I was raised to never speak ill of the dead. Those who left us in 2016 should be remembered as they lived, especially for the sake of their families. I know–my father died on July 4th. He was 96 years old.
Other more well known people we lost in 2016 included:
David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey, Abe Vigoda, Antonin Scalia, Harper Lee, Nancy Reagan, Joe Garagiola, Patty Duke, Merle Haggard, Prince, Morley Safer, Mahummad Ali, Gordie Howe, Eli Wiesel, Gene Wilder, Arnold Palmer, Tom Hayden, Janet Reno, Florence Henderson, John Glenn, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.
I cannot speak to the condition of all their souls when they left Planet Earth. Only God knows whether their names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. I do not wish to speak ill of the dead.
But I do know this: God did not have to provide a way to fallen humans to join Him forever in Heaven. Heaven knows no sin. We are all the progeny of Adam and Eve, the first sinners, and have inherited their sin. God did not have to provide even one way for us to rid ourselves of that stain on our souls.
Many skeptics of Christianity have but one objection to it. That it’s exclusive. How could all those people, most of whom we’d think of as “good” in life, having done good things in general and treating others well, go to Hell if God is good? Wouldn’t that make God Himself evil, the question goes.
No. God is good, and God is holy, without sin. When humans sinned, the separation from God was permanent and irredeemable. God did not have to make a way for us to join Him. But He did, by having the one sinless man who ever lived take on all our sins, in exchange for His sinless nature.
That man was Jesus Christ, the God-man, God with us, Immanuel, conceived by the Holy Spirit, the Son of the living God. A child was born and a Son was given. This is why He is the singular, perfect, and only way to sinless Heaven.
If God made 2,000 ways to Heaven, sinful man would ask for 2,001, because the sinful greed and lust of mankind wants its own way. If there were a million ways to Heaven, we’d find the one “good” soul who needs a millionth plus one. It really doesn’t matter how many ways God provided to Heaven, we’d always want one more, because anything else limits our free will.
This is why Christianity is hard. It’s why Christians can be hypocrites. Hypocrisy is almost baked into our faith. The Law of God, given by Moses, and written in our hearts (even atheists know what it is to “be good for goodness sake”), can’t be kept. The Apostle Paul wrote that he himself is wretched.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:21-25)
God didn’t have to provide a single way to bridge the unbridgeable gap between Himself in His holiness and sinlessness, and mankind, in its sin. But He did. One way is enough. Jesus proved Himself prophetically, historically, physically and spiritually through many witnesses (assiduously avoiding the religious authorities, so that those who witnesses had no human motive). Either He is the Way, or there is no way.
Those who passed away in 2016 either knew the Way–or more accurately, were known by Him–or they didn’t. There is no other requirement, no human goodness which can buy that ticket to Heaven, or no human failing which can prevent entry by the one Way God provided.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)