Hope Beyond the Grave

5pfyx2A cultural practice common to ancient Egyptian society was the mummification of dead human bodies. This was a process meant to preserve the body organs of a deceased person through dehydration, wrapping the body in layers of linen cloth, and then coating it with a resin substance to prevent further decomposition. According to tradition, the ancient Egyptians believed that when a person died, the person’s “soul” would leave the body and after burial it would return to be reunited with the body to live forever. Moreover, according to the belief, the “soul” first had to find and recognize the body before the two got reunited. Hence the Egyptians saw the need to mummify and preserve the dead body in shape. It was also not uncommon for the dead to be buried with much treasure, as it was supposed they could enjoy these riches in the afterlife.

What happens when we die?  Is there life after death? Many myths and beliefs exist around the subject of death and practically, death is something that we do not find easy to cope with. The Bible gives us insightful and comforting answers on this important topic. First, as we study God’s Word, we realize that death was not part of God’s plan when He created this world. He intended us to live forever. Having been placed in Eden as managers of all of God’s creation, Adam and Eve were to show their faithfulness to their Maker by refraining from eating from one particular tree in the garden. God’s command was “of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:17. So, as long as they obeyed God, our first parents, Adam and Eve, and their descendants were to live forever here on earth, no one would die.

A problem occurred! Beginning with Eve and then Adam, the pair was misled and deceived by Satan, in the guise of a serpent, to disobey the Creator and they ate from the tree. Genesis 3:1-8. Through this act of disobedience and sin, the two effectively ruined  their relationship with their Maker and cut themselves from Him who was the source of all their blessings. From that time, death along with pain and suffering became a part of human existence. God’s sentence was “in the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:19. The Bible tells us that “through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” Romans 5:12. So death is a result of a fractured relationship with our Creator, in other terms it is a result of sin.

In the New Testament Jesus uses an imagery that helps to understand the nature of death. After Lazarus succumbed to the illness that had plagued his life, the Savior told his disciples that “our friend Lazarus sleeps” John 11:11. The disciples still seeming confused, Jesus told them plainly that “Lazarus is dead” John 11:14. Here Christ likens death to sleep. He does not portray death as a translation to some other life, but shows us that it is a condition where there is no life, activity or consciousness. The wise man says “the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing” Ecclesiastes 9:5. Thus there is no “soul”, as supposed by many, that continues to live after a person dies or to communicate with the living on earth. When a person dies, “he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish.” Psalm 146:4

So where can we find real hope, if death is a condition of dark, unconscious and lifeless sleep? Jesus has the answer. He says “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” John 11:25. Death came to us as a result of our broken relationship with God, but when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, He restores us and connects us back to God, the source of life. “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” Romans 5:1. Through Jesus, we have hope of resurrection from the dead. When Jesus shall come the second time, those who chose Him and died trusting in Him will be raised from the dead to inherit eternal life.

Key Text: For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. – 1 Thessalonians 4:16

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