By Rick Lewers
The third part in a short series that explores the ultimate end of us all.
The idea and hope of immortality beyond the grave is not new to any generation. An Egyptian corpse, for example, considered worthy of immortality was mummified and items useful for the afterlife buried with them. A Greek corpse had a coin placed between the corpse's teeth so that the dead person would have the fare to pay the way across the mystic sea. American Indians were buried with their bow, arrows and pony for when they entered the happy hunting ground. Cryonics, cloning may be our 21st century equivalents.
Afterlife questions can only be answered with certainty from beyond the grave making Jesus Christ crucial. When Jesus was alive He pulled back the curtain on death and gave to a group of people, who loved money, a sneak peek into the afterlife. The story is not introduced as a parable. Jesus paints the reality, wanting to offer people an opportunity to understand death's dual destinies. The story is found in Luke's Gospel in the sixteenth chapter beginning in the 19th verse.
Two men, a rich man and a very poor bloke called Lazarus die and the distinctives around their deaths are remarkable, if not disturbing. For Lazarus there is no mention of a burial but there is of angels that carry him to his rest. The rich man is buried but there are no angels and his destination one minute after he dies is dreadful. One finds himself at Abraham's side which is short hand for enjoying the promises of God's heaven while the other finds himself in Hades, the place of the dead.
One minute after these men die four things are observable from what Jesus says. Firstly the men are fully conscious. While Lazarus is consciously at peace, the rich man knows thirst that can't be quenched, requests that can't be answered, and worry for his loved ones that can't be satisfied.
Secondly, the men realise that their destinations are irrevocably fixed. A chasm lies between the two men such that nothing can cross to damage the peace of Lazarus but equally nothing can cross to satisfy the frustrations of the rich man.
Thirdly, both men recognise the rightness of their destinations. Lazarus rests thankfully while the rich man doesn't rail against God about the unfairness of His justice, but recognises how wrong he has been about God.
Finally, with the focus particularly on the rich man, the rich man becomes committed to God's mission to save people, not wanting anyone to come where he is.
Why the different destinations? Well it's got nothing to do with rich or poor. Jesus says it's got to do with Moses and the Prophets. That is to say it has got to do with living and trusting God's word. God's word was not enough for the rich man but he thought if someone came back from the dead then people would listen to God. He neither knew God or people because since Jesus rose from the dead, amazingly, people have kept trying to bury Him.
Pulling back the curtain on death, one minute after you die the future is one of two destinations. What's at stake if you are unforgiven? Well relationally you are shot and unforgiven people are unwelcome people. So what happens one minute after you die if you meet God unforgiven? A right response to Jesus Christ who has risen from the dead and acceptance of the forgiveness He offers means you will never have to worry about the answer. Others will.•