WHAT COMES NEXT by Nancy Dobson, PO Box 71132, Bethesda, Md 20813
What is invisible is hard to see. That seems so obvious, what’s the point of saying it? On the other hand, the reality and nature of invisible things has consumed our attention and has been the focus of lifelong debates throughout human history.
God is living, feeling, intelligent spiritual energy. (John 4:24) But for many it is difficult to see God. Therefore they make idols, pray to saints or worship teachers of certain eternal moral truths. They look with their eyes, but they don’t see, Jesus said. (Matthew 13:14-15; John 8:43-47) They haven’t learned how to look with their spirit. While we can see God in what God creates — the materials, laws and design of our interdependent, functioning, life sustaining world — we can also perceive God by using the invisible, living, spiritual energy within us. If we learn how to see using our spirit we can experience God’s constant presence with us and God’s communications to us.
Jesus said it is hard for the rich to enter heaven. That’s because when we feel secure with our wealth we may fail to seek God strongly with our spirit and as a result we miss developing the spiritual health we need to be reborn in God’s kingdom. When we are poor we have an extra incentive to seek God because we know we are unable to meet all of our needs by ourselves. In order to exert the effort to use the invisible part of ourselves to tune in to the invisible Power that we call God we sometimes need something like poverty, sorrow or pain to goad us.
Actions that we can take that will help us perceive God’s presence, and then trust and submit to the guidance of our living, ever-loving Creator and Sustainer, are what Jesus came to teach us. But why should we learn those lessons?
There was a great debate during Jesus’ time about whether some part of us continues to live after our bodies die and, if it does so, what happens to that part that is no longer materially alive. The rich Sadducees denied that life continues after the body dies. The Law-conscious Pharisees claimed that the invisible spirit within each of us lives on after physical death and is judged by our Creator according to how we behaved while we were material beings. Jesus said that what is bound on earth continues to be bound in the spiritual realm, and that we are here to prepare for that inevitable continuation of life. (Matthew 18:18, 10:28, 13:47-50)
God’s evaluation, or judgment, determines where we will live while we are in the invisible spiritual realm. If we have followed certain laws of behavior, our spirit is able to return to live eternally with God. If we have not followed those moral laws of behavior, then our spirit experiences the remorse of separation from God and the pain of punishment. Then it eventually returns to the material realm and we have another opportunity to interact with those we knew previously and to correct previous errors.
Jesus taught reincarnation. As Mark says (12:18-27) “Then some Sadducees — who deny there is a resurrection –” put this question to him. The Sadducees debated with Jesus about the hypothetical woman with seven husbands because of his teaching about reincarnation. (The same word was used for both resurrection and reincarnation.) Jesus told Peter that the disciples would have rewards in the “regeneration.” (Matthew 19:27-29) He reassured the Pharisees of his position on this issue when he pointed out that King David claimed that the Messiah had lived before him. (Matthew 22:41-46) He said that John the Baptist was Elijah reincarnated. (Matthew 11:7-15, 17:10-13 and see Malachi 3:23-24 and Luke 1:5-17) He said the dead would return. Those who had done good would come back to a good life, and those who had done evil would return to damnation. (John 5:28-29) He gave the example of laborers hired at different times but all paid the same. However long or often we labor on earth the final reward is the same for all. (Matthew 20:1-16) In two of his disputes with Jews, St. Paul created a record for us that shows that early Christianity taught reincarnation. (Acts 23:6-8 and 24:14-16.) Reincarnation was part of Christian teaching until Emperor Constantine imposed his will on the church in the 4th century.
In spite of his teachings about life after physical death, about the fact that we will be evaluated after death for our words and behavior during our physical life, and about techniques that help us develop clearer spiritual perception so we can make better choices during material life, and even though Jesus performed miracles to prove that he had spiritual power, many people remained skeptical. Even many Pharisees, who believed in life after death, rejected Jesus’ teachings about how to prepare for life in the spiritual realm. It is, after all, hard to see what is invisible.
After Jesus was rejected by the Pharisees, God led him to create an object lesson that would reverberate throughout time. Jesus told his disciples that he would submit to God’s will so that all in the world would be impressed with his obedience to God. He predicted that after his Resurrection the world would accept the truth of his teachings. People would then learn how they must develop the ability to discern and submit to God’s daily guidance so that they too would be able to live for eternity with God. (John 14:30-31, 12:31-32, 17:20-23; Matthew 12:50)
Jesus then submitted to gruesome torture and to death by crucifixion. On the third day after his death Jesus appeared alive again. He appeared to Mary, who had come to his tomb. (Mark 16:9-11 John 20:1-18) Then he disappeared. He appeared to two men who walked to the village of Emmaus. Then he disappeared. (Luke 24:13-35) He formed out of the ether in a closed door room and ate fish and honey to prove that he wasn’t a ghost. (John 20:19-23) Then he disappeared. He invited Thomas to feel the holes in his hands and side. (John 20:24-29) After 40 days of appearing to and talking with his followers, Jesus ascended into heaven in front of them. (1 Corinthians 15:3-7; Acts 1:1-11, 2:29-33) Jesus was proving that the invisible spiritual realm is real and that we will live there after we die in the material realm.
Though reincarnation was accepted by Hindus, Buddhists and Taoists at that time, the debate about the reality of the spiritual realm and the possibility of returning for eternity to God’s kingdom needed to be settled for those to whom God had given the spiritual governance laws He wants all to use to reconnect with our Creator. Also, the eternal validity of the Golden Rule needed to be proved to them. The purpose of Jesus’ dramatic death by crucifixion was to settle the debate about life after death, to demonstrate that there is a reliable reward for learning how to discern God’s communications and for submitting to God’s guidance, and to prove the validity of Jesus’ teachings about how to do that. This was the powerful message his disciples burned to share with all who would listen. The great debate was over! The existence of the spiritual realm had been proved!
Jesus’ Resurrection was proof positive that life continues in the invisible realm of spiritual energy. Jesus told his disciples to go to all the world and teach the laws he had told them (Matthew 28:16-20) and to teach repentance for the remission of sins. (Luke 24:46-48) The laws he taught are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to treat others as we want to be treated. (Mark 12:29-31) If we love God completely we will follow God’s rules and submit to God’s daily guidance. If we treat others as we want them to treat us we won’t tie ourselves to the material realm with behavioral debts.
All that “remission of sins” requires, Jesus said, is repentance — humbly confessing that we have erred and changing our behavior so that we live by the laws of spiritual governance that have been given to us. By so doing we learn how to discern and submit to God’s daily guidance to us. Giving up our arrogance and rebellion and learning to perceive God’s constant presence, trust in God’s guidance and submit to God’s will is the path we all must follow to return to God’s place for eternity. (Matthew 21:28-32; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 13:1-5) In Revelation John reiterates that those who follow God’s Law and submit to being God’s servants become pillars in God’s house and go out — reincarnate — no more. (Revelation 3:7-13)
This is the importance of Jesus’ Resurrection. We no longer have to fear and deny the spiritual realm. The way has been explained and shown for how to prepare for our inevitable evaluation after our physical life is over. The truth has been given. Returning to eternal life with our Creator is possible. Jesus is the way, the truth and life. (John 8:31-32, 14:21) It’s as easy as following the lessons in the text. It’s a process. It’s a lifestyle. It’s salvation! Praise the Lord for Jesus Christ!
Today many have lost sight of the impact Jesus’ Resurrection had on his disciples so long ago. And many have become confused by misinterpretations of his teachings that have crept into Christianity in the centuries since his ascension. But the phenomena of near death experience — where people have been revived after having been pronounced dead — jogs our memory of the relevance of what Jesus said and did. Some who have been revived after physical death report that they spoke with departed loved ones on the other side of life. One thing they are often told is that the departed are sorrowful that they did not prepare more diligently for life in the spiritual realm while they were on earth. Life on earth is a brief and unique opportunity to strengthen our eternal spirit, and most of us waste it. This is a warning to us. The invisible spiritual realm is real. That we will be alive in it is inevitable. That what we do here will determine where we spend our time there and how we will be treated there is a fact. Those who have visited the other side and returned have renewed our awareness of the reality of the invisible realm and the importance of heeding Jesus’ teachings to take responsibility for our behavior, repent and prepare for what comes next.
Books by Nancy Dobson: The Torah Conscious Christian, Biblical Law by subject, paraphrased, with commentary; The Torah Conscious Christian’s GUIDE TO HOLY DAYS; The Gospel’s Message Within The Message; and Firming Up Your Flabby Spirit. All are in print from Amazon, and all except the Holy Days book are e-books on Kindle. SOUL Question, a fiction book, is also available from Amazon and Kindle. Some political, health and religious essays are in the e-book If You Ask Me…. on Kindle.