by Dick Innes
Dr. Billy Graham, world-renowned speaker who is well-known for his radio and television programs says that the question most often asked him is, "Is there life after death?"
This is an age-old question. From earliest time people have believed that life does not end with the grave. "Indeed," writes Dr. Raymond A. Moody, Jr., in his book, Life After Life, "graves from very early sites all over the earth give evidence of the belief in human survival of bodily death."1
Is man's desire for life beyond death just wishful thinking? Or is there evidence to support this belief?
Modern science seems to support it. For example, many people who have been pronounced "clinically dead" have come back to life and given vivid accounts of being fully conscious after they had been pronounced dead by medical personnel.
For over a half-decade, Dr. Moody, who is also a psychiatrist from the University of Virginia Hospital, made a study of more than a hundred of these cases.
One of these persons described his experience this way: "I heard the doctors say that I was dead, and that's when I began to feel as though I were tumbling through this blackness, which was some sort of enclosure. Everything as very black, except that, way off from me, I could see this light, but not too large at first. It grew larger as I came nearer and nearer to it.
Many people who have been pronounced "clinically dead" have come back to life.
"I was trying to get to that light at the end, because I felt that it was Christ, and I was trying to reach that point. It was not a frightening experience. For immediately, being a Christian, I had connected the light with Christ who said, 'I am the light of the world.' I said to myself, 'If this it, if I am to die, then I know who waits for me at the end, there in the light.'"2
Another explained, "The first thing he (the being of light) said to me was, that he kind of asked me if I was ready to die, or what I had done with my life that I wanted to show him."3
Others experienced a deep sense of loneliness immediately after death. One person said, "I was aware the whole time of being alone--very alone--almost like I was a visitor from someplace else. It was like all relations were cut. I know--it was like there was no love or anything."4
While these experiences are interesting, the most reliable textbook we have of life after death is God's Word, the Bible, which says, "Yet we have this assurance: those who belong to God shall live again! Those who dwell in the dust shall awake and sing for joy! For God's light of life will fall like dew upon them!"5
In the New Testament, Paul wrote, "I am telling you this strange and wonderful secret: we shall not all die, but we shall all be given new bodies...For our earthly bodies, the ones we have now that can die, must be transformed into heavenly bodies that cannot perish but will live forever."6
While the most reliable textbook on life after death is the Bible, the greatest proof is Jesus Christ's own resurrection from death. He wasn't classified as merely "clinically dead" for a brief time. After dying on a Roman cross, he had been dead and in the grave for three days when he came back to life again.
Both the Jewish and Roman leaders hated Christianity. So all they had to do to destroy it forever was to find the body of Christ--which nobody ever did, for the Christian faith was established on the fact of his resurrection.
Christ's disciples were so convinced of his resurrection that each one gave his life for preaching that Christ had risen from the dead. They believed this because they had seen him killed, buried and resurrected for themselves.
The morning of his resurrection, Christ was seen by Mary Magdalene7
and the women returning from the empty tomb.8
That same day he was seen by Peter9
later by two of his followers on the road to Emmaus,10
and at night by the disciples.11
"I heard the doctors say that I was dead...everything was very black, except that, way off from me, I could see this light."
Eight days later he was seen again by the disciples12
and at the Lake of Tiberias by seven of the disciples including Peter, James, and John.13
On a Galilean mountain Jesus appeared to more than 500 of his followers at one time.14
He also appeared to his brother, James, who prior to Christ's resurrection totally rejected him as the Messiah.15
Perhaps one of the strongest evidences of the resurrection is this dramatic change in James, who became one of the Chief leaders in the early Christian church.
At the Mount of Olives, on the day of his return to heaven, Christ was again seen by the eleven disciples, the brothers of Jesus, and several women, including his mother.16
Later the ascended Christ appeared in a blinding light to Paul on the road to Damascus,17
to Stephen when he was being stoned to death,18
to Paul again in the Temple,19
and finally to John on the Isle of Patmos.20
In about A.D. 100 Josephus, the Jewish historian, wrote in his Antiquities that Jesus "appeared to them alive on the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things Concerning him." Since Josephus was a Jew writing to please the Romans, this story would not have pleased them in the slightest. He would hardly have included it if it were false.21
Ancient men believed that there was life after death. Jesus Christ himself taught this and the Jewish historian, reported Christ's resurrection. And now modern science seems to confirm what the Bible has been teaching for several thousand years--that there is life after death.
The crucial point, however, is to be sure that we are personally ready for the life beyond. We can be by confessing our sinfulness to God, by acknowledging our need of God and by responding to Christ's call to receive him as personal Lord and Savior.
God's Word says, "For God so loved the world that he give his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal live."22
1.2 Raymond A. Moody, Jr., Life After Life, pp 17;48;47;43. Mockingbird 3.4. Books, Inc., Covington, GA 30209. Copyright 1975. Used by permission.
Scripture References 5. Isaiah 26:19, Living Bible; 6. I Corinthians 15:51,53 Living Bible; 7. John 20:14; 8. Matthew 28:9,10; 9. Luke 24:34; 10. Luke 24:13-33; 11. Luke 24:36-43; 12. John 20:26-28; 13. John21;1-23; 14 I Corinthians 15:6; 15. I Corinthians 15:7; 16. Acts 1:9-14; 17. Acts 9:3-6; 18. Acts 7:55; 19.Acts22:17-21,32:11 20. Revelation 1:10-19,25; 22.John 3:16. 21. Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, p. 194. Campus Crusade for Christ Intl. Inc., Arrowhead Springs, California. Copyright 1972. Used by permission.