success stories

Life After Death

According to Cardinal John Newman

This life, quite apart from revelation, seems to imply another life after death, if only because "we are ever expecting great things from life, from our internal consciousness every moment of our having souls; and we are ever being disappointed." And so our "earthly life . . . gives promise of what it does not accomplish. It promises immortality, yet it is mortal." The unfulfilled potential of this life seems to demand fulfillment in another life:

The very greatness of our powers makes this life look pitiful; the very pitifulness of this life forces on our thoughts to another; and the prospect of another gives a dignity and value to this life which promises it; and thus this life is at once great and little, and we rightly condemn it while we exalt its importance.

This is true not only of our abilities and talents, but also and more importantly of our moral and spiritual powers:

There is something in mortal truth and goodness, in faith, in firmness, n heavenly-mindedness, in meekness, in courage, in loving-kindness, to which this world's circumstances are quite unequal, for which the longest life is insufficient, which makes the highest opportunities of this world disappointing, which must burst the prison of this world to have its appropriate range.

But if the potentiality of this life seems to be unrealized, the existence of a life to come opens up undreamed of possibilities, the "wonderful things of the new world""

Who can express the surprise and rapture which will come upon those, who then at last apprehend them for the first time, and to whose perceptions they are new! Who can imagine by a stretch of fancy the feelings of those who having died in faith, wake up to enjoyment!"

In simpler psychological terms, Newman imagines the "most transporting" feeling which will come over the soul of the faithful Christian, when just separated from the body, and conscious that his trial is once for all over. Though his life has been a long and painful discipline, yet when it is over, we may suppose him to feel at the moment the same sort of surprise at its being ended, as generally follows any exertion in this life, when the object is gained and the anticipation over.

When we die we shall also see God as he really is. This will not be a shock or surprise to holy people, but it will be to the ordinary sinful run of humanity. Most people "being to lose sight of God" in this life through sinning:

Like men who fall asleep, the real prospect still flits before them in their dreams, but out of shape and proportion, discolored, crowed with all manner of fancies and untruths; and so they proceed in that dream of sin, more or less profound . . . Death alone gives lively perceptions to the generality of men, who then see the very truth, such as they saw it before they began to sin, but more clear and more fearful.

When we die we come before God as our judge, and the prospect of that encounter fills us with fear, if only because, as Newman depicts it in his incomparable prose, the meeting will be profoundly personal one:

We are not merely to be rewarded or punished, we are to be judged. Recompense is to come upon our actions, not by a mere general provision or course of nature, as it does at present, but from the Lawgiver himself in person. We have to stand before His righteous Presence, and that one by one. One by one we shall have to endure His holy and searching eye. At present we are in a world of shadows. What we see is not substantial. Suddenly it will be rent in twain and vanish away, and our Maker will appear. And then, I say, that first appearance will be nothing less than a personal intercourse between the Creator and every creature. He will look on us, while we look on Him.

The fearful simplicity of that last sentence does not belie the love of God, for, as we shall see, the dread nature of the judgement lies in the fact that it is the searching glance of Love itself which is judgement.

Unlike our own death which comes closer every day, the last judgment and Christ's second coming are no nearer and no further away than when Christ left the world, which is not moving towards the end, but along it, and on the brink of it; and is at all times equally near the great event, which, did it run towards, it would at once run into Christ, then, is ever at our doors; as near eighteen hundred years ago as now, and not nearer now than then; and not nearer when He comes than now. When He says that He will come soon, "soon is not a word of time, but of natural order. This present state of things . . . is ever close upon the next world, and resolves itself into it. As when a man is given over, he may die any moment, yet lingers; as an implement of war may at any moment explode, and must at some time; as we listen for a clock to strike, and at length it surprises us; as a crumbling arch hangs, we know not how, and is not safe to pass under; so creeps on this feeble weary world, and one day, before we know where we are, it will end.

Newman explains that the Gospels do not recognize any temporal interval between Christ's first coming, as a result of which "the last time" has already come, and his second coming, since it is only "as it were, an accident." For Christians, Christ is ever "just coming, all but come."