Whenever a celebrity dies, the world weeps and insipid remarks like R.I.P. or “[insert celebrity name here] is in a better place” flood the internet. I’ve never heard someone say anything like, “[insert celebrity name here] lived in opposition to God, the Creator of the universe, and is in a real pickle.” Why do people always assume someone is in a better place after they die? It’s as if the world is caught up in a Ponzi scheme constructed of wishful thinking.
When someone dies, it is a reminder that our own death is drawing near. James, Jesus’ half brother, couldn’t be any clearer. He says, “You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14 ESV)
It is imperative that we know that certain conditions must be met before we can be assured that we “are going to a better place” after we die. Jesus says we must repent of our sins and put our trust in Him. People like to say that God is Love but say nothing about repentance. They must not have read Matthew 4:17. We cannot simply give Jesus a nod and continue living a lascivious lifestyle. We must repent.
It is true that God loves his creation, but is God so one sided? God has many attributes that we are comfortable with, but when we consider Him as the Judge, some try to deny Him of this trait because it is mean. Is it really mean, though?
When someone commits murder, do we want justice or do we want to set him free? We want the judge to sentence him to a long stay in prison. Even in our fallen nature, we have a sense of justice. But if we are confronted with the possibility of hell, we decide that our sins, crimes against the holy God are not significant enough to warrant hell. In fact, we like to believe that everyone will go to heaven. Except Hitler. We aren’t as bad as Hitler, right?
We forget about the numerous sins we commit daily against God. We are all liars, thieves, murderers and adulterers in our hearts, but we don’t deserve justice because only Hitler goes to hell. He is worse than we are. If only our eternity hinged on comparing ourselves to Hitler, everyone would go to heaven. Except Hitler of course.
We have to quit deluding ourselves into believing we are good people. What does the Bible day about man’s innate goodness? Paul clarifies the matter by quoting scripture. He says, “[A]s it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.'” (Romans 3:10-12 ESV) It’s a good thing that only Hitler deserves hell.
God hates sin and He must punish it. No matter how emphatically we conjure the Hitler fallacy, we still stand condemned. Yet we cling to this idea of comparative goodness.
If God is a loving God and if He also demands justice, how can He accomplish both? The answer is Jesus Christ. God himself came to this earth to die in our place. The judgment on our heads was transferred to Him. Through Christ’s work on the cross, God is able to reconcile the apparent paradox regarding love and justice.
The death of a public figure is a reminder that death stalks us all. Granted, only God can see into our hearts, so should we remain silent on eternal matters? Jesus gives insight into what a Christian looks like. He says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” (John 15:5-6 ESV)
This knowledge isn’t so we can point fingers. Jesus shared this so that we can search our own hearts to know if we truly are one of His sheep. I don’t want anyone to go to hell, but we should not assume that everyone goes to heaven because it is misleading. If we tell the people we love an unequivocal statement like, “[insert celebrity name here] is in a better place” even if evidence points to the contrary, we are spreading damnable lies that puts our loved ones’ souls in jeopardy. If we do not submit to Christ, we will have firsthand knowledge that Hitler isn’t alone in hell.