Death and Dying

The Christian faith has many different beliefs and teachings on death and what may happen after that. The New Testament contains a numerous amount of references to a life beyond the grave that doesn’t make sense at all unless believed and accepted in. The ultimate question is, ‘Is there life after death?’There are a few ideas of the future life. Firstly, it is believed that whatever form we may be in, human or spirit, we shall remain in Christ’s presence forever. Secondly, we shall be like Christ and have a spiritual body like him. Another belief is that it’ll be a better life than the one present as God will bestow some of His Glory on us and we’ll receive his goodwill and favour. Finally, we shall be given a reward or authority for the life we have led. However, the Christian belief is that death is not the final frontier to be feared. The life and religion now living is just the preparation to the eternal life ahead in heaven with God.Christians believe that faith in Jesus can overcome death and evil, with the idea of immortality of the soul. This is where Christians believe that all humans have a body and a soul that survives death, and afterwards goes to a spiritual place where God is.Mark stated in his Gospel that he assures that anyone who ‘gives you a drink of water because you belong to me’ will certainly receive a reward. However, there is one other aspect to think about on the subject of death; hell. Hell can be defined as a ‘separation from God’. For some it could represent fire, isolation or loneliness. Although it is believed that God rules us, God does not send people to hell. It is those sinners who send themselves there. Judgement Day is when all will be judged and sentenced. The Judgement will be based on Christian faith and behaviour. Good Christians will go to heaven for eternity whilst those who have sinned or are non-Christians will go to hell. The judge is thought of to be Jesus Christ, as mediator and all the judgement is committed to him (Acts 17:31; John 5:22). Many Christians believe that Jesus will return to Earth at the time of judgement- the Second Coming. This is where the dead will rise and be judged. If they have not sinned, then they will be given an immortal (eternal) body.If they have sinned, then the individual should pray for forgiveness, either by prayers or confessions. But, there is one sort of sin that could never be forgiven, and that is if the quarrel is religious or on moral issues, and the individual quarrelled with goes against the Christian belief. Here, there can be no reconciliation.Heaven, hell and purgatory are very important factors in the Christian belief. Heaven is the place in which the sinless, or those whom confessed will go to be with God, hell is the place where those who have sinned will go and live in isolation and/or torment and finally, purgatory is somewhere which people who have not yet confessed, but will, will go and would be judged to whether they’ll be sent to heaven or hell. This is all called the Judgement.Hell is thought to be as a ‘torture chamber’, but a man named Dante thought of there to be nine ‘pits’. The first pit would be where Dante would meet the souls of the babies who died before they were baptised or souls of those who died before the existence of Jesus. This is purgatory. The second ‘pit’ is full of those who’d spent their lives chasing the opposite sex and will then live in an everlasting storm and are thrown about continuously. The third ‘pit’ is crammed with those that spent their lives eating and drinking. Here, they have their skin ripped off by Cerberous; a three headed monster.The next ‘pit’ is full of dead people who had previously spent their money foolishly, and now have to push enormous boulders and are always getting in each other’s way. The fifth ‘pit’ is for individuals who’d been angry and sullen, so they have to fight with their fists and teeth, covered in excrement by a slimy, smelly river called the Styx. Next, are for those who didn’t believe in Christianity, or tried to change it. These ‘heretics’ are roasted in gigantic ovens. The seventh ‘pit’ is for the violent people, and they’ll be forever drowning in boiling blood. Dante then discovered that the eighth is divided into ten layers, with each layer specialising in a particular sin. Thieves for example are spend eternity in a snake pit. Finally, the ninth ‘pit’ is the lowest ‘pit’ of all. It is a chamber filled with ice and is punishment for those who’ve betrayed others. These souls are frozen in the iced lake, accompanied by the devil. However, this belief is now nonsense because of the change in opinions of the universe and how we should live.In conclusion, hell is for those who have chosen to allow their minds to be powered by anger, hate, jealously and violence, whereas heaven is for those who have confessed, not sinned and those who love. Purgatory, is an in-between state for the majority of people who are not very good, nor bad. Some people there are saved and prepared for heaven.Nowadays many Roman Catholics believe in purgatory as the ‘lesser purification’ that the dead have to go through before heaven. Some think that hell is the greater purification for those who have given themselves to the devil, although the official teaching of these churches is that hell lasts forever.Christians also believe in resurrection. This is the restoration of life or arising from the dead. This is the central belief of Christianity. The bible states that if the spirit of God was the one who raised Jesus from death, and then he will ‘also give life to your mortal bodies’, and that when the body is buried, it is mortal; when raised, it will be immortal. Christians believe that resurrection is not all about the dead coming back to life, but transforming to a part of God to live in him. Basically, the resurrection is seen as triumph, a transformation and as a future hope. Death is not the end in their eyes. Even though it may be a time of sadness and grief, Christians believe that the death of Jesus brought victory over death, and that dying on earth will start a new life called ‘eternal life’. This is resurrection.Christians differ in views about life after death, but all believe that life has a meaning and purpose.Evangelical Protestants believe in resurrection, and that when people die, their souls wait until Judgement Day, then the dead will be raised to join the living in the presence of God, not knowing the length of time they had been waiting.Many Protestants believe in the immortality of the soul, and that when someone has died, their soul live in a spiritual realm and that the soul will immediately go to God to be judged and the good will be directed towards heaven. However many Protestants don’t believe in hell, but that there will be an after-life, and what happens in that after-life will be based on the life led now.Roman Catholics believe in both immortality and resurrection. They believe that those who have not sinned since their last confession will go straight to heaven, those who have sinned will go to purgatory to confess and be cleansed and those who have refused to believe in god will go to hell. Then everyone will be judged when Jesus arrives, and God will make a new heaven and earth, and the souls in hell will remain there.Burial services are an important part of laying the dead. These are very simple services in which the body of the dead is committed to God. The words spoken in a funeral service is,’ I am the resurrection and the life; he whobelieves in me, though he die, yet shall helive and whoever lives and believes in meshall never die.’This means that whoever believes in the resurrection of life shall live eternally.As death approaches, Roman Catholics take their last Holy Communion and receive food for their ‘journey’. During the burial service, both Catholics and Orthodox Christians offer prayers for the dead and Roman Catholics take their last rites before dying, as a priest will anoint the dying with holy oil as a preparation for deathR2The belief of an afterlife causes a great deal of difference in the attitude and behaviour of the believer, to someone who opposes in the idea. A Christian would behave in ways to be awarded when dead, e.g. to go to heaven. Many issues influence the factors of their belief such as the Ten Commandments. The Commandments are a set of rules that were passed from God to Moses to be told to the people to be followed, in order to do well in life. To do this, it is said that no lies should be told, adultery is unacceptable, stealing is forbidden and to not ‘covet’ what others have, but be happy for them. Another commandment is to honour your parents, have respect for them as you would for God, and never misuse the name of God. The sixth demand is to worship God, and only God. The next is to remember Sabbath Day and to keep it holy and to rest, the eighth is to never make anything an idol and finally, ‘do not murder’. Following these demands will result in the believer leading a good and happy life, in which they’ll be later awarded on by God. However, a teacher of the Law once asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” and Jesus replied that the most important is this,”Listen, Israel! The Lord our God is the only Lord.Love the Lord your God with all your heart, withall your soul, and with all your strength.”and that the second most important commandment is this:”Love your neighbour as you love yourself.”Another factor influencing the behaviour of a Christian is forgiveness. They pray for forgiveness once realised that they have sinned, such as prayers for mercy and to forgive others. Roman Catholics have a Devotion to the Sacrament of Forgiveness by offering their prayers, confessions, communions, fasting and ‘works of mercy’ to God for the intention that sinners repent their sins and receive the Sacrament of Forgiveness. The holy purpose is to replenish their selves and clear all (theirs and the sinners) sins, to bring grace with God. There are many Catholic prayers for repentance and all seek for forgiveness for their misdeeds in similar ways.There are many other different affects on a Christian because of their particular belief towards afterlife. Actions could be made towards those of a lower class so that God would reward the Christian(s) in their next life. Such things as giving up or giving a certain amount of their money to the poor, or giving their belongings to a charity in order to help the less fortunate. Other actions apart from not committing sins, praying to God, the reading and studying of the bible can also be thought to affect the followers lives, as they are becoming more closer to the understanding of Jesus and God. Another action is the treatment to others. Being kind and treating others with respect like the story of the ‘Good Samaritan’, where the enemy; Samaritan, helped his rival, because the other was wounded, is thought to be a good deed where the afterlife will be pleasant.Followers like the Evangelical Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons believe that spreading the word of God to people around the world, and trying to change the faith of non- Christian believers to their belief will affect their eternal life. These followers of Christ (apart from Witnesses, that just contribute) also pay a ten percent of their annual income towards their church.However, Roman Catholics confess as part of their input towards a better afterlife. Just before they part with the present world, they have their Last Rites. This is where the priest will anoint them with holy oil as a preparation for death. Others on the other hand, choose that the time before death is a private occasion shared between themselves and God. The Last Rites will cleanse all sins that have not yet been ‘purified’ or just for reassurance that they will enter heaven when they have passed away.Another action to be taken to have a satisfying afterlife is the ritual in which adults and children go through to enter the Christian church: baptism. This is a ceremony where people would be sprinkled or immersed in holy water. This is also where the baby or adult is enunciated in the world, flesh and the devil, so joins the community of the New Covenant. Most churches and Christians regard baptism as a sacrament or a sign of grace; some regard it as simply an ordinance, or a rite commanded by Christ. But whatever it is regarded to be, it’s unquestionably a ritual taken out to cleanse all sins in order for a good life.Salvation also affects a Christian’s daily life. If they believe that Jesus’ work saved them they may not see any point in leading a good life, but if they believe that their own actions are what saves them, they may think that their belief no longer matters. So, most Christians believe that it is important to combine the two- ‘leading a good life as well as believing in Jesus.’Finally, at the end of a Christian’s life, it is essential that they have a funeral; burial or cremation. Most people feel that they need this religious ceremony to honour and mark death. Different forms of Christian followers have different ways of marking this death, for example Orthodox Christians believe that when the body dies, the soul lives on just like a plant. The flower is beautiful, but when the seed is dug up, you will ‘find that it is all rotten and horrible’. So, a bowl of wheat grain is placed on a table at funerals to honour this theory.Many Christians believe that when your physical body dies, your soul will live on into the afterlife, hopefully in a pleasurable experience. It is this hope for the future that makes many funerals a happy rather than a sad occasion because some of the most beautiful prayers and hymns, worships and goodbyes are found in this service.R3’Everyone should enjoy their life and forget aboutwhat might happen next.’This is a discursive statement. Many religions differ in answer, but Christians believe that as long as their lives are sinless, well behaved and follows the bible, then life should be good. However, this is a very odd question for some Christians, as everyone should enjoy their life as every person is created in the image and likeness of God and has dignity and rights, but to forget about what may happen next is ludicrous.The Ten Commandments should also be taken into account, as the consequences will affect the future, so it is inconsiderate to not think about the upcoming plan ahead and its vitality because life is not just about how much you enjoy it, as there are joys and sorrows. Catholics believe that because there are ups and downs in some stages of life, everyone has to carry the cross at some point in their lives, some more so than others! But whatever form of Christianity it is, it is said that all should love God and all should love their neighbours!For an Orthodox Christian, proper understanding of the future life is essential to living in a ‘God- pleasing, joyous and fulfilled manner’ on earth. Orthodox followers believe that hell is a choice; that a person’s view of the future determines how she or he lives in the present; and that, as St. Isaac of Syria once said: “This life has been given to you for repentance; do not waste it in vain pursuits.” Orthodox Christians believe that meditation upon one’s own death and the judgement that awaits him is not ‘something that promoted morbid introspection’, but rather the true repentance that leads to the fullness of life and joy in Christ.Many Christians such as Jehovah’s Witnesses think that they should ‘eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we will die’, but this does not mean that you should take advantage of this and forget about your religion and how you are to behave. This phrase is from Matthew 24:38,39 where Jesus explained that before the flood, “[people were] eating and drinking, men marrying and women giving in to marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away.”However, it was evidently difficult for people to believe that everything around them was going to end. Only eight people were saved from the ark, so why is this so important? What is the significance? Well, it is said that this time Jesus will come as a representative of God and judge all, and that this time there will be millions of survivors- a great crowd who worship the only true God. So, this is implying that in order for us to lead a good life, we should worship and listen to God.On the other hand, there are people whom do not believe in God. They are called Atheists. Atheists object to the wording, as it is a false impression. Firstly the ‘forget what happens next’ implies that something happens next. However, they believe that there is no reason ‘beyond wishful thinking’ to believe that anything happens next, as this life is all that there is to them. Additionally, atheists are most concerned about leaving earth a better way in which it was found. So, atheists hope to leave earth knowing that are going to be missed by family and friends. They certainly believe in enjoying life though, but prefer the term, ‘live life to the fullest’.They could not take pleasure in life without helping others, making responsible choices for the environment, etc. All good work is believed to enhance the enjoyment of life. Humanists are people who believe in human effort rather than religions, and are a form of atheists. Overall they wouldn’t agree with the statement, even though they don’t believe that there is a heaven and hell. Humanists don’t believe that there is a heaven and hell, but this does not mean that they could live their life however wished. They intend to live their life sinless and good, so that when they part the present world, they know that they have not badly affected their loved ones and surrounding humans because of their behaviour. So, even though Humanists don’t have a religion, they still believe in leading a fine life.On the contrary, I think that all of the above are true and well said, but we have to love the creator of all this as well, God. We are all his ‘images’, and should live life to the full, but also respecting others and God in the meantime. I feel that it is not necessary to pray to God or wear certain clothes or follow very strict rituals in order to please him, unless the actions are really wanted by the individual. This is because I have never believed that God would have created us to be thinking about him all day everyday, but for us to explore the world, meet new people and take pleasure from our surroundings.However, forgetting about what may happen next is not very thoughtful and considerate, as the actions or work-taking place in the present is going to affect you later on in life. I also trust that ‘whatever goes round comes round’, and this would also affect our future because I believe that committing a sin will be brought back on you at sometime in your life. The Ten Commandments is also very important to me, but if necessary, it is acceptable to go against it. In conclusion, everyone has a right to believe what he or she wants to believe and do what they wish, as long as it doesn’t affect anyone else in the meantime. In addition, if a sin is committed, the human being should be responsible enough to handle the consequences.

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