Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Are they in Heaven now?

Several years ago a non-Christian friend of mine called me, very angry, with some really serious questions.  She had just come home from a funeral of a relative of hers.  Some member of the family had made arrangements for a "Christian" pastor to speak at the relative's funeral. I use quotations there because I don't know who the pastor was, but his message at the funeral left me questioning if the man knew anything about Christianity at all.

She was angry, because she relayed to me how she thought the pastor lied to everyone there.  He repeatedly told the family this man was in Heaven now, in a much better place, with relatives that had preceded him in death, etc. She told me the whole time he was speaking, every time he said such things, the more angry she became and had to bite her tongue. She didn't know a lot about Christianity but she did know enough to believe the only people that actually go to Heaven, are Christians. She went on to tell me about this deceased family member's lifestyle and how he was into this, that, the other, and several other things that are not indicative of a Christian's lifestyle in any way. Despite all this, he was family and he was loved, and she was grieving.  Then she wanted to know some things:

1. Was it possible he was actually a Christian and she didn't know it?
2. Was he actually in Heaven?
3. If not, where was he?
4. If not, why was the pastor lying?

Really loaded questions, especially coming from a grieving family member. I didn't really feel qualified to answer such questions so instead I asked her some questions to let her sort it out for herself.  That may not have been the best approach but I was a new Christian myself and genuinely not studied enough in doctrine and Scripture to feel confident I was giving her the correct, Biblical answers.

I don't remember every question I asked but these are some of them, and her answers:

  • Q: Did he ever talk about Jesus? A: no, unless he was using his name as a cuss word.
  • Q: Did he ever talk about the Bible? A: no, never around her, or anyone that she knows.
  • Q: Did he ever read the Bible? A: no, not that she ever saw. She wasn't even sure if she'd ever seen a Bible in his house.
  • Q: Did he attend any kind of church? A: no, and never had anything nice to say about church.
  • Q: Did he have any Christian friends? A: no, all his friends were the same kind of person as him, heavy drinkers, men who thought nothing of cheating on their wives or taxes, some of them drug users, etc. 
  • Q: What was the most important thing in his life? A: not sure, all she ever saw him do when he wasn't working, was hang out with friends, drink, and laugh at dirty jokes.
After I asked her those questions, then I asked her if she thought her relative was a Christian and she said no. Then I asked, if she didn't think he was a Christian, where does she think he is now?  She replied, questioning "hell?".  I said yes, he has entered into eternity not knowing Jesus as his savior, and will answer to God for his own sins, instead of trusting in Jesus' payment on the cross to atone for those sins. Then she briefly cussed and swore as she talked about the pastor at the funeral and how much she hated that he told the grieving family that he was in a better place, seeing grandma, etc. Then, she wanted to know why a Christian pastor would lie like that, instead of telling the family the truth.

I had no answer for her.  I told her I honestly don't know why he'd say that.  I offered some possible reasons such as a.) he wasn't actually a Bible believing Christian in the first place and didn't understand the gospel, or b.) he is a Christian but he couldn't bring himself to tell the family that this man will face God's holy wrath and pay for his own sins (because frankly, that would probably be the hardest thing ever to say to a grieving family).  I can't even imagine being a pastor and being called to give a funeral service for someone who lived their life rejecting Christ's forgiveness.

I thought of this conversation I had with my friend years ago, after noticing time and time again when someone "famous" dies, despite how they lived their life here on earth, everyone and their dog is all over social media talking about how he or she is in Heaven now. Just like the pastor told my friend's family.  

Understandably, a lot of people believe good works or being a "good person" get you there once you leave here, but that's not what the Bible says.  While doing good for others and being a kind, loyal friend is to be commended, it's not what gets us to Heaven.  Believing in the person and the work (who He is and what He did for us) of Jesus Christ is the only way we enter into Glory once we leave this world.

Entering eternity without knowing the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, means you have no advocate in front of a just, holy, righteous God.  It means you, and you alone with answer for your sins.  Every thought, every word, every deed that broke God's law.  Every single one of them.  No matter how good or kind or loyal anyone ever was while living this life, once it's over if we face God without an advocate, God's righteousness justice demands we pay for our own sins by suffering His wrath.

I know this isn't what people want to hear.  They want to reject this because it means... the person they loved is not in Heaven.  The person they currently are, is contrary to what the Bible says we're to be living like.  It also means making a decision many simply do no want to make, and thinking about things on an eternal level, that many do not want to think about.  Except, the time is now to seriously consider such things.  No one is promised another moment, let alone another day or living until old age.

Just some things I felt needed to be said today.