We know in truth that the sun rises every morning in the east. We know in truth that there will be days of sunshine, days of rain, days of cold and days of heat. We know in truth that we will have days of health and days of sickness. We know in truth that some day we will die. All these truths speak only of events that occur in this physical world in which we live. They tell us nothing of what will happen after death. Over thousands of years, philosophers and speculators have guessed what happens after death, but since no one has ever come back from the dead to inform us, these guesses are just that — guesses and speculations. There is no human-based truth that can be relied upon when asked what happens after death.
Only God can be relied upon to enlighten us in this matter. In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” Jesus claims to be “the truth,”and in this statement he can be believed, because as Holy Scriptures makes clear, he is God incarnate in the human person Jesus. And being God Jesus knows what happens after death. In John 11:25, Jesus says “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” Jesus makes it abundantly clear what happens after death. We shall live.
Holy Scriptures states that believing that Jesus died for our sin on the cross, for his sake God the Father now forgives us our sin and welcomes us into his eternal kingdom. We all have sinned and done those things that are offensive to God. Whether it is an unkind word or an act offensive to God’s will, we all have fallen short of God’s desire for us. And the penalty God has demanded for sin is death, that is eternal separation from Him. But Jesus paid that penalty for us, taking all our sin upon his holy, perfect body and dying as our substitute, that all our sin, having already been paid for, no longer holds condemnation over us. Now God the Father has accepted his sacrifice for us and has already forgiven us and rescued us from eternal condemnation. Rejecting what Jesus has done for us and trusting in our own works, results in losing this promise. Instead unbelievers receive God’s rejection and condemnation to that place where there is eternal punishment.
So the truth Jesus offers us in Holy Scriptures is the answer to the ultimate question, “what happens after death.” There is life after death, life with God in his kingdom, or life in hell, separated from God for all eternity. Faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior tells us which truth will be our answer.
Richard H. Snyder is a retired pastor with the Lutheran Church, Missouri synod.