(My local newspaper column)
Perhaps the saddest of Anna Nolan's three programmes in the series, "Is there anyone out there?", this third programme looked for people's views on life after death. There were a wide variety of opinions…
"Where to you go after this life?"
"There is no Heaven and no Hell; there is only today and what you make of it."
Another common response was, "A hole in the ground".
Some were adamant, some were wistful, "I hope there's something better". "There's nothing, but I pray that I could see my mum just one more time."
Some displayed all sorts of ideas, "I believe that people who die suddenly need help to pass through to the other side." "I believe that they [the dead] are up there looking out for those left behind." "Your bodily energy changes into something else, some other form of energy and becomes pure."
And then there were the plain honest, "Are you frightened of death?" "Yes, I'm terrified" said a girl in a travel agents. Anna Nolan herself said, "I'm petrified of death."
In the 1960s when most people generally believed in heaven John Lennon penned the song 'Imagine' which has the lines:
"Imagine there's no Heaven, its easy if you try,
no Hell below us above us only sky."
By 1990 we had imagined it; people generally didn't believe in Heaven or Hell. Chris Rea, another song writer, released his album titled "The Road to Hell". In the final song he is being asked by a little girl about all the suffering in life and the purpose to life. Rea's song realises that the utter injustice of this life, along with its brevity points to a time and a place where justice will be done, and where happiness will not be cut short. His plaintive song, as he seeks for answers to his little girl's questions, is entitled, "Tell me there's a Heaven."
There is something in us that cries out for there to be more to life. Someone interviewed on the show said, "There is something too unbearable about just vanishing into nothing, something cries out against it. It feels like such a waste." He is right; each of us has a spark of eternity in us. We were made to live forever; death is only the doorway to more life. We were made for relationship with God; how we relate to him here determines how we relate to him forever.
You might wonder how I'm so sure that there is life after death. A man interviewed on the show said, "I'd like to think there is, but nobody ever will know unless you could speak to someone who has been there, and the likelihood of that happening is pretty small."
He's right; and he's wrong. He's right about the only way to know is if someone came back to tell us that there was a place. He's wrong that no-one ever did.
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going." (John 14:1-4)
Jesus' death and resurrection proves that there is life after death, and also proves what sort of life it is. It is not reincarnation, for Jesus came back as himself, not anyone or anything else. It isn't some sort of disembodied spiritual existence, for Jesus had a body. Jesus also tells us how we are to make ourselves ready so that we can face death without fear. "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me." We are to trust him, not ourselves. We are to trust him to save our lives, to save us from the power of sin and the guilt of sin; and not trust in our own efforts.
And if we are relying on Jesus, then we can face death without fear, and like the apostle Paul say,
"Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?"
Mark Loughridge is the minister of Milford Reformed Presbyterian Church and Letterkenny New Life Fellowship. He can be contacted on 074 9123961 or Milfordrpc@eircom.net