killing him. Moreover, to destroy the evidence "the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death." (John 11:47-12:10 KJV).
The Scriptures mention Lazarus no more, but Jesus was indeed put to death by these enemies of his powerful message. When he then thwarted their efforts by means of a resurrection even more spectacular than that of Lazarus, they again sought to cover up the facts: "...some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, 'You are to say, "His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep." If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.' So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day." (Matthew 28:11-15 NIV)
How sad that any would want to cover up the facts!—to hide from people the events in connection with Jesus that confirm his wonderful promises of everlasting life! Could some, for selfish reasons, go so far as to deprive others of that wonderful hope? Yes, Jesus had already said of such men, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to." (Matthew 23:13 NIV)
Similarly today, some would destroy the hope Jesus offered by blurring or distorting his message. But Jesus clearly spoke, not of some nebulous ghostly existence, but of a bodily resurrection. He said concerning "his body" that "I will raise it again in three days" (John 2:19-21 NIV), and the risen Christ offered proof, saying, "See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself..." (Luke 24:39 NWT)
This resurrection hope is especially important as we move into fulfillment of the end times prophecies. The world of the Last Days is a world hostile to believers. Revelation 6:9-11 speaks of "the souls of those slaughtered" and says that they "cried with a loud voice" and received an answer to their appeal: "And when he opened the fifth seal, I saw
underneath the altar the souls of those slaughtered because of the word of God and because of the witness work that they used to have. And they cried with a loud voice, saying: 'Until when, Sovereign Lord holy and true, are you refraining from judging and avenging our blood upon those who dwell on the earth?' And a white robe was given to each of them; and they were told to rest a little while longer, until the number was filled also of their fellow slaves and their brothers who were about to be killed as they also had been." (Revelation 6:9-11 New World Translation)
They had been killed, but their souls were alive in heaven. This should not come as a surprise, since Jesus said, "do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul." (Matthew 10:28 NWT) So, Jesus says the soul can survive the death of the body.
The souls at Revelation 6:9 receive a reward after death, but is punishment possible? Jesus said, "Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell [ gehenna]" (Luke 12:5 KJV)
Yes, besides the Christian hope of the resurrection, there is also life after death for unbelievers. God commanded Isaiah to proclaim this taunt against the king of Babylon, telling him not only that he is about to die, but also that he will be conscious after death to receive this greeting in the abode of the dead: "The grave below is all astir to meet you at your coming; it rouses the spirits of the departed to greet you…they will say to you, 'You also have become weak, as we are; you have become like us.'" (Isaiah 14:9-10 NIV)
The Bible makes it clear that the dead live on, invisible to us. Before Christ accomplished his work on the cross, it appears that the departed spirits of all who died went to a place called "hell"—not the popular mythological kingdom ruled over by a red Devil with pitchfork and tail, but an underworld called sheol in Hebrew or hades in Greek. Without Christ's redemption, even the 'good' could not go to heaven. During his earthly ministry Jesus explained, "No-one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man." (John 3:13 NIV)