Modern humanity increasingly feels like a piece of driftwood afloat in a vast, fathomless ocean. Behind men and women lies an eternity of nothingness out of which, wholly by chance, they emerged eons ago. Ahead stretches an eternity of nothingness into which they will pass after a little span of life. An afterlife? No hope of it. They will live on only through their children, grandchildren, and descendants.
I believe in a life to come. I believe that my story will not come to an end when I draw my last breath. I believe that this life is but the beginning. The best is yet to be.
My belief is far more than just a wish or a hope. It rests on five foundations.
THE FIRST FOUNDATION: God, Not Chance
My past has not been a matter of chance, nor will my future be.
In Richard Rodgers’ The Sound of Music, Maria breaks into a plaintive “nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could.” Our reason echoes this sentiment. This world—with its incredible complexity of ecosystems, its rhythms of seasons, its myriad life-forms in ocean depths, on land, in the sky above—did not just happen. We humans with our intricacies of body, mind, and spirit—we didn’t originate by chance. This universe, vast beyond imagination, of stars, planets, supernovas, quarks, and black holes—how much more than a “nothing” it is! No way did a nothing generate it.
The renowned cosmologist Stephen Hawking argues that the universe could have originated in either of two ways—gravity or God. But that begs the question: where did gravity come from? Why not simply posit God as the source of everything?
As we look back over the eternity that lies behind us, the options concerning origins boil down to just two possibilities—naturalism or supernaturalism. The former holds that everything that was, is, or will be can be accounted for by the operation of laws built into the very fabric of the universe. Nothing outside of nature—no miracle, no God—is necessary; nature alone is sufficient. But this approach has no answer to the most basic fact of our existence: the universe is. We are. How did it all begin?
An interesting development of the past 50 years has been the rejection of the purely naturalistic explanation of origins by large numbers of astronomers and cosmologists. Their studies of probability lead them to conclude that the universe is so finely tuned that the odds overwhelmingly favor the intervention of a divine mind.
Perhaps the most notable example of the change in thinking in favor of supernaturalism was the noted philosopher Antony Flew. Throughout the twentieth century he led the charge on behalf of atheism, arguing persuasively against the existence of God through a series of books, articles, and lectures. Flew, however, throughout his life endeavored to keep himself open to the evidence, and that evidence eventually led him to abandon his long-held position. In There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (HarperOne, 2007), Flew concluded that “the laws of nature, life with its teleological organization, and the existence the universe—can only be explained in the light of an Intelligence that explains both its own existence and that of the world.… [The evidence] has led me to accept the existence of a self-existent, immutable, immaterial, omnipotent, and omniscient being” (p. 155).
When Flew refers to the “teleological organization” of life, he has in mind the sense of purpose that underlies the cosmos. A Designer set it all in place and keeps it moving toward a goal. And I, as part of this cosmos, share in the Designer’s purpose. My origins lie not in chance but in God. My future therefore lies not in chance, but in God. There will be life after this.
THE SECOND FOUNDATION: Music
Of all the divine serendipities that point us beyond ourselves, none is more powerful than music. Although music may be used to feed our basic instincts, rightly employed it lifts us to the very throne room of God.
Music is mysterious. Although it has no necessary relation to the world, it is deeply rooted in our nature as human beings. Showing itself in infancy, it is manifest and central in every culture. Famed neurologist Oliver Sacks calls this propensity to music “musicophilia.” In his book by this title, he quotes Charles Darwin on the puzzle of music’s origins: “As neither the enjoyment nor the capacity of producing musical notes are faculties of the least use to man … they must be ranked as among the most mysterious with which he is endowed.”1
If evolution cannot account for our love of music, the Scriptures can. They inform us that music was present at the beginning of Creation, when “the morning stars sang together” (Job 38:7). And music will be present when the great controversy between Christ and Satan is finally resolved. Then the redeemed of all ages will sing the song of Moses and the Lamb, and all heaven will burst into anthems of praise and thanksgiving (Rev. 15:2-4; 7:9).
As we live out our time on earth, music can be our constant companion, lifting us up, cheering our hearts. William Congreve said it right: “Music has charms to soothe the savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.” Even when we cannot hear, music without sound can ring in our ears.
I cannot imagine life without music. This divine gift is integral to who I am. It pulses within my being, assuring me that I am a child of God and that He wills for me an endless existence in His presence filled with heavenly melody.
THE THIRD FOUNDATION: Justice
Like love of music, a sense of justice is basic to being human. Someone who lacks a sense of right and wrong, as some people do, we consider to be sick mentally. We call them psychopaths.
Just like music, justice cannot be accounted for on wholly naturalistic terms. We understand and feel justice because we were made in God’s image, and God is just.
“Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” asked Abraham (Gen. 18:25). Indeed. If God cannot be counted upon always to act rightly—if He is fickle—we are in big trouble. Moral chaos becomes the order of the day, with everyone behaving according to their own rules. But, as the Bible emphasizes, God is faithful, unchanging in character, one on whom we may always count to do right.
In our present broken world, justice very often hangs her head. Life is not fair. Frequently those with enough money escape charges, while the poor, the marginalized, and the alien are denied justice. The Lord of the universe, He who is holy, takes note of every injustice. He who commanded His people to be fair and honest in all their dealings and to stand up for the poor, the orphan, and the foreigner (Deut. 24:17) will not permit this state of affairs with “truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne” to continue indefinitely. “He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained” (Acts 17:31).
I believe in a life to come because justice demands it; there must come a day of reckoning for all humankind. Not only my sense of justice demands it—God’s nature as just and righteous mandates it. That is why the book of Daniel portrays a grand court scene in which the “Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom” (Dan. 7:22).
THE FOURTH FOUNDATION: Intimations of Eternity
For the person of faith heaven comes down even in this life and gives a foretaste of what is yet to be. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” exclaims the apostle John (1 John 3:1, NIV).2 And he continues: “And that is what we are!” (verse 1).
Doubters and unbelievers may assemble their learned arguments against the existence of God and the afterlife, but for us who have accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord, they amount to nothing at all. We have the Answer within ourselves—Jesus.
This life is just the beginning. The best is yet to be. This same letter of 1 John rings with assurance. Over and over the apostle writes: “We know … we know … we know …” This confidence reaches a climax as he brings the epistle to its close:
“We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:18-20, NIV).
Already in this life God gives us intimations of eternity. But the best is yet to be when Jesus comes again and we see Him face-to-face: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2, NIV).
THE FIFTH FOUNDATION: Jesus
Among all the untold billions of children born on this earth, one stands apart, unique. Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary, is the man of the ages.
Although Jesus was born in humble circumstances and died young, He is widely acknowledged as the most influential person who ever lived. His life of gentle, compassionate service to others, and His teachings, simple yet profound, ordinary yet timeless, have inspired and continue to inspire a vast number of men and women who accept His claim to be the Son of God.
Jesus lived a life that, while rooted solidly in this earth, constantly looked beyond it. He spoke of existing before He was born of Mary, and of returning to the Father after His time here was completed. He declared Himself as having come on a mission: to reveal what God is like and to seek and to save the lost. He taught and lived good news—God’s love and acceptance poured out upon all, especially on the poor and the marginalized.
The movement that sprang up around Jesus soon posed a threat to the religious authorities, who plotted to get rid of Him. They had their way: a spring Friday morning saw Jesus of Nazareth impaled on a Roman cross. By evening He was dead, His body placed in a rock-cut tomb.
The Jesus movement should have collapsed and this Man’s name become lost in the history of the Jews. But something startling happened: the body disappeared! A large stone had been rolled across the entrance to the tomb and a guard kept watch. Nevertheless, the body of Jesus disappeared, a fact that to this day has never been satisfactorily explained on a naturalistic basis.
Then, almost immediately, reports that He was alive began to circulate. Jesus appeared to His close followers on several occasions, sometimes to a few, at other times to large numbers. They saw Him, they heard Him, they touched Him; He ate with them. They were absolutely convinced that it was the same Lord they had known before Calvary. And they went out telling the story near and far, eventually to the ends of the earth: Jesus is risen from the dead!
The earliest records of Christianity, the New Testament documents, throb with the certainty of Jesus’ conquest of death. Several of these books were written by the apostle Paul, who was not one of the original twelve, but to whom Jesus appeared a few years after His resurrection. Paul summarized the good news this way: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, … he was buried, … he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3, 4, NIV).
One word captures the essence of Jesus: life. “In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind” (John 1:4, NIV). “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36, NIV). “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10, NIV).
The life that Jesus offers is eternal both in quality and duration. It begins now as we “receive Him” (John 1:12, NIV): we cross over from death to life. And because we are bound up together with Jesus, we shall live forever with Him after this little time on earth is over. He assures us: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25, 26).
Perhaps you say: Words, words, words! Who knows if they are true?
But we can know. Because Jesus is alive, we can know Him. He can be our Savior, Lord, and Friend. Listen again to Paul: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).
Jesus. He is the last and greatest reason I believe in a life beyond this.
We are creatures of dust, but we were made for the stars. Eternity beats within our hearts: we were created in God’s image and He calls us to His home.
If we fail to come home, heaven will suffer loss. Our place will be empty at the great banquet table. Forever we will be a might-have-been.
Dear friend, there is a life to come. Already we catch strains of its music deep within, already we feel its pull. Jesus, the risen Lord, calls us home.
1 Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain (Vintage Books, 2007), p.x.