Summary: Part 10 of 10 in a series dedicated to debunking commonly held myths that we think are in the Bible but really aren't, myths that can and often do have devastating effects on our faith.
INTRODUCTION: For a moment I’m going to pick on those of us who are preachers! Preachers get a bad rap (often deserved) for running roughshod over statistics, manipulating them to fit their desire ends. In fact 73.6% of all statistics are made up on the spot including the one I just gave. In my previous ministry I dealt with statistics on a daily basis… and what did I discover? Most were either “skewed” or just flat out “wrong.” But here’s one that is 100% unquestionably correct. 1/1 person dies!
BACKGROUND: No one likes death… regardless of what anyone tells you it’s not a “natural” part of life, but a part of life none the less. As a minister I’ve attended my fair share of funerals, and have officiated many of them. My perspective on funerals is 3-fold… (1) honor the individual (as much as possible) (2) bring comfort and hope to the family (3) honor and glorify God. When the individual in question is a committed Christian that task, though never easy, is easier. But what about when the person, who’s life while bearing the image of God, is without relationship with Him? Often in the midst of grieving many of us (ministers included) create our own theology… and our final “dumb” thing by declaring that those with little or no discernible relationship with Christ are in a better place…
WHERE DID WE GET THIS CRAZY IDEA?
• It’s not my desire to inflict pain upon those who have recently lost loved ones, especially those whose relationship with Jesus was negligible or non- existent
• This whole conversation is an admittedly “messy” and “uncomfortable” subject, but one that must be addressed none the less
• So where do we get this idea? It’s the byproduct of two issues…
• (1) Cultural Pressure – Any minister officiating a memorial service, or any friend wishing to give comfort know firsthand pressure to offer assurances of salvation that may not exist
• (2) Misreading of Scripture – In an effort to bolster this idea we scour the pages of scripture looking for affirmation for this idea, and what do we find; “all flesh will see,” (Luke 3:6) “draw all people,” (John 12:32) “reconcile himself to all things,” (Colossians 1:20) – sounds encouraging doesn’t it?
• While speaking about salvation, these passages don’t say what we often think or want them to say…
• We must practice proper “hermeneutics” what does the Bible say about heaven and hell?
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
• Heaven – is a literal address… it is the everlasting and eternal dwelling of God, and the final destination for those who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 9:22)
• Hell – is a literal address… it’s the dwelling place of Satan and his demons, and the final destination for those who by their own actions reject God’s salvation (Galatians 5:19-21)
• If all of this sounds harsh and narrow minded, don’t blame me… blame Jesus! He’s the one who said the path was narrow and that there would be “few” who would enter (Matthew 7:14)
• It’s not that He ever danced around the issue, in fact he spoke of it often, and he was anything but accommodating. In fact, when it comes to the issue of heaven and hell, Jesus, just as He was with various other topics, was an “equal opportunity offender”
• He had no problem barbequing people’s sacred cows, from the religious leaders to the man on the street! Nor did He mince any words about Him being the “only way” (John 14:6)
• Jesus clearly didn’t downplay the fear of hell, in fact he did the opposite, telling his followers to worry about the one who could destroy the body and soul in hell… (Matthew 10:28)
JUSTIFICATION FOR THIS IDEA
• There are numerous ways we can go about justifying that nearly everyone we know ends up in a better place when they die…
• (1) We look for evidence of a “Jesus moment” somewhere in their past. It doesn’t matter how casual, short lived, or spiritually fruitless
• (2) If we can’t find evidence of a “Jesus moment” we turn to the time honored concept of “virtue” A life of basic morality, especially when paired with another religious value system (Mormonism) is all that many of us need to be certain that our friend or loved one is now in a better place
• (3) If those fail we cling to the “trump card” of all “trump cards,” they have a “good heart” - they meant well but just got sucked into the wrong things in life…
• But try as we might to find comfort and assurance in such mental gymnastics, any such things we may feel are counterfeit - not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of Heaven