not a better place
I overheard two men talking the other day, and caught the last bit of a conversation they were having. I do not really know what they were talking about, but based on what I heard, I can hazard a guess. They concluded their talk with “she’s in a better place.” My guess is that they were talking about a loved one who is now dead. Perhaps they were consoling themselves with thoughts that their loved one was no longer suffering and in Jesus’ protection until his return. But I wonder if those men knew what they were talking about. Does the Bible describe death – even the death of a believer – as “a better place”?
When Jesus faced the death of his friend Lazarus, he wept. He knew that death was not a better place for Lazarus. He did not console Lazarus’ sister Martha with the notion that her brother was not really dead. Instead, he told her that “your brother will rise again.” He had told his disciples “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him”. If Lazarus had gone to a better place, it would have been cruelty to bring him back.
We really need eternal life because we are all going to die, and death is not a friend. The Bible calls death three things for all human beings, no exception:
- An enemy: Paul says “The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:26).
- A prison: Jesus says that death is locked, but that he has the keys (Revelation 1:18).
- A curse. Moses said that life is a blessing, but death is a curse (Deuteronomy 30:19).
Death is the absence of life and breath and consciousness. It is not a good thing, and not a better place.
“The world needs honest Christians. It needs people who do not hide behind fairy tales, and deny the existence of death. It needs people who will tell them that death is real, but that Jesus is real too. The world needs hope that extends beyond the cemetery. Believers can offer that hope, but we have to do so with integrity. It is wrong to say that death is a friend when the Bible calls it an enemy. It is wrong to imply that the blessed hope is a better place at death. Titus 2:13 says we are now “waiting for our blessed hope,” and that blessed hope is “ the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” It is the second coming, not death, which is the focal point of the New Testament promises.
So, let’s be biblically honest and mature. Let’s stop telling people that death is a release, or a homecoming, or a graduation, or any such thing. Death is death, and it is not a better place. We Christians are looking forward to being in a better place, but that place is coming down from the sky when our king returns. The gospel only offers one blessed hope, and we owe it to the world to get that message right.
If you have any questions about this teaching, you can ask me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Join me for this entire series as we search the scriptures to learn about the gift of life.
(listen to the audio file at Afterlife)