Yesterday afternoon my Facebook page lit up with posts about the passing of country music legend Merle Haggard. What caught my attention, as it has at other times, was the acrostic, RIP that accompanied many posts. What’s its origin? What does it really mean? Is it a blanket statement for all deaths?
Wikipedia says, “’Rest in peace’ (Latin: Requiescat in pace) is a short epitaph or idiomatic expression wishing eternal rest and peace to someone who has died. The expression typically appears on headstones, often abbreviated as R.I.P. or RIP. The phrase was not found on tombstones before the eighth century. It became ubiquitous on the tombs of Christians in the 18th century, and for High Church Anglicans, as well as Roman Catholics in particular, it was a prayerful request that their soul should find peace in the afterlife.”
Of the three questions in the first paragraph, I think the last one is the most important. Can we say RIP for all deaths? The answer is quite clear. For all who die in Christ as a true born again believer, yes; for all who choose to reject Christ’s offer of salvation; no.
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus give us a good answer (Luke 16:19-31). For the rich man, he is in the place of torment, apart from God, as is the current state of all unbelievers. For Lazarus, he is in Paradise just as Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “Today, you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Another comforting truth for believers is found in 2 Corinthians 5:8 which assures us that we are immediately in the presence of the Lord upon death.
So, do unbelievers rest in peace? Peace nor rest can be found in a place of torment. Furthermore, to randomly attach RIP to someone that you are uncertain of their eternal state is careless.
The worst tragedy today is that unsaved people around the world died and entered into eternal torment. The greatest blessing for believers today is that many around the world entered into eternal rest, joy, and peace in the presence of Christ.
So, could RIP be placed on your tombstone with complete certainty? If you are not truly born again, a genuine follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, would you take time to watch the following video? It will mean the difference between RIP or LITF (Living in Torment Forever).
(How ironic that while composing this post, I received a text message about someone’s passing away. Please don’t take death and eternity lightly?)