Can life have any meaning apart from the One who created it? You can know the truth about not only God’s existence, but why He created you in the first place.
What is the meaning of life? Do you know? Do you even care?
Philosophers have contemplated and debated this question for millennia. Yet the debate is still far from over and remains surrounded by a vast and ever-growing body of ideas and beliefs. Are we left to define life’s meaning for ourselves, or do we share a greater purpose for our existence? The answer remains in dispute.
As more people subscribe to an evolutionary view of life’s origin—thus becoming atheists, rejecting even the idea of God—the question boils down to this: How can there be meaning to a merely physical and temporary existence?
It is not my purpose to explore the multitude of theories on the subject in one short message. However, let me briefly mention three spurious views of how life with God would take away from life’s meaning. As outlandish as this may seem, some believe that the idea of God is an impediment to life’s purpose.
Philosophy Professor Thaddeus Metz points out that some think “the existence of God… would necessarily reduce meaning” (“The Meaning of Life,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, February 9, 2021). According to his explanation, those who make this argument say that God’s existence would place us in a master/servant or parent/child relationship where “our independence or dignity as adult persons would be violated.” In other words, having an omnipotent God around would mean we could no longer be our own bosses.
Metz points out that some other philosophers argue that if God exists, “God’s omniscience [His being all-knowing] would unavoidably make it impossible for us to control another person’s access to the most intimate details about ourselves, which, for some, amounts to a less meaningful life than one with such control.” To put it another way, if God knows everything about us—every little secret thought, feeling, or motivation we ever had—He certainly could share that knowledge with someone else. And we certainly wouldn’t want that.
Some even object to eternal life itself. According to Professor Metz, “there has been the argument that an immortal life could not avoid becoming boring… rendering life pointless according to many subjective and objective theories.”
These are only a few of the naturalistic views seeking to explain life’s meaning apart from God. The discussion is broad, technical at times—and, well, meaningless! Apart from God, there can be no meaning beyond the grave—leaving mankind to find purpose, or lack thereof, in a temporary and far-too-short existence.
I discussed the meaning of life in my February Tomorrow’s World column. In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon explores life’s purpose from a temporary perspective. Suffice it to say that Solomon had every physical pleasure he desired. Not one of us could ever match him when it comes to wine, women, and song—or fame, fortune, and accomplishment. Most who take that approach find that what they thought would make them happy does not. Consider the lives of so many celebrities who outwardly “have it all” but still crash and burn. Some get strung out on drugs, others endure one failed marriage after another. Ponder the widely reported case of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard—both have fame and fortune, but it seems that neither fame nor fortune has provided real happiness.
This is not to say that every rich person has a failed marriage or that being a celebrity makes someone unhappy by default—only that happiness does not come from temporary pleasures. The question is, “Can there be lasting meaning to life if life is only temporary?”
It may surprise you that one major faction of religious Jews in Jesus’ day believed that there was no future beyond the grave. Note the famous encounter between the Sadducees and Jesus when they challenged Him about the resurrection (Matthew 22:23–32).
And notice that when the Apostle Paul was brought before the Council, he created a near riot over this same subject. “But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, ‘Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!’… For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection—and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both” (Acts 23:6, 8).
Some of the Christians at Corinth were influenced by such philosophies. Paul’s first letter to those brethren addresses in great detail the resurrection of the dead. He reasons with perfect logic that “if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep [died] in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Corinthians 15:16–19).
Then, explaining the futility of self-restraint if all we have is the here and now, Paul takes it to its natural conclusion: “If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!’” (1 Corinthians 15:32).
But before we set off to eat and drink ourselves to death, let us ask ourselves the central question Paul addresses here: Is there going to be a resurrection from the dead? It is quite simple—either there is or there isn’t. Either way, there are profound consequences. If there is no life after death, there cannot be lasting meaning to life. Whatever meaning there is to life will come to an end and we will never know what happens thereafter. If evolution created us and God does not exist, there is nothing more than the blackness of darkness forever in our future.
But how can we be certain that there is life after death? We read that Jesus Christ conquered death when He was resurrected from the grave—but after 2,000 years, how can we know that is true?
Paul addresses that question in this same “resurrection chapter.” He lists several who saw Jesus after His crucifixion, then asserts, “After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep” (15:6). Paul wrote this 20–25 years after the crucifixion of Jesus, stating that most of those 500 people were still alive. What credibility would Paul have had if this were not true?
And there is more evidence. Jesus’ own half-brothers did not believe in Him prior to the crucifixion (John 7:5), but afterward they came to be loyal disciples. James went on to lead the Jerusalem congregation, the early headquarters of the Church, and he wrote the biblical letter of James. Christ’s half-brother Jude also became a believer and wrote the letter bearing his name.
History shows that of the Twelve Apostles (Matthias replaced Judas Iscariot), only John did not die a martyr’s death. Many men and women have died as martyrs for a cause they believed, but how many would die if they knew the cause to be a lie? Jesus’ disciples did not seek death, but their willingness to die as martyrs gives compelling evidence that they had seen the resurrected Jesus and knew His resurrection was true.
If there is no life after death, we must each choose whatever we decide is meaningful. For many, that means “eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” But, if eternal life is possible, doesn’t it make sense to live in such a way as to please the One who grants eternal life?
But what does that mean? What is the way to eternal life?
For the answer, I suggest that you try to understand the most remarkable book ever written: the Bible. If you haven’t already done so, please consider enrolling in the free Tomorrow’s World Bible Study Course. You can take it in print by contacting the office nearest you, or you can take it online by following the link at TomorrowsWorld.org.