Giving evidence for the afterlife is a tough endeavor.

It seems the only way to know for sure is to die and see what happens! But that’s not very practical, is it? Because if there was no afterlife, you would never find out that you were wrong!

So let’s start with something more simple. Why do Christians believe in the afterlife? Why do I believe in the afterlife? Am I just hoping there is one or do I actually have good reasons to believe that it exists?

Christian Reasons for the Afterlife

For me there are three primary reasons. First, most Christians believe that humans are not purely physical beings in that they have souls.[1] Since the soul is non-physical, people’s souls continue to exist after their bodies die. If we are spiritual beings, then the afterlife is a strong possibility.

Second, Christians believe that God has revealed information about the afterlife through the Bible. Since God created everything, He knows whether or not there is such a thing as an afterlife.

Third, Christians believe that someone was dead for three days and came back to life. There is strong evidence to back up Jesus’ claims to resurrection and that He is a trustworthy source about the afterlife.

It would be impossible for me to give in-depth arguments for all three points in one blog post. Instead, I have a more modest goal: to show that Christians are at least reasonable to believe in the afterlife.

The Existence of the Soul

Think about death for a moment. When we see a living person, his body seems to be animated by something. When he dies, his body stops breathing, moving and living. Two things could account for this. First, if a person is purely physical, then he would cease to exist. Or second, if people have souls, then it could be that his soul left his body. The departure of the soul equally explains why the body is no longer animated. Both views account for the same facts observed at death.

Peter Kreeft tells a simple story about a primitive man and a cow to explain this point:

“Primitive Man has two cows. One dies. What is the difference between Dead Cow and Live Cow? Primitive man looks. (He’s really quite bright.) There appears no material difference in size or weight immediately upon death. Yet there is an enormous difference; something is missing. What? Life, of course. And what is that? The answer is obvious to any intelligent observer whose head is not clouded with theories: life is what makes Live Cow breathe. Life is breath. (The word for ‘soul’, or ‘life’, and ‘breath’ is the same in many ancient languages.) Soul is not air, which is still in Dead Cow’s lungs, but the power to move it.”

In other words, a body that is animated by a soul is easily differentiated from a body not animated by a soul even though there is no material difference between the two.

There are philosophical arguments for the soul that I won’t get into here (See J.P. Moreland’s article here). Additionally, I believe Scripture presents human beings as having a soul that exists after death (Ecc. 12:7; Matt. 10:28; 2 Cor. 5:6-8). If the soul does exist, then that would would make it reasonable to believe that people have the ability to survive after death. The soul would be the mechanism by which the afterlife is possible.

Revelation from a Higher Authority

As I stated above, human beings are not in a position to know about the afterlife with their own resources because we cannot experience the afterlife until we die. (Some people argue for Near Death Experiences, but I’m not going to get into that here). So we need some outside help.

Christians believe that God has communicated to us through the Bible. So what the Bible claims about the afterlife is what God claims about the afterlife. Obviously, if the Bible comes from God and God tells us there is an afterlife, the Christian would be reasonable to believe Him. In fact, a person would be unreasonable to not believe Him!

But all this does is take the claim back one step. We still need to give reasons why we believe that the Bible is inspired by God. Thankfully, our team at A Clear Lens has written plenty on defending the truthfulness of Scripture. Here are a few posts for further reading:

The Bible is Reliable in its Archaeology:

The Evidence Continues to Show That The Bible Really Is History by Misty Callahan

The Reliability of the Jesus Tradition in the Gospels:

Closing the Gap Between the Jesus Tradition and the Gospels by Yours Truly

Questioning the Bible as History:

Navigating Biblical Skepticism by Alex Aili

Series on Contradictions in the Bible:

An Intro to Dismantling Alleged Discrepancies by Gene Gosewehr

General Historicity of the Bible:

Podcast #55: The Historical Reliability of the New Testament with Dr. Craig Blomberg

A Resurrected Individual

Finally, the core of Christianity rests on a single event in history: the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. According to Paul, if Jesus stayed dead then our faith is worthless (1 Cor. 15:14). But if Jesus really came back from the dead, then His radical claims about Himself and the afterlife are true. The Christian would then be reasonable to believe in the afterlife based upon the authority of Jesus.

There is excellent evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, as we have discussed on this site many times (here, here, and here for starters). Since we believe that Jesus rose from the grave, we also believe in his promises about the afterlife:

“I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29).

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).

“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:2-3).

“Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades” (Revelation 1:17-18).

We trust in Jesus as the only one who has power over death. He is the One who makes the afterlife a reality for the Christian. The question is, do you believe Him?


[1] Some Christians call themselves physicalists because they believe that humans are purely physical.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I agree with points 2 and 3.
    But, as far as your point # 1 is concerned, I think you have convoluted Soul and Spirit when in most cases scripture uses the terms to mean different things.
    Regardless, you’ve made a case that you believe that whatever a soul is, both people and cows possess it.

    • Thanks for the comment VP. I’m taking it that you hold to the trichotomy of man, meaning that a person has three “parts” of body, soul and spirit. After rereading my my points it looks like I lean more towards the view of dichotomy, where spirit and soul are the same thing. I hold this partially because passages like Luke 1:46-47 use soul and spirit interchangeably. I take passages like 1 Thessalonians 5:23 to be similar to Jesus saying “love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.” In other words, Jesus is not breaking down how many parts a human being consists of, but is just saying to love God with everything. Similarly, I think Paul in 1 Thess. is just praying that God sanctifies our whole person and that he isn’t laying out the parts of man. Either way, it is a secondary issue to me. But I would be interested in more of your thoughts on the matter.

      • I think if we put 10 people in a room and ask them what the soul is we’ll get 11 answers. So I’m not sure the perfect definition but whatever it is I lean towards a wholistic view of the person.
        Obviously we are body and I believe the Bible talks about the spirit or breath of God (ruach) animating us. I tend to think of soul as my essence or personality. (and there seems to be some overlap in the Bible among mind, heart, soul and spirit). Maybe an imperfect equation is a body + God’s breath or spirit = a living soul. I think that follows Genesis description of God creating Adam quite nicely. When the spirit is removed then the soul dies with the body – or as scripture states it, it sleeps. For an example see the description in Acts of Stephen at his death. (Scripture uses this sleep metaphor many times – I’ve heard 50 or more.) I don’t think that under normal circumstances the soul acts on its own. I believe God must bring the body to life for the soul to be active.

  2. As Paul points out, without the Resurrection Christianity makes no sense.
    1 Corinthians 15:12-19
    Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.

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