An Inescapable Appointment
When you ask most people about the afterlife, “No one really knows” is the answer they will often give. For billions, what lies beyond the grave is the big mystery.
In 2007, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman starred in a movie called The Bucket List, in which they played two terminally ill cancer-ward escapees, who against their doctor’s advice leave the hospital, and set out on the adventure of a lifetime to check off a list of things they want to do before they die.
It was a captivating movie that generated all kinds of discussion among friends and families about what would be on their bucket lists – and also about what they believed about death and the afterlife.
As part of the promotional package announcing the movie’s release, Parade magazine interviewed Jack Nicholson about his own beliefs on life and the hereafter, and what comes next.
Nicholson said, “I used to live so freely. The mantra for my generation was: Be Your Own Man…
I always said, ‘Hey, you have whatever rules you want. I’m going to have my rules. I’ll accept the guilt. I’ll pay the tab. I’ll do the time. And I’ll choose my own way.’
That was really my philosophy well into my fifties, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve had to adjust… We all want to go on forever, don’t we?
However, we all fear the unknown. Everyone goes to that wall, but nobody wants to know what’s on the other side. That’s why we fear death. And, yes, everyone fears death including me!”
James 4:14 (NLT) Your life is like the morning fog – it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.
Life is like a conveyor belt headed towards eternity, and every day you move closer… closer… closer to your appointment with God (Hebrews 9:27).
1 Chronicles 29:15 (NLT) Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace.
Death is a reminder of the brevity of human life. Billy Graham said, “It’s a wonderful thing to die as a believer! I’ve seen believers die and I’ve seen those that don’t know Christ die. And there’s a vast difference in the way they die.”
Psalm 116:15 (ESV) Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.
Death is an inevitable appointment everyone must keep. We know we are going to die, but we do not know when we will die, where we will die, or how we will die.
When The Dead Go Marching In
According to the latest United Nations Population report approximately 2,813,503 people die every year in the United States – that’s 7,709 that die each day. In other words, one person dies in the US every 11 seconds.
Psalm 89:48 (NLT) No one can live forever; all will die. No one can escape the power of the grave.
We don’t like to discuss the reality of dying. It’s a difficult topic for us to talk about. Many don’t even want to mention the word death. They airbrush it and prefer to use other words, like “passed away” or “didn’t make it” or “at rest.”
People use all kinds of euphemisms to refer to someone who has died, such as: “the dearly departed” or “he’s in a better place” or “she’s passed on”…“lost her battle”…“slipped away”…“was called home.”
Some, in an attempt to avoid its seriousness, will make light of it with expressions such as “checked out” or “kicked the bucket” or “cashed in their chips.”
The Bible in Ecclesiastes 3:2 plainly reveals there is “a time to be born and a time to die.” But we don’t want to deal with death. It is a hard subject to grapple with.
The honest truth is we are all marching towards the cemetery. The current death rate is 100 percent.
Ecclesiastes 7:4 (TLB) A wise man thinks much of death, while the fool thinks only of having a good time now.
You’re going to live forever. The questions are where, and how. With so many views about the afterlife – from reincarnation to annihilation – is there any way to know for sure what lies beyond the grave?
The answer is absolutely! The Bible is 100 percent reliable and accurate in providing clear and truthful answers of what to expect in the afterlife.
Life Is Short. Death Is Certain. Eternity Is Forever.
Death has been called the great equalizer. Death reduces all men to the same rank. It strips the rich man of his billions and the poor man of his rags.
Job 14:1-2 (NLT) How short is life! We blossom like a flower and then wither. Like a passing shadow, we quickly disappear.
Death knows no age limits, no partiality. It visits people of all backgrounds, of all colors and all religions.
All are equally victims of the grim reaper. It strikes both male and female; the young and the old; the weak and the strong; the king and the commoner; the educated and the illiterate, the rich and the poor!
Ecclesiastes 7:2 (NIV) Death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.
One day your heart’s going to stop, and that’s going to be the end of your body – but it’s not going to be the end of you.
QUESTION: What do the following people all have in common: Julius Caesar? Cleopatra? Confucius? Buddha? Muhammad? Socrates? Michelangelo? Galileo? Columbus? Mozart? Nostradamus? Jesse James? Malcolm X?
What about Princess Diana? Winston Churchill? Albert Einstein? King Henry VIII? Johnny Cash? Joseph Smith? Cary Grant? Charles Darwin? Nelson Mandela? Joan of Arc? Genghis Khan? Mahatma Gandhi? Mother Teresa? Ted Bundy?
What about Steve Jobs? Henry Ford? Attila the Hun? Napoleon Bonaparte? Marilyn Monroe? John F. Kennedy? Walt Disney? Vincent Van Gogh? Babe Ruth? Charles Manson? Elvis Presley? Stephen Hawking? Benjamin Franklin? Al Capone?
ANSWER: Every single person named above made a mark on history, and without exception every one of them died.
Life is a frailty; death is a certainty. But, what really happens after you die? Where are the dead? What happens if you die with Christ or exit this earth without Christ?
Jeremiah 8 verse 20 contains one of the saddest statements in the whole Bible: “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved!”
Every person has questions about what’s next, what’s after life. What awaits us beyond the grave?
The Bible says that millions now living are held captive to the fear of death (Hebrews 2:15).
It’s the idea of facing the unknown that really frightens people.
Pulpits and preachers today rarely mention the eternal realities of heaven and hell.
Most pastors are too cautious and PC to offend. However, we can’t get people out of hell and into heaven by ignoring this crucial truth of the gospel.
Planet earth is just our temporary home where we decide our eternal destiny. Both heaven and hell are real, literal places. They’re not just “states of being.”
Death is not the end of life but the continuation of it in another place of your choosing!
“If you are genuinely born-again that means you have eternal life in heaven. There is no hell for you. You will live eternally with the Lord Jesus Christ and with the saints of all the ages.”
– Billy Graham
The Bible is our only true and trustworthy source regarding life after death. Forget about other people’s opinions, experiences, theories or notions about the hereafter. It doesn’t matter what other people think, but it really matters what God thinks and says! Stick with the truth of God’s Word.
The Three Kinds of Death
In Scripture, death always means separation, not annihilation or cessation of existence, or extinction of being.
God’s Word defines death as the separation of the spirit from the body (James 2:26) – and physical death occurs only once (Hebrews 9:27).
The Bible makes it clear that there are three kinds of death…
#1: Physical Death is the separation of the inner man from the outer man, the separation of the spirit/soul from the body (James 2:26). The body dies and goes back to dust (Genesis 3:19).
- When you breathe your last, your spirit will depart from your body for its eternal destination. Your spirit will go into eternity where you will continue to live forever.
#2: Spiritual Death is the separation of man from God because of sin (Isaiah 59:2).
- Every unsaved person is spiritually dead even while they are walking around physically alive (Ephesians 2:1-3; Ephesians 4:18) and must be born again to enter heaven (John 3:3).
- If anyone dies without Christ – in an unsaved condition – that individual will be cut off from God forever; this is called “the second death” (Revelation 20:14-15).
#3: Eternal Death means permanent separation from God and everlasting damnation in hell. It is the final condition of all unbelievers who have decided to disregard the gospel, and leave this earthly life without receiving God’s gift of salvation through faith in Christ (Romans 6:23; Romans 10:13).
- Eternity in hell is the default destination for all who choose to reject Jesus, remain spiritually dead and die in their sins (John 8:24). The Bible calls this eternal death or the second death.
- Not going to hell is God’s will! God does not want anyone to go to hell (2 Peter 3:9). The free gift of eternal life is available for all who will trust in Christ alone for salvation (John 3:16, 36).
Myths and Common Fallacies About The Afterlife
As a result of vain speculations and tales of near death experiences; popular Hollywood movies and a plethora of false teachings – there are millions today who have been misled with misconceptions and deceptions about death and the hereafter…
Eastern religions and New Agers believe in reincarnation. Based on “karma” they think that if you’ve been really good, you’ll come back “recycled” in a higher life form. If you’ve been really bad, you’ll come back as a lower life form.
- Reincarnation is impossible because death is irreversible. The Bible calls death: “the journey of no return” (Job 16:22 NIV).
American Indians are convinced they are headed to the “happy hunting ground.”
Atheists believe that once you die, it’s over! Zero! Nothingness! You’re pushing up daisies. There is no eternity.
Gospel-denying liberal churches erroneously teach the doctrine of annihilation, no eternal judgment and no hell.
Communists believe the human soul is not immortal and man has no future beyond the grave.
The Catholic tradition of purgatory teaches that upon death most souls enter an intermediate realm between heaven and hell during which their sins are purged – and only after “purification” are they ready to enter heaven. Their loved ones can pray for them and request a Mass so they can be released from purgatory.
- The false doctrine of purgatory – a manufactured second chance – is a 100 percent pure invention of the Roman Catholic Church, based on the Apocrypha, and without any biblical foundation.
Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses teach the false doctrine of soul sleep: The soul lies “unconscious” in the grave waiting until bodily resurrection.
Hebrews 9:27 (TLB) It is destined that men die only once, and after that comes judgment.
Jesus the Son of God set the record straight on life after death. He taught us in Luke 16:19-31 that the soul continues on after physical death, fully conscious beyond the grave – and there are only two eternal destinations for our soul for eternity, either heaven or hell.
The grave is not the end. For those who don’t know Christ, death is a calamity – eternity in hell. For the Christian, death holds no fear – it is a glorious hope – the hope of heaven.
Does Everyone Go to Heaven?
In 2018, Pope Francis denied the existence of hell and said that hell is not about fire and brimstone. His words were in sharp contradiction to the teaching of Jesus in Luke 16:19-31.
Most people today, both inside and outside the walls of the church, are increasingly uncomfortable with the reality of hell.
They question: Isn’t God a God of love, not vengeance? How can Jesus really condemn millions to eternal torment in a burning hell simply for not believing the gospel and receiving Him as Lord?
How could it be fair to punish anyone in a burning hell for eternity?
The late Bertrand Russell, a renowned British agnostic, wrote a small publication titled, “Why I Am Not A Christian!” One of the major reasons he cited for his unbelief was that Jesus Christ taught that there is eternal hell and damnation for the wicked.
Russell could not harmonize the goodness and love of God with Christ’s explicit doctrine about eternal punishment in hell. However, to not believe in an eternal hell is to deny Christ’s teaching and the plain truth God has revealed to us throughout His Word.
- The doctrine of Universalism: the belief that everyone will eventually go to heaven. The Bible is crystal clear about Universalism and completely rules it out!
- Universalism is wrong because Jesus taught that the way of salvation is narrow and exclusive not wide and all-inclusive!
Death is followed by a destination, and the Bible reveals that not everybody is going to heaven. In fact, very few people are actually going to heaven if we pay attention to the words of Jesus.
Matthew 7:13-14 (TLB) Jesus said, “Heaven can be entered only through the narrow gate! The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide enough for all the multitudes who choose its easy way. But the gateway to life is small, and the road is narrow, and only a few ever find it.”
Tragically, the majority of humanity is on the wrong road (Proverbs 14:12), that ultimately leads to the wrong destination (Revelation 20:15).
By contrast, relatively few people find the ONLY ROAD that leads to heaven (John 14:6).
Those who preach a fake gospel of inclusiveness (such as Rob Bell, Carlton Pearson and others), where “all roads and all religions lead to heaven” preach a 100 percent different gospel than the one Jesus preached.
The New Testament is unambiguous: Jesus Christ is the only way and the only road that leads to eternal life (John 14:6; Acts 16:31).
- Only those who trust in Jesus go to heaven (Acts 4:12).
- Only born again people go to heaven (John 3:3, 7).
- Only saved people go to heaven (Romans 10:13).
The Bible is clear, heaven is reserved exclusively for those with their names written down in the Book of Life (Revelation 20:15; Revelation 21:27).
A New Reality: 60 Seconds After You Die
Alfred Hitchcock was known as the master of suspense and widely regarded as one of the most influential filmmakers in the history of cinema.
A talented motion-picture director and producer, he made a string of immensely popular movies that were extremely intense, and nearly all revolved around a murder.
His shower scene murder in Psycho was so vivid – without even showing the murder weapon – that it left audiences aghast.
Despite Hitchcock’s preoccupation with death and murder, when it came his own time to die, he had no inner resources to face it.
The movie master of suspense had tears streaming down his face when, on his deathbed, he told actress Ingrid Bergman of his terror before the grim reaper and foreboding about the afterlife.
Hitchcock who had done it so well on the silver screen confessed he was pitifully unprepared for the real thing.
Everybody dies and then comes the judgment. Sixty seconds after you die, WHERE will you be?
- It’s your choice: God has prepared two places where you can spend eternity, either heaven or hell. And you get to choose where you’ll spend eternity (Romans 6:23).
Moments before he died on January 10, 2016 rock star David Bowie said, “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise you it won’t be boring.”
- Our choices now in this life have everlasting consequences in the afterlife. God’s Word is specific: there are no second chances for salvation beyond the grave (Hebrews 9:27).
The Bible is clear in John 17 verse 3 that eternal life in heaven is made possible only through knowing God personally.
When a Christian Dies
Death is not a cause for fear or uncertainty for the born-again believer! We can’t escape death. But we have no reason to dread it – if we have put our trust 100 percent in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 17:3).
This present world is not our home; our citizenship is in heaven. At the moment of death, all those who belong to Christ will be ushered by angels instantly into the presence of God. And the faithful in Christ will receive a crown of righteousness.
Psalm 23:4 (NKJV) Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me.
Revelation 14:13 (NKJV) Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.
For the believer in Christ instant death means instant glory, and should be viewed as “a graduation” and celebration instead of a dark and uncertain unknown. In John 14:1-3 Jesus promised us that after death we would live with Him in heaven forever.
When a Christian dies they leave their body behind to enter the grave – awaiting the resurrection – but their spirit and soul immediately enters heaven and will be with the Lord forever.
2 Corinthians 5:8 (KJV) We are confident that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
For a born-again believer death means “relocation” you will have changed your address and gone from this earth straight into the presence of God.
#1: The Bible says believers have an eternal hope, because our death is precious to God.
Psalm 116:15 (NIV) Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.
#2: The Bible says for a believer death is a departure, a passageway into the next life.
Philippians 1:23 (NIV) I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.
#3: The Bible says for a believer death is a joyful homecoming.
2 Corinthians 5:8 (TLB) We are not afraid but are quite content to die, for then we will be at home with the Lord.
When a Christian dies it is the gateway to glory! Death marks his entrance into paradise, to be at home with the Lord.
D. L. Moody, the evangelist, on his deathbed, December 22, 1899 said, “Earth is receding. Heaven is opening. The angels are now here. This is my coronation day.” That’s how a Christian should die!
Where Will You Spend Eternity?
According to the Bible there are only two classes of people: believers or unbelievers; the righteous or the unrighteous; those who are saved or lost – those on the highway to heaven or the road to hell.
Which group are you in? If you died tonight, where would you spend eternity?
The destiny of man cannot be changed after he breathes his last. No human being who has ever lived can change his eternal destination after death (Hebrews 9:27).
According to Jesus, being “religious” is not enough to get you into heaven. In a straight talk directed at religious people Jesus said religion won’t get you into heaven (Matthew 5:20).
You must be born again! Nicodemus was a leader of the Jews and a Pharisee – a religious sect known for their emphasis on personal piety. Jesus boldly confronted Nicodemus with the plain truth that he “must be born again” (John 3:3, 7).
“The vast majority of people who are members of churches in America today are not Christians.”
– Dr. D. James Kennedy
There is only one door to heaven (John 10:9), and there is only one road to heaven (John 14:6) and that is by personally receiving the only Savior – the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12).
Salvation in Jesus Christ makes all the difference in eternity!
What about you? Are you 100 percent sure that if you were to die today you would go to heaven?
2 Corinthians 6:2 (NLT) “Today is the day of salvation!”
You can make the decision right now to fully embrace the gospel of Christ, receive Jesus as Lord and accept God’s free gift of eternal life (Romans 10:9-10, 13).
Getting your life right with God means you’ll be ready to live forever in heaven (Acts 16:31).
Life’s greatest discovery is that you can make sure of heaven today by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ.