Resurrection, Judgement and the Hereafter



The Two Aspects of Death

Although the phenomenon of life counts as the most precious of gifts and its loss is extremely grievous and terrifying, none can doubt that just as surely as man embarks on his life involuntarily to spend some time in this guesthouse we call the world, he must ultimately confront the painful and frowning face of death when the scroll of his life is rolled up.

Our world is a world of turmoil and instability. The wheel of birth and death keeps constantly turning; do not believe that anything can come into being in the sphere of this cycle without being subject to change.

Whatever comes into existence must traverse a path leading to death; it makes no difference whether it be man or one of the other countless forms of life. Every phenomenon the limits of whose motion are set by matter is ephemeral, for it is precisely its defining characteristic that draws it on toward non-existence; the end of its affair is disappearance. The funeral dirge of finiteness resounds throughout the world of being.

We must first raise the complex question of the end of life, attempt to analyze it and to answer some of the questions that may be raised in this respect.

Is life restricted to this present terrestrial existence which stretches from the moment of birth to the moment of death? Is it confined to the brief interval during which those who have come to this world take, one after another, the place of those who have left it? Should it be imagined that there is no existence other than the three-dimensional existence of this world, and that our individual characteristics and personalities bear the imprint of non-being? Or is it true that beyond this existence an eternal morrow awaits man, which will enable him to perceive anew himself and the world? Will the physical system of this world be transformed into another world and manifest a new and perfected form?

Finally, in all these arrivals and departures, in these assumptions of form and annihilations, is there some divine purpose at work? In other words, did God's will determine that man, the choice part of His creation, should live in this world as a traveler, a transient, and move ultimately to another world which will be his eternal abode?

If we conceive of death in the light of the first set of possibilities, then life, under whatever circumstances it is spent, will be full of misery and pain, for the anticipation of annihilation and non-being inevitably arouses dread in man and paralyses him with the undeniable torment it induces.

The second vantage point is that of a person who finds refuge in the concept of a world beyond nature which enables him to place this world in perspective. He is convinced that man and the universe advance together in a pattern determined by God's unity and that their forward movement is unending. For such a person death is simply the breaking of the narrow and confining cage of the body and his being liberated from it, entering thereby an ideal and enrapturing realm. For such a person death is merely the substitution of one form to another, a change of outer garb. When death arrives man abandons this garb and his form of clay and puts on the garment of the transitional realm. Then, ascending from that stage to the next and flying toward infinity, he casts off in turn the garb of the transitional realm and puts on the raiment of eternity.

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