Where are you going?

Oh, oh.  I’ve got bad news for you – you are going to die.  I don’t know when, but it is going to happen.

This will have severe impact on those who are emotionally bonded to you and those who depend on you, either because you have assumed the obligation for their care, or have become indebted to them.  You owe it to all of these people to live in such a way that death is delayed as long as practical, and that when you do die, all dependents are taken care of.  But what about you?

There is little contention that when you die, your joys AND problems on this earth are over.  That tendency towards killer migraine headaches or knee which keeps giving out or deteriorating eyesight?  Not a problem any more.  Your daughter’s horrid choice of boyfriend, the project at the office which is going so badly, the leak in the roof or the ‘check engine’ light which just came on?  Such issues probably will be someone’s problem, but not yours.  Neither Bush or Obama will have any further impact on you.  This world is done as far as you are concerned.  But is there a next ‘world’, and if so, how will you be situated in it?  There are widely differing theories about this, and it would be incredibly unwise not to investigate the possibilities and do what you can to optimize your situation in any such existence.

There is little doubt that ‘you’ consist of at least two parts.  There is the body, which is apparent to all of your five senses, and the senses of anyone around you.  A really good surgeon and/or makeup artist can duplicate that fairly well for someone else, or change it significantly for you.  It is only packaging.  Then there is the part (or parts) which makes that body YOU; your thoughts, your emotions, your memories, your beliefs, your morals and so on.  This is REALLY you; that which makes you absolutely unique in all of time and space.   There are many words to label this part or parts, including soul, spirit, ghost and essence.  Let us use the least emotionally laden term, essence, for now.

When you die, the body (packaging) deteriorates and is eventually gone.  Bits and pieces can be saved and live on in other people, but it is obvious that these bits and pieces are no longer ‘you’.  But what about your ‘essence’?  Man does not have the technology (yet) to separate body from essence, but that does not mean that it cannot be done.  Someday, man may be able to remove the essence of a person from the body and put it in another body or other ‘container’.  Or maybe not.  In either case, there IS a form of separation done, when you die. There is the body and the essence is not there.  Where is it?

That, my friend, is the question.  Let us be clear; there are exactly two possibilities; either the essence continues on in some form or place, or it ceases to exist, completely and utterly.  If the latter, then death truly is the end of you and you need not concern yourself with anything past your death.  But there is no proof that this is the case.  There is the hope and the POSSIBILITY that the essence continues on in some fashion, and if this is the case, a sane and sensible person would want to do whatever they could to achieve the best conditions for this new form of existence.

What are the details of this existence?  Nobody really knows, but there sure are a variety of beliefs.  These tend to ‘clump’ into four possibilities which may or may not be permanent or able to be ‘improved on’ after death.  Most propose ways to improve on the after-death situation before death occurs.

1) Reincarnation – the essence returns to Earth in another person or if ‘reward/punishment’ is involved, sometimes in an animal, insect or even plant.  This seems kind of pointless since there is no evidence that the new entity has memory of it’s previous tenancy, so ‘improvement’ seems unlikely.  What then is the purpose or benefit of this system?  For that matter, this kind of seems like a ‘closed system’, so where do all the ‘new’ essences come from to support the increasing population?

2) Haunting – the essence remains or returns to Earth in a non-corporeal form, a ‘ghost’ which may or may not be able to interact with people or the physical environment.  This theory often includes the concept that the essence can ‘move on’ if it, or someone on Earth, does something to cause or allow the move.

3) Reward/Punishment – the essence moves on to an environment of reward for living a ‘good’ life or pleasing a God entity, or punishment for living a ‘bad’ life or displeasing a God entity.  In some theories, this state is permanent; in others the ‘punishment’ can eventually be ‘worked off’.

4) Evolution – the essence is transformed into a different, usually superior, entity.

Generally, it is assumed that the pleasantness of any of these options can be swayed by your actions while still alive.  Unfortunately, there is no proven or universally stated path you can follow to guarantee the optimal outcome.  Your best choice is to live in such a way as to be optimally situated no matter what the actual situation turns out to be when you die.  You should have two guiding goals in life.

First, to live a life which is fulfilling to you AND of value to those around you.  This is of obvious benefit irregardless of whether your essence continues on after death or ceases to exist.  Most theories of life after death have a component of reward/punishment for how your life on Earth was lived, so a ‘good’ life may improve your ‘after-life’.  And if death is the end of you, isn’t it better that your life was enjoyable and of  general benefit; that it meant something in the grand scheme of things?

Second, to please God.  Some theories about God have Him influencing your quality of life based on your  behavior in life.  Most theories of life after death have a superior being deciding your fate, so getting on His ‘good side’ is of great importance to your quality of ‘after-life’.  Unfortunately, knowing which of the many gods postulated, exists, and has influence on your existence after death, is not clear cut.  This needs study on your part to identify God, and then see what actions on your part will be pleasing to Him.

Let me suggest that best documented and least contradictory postulated God is the God of the Bible.  This God wants people to be ‘holy’ in order to be able to be with him (seems he is ‘allergic’ to sin), and if you have any scent of sin about you, your essence has nowhere else to go but to a place which at best is not pleasant, and at worst, is horrible beyond imagining.  And EVERYONE has sinned.  You can live a life which minimizes sin, and you should try to, but when you die, you WILL be tainted by at least some sin.  Unless you can pay the punishment for it somehow or remove the stains, you are doomed to be excluded from His presence.

Going through the entire Bible, it is clear that the goal is to avoid any sin, but the practicality is that each sin committed must be atoned for by sacrifice.  That is, taking something of value and giving it to God.  In the distant past, this often involved killing an animal and using it’s blood to ‘cover’ the sin.  Even if PETA, the EPA and other groups of letters would let you get away with that today, there are specified requirements which are no longer available.  These are, the temple of God which was destroyed in 73 A.D. and a trained priest from the tribe of Levi, as specified in the Old Testament of the Bible.  This seems to indicate that Judaism, although dedicated to the correct God, is no longer is capable of providing remission of sin.  Fortunately, the New Testament defines an alternative which is available to everyone today.

God sent part of Himself to Earth to live as a man, experiencing all the temptations which we are subject to, but never sinning.  Then, being without any blemish, he was eligible to be the sacrifice for every sin ever committed or to be committed, by every person who has existed, exists now, or will exist.  In case you have not recognized this description, his name was and is Jesus.  It is clear from the Bible that in order to avail yourself of this payment for YOUR sins, you must accept this gift.

Very easy in concept, but life changing (and possibly death changing) in practice.

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2 thoughts on “Where are you going?

  1. Interesting post. The subject of heaven/hell/judgment is fascinating. You said, “Nobody really knows”? The Bible makes it clear, doesn’t it? We are souls= dust + breath. (Gen 2:7) Souls sin and therefore can and do die. (Eze 18:4, 20) The wages of sin is death, not eternal life in torment, as eternal life is a gift. (Rom 6:23). The judgment happens upon death or before Jesus comes, whichever comes first, which is why His “reward is with [Him]” at the 2nd coming. (Rev 22:12) So I think there must be a “5th” category of “after-death” possibilities: you’re either dead until Jesus comes (righteous) or you’re raised after the millennium to take part in the lake of fire until you’re ashes (wicked). (Mal 4:1-3). What do you think?

  2. The Bible makes it very clear – if you believe that the Bible is true. I didn’t use to, but now I do, so I can understand how people who have not yet found God can disregard what the Bible claims. And pity them. As for what we know, it is based solely on BELIEF and FAITH and our personal communication with God, which is not acceptable as ‘proof’ to those who do not have that belief themselves.

    The ‘5th category’ you propose is a subset of the ‘reward/punishment’ category. I did not address the timing of any of these categories, since it is not clear even to Bible experts whether a righteous dead person is with Jesus ‘this day’ (per Jesus on the cross) or they ‘sleep’ until ‘Jesus comes’. Perhaps only the wicked are ‘stored’ until Jesus comes?

    I had not considered the possibility that torment was not eternal or that the soul could be destroyed. It certainly is an attractive thought that a punishment would not be eternal, but from what I’ve read, it seems to me that the punishment IS eternal. There are 2 concepts in question, what is ‘death’ and what is the ‘gift of God’. What Romans 6:23 says is “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The way I read this is the gift is “eternal life IN CHRIST JESUS”, not just eternal life (which without Jesus would be pretty dreary even if there were not torment involved). I doubt anyone would consider an eternal life of torment to be a ‘gift’,

    As for ‘death’, this is a tricky subject. When we say ‘death’ we know what we mean; that is, the end of our existence on Earth and in our Earthly body. Per the Bible, that is NOT the end of what is really ‘us’ though, so obviously God views death differently than we do. I think he views it as ‘permanent separation from Him’, which does not guarantee that the only alternative is oblivion. In any case, when the Bible has a statement about the soul ‘dieing’, the questionable definition of ‘death’ does not guarantee that reference to the ‘death’ of a soul means the soul ceases to exist in any plane. About all that can be confidently assumed is that the STATE of the soul changes.

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