Sitting through a recent funeral, my thoughts about eternity were spun into motion.
Ms. Sue was a neighbor and friend who spent her last days on a nursing home bed. It was my neighborhood newspaper that led my siblings and I to her front door every other Friday. And over five years of front porch visits, I watched her heart toward Jesus soften.
But as Ms. Sue breathed her last, the only assurance I held was that the Gospel had been poured into her ears. Only God knows her response.
The Uncertainty of Unbelievers
Death has a way of striking us across the face with reality. It forces our minds to churn, and for those unsure of their eternal future, it can push hearts into anxiety or despair.
Death arouses our subconscious beliefs about eternity. It generates uncertainty. Is there an afterlife? What does it look like? And where will we go when we die?
How do we obtain assurance of an eternity in Heaven? According to Scripture, there is only one answer: Faith in Jesus. Until an individual reaches this conclusion, they can only wallow in a murky pool of uncertainty. Their eyes will be blinded, “[keeping] them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4) and withholding from them divine assurance.
The story for those who believe in Christ, however, is a very different one.
The Assurance of Believers
When I was little, there was a phrase I heard about unbelievers that troubled me: “They’re on the track to Hell,” someone would say. At the time, I hadn’t trusted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and my uncertainty, mixed with this expression, conceived an image in my mind.
I could see a train, coal black on a track of the same color, careening downhill into the billowing gloom of Hell. It was the train of unbelief and I was a passenger.
The day Jesus Christ opened my heart’s eyes to the saving work he completed for me on the cross, my railroad nightmare shattered. And for the first time, a new vision replaced it. Now I rode on board a train speeding upwards into sunlit clouds.
I can’t express the feeling of assurance that washed over me when I was saved. The burden of my uncertainty about eternity had been dense and suffocating. But Jesus freed me from my uncertainty when I saw that he had freed me from my sin. His blood streamed forth to envelop my soul with grace, and to embrace me with the assurance that nothing can tear us apart.
Jesus freed me from my uncertainty when I saw that he had freed me from my sin.
We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf… (Heb. 6:19-20a)
When the pulsations of my heart fall silent and my airways draw oxygen in final breath, my soul will just be setting out on to its eternal home. And I can say with the strongest of sureties that my home will be Heaven.
We Are Different
The dichotomies between Christians and unbelievers stretch far. Among numerous others, our views of creation, the world, and our sources of joy stem from different roots.
But most sobering of all is the difference between our eternities. Heaven and Hell are real, and God will deal with those who have rejected him.
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:30-31)
That man was Jesus Christ–our eternal assurance.
In light of the differences between Christians and non-Christians, I now face a question: How will I respond to the other “Ms. Sue’s” in my life?
Charles H. Spurgeon challenges me–and every Christian–with a gripping answer.
“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”
If Jesus Christ has truly differentiated my life, my actions will prove it. I won’t stop at being different, but will strive for his glory until unbelievers become different too.