And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment . . . – Hebrews 9:27
The other day I learned thirdhand about the death of someone who hurt me deeply a few years ago and caused a significant relationship to be estranged. My first reaction was sorrow for her soul, remembering her indifference when I shared Christ. Then I was sorrowful for her loved ones, particularly the one she kept from me.
But then yet another sadness hit, on top of the other sorrows, that on her deathbed she did not retract the lies that separated me from that someone so precious to me.
“Maybe she had a stroke and was no longer lucid,” my husband reasoned.
Yes, that’s possible, I thought, but she had had four years in which to make things right. And how tragic that part of her legacy would be lies and estrangement.
In ordinary times, I would have been at her funeral today. I would have been there to comfort the person I love so much and to help him make important decisions about his next steps in this life, as well as to reconsider the next. Instead I’m left imagining the platitudes that will be shared at the service – held at what I know to be an unbiblical church – and the feeble attempts to brush off the reality of the eternity that awaits each of us.
Now, in her eternity of choice, this woman must confront what she has done – what she has done with Jesus and what she has done to people. This death and judgment are the universal experience of all people (all except, of course, Enoch and Elijah).
Unless Jesus returns in our lifetimes, none of us can escape death. And none of us will escape judgment (Acts 10:42). We will either face the white throne judgment (Revelation 20:11-15), or we will be judged according to our fruit if our faith is in Christ (1 Corinthians 4:5). Those who face the white throne judgment will be found guilty of their rejection of Christ and will face an eternity of suffering, while those whose faith is in Christ will enter into perfect peace and rest.
But we will have something in common: All will worship the one true God revealed in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:9-11
This passage gives me both goosebumps and pause. I rejoice at the glory my Lord will receive, at how our faith shall finally be made sight. But I pause when I consider the souls of so many I know – possibly including this woman – who will worship under coercion because they failed to yield their hearts to Christ in this life.
Hell is a place of unending regret and unrelenting pain. How I hope this woman repented before her sins would haunt her for all eternity. The sorrow of my loved one can be overcome; this sorrow cannot, not now and not ever again.
One thing I know: We must live for Christ now, and we must live well. May we live in such a way that we would have no regrets, and that we would leave none in our wake.