Death, as we saw yesterday, may bring an end to our earthly suffering, but it does not represent the end of the Christian’s blessed communion with the Lord. After death, in fact, we enjoy an intimacy with God that is far deeper than we can ever experience in this life because in heaven we will see Him face to face (1 Cor. 13:12).
One of the clearest promises of a heavenly home that Jesus gives to all His disciples is found in John 14:1–4. Yet before we consider His teaching about the afterlife, we should first note that the Christian faith is not the only religious system that teaches the idea of life after death. Actually, most people in this world, with the possible exception of metaphysical naturalists, expect their lives to continue on after death. Whether they look forward to reincarnation or something analogous to heaven, few people on the planet deny the possibility of an afterlife.
Of course, all these mutually contradictory views of life after death cannot be correct. Nevertheless, the almost universal expectation of an afterlife that includes punishments and rewards for how we live our earthly lives actually proves the truth of the Bible. Romans 1, for instance, explains that all people know that there is a holy God and that He will judge us according to our conformity to His will as it is revealed in the created order. Humanity’s conscious denial of the God they see revealed in nature, along with a hope that life’s injustices will one day be rectified, lead to many different false religions and claims about the afterlife. These conjectures and a longing for future justice reveal, however faintly, that the best attempts of our consciences to re-create God in our image are never wholly successful. Furthermore, without a final judgment, life is meaningless and ethics are impossible.
Apart from belief in Christ Jesus, people can have only a false hope that death will be their entry to paradise. Christians, however, can be sure that they will enter glory at death. After all, we have the sure promise of Jesus that He will bring all of His followers safely into His Father’s house, a house that has enough rooms for all of God’s people (John 14:1–4). Jesus’ resurrection guarantees this promise, affirming that His disciples alone can have a true expectation of eternal blessing.
In many ways, the world teaches us to dread the day of death. Yet while death in and of itself is an intruder in the created order and an enemy to the people of God, there is a sense in which we can legitimately look forward to the day on which we die because at that point we will enter into our eternal, heavenly dwelling. Unless the Lord returns beforehand, death represents the point at which we will first see God face to face.