You have seen it a thousand times. Well, I have seen it a thousand times. Especially when a celebrity athlete, musician, or actor “passes”. You know, dies. I hate that word “passes.” I prefer to face the reality of the fact that they did not pass ( I pass cars on the highway, pass gas on occasion, past the salt to the other end of the table.) Let’s just say it – they “died.”
When someone dies – immediately, a barrage of epitaphs are posted on social media with the acronym RIP. Which, of course, means “rest in peace.” I’m always amazed at how many Christians post this without really considering what they’re saying or what their friends and coworkers will read in their sentiment. Now, we all know that no one can truly see what is in another person’s heart. It is very possible that a particular celebrity did have a relationships with Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour. However, I can think of rimes when an athlete passed away who was a very outspoken follower of a religion other than Christianity, or a musician dies whose lifestyle was the opposite of how the Bible describes an authentic follower of Jesus. Yet even from Christians, the RIP statements were ever flowing.
But if we’re going to commit to the truth, then we’ve got to be all in. The whole truth and nothing but the truth, even when it makes us uncomfortable. Especially in difficult moments of sadness and grief, people often check their faith at the door. However, it’s in these moments when we need the truth of Scripture and the freedom it provides.
Truthfully, according to the Bible, the only ones who will get to rest in peace are those who have an authentic relationship with the Prince of Peace, Jesus. Sadly, for those who have lived life without knowing Jesus as Lord and never had His Spirit dwell inside them, there will be no eternal rest. As gut wrenching as it is to write, their eternity will be marked by the very opposite of rest. Just as heaven is real, so also is hell.
Jesus Himself often used the word Gehenna to describe hell. The word literally meant “the Valley of the Son of Hinnom.” It is just south of Jerusalem. It is known as a cursed place. Some of the ancient Israelites sacrificed their children to false gods by burning them alive in this valley (see 2 Chronicles 28:33; Jeremiah 19). In Jesus’s day, it continued to be an unclean place used as the city dump. Gehenna was always on fire from the burning of trash. It was a place that people didn’t even like to discuss because it was marked by sadness, maggots, fire, and curses.
One day, Jesus used an extreme illustration to show how serious sin is and how we must do everything necessary to avoid hell: “And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43). Of course, Jesus is not asking you to literally cut your hand off to keep from sinning. Besides, sin is a heart issue, not a hand issue. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:19). However, He is so serious about sin that you also must take sin seriously enough to turn your heart over to Him.
Jesus also described hell as “outer darkness,” a place of extreme sadness and torment. “Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 22:13). The worst thing about this place is the separation from anything good. For all eternity, there is now a chasm between God and everyone in this “outer darkness.” It wasn’t created for humans. It was created and reserved for the devil and his fallen angels: “Then he will say to those on his left, Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).
As heartbreaking as it is, hell will be the eternal home for all those whose name is not found in the Book of Life. “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). If you live your whole God-given life and exhale your last breath without ever turning to Him as the Saviour from your sins, you’ll miss out on His saving grace, be left out of His Book of Life, and be trapped in an eternity of separation.
The irony of life is that you can have a great name here on earth. Your name can be on the sides of buildings and in history books, but the only thing that matters is whether your name is in the Book of Life. Arrogantly, some say, “I don’t care if I end up in hell, because all my friends will be there anyway. We’ll have a heck of a party.” How stupid. There is nothing fun about this place. There is nothing to celebrate there. Nobody to turn to, nobody to talk to, and never-ending loneliness. People in hell endure constant suffering and remorse, knowing they had the opportunity to enter heaven with God but turned it down. There is no exit, no way out, no second chance, no redo, no mulligan. There is absolutely no rest in hell. There is no peace there. Anyone who ends up there will not be resting in peace. RIP does not exist for those there.
As awful as this place sounds, the good news is that the Lord does not desire any human being to be there. He desires all those made in His image to have their namers in His Book of Life. This means you. Yes, even you. You may say, “You don’t know what I’ve done. There is no way He wants me in His Book of Life.” I am telling you in love that you can’t out-sin His power of grace and forgiveness if you turn to Him in faith. His grace is more than sufficient to cover your mistakes. His desire is that none would perish and that all would come to a saving knowledge of truth. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). “[He] desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
Only when you have a personal, intimate relationship with the Lord is your name written in the Book of Life. Only then will you enter heaven when you die. And, in heaven, you will be so busy celebrating and living life to the fullest as it is meant to be lived that you won’t even consider the letters RIP as a description of what you are experiencing.