What happens to us when we die? It would be easy to give the smart answer, ‘I don’t know. I have never died before and no-one who has ever died has told me’. But actually we do know something.
Many who maintain that there is life after death believe that our bodies die but it is our souls that live on. The body is just a container of the really important part of us which is our soul. Death, then, is actually a release, as though the door of the cage were opened to let the bird fly away into freedom. This is a very attractive belief, and it is astonishing how many Christians believe it. When I point out to them that this view is nowhere to be found in the Bible and actually derives from the pagan Greek philosopher, Socrates, they are shocked.
Christians are also taken aback when I inform them that the Old Testament does not really have any substantial belief in life after death. What the New Testament teaches us is quite different from the Old Testament and from that sublime philosopher, Socrates.
Of course, the Christian answer to what happens to us when we die is based on the historical fact of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our main sources are first, the gospel accounts of the Resurrection appearances of Jesus and second, that great fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians. St Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 tells us that Jesus is but the firstfruits of the dead. His rising from the dead is just the beginning of the process, for we who are ‘in Christ’ will be raised with him. And the key word for Paul is ‘change’. Our bodies will be ‘changed’, not discarded, as Socrates taught.
When we look at the gospel accounts of Jesus’s resurrection appearances we see him in his body but changed.
Far fetched? Isn’t the caterpillar changed into a butterfly? But does the caterpillar actually know that it will one day be changed into a butterfly?
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Happy Easter.
Revd Brian Hunt