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
Heaven - what is it like? Who is in heaven? How do we get to heaven?
What happens after we die? Where do we go? What do we become? These and similar questions have been pondered and debated since the beginning of time. Do we come from nothing, spend a lifetime here, and then return to nothing? Are we subject to the concept of Karma in which we die, are then reincarnated and our next life will be based on how good or bad we were in this life? Or, is there universal salvation in which everyone, regardless of what they believe go to a place of peace and happiness, freed from the restraints and suffering of this world?
Let’s consider universal salvation since it is a common belief. Many people feel that regardless of beliefs or religious affiliation, that everyone is doing the best they can, and everyone ends up in the same place after death. But how could all people upon death go to a place of peace and happiness if human nature is there? It doesn’t take a genius to look at human history and the world around us and understand there is something very evil at the core of human nature - this is the doctrine of total human depravity. How could there be universal salvation, a place of peace and happiness after death if human nature has not been dealt with and corrected? Human nature is not physical it is spiritual, and the corrupting influence of human nature would make a place of universal peace and happiness after death an impossibility because our nature would still be a part of us. The evil of human nature would continue to be carried out on the spiritual plane just as it is on the physical plane. So how do we deal with the issue of evil human nature?
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, [he is] a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. ... He made Him who knew no sin [to be] sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. - 2 Corinthians 5:17,21
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. - John 14:6
The answer to overcoming evil human nature is answered in 2 Corinthians 5:17,21 and John 14:6 above. Because of our fallen and sinful nature we are separated from God who is perfect and holy. We have broken his law and the wages of our sinful transgressions are death and eternal damnation. The only way to be reconciled to God is for our sins to be atoned for and our penalty paid - but no finite creature could ever atone for sinning against an infinite, perfect, and holy God. But there is a way and that way is through faith and trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a perfect and sinless life, then took on our sin and paid the horrific penalty for it on our behalf when He suffered and died on the cross. Then after three days in the tomb, He rose for our salvation. If we repent of our sins, have faith in Him, and trust in His perfect righteousness we are assured of spending eternity in absolute joy and bliss with Him in His glory. Those in Christ are freed from the bonds of sinful human nature - it was crucified with Christ and we are a new creation in Him. We will be in heaven with Him and spend eternity with Him. He is the only way, his word is the only truth, and He is the source of eternal life. How do we get to heaven? Through Jesus Christ.
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” - 1 Corinthians 2:9
Heaven, as we are told in 1 Corinthians 2:9, is beyond our imagination. Our finite minds lack the capacity to conceive or fully comprehend what heaven is and what it will be like. However, it seems there is much to learn about heaven by learning what it is not and what will not be in heaven.
Genesis 1:31 says, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” Heaven, and after judgment day, the new heavens and the new earth will be perfect as God created it and intended it to be - God's perfect creation. There will be no more sin, no more entropy, no more disease and pain, no more sorrow, the effects of sin will be gone.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. - Romans 8:18-25
Paul is telling us to have a proper perspective, to look to and hope for the better country that we are promised in Jesus Christ. That is the hope that we have faith in. Think of the pain, suffering, and affliction of this world and then consider that in heaven there will be no tears, no sorrow, no death, no pain, no sickness, no darkness, no un-Goldy people, no sin, no temples because we will worship in the Lord’s presence, no sun or moon because the glorious light of the Lord will illuminate, and no curse from the sin of Adam that we inherited. All of the evil and darkness and sin of this world, everything that has afflicted and caused us suffering in this age – it will all be gone.
Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. - 2 Corinthians 4:13-18
All that we suffer from and all the evils and sin of this world are but a light momentary affliction, incomparable to the eternal glory that we will enjoy in the Lord’s heavenly kingdom with Him. Considering and meditating on heaven and the truths of heaven give us a proper perspective, lifts our eyes to Christ, and the promises we have in Him.
"You will bring them and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, The place, O LORD, which You have made for Your dwelling, The sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established. "The LORD shall reign forever and ever." - Exodus 15:17-18
Chad Prigmore is Pastor and President of The Way R122 Ministry USA & Kenya.