“And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”” (Mark 12:25–27 ESV)
We learn a lot from Jesus here when he condemns the Sadducees for not believing in a bodily resurrection. For one thing we learn that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. Somehow, in some way, those who follow God and die are still living. This truth goes to our understanding of life after death so we need to be sure that we understand what the Bible says about the resurrection. The NIV Application Commentary on Mark points out: “The media gives its fantasy version of what happens in death through popular movies. Those images have an enormous subliminal effect on both Christians and non-Christians. The church must give its answer.”
This clip from the movie Ghost is a good example. Molly’s boyfriend has died, but he comes back as a ghost using a black woman to convince Molly that he is still around because he still loves her:
Wouldn’t it be cool if this were true, but of course it is all made up. It appeals to our desire to connect with loved ones who have passed away, but it is not a biblical picture of life after dying.
Another problem we have, and this is true of many followers of Jesus, is that we see life after death mainly in terms of reconnecting with our loved ones who have died before us. Sure, Jesus will be there, and it will be cool to see him and hang out with him, but what we are really looking forward to is seeing our dad/brother/wife/son/daughter/grandma/etc. In this version of events, as the NIV Application Commentary points out, the afterlife is “a continuation of life on earth without all the problems that hamper our happiness.” Perfect! Am I right? Unfortunately, while appealing, this is also not the biblical picture of life after death.
We will be raised from the dead to life in Christ, to fellowship with him, to worship of God the Father with our loved ones who have died before us. Yes, those who have died in Christ will be with us, but our desire will not be for them (though I assume we will be happy to worship Jesus with them), but for Jesus. What does this look like? I don’t really have a clue, Scripture only gives us hints.
I remember having a conversation at work when I was in college with my buddy Leon that went something like this:
Leon: “Wait a minute. There won’t be any sex in heaven?”
Me: “Nope. The Bible says that we won’t be married in heaven.”
Leon: “What could be better than sex?”
Me: “I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out.”
Poor Leon was in such slavery to the sexual desire that he couldn’t imagine anything better than sex. This reminds me of a great quote from C. S. Lewis:
“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”