What Happens After Death?

This is the million dollar question, right? What happens after death? Too bad no one can give you an accurate answer. Even those legions of folks who swear that they’ve actually been to “the other side” come back with drastically different descriptions of what is supposed to be the same place.

Obviously someone’s fibbing. Or confused. Or effectively deceived by a God who is inventing customized visions of eternity as a tool to prod souls in one direction or another. After all, if you want to keep a spiritual rebel on the rebellious road, it’s extremely effective to give him sensual visions in which he sees himself being richly rewarded and publicly exalted in some kind of glittering paradise. At the same time, if you want to motivate a spiritual brat to repent out of his bad attitude, some terrifying visions of himself in Hell just might do the trick.

Here’s one thing that you can count on with all of these visions, dreams and theories about what your soul will experience after you die: none of them are right. When it comes to giving us specific details of what our options are on the other side, God is intentionally keeping us humans in the dark. The most He offers us are basic principles, such as the idea that there are multiple possibilities available.

The well known Christian theory of Heaven vs. Hell boils down to the idea that God is either going to massively reward us or massively punish us depending on how we respond to Him in this life. But Christianity’s either/or package isn’t the only theory around. Some religions try to scrub out the nasty option, insisting that we’ll all graduate on to something rather pleasant. Other religions suggest we can choose our own ending, meaning that the next life will be whatever our greedy little hearts desire. And then there are religions that insist we’re not going anywhere, but that we’ll be reincarnated right back into this same world, with our new form being nicer or nastier, depending on how good we’ve been in the eyes of some Supernatural Force or Entity.

So what should you make of this contradictory mess? Well, once God gives your soul that “aha” moment and you realize that He actually exists and that He is the One who will be determining what happens to you after you die, things become very simple. Since God is the One in charge, focusing on pleasing Him is clearly where you should be spending your energy, not worrying about what He may or may not do with you. Even if Hell is real, what good will it do you to try to figure out exactly what it’s like? The same is true for Heaven: it’s pointless stressing over details when there is a much bigger issue at hand: are you pleasing God or not?

God is being intentionally secretive about the after life with us humans. He’s always played it this way, and helping us spawn so many contradictory religions is just another way that He keeps us in the dark about exactly what awaits us when we die. As our Creator, God knows us inside and out, and He knows how easy it is for us to get off track when He gives us too much information. This is why God teaches us to focus on principles instead of obsessing over particulars. When it comes to the afterlife, principles are what matters. God is the One who determines where we will end up. God is the One who controls our quality of life. God has the ability to make us super happy or super miserable. These three principles alone make it clear that pleasing God today is what we ought to be focusing on, not on the particulars of what we’ll be experiencing at some point in the future.

We humans are very limited beings and we’re simply not able to scrape up resources in advance. We’re the kind who spend all day fretting over how we’ll get through our dental appointment tomorrow, only to discover that when tomorrow actually comes, it brings new resources with it, and we manage the appointment just fine. The same can be said of the afterlife. Right now you only have the resources to deal with today. You can’t begin to tackle the idea of coming back as a frog or ending up in some fiery lake or forever prancing about on clouds. Trying to imagine yourself in the next life, and trying to mentally prep for an experience which will undoubtedly be a complete surprise is a waste of time and energy. Instead of worrying about what is or isn’t coming in your future, focus on your relationship with God today and ask Him to help you please Him with your choices. Today is all we can deal with. This is by God’s design, because He wants us to leave the challenges of tomorrow in His capable hands.

This post was written in response to a request.

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