When Joshua approached death he said, “this day I am going the way of all the earth” (Josh. 23:14). He understood that all die. The Hebrew writer states, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Death is in the future of each of us. For most, following shortly after our death will be a funeral. Preachers are routinely requested to speak at these times. When preparing to “preach a funeral” one of the first things that must be done is to try to categorize the one who has died. One of several categories is possible: infant, Christian, non-Christian, faithful or unfaithful child of God. From this, one can determine what may or may not be said and still be in harmony with God’s word.
The death of an infant or small child breaks our hearts. It is possibly the saddest of all funerals. Yet, from a spiritual standpoint, they are the easiest, for they have been provided for by the God of heaven. They have not sinned, are not guilty of sin and therefore have a place in heaven (Ezek. 18:20; II Sam. 12:15-23). No fear of hell for these.
In the case of the non-Christian, there is no hope. Like the Gentiles spoken to by Paul, “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). Many are the funeral sermons that try to “preach these people into heaven” but they are just as lost after such sermons as they were before. Paul wrote that when the Lord returns, he will come taking vengeance “on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Thess. 1:7-9).
But, then there are those who are Christians, they have obeyed the gospel of Christ, they have been baptized into the body of Christ (Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:27; I Cor. 12:13). They have awaiting them a “house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (II Cor. 5:1). That is, “if” they have continued to faithfully serve God. Our names can be removed from the book of life. “And the Lord said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book” (Exo. 32:33). And to the church at Sardis, Jesus said, “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life” (Rev. 3:5). Many are the passages of scripture that teach us that one can obey the gospel of Christ and then be lost eternally. Peter said of saint Simon, “Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee” (Acts 8:21-22). And, in his second epistle, the same apostle said, “For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have know it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But is it happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (II Pet. 2:21-22).
Dear readers, on the day of judgment, we will not enter heaven if we have not become Christians and then continued to live faithfully as Christians! It is required of us that we refrain from involvement in the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21), or we “shall not inherit the kingdom of God”. Yet, all too often, it seems that Christians have the “well I don’t do this or I don’t do that” attitude, when in fact they don’t do anything else either. It has often been said, that there will probably be more people in hell for what they did not do than for what they did do. A failure to do what God has commanded is just as sinful as doing what He has forbidden.
On the day of your funeral, what is the preacher going to honestly be able to say? Will he be able to speak of your love and knowledge of the word of God and how you obeyed the commandments required in order to become a child of God? Is he going to be able to speak of your faithfulness in attending the assemblies of the saints (Heb. 10:25)? Will he be able to speak of all your evangelistic efforts (Matt. 28:19-20)? Will he be able to speak at length about all the benevolent deeds you performed for those in need? Will he be able to confidently express his conviction of your eternal abode in heaven, or will he have to remain silent on those things in order to keep from lying.
Friends, don’t put your preacher in the difficult position of trying to figure out how to tell the truth about you, while at the same time trying not to make the pain of loss even greater for those loved ones you have left behind. Why not obey the simple gospel of Christ resulting in your placement in the Lord’s church, by the Lord Himself, and then live such a life that any preacher would be glad to stand up and speak of your life on earth? By doing this you would take a load of stress off your preacher. Now, if you’re not too worried about the stress on your preacher, we might add, this is the way to keep your soul out of hell and to assure you have a home in heaven for eternity.
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