Over the last few weeks there have been a number of tragic deaths.
There was another addition to the “27 club”. Amy Winehouse joined a group of celebrity musos who all died tragically at the age of 27 – Kurt Cobain, Jimmi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin. But not just celebrities, also people in Norway, the middle-east, Africa and the list goes on and on.
It is interesting to note that short on the heels of all these tragedies are the jokes about them (perhaps our coping mechanism?). And while some are quite funny, I suppose, it is desperately tragic that these people had to die like this!
But there is something I find even more tragic! You see it on the social media, on TV, in magazines and in the newspapers… and that is that more often than not when someone dies people will say “RIP” – Rest In Peace. And my question is how do they know? How do they know that these people are now resting in peace? Have they actually been over there to see? How do we know that anyone rests in peace after they die? Is it just wishful thinking? Or is it just a nice thing to say like “bless you” after someone sneezes?
Actually saying “bless you” after someone sneezes possibly originates from the great bubonic plague of centuries ago – as sneezing was thought to be the first sign of having the plague.
And “Rest in peace” comes from a Latin expression wishing eternal rest and peace to someone who has just died and actually comes from an old form of funeral service in the Christian Church which went, “May his soul and the souls of all the departed faithful by God’s mercy rest in peace.” Which in turn came from the Bible in Isaiah 57: 2, “Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.”
So the question is who gets to R.I.P eternally?
According to the funeral service it is the faithful. But who are the faithful? Is everyone faithful and so everyone gets to rest in peace? And faithful to what or who?
According to the Bible it is those who walk uprightly. But who are those who walk uprightly? What does that even mean?
And in the funeral service and all over the Bible it is all by God mercy. But who does God give mercy to so they can rest in peace? Everyone? Just some people?
Well, the only explanation I can give you is from the Bible, from God’s Word, because God is the only one who knows what happens after death (He is there) and why.
It starts in Genesis 1 + 2 where God creates everything and then on the 7th day rests. What does that mean? Was He tired? No. The rest was when God stopped creating and enjoyed His creation – especially the relationship He had with people as we see in Genesis 2. The paradise was a place where people could rest in the peace of a wonderful relationship with God.
But unfortunately as good as it was, in Genesis 3 we see people rebelling against God and instead rest we un-rest as people come under the dreadful burden of sin, death and judgment from God. Paradise was lost. No resting in peace for anyone! Just unrest between us and God and when people die they do not R.I.P.
But in God’s grace and mercy He promises to turn that dreadful situation around in Genesis 12: 1 – 3 – blessing instead of curse, rest instead of unrest.
Which doesn’t happen until Jesus (who is God in the flesh) comes to earth and makes peace on the cross between God and man by dealing with the sin, death and judgment that caused the unrest.
We see this in the announcement of Jesus’ birth: Matthew 1: 21 – 23: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus (Which means “The Lord saves”), because he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).” Luke 2: 14, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
And so only Jesus can offer rest. As He looks forward to what He would do on the cross Jesus says about this burden of sin, death and judgment in Matthew 11: 28 – 30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Rest In Peace is only accomplished on the cross: 1 Peter 3: 18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”
That is how the gospel is described on Acts 10: 36, “You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ…”
And only those who accept Jesus as the only way to rest in peace can R.I.P. And in the New Testament those who accept Jesus are made the faithful and upright by God’s mercy. Romans 5: 1, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…”
Have you accepted Jesus as your Savior, your Forgiver, you Peacebringer?
Rest In Peace can only be said to those who are followers of Jesus!
Colossians 1: 19 – 22, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation…”