Where would you go after you die? This question has haunted many since the dawn of time. For Christians, we argue that all who believes in Christ will go to heaven and the rest would go to hell. But is this true?
The Bible does give us many differing clues as to where we will all go after we die. The most common cited examples are (1) Jesus’ declaration to the thief on the cross saying, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43), and (2) the story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31). These examples point to us the truth that (1) we will go somewhere the day we die, and (2) the existence of heaven and earth, respectively. However, if we were to dig deeper into the Bible, we see clues of other after-death-scenarios.
Spirits may go into the ground
One common place we see spirits go after death is the ground. When Cain murdered Abel, we read that the spirit of Abel went into the ground.
The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” — Genesis 4:10-12, NIV.
In this excerpt, we read that the spirit of Abel was swallowed by the earth, which in turns curses his brother, Cain. This curse does not come from God, even though God made it known to him. This curse was caused by the loss of Abel’s life on the ground. That said, does this curse applies to us, too? No of course it doesn’t. It only applies to the perpetrator of the crime as the grudges borne by Abel at the point of death lives on along with his spirit. It was this knot that was tied to Cain for the rest of his life.
The Prophet Samuel
That said, if a person dies of natural causes, the spirit goes into the ground, too. We see this in the story where Saul consulted the medium of Endor to bring up the spirit of the prophet Samuel.
The king said to her, “Don’t be afraid. What do you see?”
The woman said, “I see a ghostly figure coming up out of the earth.”
“What does he look like?” he asked.
“An old man wearing a robe is coming up,” she said.
Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. — 1 Samuel 28:13-14, NIV.
Some explanation says that this is Satan in disguise. But in this post, I’m not going to confront this explanation. Rather, I take the stand that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. And since it is inerrant, then surely we will be able to take it at face value and accept that the spirit that rises from the ground is indeed Samuel. Considering this, we acknowledge that spirits of people who die of natural causes goes into the ground and will remain there until the time is ripe.
Spirits may cling onto objects
In my previous post titled, “Portal to the Supernatural”, I wrote that information is stored in physical objects. This information may include positive or negative charges from a conscious being. Even after the conscious being has departed from the world, its information lingers on in the object that once had an impact in their lives. Some biblical examples of this are (1) Eli’s Ark of the Covenant, (2) Jonah’s Tree, (3) Lot’s wife and sons-in-laws.
Eli’s Family and the Ark of the Covenant
We all know the story about the capture of the Ark of the Covenant and Eli’s subsequent death by falling from the chair. But what if I told you that the death of Eli was so closely tied to the Ark of the Covenant that Eli’s family’s collective spirit was intertwined with the Ark?
The man who brought the news replied, “Israel fled before the Philistines, and the army has suffered heavy losses. Also your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured.”
When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man, and he was heavy. He had led Israel forty years. — 1 Samuel 4:17-18, NIV.
In the above excerpt, we read how Eli responded to the news of Israel’s defeat. However, it was recorded that Eli had a different reaction to the capture of the loss of the Ark as compared to the death of his two sons. Essentially, the death of his sons did not really matter that much since the Bible wrote that they were “scoundrels” (1 Samuel 2:12-17). However, Eli’s spirit was deeply connected to the Ark of the Covenant. It was written that “(Eli’s heart) feared for the ark of God” (1 Samuel 4:13, NIV). Eli wasn’t fearful of anything else. It was the Ark that was closest to his heart. Hence, when the news of the Ark’s capture was made known to Eli, he lost it, physically. But in the spirit, he clung onto the Ark as how one would an idol. This love for the Ark was so strong that it echoed throughout Eli’s entire family. This was why when the daughter-in-law of Eli, the wife of Phinehas, heard about the news of the ark, she too went into early labour and died (1 Samuel 4:19-20, NIV).
Another famous example in the Bible was the story of Jonah. Jonah was called by God to the city of Nineveh to preach against it. However, he fled from God and went towards the city of Tarshish. In this post, I will assume that we all know the story of Jonah and jump straight into the analysis of the Book.
In the book, we see the author trying to teach us the fundamental truth about how our lives are not our own and God is sovereign over everything. In the Book of Jonah, we see this truth presented in three parallel stories: (1) Jonah’s life back home, (2) Jonah’s message to Nineveh, and (3) Jonah’s Tree (or vine).
Jonah sought comfort in all three items. First, Jonah was comfortable at home, hence he was unwilling to leave for Nineveh. This wasn’t very clear in the Bible, but we see it in Jonah’s respond to God when God did not punish the inhabitants of Nineveh.
But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. — Jonah 4:1-2, NIV.
Jonah was comfortable at home, so he argued with God and tried not to go. It was with great distress that Jonah chose to leave everything back home and escape the Lord for the city of Tarshish. In this excerpt, we see that Jonah was trying to grab onto all that he had left at home that will make up his identity. But because of God’s persistent calling, Jonah knew that he had no choice. When the storm happened out at sea and he was swallowed by the big fish, Jonah knew he had to give in.
So Jonah resigned to his fate of proclaiming God’s words to Nineveh. Now, God’s message became his identity — something that he clung on to. (Notice the parallel between this story and Eli’s story? Eli clung onto the Ark and not God. So is Jonah clinging onto the message and not God.) Now, when God saw that the inhabitants of Nineveh was repentant, He was compassionate and relented (Jonah 3:10). This angered Jonah because he built his entire identity on the message of judgement and not on the fear of God Himself. This made him really angry (Jonah 4:1). After a brief argument with God, Jonah retreated to a corner where he can oversee the entire city of Nineveh, convinced that God will one day bring about its destruction (Jonah 4:5). But God didn’t. In God’s mercy, God planted a tree to grow over Jonah and provided the shade he needed. Jonah was pleased with this because it made him comfortable. However, in a stroke of anger, God caused the tree to wither and create discomfort for Jonah. Jonah, being extremely uncomfortable, fuelled the flame of his unhappiness. Being unhappy with both the withering of the tree and God’s salvation of Nineveh, Jonah asked to die. In all three items, we see the parallel of Jonah clinging on to tangible things to form his identity. It was unsure if he was able to let go of all that had happened in his life. However, the spirit of Jonah lives on. Whenever we think of the city of Nineveh, we think about Jonah’s escape from God and his unhappiness. And if we were to ever find the withered tree, I believe we will also be able to sense Jonah’s unhappiness through it too.
We all knew the famous story of Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt. We associate this story with Lot’s wife inability to let go of the life she once lived in the City of Sodom. In Genesis 19, there was only one verse that told us what happened to Lot’s wife. It wrote:
But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. — Genesis 19:26, NIV.
Despite the angelic instruction, It was unsure why she did what she did. However, if we were to build on the assumption that Lot’s wife had “unfinished businesses” left in Sodom, then we can say that her spirit clung onto her lifestyle or her businesses in Sodom. Though it was unsure why “salt” was chosen here, it can be sure that her “salt statue” was looking at Sodom. In essence, her spirit was intertwined with the damned city, in life and in death.
Spirits may end up under God’s Altar in Heaven
Also in my post, “Portals to the Supernatural”, I wrote about an “afterlife hotel” for Christians who lost their lives for the gospel. I got this reference from Revelations 6. John wrote:
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been. — Revelations 6:9-11, NIV.
In this excerpt, we read that those who lost their lives for the Lord are kept with God, under the Altar. We know that the altar was used to sacrifice animals for the sins of those who sacrifice them. And because of it, these animals are burned on the altar and its remains will trickle down to the bottom. Maybe that’s what these spirits are — the remains of their earthly sacrifices for God. That being said, according to John, it appears that they wouldn’t have the rest like Lazarus in Heaven nor the thief on the cross with Christ. It appears that they’re filled with grudges and are awaiting revenge.
I am not sure why are they there, suffering the way they are. I am also unsure who these people are. It would be weird to say that prominent apostles like Peter and Paul would end up here arguing with God for an eternity for vengeance. However, I am not going to rule out this possibility since the Bible is, again, “the inerrant word of God”. That being said, I can also argue that these people clung to the Word of God and the testimony that they maintained till their very last breath. In this case, they may have not clung to God, directly, but to the word and the testimony of their mouths. Just as how Eli clung to the Ark and Jonah clung to the message of judgement, these people may have clung not to God, but to the testimony they gave in accordance to the word of God.
The Truth about Divine Union
With all these being said, it would appear that life-after-death would appear in the form of what we cling onto with our hearts. If we cling onto tangible things, our spirits would stay with it. If we cling to an ideology, our spirit will not rest until the ideology becomes a reality. If we cling onto an object, then our spirit will forever haunt that object. It is at this point where I reconsider God’s command to love Him with all our hearts, soul, and mind. Maybe, this is the reason why God wanted us to love Him deeply — He wanted our souls to cling onto Him for eternity. This desire for us to cling onto Him can be found in the following verses:
Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Holdfast to him and take your oaths in his name. — Deuteronomy 10:20, NIV.
It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and holdfast to him. — Deuteronomy 13:4, NIV
But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to holdfast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul. — Joshua 22:5, NIV
But you are to holdfast to the Lord your God, as you have until now. — Joshua 23:8, NIV.
He held fast to the Lord and did not stop following him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook. — 2 Kings 18:6-7a, NIV
For as a belt is bound around the waist, so I bound all the people of Israel and all the people of Judah to Me,’ declares the Lord, ‘to be my people for my renown and praise and honor. But they have not listened.’ — Jeremiah 13:11, NIV.
Maybe only when we hold fast to God and cling onto Him will we experience the complete Unity that Jesus prays so earnestly about. Maybe only when we cling to Him will we be joined to Him forever, in the spirit, in the heart, and in the soul. Maybe only when we cling to Him just as He clung onto us will we enjoy the complete Glory of God.
May we all enjoy the said unity with Christ and cling onto God just as how He clung onto us.
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. — John 17:22-23a, NIV.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin