My sister-in-law passed away recently after a short and unexpected illness. She was a beautiful person who loved deeply and was deeply loved in return. She had a wonderful sense of humor, an infectious laugh and was a joy to be around. Her house was always open and welcoming to her daughter’s friends, and she was often a good listener or a shoulder to cry on. She did all she could to help her family and friends, even when she may have felt too tired to do so. But her spark went out in December of 2000, when her husband passed away unexpectedly. She fell into a deep depression and, while she did heal from some from her great loss, she never really got over losing him. At her funeral, her daughter gave a beautiful tribute to her mother, saying she was comforted knowing that her mom was reunited in heaven with her dad. A longed-for happy reunion. Together at last. But I have to wonder. Are they really together? Was my brother-in-law waiting with open arms?
My sister-in-law’s faith was solid. I have no reason to think that she is not with Jesus. But I’m not so sure about my brother-in-law. I don’t know whether or not he knew Jesus as his personal Savior, and I won’t make a judgment call on it. But I can’t help thinking about the many times I have heard people say that they are comforted in knowing that their loved one is in a better place, reunited with their loved ones in heaven, even when that may not be true. Why do we do that? Why is it assumed that we are all going to heaven? Is it because people don’t really believe that hell exists? Or is it because they think that there is no possible way their loved one could be in that terrible place? Surely “Aunt Sally” was a good enough person to get into heaven.
The truth is that hell does exist and just being a good person doesn’t get us into heaven. There is only one way to be certain that you will spend eternity in heaven and that is to confess Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life. Good works won’t do it, giving money to the poor won’t do it and neither will “being a good person” do it. We are all sinners and Romans 6:23 says “…the wages of sin is death”. Death in this usage means a total separation from God. But Romans chapter 10 tells us that “If we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, we will be saved”. For those that are saved, God has prepared a place in heaven, to live with Him for eternity, to sit at His right hand, to sing and rejoice with the angels. The book of Revelation gives us a tiny glimpse of what it will be like. And I believe that it will be more than we can ever imagine, this place so glorious that it is beyond description.
I know that it is a comforting thought to those who grieve to believe their loved one is waiting for them in heaven, but the truth is very clear. The one real and genuine comfort is meant for us and those who know Jesus as Lord and Savior. Jesus is the sole path to know for certain that we will spend eternity with Him. This is the only path for that longed-for happy reunion with our loved ones in which we can be together at last.