What Happens at the End?
The question of what happens after we die is one that every single person has dealt with or will deal with at some point in their lives. The reason for this is simple, everyone dies. I remember reading C.S. Lewis's sermon called Learning in War Time, which can be found in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses. In this sermon, Lewis talks about why we think of war as so horrible. What I find so interesting is that he makes you really think about it. He says "The war creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it." Later in the sermon, he says "It certainly does not make it more frequent; 100 percent of us die, and the percentage cannot be increased." The point is that everyone dies but no one really wants to think about it. War seems so terrible to us because it brings death into our living rooms and our classrooms in a way that we actively avoid most of the time. As Christians, we should have the least to fear from death. Paul tells us that Christ has given us victory over death (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). But sadly few Christians understand what the Bible has to teach us about what happens after death. Once again we can look to the Catechism to help us understand what happens to us at the end.
Question 57 - The Resurrection of the Body
Question 57 of the Heidelburg Catechism ask;
What comfort does the “resurrection of the body” afford you?
One of the comforts given to Christians in scripture is that there will be a restriction of the body. That all those who have died will, at Christ's triumphant return, will be reunited with their bodies. But there is more to it than that. The restriction of the body is meant to remind us of what happens between our death and the resurrection of the body. See how the Catechism answers;
That not only will my soul after this life shall be immediately taken up to Christ its head; but also, that this my body, being raised by the power of Christ, shall be reunited with my soul, and made like unto the glorious body of Christ.
This answer reminds us or informs us for the first time, that we are more than just bodies. We have souls that can never die. God created us as bodies and souls, the material and the spiritual together. When we die we are separated from our bodies for a time and we go to be with the Lord in spirit, that is if were are Christians, if we have been saved by His grace. If you are not in the Lord you are still body and spirit but your spirit goes to a different place when you die, it is sometimes called Sheol or Hadies in the bible. It is not a good place but it is not yet hell. When Christ returns in glory and power he will sit in judgment over all of creation. Those that are his will be resurrected and our bodies glorified so that we might live with Christ forever. If you are not Christ then you are resurrected to a non-glorified body and cast into the outer darkness, that place that is filled with weeping and gnashing of teeth and the eternal fire, that is Hell. For Christians, the resurrection of the body is truly a comfort because it reminds us of the time when there will be no more pain, no more tears and we will live forever with Christ.
Question 58 - The Life Everlasting
What comfort do you receive from the article about the life everlasting?
After the resurrection of the body comes the wonder and joy that this the life everlasting. It will be more wonderful than we can even imagine because it will be spent in the very presence of our Lord and Savior. If you are a Christian you already have a taste of this. It is like we are children sitting in the kitchen waiting for our favorite desert to be finished, we can smell it and may have even been given a small taste of it, but we have to wait till the time is right, till everything is ready for us to be able to enjoy it fully. The Catechism answers by saying;
That since I now feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, after this life, I shall inherit perfect salvation, which “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man” to conceive, and that to praise God therein for ever.
While we are here on earth we can experience good things. Things like love, joy, friendship, and fellowship. But Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:9 that "No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him." The life to come is so much greater than anything we have ever seen, and we can see some pretty amazing things. We can see the sunset on the ocean on a cloudless day. We can see the spiral of distant galaxies. We can see the beautify of friends we have known for a long time join together in marriage. We can see the wonder and love in a child's eyes. And none of this is even worth comparing to the wonder and joy that will be ours in Christ Jesus when he returns again. It is as if we see the wonder of one single penny and when Christ returns and we are with him forever we will inherit more, infinitely more, than all the wealth that has ever existed on this earth.
Thinking about the End
If you are in Christ death holds no fear, it is something we can look forward to, like coming home at the end of a long day of work. It is not that we need to rush home because the Lord may still have work for us here, but we should be ready and excited for when we get to go home. That is what Paul tells us when he writes that "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21) While we live, we live for Christ, for his glory. We are to live in obedience to all that he has commanded. We live in his grace, doing the work he has placed before us. But when our time comes to clock out, to go home, we should embrace it with joy. It is our gain that we get to go and be with our savior and our Lord.
Soli Deo Gloria
Luke 16:22; 23:43; Phil. 1:21-23; Job 19:25, 26; I Cor. 15:20, 42-46, 54; Phil. 3:21; I John 3:2; John 17:3; Rom. 14:17; II Cor. 5:2, 3; John 17:24; I Cor. 2:9.