As a Christian, there’s no way to feel sorry for the dead without simultaneously insulting God. Since we don’t want to be insulting God, there’s no room for mourning those who have died. Mourning for our own loss and for the loss of others certainly has its place, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. In this post, we’re talking about mourning for the souls who have actually died. Let’s now discuss the wrong beliefs and backwards priorities that fuel this most inappropriate attitude.
THE POWER TO KILL
Let’s start with some basics. What is death? God defines death as the moment when He pulls our souls out of our earthsuits and transfers them on to a different eternal dimension. It’s important to realize that God is the only One with the power to separate soul from body. Demons are incapable of doing this, so if you’re fooling around with astral projection, realize that you’re just being duped by demons who are merely toying with your senses to give you the illusion of leaving your body. You’re really not going anywhere, but you are irking God by playing such stupid games, so knock it off. Your soul is not a toy and God does not find it cute when you go sucking up to His enemies in an attempt to get around the limitations that He has put on you.
God is the only One with the power to kill you. Things like suicide and murder are commonly viewed as humans actually killing each other, but such a view is incorrect. The most humans ever do is attempt to kill themselves and others, but no one succeeds in doing so until God decides that He wants someone to die. This means that no matter how many times you shoot someone, and no matter how many pills you swallow yourself, no one’s soul is going to leave their bodies until God decides the time is right. Humans cannot kill each other, because humans are incapable of releasing their souls from their bodies. Demons cannot kill humans, either. God simply doesn’t give created beings power over our souls. He alone controls the location of your soul and its current limitations. You’re not going anywhere until God wants you to. A refusal to accept this is what botched suicide attempts are made of.
If we could see how often people attempt to kill themselves and others only to be blocked by God, we would get over this illusion that we have the power to end lives. Not only do we have no say over when we will die, we also have no say over how we will die or where we will end up after death. God is the One who controls all of these things. He promises us that if we please Him with our response to Him on earth, He’ll take us to Heaven. But here’s the thing about promises: they are only as good as the character of the promise giver.
You cannot force your way into Heaven after death. You will be completely at the mercy of a God who has absolute control of your soul. Does this mean we should all stay up at night fearing that God might get in some wild mood and start chucking Christians into Hell? Certainly not, because God is good. But it is very important that we gain an accurate view of our situation. Many people like to tell themselves that they have the power to manipulate God after death. They envision death as the moment when they will find themselves standing in front of a set of pearly gates, sweet talking some angel into letting them through. Such delusions are utterly absurd. If God is not as good as He claims He is, you’re in a serious crisis: this is the pride grinding truth that we humans try so hard to avoid. When it comes to controlling where our souls end up after death, we are totally helpless and utterly dependent on the mercy of a God who we have no ability to manipulate.
Here’s another reality that we need to face: we don’t know bumpkus about the afterlife. We’ve never seen it, and the near death experiences that you hear humans describing are nothing more than them describing some dynamic vision that was dropped into their minds by God or demons. The details of these visions often lead people to conclude that their souls have physically left their bodies as well as the earthly dimension. But is this what really happened? The details of these visions reveal that 99% of them have nothing to do with souls actually leaving this dimension. Just as God can give you some terrifying dream about Hell in order to get your attention, He manufactures all kinds of near death experiences which are nothing more than a sensual kind of dream. These “death dreams” serve two main purposes: to scare souls into repenting out of their rebellion, or to deceive the damned into thinking that they are really going to Heaven when they’re not.
Now and then there’s a near death experience that is actually some positive bit of encouragement for a soul who is sincerely seeking God. But look around at all these fatheaded fools touring the globe boasting of how they personally visited Heaven or Hell and you won’t see God being glorified. Hell always sells. Heaven sells even better, which is why we hear about visits to Heaven far more often. But if you listen to the details being described, you’ll hear all kinds of absolute lies and a bunch of ego pleasing guff. Those who claim to have been to Hell invariably come back exalting the power of demons and describing them as having more authority than they actually do. Those who claim to have visited Heaven describe a Heaven that can only be considered satisfying to someone who is very out of touch with God. Being reunited with loved ones, sunshine and flowers, hearing the angels sing—where is God?? You’ll find that God is shockingly absent from heavenly visions. If He shows up at all, He’s usually assigned some minor bit part. He’s either the tour guide, or parked on some distant throne. In some visions, He’s merely credited for producing some warm and fuzzy aura in the air. You’ll find that angels and humans get far more glorification than God in these tiresome visions of the other side. Here’s a useful principle to bear in mind: when God is talking, He promotes Himself. He doesn’t shine the spotlight on mere created beings. So if God isn’t front and center in someone’s supposed vision of the afterlife, then you can chuck the whole thing out as a bunch of guff. God exalts God.
As we said, we humans don’t have the first clue about what we’ll find on the other side. We are completely dependent on God for insights about eternity, and He is quite cagey with the details. Everything we read in the Bible about Heaven and Hell is clearly metaphorical and not meant to be taken literally. Even the terms Heaven and Hell should not be made too much of, because these are nothing more than general terms of reference. Hell is not literally called “Hell” just as Jesus is not Jesus’ actual Name. Names help us keep track of things and organize our thoughts, but the words themselves are irrelevant. Whether you’re calling Jesus Jesus, Yeshua, Lord, or God, He’s the same God. Whether you’re calling Yahweh Father, God, Lord, or some other Name, He’s still who He is. Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit—the title is not what’s important. What matters is what specific Being your soul is focusing on and what your soul attitude towards that Being is.
Our Gods know when we’re talking to Them and when we’re not. To some legitimate Christians, Jehovah is just another name for Yahweh. But the Jehovah that Jehovah’s Witnesses pray to is a fictitious god. So if you pray to Jehovah, you could be praying to the real God, or you could be praying to some figment of your imagination. The labels don’t guarantee anything. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons both claim to be true Christians, but in reality, they’re all on their way to Hell because they are rejecting the real Gods. Simply praying to Jesus with your lips is utterly meaningless. Who is your soul talking to? Your soul does not use a verbal language, but it is very intentional in its interactions with supernatural beings. It is because we put too much trust in labels that we’ve got a bunch of leaders instructing us all in the ways of God even though they aren’t even saved.
You won’t find any reference to Hell in the original manuscripts of the Bible. In the New Testament, the nasty side of eternity is referred to as Hades, Tartarus, and Gehenna. In the Old Testament, it’s referred to as Sheol. If you look into the cultural beliefs attached to each of these places, you’ll discover that none of them are an accurate description of eternity. In fact, some of them are quite ridiculous. The point is that the labels change from culture to culture, but the labels aren’t what’s important. What matters is that we understand the principles that God has communicated to us. God says that there are only two options for where our souls will end up after death. One option has the potential to be super fabulous, the other is guaranteed to be horrific. It doesn’t matter what you call these places. What matters is that you understand that they exist and that God says your transfer into them will be a permanent thing. Once God puts you in Hell, He’s not going to ever let you out again. Once He puts you in Heaven, you’ll be stuck there as well, just as you’re currently stuck in this world. God further explains that experiences will vary in both Heaven and Hell. There will be different intensities of suffering in Hell and different intensities of pleasure in Heaven. This pretty much sums up what we know about eternity: the rest is metaphorical.
To help us grasp that Hell is not where we want to end up, Jesus talks about a lake of fire, gnashing teeth, and darkness. Yahweh talks about worms endlessly feasting on people and humans acting horrified by the sight of His enemies in misery. To help us grasp that Heaven will be positive, Jesus and Yahweh paint many pictures of humans doing activities which were considered very positive by Their original audiences. For example, in the Old Testament, we find folks happily farming away in Heaven. Do you really want to spend eternity raking dirt and planting crops? Probably not, but such imagery was very appealing to the ancient Jews Yahweh was addressing. In Revelation, we find a bunch of imagery that is particularly appealing to impoverished, injured, frightened Christians who are ducking and running in the midst of Roman persecution. The Revelation Heaven provides residents with abundant wealth, status, brand new clothes, and an endless supply of food and medicine. It has the latest fashions: white nightgowns for all. Angels dash around in these same tunics sporting gold sashes. Humans wear crowns and make music on stringed instruments. It’s all very…earthly. It’s also nothing you should take literally. Instead, you should find it quite suspicious that folks still have the physical bodies that they were supposed to leave on earth. Not only do they have bodies, but those bodies are showing signs of age. Notice the reference to the elders who are sitting around God’s throne in Heaven, perpetually falling onto their faces just as every good, theatrical Jew would do in those times. In the Revelation Heaven, no one seems to have conquered their shame of being naked because clothing abounds—either that, or they’re trying to keep the chill off. John hears multiple languages being spoken—apparently the curse of Babel lives on. And if seeing signs of ethnic favoritism everywhere doesn’t wake you up, then check out how the only members invited to reign with Christ for a 1,000 year long martyr party are sinless Christians who got their heads lopped off by Roman soldiers. John’s visions of Heaven in Revelation reek of absurdity and deception, and indeed, God was not at all trying to give human beings an accurate view of the other side in that book (see Applying Revelation: Its Warning for Modern Day Believers).
The big lesson is this: you have to read with discernment, even when you’re reading about Heaven. Our Gods are intentionally keeping eternity shrouded in mystery. Why? Because the details of what we will experience are irrelevant. Our Creators want us focusing on the fact that our experience of eternity will be Their response to how we treated Them on earth. Simply knowing that there is an afterlife should be motivating us to take the concept of honoring our Creators very seriously today. They say that our soul’s response to Them in this dimension is what They will use to determine how They will treat us in eternity. The more pleased They are with us, the better our experience of eternity will be. If we greatly displease Them here, They will amplify our misery on the other side.
What’s very sobering about eternity is that our Gods warn us that Their reaction to our treatment of Them here will be shockingly extreme. We humans can’t honestly imagine behavior that is wicked enough to be punished eternally in a place as freaky as Hell. Nor can we honestly claim that we’ve done anything deserving of eternal bliss. Both Heaven and Hell are extreme overreactions from the human perspective, yet our Gods are extreme, and this is how They have set things up. And it is because They have all of the power that Their set up is extremely important to us. We cannot stop our Gods from killing us, and we cannot control where They place us after death. We can only pay attention to the rules They lay down, do our utmost to please Them, and then trust that They will honor Their promises to be gracious to us on the other side if we have met Their requirements for salvation.
MOURNING FOR THE DEAD
So then, according to our Gods, our transfer to eternity is a form of Divine judgment, and that judgment is permanent. They purposely created a place of punishment and a place of reward. They are very purposeful in who They put where, and They say that They always heartily approve of Their own judgments. Given all of this, what are you saying to Them when you sit around mourning for the dead? What’s to mourn? If a soul ended up in Heaven, and you sit on earth crying about it, it’s like you’re saying Yahweh, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are miserable Rewarders. You’re saying that They can’t be trusted to uphold Their promise to bless souls who have pleased Them on earth. You’re acting like Their Heaven must be some miserable experience for your loved one. How very rude of you.
But suppose a soul ended up in Hell instead. Now you’re being very Christlike to start sobbing, right? Not hardly. As a co-Creator of both Heaven and Hell, Christ heartily approves of both. Given that our Gods are the Ones who transfer souls into Hell, They are the Ones you are insulting when you go into some big funk about what They’ve done. Aren’t humans the property of the Ones who created them? Are you trying to say you’re more gracious than the Ones who taught you what grace is? Do you think you’re a better judge than Them? Do you think you’re wiser and more competent than the Ones who hold your molecules together? Are you seeing the problem with Christians beefing about Hell? It’s not the concept of torment that we’re railing against, it’s the Character of the Ones who control Hell. Our Gods say that They are extremely gracious, patient, forgiving, compassionate, kind and merciful. They say They are infinitely more generous than you are when it comes to dispensing these things, yet suddenly you act like you’re the nicer one by groaning over souls in Hell. So in your mind, our Gods deserve no respect? They are to exist for the purpose of serving Their creatures? They should eat endless flack and reward those who defy Them? Whose side are you on, anyway? You’re hardly acting pro-Christ when you have a problem with Christ being respected.
Let’s be clear about how souls end up in Hell: they get there through informed, willful defiance of their Makers. No one ends up in Hell out of ignorance. Our Gods are not like evil fathers who delight in punishing their kids for breaking rules that the kids didn’t know existed. But this is exactly what we’re accusing our Gods of doing when we complain about Them chucking souls into Hell. Our Gods say that if They throw someone into Hell, then that soul deserves to be there. Are you going to respect Their judgment or not? If you don’t like the calls They make, then you should be submitting to Them out of respect for Their awesome power. You are not in control. They are. This isn’t your Creation, and you don’t get to call the shots for how it is handled.
While Christians act like it is oh so righteous to loathe the idea of souls ending up in Hell, it is actually a bunch of irreverent snark. Anytime we’re saying our Gods are being jerks, we need to realize that we’re the ones in error. Certainly there are times when we will have enormous difficulty accepting Their decisions. They understand this, and They are not going to come down on us for struggling. Instead, They will actually sympathize with our struggle and help us acquire a better perspective—that’s how nice They are. But when we start with the bratty tantrums and insist that we are more loving, kind, and gracious than They are, well that’s just obnoxious rebellion. Human beings are notorious misers of compassion, love, and grace. If our Gods judged us the way we judge others, we’d all end up in Hell.
The reality is that is very insulting to our Gods to gripe about Hell. Honest struggling is one thing, but acting like the comfort of our loved ones is the most important priority in the universe is utterly irreverent. Christians are great at saying “God is first,” but they rarely think about what this actually means. One thing it means is that our Gods’ preferences and pleasure should be considered infinitely more important than our own. If Jesus says that it pleases Him to torment souls forever in Hell, then you express your loyalty to Jesus by aligning with what He wants. If Jesus says your grandfather spat in His face one time too many, thus Gramps is now going to be roasting forever in Hell, that’s your opportunity to honor your Lord by deciding that what He wants is more important than your loved one having some positive experience in eternity.
Where there is a clash of wills, there is an opportunity for submission. Nothing disturbs us more than the notion of our Gods torturing us forever in Hell. Good, because the more disturbed we are, the more of a chance we have to honor Them with our submission.
“God, I’m really struggling with the idea of my loved ones in Hell, but You are my King. What You want is what matters most. I want You to be pleased above all things. If this is what pleases You, help me to get on board.”
This is a prayer that honors God, and this is the attitude we need to reach for whenever we’re struggling with the idea of someone we care about suffering in eternity.
So then, is it appropriate to mourn for the dead? Not when we’re mourning for the souls who actually died. God says that no one dies early and no one dies late. He says that His pleasure should be our top priority, and that He is quite pleased with where He places souls in eternity. So there is no place for mourning for the dead or their eternal fate. We shouldn’t be talking to the dead, praying for them, or trying to live for them, either. When God takes our loved ones away from us on earth, He wants us to demonstrate our respect for His Authority by fully letting go. Of course we need His help to do this. And while we shouldn’t be mourning for the dead, we do need to mourn for ourselves. This is part of the grieving process. It is extremely painful to have our lives suddenly ripped away from another’s. God understands this and He has great compassion on us. If we are willing to trust Him, He will walk us through the grieving process and use our loss to draw us closer to Him. As with every other trial that God brings into our lives, the death of our loved ones should be viewed as an opportunity to progress in our own walks with God.
Your personal relationship with God should be taking precedence over everything else. It is not healthy or helpful to cling to the memories of the dead. The dead are meant to be released and forgotten. There is a time to let go of the memorials and move on with our lives. In this world, God has intentionally set things up so that our Creators are the only Ones we can count on to never leave us. They are the only constants in our lives—every other relationship we have is guaranteed to be temporary.