Friday, October 04, 2013

You Die & Then What?

&A with Dr Durrell Watkins
     Question: What is your understanding of where we "go" after death?  When someone dies, invariably people will say, he or she is now in heaven, but then what is the reference to the second coming of Christ when the dead will rise?  
     Answer: I know that energy can't be destroyed, it only changes form; so, I assume the energy of consciousness is also never-ending. As a person of faith, I trust that life is somehow never-ending. Beyond that, I probably don't know any more than you do.
     During Jesus' execution, a fellow rebel who is being killed next to him reportedly says, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your Realm," and Jesus responds, " you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23.42-43). Luke also has Jesus telling a parable about a poor man who suffered in life but who, after death, was "carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham [& Sarah, & presumably Hagar]" (Luke 16.22).
     Luke is writing at least 50 years (and some scholars think as many as 90 years) after the crucifixion of Jesus. The Apostle Paul, only about 25 years after the crucifixion of Jesus, writes, "...we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep; for the Lord...will come down from the heavens, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are...left, will be caught up together in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4.15-17). Luke's idea seems to be that consciousness survives death immediately, while Paul, at least in his early writings, suggests that maybe those who die are simply resting and will be raised back to life later.
     Paul believed that Jesus would return to earthly life in his lifetime. So, the resting period, in Paul's mind, wouldn't have been a long one. Decades later, when Luke is writing, no such "second coming" had occurred, and so Luke may be rethinking the issue. In any case, Paul and Luke have different ideas of how consciousness survives death; what they both believe is that consciousness does survive death.
     Paul and Luke are each making his best guess, but what happens beyond this life is a mystery to us until we experience it. What the writers are saying is that the value of our lives is not limited to our earthly years, but as far as what is next, we may just have to "walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5.7). What we can trust is that life is good and sacred and that its importance is not limited to the years we spend on this earth. That's pretty "heavenly" regardless of how it plays out.     

 {This Q&A was first published on July 20th, 2008 in The Sun Burst, Sunshine Cathedral's weekly newsletter}

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