Monday, December 3, 2018

A Land Unknown: Does Life Exist Beyond the Grave?

Written by Alberta Parish

Is there life beyond the grave? The ancient Egyptians, Sumerians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans and many other cultures have written records of the Underworld, and the judgment of the dead. The Egyptian papyrus of Ani is a written account of the scribe Ani's judgment in the Hall of Maat (located in the underworld). According to the Egyptian "Book of the Dead" (also called the Book of Coming Forth by Day), the deceased person went before the god of the Underworld known as Anubis. His or her heart was weighed upon the scale of Maat, which stood for justice, truth, balance, divine order, law, morality, and harmony. If the heart weighed lighter than the feather, this meant the deceased person's heart is pure. He or she would then enter into the field of peace. However, if the heart weighed heavier than the feather, his or her heart is impure and weighed down with evil. Then, a demon would devour the heart and the deceased person would enter eternal death.

M. Choksi of Ancient History Encyclopedia wrote that the "[A]ncient Mesopotamians conceptualized the netherworld as the cosmic opposite of the heavens and as a shadowy version of life on earth. Metaphysically, it was thought to lie a great distance from the realm of the living. Physically, however, it lay underground and is poetically described as located only a short distance from the earth's surface."

According to the website, All About History, the ancient Romans believed in the immortality of the soul and had a complicated belief system about life after death. It was further stated that "[T]he ancient Romans believed that when one died, one was met by Mercury, the messenger god and son of Jupiter and taken to the river Styx, that flowed nine times around the underworld. There they paid the ferryman, Charon, a fee to cross the river where they were met and judged by Minos, Aenaeus, and Rhadymanthas. However, the ancient Romans did not believe in eternal damnation. Therefore, after one was judged he was sent either to the Fields of Elysium, if one was a warrior or other type of hero, or to the Plain of Asphodel, if one was an ordinary citizen. However, if one was judged to have committed a crime against society, one would have been sent to Tartarus to be tortured by the Furies until such time as one's debt to society was deemed to have been paid in full. All three areas of the underworld were ruled by Pluto, brother of Jupiter."  

According to the Ancient History Encyclopedia, the after-life, for the ancient Greeks, consisted of a grey and dreary world in the time of Homer (8th century BCE) and, most famously, we have the scene from Homer's Odyssey in which Odysseus meets the spirit of the great warrior Achilles in the netherworld where Achilles tells him he would rather be a landless slave on earth than a king in the underworld. The website further states, "[T]he afterlife was known as Hades and was a grey world ruled by the Lord of the Dead, also known as Hades. Within this misty realm, however, were different planes of existence the dead could inhabit. If they had lived a good life and were remembered by the living they could enjoy the sunny pleasures of Elysium; if they were wicked then they fell into the darker pits of Tartarus while, if they were forgotten, they wandered eternally in the bleakness of the land of Hades."

There are so many accounts of people claiming to have experienced near death or death that share concurring claims about a dark and dreary world, a place that no human should ever enter. People have talked about experiencing hopelessness in this dark place, and also seeing large creatures (called demons) that came and snatched them and held them prisoner. All cultures have stories about the underworld and the creatures that inhabit the underworld. 

In our modern world of technology, many stories about the Underworld have been posted all over social media and told by peoples from all walks of life. People from every culture and every religious system have told similar stories based on personal experiences or near-death experiences, all sharing common themes of the Underworld although their stories have varying differences. Many people have also described seeing a tunnel of bright light and entering into a place called Paradise or Heaven. The Bible gives specific and detailed accounts about Hell and its inhabitants. The Kingdom of Heaven can also be found throughout biblical scriptures. 

According to one Bible story, there was a rich man who died and went to Hell. He was in torment and saw Abraham and Lazarus beside him. He called to Abraham to send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water to cool his tongue because he was in torment in the flames. The rich man also remembered his family, his brothers. He asked Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers about this place. The dead has consciousness, memory, perception, awareness. They also know what the living are doing.  

The Bible describes Hell (i.e., underworld; Tartarus) as a place that holds prisoners.  I Peter 3:18-20: "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water." 

Hell has prison bars for its inhabitants. Job 17:16: "They shall go down to the bars of the pit, when our rest together is in the dust." 

"Before I go whence I shall not return, even to the land of darkness and the shadow of death; A land of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness" (Job 10:21-22). The Underworld (i.e., Hell; Tartarus; bottomless pit) is the land of darkness and the shadow of death.

There are many people who just don't see Hell or the Underworld as a literal place of existence. But what if it's all true? What if the Bible is true? What if it's all real, and you miss the opportunity to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (also described as Paradise) based upon your own disbelief or wicked actions in this physical realm? 

The Bible states, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Jesus (Yesha) was the only sacrifice for mankind. I know Hell is real. I also know Heaven is real. There are many people having similar or almost similar experiences of things and entities they've seen after they've died. Whether they see a tunnel of bright light or a world of darkness, what many people have seen in the afterlife cannot be simply discarded as fictional stories.

A Land Unknown: Hell's Dominion written by B.W. Melvin is the near-death experience of a former atheist who died from cholera in the 1980's, and claimed that he saw Hell and demons that torment souls in this place. When I first read his book in 2014, I was an atheist or at least I thought I was an atheist. I knew what Melvin saw to be true, because I had an out-of-body experience in the mid-1990's and saw something that I'll never forget. I didn't see Hell, but I saw evil in its purest form. I truly believe when people talk about going to Hell after they've died that they've actually experienced something out of the ordinary realm of human existence. I don't think these people are making up these stories about Hell or Heaven. They are too graphic to be made up, and each story seem to have very common themes such as Hell being a place of perpetual fire, gloominess, darkness, and hopelessness. Hell is the abode of the wicked. It is a place of chaos, and without hope. Hell is also outer darkness.  

Works Cited

All About History. "Ancient Romans."

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Choksi, M. "Ancient Mesopotamian Beliefs in the Afterlife." 20 June 2014. 

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Dungen, Wim van den. "The Adoration of Re Hymn to the Rising Sun." 

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"Mark, Joshua J. "The After-Life In Ancient Greece." 18 Jan. 2012. 

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