Bruce Collins, Evangelist

The personal website of Bruce Collins

First Death, then What and Where?

Meditation for the week of August 30,2009

Luke 16:22-23
"So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.”

Saturday I was watching the funeral of Senator Ted Kennedy.  It took me back to November 1963 when I was watching the funeral of President JF Kennedy who had been assassinated. Because of his assassination, I realized that I needed to be saved and I needed to be saved now.  I struggled that weekend with what it meant to be saved.  His death brought me to where I found out I could not save myself; and if I died just as I was I would die as an unforgiven, unsaved sinner.  I would have been in hell in torments.  But when I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t save myself, the Lord showed me through a tract that I was reading that Christ had already died to save me.  I trusted the Lord that day and now according to the Bible, based on my faith in the Lord Jesus and based on nothing else, if I die I will go to heaven.  One moment, I was on my way to hell.  The next moment I was on my way to heaven.  I remember getting on my knees and telling the Lord at that time, “Lord, if I were to go to hell now, you would have to be a liar.”  God is not a liar and while there are a lot of things that I have changed my mind on over the years, I have never changed my mind about the fact that Christ died for me, and that when I die I will be with the Lord in heaven. 

When Ted Kennedy died there were postings on some of the social networking internet sites that said, “in hell he lift up his eyes”.  Did Ted Kennedy go to heaven or did he go to hell?  Did President JF Kennedy go to heaven or hell?  There are many people who do not like the Kennedy politics and they are convinced that the Kennedy’s could not be Christians because of their politics.  Others are convinced they could not be Christians because of their religion.  Some think Ted Kennedy sealed his destiny at Chappaquiddick when a young lady died after he drove his car into the bay.  But what is interesting is that we all want to make these judgments about others while not facing squarely our own sin and shortcomings. We think we are all right and it is everyone else who needs to be saved.  The weekend that President Kennedy was shot, I realized that it really didn’t matter whether President Kennedy was in heaven or hell, what mattered was that if I had died suddenly, I was not prepared and I would be in hell. 

Can  Catholics go to heaven?  Sure they can.  But they can only go to heaven if they believe what Paul preached in Acts 13: 38-39: "Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.”  Everyone would include the Kennedy’s.  That’s the same way Lutherans, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Baptists and everyone else goes to heaven as well.   If the Kennedy’s were depending on their church and their church rituals or their good works to get them to heaven, then according to my Bible they were lost.  If they were depending wholly on the blood of Christ to get them to heaven, then they were saved.  Many people are quick to make these determinations after people die.  I think these questions should be asked before we die.  After we die there is nothing that can be done to change our destinies in spite of what many churches teach.  Before we die, we can repent (that is change our mind where we disagree with God) and we can believe (that is trust in the truth that Christ really did suffer in our place to put away our sins). 

As I watched the funeral this morning, it was painful to think that Ted Kennedy might have lifted up his eyes in hell.  But we didn’t know his heart.  Hopefully, as an undeserving sinner, he trusted the Lord at some point in his life.  Maybe he will be in heaven while those who are sure he did not go there will self-righteously miss out on the salvation God is offering them. 

At this point, Ted Kennedy is either enjoying heaven or is being tormented in hell.  His destiny was settled while he was alive.  I hope with all my heart that he heard the Gospel and believed it.

In John 5:24, the Lord Himself says,  "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”  I believe that.  I hope Ted Kennedy believed that.  I hope you believe that. 

Bruce Collins

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