This is a very sensitive topic — not a laughing matter at all — so just because it is being presented here in the “Top Ten” format please do not assume that I am making light of the gravity of the eternal issues involved. As Christians we all have had many occasions to attend the funerals of family, friends, neighbors, co-workers where to the best of our knowledge there had never been any indication of saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. For those of us who are committed to the truth of God’s revealed Word, we understand the exclusivity of salvation by Jesus Christ alone:
“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
This is not some isolated verse; this is the consistent teaching of Scripture. There are only two ultimate destinies for man: heaven or hell. There is no middle ground. There is no mention of any place like Purgatory in the Bible. There is no second chance to repent and believe. One’s destiny is sealed forever. There is no annihilation either — just as eternal life stretches on with the blessings being enjoyed forever — its counterpart is a place of unending suffering and torment.
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. Thisis the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20: 11-15)
According to God, the lake of fire is a very real and frightening place. But obviously when one is attending a funeral of a non-Christian, there is very little a believer can say to bring consolation to the bereaved. We attempt to express our love and support; we empathize with their sorrow and loss; we grieve together with them as best we can. But we do not have the freedom to abandon the objective reality of the truth of God and make all types of wishful statements about the present blessed state of the departed.
However, we hear out of the mouths of others many sincere expressions of hope and good will that we know to be the lies of Satan because of our commitment to viewing spiritual reality through the grid of God’s revealed truth. We are not the originator or the standard of that truth. But its reality hits home to us in a special way when confronted with statements that are in obvious contradiction to the message of Scripture. I have gathered together here the Top Ten Lies heard at the funerals of the unsaved so that you might take time to ponder these at a time when your judgment is not clouded by the immediacy of the occasion:
10) “He died a happy man.” Maybe so — until he woke up and saw where he ended up! There is a happiness of this world that is described as experiencing the “passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25). There is no disputing that sin can be very pleasurable. “But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives.” (1 Timothy 5:6) One might be able to ignore their condition of spiritual death while they are still walking around on this earth; but after death comes judgment and the harsh reality of eternal separation from God in hell. Living for all the gusto in the present just fans the flames for the eternal lake of fire.
9) “He’s with the man upstairs.” When people have a humanistic view that reduces the majestic God of the universe to the level of His creation, they speak very casually of God in such terms. But they should be asking the question of the psalmist: “O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill?” (Psalm 15:1) One cannot stand in the presence of a holy God apart from the imputation of God’s righteousness that only comes through the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. Our sins must be removed from us and we must be clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
8 ) “He lived a good life.” People need to be reminded that “No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18) A simple accounting of one’s life in light of the Ten Commandments will expose the sin that is so pervasive in each of us. “There is none righteous, no not one.” (Romans 3:10) “
For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” (Isaiah 64:6)
Whatever our moral evaluation may be . . . this is how God views mankind.
7) “His suffering is over.” No, it has only intensified and become inescapable.
6) “He is with us in spirit — looking down at us from the windows of heaven.” I am afraid the Bible teaches that God is looking down at him.
5) “He was certainly very religious.” No amount of spiritual knowledge or religious activity can earn someone a place in heaven. Even the demons believe the facts about Christ, but they tremble because they know they are destined for the lake of fire. (James 2:19) Study the account in John 3 where Jesus instructed Nicodemus (a very religious man) that no one can even see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. He must repent of his sins and put his faith entirely in the person of Jesus Christ.
4) “He’s with his loved ones.” Hopefully that is not the case … for misery will not love company in the suffering of hell.
3) “He’s finally resting comfortably.” That certainly was not the testimony of the rich man in the parable Jesus told of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). He cried out “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.”
2) “He finally got his reward.” Unfortunately “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). That is what man gets if he receives his due. But the same verse goes on tooffer “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Some people complain that God is not fair to save whom He pleases to save. I would argue that it is unfair that any of us are blessed with God’s mercy and grace. I certainly am not trying to make a case for receiving what I deserve.
1) “He is in a better place.” For the Christian, we can agree with the Apostle Paul: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) But Jesus himself testified about hell — “in that place (characterized by outer darkness) there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:12) And there is no possibility of escaping from hell, because “there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able.” ()Luke 16:26)
These are certainly very sobering thoughts and I do not present them lightly or in any type of mocking fashion. I understand that people are sincere when they utter these platitudes. But the bottom line is that they fall into the same condemnation of the Jews about whom the Apostle Paul wrote with much tears and prayers:
“Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:1-4)