Life after death is not exclusive to New Testament Christianity. The question presented in the title of this article is as ancient as man himself. Job asked this question (Job 14:14), and the answer from heaven, both to Job and the faithful patriarchs of old, has been a resounding "yes"! Men have embraced that hope in a world that is otherwise filled with doubt and despair. In the rock-hewn tombs of the Pharaohs by the Nile River have been found these words: "The dead shall live again!" Belief in immortality led the Egyptians to perfect the art of embalming in order that the body could be preserved for the afterlife. The Greeks and the Romans believed in life after death as well. The Romans often made their tombs so large that a lamp could be kept burning on a reserve of fuel for many years. One of the provisions in the Will and Testament of Caruso, was for a large candle to be so constructed that it would refuel itself and burn for one-hundred-fifty years. I understand it is still burning today. I am sure that many have read about the treasures which were buried with great kings in order that their life beyond the grave would be well supplied. I have also read that the American Indians often buried their dead on the side of hill, facing the sunrise, fully believing in the dawn of a better day for the soul of man. The hope of life after death has resonated through history, and in spite of the attempts of atheism to destroy that hope, it remains as much alive today as it did centuries ago. The question above deserves an answer, does it not? So, we ask the question again: "If a man die shall he live again?" Here are the answers that are being given:
First, there is the answer of the materialist. The materialist says all there is to man is flesh, bone and blood. Ask such a skeptic if man shall live again and he will answer in the negative. What, then, happens to the man? "Nothing happens!" so says the materialist. He would have us to believe that we go nowhere; "earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust! That is the end of us!" If the materialist is correct, he will never know it! Once he dies, he will cease to exist, and like the proverbial dog Rover, he is "dead all over!" Such a philosophy is incredibly discouraging, is it not?
The second answer is that of science. But science cannot explore the realms of eternity for that is beyond their expertise. When it comes to origins, and things eternal, the lips of science are sealed, for the obvious reason that they cannot take us where they themselves have not been. The answer of science was once expressed in the words of Dr. William Osler, late professor of medicine at Oxford: "Whether across death's threshold we step from life to life, or whether we go whence we shall not return, even to the land of darkness, as darkness itself, the scientist cannot tell. Nor is this strange. Science is organized knowledge, and knowledge is of the things we see. Now the things that are seen are temporal. Of the things that are unseen science knows nothing, and has at present no means of knowing anything." Science cannot provide a satisfactory answer to the question of this hour.
The third answer is that of the agnostic. Our English word 'agnostic' was invented by Thomas Huxley. It is a transliteration of the word which means "unknown." The agnostic does not say directly that there is no life after death; he simply says we cannot know! Robert Ingersoll captured the hopeless despair of the agnostic at the grave of a child: "Why should we fear that which will come to all that is? We cannot tell. We do not know which is the greatest blessing, life or death. We cannot say death is not good. We do not know whether the grave is the end of life, or the door of another, or whether the night here is not a dawn somewhere else. Neither can we tell which is the more fortunate, the child dying in its mother's arms before its lips have learned to form a word, or he who journeys all the length of life's uneven road, painfully taking the last slow steps with staff and crutch." What hope is there is such a belief? None! The agnostic robs humanity of that one great hope that death will not be the end of our existence.
The fourth answer comes from Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life, he that believeth in me though he were dead yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never did" (John 11:26). Jesus proved the reliability of His promise when He rose from the dead never to die again. The only way we can ever hope to attain to life eternal and the accompanying joy that goes with it is to believe and obey His word. He has promised us that in the "Father's house are many mansions," and that He has gone to "prepare a place for us" and will come again and receive us unto Himself. The belief in Jesus and the trustworthiness of His words is the ONLY thing that gives hope to a lost and dying world.
In east Texas there is a small community called "Little Hope." Perhaps the name was adapted in an effort to compare their little community to Hope, Arkansas, though much smaller in size. That is only a conjecture on the part of this scribe. But today the words could aptly describe the masses of humanity who have "little hope" of something far better beyond the grave. The reason there is so little hope in this world is because too few are aware of the "precious and exceeding promises" reserved for those who know and obey God. An increasing number in Western civilization are growing ignorant of the promises contained in the Bible. Many a lost soul continues to put their trust in the 'god' of this world, seeking the glitter of fool's gold rather than the true riches of eternal life. They have forgotten the words of the apostle: "The world passeth away and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever. And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even life eternal" (1 John 2:17). "If a man die, shall he live again?" Indeed he will! Therein is true hope!
by Tom Wacaster