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Life After Life

By Robert A. Friedman -- This article originally appeared in ISSUES 2:1 of Jews for Jesus Magazine.

Is there life after death?Throughout history, men of every nation and culture have been intrigued with this notion. The Jewish Scriptures, the Tenach,have a great deal to say about life, resurrection and eternity. For most of my life I believed once someone died, that was it -- six feet under the ground and a state of nonexistence.

Now I know the Author of life. Now I know each one of us will continue to exist forever and ever.

"And the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being."
-Genesis 2:7

Life originates from God. The Creator of the universe, through His love and mercy, gave life to us. Physical life is not something we asked for, but rather something we received without asking. Even a friend of Job said:

"The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life."
-Job 33:4

Yet, if mere physical life were all we possessed, we could rightly ignore any speculations as to life after death, responsibility to our fellow man or necessary obedience to God. Each great man of God has known this, that there is a Life beyond life, an eternity beyond the temporary. Jeremiah knew.

"O Lord, you took up my case; you redeemed my life."
-Lamentations 3:58
Isaiah knew.
"But Israel will be saved by the LORD with an everlasting salvation; you will never be put to shame or disgraced, to ages everlasting."
-Isaiah 45:17

What do these great Jewish prophets mean when they use words like "redeemed" and "salvation"? By definition there must be a redeemer or savior in order for us to be redeemed or receive salvation.

This was, in fact, a great hope of Israel: that a messiah would come as savior and redeemer -- a messiah who would allow us to exchange our temporary physical life for an eternal one.

"The promised Redeemer would bring the existing world-order to an end and inaugurate the timeless sphere in which the righteous would lead a purely spiritual existence freed from the trammels of the flesh."
-Everyman's Talmud, Page 364

Throughout the Tenach we have evidence that at least a few men, having died, were resurrected back to life by the power of God. Could Abraham have had this in mind when, knowing he was to sacrifice Isaac on the mountain, he told the men with him:

"'Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.'"
-Genesis 22:5

Abraham knew our great nation would come through Isaac. He knew he was to sacrifice Isaac. How else could this make sense unless, in fact, the dead could rise again? Abraham's faith led him to declare, "...We will come back to you."

Greater evidence is given. Have you ever considered the miracles which took place through Elisha? Not Jewish myths, but Jewish history nicely written down for us to reflect upon.

"When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy Iying dead on his couch. He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD...The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes."
-II Kings 4:32,33,35

Even a dead Elisha had an effect upon another dead man -- bringing life back to a corpse.

"Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man's body into Elisha's tomb. When the body touched Elisha's bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet."
-II Kings 13:21

People in Biblical times were sure -- sure that when a prophet of God spoke, what he said would come to pass. If a man said he spoke for God, and what he prophesied did not come true, then he was subject to a swift and fatal stoning.

The prophet Daniel said something about the end of history as we know it and what would happen to those who have already died. Let's take a look at Daniel:

"Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.

"Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever." -Daniel 12:2,3

Perhaps you have heard us discuss eternal life, without considering there was such a thing as eternal death. Your seventy or eighty years on earth today mean nothing compared to an endless tomorrow. It's time to figure out how one can choose life and reject death and forever be in heaven with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the rest of God's children.

There came a time, about 2,000 years ago, when a carpenter of Nazareth of Galilee in Israel made some extraordinary statements about life and resurrection. At the time, our Jewish nation was divided on this issue, with Pharisees believing in the resurrection of the dead and the Saduccees denying it. The latter group questioned the Nazarene, the one called Jesus, on this issue and He responded:

"But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord 'the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.'
"He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive." -Luke 20:37,38

Yes, He is the God of the living, the God who can bring us from death into life. Jesus not only confirmed the resurrection of the dead in word, but also in deed. He put His miracles where His mouth was. Contrary to popular belief today, Jesus did not merely claim to be a prophet of great insight and compassion; rather, He claimed to be the Messiah, the unique Son of the living God, and He proved it.

"'My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live. . .' When Jesus entered the ruler's house, and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd, he said, 'Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.' But they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up."
Matthew 9:18b,23-25

It's reasonable to assume that when the once-dead girl burst into the room full of relatives and friends, they stopped laughing at Jesus. In the seventh chapter of Luke, Jesus touched a dead man and he arose. In the eleventh chapter of John, a village witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus, a man who had been dead four days before his life returned to him.

This last miracle occurred after the man's sister expressed her disappointment in Jesus, for He had not been there at the time her brother was dying. Her only hope for Lazarus' resurrection was in the resurrection "of the last day" as we read about in Daniel 12.

Then Jesus did something and claimed something no other man in history ever has done. He didn't claim, as Buddha did, that he "would point the way." He didn't encourage Martha, the sister, to return in some other life as a higher form or try to do as many mitzvahs as possible to earn her way into heaven. No. He stared right at her and said:

"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies..."
-John 11:25

The Gospel narratives relate the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth -- a resurrection which turned a frightened group of followers hiding behind locked doors into a dynamic nucleus of faith which would spread over the entire world.

Yet, unlike other resurrections where the person would come back to life only to die again, the resurrection of Jesus is permanent. He conquered death not only for Himself, but for any who would ask it of Him.

"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand."
-John 10:27,28

Immediately following the time of Jesus on earth, thousands of devout Jews accepted Him as their Messiah. Others chose to ignore the voice of the Shepherd. Moses Maimonides lived from 1135 to 1204, and stated in his last and thirteenth article of faith:
"I fully believe there will be a revival of the dead at a time which will please the Creator, blessed and exalted be his name forever and ever."

We Jews who have come to know and joyfully accept Jesus as our promised Messiah no longer have a fear of death, but rather a joy of resurrection. Through His death as the Passover lamb He has offered us life -- eternal life.

"If we have been united with him in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection."
-Romans 6:5

We each must make an individual choice to seek God and find God; to be filled with His peace, joy and awareness of who He is, who we are and what it means to be His child.

"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live..."
-Deuteronomy 30:19

We pray you will truly seek and find, that you will truly choose life over death, and that your special eternity will begin from the moment you realize a resurrected life is not only a historical fact but a promise for today, for you, forever.

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