So, every time another, big-name, celebrity bites the dust, all of a sudden Christians start saying the stupidest things.
Death is a frightful thing for most people and it should be. So well-meaning people have invented all kinds of comforting platitudes designed to deflect the reality and oftentimes, the horror of death.
Unless they know for sure, Christians should have no part in presuming a deceased acquaintance is in a final place of peace. Unbiblical, wishful phrases like, “may he rest in peace,” “she’s an angel now,” “God needed another angel in Heaven,” or even the classic piece of false assurance, “He’s in a better place now,” are all attempts to offer false hopes to people who desperately need to know the truth that there really is a Holy God who judges sin with perfect righteousness.
We have a duty to speak the truth about death and the deceased regardless of that person’s relationship with God. Sometimes even clergymen can’t get that right; it’s never right or kind to offer false hopes just so that everyone will feel good because death is not the end of existence. Death is the beginning of an everlasting, conscious existence in paradise, or eternal judgment and torment in hell. If people don’t get that right in this life, there is no second chance.
I have been called to conduct a few funeral services and I know how difficult it is to comfort the family and friends of the deceased. There are three basic elements of a biblical approach to dealing with death and they are the same whether or not the deceased is safe in the arms of God:
1. Honor the memory of the deceased. But that doesn’t mean to falsely imply that anyone will be in Heaven based on his own merit or goodness. To honor, means to be respectful. We can recognize and rehearse his accomplishments, cherish the memories, and share the joys of the relationships.
2. Comfort those who grieve. And, again, I will emphasize that offering false assurances and hopes are nothing more than lies. We can best comfort those who grieve through empathy (weep with those who weep), listen to them, support them, help them, and offer expressions of kindness. But the best comfort - true comfort is only found in knowing the true Comforter so we must be truthful and focused on the comforting message of the Gospel.
3. Proclaim your hope. The truth is that, for Christians, our hope is in the Lord. But regardless of their religious beliefs, that is also the ONLY real hope anyone has. Apart from the Gospel, there is no real hope; just wishful thinking. These times are often the only chances we may have to offer real hope of eternal life. These are good opportunities to read or quote Scripture and give them the good news of the Gospel.
DON’T TELL LIES and DON'T OFFER FALSE HOPE. No, the unregenerate are NOT in a better place.
"... it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." Hebrews 9:27