“Everyone Goes To Heaven When They Die, Right?”
“How will I be remembered?” I often think about questions like this. With all of the people that I’ve interacted with, all the jobs I’ve had, all the places I’ve been, at the end of it all, what will stick out the most? Will it be my accomplishments in my work life? Perhaps it will be my sense of humor. Or maybe I’ll be remembered for how much I loved my family.
I don’t think it’ll be my temper that is remembered most. The way that I’ve blown up and used words to hurt those I love. I know it won’t be my arrogance and pride. (I’ve done too much good to outweigh the memory of that.) No one will remember my selfishness, all the times when I wanted it to be all about me. Will they?
No, in this world it doesn’t seem to matter how we live, how we treat others, or what we believe: after we die, a group of people will gather in a room to say nice things about us. “I hope I’ve done enough ‘good’ to warrant a few funny stories at my funeral.” Isn’t that what it’s all about?
“They’re in a better place.” We hear this phrase at most every funeral. It doesn’t seem to matter if the person loved the Lord or lived like the devil. This is the modern American gospel. How does someone get to Heaven? They die. That is all it takes.
Unfortunately, this is simply not true. Sure, it may make people feel better during the grieving process, but that doesn’t make it right. I would rather find comfort in truth than in lies. I don’t want a doctor to sugarcoat a diagnosis because they know it will cause me distress. No, give me the truth so I know what to do next.
Here’s the truth: If you remain in your sins, apart from faith in Christ, you will not be in a better place when you die. Does that sound harsh? You may think so, but the truth is that it comes from a place of loving concern. I care about people. I want people to know the truth. I don’t want to base my life on a lie, or superstition, or human imagination. No, I want as much certainty as possible, especially when it comes to the things that really matter. Friends, I can’t think of anything that matters more than what happens after you die.
Why do I think I know what comes after death? What gives me such certainty? The answer is that I know someone who died and came back to life. No, I’m not talking about resuscitation. I’m not talking about someone whose heart stopped beating momentarily and was shocked back into rhythm. I’m talking about someone who was dead for three days and rose again from the grave in an imperishable body. I am talking about Jesus.
The resurrection of Jesus is not something Christians merely celebrate on Easter Sunday. It is foundational to our faith. The resurrection is why we meet for worship on Sundays. The resurrection is the reason we believe our sins have truly been forgiven. And the resurrection is the reason that we can know what comes after death.
You see, many people have made outrageous claims. People have claimed to have magical power, to be a spokesman for God, to have a new written revelation from God, and on and on. Yet Jesus is the only one to make such claims, such as being God in the flesh (John 8:58), and to prove them by dying and rising again. Blind faith is not an aspect of true, biblical Christianity.
When questioned about His right and authority to teach and act in ways contrary to the accepted norms of the time, Jesus responded, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). The people were confused because they did not immediately realize that Jesus was talking about His body. You see, His proof that all that He said and did was true was His rising from the dead. This means that to disbelieve anything Jesus said is utter foolishness.
What did Jesus say about death? In multiple places in the gospels, Jesus clearly defines differences between those who will enter into the loving embrace of God after death and those who will enter into a place of torment. In fact, people are often surprised to find out that Jesus spoke more about Hell than anyone else in the Bible. Why? To be mean? No. To be straightforward about reality.
God is just and He will make sure that ultimate justice is served. Therefore, Jesus tells us that at the end of the age, people will be separated. Those found in Christ will hear, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). And those justly judged for their sin will hear, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). Again, this is the truth: If you remain in your sins, apart from faith in Christ, you will not be in a better place when you die.
I don’t bring these things up to boast or to mock. Rather, I want you to be informed about the reality of death. It doesn’t matter what people say about you at your funeral; it matters what kind of relationship you have with your God. And I plead with you: if you do not have assurance of eternal life in Christ alone because you have been born-again and have received the gift of faith and forgiveness of sin, please call out to Him! I’m not asking you to join a religious group, give money, or even to repeat a prayer after me. I’m pleading with you to take a moment to truly assess your own heart, recognize your sin before God, and seek forgiveness and reconciliation through Christ. This is the only way to be prepared for the day you leave this life and enter into the next.
How will I be remembered? I can’t say. What I can say is that no matter what people may remember about me, I know that it doesn’t matter in the end. Sure, I want to be remembered in a positive light, but my hope is found not in what others say about me, but what my Savior says about me. If you are in Christ, you have this promise from Jesus Himself: “Everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40).