I recently listened to an interview with a Cognitive Scientist, AI Researcher, and Philosopher. He was speaking of increasing levels of human development as a person matures in cognitive, intellectual, and spiritual areas. The gist, it seemed to me, of what he was addressing was the progress and aim of human transcendence. Basically, humans may reach higher and higher levels of growth and transcend our current physical and mental limitations.
I’m not debating here whether what he believes is right or wrong. Instead, a rather interesting question came to mind as I listened to him, and that question is “What happens to human nature after death?”
If there is an afterlife, then what becomes of human nature and the corruptions of it that we witness so vividly here in the physical realm? Is evil, depravity, and immorality only a part of this world, or does it carry over into the next?
I believe these questions are important because it seems the common secular viewpoints on the afterlife are either there is none – there is no spiritual realm and we become nothing, or everyone goes to a better place, or we transcend physical limitations and move to a higher existence.
The first – that we cease to exist, in my opinion, is largely due to the destructive error of evolutionary theory. The hopelessness and emptiness of this philosophy is responsible for much of the depression, immorality, and self-destructiveness of modern society. The second and third viewpoints sound nice, but they don’t seem to take into consideration the obvious evil that permeates the human condition. Do bad people automatically become good when they die and go to the “Better Place”? And through all the centuries of humanity, is there any actual evidence of transcendence? If anything, it seems humanity has descended in a spiritual and moral sense.
Modern technology provides glaring evidence of this descending evil of the human condition. What could be and often are tools for good such as the internet, social media, and mainstream media, are corrupted by the depravity of humanity and become amplifiers and accelerators of immorality, hate, greed, and manipulation.
If it seems harsh to consider human nature to be evil, consider that Christ referred to his closest disciples as such. In Matthew 7:11, Christ says, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” And in Romans 3:10-12, Paul writes, “as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.’" Even the best people are evil in the light of the perfect holiness of God.
So, what happens to evil human nature when humans die and leave this physical existence?
The nature of a person reflects their spirit - what we see acted out in the physical realm reflects the condition of the spiritual. The spirit can be affected and influenced by the physical, but it does not need the physical to exist; when a person dies, their spirit carries on. And, since human nature reflects the spirit, then human nature must continue beyond physical existence. With this being so, it is frightening to consider evil human nature carrying over into the spiritual realm, free from the constraints of physical limitations.
The issue I’m addressing is that in all the secular philosophies, it seems evil human nature is not considered when it comes to the afterlife. The theory of transcendence may address it in a way, but as I mentioned earlier, there is no actual evidence – at least that I am aware of humans transcending beyond human nature. And, if human nature does carry over to the realm of the afterlife, then it must indeed be Hell.
So, if there is an afterlife in a spiritual realm, how do we deal with evil human nature carrying over into it? The truth is that we can’t – we cannot change human nature in this physical world, and we can’t keep it from the spiritual realm; it will be there just as it is here. This is a frightening thing to contemplate.
Consider all the evil people that have existed throughout history; Herod, Genghis Khan, Vlad the Impaler, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Joseph Stalin, and the man who most personifies evil in the modern age – Adolf Hitler. Not to mention all the serial killers like Jack the Ripper, The Night Stalker – Richard Ramirez, and Jeffrey Dahmer. When these terrible people died, their evil spirits that drove them to commit the most depraved atrocities carried over to the spiritual realm. While we don’t know what that realm is like, we do know that those unrepentant evil individuals that have gone over await the final day of judgment. Christ says in John 5:28-29, "Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.” They did not become good when they left the physical realm, and they did not go to a “Better Place” as is often claimed by people when someone dies. Their evil spirits and their evil deeds went with them to await the final day.
Those individuals mentioned above are examples of the worst evil and depravity of mankind. But as I wrote earlier, every human is evil in the perfect light of God’s holiness. Even the best people in a human context are evil by nature – that is a fact of the human condition. And even though we can do good and caring works, with the best of intentions, they are still tainted because of our nature. So how do we overcome our nature when we are powerless to change it? This is why the message of the gospel is so important and why neglect of the gospel is so destructive.
We can’t change our nature, but God can and does. To the credit of the disciples who walked with Christ in His incarnation, they asked a very insightful question when faced with the impossibility of changing our own nature. Matthew 19:23-25 says, And Jesus said to His disciples, "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. "Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, "Then who can be saved?" These men understood that evil human nature makes it impossible for anyone to enter the kingdom of heaven, because we can’t change our nature. But Jesus’ response is what we all must come to understand and believe if we are to have any hope of being set free from the bondage and the consequences of our own evil nature.
And looking at them Jesus said to them, "With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." – Matthew 19:26. We cannot change our nature, and because of our nature we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. But God changes human nature, cleanses us of its evil and its consequences and penalty, not by any merit of our own because our nature has none, but by the merit of the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. Our evil nature is washed in the blood of Christ, the only human to ever possess a perfect and righteous nature, free from evil and sin.
This is why the gospel tells us that we must be born again from above, regenerated, made a new creation in Christ. Because it is all of, by, and through His power and love and mercy. Evil human nature is so depraved that we sin against our creator and are in rebellion against Him, until by His working we are made to see the truth of who and what we are, and by His grace are blessed to place our faith and trust in Him to save us from the wrath of God we deserve because of our sinful nature.
So, what happens to human nature after death? For those outside of faith in Jesus Christ, their evil nature remains until the day of judgment, when they must answer not only for their sins, but for rejecting the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ from the wages of sin which is the wrath of God and death.
And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. – And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. - Revelation 20:12,15
For those washed in the blood of the lamb, who have placed their faith and trust in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, whose names are written in the book of life; we are blessed to witness His eternal perfect glory in a new heaven and a new earth. Our original nature is done away with, and we will live in the perfect righteous nature of Jesus Christ.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." And He *said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true." – Revelation 21:3-5
Even while we are on earth, we can learn some of what heaven will be like from the blessings that we have while we are here.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. - 1 Corinthians 13:12
“To be in heaven is to lean one’s head upon the breast of Jesus. You have done it on earth? Then you know what heaven is. To be in heaven is to talk with Jesus, to sit at his feet, to let our heart beat against his heart. If you have had that on earth, you have had some of the grapes of heaven.” - Charles Spurgeon
Chad Prigmore is Pastor and President of The Way R122 Ministry USA & Kenya.