In this article we will discuss the existence of life after death in Christianity. For this purpose we will first explain the concepts of death, reincarnation, and then see what are the most common Christian beliefs about life after death. References and sources including the Bible itself will be used throughout the debate in order to clear up doubts regarding Christian life after death.
Life After Death In Christianity
1. How does society understand death?
Death is a taboo for many people in the western culture. Some people don’t even want to hear the word “death” and think that it is better to ignore it. On the other hand, we frequently see death as an attraction, on television, when driving past an accident on the road. We know that many people enjoy watching images, real or not, where people die.
* Are you afraid of death?
* What experiences do you have surrounding the death of others?
2. How do Christians understand death?
For Christians, death is part of life; It is not a particularly important rupture. We have faith in Jesus who gave his life for us so that we could have eternal life. We believe that Jesus was resurrected and we will also rise with Him.
* Do you have faith in Jesus and his words about death, both his own death and ours?
3. Why is there death? Why do we die?
The answer is given in the Bible:
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5, 12).
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6, 23)
Death exists in the world because of sin. Since we are also sinners, we will die one day. From our faith in Christ we see that in death we will also rise with Him.
* Do you think that sin brings “death” in different aspects of life?
* Does sin cause physical death? In what cases? Why?
4. How Christians face death?
Calmly, confidently. For us death is “no big deal”. We can look at Jesus when he saw his death approaching, and we can have the same attitudes and trust in God our Father:
“Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26, 39)
We must learn to accept death as part of life. This is gradually achieved by relying on God, putting our trust in Him. Christians know that not everything ends with death. We know that love is stronger than death.
When a person we love dies, our love for them remains intact and although years may pass, this love never dies. If we have loved Jesus through all our life and with all our heart, we can join the Apostle Paul when he said:
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” (Philippians 1: 21-24).
* Do you have deep faith in the Word of God? Why?
Christian Life After Death
Let’s dive into Christian beliefs about life after death. Just like reincarnation, life after death in Christianity is a very controversial subject, so we will quote the Scriptures, always considering their context.
5. Do Christians believe in reincarnation?
No. Christians generally do not believe in reincarnation. The Word of God tells us:
“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9, 27)
There is no reincarnation after death. We are confident in what the word of God says:
“Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.” (2 Timothy 2: 11).
* Why do you think there are people who think that reincarnation is possible?
* Do you think that we have the possibility of being content with God in this one life?
* To learn more about this topic, continue reading: Do Christians Believe In Reincarnation?
6. What comes after death according to Christian beliefs?
We have said that for Christians death is only the end of earthly life, but not the end of life. Christian life after death involves the following:
We believe we have an immortal soul created by God, which does not die after the body dies, but lives on in eternal life.
Not that we are two different things. The human being is a unity. I am body and soul at a time. My body dies but my “self” lives forever.
* What is the “soul” for you?
* Can body and soul exist separately?
* Do you think that man is composed of two distinct parts or rather as a unit?
7. What is Eternal Life?
Eternal life is not like this life.
Every person who dies will live the eternal life they have previously chosen during this life. Jesus gave us salvation (eternal life), but did not force us to accept it. You are the one who can choose to accept it during this life in a voluntary, loving way.
In the eternal life after death, Christians believe that there are three possibilities for humans. Your “self,” what we call the “soul” will face one of these three options:
- Heaven, contemplating God.
- Purgatory, being purified in order to enter into communion with God.
- Hell, where it will definitely be separated from God.
* How do you imagine your “eternal life”?
* Do we experience in this life something like the “eternal life”?
* How can a person reach “eternal life”?
Let’s go deeper to try to answer whether there is life after death in Christianity:
8. What is the Last Judgment after Death?
After death, Christians believe that every person is subject to an immediate trial before the Lord, where He will decide their definitive fate. In the New Testament there are several examples where we are told that a person, right after death, will receive their reward depending on their deeds on Earth:
* Lk 16, 19-22: parable of Dives and Lazarus.
* Luke 23:43: Jesus and the good thief.
Each person, at death, receives in their immortal soul the “heritage” of their life, as in whether they have accepted Jesus as their savior, and whether their life has been consistent with the message of his savior.
* How do you imagine the final judgment?
* If God is so good, why does he allow a “trial”?
* What will save us: our faith or our deeds?
9. What is Heaven?
For Christians, heaven is the definitive life with God for all eternity. While we are living on Earth, we frequently fall and drift away from God. Heaven is being with God for all eternity. In heaven we will be totally happy and in a definitive way, an absolute state of happiness. St. Paul tells us:
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor 2.9).
Comes immediately to heaven a person who has just died in grace and friendship with God.
“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.” (Jn 14.3 to 4)
To be in heaven is to be with Christ. The Word of God speaks to us from heaven giving many names: life, light, peace, wedding feast, wine of the kingdom, the Father’s house, the heavenly Jerusalem, paradise…
Note that heaven is not “a place” where we go, it is a state in which our self (soul) will remain.
* How do you imagine heaven?
* Do you think that heaven is a place? Why?
* Heaven and happiness are the same?
10. What is Hell?
It is eternal damnation. It appears when a person consciously rejects God in their earthly life. God invites us to save ourselves, He invites us to heaven, but we humans are free to choose. If we reject God, if we do not consider Him in our lives, we are self-condemned.
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mt 10,28).
In the Gospel one can assume by the words of Jesus that people are and will be condemned to hell:
* “Son of perdition”. Jn 17.12
* “Go ye cursed into everlasting fire…” Mt 25,41
Christian Church has never said that anyone gets convicted, although it has been said that the souls of those who die in mortal sin are immediately taken to hell where they are tormented with endless punishment.
“Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.” (1 Jn 3:15)
Christians do not believe in fate. We do not believe that the life of every person “is already written.” Every human being is free to choose the state they want for their own life.
Christians believe that in order to reach the “state of hell” (remember that hell is not really “a place” where we go after death) the person has to have a willful aversion to God (a mortal sin) and persist in that sin until the end.
* What is the reason why a person can end up in a “state of hell”?
* Is it easy or difficult to go to hell? Why?
* What do people mean when they say that “hell is here”?
11. What is the Purgatory?
It is a state, it is not a “place” or physical space. The Church on the advice of Scripture (2 Maccabees 12,46) always prayed for the dead. We believe that those who die in grace and friendship with God without being, however, fully purified or have some rest of sin, undergo a purification before reaching God.
The prayer for the dead, and in a special way the Mass, offered for the dead can help this purification.
12. What it is the Resurrection of the Flesh?
Christians believe that in the end of time we will all be resurrected. We believe that just as Christ was truly risen from the dead and lives forever, the righteous after death will live forever with the risen Christ and he will raise them on the last day:
“And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (Jn 6, 39-40).
Belief in the resurrection of the dead has been an essential element of the Christian faith from the beginning:
“But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Cor. 15 12-14.20)
“And God is not a God of the dead but of the living!” (Mark 12:27)
Jesus links faith in the resurrection faith in his own person:
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die. And whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”” (Jn 11:25)
13. How are the dead raised?
What is to be resurrected?
It is not to come back to this material life. In death, the separation of soul and body, the body of the person falls into corruption, while the soul goes to meet God, awaiting reunion with its glorified body. God in His infinite power will give our bodies incorruptible life binding them to our souls, through the power of Jesus’ resurrection.
Who will be resurrected?
All people who have died. “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5: 28-29).
How will we be resurrected?
Christ resurrected with his own body: “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” (Luke 24:39)
But Jesus did not return to earthly life. Thereof, in Him: “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Philippians 3, 20-21)
It will be a “spiritual body”:
“But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15: 35-37 42.53).
We do not know “how” that body is, because that knowledge goes far beyond what we humans can imagine and we cannot know but by faith.
14. When will we be resurrected?
Certainly in the last day, the end of the world. To take part in the Mass is to be involved in the resurrection of Jesus:
“Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (Jn 6: 53-58).
Baptism also makes us take part in the resurrection of Christ:
“Having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Col 2, 12; 3.1)
The believer awaits the resurrection, we wait “in Christ”:
“You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6: 13-15. 19-20).
Christianity Life After Death: Conclusions
God’s plan is really amazing and it’s a huge blessing. Do not panic or be afraid of the strange things that people say that will happen when we die. Trust God and His word and believe what He says and He will make it happen. Because if it is written, then it will happen.
This concludes our article on Life after death in Christianity. Keep reading this website to learn more about different views on reincarnation and the afterlife.