God, I Want to Ask You
Seven Questions When Facing Death
The Sixth Question
"Where Will I Go After I Die?"
Note to God:
Lord, it seems my time on earth is short. I still pray for a miracle, but I cannot help wondering what will happen to me after I die? Can I be sure of my fate? Can I know where I will go?
One cloudy night the pilot of a jetliner spoke over the intercom. "Well, folks," he said, "I've got bad news and I've got good news. The bad news is that we've lost our radio and radar, can't see a star in the sky, and have no way of telling where we are going. The good news is that we are making excellent time."
Millions of people are in a situation like the passengers on the airplane - they are hurrying through life with no idea of their final destination. Unlike the passengers, we don't have to remain ignorant of where we will eventually be.
Jesus' resurrection gives us a reasonable hope that there is life after death. He told us how we can know where our ultimate destiny will be. Because He overcame death, we can be confident that what He teaches is true.
The Gospel of John, chapter 3, tells us that a rabbi named Nicodemus visited Jesus one evening. knowing what was on his mind, Christ brought up the subject of life after death by telling him, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (v. 3).
Nicodemus, like many modern people, wondered what being "born again" meant. Jesus explained that in order to go to heaven, a person needs to be born not only physically, but also spiritually: "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (vv. 5,6). Nicodemus was in a fog. "How can these things be?" he wanted to know.
Jesus answered by making an analogy to something that happened long before, when Israel had made the exodus from Egypt. In their journey through the wilderness, the Hebrews encountered poisonous snakes. At God's command, Moses fashioned a bronze snake, placed it on a pole, and lifted it up. The Lord promised to heal every snake-bitten person who had enough faith to look up at the bronze serpent.6 In the same way, Jesus said to Nicodemus, "so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life" (vv. 14-15).
Jesus was lifted up on the cross so that every sin-poisoned person could look to Him for healing from the condemnation of sin. Believing that He, the sinless Son of God, died for our sins is the key to heaven. Since that is so, we need to clearly understand the nature of belief The Publisher's Foreword to the Amplified Bible explains:
Actually, the Greek word...means "to adhere to, cleave to; to trust, to have faith in; to rely on." Consequently, the words, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ" really mean to have an absolute personal reliance upon the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.
It helps me to understand "belief' by recalling a story about the Great Blondin, a tightrope walker. He became world-famous in 1859 by stretching a tightrope 1,100 feet long and 160 feet above the water of Niagara Falls. He crossed the chasm a number of times, each time with a different trick: blindfolded, in a sack, pushing a wheelbarrow, and even carrying a small stove on which he cooked and ate an omelet midway across. Then he turned to the crowd and asked if they thought he could cross with a man on his back. People shouted that they believed he could. Pointing to one spectator, Blondin asked, "Will you volunteer?" Although quite vocal in his support, the man declined. He really did not believe in Blondin.
Believing in Christ is not merely affirming that He can get us to heaven. It is having total confidence in Him to take us there. It is not that He does part and we do the rest - no more than crossing Niagara Falls involved a spectator walking halfway himself, then having Blondin carry him the rest of the way. Our own attempts at being "good enough" will never get us to heaven. Faith alone, in Christ alone, will suffice.
What about those who do not come to Christ in faith? There are two categories of such people: those who do not believe because they do not know about Him, and those who know about Him but choose not to believe. Concerning those who do not know and therefore cannot trust Christ, C. S. Lewis has a good word:
Here is another thing that used to puzzle me. Is it not frightfully unfair that His new life should be confined to people who have heard of Christ and been able to believe in Him? But the truth is God has not told us what His arrangements about the other people are. We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him. But in the meantime, you worried about the people outside, the most unreasonable thing you can do is to remain outside yourself. Christians are Christ's body, the organism through which He works. Every addition to that body enables Him to do more. If you want to help those outside, you must add your own little cell to the body of Christ who alone can help them. Cutting off a man's fingers would be an odd way of getting him to do more work.
What about tribal peoples in remote places? What about people who lived before the time of Christ? What about people in countries where Christianity is illegal and the Gospel suppressed? Lewis is correct in saying that God has not told us everything we might like to know in such situations. The best thing we can do for those who do not know Christ is to trust Him ourselves and then help to get the word to them.
Now, concerning the fate of people who know about Him but choose to not believe in Him, Jesus speaks clearly. He concludes his remarks to Nicodemus by saying:
He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth comet to the light, that his deeds may be made man that they are wrought in God. (John 3:18-2 1)
People who prefer darkness will get darkness. In other words, those who want no part of Christ will have no part of Christ forever. Hell will be the absence of Christ, and the absence of all the goodness He embodies. We struggle to comprehend all that this will mean, but whatever it involves, it is fair. God will give to each exactly as he or she chooses.
It is time for you to choose. Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died for your sins? Will you trust in His death on the cross as the only remedy for your sins? If so, then tell Him in a prayer like the following:
Lord Jesus, I want to express to You my belief that You died for my sins, and that the cross is the only remedy for my sin-bitten soul I trust in You, not in my own good deeds, to take me to heaven according to Your promise. Amen.
Allow me to make a final suggestion. If you believe in Christ as your Savior, take a pen, sign your name below, and date it. If you ever doubt where you will go after you die, come back and remind yourself of what you have done. Remember, our confidence is not in ourselves, but in Him who promised.
In evidence of faith in Christ, I hereby sign my name, _______________________ on this ________ day of __________ in the year ______.