Essay, Research Paper: Afterlife

Religion

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There was a woman who had been diagnosed with cancer and had been given three
months to live. Her Dr. told her to start making preparations to die (something
we all should be doing all of the time.) So she contacted her pastor and had him
come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him
which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read,
and what she wanted to be wearing. The woman also told her pastor that she
wanted to be buried with her favorite bible. Everything was in order and the
pastor was preparing to leave when the woman suddenly remembered something very
important to her. "There's one more thing," she said excitedly.
"What's that?" came the pastor's reply. "This is very
important," the woman continued, "I want to be buried with a fork in
my right hand." The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite
what to say. "That shocks you, doesn't it?" the woman asked.
"Well, to be honest, I'm puzzled by the request," said the pastor. The
woman explained. "In all my years of attending church socials and functions
where food was involved (and let's be honest, food is an important part of any
church event; spiritual or otherwise), my favorite part was when whoever was
clearing away the dishes of the main course leaned over and said, 'you can keep
your fork'. It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was
coming. When they told me to keep my fork, I knew that something great was about
to be given to me. It wasn't Jell-O or pudding. It was cake or pie, something
with substance. So I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork
in my hand and I want them to wonder, 'What's with the fork?' Then I want you to
tell them: "Something better is coming, so keep your fork." The
pastor's eyes were welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the woman goodbye.
He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death.
But he also knew that the woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She
knew that something better was coming. At the funeral people were walking by the
woman's casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing and her favorite
Bible and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over the pastor heard the
question "What's with the fork?" And over and over he smiled. During
his message, the pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the
woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what
it symbolized to her. The pastor told the people how he could not stop thinking
about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop
thinking about it either. He was right. So the next time you reach down for your
fork, let it remind you oh so gently that there is something better coming. Life
after death must certainly be a prized possession that is well worth the wait.
Something with such tremendous value must be that of hard work, loyalty, and the
utmost dedication to "earning a spot on the list. The afterlife can be a
very confusing topic. If it even exists; What is it? Where is it? When would we
be taken? Is their judgement for separation? Who will go where? Since we are
human beings, imagining or even going as far as entertaining these questions is
nearly impossible. The near idea of an afterlife is far from our grasp. Buddha,
Confucius, and other so-called 'wise men' have taught their own ideas concerning
life or 'occurrence' at and or after death. Where does this wisdom come from? In
whom may we put our trust to find the truth? With what point of reference does
the truth become truthful? All of us are found looking for life, whether we find
it in the "truth" will decide our eternal existence. After all,
without the truth, we might still have an afterlife; it's just a matter of
where. 'Life', according to Webster's New World Dictionary, is defined as the
way or manner of living. It is also thereafter described as another chance given
to one likely to lose. 'Life', to us, is undeniably existent. On the other hand,
is death undeniable? Will its occurrence be secure in our minds as well as our
hearts? The woman's heart in the preceding story was one with security on
"a better place". She lived her life in a manner that her faith was
her comforter and 'gift' given to her. Life and death could both be considered
mysteries. Yet with a good mystery, good detectives are there. Many authors and
theologians have contemplated and written on the many beliefs of the afterlife.
Let's look at them now. Can the manner in which we carry out our lives effect
even the occurrence of death? Some of us feel that another chance given to us
would be cherished and not ever lost. Feeble are our minds to believe or even
think this. The Greek doctrine of God's grace has effected theology in the idea
that "immortality is not inherent in human beings (Pinnock, 252)".
Clark Pinnock, author and theologian, agues from 1Timothy 6:16 that God alone is
immortal. According to Pinnock and Erickson, life is mortal unless God chooses
immortality for you. So what then? Hurry, hurry, be on your best behavior for
God, he's coming back and we don't want it to be with vengeance! Just about
anyone who has sought for living eternity most likely has attempted to earn his
or her way into heaven. In Romans 3:22, the bible says "In faith comes the
righteousness from God". We can all be righteous through faith. "Every
human being," says C. S. Lewis, "is in the process of becoming a noble
being; noble beyond imagination. Or else, alas, a vile being beyond redemption (Lutzer,
9)." Lewis describes to us that all humans have immortality, it is just the
matter of where they lead it. There are no ordinary people. It is immortals that
we are surrounded by in every day life; "immortal horrors or everlasting
splendors (Lewis, 18-19)". On the other hand, believe it or not, the
mortality of humans is also a strong belief of many. Annihilation, 'the act of
reducing to nothing', is the term we give to the complete cessation of life,
both of the body and soul. Therefore ending life with solely an occurrence at
death (Irving, 15). Many persons of the anti-Christ religion strongly believe in
annihilationism. The living attitude is usually harbored with a lack of
conscience and desire for good. It is not considered an "afterlife",
but is a strong and constant argument against eternal life. B.B. Warfield
claimed that there were three different forms of annihilationism. "Pure
Mortalism" holds that the human life is so closely tied to the physical
organism that when the body dies, the person as an entity ceases to exist
(Erickson, 1237). Due to its pantheistic views, this doctrine hasn't received
much attention. The second is "Conditional Immortality", man is a
mortal being. Unless God gives you immortality, death is the end. And the third
is called "Annihilationism Proper". "It sees the extinction of
the evil person at death as a direct result of sin (Erickson, 1237)". There
are two types of annihilation proper. "The first sees annihilation as a
direct result of sin. Sin has such a detrimental effect that the individual
gradually dies out. Thus, "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23) is
taken quite literally. Sin is self-destructive. After a certain amount of time,
perhaps proportionate to the sinfulness of the individual, those who are
redeemed wear out as it were. The other type of pure annihilationism is the idea
that God cannot and will not allow the sinful person to have eternal life. There
is punishment for sin. The punishment need not be infinite, however. After a
sufficient amount of punishment has been endured, God will simply destroy the
individual self (Erickson, 1238)." As you may have guessed, the existence
of heaven and hell are not being denied or argued here. The pure
"nature" of them is the debate. Different beliefs and religions call
for various natures of heaven and hell, or thereof. The beliefs of Erickson and
Pinnock seem a little depressing to me. Who would want to just hope for a chance
to be immortal? I'd rather work for it. Many others feel the same way also.
Including religions like Catholicism, Buddhism, Reincarnationism and almost all
other modern philosophized beliefs. They're all the same things in disguise.
Buddhism is an ancient religion that was philosophized to belief. In ancient
Tibetan Buddhism, there are three "Bardos". Each bardo is like a step
down from the preceding. If the first is not successfully passed, the soul falls
into the second bardo. Starting from the first, the soul has to recognize the
Clear light of the Ultimate Reality and act in a way to remain in that state.
This will ultimately lead to Liberation (www.near-death, first bardo).
Basically, knowledge and meditation on the laws of the bardos is what is needed
to pass into the after life according to Buddhism. Does this mean that every
infant, child, and/or young teen who hasn't had enough time to learn about the
bardos go to hell? When asked this, denial of this punishment is shown. They are
not really sure what they want to happen with young people (www.near-death,
bardos). Sounds like real mystery to me. Catholicism, to put in a few words, is
the belief that baptism of the holy waters will bring your spirit to heaven
after life on earth. No real perimeters of love are laid down here. If God loves
us he will set down rules for us. And he did. Catholics didn't exactly like
those laws so they changed them and twisted them so that they were more
comfortable. Their religion is based on the Christian Bible. We all have
probably experienced the beliefs of this religion before, Jehovah's Witnesses.
They also believe in the same Heaven and Hell as the others do. Frequently known
as JWs, they usually travel door to door like salesmen promoting their product.
Because their religion is just a product, it takes away from the "holiness
of it all". They will tell you to be good because God is coming back soon.
Then they really leave you confused when they don't really tell you what you
should be doing with your time to be accepted into heaven. It seems that
everyone is so focused on trying to know a lot. This passage below is a good
thought helper on the topic of the afterlife. We get the view of both the living
body and of the deceased one. It also demonstrates the curiosity we should have
on studying such a strong subject. In a secluded cemetery in Indiana, there is
an old tombstone that bears this epitaph: Pause, stranger, when you pass me by
As you are now, so once was I As I am now, so you will be So prepare for death
and follow me An unknown passerby read those words and underneath scratched this
reply: To follow you I'm not content Until I know which way you went (Lutzer,
10-11) A man by the name of Tony Campolo searched all religions and beliefs for
the "truth". The one that seemed the most real yet at the same time
unbelievable was his target. He was going to prove on all accounts that he could
that the Christian Bible was wrong and contradicting. For three years he tried
to prove its falsehood. Today he is an author and religious leader of the
Christian faith. When someone asked him why he now believes this, he replied,
"It isn't a religion, cult, or even a belief, it's a personal relationship
with Jesus Christ that has a full written guarantee on it". In conclusion,
the "truth" is in front of us. Let's take what we are now aware of and
face it, find it, and act on it. We should not be content taking life as a
gamble, Because in the life after life, it is no gamble. Jesus Christ died for
us and tells us all about his love in his own book… the Bible.
BibliographyClark Pinnock, The Destruction of the Finally Impenitent, Criswell
Theological Review, pg. 247-278 Clark Pinnock, Essentials: A Liberal /
Evangelical Dialogue, (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1988.) Millard J. Erickson,
Christian theology, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids Michigan, 1985 William C.
Irving, Heresies Exposed, Loizeaux Brothers, Neptune, N.J. 1970 Webster's New
World Dictionary Simon and Schuster Inc., N.Y. 1995 C.S. Lewis, "The Weight
of Glory and Other Addresses", Rev. and Exp. Ed., (New York and Macmillon,
1980) Erwin W. Lutzer, "One Minute After You Die", Moody Press,
Chicago 1997 Jesus Christ, The Bible CEV
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