Dr. James C. Denison
President, Center for Informed Faith, Dallas, TX
April 29, 2011

Aliens and life after death

SETI (the search for extraterrestrial intelligence) is broke. According to today’s Time website, the telescope complex in California which has been looking for aliens has run out of donor funds. Now extra-terrestrials, should any exist, will have to find us. However, in a very real sense, they are already here. Every person you know will spend eternity in a realm beyond our planet.

In our series on hard faith issues, we have come to a reader’s question: “What is your view as to what happens to Christians at death?” Jesus promised the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Yet Paul seemed to indicate that Christians who die have “fallen asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:14).

Yesterday we established the biblical fact that death comes to all. But why? If God were all-loving, he’d want to destroy death, we assume. If he were all powerful, he could. But he doesn’t. Why not?

Here’s the simple answer: because of sin. The thief on the cross admitted, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve” (Luke 23:41). The Bible agrees: “Sin entered the world through man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). This wasn’t God’s intention. He created a perfect world for his children. But when sin entered, death stayed. Death exists, not because God doesn’t love us or isn’t powerful, but because of sin.

Sometimes we die because of our own sin, as did the thief at Jesus’ side. Sometimes we die because of the sins of others, as when a drunk driver kills a child. Sometimes we die because of the sin of humanity, for this is the lot of life. But we all die.

God doesn’t stop death, so that we’ll not live forever in our fallen world and bodies. In Genesis 3 God knew that if Adam and Eve ate from the tree of life after their sin, they would live forever in their fallen, sinful condition. So in his merciful grace, he barred the way. Now by death, we are set free for eternity with him.

God’s word is clear: “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:50). Physical death frees us to live forever in glorified bodies with God in his heaven. Then one day, death will be destroyed forever: “Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14). His word promises: “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

But what happens at the moment of death? We’ll continue our conversation on Monday. For this morning, let’s claim Jesus’ promise: “whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:26). You are immortal. You already have eternal life. Why is that fact good news for you today?

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