sounds nice to have a place called heaven, that is like a paradise for my loved ones and me when we die, but if it’s true then it’s source must be true. If we believe in a heaven outside of the source of it’s ‘truth’ then we are just making up our own beliefs to make us feel good. That sounds a little crazy to me. The Bible says that Jesus created heaven, and that he is there now preparing a space or room for his followers. Most people struggle with the Christian faith because they think you have to be perfect to get into a heaven that Jesus has built, but the Bible actually says that heaven is for those that recognise that they are not perfect and need Jesus to get them there.
The good news of the Bible is that Jesus made a way for us to be put right before God to give us access to him and the heaven that the Bible describes. The bad news is that greater powers and authorities don’t want us to find this out.
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