Background: Betty was a believer who attended our church. She suffered over a prolonged period with cancer and eventually died. Betty was in her mid-forties, married to an unbeliever, and had two teenage children.
Thank you for coming to this committal service for Betty. The passing of our loved ones and friends is always a great loss and a sad occasion. But for those who know the Lord, as does Betty, it is a joyous occasion for them because they are now in His glorious presence. Our loss, therefore, which is their gain, can also be for us a cause of rejoicing and thankfulness in the midst of our sorrow because God has conquered death through His Son, Jesus Christ, and because of what death means to those who have placed their trust in Jesus Christ.
As we face this loss and the fact of death, I would hope that we would recognize that if we are to find encouragement and comfort amidst the losses and tragedies of life, we must turn to the Bible as God’s precious Word to us. This Book, God has graciously authenticated with tremendous evidence as not merely the Word of men, but as it truly is, God’s Word to man, God-breathed and accurate, and thus our means of hope. With this in mind, let me read from a couple of beautiful passages of Scripture written for just such an occasion as this.
In John 11:25 “Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.’” Then He asked, “Do you believe this?” It is the Christian’s belief in Christ as the resurrection and the life and its validation or proof by Christ’s own resurrection from the grave that is the basis of our encouragement and so comforts our hearts as we face the loss of our loved ones and friends.
Romans 8:31-39, “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In the light of these promises God has given us in His Word and in as much as it has pleased the Lord in His sovereign wisdom and purpose to take from our midst one whom we have loved, we now commit her body to its final resting place to await the fulfillment of another promise of Scripture. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, writing to the Thessalonians church, the Apostle Paul wrote:
Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
These words by the Apostle were written for our encouragement in times like these. Furthermore, they are particularly significant because, when Paul penned these words, there was an inscription in the city of Thessalonica which typically illustrates the absence of hope in the world or in those who are without Jesus Christ. The inscription read: “After death no reviving; After the grave, no meeting again.”
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the glorious hope and for the great consolation concerning those who sleep in Jesus as believers in Christ. that our Lord Jesus Christ has prepared a place for those who have placed their faith in Him, and that the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
And now for the family, for the loved ones and friends we ask that:
These things we ask in the name of the King of kings and Lord of lords, even in Christ our Savior.
Background: This older gentleman was one of the founders of a Bible church we planted in Texas. He died of cancer after an 18-month illness. He left behind his new wife of two years and three grown children.
Thank you for coming this afternoon. This is a sad occasion for all of us and our hearts are full of mixed emotions. Our loss is great. We have lost a father, a husband, a grandfather, and a very good friend. After every service at church I would ask Bob how he was doing, and he would nearly always answer, “tip top.” We are going to miss him. But we must also remember that Bob has gone home to be with the Lord. His physical death represents a glorious event in that he is even now in glory, in the presence of His Savior.
As we face this loss and the fact of death, we need to recognize that if we are to find endurance, encouragement and comfort amidst the pressures, losses, and tragedies of life, we must turn to the Bible, the Word of God. This Book, God has graciously authenticated with tremendous evidence as not merely the Word of men, but as God’s Word to man, God-breathed and accurate, and thus our means of hope.
Bob did just this. A few days before his death I was alone with Bob and asked him if he was afraid of death or if he was worried about anything. Though talking was hard for him, he replied, “No, I believe in Jesus Christ. I know my sins are forgiven. I am thankful I know the Savior.”
Let’s remember that the Bible, the Word of God, is the revelation of a sovereign God and the planner of the universe. It is He who cares for us, who is in control of all the affairs of our lives, and who has not left us to ourselves but has reached out to us in Christ and in the Bible. As the word of such a God, the Bible alone can give us an adequate understanding, meaning, and hope in the face of the realities of life with it complexities, trials, and losses as with sickness and death.
In John 11:25 Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Then He asked, “ Do you believe this?”
It is the Christian’s belief in Christ as the Resurrection and the Life and its strong validation by Christ’s own death and resurrection from the grave that so encourages our hearts as we face the loss of our loved ones and face death ourselves.
Romans 8:31-39 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written, “For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:31-39).
Writing of the believer’s ultimate source of encouragement through the Bible, the Apostle Paul wrote,
Romans 15:4-5 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus.”
In the light of these promises of God in His Word and because it has pleased the Lord in His divine wisdom and purpose to take from our midst one whom we have loved, we commit the body of Bob to its final resting place to await the fulfillment of another marvelous and comforting promise of the Bible, one that was written to the Thessalonians Christians. And, this passage is tremendously significant in view of an pagan inscription that existed in the city of Thessalonica that demonstrates man’s lack of hope without Christ. The inscription read: “After death no reviving; After the grave, no meeting again.”
But based on the fact of the resurrection of Christ and His promises to the church, Paul wrote these words:
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope.14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep.16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first.17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for revealing to us what lies beyond death, for giving to us the Holy Scriptures, and for authenticating them through many wonderful evidences and making them sure through the incontrovertible evidence of Christ’s resurrection. Thank you, therefore,
And now for the family, for the loved ones and friends we ask that:
These things we ask in the name of the King of kings and Lord of lords, even Jesus Christ our Savior who is coming again.
Background: The king of Syria intended to put Elisha, the prophet of God to death. He surrounded the place where Elisha and his servant were staying. The servant was stricken with fear. Elisha, however, responded,
"Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them." Then Elisha prayed and said, 'O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.' And the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Ki. 6:15-17).
Background: Elijah, the prophet of God was about to depart, and Elisha, his servant who was to take his place, knew it, and so he would not leave him. Finally Elijah gave Elisha one last request, to which he responded,
"Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me." And he said, "You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so." Then it came about as they were going along and talking, that behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. And Elisha saw it and cried out, "My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!" And he saw him no more (2 Ki. 2:9b-12a).
These two passages remind us of a very important truth. There are things going on around us, which are normally not visible to us. In the case of the horsemen and chariots of fire which Elisha's servant was enabled to see, in answer to the prophet's prayer, these were angelic hosts, assigned to protect God's prophet. The servant's fear was based upon his lack of awareness of all that was taking place around him. We are thus all reminded that God's angels are all about us, and that nothing can harm us apart from the permission and will of God.
The chariot and horses of fire which took Elijah into heaven remind us of another fact. While it is not normally visible to us, I believe that the angels are also employed in "escorting" the spirits of those who have died "in the Lord" into God's presence. I know that apart from divine enablement, Mr. Smith's departure was not at all glorious. But I believe that this text assures us that there was much more to be seen, just as was the case with Elisha's servant in chapter 6.
We have come here to lay Mr. Smith's body in the ground, but his entrance into heaven took place on Sunday, in a much more glorious way than our eyes can behold. The apostle Paul reminds us in the New Testament that the depositing of the physical body in the ground is necessary, since mortal bodies must be exchanged for those which are immortal. He also tells us that placing this body in the soil is like the planting of a seed in the soil. Thus, we do so looking forward to the time of the resurrection and transformation of this body.
These are promises for the Christian, for those who have trusted in the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of their sins. Let us find hope in them as those who trust in Him.
As we come to the time when we must commit the body of Mrs. Smith to the ground, we should do so with the assurance of these words of Scripture. They are words of assurance for every person who dies in Christ, as a believer in His work on the cross of Calvary which has accomplished the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
As Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 and in 2 Corinthians chapter 5, our fleshly bodies cannot enter into the eternal presence of God. We will gladly set aside our earthly "tent" so that we may possess the new heavenly "building" which God has prepared for us, and which will never be subject to corruption. It is necessary for us to set aside this earthly body, so that we may put on our heavenly, glorified body. As we place this body into the ground, we do so awaiting its resurrection and transformation. What a glorious hope!
As we commit the body of Mrs. Smith to the ground, there is yet another text which I would commend to you, to think about in a way that you may never have considered before. Listen to these words of our Lord:
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:19-21).
I would like to suggest to you who believe in the Lord Jesus, and who loved Mrs. Smith, that we are now "laying up treasure in heaven" as we commit her physical body to the ground. It is in her heavenly body that she will live forever, and in a way that will make her no longer vulnerable to earthly corruption. And as we "lay her up in heaven" we find that in so doing our hearts become that much more fixed on heaven as well. She is a treasure, which our hearts look forward to enjoying for all eternity, in the presence of God.
There are certain texts which are traditionally read at the graveside, but I would like to read a text that is not often used as the body is committed to the ground. It is recorded in the 16th chapter of the Gospel of Luke:
19 "Now there was a certain rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, gaily living in splendor every day. 20 "And a certain poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 22 "Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 "And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 "And he cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame'" (Luke 16:19-24).
As you know, the story goes on, and the rich man receives no comfort or privileges, but only eternal torment. The point which I wish to make from this text has to do with the dramatic contrast which our Lord makes in this story between appearances and reality. To some, the rich man appeared to be right with God, and assured of a place in heaven. His funeral must have been extravagant, in contrast with that of Lazarus. And yet while this man's body went into the ground, his eternal soul went into torment.
The poor man, Lazarus, did not look like a true saint. His clothing was ragged. He ate scraps from the rich man's garbage. The dogs licked his sores. His death and burial were surely ugly. In fact, he may not have had a funeral at all. His body may have been cast onto the garbage heap. But in spite of all the appearances to the contrary, we are told something which no one saw, but which we are to believe as true. When Lazarus died, "he was carried away to Abraham's bosom" (Luke 16:22a). Sue's death was probably more like that of Lazarus. It was not a pretty sight. But what we should find comfort in as we place her body in the ground is that her soul has already been escorted into the presence of God by the angels. This body, which we commit to the ground, is going to be raised up, transformed, and joined once again to her spirit.
We who are Christian should look at the burial of this earthly body as Paul instructs us in 1 Corinthians chapter 15--as the planting of a seed. Sue's body will be raised, but it will not be a body like the one we leave here today. We should gladly set this body aside, looking forward to that day when our bodies will be transformed, like the body of our Lord. What a comfort! What hope! May this comfort and hope be yours as you trust in Jesus Christ.
1 And it came about when the LORD was about to take up Elijah by a whirlwind to heaven, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. 2 And Elijah said to Elisha, "Stay here please, for the LORD has sent me as far as Bethel." But Elisha said, "As the LORD lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." So they went down to Bethel. 3 Then the sons of the prophets who [were at] Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, "Do you know that the LORD will take away your master from over you today?" And he said, "Yes, I know; be still." 4 And Elijah said to him, "Elisha, please stay here, for the LORD has sent me to Jericho." But he said, "As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." So they came to Jericho. 5 And the sons of the prophets who [were] at Jericho approached Elisha and said to him, "Do you know that the LORD will take away your master from over you today?" And he answered, "Yes, I know; be still." 6 Then Elijah said to him, "Please stay here, for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan." And he said, "As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." So the two of them went on. 7 Now fifty men of the sons of the prophets went and stood opposite[them] at a distance, while the two of them stood by the Jordan. 8 And Elijah took his mantle and folded it together and struck the waters, and they were divided here and there, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground. 9 Now it came about when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, "Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you." And Elisha said, "Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me." 10 And he said, "You have asked a hard thing. [Nevertheless,] if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be [so.]" 11 Then it came about as they were going along and talking, that behold, [there appeared] a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. 12 And Elisha saw [it] and cried out, "My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!" And he saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. 13 He also took up the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and returned and stood by the bank of the Jordan. 14 And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and struck the waters and said, "Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?" And when he also had struck the waters, they were divided here and there; and Elisha crossed over (2 Kings 2:1-14).
8 Now the king of Aram was warring against Israel; and he counseled with his servants saying, "In such and such a place shall be my camp." 9 And the man of God sent [word] to the king of Israel saying, "Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Arameans are coming down there." 10 And the king of Israel sent to the place about which the man of God had told him; thus he warned him, so that he guarded himself there, more than once or twice. 11 Now the heart of the king of Aram was enraged over this thing; and he called his servants and said to them, "Will you tell me which of us is for the king of Israel?" 12 And one of his servants said, "No, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom." 13 So he said, "Go and see where he is, that I may send and take him." And it was told him, saying," Behold, he is in Dothan." 14 And he sent horses and chariots and a great army there, and they came by night and surrounded the city. 15 Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, "Alas, my master! What shall we do?" 16 So he answered, "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them." 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, "O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see." And the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 18 And when they came down to him, Elisha prayed to the LORD and said, "Strike this people with blindness, I pray." So He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha. 19 Then Elisha said to them, "This is not the way, nor is this the city; follow me and I will bring you to the man whom you seek." And he brought them to Samaria. 20 And it came about when they had come into Samaria, that Elisha said, "O LORD, open the eyes of these [men,] that they may see." So the LORD opened their eyes, and they saw; and behold, they were in the midst of Samaria. 21 Then the king of Israel when he saw them, said to Elisha, "My father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?" 22 And he answered, "You shall not kill [them.] Would you kill those you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master." 23 So he prepared a great feast for them; and when they had eaten and drunk he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the marauding bands of Arameans did not come again into the land of Israel (2 Kings 6:8-23).
When we think of Sara Smith, we will unfortunately tend to think of her as she was in the last months and days of her life. We will remember her with her oxygen hose trailing behind her, wherever she went. We will think of her as she lay in her bed, struggling for each breath. We will think of her in terms of her last moments of life. And if we do so, we fail to grasp the full reality of the glory of her exodus, and of ours, if we trust in Jesus Christ for salvation.
These two stories, recorded in the Book of 2 Kings, challenge us to look on Sara's passing of the believer from here to eternity as the Bible describes it. Elijah's time of departure had come, and Elisha was appointed to replace him. Elisha determined that he would not leave Elijah until the Lord took him away. Elisha alone watched as the horses and chariot of fire transported him into heaven. Some time later, Elisha was surrounded by horses and chariots, sent by the king of Aram, to capture and perhaps to kill Elisha, because this prophet was making his plans known to the king of Israel. It looked as though his situation was hopeless. His servant certainly thought so. But Elisha knew that the spiritual life has to do with the unseen as well as the seen. He prayed that his servant's eyes would be opened, and that he would be able to see things as they really were. And when his eyes were opened, he saw the horses and chariots of fire surrounding them. Nothing could harm them when God's angelic army was assembled for their defense.
The very angels which are assembled about us for our protection in this world seem to be those angels which transport us into heaven when it is time for us to depart from this life. God promised never to leave us nor forsake us. His angels guard us now, so that we are not taken from life one second sooner than God has purposed. And when that time of departure does come, His angels are there to escort us into heaven.
You may think that such treatment is only for those special, spiritual people like Elijah and Elisha. I do not think so. I simply remind you of our Lord's own words, in which he tells of the angelic escort of a poor beggar named Lazarus:
19 "Now there was a certain rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, gaily living in splendor every day. 20 "And a certain poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 22 "Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 "And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom" (Luke 16:19-23).
I believe that when Sara's spirit departed from her body, she was escorted into the presence of the Lord in the same way. While appearances would indicate otherwise, her departure was a glorious one. As we leave her body in this grave, to be resurrected and transformed at the return of our Lord, let us rejoice in the fact that her suffering is over, and her departure was triumphant. May we look forward to our day of triumph as well, as those who trust in Him who not only gave His life for us, but Who was raised from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father.
This was the funeral of a very lovely 94-year-old woman in our church, who was a believer. I sought to point out that our comfort (and hers) in the face of death was not based upon her age and physical condition, but rather in Christ.
The Difference Between Assumption and Assurance
13 Now we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so also we believe that God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep as Christians. 15 For we tell you this by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not go ahead of those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord always. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, NET Bible).
This well-known text in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 is one that gives the Christian great encouragement when dealing with the death of a Christian. Paul makes it very clear that those who have died as Christians will be raised from the dead, to be united with Christ and with other saints. It is a verse that gives us great comfort as we commit our friend's body to this grave.
But in this passage Paul also reminds us that it is not to be misunderstood or misrepresented as a comfort to everyone. Paul distinguishes between those who grieve in hope and those who grieve without hope. As we reflect on the life and death of our friend, we must also reflect on our own death. The most dangerous thing a person can do is to assume that he or she is going to heaven when their assumption is without proper basis. I want to draw your attention to a story Jesus told which warns us about assuming that we are going to heaven. It is found in Luke chapter 16:
19 "There was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 But at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus whose body was covered with sores, 21 who longed to eat what fell from the rich man's table. In addition, the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 "Now the poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And in hell, as he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far off with Lazarus at his side. 24 So he called out, `Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in anguish in this fire.' 25 But Abraham said, `Child, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things and Lazarus likewise bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in anguish. 26 Besides all this, a great chasm has been fixed between us, so that those who want to cross over from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.' 27 So the rich man said, `Then I beg you, father-send Lazarus to my father's house 28 (for I have five brothers) to warn them so that they don't come into this place of torment.' 29 But Abraham said, `They have Moses and the prophets; they must respond to them.' 30 Then the rich man said, `No, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' 31 He replied to him, `If they do not respond to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead'" (Luke 16:19-31, NET Bible).
There is much that could be said about this parable, but I must only briefly call attention to the fate of the "rich man." While Lazarus the "poor man" went to heaven, the rich man went to hell. The Jews of Jesus' day made a number of false assumptions. They believed that those who were righteous were blessed, while those who were sinners suffered (compare John 9:1-3). They thought that piety could be measured in terms of one's bank account. Because of this, they assumed that this "rich man" would have 50 yard line tickets in the kingdom of God. And because Lazarus was poor, and he suffered in life, they assumed that he would be sent to hell. And yet just the opposite happened. The rich man made a very wrong assumption. He (and many others) assumed he was going to heaven because he was rich.
If the rich man had made certain assumptions, the Bible speaks of others who had great assurance of salvation. Let me read just three texts which reveal this kind of assurance.
25 As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that as the last he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God, 27 whom I will see for myself, and whom my own eyes will behold, and not another. My heart grows faint within me (Job 19:25-27, NET Bible).
4 Even when I must walk through a dark ravine,
I fear no danger, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff keep me calm.
5 You prepare a feast before me in plain sight of my enemies.
You refresh my head with oil; my cup is full of wine.
6 Surely your goodness and faithfulness will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will live in the Lord's palace for the rest of my life (Psalm 23:4-6, NET Bible).
21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21, NET Bible).
What is the difference between "assumption" and "assurance"? I can sum it up very simply. Assumptions are made when men trust in themselves (their wealth, their good deeds) for salvation; assurance of eternal life is always based upon the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. Assumption trusts in our righteousness; assurance rests in His righteousness.
As we have come face to face with death today, I urge you to reflect on your eternal destiny. Is it an assumption, which will surely prove false, or is it an assurance which rests on the sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ? May you experience the same calm assurance that our friend had as she faced death.