Graphic of Heaven/Pixabay

The Afterlife: Yes, I Believe & It’s Summed Up in the Person of Jesus Christ

The Afterlife: Yes,, I Believe & It’s Summed Up in the Person of Jesus Christ

Editor’s Note: SpokaneFāVS is publishing a series of columns on the subject of life after death. This long fascination with the afterlife crosses centuries, cultures, geography, religions, philosophy and science. What does life after death mean? Is it a subjective existence, a continuation of our consciousness or personhood as we knew it on earth? Is it a bodily existence, or a disembodied/spiritual existence? Who or what decides the character of the afterlife ? Is it possible to believe in God and deny life after death? If there is no afterlife, does that mean religion has lost its purpose? Does it mean our lives on earth are meaningless? These and other questions will be addressed over the next few weeks.

By Cassy Benefield

Graphic by Tracy Simmons/SpokaneFāVS

I believe in the afterlife because I think God has “planted eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and so it makes sense to me that there are locations to live out that eternity.

I believe in heaven because I believe there is a place where sin cannot enter (Revelation 22:15) and where God wipes away every tear from the human eye (Revelation 21:4).

I believe in hell because there needs to be a place where sin is judged. However, I believe hell was never meant for humans but for the “devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). So, all who wind up there choose it because they reject God’s invitation to show them their sin, but most importantly, to forgive it (John 3:19-21).

I believe my choice in this temporal life to accept as true that Jesus Christ is God manifest in the flesh is the only reason I am destined to live with him for all eternity. I believe this is the way God the Father has invited all of us into his kingdom: to have our sins washed away and forgiven by him through his son.

But Is Heaven Going to Be Interesting?

Still, I have always had a niggly doubt in the back of my mind that heaven would be boring. It’s filled with perfection and perfect people in the face of a perfect God, and so, wouldn’t that be boring, routine or filled with a kind of sameness forever?  

I saw heaven as a place where I would “know” everything, and I didn’t think that would be terribly exciting. For me, the joy of knowing comes through the journey of learning. To know everything in an instant seems anti-climactic.

Not only that, if I’m honest, heaven just seemed one-dimensional to me and kind of flat, streets of gold and pearly gates aside.

It was not until I recently read “Imagine Heaven: Near-Death Experiences, God’s Promises, and the Exhilarating Future That Awaits You” by John Burke, however, that I realized, I need not fear a forever boredom. In fact, I have every hope to expect a perfect life in Jesus and with Jesus for eternity that will go beyond my wildest imagination.

In his book, Burke shows how near death experiences have similarities to them that cross religious or non-religious belief, and one of the more common memories that people with NDEs find themselves remembering is experiencing the presence of a being that has all-consuming love for them.

Christians or those familiar with Christianity who have NDEs often claim that this person is Jesus. Others simply identify this presence, this light, as a being full of love toward them that they have never felt before. It’s overwhelming and absolutely beautiful. So wonderful is this presence, in fact, that they do not want to leave it despite the presence telling them, their time there is not yet, that this is just a “taste” of what is to come.

I found the book very compelling (albeit a bit repetitive) and the first time I ever saw heaven beyond what I always sensed would be this kind of dispassionate boredom.

In Heaven, I Will Finally Be at Rest

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” is one of the most beautiful passages of scripture to me, and it’s found in Matthew 11:28.

The “Me” in this verse is Jesus Christ, and when I look at the Bible through the lens of this rest found in him, I see the clearest picture of what heaven is: a place of rest.

A place where I will cease from striving and cease from all my labor, as is described in Hebrews 4:10: “For anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.” This is the picture the Jewish Sabbath points to, a beautiful theology that goes beyond the scope of this essay.

Suffice it to say, the anticipation of such a place, and such a rest, especially compared to the recent conflicts in the world, sounds absolutely amazing.

But the most winsome part of this invitation of scripture comes in the next two verses.

“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30).

And what does this mean as it relates to the afterlife?

It means heaven is so much more than a place. It’s the person of Jesus Christ.

He is our ultimate destination—our heaven—and in him, we find our rest.

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