The evidence for life after death

There are only two ways to know what happens after death. The first of these is that if someone died and came back from the dead we would be able to find out from them what happens. The second is that God, who knows everything and created both life and death could tell us; but, of course, we would need to know that what we read really came from God.

Providentially we have both kinds of evidence. Jesus of Nazareth was killed by crucifixion, but on the third day afterwards he rose from the dead. The words of Jesus on this subject therefore have personal experience behind them. Not only that, but the resurrection of Jesus confirms that he came from God, and we can therefore trust him when he endorses the Bible as the word of God.

The Resurrection of Jesus

Jesus died and rose again. On the day of his resurrection he met several different groups of his followers at various times; these reported the resurrection to one another. Towards the end of the day many of Jesus’ followers gathered together and discussed their experiences.

"As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, 'Peace to you!'”  (Luke 24:36)

This encounter probably took place in the upper room, where Jesus had eaten the last supper with his disciples before his death. Present at the time were ten of Jesus’ twelve closest disciples, two more disciples who had met Jesus on the road to Emmaus and probably other people as well.

"But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, 'Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.' And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet."             (Luke 24:37-40)

 

Naturally, the people in the room were startled by contact with someone that they knew had been killed. They had been told that Jesus was alive, but they were unprepared for the reality. Their initial thought is that Jesus is simply an apparition, insubstantial and spectral.

 

Jesus’ response is not only to tell them that he is a real, solid, living person, but to allow them to touch him and hence discover that he is physically present. The words “A spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see me have” are conclusive; they show that Jesus was really present with his disciples.

 

However, even though the disciples had heard Jesus tell them that he had been raised, physically, from the dead and had touched his solid body, they needed even more evidence.

"And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marvelling, he said to them, 'Have you anything here to eat?' They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them."               (Luke 24:41­43)

 

Jesus makes it absolutely clear that he is real. It is almost impossible to think what he could have done more than this. He then goes on to endorse the Old Testament.

"Then he said to them, 'These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.'”                     (Luke 24:44)

 

This describes the entire Hebrew Old Testament. Jesus expects it to be true, and points out that everything in it should be fulfilled. The Old Testament contains a considerable amount of information about Jesus; Jesus tells us that this is true. In doing so he endorses the Old Testament as being a document from God.

There was a similar occasion a little earlier the same day. Two of Jesus’ followers were walking to Emmaus, a village about 11 kilometres from Jerusalem. On the way they met Jesus, although they did not recognise him immediately. Jesus asks them what has happened that day, and they show puzzlement. The response from Jesus is that they should have trusted the Old Testament, which tells about the suffering, death and resurrection of the Messiah.

"And he said to them, 'O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?' And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself."                            (Luke 24:25-27)

Jesus again endorses the Bible, and particularly the Old Testament, as a source of information. He explains passages about himself in the Old Testament, but he has endorsed the reliability of the Bible in general.

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