According to this recent survey, fewer Americans these days wonder about their answer to the famous evangelistic question, “If I were to die tonight, do I know for sure that I would go to heaven?” This brief article implies that Americans are less interested in eternal things than they used to be.
That could be true for all I know. Maybe it’s a natural consequence of living in an increasingly secular culture.
But not so fast. I do a lot of funerals in my job—most of them, in fact, for unchurched families who need a clergy person to solemnize their loved one’s funeral service. (I’m on a funeral director’s speed-dial.) I’m happy to do it. It’s easy work (which helps pay seminary student debt!) but also a good ministry opportunity that I take seriously.
I don’t know whether members of these grieving families ever wonder whether they’ll go to heaven when they die. But I don’t think I’ve met a person yet who has any doubts about their departed loved ones! See what I mean? Regardless whether the recently deceased person had ever professed the Christian faith, darkened the door of a church, or prayed, the bereaved seem extremely confident that their loved one is in heaven.
As a matter of professional pride, their confidence bothers me a little. It’s my job, after all, to know about eternal questions. We can only know for sure that we have eternal life through faith in Christ and his atoning work on the cross. If someone didn’t possess this faith in life, how can we know that they’re safely with God in death?
The implication of the article might be wrong: Maybe an increasing number of Americans presume upon the grace of a God who couldn’t possibly send anyone to hell. In which case, the church needs to work harder to shake their confidence.