Two Losses Do Not a Victory Make

I have often said that some of the hardest people to reach for Christ are those who realize their dead loved ones’ fate is eternally sealed. It’s much easier for them to push that reality aside like some begging dog that, if ignored long enough, will eventually sulk away than to face it head-on, especially if they have no reason to believe those they loved and lost did not know Christ as Savior.
For some, shunning salvation may be an act of nobility. After all, if you know your loved one is spending eternity in hell, why shouldn’t you want to be there with him to offer comfort? 
More often that not, I believe it’s a matter of ignorance. Years ago, someone who was filing excuses about why he shouldn’t commit his life to Christ said, “Hell can’t be all bad.” Oh yes, it can. That concept was obviously shared by someone who pursued me as a young woman when he said, “I’d spend eternity in hell if it meant I could be with you.” Well, if you’re reading this, please understand you would not be doing yourself or me any favors. First, I won’t be there. Second, you clearly are clueless about what hell is. It’s not a place where you enjoy comfort or companionship. It’s a place of eternal torment. 
In Luke 16:16-31, Jesus – who taught repeatedly on hell – gives us a glimpse into hell in the story of a poor man named Lazarus who lived at the gate of a rich man. Lazarus was “covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores” (Luke 16:20-21). Eventually Lazarus, who trusted in Jesus, died and entered heaven, where he found comfort at Abraham’s side. The rich man, however, would face an eternity in hell upon his death. 
The rich man called to Abraham, “Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire” (Luke 16:24). Abraham told the rich man that he had enjoyed good things in his time on earth, and now Lazarus would find comfort while he endured torment (Luke 16:25).
But couldn’t the rich man’s loved ones pray or buy or baptize his way into heaven? Well, Abraham spoke about that as well in verse 26: “And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.” The rich man had chosen to live apart from God, and that decision would follow him throughout all eternity.
Surely the rich man would want his loved ones to come join him there, right? Then, though separated eternally from God, he would still know the comfort of his loved ones. Nope. He “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment” (Luke 16:27).
Just so you know, this particular message is a difficult one for me to address, because I have two loved ones – my sister and my mother (see my Nov. 8 post) – whom I do not expect to see in heaven, barring any last-minute prayer to receive Christ as Savior. When I read in Philippians 2:10-11 “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” it grieves me that their worship of my Savior will be compulsory and not from a heart overflowing with love for Him.
The rich man did not wish his fate upon anyone. My mother and sister would not wish their fate upon me. And if you have loved ones who may share the rich man’s destiny, be assured they don’t wish their fate upon you either. They would hope that you would heed this message, that you would respond today. They would echo the plea of 2 Corinthians 6:2: “For he says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”
Salvation is found in Jesus alone; He is a gift available for the taking if we are willing to accept Him. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). It’s a matter of receiving, believing and becoming: “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). 
Two losses do not a victory make. But victory is yours for the taking in Christ Jesus, and that decision is the best way to honor your lost loved ones.