Afterlife Doubts: It's Impossible!
It can be hard to accept the conclusions about Jesus’ mission on earth if you are unsure an afterlife is possible. In this three-part series of posts, I want to outline the key objections that are levelled against belief in an Afterlife and attempt to respond:
Nothing lasts forever!
We live in a universe that contains mortal living beings. Scientists teach that the universe had a starting point when the Big Bang occurred; they posit it will also reach a finite end. The death of the universe has been given several names such as “the Big Crunch”, “Heat Death”, or “the Big Rip”; depending on the method of elimination/equilibrium proposed. It may be comforting to imagine that an infinite heavenly dimension exists which we enter after death. However, it is proposed that the evidence gained from this universe (one that we can see, touch and experiment on) gives no proof that anything lasts forever, let alone a human being.
Newton’s Law of the conservation of energy states that energy -- the ability to do work -- can't be created or destroyed. Energy can, however, change form. Is this an example from within our own universe of something that exists eternally? When we die, the collection of atoms of which we are composed are repurposed. Those atoms and that energy, which originated during the Big Bang, will always be around. This reminds me of the Buddhist and Hindu notions of the afterlife which is impersonal and causes you to be subsumed into a perfect union with everything else.
Is there any evidence that you could live forever in bodily form, as taught by Judaism, Christianity and Islam? We used to think there was only one type of matter – matter made from atoms and which makes up living things, planets, stars, etc; the rest of the universe was considered an empty vacuum called Space. This matter is subject to Newton’s Second Law of Thermodynamics, sometimes referred to as the Law of Entropy or Law of Decay. If I never maintain my house, over a long period of time it will get dirty, rust, crumble and fall apart. This law applies to our relationships, our health, all inanimate objects, etc. Put another way, matter in an ordered state will resort to chaos if not attended to. It is clear that our bodies in this material form do not survive death nor have the ability to exist forever.
However, scientists now propose the existence of dark matter, anti-matter and exotic matter to name a few. Astronomers believe that about 5% of the total matter in the universe is made of normal matter (including galaxies, planets and life) while 24-27% is dark matter and 68-71% is dark energy (Space is no longer empty – maybe we should think of a new name for it!). And even weirder is the idea of something called Strange Matter, hypothesised in 1978 by two MIT scientists and gaining traction today. The theory is that subatomic quarks, subjected to extreme intense pressure in the core of neutron stars, causes them to no longer stay neatly packaged inside protons and neutrons. There is only one type of quark that can stay stable in this intense environment and that is the Strange Quark. When grouped together they form strange matter or Strangelets; a perfectly dense, stable and literally indestructible material. It is also contagious according to scientists Barry Freedman and Larry McLerran. When strange matter comes into contact with normal matter it generates more strange matter (i.e. similar idea to King Midas with his golden touch). If a Strangelet were to hit a planet, it would take just seconds for a Midas-like reaction to turn all the ordinary matter into a ball of strange matter. This reaction would in turn generate new Strangelets that would fly off in all directions, creating a chain reaction across the universe. Sounds like the plot from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. II when the god Ego wants to infect the whole universe with himself! If we were to find an example of Strange Matter, it would break the laws of physics as we currently understand them.
Are resurrected bodies a possibility? Genesis 3 describes Adam and Eve disobeying God in the Garden of Eden, by eating from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In response to this sin, God states: “[Adam and Eve] must not be allowed to reach out [their] hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live for ever”. God then removes them from the Garden and posts fierce Cherubim with flaming swords to guard the tree of life. I always found this verse extremely odd. Can bodies made of decaying atomic matter be transformed into a different composition entirely, one that is indestructible? And how would this process occur? Is God implying that it is through contact with some foreign entity?!
Strange Matter, if it exists, would be indestructible. Now, I’m not suggesting that the resurrected Jesus was a Strangelet when he revealed Himself to over 500 people at one time! My point is that many dismiss the idea of everlasting bodies because all we have known so far is bodies made of atoms that do not last forever. Yet, within our own universe there is the notion of energy conservation and potentially Strange Matter which is indestructible and can transform other matter into itself. If we are willing to accept these scientific hypothesises within our own universe, is it so great a leap to contemplate grander possibilities along a similar trajectory of thought?
The Gospels document one man who reappeared from beyond the grave: He looked different (some of His disciples didn’t recognise Him straight away) and His “imperishable body” could reappear and disappear at will. This seems like a bogus magic trick or a mythological tale, but what if Jesus’ body was no longer subject to the same physical laws as us, such as the laws of decay? Maybe His body consisted of a new and unknown type of imperishable matter. If proven to exist, Strange Matter would be the most ‘substantial’ matter in this universe. The matter that makes up a neutron star (its core being where Strangelets are thought to reside) is called neutronium. A cup of neutronium coffee is so incredibly dense that it would be as heavy as Mount Everest! In comparison, normal matter of which our bodies are composed, consists of a lot of empty space due to the atomic structures within.
C S Lewis, in his allegory of the afterlife – The Great Divorce – described a spirit of a woman who tentatively stood at the edge of Heaven, unsure whether to commit. She tried to walk upon the grass and found that the blades cut into her insubstantial feet. The blades of grass were more real, more substantial, than her own form. Even the colours of that place were more vivid, lasting, and significant than her own being. The Great Divorce was written in 1945 using biblical books, such as Revelation to inspire its content. Considering what we now theorise regarding Strange Matter, this allegory seems way ahead of its time, and the book of Revelation which inspired its content even more so (2000 years old)! The implications are unavoidable: our material universe is not as firm and unshakable as once assumed -- no longer the ultimate reality. Normal matter only makes up 5% of the universe – the other types being discovered should open our minds to what could be possible in other dimensions, as postulated by the Multiverse Theory.
Jesus may not have been appearing and disappearing through walls like a ghostly hallucination when He met the disciples in a locked room. Maybe His “imperishable body” was more substantial than the atomic walls and He was the most ‘real’ entity in that room. If future evidence proves indestructible Strange Matter exists, will you dismiss as readily the eye-witness accounts that attest to meeting the resurrected Jesus, who had a very different type of body than before His crucifixion? Remember that Strange Matter can transform lesser matter into itself; if it is proven to exist, will this shed light on the mystery of Genesis 3, when God blocked Adam and Eve from gaining the ability to live forever through the process of touching and eating from the tree of life? What was it He didn’t want them to reach out and grasp?
The Bible teaches that in the future the resurrected Jesus will return for the second and final time. All “will look on the one they have pierced, and they will mourn…and grieve bitterly”. For some who rejected Jesus, there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth”. For others who welcomed Him, there will be a great celebration likened to a sumptuous wedding banquet. Those who humbled themselves, admitted their need for a saviour and obeyed Jesus’ words, will “be like Him; for [they] shall see Him as He is”.
The time for sanctification will be over; the time entrusted to each of us to pursue Truth during our earthly lives will end. “The heavens [will] recede like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island [will be] removed from its place” as the old universe is made new. This may possibly mean a whole new set of physical laws will be introduced; the laws of decay and death shall cease. We will receive “glorified bodies” of which Jesus’ was the First-fruits possibly by eating from the tree of life! This will be no boring existence, sat on clouds playing harps for eternity – we will have real work to do governing the New Creation with a role that has been especially designed for us. We will get to enjoy God and each other forever.
Do you want to be apart of it? Can you at least see how it could be a possibility? If not, there are two more objections to tackle yet…
References  Romans 8:19-25, 2 Cor 4:16, Job 19:26, Matt 6:19-20, Psalm 102:26, Acts 13:34-37, 1 Cor 15:42  Genesis 3:1-24  Genesis 3:22  1 Cor 15:6  Luke 24:15-16, John 20:15  1 Cor 15:20, 15:42-44, Phil 3:21,  John 20:19, Luke 24:31  1 Thess 4:16, Acts 1:11, James 5:7, Rev 22:12, Matt 16:27, Job 19:25-27  Zech 12:10  Luke 13:28, Matt 13:42, 8:12, 25:30  Matt 8:11, 22:1-14, 25:34, Isa 55:1-3, Rev 19:7-9, Luke 12:35-37  John 14:6, Matt 4:17, 18:4  1 Cor 12:3, Acts 4:10-12, John 1:29, 1 Cor 15:20-22, Eph 1:7  John 14:15-17, James 2:14-26  1 John 3:1-3  Rev 6:14, Chapter 21, Isa 65:17  Romans 8:21, Acts 2:27, Psalm 16:10, Acts 13:34-37, 1 Cor 9:25, 15:50-52, 1 Tim 6:16, 1 Peter 1:4, 2 Peter 1:4  Phil 3:21  1 Cor 15:20-28  Eph 2:10, Matt 19:28, Romans 8:18-21, 1 Cor 6:3, John 14:2, Matt 25:21,  Rev 21:3