There are probably few topics more distasteful in popular culture than death and in particular any serious discussion regarding what happens to the deceased. Typically there are simply inane comments based on nothing more than “feel good” popular speculation and the baseless hope that there is something good awaiting in the afterlife, presumably except for Hitler and a few other notoriously evil folks. As a former minister who has officiated at and attended funerals where there was scant evidence of any type of relationship whatsoever between the deceased and a deity of any stripe, I confess it is very easy to put the best possible spin on the situation. And, it is true that only God knows the complete truth regarding the deceased. And God is merciful and good and the god of grace. So, we can always hope. But, that said, it is foolish for us in the land of the living to depend on chance or wishful thinking regarding our eternal destiny. A friend and former pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky addressed the issue in an article I believe you will appreciate. The article appeared first at www.bobrussell.org. RMF
Joan Rivers & the hope of life after death
Comedian Joan Rivers, who was 81, died this past Thursday. She was a very funny lady. Her humor was frequently edgy and irreverent, but she was certainly a relentless worker and an icon in the entertainment world.
After Rivers’ death there were numerous tributes to her from famous celebrities. One Hollywood actress tweeted, “Bon Voyage, Joan.” A well-known entertainer said, “With all the bad news in the world, God needed a laugh, so he called for Joan Rivers.” Another wrote, “I loved Joan Rivers. A trailblazing, funny lady. Have fun up there.”
It’s interesting that when faced with the unexpected death of one of their peers, even those who are normally irreligious grasp for some hope of life after death. Some who have ridiculed faith all their lives will express a faint hope that there is something beyond the grave. What they may sneer at in the routine of everyday life, they long for when the life of someone close to them ends. It’s as though they just can’t resist having a hint of hope to soothe their sadness.
I know very little about the personal life of Joan Rivers, and it’s not my assignment to determine the eternal destiny of anyone. God alone decides who is in heaven and who is in hell. As a minister of the gospel, it is my task is to communicate what Jesus did for us on the cross and what He said about the hope of eternal life. Here’s what Jesus taught about life beyond the grave.
There is definitely life after death.” Jesus proved that by personally conquering the grave. He promised, “Because I live, you also will live. (See John 14:19.) Our confidence that heaven is for real isn’t based on a movie of child’s life-after-death experience but on the historical fact of Jesus Christ raising from the dead after being crucified and buried for three days.
The majority of people will not go to heaven. Jesus said, “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” (Matthew 7:13-14).
The hope of heaven is available only through Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Jesus alone proved by His miracles that He was God in the flesh. Jesus alone died an atoning death for our sins. Jesus alone conquered the grave proving it can be done. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies…” (John 11:25).
The promise of heaven is based on faith in Christ, not our good works. Jesus said, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18).
Salvation is a gift we receive by faith; it’s not a reward we earn by good works. Jesus came to save us because we were already condemned in our sin. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And “… the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 – see also Ephesians 2:8-9).
Faith that is sufficient to save is expressed by repenting of our sins and being baptized into Christ. Jesus promised, “Whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).
Simon Peter concluded the first gospel sermon about Jesus by saying, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
Few have tried harder to continue to look and act young than Joan Rivers. However, in the end, all the plastic surgery and youthful laughter in the world didn’t really stave off aging or the relentless death angel. Joan Rivers discovered like every person that…man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
Thankfully, Jesus has provided a way to a land where we will never grow old…where there will be no more tears or death. And, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’ve first begun.”
“How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3).