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Q. I have a question you might shed some light on. When a person dies does that person end up feeling the pain and grief that he or she caused to others? Do you know anything about this subject? (J.M., Mt. Vernon, WA)
This is a good question and should cause all of us to think seriously about what we are doing during our short lives here on earth. Interestingly, some persons who have had near death experiences claim that those who have committed suicide are condemned to watch the grief of their survivors forever. Other NDE witnesses state that alcoholics and drug addicts find themselves in situations where they lust and long for a drink or a drug but cannot find any relief (Ritchie, M.D. 1978, 59-61). But, these reports are only anecdotal. We shouldn't take them too seriously.
Words, Motives,&Deeds Judged
We base most of our answers on what we believe are truths presented in the Bible. According to the Bible we know that God will judge every word we speak, the reasons why we do things, and everything we do (Matthew 12:36, 1 Corinthians 4:5, 2 Cor. 5:10). This applies to everyone - believers and non believers alike.
Akashic Records or "Book of Life"
New Agers theorize that this judgment of everything we do and feel comes from what they call the "Akashic Records" - something like a cosmic record of the universe and all living beings. This was a view taught by Edgar Cayce.
But, the Bible says mankind will be judged according to the "book of life" and "from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds" (Revelation 20:12).
Although astonishing, information about the biblical "books" recording our deeds was written at least 2000 years before Edgar Cayce's Akashic Records became a popular concept. Could the Akashic Records and the Book of Life actually be the same thing? You decide.
Equality in Heaven?
We do know from the Bible that not all of us will be equal in heaven. For example, some heavenly dwellers will rule more cities than others alongside the King of the Universe (Luke 19:17-19). Others will share in a special fellowship with Christ as "companions" (metachoi) because of their obedience and willingness to share in the suffering of Christ for His sake (Heb 3:14, 2 Tim 2:12).
Certainly, all of us should aim to hear these words as we stand in front of Christ at the Judgment Seat: "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little. I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master" (Matthew 25:21, ESV).
Will believers feel sorrow over things they did while on earth? It surprises some Christians to hear that they might shed tears in heaven. Because our judgment occurs prior to our entrance into the New Jerusalem (something like a stunningly beautiful space-city) the Lord says He will "wipe away every tear…" as we enter this idealic habitat (Revelation 21:4).
But, think about it. Just where do those tears come from that the Lord will wipe away? Could they be tears of regret over things we failed to do while on earth?
Lost, Wasted Opportunitites
Certain theologians such as Randy Alcorn, Paul Benware, Joseph Dillow, Erwin Lutzer and Chuck Missler think we may grieve over all of those lost opportunities we had on earth. That would include how we treated others and what we did with the gifts God gave us.
Partial Loss of Reward
We know from the Biblical records that we can lose part of a reward we might have received: The Apostle John warns us to "Watch yourselves so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward" (2 John 1:8).
Feeling Shame in Heaven?
We also know that we can feel shame before the Lord when He returns for us: "Little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink from Him in shame at His coming" (1 John 2:28).
Surprisingly, in addition we find that some of the Christian's works will be burned up at the Judgment Seat. Perhaps a few of these include some of our deeds recorded in the "books" (Revelation 20:12).
The Apostle Paul warns us with these sobering words …"the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire" (1 Corinthians 3:13-15).
Church Goers Accountable Too
Church goers are often shocked to learn that they will account for everything they do, too, and will be judged for the good and the bad deeds regardless of being saved from eternal punishment.
Yes, we are in Heaven. But, that doesn't mean we are not accountable for the bad things we did while on earth.
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Judgment for How we Treat Believers
Some of our works to be judged will include how we treated believers or God's children. "For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints…" (Hebrews 6:10).
From this it is clear that mankind will account for all that he says, thinks and does without exception - including how each individual treated others during his earthly sojourn. This includes believers as well as unbelievers. We can't underscore that enough!
However, the believer has his life judged so that he may enter heaven cleansed and ready to serve the Lord. All his sins are already forgiven and will not keep him out of heaven.
The unbeliever is judged and sent to another realm we call "hell." According to Yeshua (Hebrew for Jesus) the unbeliever will suffer gnashing of teeth and weeping for his misdeeds (See Matthew 13:42, Luke 13:28).
If we listen to Dr. George Ritchie, who may have had an authentic Near Death Experience, then some of that weeping and "gnashing of teeth" may result from pain we caused others while we lived on earth (Ritchie 1978, 59).
Lake of Fire
In Revelation 20:13-15 we learn that everyone is judged according to their deeds - but those who are not found in the "book of life" are thrown into the "lake of fire." This is what the church calls "eternal hell."
Does the Book of Life retain our DNA Records?
In a shocking theory a few theologians such as Perry Stone think that the "book of life" may actually contain the DNA records of believers who are to be brought to eternal life. It's a stunning thought.
We won't be forgotten because God will never forget us. The very record of our unique, individual identification markers that make us who we are will be found in that Book of Life. After all, God can easily recreate new bodies for us that will have unsurpassed longevity. All God needs is our information contained in DNA.
In fact, a few Jewish scientists who are researching this area call our DNA the "Genetic Book of Life" (Stone 2007). Does this seem impossible? Not so fast…geneticists teach us that "if all the DNA of all the five billion plus people on earth were gathered into one place, it would only be the size of two five-grain aspirin tablets" (Martindale 2005, 33). It is a sobering thought, indeed!
So it is extremely important to our health, well-being and longevity to make sure we are one of God's children. God's children are the eternal "believers."
Biblical Longevity means Forever
So how do we obtain this eternal longevity?
We receive it by believing that Christ died for our sins just as it was prophesied in the Old Testament. We find these prophecies in passages such as Isaiah 53:4-6, proved to have been written centuries before Jesus was born. We also believe that He was truly buried and rose from the dead on the third day just as prophesied in the Old Testament such as found in Psalm 16:10.
Resurrection a Nuclear Event?
By believing this good news that we read in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, we are now written in the Book of Life and will be resurrected at a future date. This could be a "nuclear-type" event according to physicists like Frank J. Tipler and Hugh Ross. At any rate we know that it will be a spectacularly brilliant moment for all believers!
Martindale, Wayne. 2005. Beyond the shadowlands: C.S. Lewis on heaven&hell. Wheaton, ILL: Crossway.
Missler, Nancy. 2007. The kingdom, power&glory. Coeur d'Alene, ID: The King's High Way Ministries. Available from: www.kingshighway.org. (A Christian's manual for overcoming weaknesses&sins).
Ritchie, George G. 1978. Return From tomorrow. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Chosen Books.
Stone, Perry. 2007. The DNA factor: raising the ashes of the dead. (DVD). Presented by Voice of Evangelism Outreach Ministries. Available from: www.perrystone.org.
Tipler, Frank J. 2007. The physics of Christianity. New York: Doubleday.
Wilkinson, Bruce. 2002. A life God rewards. Sisters, OR: Multnomah.
Jeffrey L. Mays, the author of this question, passed away on 2/7/10. He will be sorely missed! In all Mr. Mays contributed at least 40 thought-provoking questions to Remnant Report.
The lesson is clear: Like Moses we all pray, "teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12). Life is so very short and we must make the most of our days while we still can (Ephesians 5:15, James 4:14).
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