17. LIFE AFTER DEATH IN THE BIBLE AND IN ISLAM
“Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgement” (Heb. 9:27).
What a terrifying statement that is! If we believe this to be true, there is nothing more urgent and important in life, than to prepare for this. That is if we deem the eternal more important than the temporal. All mankind live in secret or open fear of death and what follows thereafter.
Intuitively we recognize that we carry responsibility for all our actions and thoughts, and that one day we will have to give an account of our lives. And there will be no excuses!
Addressing this topic the Bible talks of people “who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death“ (Heb. 2:15). Christ spoke of people “thrown outside, into darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth“(Matt. 8:12).
Likewise, the Qur’an speaks of judgement and the possibility of condemnation in hell. The descriptions of hell in the Bible and the Qur’an differ, though, just as heaven is shown very differently in both books. They agree that judgement will be ‘according to their works’ (Rev. 20:12. Surah 18:49. 105; 69:30: 101:6; 23:102).
Yet there is one very fundamental difference; according to the Qur’an and Islamic teaching no man can know during his lifetime whether his sins have been forgiven, for Allah ultimately acts “as he wills”. It is the concept of ‘taqdir or ‘qadar‘ (see ‘Learn and Share’ No. 7, p. 6). According to this teaching Allah acts “as he pleases”. Another problem is that he is the author not only of good, but also of evil done. No man can, in fact, do good or evil without Allah directing the same.
And yet there will be punishment for sinners who had no choice in this matter! Besides, Allah is repeatedly said to create some people for heaven and others for hell. According to a hadith, the black race was created for hell! From all those, it is quite clear that good works are not essentially a guarantee to heaven. The only exception is for those who “die for the cause of Islam” the martyrs.
Contrary to all that, from the Bible we know that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). This is supplemented by many other Scriptures, and is based on the death of Christ on the cross for all who call on him. This guarantees forgiveness and with that salvation to every serious believer in Christ Jesus!
What happens when we die? The answer depends on which book we believe, trust, and follow. The Bible teaches that once a believer is “absent from the body”, he is “present with the Lord” (Col. 2:5), and “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). A Muslim who dies awaits the ‘punishment of the grave’, a most gruesome prospect, where the believers (!) are tortured for sins like not observing Salat, the five daily prayers, breaking the fast before the time, neglecting alms giving, refusing to suckle their babies, playing chess, lying, or urinating wrongly. This is to last until judgement day.
Judgement day begins with the resurrection of all dead according to both the Bible and Qur’an. We also find that all deeds are recorded in ‘books’, which will be opened. Here more or less end the similarities. Islam teaches that good believers go to paradise; the bad people will be thrown into hell. Those somewhere in the middle, will have their good deeds weighed against the bad ones. If the good deeds outweigh the bad, the believer may go to paradise. For this reason every true Muslim is eagerly seeking ‘merit’, which is sought in the observation of the ‘five pillars of Islam’, like performing the daily prayers, the fasting, the pilgrimage, giving alms and a myriad of other things. This is based on a false concept of God, man and sin. If God is holy, as he is and if man has a record of sin, as he does. God would no more be holy and righteous, if he allows sin or sinners in his presence, or if he forgives sin without clue punishment.
Contrary to that the Bible recognizes God’s holiness and righteousness, as well as man’s unrighteousness. But Christ “was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him… and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (a prophecy of Isa. 53:5-6. given BC 700, which was fulfilled in Christ). So the sins of every true believer in Jesus have already been punished! This is verified by many, many other Scriptures.
The question every Muslim must ask is: “When will I have merited enough to qualify for heaven?” Islam does not give an answer. But the Bible says of a sinner, “the righteous things he did will not be remembered… he will die in his sin“ (Hes. 3:19-20), and “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty…” (James 2:10). This displays the righteousness of God. His love is shown by his coming to us in Jesus, taking our sins, and with that our punishment, upon himself. This is grace, the unmerited favour which is open to all who avail themselves!
Can we see the dramatic difference between the teaching of the Bible and Islam? Common sense demands that any unbiased reader of both options accepts God’s gift of salvation by grace. The open question is, of course, how trustworthy is the Bible. We have looked at this question in many ways, and are more than willing to share the reasons with you.