In an age of political correctness and moral inclusiveness, talk of the concept of Hell is passé and distasteful, even in the church and in religious circles. It seems that there is a prevailing belief today that it does not matter what is done in life or what type of life one may live, when one dies; there is an automatic admission into Heaven. In other words, the prevailing belief is that all dogs go to Heaven!
I was confronted with this common belief that everyone goes to Heaven when they die when I viewed a Facebook posting not too long ago. It was a memorial posting in memory of someone who had been murdered, who during their life-time, was a known drug-dealer and gang-banger. I would have passed the post up were it not for the artistic rendition of the deceased drug-dealer, hovering in the clouds with angel-wings and a gold chain around his neck! Among the many comments to the posts were comments like: “Rest in Peace Hommie!” and “I know you’re in a better place now!” Now, I am not one to judge whether or not this person actually is in Heaven or not; that’s not my call. All I’m simply saying is this: You can’t die a devil and be raised a saint! If he did not accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior, he is not resting in peace and neither is he in a better place!
I know we don’t like to talk about it, but if the Bible is true, then we must accept the fact that there are people in Hell! We must accept the fact, no matter how distasteful it might be, that all dogs DON’T go to Heaven! If that were the case, then Jesus came and died for nothing! If everybody goes to Heaven anyway, then there really is no sense in church, morality, or even right-and-wrong! If all dogs go to Heaven; the Bible and the idea of God, is a lie!
Now, people like to think that God is a God of love and that such a loving God would not send people to Hell! And they are right! That’s why the Bible says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 KJV) God loved us so much that he sent His only Begotten Son. The Son loved us so much that he gave his life on a cross. The problem today is that people want to go to Heaven on their own terms! And they are upset and they reject the idea of a Holy God who would dare to put restrictions upon their desire to live a lifestyle that is pleasing to their immoral nature!
But the bottom line is this: No matter how people try to deny it, ignore it, or explain it away; Hell is real! At least Jesus said it was! In fact, he talked more about Hell than he did about Heaven!
God and Heaven paid the ultimate price to keep us from going to Hell! So if there was no chance for us to go in the first place, then the redemption process recorded from Genesis to Revelation is one big fairy tale and if that’s true, it was also a colossal waste of time!
The greatest demonic trick of all times is deniability! Satan wants humanity to disbelieve his existence! But even if you don’t believe in something, your disbelief does not negate its reality! I’m reminded of what I heard a young man say to an old preacher! The young man said: “I don’t believe in Hell!” The old preacher replied: “Your disbelief will not keep you from going!” No! No matter how we might try to deny it or try to “angelize” people who live sinfully, the truth of the matter is this; all dogs don’t go to Heaven!
We live in an increasingly violent society and in view of the constant senseless tragic premature deaths that occur in our society on a daily basis, many people are formulating a false theology of death as a coping mechanism. It is just part of the human make-up to “make sense” of what are otherwise “senseless situations.”
Now, the reason why people are formulating a false theology of death is because of an ignorance of what the Bible says about the subject. But, the surprising thing to me is that while one would expect people who are non-religious and/or who don’t attend church to be ignorant on the subject, much of the false theology of death being promoted is coming from “church people,” even people who are preachers, pastors, and church leaders!
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica these words: He said, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep. . .” (1Th 4:13 KJV) In that particular text, Paul used the word “asleep” as a euphemism for death. There were people in the church at that time who were anxiously awaiting the coming of the Lord and they wanted to know what would happen to those who had died prior to the Lord’s coming. They were apprehensive because they feared those who had died would miss the Lord’s coming. Therefore, Paul wrote this section of the text to allay their fears. He didn’t want them to be uninformed or in the dark about what would happen to those who had died when Jesus came back. Yet, over two thousand years later, people are still largely ignorant and uninformed concerning those who have died! Not so much about what would happen to them when Jesus comes back, but rather, about what happens to them when they die.
In promoting a correct theology of death, I think it would be beneficial to cite some of the false beliefs that are prevalent. A few months ago, I was shocked to witness an example of a false theology of death in a church resolution! I was sitting in the funeral service of a dear elderly mother who had spent years serving in the church. All was going well, until they read a resolution to the family by the church. After many “whereas” and “therefore” (I don’t know how to write these in plural form!), the clerk read this: “Whereas on (date) God looked down from Heaven and plucked a gentle flower named (the deceased) from His earthly garden to array His Heavenly bouquet. . .” To be honest with you, I almost fell out of my seat! I mean . . . seriously? I wouldn’t have been so shocked if someone from the congregation had said such nonsense in their remarks, but this was an official church resolution! Now you might be wondering what’s so terrible about the statement. But think about it! The statement implies that God “killed” this dear mother, just to beautify Heaven! I know we say things, trying to comfort the family in their time of grief, but statements like this is a gross misrepresentation of what the Bible says about death and the character of God!
First of all, GOD DOES NOT SPONSOR DEATH! Jesus said in John 10:10, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (KJV) God is not in the business of killing people! It’s God will that we live long, prosperous and productive lives! And if we studied Genesis carefully, we would discover that death was not part of God’s original intent. It was God’s original intention for man to live forever upon the earth! Death came about as a result of sin.
I encountered another case of a false theology of death while attending a visitation for a young man who had been murdered in a shooting. I was walking out the door of the funeral home when I overheard and elderly woman trying to comfort a grieving young person. The woman said to the young man: “Well you know, it was just God’s will and God just called him home!” I almost stopped in my tracks! Seriously? It is NEVER GOD’S WILL for a 24-year-old to be shot and murdered! God doesn’t use murder to “call people home!” It is more beneficial to God and to us to live a long life because we are more useful to God on earth than we are in Heaven! Where are we getting all of this foolishness? We need to learn to call it for what it is! There is a story in Matthew about a man who planted a field, but when it was time for the harvest, the workers discovered tares among the wheat. They asked their master: “Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them: An enemy hath done this. . .” (Mat 13:27-28 KJV) People attribute all deaths as being the work of God, but the truth of the matter is: The enemy hath done this!” And the enemy doesn’t want people to know what he is doing because he knows it is really difficult to truly praise a God that you think is responsible for your grief!
I’ve got one more false theology I want to address and then I will be through with my rant (for now). For some reason, many think that death is a promotion to angelic status. But the truth of the matter is this: Angel will always be angels and people will always be people! People do not change into angels and they do not get wings when they die, even if they were good people! I know we sing the song about two wings to veil our face, two wings to veil our feet, and two wings to fly away, but nowhere in the Bible is it even implied that we will get wings! The song has good rhythm but it has bad theology!
Well, I’ve shared the false theology of death; now let me leave you with the true theology of death! The true theology is this: We live in a fallen world! Because of that, life is often cruel and unfair! Many times the good die young, while people who raise hell seem to live forever! It’s not fair for the life of a young person with potential, dreams and goals to be violently taken by someone who only lives for themselves! It’s not fair for a father or mother of a young family to be killed in an automobile accident while the person who caused the accident, whose license had already been suspended for driving drunk, walks away! No! Life’s not fair, but don’t blame life’s unfairness on God: The enemy has done this! But, in the end, it will all work out! The Apostle Paul said: “Our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Cor. 4:17 NLT) Paul also said that for the believer, to be absent from the body (dead) is to be present with the Lord! And the Bible says that in His presence is the fullness of joy! The Apostle John received a revelation on the Isle of Patmos, listen to what he saw: “And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.” (Rev 21:2-5 KJV)
Until then, be not over-whelmed with the worries and tragedies of this present world! Use them to motivate you to be all that God has called you to be in the short time that life allows! If and when tragedy strikes in your life or in the lives of those around you, know and offer the hope that is available in Christ: “Jesus said unto her, (Martha, the sister of Lazarus) I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26 KJV)
Traditional Western Christianity and in particular, evangelical churches have done a great job in teaching and preparing people to die. But not too long ago, I received a great revelation! There is one thing we all must do before we die: We must live! And that is where modern Christianity has, for the most part, failed in preparing people. We are good at helping people to make preparations to die, but we have been tragically amiss in preparing people to live!
But the faith that is found in the Bible is all about preparing and equipping people to live! If you listen to some preachers and teachers today, you would think that the main quest of the Christian life is Heaven and that we should just suffer whatever befalls us until we die! But is that what the Bible teaches? Sure, I agree, we should not be so in love with the world that we lose sight of Heaven, but neither should we be so in love with the thought of going to Heaven that we just allow the world around us to go to Hell!
I believe it is all about balance! In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, the lesson is about waiting and being prepared for His coming. But in the Parable of the Talents, the lesson is about faithfully working, transacting Kingdom business, and making Kingdom progress until He comes! We were not saved to be idle until we die! In the Parable of the Pounds, the nobleman said to his servants: “Occupy until I come!” In other words, be about the business of life; don’t just sit idly twiddling your thumbs waiting until I come back!
Yes! While we all should prepare for the day of our transition, we should also be as equally engaged in preparing ourselves to live a life that reflects God’s love for the world and His creation: That is what the Kingdom of God/Heaven that Jesus preached about was and is all about! It’s not so much about sweet-by-and-by-pie-in-the-sky-salvation; it was and is about living life before death! The message of the Kingdom is not that we will never lose; the message of the Kingdom is that even when we do lose, God is able to turn the lost into a victory! The message of the Kingdom is that no matter what and how we suffer in this world, it’s going to be alright because we are more than conqueror through the One who loves us and gave up His life for us! No! The message of the Kingdom is not that we will always win and be happy, but it is this: No matter what happens in life; the good, the bad, and the ugly, God is working it all out for the good! And what is the “good?” It’s not prosperity, riches, fame, or living on flowery beds of ease, but rather the good is that we be conformed to the image of His Son!
So, you can’t wait to get to Heaven? Well, as my daddy used to say: “Hold your horses buddy!” We were not saved just so we could go to Heaven when we die; we were also saved so that we might be ambassadors of the Kingdom and instruments of God’s righteousness upon the earth while we live! If we would just learn how to live the life that God has ordained for us to live upon the earth; dying and going to Heaven would take care of themselves! But remember! Before we die; we must live! And if we want to go to Heaven when we die, then we must allow His Kingdom to come into our lives, that is allow His sovereign rule and authority to be manifested in word, thought and action in our lives while we live!