Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at roger@preachitteachit.org.

Dear Roger,

My mother died this week. Fortunately, she was a long-time Christian. I’d like to know what the Bible teaches about what happened to her after death.

Susan

Dear Susan,

Death and dying is a subject on the back burners of everyone’s mind, from preschoolers to the oldest adult. Some 9-year-old children were asked what they thought of death and dying. Here’s what they said:

Brittney: “When you die, they bury you in the ground and your soul goes to heaven, but your body can’t go to heaven because it is too crowded up there already.”

Judy: “Only the good people go to heaven. The other people go to where it is hot all the time, like in Arizona.”

John: “Maybe I’ll die someday, but I hope I don’t die on my birthday because it is no fun to celebrate your birthday if you’re dead.”

Martha: “When you die, you don’t have to do homework in heaven, unless your teacher is there, too.”

Death is nothing to fear; in fact, we Christians can look forward to it with anticipation. In Philippians 1:21-23  Paul declared: “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.” However, God still had work on earth for him to do. So he stayed around a little while longer.

Jesus promised that at the moment of our death He will personally take us by the hand and escort us to our new home in Heaven. This is not a job for angels. He reserves for Himself the right to personally accompany us into Heaven’s glory (John 14:1-6).

I’d like to expand on this thought and share a short dissertation of the biblical teachings about death and afterwards from the present and out into eternity.

The Bible is quite clear about what happens after death.

To begin with, let’s put to death the idea of Reincarnation. Reincarnation is the idea that we come back to earth again and again for multiple lives. Reincarnation teaches that our present life form— from insect to human— is a direct reflection of how well we behaved in previous lives. The better we were, the farther up the food chain we return.

When General Patton arrived on the Carthaginian battlefield he observed, "I have been to this battlefield before. I fought here with the Romans.” Unfortunately, Patton was deceived. We only get one life. Sylvester Stallone once related that in a previous life he was a monkey in Central America. That may be true —no, probably not.

Reincarnation is foreign to the Bible. In fact the Bible teaches just the opposite. Hebrews 9:27 declares: “It is appointed unto men once to die and after that comes judgment." The essence of reincarnation allows us to avoid the reality of facing God in judgment for our behavior.

Why might some believe in reincarnation? The Bible teaches that there are evil spirits (“familiar spirits”) who have been around for centuries. These spirits know intimately the lives of others down through the centuries and may influence present-day people with thoughts, emotions, and experiences of people who are long dead. These deceived people begin to believe that they have existed in previous lives and that the thoughts and emotions of others are really theirs.