Shakespeare asks a question in his play “Hamlet”,
“To be, or not to be: that is the question: whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them?
To die: to sleep; no more; and by a sleep to say we end the heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation devoutly to be wish’d.
To die, to sleep; to sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub; for in that sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause: there’s the respect that makes calamity of so long life; for who would bear the whips and scorns of time, the oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
the pangs of despised love, the law’s delay, the insolence of office and the spurns that patient merit of the unworthy takes, when he himself might his quietus make
with a bare bodkin?”
We see from this short quote from this famous solilaque that Hamlet was asking questions about life and death. Who are we, what is life all about, and is having a fortune better than suffering poverty? Job asked these questions, and Solomon in Ecclesiastes asked these same questions. I think everyone at one time or another asks themselves these questions. People throughout time have gone through trials and testing and have asked “What is it all about?” “Why do we have the rich and the poor?” “Is it better to live or to die?” “Is it better to rise up and fight, or to just lay down and conform?”
Job 3:1-7 speaks about the day he was born. “Afterward Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. And Job said, “May the day on which I was to be born perish, as well as the night which said, ‘A boy is conceived.’ May that day be darkness; may God above not care for it, nor light shine on it. May darkness and black gloom claim it; may a cloud settle on it; may the blackness of the day terrify it. As for that night, may darkness seize it; may it not rejoice among the days of the year; may it not come into the number of the months. Behold, may that night be barren; may no joyful shout enter it.”
Solomon writes that everything is meaningless, Ecclesiastes 1:2, “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” Solomon writes there is a time for everything under the sun. A time to live and a time to die. But while we are living, it is all futile. Eccl.2:18-23 “So I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the fruit of my labor for which I have labored by acting wisely under the sun. This too is futility. Therefore I completely despaired over all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun. When there is a person who has labored with wisdom, knowledge, and skill, and then gives his legacy to one who has not labored for it; this too is futility and a great evil. For what does a person get in all his labor and in his striving with which he labors under the sun? Because all his days his activity is painful and irritating; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is futility.”
Solomon goes on to say in Eccl. 4:1-3, “Then I looked again at all the acts of oppression which were being done under the sun. And behold, I saw the tears of the oppressed and that they had no one to comfort them; and power was on the side of their oppressors, but they had no one to comfort them. So I congratulated the dead who are already dead, more than the living who are still living. But better off than both of them is the one who has never existed, who has never seen the evil activity that is done under the sun.”
You can go throughout life only looking at the negative, and that will only leave you depressed. Hamlet says. “To die, to sleep; to sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub; for in that sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause.” Yes, the alternative to living is dying, but as Hamlet calls it the “rub,” what becomes of you in death?
Many people believe that there is no afterlife. When you’re dead, you merely stop existing. But how great is that? That is why so many people think that they have to do as much living while they can, and that only leads to a life of selfishness and want. Others believe that when you die you sleep, it’s called sleep death. Yes, Shakesphere’s Hamlet may have believed in this, and many preach this, but in reality it is a wrong interpretation of the Scriptures. John 11:11-13 says this, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going so that I may awaken him from sleep.” The disciples then said to Him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will come out of it.” Now Yeshua had spoken of Lazarus’s death, but they thought that He was speaking about actual sleep.”
Every language and people have their own idioms, words or sayings that have a different meaning than the word. We are very much aware of who we are, and where we are when we die. Our spirit lives on. God is a spirit and He is very much alive, and we are made in His image. Death is a state of rest, but that rest is from our works, just like when we keep the Sabbath. Yeshua speaks of a rich man and a poor man in one of His parables in Luke 16: 19-31, “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ”
We see Saul who brought back Samuel to advise him, 1 Samuel 28.
We see Yeshua talking to Elijah and Moses, Matthew 17.
We see the souls under the altar crying out, Revelation 6.
So is it better to be or not to be? To quote Alfred Lord Tennyson, “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” I would say, it is better that we have lived, than never have lived at all, because 1 Corinthians 2:6-9 tells us, “Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written: “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the human heart, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.”
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 says, “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer person is decaying, yet our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
I must say that Shakespeare’s Hamlet did not know the Almighty God. When we enter into a covenant with God, and that is what we do, when we accept His gift of salvation, we must live out our end of the covenant and He then lives out His by fulfilling all the promises in that covenant. When we break covenant, then He is free from those promises, because sin separates us from God. Next we want to answer the question: is there a hell? Remember the “rub,” what will you find as they say…at the end of the rainbow?