This refers to life after death. Many cultures believe in life after death, and even before the advent of Christianity this belief was a part of the cultural consciousness of most indigenous peoples. Christians believe in an afterlife but the form has changed, or can we say radically different from what used to be the case among many peoples and what appears to be the case in other contemporary religions.
Plato believed that we are survived by a soul after death and this is the form of this belief in many Eastern religions, although many of these have different permutations as to the exact details. The important point here is the belief that a conscious life is possible after death in the form of a soul. As far as Christianity is concerned, we must be able to examine the evidence for the possibility of a conscious life after death from the words of Jesus Himself, and also from the words of the Apostles.
Jesus Christ always emphasised the Kingdom of Heaven, obviously referring to the existence of a place beyond this earthly plane which awaits those who have adhered to the Laws of God. He also raised the possibility of the existence of a place called hell, which is the lot of those who have not been so good and which hold the possibilities of torment as a reward for their evil actions.
Matthew 6:19-20 states “Do not lay up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth or rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.” And further in verse 33 we read “but seek first His Kingdom and Its righteousness and all these things shall be yours as well.” And in His answer to the Sadducees who do not believe in the resurrection He said in Matthew 22:30 “For in the resurrection, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in Heaven.” Furthermore in John 14:2 He said “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”
Evidently, Jesus here has referred to a place, a Kingdom of Heaven, which is beyond this earth and beyond that He has referred to the possibility of a conscious existence in this place by advising us to lay up treasures there. You do not lay up treasures in a place and then go to sleep when you get there. He also mentioned that after death (the resurrection), people are like angels, which refers to a conscious life of work and activity.
Now the developed Christian theological concept of life after death is very different, and the conclusion must be drawn that it was not taken from the Teaching of Jesus. The prevailing Christian theological concept of life after death does not envisage an active life after death at all. Instead after death, human beings are in a state of suspended animation waiting for Judgement.
According to this teaching, with the second coming of Christ, those who have been found righteous would be given back their physical bodies even if they had been dead for thousands of years to enter the Kingdom of God. There is however, an active life after death for sinners. It is envisaged that these would immediately on physical death be whisked to hell to suffer eternal torment.
All this has clearly not been taken from what Jesus Himself said. As mentioned above, Jesus has clearly alluded to a conscious life after earthly death in which the nature of the place one goes is entirely dependent on one’s nature. This nature is of course determined by one’s volition and way of life while on earth. One’s volition represents one’s thoughts, words and deeds. An evil person finds himself in a place corresponding to the nature of his volition whereas a good person finds himself in a place likewise that corresponds to the nature and the way he has lived on earth.
Wherever he finds himself, he will partake of the life he finds therein whether good or bad. In expounding their doctrine, modern Christian theology does not believe in the existence of the soul at all. It believes in the existence of a somewhat transformed physical body, which will be given to believers at the second coming. This is completely illogical and has no biblical basis whatsoever.
Let it be said that there is a dual nature to man on earth. On physical death, his spirit or soul survives him and depending on how he has lived his life here goes to a place in the beyond which corresponds to the nature of his being. While on earth, he produces works or forms which attach to his spirit and these works either weigh him down or lift him up. Depending on his weight he either sinks or is lifted up on his physical death. Those who are lighter due to the lighter nature of their volitions proceed upwards towards the Kingdom that Jesus has mentioned, whereas those who have been evil sink because of the heavier nature of their spirit bodies towards areas which have come about as a result of their evil actions.
However, getting to the Kingdom of Heaven itself is not something that can be achieved in one earth life. It is a question of the continuous striving to perfect our spirits. We are bound to make mistakes while on earth and we must reincarnate several times not only to atone for the mistakes we make but also and perhaps more importantly to continue to learn more and perfect our spirits through our experiences in the various parts of Creation.