By John Larkins
Do we live our lives – and so, stage our deaths – as though we believed in eternal life and God, including His complete jurisdiction over our fate?
Many humans ponder these questions. For example, in his play Hamlet, William Shakespeare has the main character mulling this question while contemplating suicide, one of several sins having to do with murder. Hamlet says to himself, “Ah, but what dreams may come in that sleep of death must give us pause?” God is just as adamant about murdering others (Matt. 19, 18), for example, our own children. Indeed, any cogent person must consider eternal life and the consequences of our life choices.
In biblical teaching, Jesus tells us as we are living is the time He gives us His love and mercy. After we die or when He returns to earth, He will be judging the actions we chose when mercy was available.
In today’s culture, polls show that the predominant religious belief is “None.” Except for our Creator’s inspired advice, we have little feedback from those who have died. Are they alive in another-worldly existence? Were they subjected to a personal judgement that stipulated their present status? Whatever eternal life (if any) they now have is the result of decisions they made in life.
Jesus stipulates that when He returns to earth, He will conduct a second and final judgement for all humans that ever lived, so that all souls will know His judgements on everyone and be able to see that His decisions are “Just.” So far as He has revealed, none of His judgements will include deviations from His instructions given to the living. It seems that the decision to not worship and follow Jesus in this life, while we have His mercy available (for example, our sins can be forgiven in His Church), is the most consequential decision we will ever make. What informational inputs do we use to hedge against the possibility that Jesus’s message and requirements are true and enforceable? How can we trust other humans to care enough for our salvation that they will not subvert our eternal destiny? If you say you are the sole authority of life or death for your children, can you be certain that you will not be found guilty? This position of denying God’s existence and authority, both here and in the life after death, seems extremely dangerous. Why would anyone accept such risk? Or, what are the benefits of defying God? The payoff for loving and obeying God may be the greatest “jackpot” we have ever been offered!
Suppose, on the other hand, that after anticipating eternal happiness with God we find nothing after death? Do we count some kind of prize missed by living a Godly life? What value have we missed by such a life? But what will our reaction be if we discover that God is really there when we are “woke” and He is sad for us that we will not be joining Him and His Father? Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden light.” Why not give it a try?
John Larkins was born in Oklahoma to an U.S. Army family. His education was in the Catholic Church and teaching in the United Methodist Church for 10 years. After 50 years of various positions in federal service at home and in Vietnam, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, John and his wife Carol live in Gadsden. His formal education includes a BS certified for science teaching, an MBA from the University of Missouri and an MPA from Jacksonville State University in public administration and environmental management. For the past 15 years, John evangelized on the street, door-to-door, in tent revivals, and church situations. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.