I thought I was finished with this series, but something came up this morning that makes me think I haven’t completely answered that question. We covered the basics of sinners and their judgment, and we covered those who are forgiven and the mercy extended to them. But how are we supposed to act when someone dies? For believers, we know that the person is now with Jesus, so we enjoy a mix of rejoicing and sorrow. Even Jesus wept at the death of a believer.
How about the one who doesn’t believe? Those of us who are serious students of the bible are troubled by the practices of most churches who claim that the deceased is indeed in a better place and enjoying heaven for all eternity. We know this can’t possibly be true in all cases, yet seldom does anyone acknowledge that the deceased showed no sign of repentance and in all likelihood is in eternal torment.
What if that dead person is a close friend or even family member? How are we supposed to act then? Isn’t even the idea of damnation too much to bear?
Indeed, Jesus lamented over sinners, but he had no misunderstandings of responsibility.
Matthew 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!
Hmmm. We would likely get thrown out if we said that at the “celebration of life.” But perhaps there is something that one needs to learn and understand from what Jesus said. It is my understanding that Jesus encountered three people who had died while on his ministry on earth. All three he raised from the dead, so we don’t know what he would say. Other than that, the Jerusalem thing is all I can think of.
One other thing comes to mind. It was a question posed from a person in a Facebook bible group I am in. Let me share the passage:
Leviticus 10:1-7 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said, ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.
And Moses call Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said to them, “Come near; carry your brothers away from the front of the sanctuary and out of the camp.” So they came near and carried them in their coats out of the camp, as Moses had said. And Moses said to Aaron and to Eleazar and Ithamar his sons, “Do not let the hair of your heads hang loose, and do not tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the congregation; but let your brothers, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning that the Lord has kindled. And do not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting, lest you die, for the anointing oil of the Lord is upon you.” And they did according to the word of Moses.
Whew! I googled this and see that there is lots on this topic. I have not studied any of it. The guy in my group wondered, “Why would God not allow Aaron to mourn the loss of his sons?” Fair question.
These are my thoughts. I wonder what would have happened if God HAD allowed Aaron to mourn. How do you suppose that would have looked? Never mind that all of them were involved in the first anointing of priests and all that jazz. What if mourning would not have interrupted anything?
I’ll tell you what I might have done. Let me rephrase that. Let me tell you how I may have been tempted to think about all that. After I got over my initial shock, I likely would have started asking lots of questions about why God would allow such a thing. I might have asked how God could have done something so horrific. In fact, I might have thrown in a little booze to help ease my pain. I might have also complained to others who were sympathetic to me. “How could you be so unjust?! All it was just a little incense! Good grief, they were doing it to honor you, God! How could you?!?!”
Right about now, Job’s wife comes to mind.
Job 2:9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.”
Isn’t that basically what we do when an unbeliever dies, and we say s/he is in a better place? Haven’t we done exactly that with all our infant baptisms and post-modern theology that dominates our churches? Think about these things. We make Hell into such a horrific concept that we don’t even consider that these two boys of Aaron had it coming. We don’t consider all the opportunities God has given unbelievers to repent yet they, in effect, shook their fist in God’s face and sang Sinatra’s, “My Way!”
Maybe, just maybe, we should start looking at the lake of fire as a good thing, a place that people deserve, because of their obstinate, on-going rebellion. Maybe we should bewail their behavior yet be thankful that God is just and repays their evil deeds.
For those of us who believe, those who are born-again, maybe we should fall on our faces and thank God almighty for sparing us that which we so richly have earned and deserve.
So, how are we supposed to act? I don’t know for sure; but I’m pretty sure whatever we do, we need to be sharing the gospel. As Aaron learned firsthand, this is serious business.
Father, thank you for this reminder. Amen.
Copyright © 2019 Scott Powers