I believe we have entered an era where we have unwittingly embraced the doctrine of salvation by death as opposed to the proper doctrine of salvation by faith which is shorthand for salvation by faith alone in Christ alone by grace alone to the glory of God alone.
The ubiquitous response to ANYONE who dies is “RIP.” I don’t care who it is or what faith or lack of faith they expressed while living but the generic response is RIP (Rest in peace). It can be a gang member who never dotted the doors of a church yet someone will proclaim heartily RIP (fill in the name).
This past couple of weeks have seen the deaths of notable public figures Doris Day, Tim Conway, John Singleton as well as individuals who are just plain regular folks. It seems one cannot go a day without seeing some post on social media saluting someone with RIP.
It is imperative that Evangelicals NOT communicate false hope to people. Only people who have consciously and expressly professed faith in Jesus Christ are “resting in peace” as they await the consummation of the ages. While Evangelicals are surely to exhibit sensitivity during a time of bereavement we need to display biblical fidelity at the same time.
A missionary to Japan illustrated perfectly the tension believers need to employ when the delicate question of where “unbelievers” are when they perish without exhibiting hope in Christ. The missionary recounts while serving in Japan a Japanese couple had recently come to profess faith in Christ and shortly afterwards their young daughter died. They understood their daughter died without ever coming to acknowledge Christ as her personal Lord and Savior. They approached the missionary with tears and a profound sense of dread and fear. Their question was obvious: where is their daughter now!
An Evangelical in this situation is forced with a dilemma: sensitivity to a grieving couple and Biblical fidelity. We cannot in good conscience tell someone that someone is in heaven (RIP) when we are not aware of the person’s declaration of faith in Christ and yet it would be wholly inappropriate to tell the grieving couple, “Your daughter is safely in the arms of Jesus.
How did the missionary answer the couple’s sincere plea: Brilliantly. He asked the couple did they trust Jesus completely. Did they trust in the wisdom of Jesus? The couple answered in the affirmative (as all true believers would in this case).
Based on their trust in Jesus’ wisdom the missionary implored the couple to rest not in the daughter’s destiny but to trust in Christ’s wisdom to always do what is just. Having said this does not make it easy and requires great pastoral care but we must always have our yays be yay and our nays be nay.
I am not advocating Evangelical now we go to funerals and declares all sinners are being tormented in hell. I am not even sure what should be said in these cases but what I am sure about is we cannot just declare heaven is populated by non-believers because the alternative is uncomfortable.
I understand the good intentions behind providing grieving people solace at one of their most vulnerable times of anguish but we do more harm in the long run. The only people who are resting in peace are those who posit genuine faith in Christ while they are members of time and space. I am not attempting to be an insensitive smuck but the general public seems to be very comfortable with the eternal destiny of mankind regardless of their dispostion towards Christ.
The Bible posits, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matt. 7:13-14).
I have NO idea of the faith disposition of Doris Day, Tim Conway or John Singleton. I can only hope they came to profess Christ as their personal Lord and Savior before they died. The little I do know about Doris Day does not offer much hope as to the best of the public’s knowledge (she was a very private person, especially towards the end of her life) Day was a faithful adherent of Scientology. If that is, in fact, the case she is not “resting in peace” no matter how many people wish that upon her as words of comfort and solace.
Solace is only found in personage of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Let’s ensure that is our message before someone perishes because after then it a phrase uttered with no value.
I encourage your feedback and comments very you agree or disagree. Until the next post keep your hands to the plow and seek to serve for an Audience of One.