What does the Bible Say About the Afterlife?
Belief in the afterlife has been part of many different religions for millennia, and the Christian faith is no different. The Bible contains numerous references to different aspects of the afterlife, including what happens when one dies, the resurrection of the dead, and how people will be judged in the life to come.
The Bible speaks of a life after death in many places, often referring to “eternal life” or the “life to come”. This is typically linked to the idea that all people will be judged according to their deeds by either God or Jesus in the afterlife. In the book of Revelation, there is a description of various things that happen when people pass away: “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death — the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14-15).
The Bible also speaks of the resurrection of the dead and how everyone will receive new bodies after death. In 1 Corinthians, Paul says: “But someone may 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. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.” (1 Corinthians 15:35-38).
The Bible also speaks of the judgment that awaits people in the afterlife. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus tells a parable of the judgment of the sheep (those who did good deeds) and the goats (those who did evil deeds). In this parable, the sheep enter into eternal life, while the goats go into eternal punishment. This same idea is repeated in other places in the Bible, such as in John 5:28-29, as Jesus says, “All who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out — those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.”
What Happens to Non-Believers?
The Bible also speaks of what happens to those that do not believe in Jesus. In 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9, Paul writes about the judgment of unbelievers: “When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, he will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” The same idea is echoed in Revelation 14:11, which speaks of anyone who does not have the mark of God being thrown into the lake of fire.
The Bible also speaks to unbelievers about the importance of repentance and conversion. In Ezekiel 18:21-22, God proclaims: “But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die. None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them. Because of the righteous things they have done, they will live.” This passage emphasizes the importance of seeking redemption before one’s life is over.
How Do Believers Prepare?
The Bible offers a clear path for believers to prepare for the afterlife. Jesus outlines this in the parable of the 10 Virgins in Matthew 25:1-13. In this tale, Jesus talks about five wise virgins who prepared for the coming of the bridegroom, and five foolish virgins who did not. The wise virgins represent those that prepared for the afterlife in terms of their spiritual lives, putting away sin and trusting in Jesus. The foolish virgins, on the other hand, represent those that neglected to prepare themselves spiritually, and thus were left out in the end.
Throughout the Bible, believers are given multiple examples of how to prepare for the afterlife. Believers are urged to live lives of faith and shunning of evil. Ephesians 4:17-22 outlines this, saying, “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
What About Unanswerable Questions?
The Bible acknowledges that there are still some things we don’t understand or can’t answer about the afterlife. Ecclesiastes 8:17 says, “No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it.” This verse tells us that while the Bible offers us guidance on the afterlife, there still remain some unanswered questions that we cannot answer.
However, the Bible still encourages believers to live a life of faith and hope in the promises of God. Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Believers are urged to have faith in the promises of God, even if some of these promises remain hidden from us. The Bible tells us to have faith and trust in the Lord, and to accept the mysterious nature of the afterlife.
The Reality of Heaven and Hell
The Bible speaks of two distinct realms for the afterlife – Heaven and Hell. Those who have faith in and live according to God’s commands will enter into Heaven, while those who refuse to repent of their sins will be sent to Hell. Revelation 20:15 describes the lake of fire, which is what the Bible refers to as Hell. It says, “If anyone was not found written in the Book of Life, he was cast into the lake of fire.” This passage is a stark reminder of the importance of living a life of faith and obedience, so that we may enter into Heaven after death.
By contrast, the Bible speaks of the beauty of Heaven and its wonders. Revelation 21:1-4 says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea no longer existed. I also saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’”
The Role of Prayer and Worship
The Bible speaks of the importance of prayer and worship in preparing for the afterlife. In Psalm 104:33-35, it says, “I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to Him, as I rejoice in the Lord. Let sinners be consumed from the earth and let the wicked be no more. Bless the Lord, O my soul! Praise the Lord!”
The Bible also speaks of the importance of repentance. In Jeremiah 31:33-34 it says, “But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” This passage speaks to the power of repentance and the importance of seeking redemption before it is too late.
The Bible offers much guidance on the afterlife and what to expect after death. It speaks of the judgment that awaits us, the importance of repentance and conversion, and the beauty of Heaven. It also speaks of the need to live a life of faith and obedience, and to keep our eyes fixed on the promises of God. Ultimately, the Bible offers us hope, even if some of the specifics of life after death remain mysterious.