Where will you go when you die?
Answering this will be difficult for some and easy for others. Perhaps you'll say heaven, maybe hell. Or, it's possible you aren't sure, haven't given it much thought -- or patently reject the existence of an afterlife. Regardless of where you stand, it's evident that this question is central to considerations surrounding mankind's existence.
So, TheBlaze interviewed Christian apologist Hank Hanegraaff, one of the nation's most well-known evangelical and cultural experts. His recent book, "AfterLife: What You Need to Know About Heaven, the Hereafter & Near-Death Experiences," tackles this question -- and many others -- from a Biblical perspective.
THE EXISTENCE OF LIFE AFTER DEATH
Considering the pervasiveness of the curiosity, TheBlaze plainly asked Hanegraaff, "Is there life after death?" In light of his worldview, the author, radio host and Christian expert answered affirmatively.
"The answer to that question from my perspective is that, yes, there is an afterlife in that human beings are body-soul unities," he said. "There's both a physical and a metaphysical aspect to our humanity and the metaphysical can continue to exist after the death of the body."
Photo Credit: Hank Hanegraaff
Naysayers who don't believe that anything exists beyond our current world will obviously reject this notion, but Hanegraaff maintains that the principle of logic proves that human beings are more than just material creatures. If we were simply that, he argues that "there would be no distinction between the mind and the brain." But because there is a distinction, he notes that this corroborates an existence beyond the physical and the here and now.
As for the Bible, the book that is central to the Christian experience, Hanegraaff described the text as a reliable authority and noted that this has been proven time and again through manuscript evidence. Thus, it's evident that the author believes that the Bible's promise of life after death is one that is rooted in reality and not mere fictional meandering.
"There's a prophetic tapestry in the bible that can't be explained away by good guessing," he said, noting that the book of Daniel chronicles events that weren't set to take place for another 400 years. "And that prophetic prowess is so powerful that a lot of people that would read it ... would think that it's history written after the fact."
HEAVEN, HELL & GHOSTS
The common perception is that, if there's life after death, then there must be specific locations for spirit-beings to reside in once they leave this earth. In many traditions, these locations are labeled heaven and hell, with the former housing "good" individuals and the latter hosting those who would be deemed "bad." This is, of course, an over-simplification, as various traditions hold certain standards and beliefs that must be met to reach either locality (for example, evangelicals believe that faith in Jesus Christ is essential to gain admittance to heaven).
When asked what heaven looks like, Hanegraaff noted that there are misconceptions about what it actually is. With his beliefs rooted in the Bible's descriptions, he explained in detail.
"From a Biblical perspective, heaven is paradise regained ... It culminates in paradise lost becoming paradise restored," he said. "God created a perfect universe. That universe is marred by the advent of sin. As a result of sin you have decay and disease -- destruction and death. All of that is removed in paradise restored."
Hank Hanegraaff (Photo Credit: Hank Hanegraaff)
Those unfamiliar with the Christian doctrine may find this confounding, but Hanegraaff's point, as he illustrated in our interview, is that heaven is essentially the regaining of what was lost. It is, in his view, a perfect universe in which God and human beings have a relationship. All of this, of course, would be rejected by many secularists, but the themes the author mentions are, at the least, fascinating to consider.
"From a Biblical perspective, it's this universe restored to what it was meant to be -- and we ourselves restored to what we were meant to be," continued Hanegraaff. "I'll be the perfect me and you'll be the perfect you. The centerpiece of Christianity is that we will be resurrected."
As for hell, the author believes that its existence is dependent upon heaven's and that the former is actually the complement to the latter.
"Hell is God's great complement to the reality of human freedom and the reality of human choice. If there is no such thing as hell, there can be no such thing as heaven," he said.
According to Hanegraaff, God allows human beings to make choices and these decisions impact where people go when they die. Rather than forcing people to love Him, the author contends that the Lord leaves the decision up to each individual.
"God is not a cosmic rapist who forces his love on people," Hanegraaff told TheBlaze.
One of the more interesting topics that sometimes emerges when speaking about death and the afterlife is the existence of ghosts. Rather than entertain this notion, Hanegraaff told TheBlaze that belief in ghosts is rooted in "superstition" and that there is no place for them in the Biblical interpretation of life and the afterlife.
As for his book, "AfterLife," the author also tackles a familiar subject -- near-death experiences. TheBlaze has covered numerous stories about individuals who claim that they transcended to another realm after nearly perishing during accidents and health scares. The details of these stories often vary. As for Hanegraaff, he notes that, "logically, they can all be wrong, but they can't all be right." The differences in these stories create a scenario in which he purports that they cannot all be taken at face value.
"There are a lot of natural explanations for what happens during a near-death experience," he said, neither overtly dismissing them or endorsing their occurrence. "There are a lot of possibilities to explain the experience -- but again -- they are subjective...they are notoriously unreliable."
Hanegraaff argues more generally, though, that a belief in God and the afterlife changes one's views on the world.
"If you're just purely a physicalist -- if you believe in ... naturalism, then there is no afterlife and moreover in this life there's no real choice," he said. "You just fatalistically determine your brain chemistry and genetics. When you realize there's an afterlife, you live not just for the now -- but for the forever."
Read more about Hanegraaff's new book here.
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