“And they lived happily ever after!” That lovely phrase evocative of childhood fairy tales illustrates a hopeful desire within us. For there is a perpetual desire within the human heart for things to turn out good, not only in time, but in eternity.
In the first Lord of the Rings movie ‘The Fellowship of the Ring,’ during a quiet moment, Frodo Baggins and his friend Sam Wise Gamgee ponder a better time and place, should they be delivered from their reality of conflict, pain, and death. Frodo says: “How would this do: And they all settled down and lived together happily ever after? It will do well, if it ever comes to that.” Sam replies, “Ah! And where will they live? That’s what I often wonder.”
Yes, we as human beings do dream about a happily ever after. But right next to us sits the realist who seeks to squash that dream stating, “There is no happily ever after.” And therein lies the rub. Our present reality is not ‘and they lived happily ever after,’ but rather a cold hard statistic – one out one die. For we live in a sin-cursed earth where nothing turns out good – in fact all things ultimately die. Can any experience be more final than death? No.
Yet, in spite of this sobering statistic, there is a paradox that resides within the human heart highlighted by this question – How is it that we who are mere mortal and trapped in time, think about eternity, pondering existence beyond the grave? [As you’re broaching spiritual concepts with people, this question is a good conversation starter.] Well, the writer of Ecclesiastes provides an answer in Ecclesiastes 3:11, where the scripture states,
“He has set eternity in their hearts.”
Throughout human history, philosophers, theologians and thinkers have addressed the afterlife. The theories, legends and ideas run the spectrum of thought, but ultimately there is no consensus about what happens after we die. Yet, in spite of this uncertainty, there is a singular figure who is the authority on the afterlife, Jesus, our Risen Lord!
When challenged about His claims to be Messiah, He promised them one sign, the “sign of Jonah”:
“Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth’” (Matthew 12:38-40).
The “sign of Jonah” would turn out to be Jesus’ greatest miracle of all – the resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead would be God’s preeminent sign that He was Israel’s long-awaited Messiah (Acts 2:23–32) and establish His claims to deity (Romans 1:3–4). Yet, the resurrection of Jesus would also authenticate His claim to have authority over sin and death.
Yes, Jesus died for our sins and rose again on the third day, promising resurrection and eternal life for the one who puts their trust in Him!
Resurrection, the final proof of God’s victory over death, moved the Apostle Paul to write these words we affirm as believers: “The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. O’ death, Where is thy sting” (1 Corinthians 15:26, 55).
Chuck Swindoll reflects on this glorious victory, “The devil, darkness, and death may swagger and boast, the pangs of life will sting for a while longer, but don’t worry; the forces of evil are breathing their last. Not to worry…He’s risen!”
John describes a bit of our future ‘happily ever after’ in heaven, when he wrote in Revelation 21:3-4, “God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
Thomas expressed doubt regarding the resurrection of Jesus, “I will not believe unless I see!” When the risen Lord showed Himself to Thomas and Thomas believed, Jesus then uttered these words in John 20:29 that reverberate throughout history…even to this day – “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
I find it interesting that many who believe in various kinds of afterlife reality are at the same time cynical and skeptical of the resurrection. Despite the plethora of ‘ever after’ explanations, the resurrection of Jesus is clearly the best explanation for this reality. Why? Because the tomb is empty! No, we don’t believe in a pipe dreams or blind conjecture. Rather, our belief is based upon compelling evidence.
So, when witnessing to people, we can boldly and confidently state that the promise of a ‘happily ever after’ is not a fairy tale, but a very truth – that truth evidential and historical – the tomb is empty! 1 Corinthians 15, the ‘resurrection chapter’ in the New Testament referred to earlier, is a tremendous resource for both personal study and witnessing.
Jesus’ words to Martha in John 11:25-26, just before He raised Lazarus, are as germane to our witness today as they were when the Lord first uttered them 2000 years ago:
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
When God makes a promise, He keeps His promise. Implore people to trust in His promise, believe in the sign of Jonah, and believe in Jesus – insuring a future happily ever after!