FROM THE PASTOR
In a small village high in the mountains of Nepal, a family has been experiencing an unusual amount of sickness. Finally they call on the local shaman (witch doctor) for help. Through his magic arts he discovers the cause of their continued illness. The father of the family had died several years before and the surviving family members had not completed the proper burial rituals. Since they did not do their duty at the time of his death, the father is trapped as an infant in the afterlife. In that helpless condition he is not able to find enough food to take care of himself. In desperation, he has begun to afflict the family with sickness to get them to perform the elaborate and costly ceremony. The way to help themselves is to help their dead father by paying to have the ceremony performed. When he is set free by the ritual he will move on into higher levels of the afterlife. From that advanced position he will be able to take care of himself and also assist the family.
The reason that the ceremony was not performed at the father’s death was that the family could not afford to pay to have it done. They still do not have enough money to pay for the costly ceremony. Yet they feel that they must find a way to do it for their own protection. My sources did not tell me if the shaman also runs a loan shark operation, but it would not surprise me to find out that he does.
One can only imagine how many times each day this scene is repeated around the earth. It is just one example of how false religion enslaves people during life and then continues to hold them hostage after death. “However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods.” (Gal 4:8 NASB) Demonic spirits and greedy humans team up to exploit the fears and troubles of those who do not know the truth. Variations of this pressure show up in magic, witchcraft, ancestor worship, and even the unbiblical doctrine of purgatory. They all use the fate of the dead as a means of controlling the living. I do not think that it is too strong to say that every form of false religion uses this leverage in some way.
Contrast that bondage with the freedom that is offered in God’s Word. The Bible is clear that we can each be certain of our eternal state before we reach the end of our life on this earth. The one who has faith in Jesus is declared righteous, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, given a new name and nature, sealed with the Holy Spirit, adopted into God’s family, and made a part of the Body of Christ. There are many more blessing that we receive when we are born again into Jesus Christ, but these are enough to make the point. The Christian is secure in God’s acceptance. He is free to look at his past, present and future without fear or guilt. He may shrink back emotionally from the thought of death, but that uncertainty should not be caused by confusion about what is going to happen to him after death.
We also find that Christians have equal freedom in relating to those who have already passed from this life. Our loved ones cannot be used as religious hostages. The Bible leaves no place for the spirits of departed humans to interact with those who are still living. We are instructed in how to deal properly with demonic spirits, but never with ghosts. Anyone trained in the truth cannot be manipulated over a departed loved one. The Bible is completely clear that the eternal destiny of each person is determined in this lifetime. “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment...” (Heb 9:27 NASB) Whenever a human being leaves this life, we who remain simply entrust him to the care of a just and merciful God.
This truth, which protects us from religious blackmail, also raises one more point we must not overlook. If anyone is going to come to saving faith in Jesus, it must happen in this lifetime. Our witnessing must be done now. It does no good to stand at a graveside and say, “I wish I would have told her. I thought someone else would. I always thought that we would have more time.” Again, God’s Word is very clear, “Behold, now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation’"-- (II Cor 6:2 NASB) Tomorrow may be too late.