After Life/Afterlife

angel talking to human
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A friend of mine with a critical illness has faced death more than once in his short life. Recently, he “died” and was resuscitated—twice. I asked him what, if anything, he remembered from the two times when his heart had stopped beating. Did he walk toward a white light? Did he see angels? He said that, at least in his experience, there was no white light and no angels appeared, but he remembered the feeling of being wrapped in the warmest, softest blanket imagineable, and he never wanted to leave. His story got me to thinking about the afterlife, and then, not long ago, I read a post on Facebook (no source cited) that intrigued me. Not having the time to verify the information, I filed it away (i.e., I took a screen shot) as something to think about later. Here’s the original post:

One minute after a believer dies,

  • Angels usher your soul to heaven. (Luke 16:22)
  • You immediately enter God’s presence. (2 Corinthians 5:6-8)
  • You are conscious, in command of your thinking, feeling, speech, and memories. (Luke 16:19-31)
  • You participate in magnificent worship with angels and believers before the throne of God and Christ. (Revelation 4-5)
  • You are aware to some degree of activities and events on Earth. (Revelation 6:9-10)
  • You will recognize and communicate with believers who preceded you to Heaven. (Luke:9:28-36)

I did a little digging to find the source of the post, and I looked up all of the designated Scriptures. I found, not surprisingly, that the anonymous author had taken several things out of context, but the nothing that I found contradicted what we as believers hold to be true about the afterlife, although the author was stretching a point, several of them, to support his thesis. I also read a blog by Ed Selby about the same subject and he shared my intrigue. It became apparent very quickly, however, that Ed’s purpose was to disprove everything on the list: “…from a former Christian point of view…this list is complete crap that doesn’t say any of what it thinks it says.” Thanks, Ed, for bursting that bubble.

What follows here are the cited scriptures (or a link to the lengthier ones), along with context, followed by “former Christian” Ed’s thoughts as well as my own. You can draw your own conclusions.

Angels Usher Your Soul to Heaven

Luke 16:22 “The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.”

This scripture comes from the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man. Lazarus, a beggar, lay starving at the gate of the rich man while the rich man dressed and dined lavishly. When Lazarus died, he went to Heaven, and the rich man ended up in Hades where he was tormented by flames. Ed’s contention is that the phrase “with Abraham” does not explicitly mean Heaven and this scripture is a tale of the haves and the have-nots rather than a story about life after death. Tomato/Tomahto, Ed. In the Old Testament, those who trusted in God were saved by grace, but their sins were not yet washed away by Jesus’ crucifixion. Depending on your chosen Bible translation, these folks were gathered to the “Bosom of Abraham” or “to Abraham’s side,” a place of comfort and waiting. It is the abode of the righteous dead prior to Jesus’ resurrection. But since we live post-Resurrection, doesn’t it stand to reason that Abraham and all the saints by his side are now in Heaven? (That was a rhetorical question.)

You Immediately Enter God’s Presence

2 Corinthians 5:6-8 “So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body an at home with the Lord.”

This passage, from Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, describes our “earthly tent” and reassures us that when we leave the earthly tent, there is a heavenly dwelling waiting for us. Ed’s response is eloquent: “Ummmm…no. That verse says nothing of the sort.” Ed, we’ll have to agree to disagree. Alert! Another rhetorical question: If we believers are away from God while we’re in our earthly bodies, doesn’t it stand to reason that when we’re no longer in our earthly bodies, we’re in the presence of God?

You Are Conscious, in Command of Your Thinking, Feeling, Speech, and Memories

Luke 16:19-31 This is a continuation of the story of the Lazarus and the rich man. After they both die and Lazarus is by Abraham’s side, the rich man calls out to Abraham, begging for mercy. In the conversation that follows between the rich man and Abraham, the rich man is told to remember things that happened in his life. Even Ed the Former Christian concedes: “That’s stretching, but I’ll grant this for the sake of argument.” Thanks, Ed. We’ll have to agree to agree.

You Participate in Magnificent Worship with Angels and Believers Before the Throne of God

Revelation 4-5 This scripture is John’s description of what he witnesses in Heaven when he is taken there by “One like the Son of Man” (Revelation 1:13). John describes heavenly worship, and there are angels and believers before God’s throne. If these two chapters in Revelation don’t convince you that there’s some magnificent worship going on, then read on through Revelation 6: “Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing,‘To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might for ever and ever!’”

Ed describes this passage as “part of John’s psychedelic trip into the end of the world. There is no mention at all of believers at God’s thrones.” Oh, Ed, you should have read Chapter 6.

You Are Aware to Some Degree of Activities and Events on Earth

Revelation 6:9-10 “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered for the word of God and for the testimony they had given; they cried out with a loud voice, ‘Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?’”

John describes the opening of the seven seals on the scroll held in “the right hand of the One seated on the throne.” Ed writes, “Again, [this is] John’s fever dream of events at the end of the world and NOT what happens ‘one minute’ after dying. And this doesn’t talk about generic believers. This is about, quite specifically ‘those who had been slain because of the word of God.’” OK, Ed, you are not totally wrong. (And BTW, Ed, John’s “fever dream” is what we also call a prophetic vision.) But the Christian martyrs under the throne do refer to activities and events on Earth.

You Will Recognize and Communicate With Believers Who Preceded You to Heaven

Luke 9:28-36 This is the “transfiguration passage” from Luke. Jesus takes Peter, John, and James up on a mountain to pray. While they are there, Jesus’ face changes and his clothes become dazzling white. Moses and Elijah appear and talk to Jesus, witnessed by the three disciples. Ed writes that this is “one last verse that doesn’t say AT ALL what the title of this list says.” Ed, I gotta hand you that one. Jesus (living) does speak with believers who preceded Him to Heaven (Elijah and Moses—dead), but, to our knowledge, this is not what a believer experiences one minute after he dies. Maybe. We shall see, shan’t we?

If you’ve stayed with me this long, please give me three more paragraphs to sum up my thoughts. I believe that what happens to believers after they die is going to be indescribably spectacular. I believe that the author of the original post had the goal of comforting believers who worry about death. Did that writer take some prosaic license? Without a doubt, as Ed pointed out.

Now, have I misinterpreted some of the scriptures or summarized Ed Selby’s thoughts incorrectly? I hope not, but I concede that I am neither a Biblical scholar, nor is writing a great synopsis in my resume under “useful skills.” And when it comes to interpreting the Book of Revelation, I have to rely almost 100% on the help of others. But I hope that I’ve at least given you enough information to make you think.

Finally, am I making light of Ed Selby’s article? No. Well, maybe a little. Bless his heart. I must admit that I know nothing about Ed Selby, or why he writes a blog, or why he refers to himself as having “a former Christian point of view.” Perhaps I should do more research to answer these questions. But in the meantime, I’m going to pray for Ed, but not because he refers to the original Facebook post as “fake news.” My prayer is that, one day soon, Ed will be able to refer to himself as a Christian who found his way back to believing. Amen.

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8 thoughts on “After Life/Afterlife”

  1. Great post Teresa! I am firmly convinced something wonderful happens when our bodies die.

    Although it happened 30 years ago, I can still see it vividly in my mind. My father was dying of cancer. As awful as his illness was, it was compounded by the fact that this man, who had been an incredibly successful real estate investor for most of his life, had gotten caught (way overextended) when the 1990 recession struck. His financial affairs were in shambles when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. In addition to facing his imminent death, he was tormented by the financial mess he was leaving his family to deal with.

    During the week before his death, we spent time by his bedside. Three days before his death, this man, who had barely moved in days suddenly sat up, as though he were seeing something none of us saw in front of him, spread his arms and said, “I’m going home.”

    We weren’t with him at the moment of his death. But I arrived shortly afterward. The look of peace on his face was like nothing I’d seen before – or since. It was unearthly. There was not a line on his face, although he was 70. When I actually read the Bible several years later, I realized that what I’d seen had been “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.”

    I recently read an article written by a hospice nurse. She said that the most common thing she witnesses in the days and hours before someone dies is that they “see” visions that no one else present sees. They may see loved ones who have predeceased them or glimpses of “heaven” (as my father did).

    They see something “unearthly” and it fills them with happiness.

    Although I’m not quite ready to go yet, I am confident that something awesome lies ahead. Something that none of us living in the physical world could even begin to comprehend.

    Something to look forward to. 😁

    • Thank you for this, Teresa and Elizabeth both.
      I was thinking as I read it, and after, that this was a wonderful break from all of the other news this morning. And then I was thinking how wrong I was. It wasn’t a break at all, but a return to exactly where I should be much more often. Not that the world’s news isn’t important, interesting, engaging. But that it IS just the world’s news, not the only news, not the Good News, not God’s news. My mom is 103, and like so many in retirement facilities, often says “I just want to go home. Not to our house, but home home.” She’ll get there, and I hope to see that look of peace on her face.
      I believe I’ll spend the rest of this rainy day with the real news – again, my thanks to each of you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. You’ve made a difference today.

      • You know, as I wrote my reply to Teresa’s story, I was thinking, “I need to get started on today’s post.”

        But, just as you did, I realized, what could be more important than this. And, you never know, this may actually reach somebody who would benefit from reading it.

        I’m sure you will see the peace I’m wrote about when your mom passes. I’d like to hear if you do.

        I once spent about a year reading nothing but books about life after death. (My husband and my kids were actually worried about it!) 😱

    • Thank you for this, Teresa and Elizabeth both.
      I was thinking as I read it, and after, that this was a wonderful break from all of the other news this morning. And then I was thinking how wrong I was. It wasn’t a break at all, but a return to exactly where I should be much more often. Not that the world’s news isn’t important, interesting, engaging. But that it IS just the world’s news, not the only news, not the Good News, not God’s news. My mom is 103, and like so many in retirement facilities, often says “I just want to go home. Not to our house, but home home.” She’ll get there, and I hope to see that look of peace on her face.
      I believe I’ll spend the rest of this rainy day with the real news – again, my thanks to each of you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. You’ve made a difference today.

  2. There are many books on the subject of “near death,” and I have been fascinated with the subject for years. There is way more going on than can be explained away with “science,” and as a physician, I’d like to think I’ve come to that conclusion rationally. Also, I’m a Christian, well read, including textual critics of the Bible (sorry if you are a strict literal person), and I still believe! My favorite reference is Mary C Neal’s “To Heaven and Back…” book, since she is a rational, accomplished person with an inquisitive mind- and her story is moving. If you want logic (less entertaining!), try Dinesh D’Souza’s “Life After Death: The Evidence.” If you’re into “space aliens,” then the Akashic records says there is a plane of existence which is all “knowing” with everything interconnected and instantaneous. No matter where you look, the story is congruent.
    As for me, I believe, since there is so much evidence buttressing my underlying faith, and like the French philosopher Descartes, I can’t see any downside to taking sides with God. ❤️

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