Friday, October 22, 2010

What comes after life?

"As a pastor, I'm often called upon when life "vanishes like a mist." One of the most powerful examples I've seen of this was Stan Gerlach, a successful businessman who was well known in the community. Stan was giving a eulogy at a memorial service when he decided to share the gospel. At the end of his message, Stan told the mourners, "You never know when God is going to take your life. At that moment, there's nothing you can do about it. Are you ready?" Then Stan sat down, fell over, and died. His wife and sons tried to resuscitate him, but there was nothing they could do - just as Stan had said a few minutes earlier."
[snip]
"Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. "But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven." Matthew 10:32-33

"[During Stan's memorial service] I asked everyone to imagine what it must have felt like for Stan. One moment, he was at a memorial service saying to the crowd, "This is who Jesus is!" The next, he was before God hearing Jesus say, "This is who Stan Gerlach is!" One second he was confessing Jesus; a second later, Jesus was confessing him! It happens that quickly. And it could happen to any of us. In the words of Stan Gerlach, "Are you ready?" (pg. 46-47 of Crazy Love by Francis Chan)

I read that today on my lunch break. Just that bit. I stopped dead in my tracks when I read it, turning the book over on the table and staring vacantly off into space. It moved me deeply to think of Stan's glorious death. To have the last words on your lips be a witness for Jesus and of Jesus. And then I began to ponder the flimsiness of life. We are truly fragile. Though we're built sturdily, there are a million ways to die and death could come at any time. The title of Chan's chapter is even "You might not finish this chapter."

Before I was saved, I used to wonder about the hereafter. It is a natural question, 'is there more?' What comes next? Do we really putrefy into dust? But what's with that white light everyone always talks about? There is a new movie coming out by Clint Eastwood, directing. It's called "Hereafter" and it supposedly delves into these questions. The film depicts three strangers, all curiously connected with tantalizing glimpses of an afterlife, and whose stories intertwine by the end. The film doesn't reach any conclusions (which is why it is being universally praised) but it does reportedly leave people curiously uneasy about what comes next.

The New York Times reviewed the movie, its reviewer saying "though if anyone could make me believe in ghosts, it would be Clint Eastwood. And the afterlife itself remains, throughout the film, a vague, conjectural place, a zone of speculation rather than a freshly discovered and surveyed continent. The fuzzy digital ghosts that occasionally flutter across the screen are more symbolic placeholders than literal apparitions. Something seems to be out there, and cinematic technology provides an available shorthand to indicate its presence."

How convenient. A Clint Eastwood movie answers the eternal questions. The bible IS the shorthand to the eternal, providing all the answers about the hereafter, and raises the questions you didn't even know you had. Now, the Hereafter movie does discuss the white light, which is a phenomenon that many people of all different cultures seemed to have experienced. We all assume that the white light is God or is of God and most people describe feeling an additional feeling of peace and joy. The Hereafter movie does that too. This is, of course, false, because any person who is not a forgiven sinner and a follower of Jesus will not be in His Light after death. Yet so many people are consistent with their descriptions of what happens after...I found that another movie did provide me with a satisfying and logical explanation as to why so many people seem to return from near death experiences having seen this white light.

The movie was called "Escape from Hell". In it, a Doctor wanted to KNOW for sure what came after death, so he injected himself with a drug cocktail and after calling his colleague, told his colleague he would only have 10 minutes to be revived. After he succumbed to death and before he was revived by his colleague, he experienced the white light. He was in a tunnel and sliding down what felt to him to be an eternal destiny of peace and joy. However, the white light shortly faded and the tunnel soon forked, and he began sliding inexorably toward hell.

Of course, this was only a fictional depiction, and the white light experience could easily simply be a delusion sent by satan. But I thought it made a kind of sense. God created everything, and it makes sense that His light would be present in the transition from corporeal to spirit. The movie was effective at examining the eternal question, what comes after? And being a Christian movie, it resolved those questions biblically. For Stan Gerlach, he knew what came after, because he was born again. Even as the words he'd spoken last were still hanging in the air, he was instantly in the presence of the Lord.

Your death or the death of a family member or friend could come at any time. At the moment we breathe our last, it is too late. Many people are fence-sitters, saying 'I'll wait until I approach death and then I'll decide." First, many people do not get that chance to see death changing lanes ahead and coming toward you. Often death comes suddenly and unexpectedly, like it did for Stan Gerlach. Secondly, do you know what you need to decide?

Your sins keep you from entering heaven. God hates sin. ("The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes, You hate all who do iniquity." Psalm 5:5) You need to accept that Jesus was the sinless Christ who died as the atoning sacrifice for your sins and who rose again. You sin. I sin. Every human sins, and those sins (wrongs) are an abomintion to God. His Holy Hereafter does not contain sin and if you contain sin you will not go there.

Clint Eastwood's Hereafter contains unforgiven sinners talking with the dead to reassure us that the white light is peaceful and all who die will enjoy it. That is a lie straight from satan.

Back to Stan Gerlach. He was ready. Are you ready? What will your hereafter contain?

4 comments:

  1. I really like and respect Francis Chan, and I'm glad you're getting to read his book. I gave it to friends and family last December, bought a few extra and pass them out as I meet someone who might be appreciative of his insights. Great post!

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  2. I always thought that about the white light, too. Perhaps it is a way to assure everyone around the dying person that everything is okay for everyone, like you said, a deception.

    I often wonder if the Catholic purgatory is not also the same kind of deception. People are told they will be released one day.

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  3. The Catholic doctrine of purgatory has no basis in the bible. There is heaven and hell, and you go to either one or the other. I feel so sad for the deluded who think they can pray or pay to get out of there.

    Luke 16:19-31 shows the place of the dead, it is either a place of torment or a place of comfort (Lazarus and the rich man). And neither could go from one to the other. So there is no purgatory from what I see of that picture.

    The Light appears in the bible as part of Glory but though anecdotal evidence from many people who have experienced near-death experiences (NDE) describe the light I(like you) have wondered if it is part of a delusion or part of what people legitimately experience.

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  4. I agree what you said about the white light, I always thought about it that way.

    This was almost like poetry to me :"Jesus was the sinless Christ who died as the atoning sacrifice for your sins and who rose again."

    You could be a preacher! but I know the Lord called you to this. I really want to link this blog to my brother who got saved when he was younger but is living for himself right now. I know the "once saved, always saved" doctrine and he's told me himself that God has been reminding him of things but I'm still worried about him. He seems to think all this talk about the end times is premature..

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