The following is an introduction from my upcoming book “A Believer’s Understanding of Death and the Hereafter”. I have felt that this is a topic that is rarely discussed by many pastors and preachers in churches and that someone might be interested to understand this topic. I will be grateful for your feedback, questions and comments.
Growing in Africa, it is amazing to see how Africans treat death and the ones in the bereaved families. The average African still cherishes the idea that death is caused by certain human and spiritual elements and they see no reason why a loving God can be the cause of such a heart breaking malady. In most cases, we think a person has died because of witchcraft, illness or some unseen foul plays that have transpired behind our back. We refuse to cherish the thought that the person has served his life on earth, and there s a time to bid farewell to old mother earth; a time to die. We seek for medical explanations; we visit prophets and witch-doctors in their shrines to find the reason why.
An average pastor in Africa is often confronted by believers from his congregation that demands to know the reason why God has taken one of their family members. Rarely do we find answers to satisfy the deep longings of our troubling congregants. The pastor is sometimes in great want of answers and finds ways to quickly brush aside the subject and dismiss it by saying the Lord’s will has been done. It is common to hear preachers on funerals saying, “Death is God’s Law” as if this thought warrants any biblical justification.
Recently we lost a cousin in the family. I was so much amazed by how people tend to react in times of grief, sorrow and pain. In most cases, I have come to the conclusion that people should grieve much better had someone taught them the truth about life, death and the hereafter. After what I witnessed at the funeral, I set down to reflect and write. What follows next are my thoughts though not meant to be dogmantic, is hoped may be of great benefit to those who seek to understand this mystery on death and the hereafter.
Most people in the church today are afraid of death and dying. Death is seen as a deadly foe, to be avoided and feared. This is quite evident especially if you listen to the saints as they ask God for a more prolonged life on earth, binding death and such other kinds of prayers that seeks after divine protection and to be spared from the claws of death. False prophets have made great fortunes by offering supposed spiritual solutions against death. Most people are so mesmerized by the fear of death, are afraid of death and dying, and if chance permits, they would give all to get spared from its lethal grip and live life long.
The world looks at death as merciless and ruthless. Death isn’t a respecter of persons. All mankind die; men, women and children. The young, the adult, the sick and the strong – no one is spared of this deadly reality. The world is in a state of hopelessness; death’s thoughts erase the expectations of a bright future and man is plunged in the abyss of worry with thoughts of the inevitable hanging on the balances. People love life but we still grapple with the questions such as why do men die? Will there be a resurrection from the graves? These and other such like questions haunts us. No-one has ever returned from the world of the departed spirits to warn us or prepare us for the ultimate realities that confront us after death. There is a great gulf fixed between us mortals and the spirits of the departed dead who lie in their graves.
For the Christian, at least there is hope – a hope for a better resurrection; a hope so fixed and as certain as the rising of the sun. This hope is anchored in Christ and His word that promises us that death will be swallowed in victory. At the last day, when the trumpet will sound and the dead in Christ will be raised to meet the Lord in the air. For the believer who believes in the Scriptures as God’s true word, the issue of death is no longer a mystery since God has revealed all that we need to know about it and how we should be prepared to meet our God. We should thus assume that every believer is to be prepared and equipped for that day of physical death, but sadly, most believers lack understanding of this phenomenon called death.
Most pastors and churches lack sound biblical teachings about death and dying. This has caused many believers to be hopeless and despairing when faced with friends and family members who ask them about this theodicy. Why does evil seem to prevail over good? Why is the wicked living longer than most saints? Why do people die? Why do babies die? What happens after death and how can we be sure of our eternal habitation after this life of earthly pilgrimage has been abolished? Many questions remain unanswered. However, some questions still can be answered with amazing insight and certainty; others can be suppositions and others will never be understood as long as life is on this other end of the universe. Yet, in all these things, God does not want us to be ignorant.
It is the role of the church and its leaders to teach its people educate and prepare them of such perilous times. It is therefore my desire to help those believers asking serious questions to get serious answers. However, we should not lose sight of the fact that as humans, we have certain limitations. We know in part until such a time when we shall see Him face to face. For, only then, shall we be able to know what previously hidden mysteries were. God’s word is the basis of our understanding of all theological discourses.