Last year, my wife and I mourned the death of two family members. Libby’s grandmother (Grandma) died in July and my grandfather (Tadcu) died in November. It really is a terrible shock when you receive that phone call. It pains that you cannot say a goodbye or tell them how much they meant to you. I remember my wife coming downstairs in tears to tell me that her Grandma had died – I suddenly had no idea how to respond other than to open my arms and hold her. Little did I know that Libby would have to do the same thing to me just a few months later.
According to cancer.gov approximately 38.5% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer of any site at some point during their lifetime. According to alzheimers.org.uk 225,000 people will develop dementia this year, that’s one every three minutes. There were 2,578 infant deaths (deaths under 1 year) in England and Wales in 2015 according to ons.gov.uk. But here’s a statistic: 100% of all people, men and women, will die.
Libby and I were incredibly mournful, upset and sorrowful after hearing of the death of Grandma and Tadcu. However, at the same time, there was rejoicing in our hearts. On one hand, we hate the fact that we cannot see them, hear them, laugh with them and enjoy their company anymore. But on the other hand, they were both Christians and therefore are in Heaven with the Lord—a much better place.
When I say that they were Christians, I do not mean that they simply believed in God, said their prayers when they remembered, thought Jesus was a good man and lived a ‘good’ life. When I say they were Christians, they knew that they were sinners. They knew that no good they did could satisfy a perfect God. Any good they did was not enough to overshadow their sins. They understood that there was no hope for them beyond this life unless they understood the love and grace of God – that the love of God if perfectly displayed through his perfect Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ lived a perfectly good life without sinning so that he could bear the weight of our sin and be punished in our place on the cross.
Grandma and Tadcu were Christians who adored their Saviour. They read their Bibles with delight and with eagerness to know more about their God. They prayed from the depths of their souls knowing that God hears and answers. They loved being in Church because they loved God and loved people. They repented of their sins and trusted in God by faith that Jesus is enough. Jesus being our substitute on the cross is what delivers a sinner from their sin. They gave their lives in faithfulness and obedience to the Father through Jesus their Saviour.
As a result, Libby and I rejoice in the knowledge of where they are. They are perfectly satisfied, pain-free, feel no sorrow, endure no more affliction or suffering, and most importantly they are rejoicing with Jesus. They are reconciled and glorified with God, the way God intended humanity to be. Sadly, we have rebelled against God and refuse to believe in him. We live without him and are ignorant of him. All creation points to God; it reveals his beauty and glory. The Bible is his revealed word. Jesus came from Heaven to earth to unite us to God. We are left without excuse. So, let me ask you; where will you go when you die? You may be an atheist and willing to gamble your life on an unproven theory and probably want me to prove to you that God exists. Can you prove he does not? Just because you cannot see God, it does not mean he is not there.
A Pastor called Timothy Keller helpfully uses Plantinga’s illustration: “If you look into your kennel for a St Bernard, and you don’t see one, it is reasonable to assume that there is no St Bernard in your kennel. But if you look into your kennel for a ‘no-see-um’ (an extremely small insect with a bite out of all proportion to its size) and you don’t see any, it is not reasonable to assume they aren’t there. Because, after all, no one can see ‘em.” 1 Many assume that if there were good reasons for the existence of God, he would be accessible to their eyes, more like St Bernards than like no-see-ums, but why should that be the case? The question we should be asking is, how can I know this God?
Death is sure, but Christ the cure. Through Christ, we have salvation and eternal life. Beyond death there is hope. With God, there is forgiveness and joy. Jesus is all-sufficient.
- Timothy Keller, The Reason for God (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2008), 23-24. ↩