By Elizabeth Prata
Actress and animal advocate Betty White died last week. She was 99 years old. She was just two weeks shy of her 100th birthday.
She had longevity not only in years that the Lord graciously gave her, but had longevity in her career that she loved so much. It’s a wonderful thing to love what you do and be given so many years to do it.
When she died, as many times happens with a celebrity death, the concept of death suddenly becomes real to people. It does to me, it brings the afterlife into the forefront of my mind. I am in Christ and I fear death no more. The curiosity I’d had about what happens two seconds after my last breath is finally satisfied in the certain knowledge that I will be with Jesus in heaven. I do not know what I’ll be doing, apart from praises and songs of worship to Him, but given His intellectual creativity these last 7000 years, I know it’ll be wonderful.
I looked up Betty White’s religious affiliations, searching for some hope that she would be in heaven too. It doesn’t look like she will be. Her life never had any affiliation with Jesus and it bore no spiritual fruit. She was profane, raunchy, twice divorced before marrying Allen Ludden (so she’s an adulteress), and more. The likelihood that Betty White is in hell now makes me sad, as the concept does every time I think about it for anyone who might be there. I know a lot of other people are thinking and talking about it too.
Before I was saved the concept of heaven was pretty obvious to me that it existed. I didn’t think our complex bodies had evolved from primordial ooze. What would the point of our existence be, then? Plus, every culture on earth worshiped some kind of god and had a concept of heaven. It seemed logical that there was an afterlife. But hell…punishment…torment? What would I, a ‘good person,’ need punishing for? Bah, ridiculous.
But heaven posed serious questions too. Who goes to heaven? Does Hitler? If not Hitler, who decides? And on what basis? If everyone – even a Hitler – goes to heaven, what makes it any different than here? Here is pretty awful. People make it awful. Will heaven be awful? I would quit thinking about it around then, my curiosity spun out and my brain unable to come to the end of the matter.
In 2014, the television interview host Larry King had Betty White on his program. I found this 1-min clip where King pointedly asked a then 93-year-old White about the afterlife. Here is that exchange:
Larry King: Do you fear do you fear leaving the planet?
Betty White: Oh no. Oh I look forward …
Larry King: Come on, I fear it.
Betty White: I don’t. I’m so curious. We know… we all know everything about everything. My mother taught me this- we know the answers to everything or we can find out the answers. But the one thing we can’t find out is what happens that moment [at death].
Larry King: You can THINK you know…or you can have faith…
Betty White: Oh you can think you know. You can be religious, you can all those things, but you don’t know for certain. I just find it fascinating. I’m curious. The older I get the curiouser I get.
Larry King: But what if it’s nothing?
Betty White: What if it’s nothing? Then I won’t know that.
Larry King: You can’t lose.
Betty White: It’s a win-win situation. [Applause]
This is so devastating, it’s unspeakable. We Christians should mourn every day all the lost souls in the world. We should think about hell and their (and our previous) destination, and renew our fervor for the Gospel.
It is not a win-win. It is win or lose. Both have eternal consequences as far apart as the east is from the west (that is to say infinitely apart). Here is what the Bible has to say about hell.
Unforgiven sinners who don’t know Jesus go there. It is eternal torment, unquenchable fire, destruction, the fiery furnace, and a second death. It is the lake of fire. It is utter darkness. It is the wrath of the Lamb. There is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
It is forever.
Many go there. (Matthew 7:13).
For after all it is only right for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted, along with us, when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God, and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These people will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9).
That’s the New Testament, not the mean old prophets and not the weird and discounted book of Revelation. The reality of hell is taught in many books of the Bible.
More verses on the eternal torment and destruction that awaits the sinner, here. Hell is real. Oh, you most certainly CAN know what happens after death. God told us, and that information is in His word.
You MUST AVOID hell at all costs. It is a place that we all deserve, because of our rebellion against a holy God, but thankfully He keeps some from that everlasting future and gives us hope in Christ.
It is not enough that the present life, as already possessed, should be renovated, that the existing nature should receive fresh vigour and new tone, but “ye must be born again”: a new life must be received, and no improving the present life will suffice in its stead. ~Charles Spurgeon, sermon Every Man’s Necessity
What does it mean to be born again? We are sinners, that means we think, say, and do things against God’s will. No, you’re not a murderer, though that is a sin. You are angry or bitter or have sex outside of marriage, or steal, (even a pen from work), or bear false witness…any number of things is a sin. Even one sin is enough to keep you from God’s heaven, because He is holy. Sin is unholy.
Unholy people cannot be with God. So God sent His Son Jesus, second person of the Trinity, incarnated in flesh, to earth. He was charged with living the perfectly holy life that we cannot, and then to be crucified on the cross. Jesus took all of God’s wrath for the people that God elected to join Him in heaven, though Jesus was sinless. Jesus shed His blood, died, and was buried. On the third day He rose again and ascended to heaven 40 days later. Because Jesus took God’s wrath for sin upon Himself, now Jesus is the door to heaven. Anyone repenting (turning from) their sins and calling out to the name of Jesus for forgiveness, will be saved from hell and will enjoy and glorify God forever.
Why can I be so certain that I KNOW these things? When we sincerely repent and appeal to Jesus as Lord and Savior, He accepts that repentance and sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. The Spirit helps us pursue that holy life pleasing to God that without Him, we can’t. The Spirit in us makes the Bible understandable. This is called Illumination. Jesus is the Light that shone in the darkness, and the Spirit brings that light to our mind so we understand God’s will. His will is revealed in the Bible. They are no longer dry and dusty words but alive and sharp, energizing us to good deeds and to praise of the One who created us.
We can know. IF WE REPENT. Otherwise, we are just groping in the darkness.
The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining brighter and brighter until midday. But the way of the wicked is like the darkest gloom; they do not know what makes them stumble. (Proverbs 4:18-19).
Tomorrow on the blog & podcast, how to deal with knowing that a loved one is likely in hell.