In keeping with our previous posts on death and the Bible, especially in light of a rash of celebrity deaths this year; we thought it would be interesting to explore some established religious beliefs on the topic of death. Recall that we looked at the widely perceived, sterling cornerstone of the popular belief on death and the afterlife, the parable about the Rich Man and Lazarus. We discussed in detail that although the parable is highly suggestive of a heaven and hell being the destination of the righteous and the evil respectively. Consequently we learned that the true meaning of the parable was not as one would naturally perceive it to be. Please refer back to those posts if you would be so kind.
Before we go any further, please know that we will never use this blog to cast judgment on any race of people, faiths, nations, etc. This forum will always be a safe place for inquirying minds to visit and consider the facts as we have researched and presented them. From there it is up to our friends and visitors to this site to make informed decisions about their faith, without tradition-bias, religious dogma, or personal spin.
We just learned today that the infamous Rodney King, who gained national notoriety in 1992 for the injuries he sustained as a result of police brutality and a subsequent criminal trial that ended in acquitals sparked a citywide riot, has died. Depending on your Faith, you like us were probably taught a set of beliefs regarding the afterlife, replete with a small handful of scripture references to refer one’s self to and the assurance that when we die there is more to come (i.e., death is not the end). Let’s face it, death has to be the most frightening thing any human being will have to confront in their lifetime. Biologically, we have autotomic traits (e.g., fight or flight) that kick in when we are facing uncertainty to the point of possible death. Our breathing increases; our adrenaline increases; our attention becomes focused on how to get out of the situation; etc. One of the greatest examples of this has to be when we are driving along in our cars and we come upon a situation where we are forced to break hard. Those seconds that pass are probably the scarest seconds we face in our lives. We do whatever we know to do to stop the car we’re driving. Plain and simple: we are scared to death! Unfortunately, there will come a circumstances when the best we can do to preserve our lives (via natural, accidental, suicidal, or homicidal circumstances) are not good enough and we ultimately come to the end of our lives on this earthly plane.
Our journey to understand the truth about death has taken us to many places in a literary sense. Always we come back to the Bible as the gold standard in determining the truth about such things.
We were curious about how the topic of death was perceived amongst American, so we went to a much respected source: the Barna Group, out of Ventura, California (reference barna.org). In a study they conducted in October of 2003 the following data was collected:
81% of Americans believed in an afterlife while 9% were uncertain of an afterlife and then 10% believed there was no form of life after one dies. Then we found that 76% of Americans believed that heaven existed while 71% believed in the existence of hell. Most of those queried believed that heaven was the ultimate and eternal existence of Christians who will ultimately exist eternally in God’s presence and they believed that heaven was a place of rest and reward where the souls of Christians go after death. Lesser numbers believed heaven as simple symbolism or that heaven did not exist at all. Slightly lesser numbers of Americans, however, believed that hell existed and was eternal separation from God’s presence. Slightly lesser numbers (roughly 32%) believed that hell was a place of torment and suffering where unrepentant souls go after death.
Interestingly, 1/2% of Americans believe they were destined for hell when they died while 64% of those queried believed they were desinted for heaven. Only 5% each of those queried believed in reincarnation or that their existence simply ceased to exist.
Most of those queried believed that they were destined for heaven because “they confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior;” kept the 10 commandments; were good people; and that God simply loves all people and will not let them perish.” And here was no surprise: those queried who were of higher income and possessed advance college degress were less likely to believe in heaven or hell or an afterlife for that matter.
So we have now a basis on which to build on our query in terms of our quest to understand the truth about death. We will continue our quest of course and you are very much invited to accompany us. In the interim, stay alert, focused on the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, praying always for the peace of Israel and the safety of our nation. Be well.