What happens after we die?
Is there anyone who isn’t interested in this question?
And, is there anything definitive that can be said or do we just have to wait and see what happens? For most of us, this is one of those areas where we have many more questions than answers. Part of the human condition is an awareness of our mortality, a keen interest in what happens after we die, and very few answers (some would say none).
This all sounds like it could add up to a good movie—if it were done right. And that’s what Hereafter is. It’s a thought provoking film that takes the possibility of life after death and spins three stories from it. The result is a lovely little movie that is definitely not for the hardcore thrill seeker. (After the tsunami scene at the beginning, it’s all downhill in that regard). Hereafter is a gentle, unimposing film that invites rather than overwhelms. The soundtrack sets the tone and the rest of the movie slips into place behind it. The film is necessarily long (a little over two hours), because it doesn’t want to rush you through anything.
All three of its main characters are struggling. Marie Lelay has gone through a near-death experience and is trying to make sense of what happened. George Lonegard has the ability to see into the next world, but he’s much more interested in trying to live normally in this one. A young boy named Marcus has lost his twin brother, Jason, and is having tremendous difficulty adjusting to life without him. Without giving away the ending, we are shown that how they think about the afterlife ends up transforming their lives.
While Hereafter isn’t done from a Christian perspective (and is anti-Christian/organized religion in a few parts—such as when a priest takes less than a minute to perform a funeral), this connection between the future and the present resonates with Scripture. While the Bible is absolute in its affirmation of life after death,* it is minimalist in terms of details. There are stories, pictures, and hyperbole offered to us, but very little solid, quantifiable detail. Basically what we are told is that our bodies will be transformed at the resurrection to be like Jesus’ glorious body (Philippians 3:20-21; 1 John 3:2). What we are given in detail, though, are instructions on how we ought to live because there is a hereafter. “Stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.”
That’s how Peterson renders 1 Corinthians 15:58 in The Message. In chapter 15, Paul has been speaking about the resurrection as a fundamental fact of the Christian faith. His concluding words remind us that assurance concerning the next life means we’re anchored in this one. Hope is the anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:19)—what a beautiful picture! While we can no more control everything that happens to us in this life than a sailor can control the sea, having an anchor means we can ride out any storm. Knowing we can ride out the storm means we sail with confidence. But remember, before any sailor sets out to sea, they inspect their ship. Checked your anchor lately?
* For those who have seen the film, I wonder if the blindfold scene (beyond the exquisite little irony of showing two lonely people being most revealing when they are unable to see), is a metaphor for the whole humanistic/atheistic approach to the afterlife—a concession that they admittedly are speaking about things that they cannot see? If it wasn’t intentional, it certainly works well.