The passing of a loved one marks a very difficult time for those who are experiencing a loss of a beloved family member or friend. As a pastor, I have attended more than my share of funeral services. These vary from the most conservative Christian ceremonies, to the ceremony that God is never even mentioned. However, it seems that no matter what the setting, I’m assured to hear one statement being tossed around more than any other. You know the one, that infamous, “Well, at least they’re in a better place.” Brushing all political correctness aside, let’s be honest, if you’re a Christian who knows God’s Word you’re not really thinking that when someone makes that claim about an unbeliever. Let me paraphrase what most of us our actually thinking, “You’re loved one is eternally burning in a lake of fire, tormented day and night, with no escape.”
Now that statement may seem brash to some reading this. But the fact is, it’s the truth! The Bible states two very important facts about Hell. First, Hell is conscious torment. It is described as a “Furnace of fire…where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:50). And its inhabitants, “Will be tormented with fire and brimstone” (Revelations 14:10). Second, Hell is not some temporary weekend stay at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons. The Bible says that Hell is eternal and irreversible. “The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever and they have no rest day and night” (Revelation 14:11). “Anyone’s name not found written in the book of life, will be thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).
Unfortunately, conventional wisdom has interceded and watered down biblical truth. Atheists and agnostics aside; the majority of people if asked today what happens when they die believes in the good person/bad person consequence. The belief that when you die, you will stand before God, and as long as you’ve done enough good things that outweigh the bad things, then you get into Heaven. Because only good people go to Heaven, and Heaven is for good people, right? On the flipside, the belief also asserts that if you’ve done enough bad things, which outweigh your good ones, then you will go to Hell, because Hell is only for bad people. Essentially the belief is: Heaven is for good people who get in by doing good things, while Hell is for bad people who have done too many bad things.
Almost everyone believes they are good person… but the real question you should be asking yourself is Am I good enough to get into heaven? How do you know? The Bible says that each one of us, “Will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (Romans 14:10). If this philosophy is true, then by who’s standards are you measuring your eternity? God’s Law is the Ten Commandments. And even Mother Teresa herself said she was unable to keep them. So ask yourself this. Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever stolen… anything? What about that hot guy or girl you see at the gym… ever lusted over them? Then you assuredly have broken one of these; and these are only 3 of the 10 Commandments. Maybe you’re saying to yourself, “Well compared to some people I’m a saint.” But the standard which we are measured against is God’s Law; not other people’s. Take for instance if you’ve sinned just once a day in your life. That’s 365 sins in one year. If you live to be 80, you will have broken God’s Law 29,200 times. And you will have to answer to God for each one of these sins you have committed. If breaking God’s law just once keeps you from going to Heaven, do you think that being a good person is going to help you now?
I once knew a friend who was raised in a Christian home. And all though brought up well, rebelled against God for most of his life. Often I would try and have a serious discussion about life or it’s meaning, and whether he understood God and His plans for our afterlife. To this I was always met with him saying, “I don’t want to talk about it.” One day God impressed upon my heart that I needed to go minister to him again. So I went to see him and said, “I want to talk to you about the meaning of life and what happens after we die.” Once again I got, “I don’t want to talk about it.” This time I said, “No today, we are going to talk about it.” And we finally got to really talk about life and God’s plan for us. As a result, He committed his life to the Lord. It was only a month later that He was unexpectedly killed in a tragic car accident. I am so glad that while the conversation was not an easy one, I didn’t take “no” for an answer that day.
A funeral is a time when man comes face to face with their own mortality… and morality. While you may think you are doing the right thing by stating politically correct words of condolence; you are actually doing them an eternal disservice. I’m not saying that we need to confront people at their weakest moments with in your face comments like; “Sorry to tell you, but Johnny is burning in Hell.” To be honest, once a person is gone, the Bible does not say that those left behind can pray their loved ones back into Heaven. But we should be using it as a time to aid those who still have a chance.
The Bible is clear, everyone will exist eternally either in Heaven or Hell (Matthew 25:46, John 5:28). And each one of us will become responsible for which one of those places we eventually wind up in. Still think that if you’re a “good person” you’ll just squeak by into heaven? This way of thinking is completely inconsistent with what the Bible teaches. On the contrary, the Bible tells us that Hell has been prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41); it was never prepared for bad people at all. Likewise, Heaven is the dwelling place of the Godly. When you stand before God and He makes the decision if you get into Heaven or are cast down into Hell, His deepest concern is not whether you were good or bad. The pressing question on God’s mind will be, “Did you believe in My Son Jesus Christ?
The assurance that we will go to Heaven because we are a “good person” is not as our culture often tries to convey. Our assurance lies within the pages of the Bible and what God teaches; not man. It a Son question—not a Sin question. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under Heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The Good News is that it is never too late. Even if you have lived a sinfully wicked life up to this point, all you need to do is call out to the Lord Jesus Christ in genuine repentance, and you will be assured a place in Heaven.However, if you are still living in a cloud of disbelief that you are relatively a “good person” who lives morally and does good deeds, yet have never put your faith in Jesus Christ, then you will not go to Heaven. Oh and by the way, there is no measurement of good works that would ever outweigh your bad works in God’s eyes. I’m so thankful that’s not what we’ll all eventually be judged by.
Maybe you’re sitting here reading this saying to yourself, “I’ll get right with God one day.” Well, what happens if you’re like my friend I spoke of earlier and are killed in a tragic car accident on your way to work? The Bible says, “Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Are you really willing to put your eternal salvation into the hands of a day that has not yet been promised?
Make the commitment right now! Now with all your heart, turn away from your sin, and surrender your life to Jesus Christ. Please don’t put it off. You may die today and then it will be too late. Put your faith and trust in Him today. God doesn’t want you to go to Hell. And neither do you want to go there; so confess your sins to God right now, put your trust in Jesus to save you, and you will pass from death to life. When your day comes, won’t you be glad that you know you are going to Heaven; rather than hoping you’ve done enough good deeds?
In closing, I know that death is a topic that many try to avoid; likewise, the reality about a person’s salvation. And it’s even harder when it’s a family member. Maybe you don’t know how to lead someone to Christ; or don’t know what to do yourself. Look, it’s not some big spectacle at a church where it needs to take place. Your eternal security can be changed, right here… right now as you read this. And it begins by praying something like this to God:
“Dear God, today I turn away from all of my sins (name them). This day I put my trust in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. He is the only way for me to be saved. He is ‘The way, the truth, and the life.’ Please forgive me, change my heart, and grant me Your gift of everlasting life. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”
If you’ve taken the time to say this prayer I would like to congratulate you for making the commitment to follow Jesus Christ. Your obedience to God is proof of your love for His Son. From here you should go out and find a good church to help you grow. Don’t wait for an invite; iIf you have questions, call a local church and ask to speak to a pastor. The decision you have just made is not taken lightly, and it comes with eternal rewards. As the Bible says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). For now when that day comes and people are speaking about you at your funeral, and someone says, “Well, at least they’re in a better place;” you have the knowledge of knowing… you really are.
If you’ve made the decision to commit your life to Christ or have questions, please use the contact me form at http://pastordodd.com/about/contact-me/ to reach out and let me know.
Building HIS Kingdom One Soul at a Time…