Said The Times (London), which sponsored the exhibition at the British Museum: "If the Chinese had not believed so passionately in the spirit world and the afterlife, they would never have ensured that their tombs carried such resplendent cargoes. The wealth of refined bronzes, jades and ceramics installed there testifies to the importance of their faith in life after death" (Sept. 10, 1996).
The Times continued: "Avoiding death was all important. Another way this might be achieved was by ensuring that the body was transformed into a light jade-like substance, by following special diets and exercise regimes."
What Happens After Death?
As did the ancients, some moderns go to great lengths to hold onto life. Yet no one can for long forestall the divine decree recorded in the creation epic: "For dust you are, and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:19).
On the other hand, the Creator of the human race decreed a way to attain everlasting life, a fail-safe formula for gaining eternal existence backed up by the highest source of authority in the world, His own Word. A beauty of it is that this opportunity is available as a gift to all, not just a select few.
God's Word records that the patriarch Job posed a poignant question about life and death: "If a man dies, shall he live again?" Job's answer was unequivocal. "All the days of my hard service will I wait, till my change come" (Job 14:14).
This patriarch's firm belief was based on God's promise of a miraculous change, a time of transformation to immortal spirit—not just a perpetuation of his physical life.
The Hebrew prophet Daniel provides us another brief glimpse into the next world, through an archangel's words: "And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake ... Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness [will shine] like the stars forever and ever" (Daniel 12:2-3).
Preparing to be Immortal
The apostle Paul explains this remarkable change, telling us that "this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (1 Corinthians 15:54).
He makes this point clear when he says: "So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body" (verses 42-44).
Yet death of the physical body is inevitable. The Bible writers describe it as a temporary sleep, a state of complete unconsciousness (Ecclesiastes 9:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:13). King David was one of those writers. "For in death there is no remembrance of you," he said in a prayer to God; "in the grave who shall give you thanks?" (Psalm 6:5).
Paul elaborates: "But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those that are fallen asleep [have died]. For since by man came death, by Man [Christ] came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:20-22).
To come back to life, one must first die. The only way anyone can inherit eternal life is through a resurrection.
Candidates for Immortality
Who is a candidate for eternal life? What must one do to live forever?
Anyone who accepts Jesus Christ's offer of the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23) must live by the code of conduct expounded by Christ Himself when He told the rich, young ruler to keep the Ten Commandments (Matthew 19:17-19). The Commandments serve as the foundation of God's law. They tell us how to express love to our fellow human beings and how to love God.
Just acknowledging the name of Christ will not do. "But why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not the things which I say?" asked Jesus Himself (Luke 6:46). Furthermore, "not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).
Ancient Egyptians and Chinese clothed and treated the physical body to preserve it and in a futile attempt to achieve eternal life. Our quest for immortality can be fulfilled only if we walk as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6; 1 Peter 2:21), just as Abraham did when the patriarch expressed his humble attitude: "I ... am but dust and ashes" (Genesis 18:27).
God alone provides us with the way to eternal life. We can read about it in His Word, the Bible.