Awhile back I caught a cab to the airport. I was chatting away with the driver, Tom, when we passed a ghost bike along the way. Ghost bikes are painted white and placed along roadsides to memorialize someone who was killed there in a biking accident.
“That is so sad,” I said, commenting on the bike.
“Yeah, I had a friend who was killed on this highway,” Tom said. “A lot of people have died riding road bikes on this highway.”
“Tom,” I said, “what do you think happens after we die?”
Tom said that he believed in reincarnation. I listened as he went on to explain, and then he said, “Well, what do you think happens after we die?”
Don’t ever ask a preacher a question like that unless you want a little sermon. I said, “I believe that if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, you will go to heaven. And one day I believe that heaven will come back to earth, and we will be with Christ for all eternity.”
“Man, I like your version of the afterlife better than mine.”
“That is not my version,” I told him. “That is the Bible’s version. That’s what Jesus said.”
The afterlife is something we think about quite often. We know it’s coming. And the older we get, the reality of it gets stronger. We start losing friends and family members. We know our day will come.
I read about a survey that was done regarding Americans’ spirituality. The article said, “Belief in God and attendance at religious serviced declined by half while self-reported spirituality declined five-fold.” But the article went on to say that Americans are “slightly more likely to believe in an afterlife.”
How does that work? “I’m not sure if I believe in God or the Bible, but I believe in heaven.” We wouldn’t even have the word heaven without the Bible. We wouldn’t have the concept of heaven without the Bible.
The popularity of a subject doesn’t change the facts about it. One individual is a reliable source on the afterlife, and that is Jesus Christ himself. He said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38 NKJV). He came down from heaven.
Easter is the time when we remember that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead. We look at this and wonder how it could be part of any plan. But it was a plan – it was God’s perfect, well-ordered plan. God was the master of ceremonies at the Cross. The Bible tells us that “it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief” (Isaiah 53:10 NLT). How could the Father possibly be pleased by the horrible treatment that his son faced? How could the Father be pleased by the fact that his son was beaten beyond human recognition? God wasn’t pleased by that. God wasn’t pleased by the fact that his judgment had to be poured on his son who died in our place.
However, God was pleased with what would come as a result. God was pleased by the fact that Christians around the world would gather on Easter weekend and celebrate a risen Lord because of his death and resurrection. God was pleased by what was accomplished at the Cross, because as Christ hung there, he was bearing the sin of the world and dying as a substitute. He was suffering the punishment for all of our sins in our place.
Jesus had not only predicted the fact that he would die; he also predicted that he would rise from the dead. This was lost on the disciples. They had collectively missed the memo. But three days later Jesus rose, just as he said he would.
Here’s what we need to remember: God always keeps his promises. If God says something will happen, it will happen. God told us that his son would come to this earth. That happened. God told us that his son would be crucified. That happened. God told us that his son would be raised from the dead. That has happened. God told us that his son will come back again to this earth. That will happen. And quite possibly, it will happen very soon.
This brings us back to the question: What happens when we die? That all depends. Heaven is not the default destination of every person. It is only the destination of the person who has put his or her faith in Christ.
If you’re a Christian, you’ll go straight to heaven when you die. The apostle Paul said that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Paul wrote, “I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me” (Philippians 1:23 NLT).
When a Christian dies, the body goes into the ground, but the spirit goes directly into the presence of God. That is a great truth. We know this because 1 Corinthians 15:21 tells us, “Just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man” (NLT).
Jesus has overcome death at the Cross.
And as I told cab driver Tom, one day heaven will come to earth. Revelation 21, speaking of this, says, “‘God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.’ And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’” (verses 3–5 NLT)
God will make everything new. I love that. No more terminal diseases. No more hospitals. No more wheelchairs. No more accidents. No more courts. No more prisons. No more divorces. No more breakups or breakdowns. No more suicide. No more rape. No more children missing. No more drug problems. No more heart attacks, strokes, Alzheimer’s, or cancer. No more famines. No more disasters. No more suffering. No more funerals. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God will make everything new.