An aunt of mine posed the following question on her Facebook page – “if one is not a Christian, how do they RIP?” Her question, in reference to an abundance of people who use that acronym to note the death of someone (especially celebrities), echoed misgivings I’ve had in my own mind when acknowledging deaths. After all, just wanting to go to heaven or wishing someone to go to heaven just isn’t going to make it so. Sadly there is a great epidemic of failure to understand the truth of the Bible in our country and the world today.
The Bible is very specific about what is necessary for men to gain entry into heaven. It takes much more than just being a “nice person.” Consider Matthew 7:13-14 that says
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
In other words there will be more people who don’t make it to heaven than there will be those that do make it. So why is this so? After all, the Bible was written on a level a fourth grade student could comprehend so why is it so hard to get into heaven? I believe the answer is in the nature of man. Man has free will, the ability to make decisions in this life for himself. He can decide if and when he wants to do something, including how he will respond to God’s instructions on how to attain eternal life in Heaven. Often subscribing to God’s directions means leaving behind things of this world that provide excitement and thrills and for most men that is just too much to ask because they fail to see the “long game.”
Of course no man knows with a certainty what state of submission to God another man is at the time of his death. Had he heard, believed, repented of his sins and confessed Jesus as the son of God? Had he been immersed in water (baptized)? Had he then continued living a life devoted to God? Those are the things we do not with a certainty know when someone passes away. In the case of celebrities we often have a good indication to the answer of those questions because they live their lives in the public eye, but then we still do not know with a certainty. But we do know with a certainty that had they passed away and had followed the “broad road” they most certainly will not be resting in peace.
For myself I often said “RIP” more in a sense of compassion for the family of those who passed than for the deceased. But I believe in the future I can find a better way to express condolences to the family, after all expressing a desire for a departed soul to rest in peace is pretty well useless since their destination is in death determined.