Death, Nancy Sinatra and the Hereafter

On Thursday 12th January 2023 Priscilla Presley announced that her daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, the only child of rock and roll legend Elvis, had died. At her home in California, the 54-year-old had suffered a cardiac arrest from which she never recovered.

Death, Nancy Sinatra and the Hereafter

Tributes and messages of condolences were subsequently given by many different people and one of them particularly struck me. Nancy Sinatra, whose father Frank performed with Elvis multiple times, said:

"Every now and then I find myself wishing very hard that there is a hereafter, and tonight is one of those times . . . Otherwise the nothingness, the emptiness are too hard to bear."

In this display of openness and vulnerability, Sinatra states what many people think when faced with thoughts of death, particularly that of a loved one: if this life is all there is, if there is nothing else after death, then “the nothingness, the emptiness are too hard to bear.”

“Where do we go from here?” is the ultimate question all humanity faces. Modern evolutionary thinking, that has influenced millions of people, informs us that life is a fluke, a cosmic accident; our existence lacks any purpose, meaning that life is a farce, and after death we just become fertilizer for the earth. In summary, life can be described in three words: fluke, farce, and fertilizer.

Unsurprisingly, this ideology neither satisfies nor even helps us, as indicated by Nancy Sinatra’s words. We intuitively know that we are more than physical bodies and that there is something beyond this material world. This instinct is not surprising, as the Bible states that God has placed an awareness of eternity in every one of us:

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

We need to understand that God did not create man merely as a material being but also as a spiritual being, in His image. Mankind is different from all the animals in that we were created, physically and spiritually, to have an everlasting and truly satisfying relationship with the God who created us.

It sounds as though Nancy Sinatra has tried to suppress thinking about life after death but the loss of a loved one has caused her to consider this issue. Her professed wishes display the spiritual longings that we all have.

This life is not all there is. Unlike the unsatisfying “fluke, farce, and fertilizer” philosophy of evolutionary thinking, the Bible informs us that we are here by design; there is meaning to our life, and we will never cease to exist.

Our sin, which is expressed by each of us not doing what God commands and doing what He has told us not to do, has separated us from Him. That sin has broken the relationship that we are meant to enjoy with the God who created us.

Not only do we have the present consequence of being separated from Him but also the prospect of one day being judged for our sin:

“. . . it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

There is a sure and certain just judgement for unforgiven sin, and each of us will bear full responsibility, not for the sins of others, but for our own sin. The terrifying prospect is that, unless this sin is forgiven by God, there awaits an eternity in hell for us. This will be the just punishment by a Holy and Just God on our sin.

However, the Good News is that we can, by God’s grace, enjoy an everlasting and truly satisfying relationship with Him. We do not need to have thoughts of a present and future that has “nothingness” and “emptiness”. God has provided a way of salvation. We can be reconciled to God, so that we can enjoy Him now and forever. Because of His great love and mercy God offers salvation to all who will receive it. This is not based on any works that we might perform but on a work that His Son, Jesus Christ, has done.

In His Word, the Bible, God clearly tells us the consequence of our sin and the way of salvation:

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Unless we receive the gift that God freely offers, we will receive the eternal punishment and separation that our sin deserves. It will be a hereafter that is infinitely worse than the nothingness and emptiness that Nancy Sinatra fears.

But, by confessing Jesus Christ as her Saviour and Lord through His work on the cross and subsequent resurrection, her sin can be forgiven. And the same is true for you:

“. . . if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

God has spoken and continues to speak through His Word. He tells us about Himself, ourselves, and His great plan of Salvation. All who receive this gift can enjoy a present life and a future eternity in a truly satisfying relationship with the one who created them and loves them. There can be a “present” and a future, not of “emptiness” and “nothingness”, but of joy and purpose, having been completely forgiven and fully restored to the God who designed us and desires us to enjoy Him forever.