I’ve heard this said, and from my own experience I know it is true. The minister visits a dying person and asks, “Are you ready for eternity?” “I hope so,” comes the answer; “I’ve tried to lead a good life.” Dear God, don’t let me, don’t let anyone approach that final journey with such waffling!
All Saints’ Day will be observed in many churches this Sunday. Some congregations have the custom of tolling the church bell as the name of each member who died in the last year is read. Why the ceremony? Why the joyous hymns of All Saints’ Sunday? Because of a flimsy “I hope so?” Because the deceased tried to lead a good life? St. Paul approached eternity with none of that. “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
Certainty in the face of death can’t be found in yourself. “Pastor, I know I’m not perfect.” What does Scripture say about not being perfect? “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it” (James 2:10). Therefore, this prayer: “Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you” (Psalm 143:2). Certainty has to come from Someone other than yourself and from someplace other than the good Christian life you may have tried to lead. Certainty must come from One who brings forgiveness for your sins, and Himself came through the valley of the shadow of death alive. He promises, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). Jesus’ promise give you hope that is sure and certain. “I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4).
“If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithfulness, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:11-13).