A Wonderful Surprise?

23 Jan

News stories provoke a wide range of emotional responses. As the radio reports of the 7/7 bombing filled the air I felt waves of anger and patriotism wash over me. I was outraged and indignant as the television beamed pictures of the innocent children burned by the phospherous shells fired by the war criminals into Gaza. Today, as I opened the paper, I was heartbroken by the story of one man’s funeral and the feeble “hope” offered by the vicar.

“‘Sir John called himself an athiest for Christ,’ the vicar said. ‘He always came to midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. But he emphatically did not believe in life after death. My hope,’ she added, ‘is that he has had a wonderful surprise.'”  The Times

Sir John Mortimer, who died aged 85, was a barrister and an author whom some will remember for his famous creation “Rumpole of the Bailey”.   The “champagne socialist” was a keen advocate of a permissive society and was also a staunch athiest who believed his existence would end as his body drew its last breath on 16th January 2009. He was mistaken. The vicar hoped he would have “wonderful surprise” as he passed from this life. She too was mistaken.


John Mortimer 1923-2009

I was devastated as I read the words of the vicar who held out a faint and futile hope to the family and stars, such as Jeremy Paxman and Bob Geldof, gathered at the funeral. Life does not end as our body ceases to function as we have an eternal soul. There is no “wonderful surprise” waiting for those who deny the existence of the God for it is made clear in Scripture that all those who do not place their trust in Christ will have to face eternity in Hell.

“He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power” 2Thessalonians 1:8-9

God’s justice and holiness demand that sin is punished and we are also told that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans3:23). This leaves us all with a problem that cannot be overcome by our own efforts. We cannot earn salvation nor can God turn a blind eye to sin.

A Wonderful Surprise

There is a wonderful surprise. A wonderful surprise that isn’t a vague hope but a certain hope giving eternal life to all who would place their trust is Jesus Christ. This good news is often referred to as the Gospel and is summarised by John Piper. 

“The Gospel is the news that Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, died for our sins and rose again, eternally triumphant over all his enemies, so that there is now no condemnation for those who believe, but only everlasting joy.”  John Piper

The Gospel In Six Minutes- John Piper


7 Responses to “A Wonderful Surprise?”

  1. blesseddad January 24, 2009 at 12:53 pm #

    Very powerful commentary. Our society today prides itself into forgetting what the scriptures say and forming God into whatever popular diety is the flavor of the month. People have said to me “I have a hard time believing that if you are a good person you can go to hell”. I have also heard “My God is a God of love, he would never send anyone to hell. Hell is a myth designed to keep people in line, he would never allow such a place to exist”. I have also heard “I’ll never worship a God who allows what is happening in Darfur to go on”.
    God is not open to interpretation, God is God. You may not want to believe that good people can go to hell, but if you deny God, he will deny you. The scriptures are absolute. If you devote your life to athieism, you will not have a home in heaven with him. You can be saved any time before you die, but if you die an athiest, you will not be joined with God in the afterlife. God bless you

  2. Hannah D January 24, 2009 at 4:16 pm #

    Trinity RPC 7.00pm Sabbath 25th January
    Mr Donnelly’s speaking on ‘Why would a loving God send people to Hell?’
    topical..good post

  3. whereisthechurch January 28, 2009 at 1:19 am #

    “I was outraged and indignant as the television beamed pictures of the innocent children burned by the phospherous shells fired by the war criminals into Gaza.”

    Is this a quote from a news source or is it your opinion?

  4. James January 28, 2009 at 10:56 pm #

    It is not a quote.

  5. whereisthechurch January 29, 2009 at 1:06 am #

    Oh, that’s a shame. Why have you come to the conclusion that Israel has committed ‘war crimes’?

  6. James January 29, 2009 at 10:47 am #

    Definition of a war crime under article 6 (b) of The Constitution Of The International Military Tribunal

    “Violations of the laws or customs of war. Such violations shall include, but not be limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity; ”

    Israel has admitted using White Phosphorous in Gaza.
    Under international law the use of phosphorous is illegal when used in civilian areas yet Israel has used Phosphorous Shells in attacking one of the most densely populated areas on the planet.

    “Early yesterday (Jan 17th) two Israeli shells slammed into a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school in the northern town of Beit Lahiya, killing two children aged five and seven. UNRWA, angered by attacks on its schools and compounds that Israel said were accidents, called for a war crimes investigation” The Times
    Israel may claim that the death of these children were accidents yet Israel is responsible as it was using weapons illegal with no regard for the safety of civilians. It seems that Israel places no value on the lives of Palestinians.

    The murder of civilians has also been carried out mercilessly.
    Israel troops were instructed to “fire on anything that moves” in the Eastern Gaza city of Zeiton. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article5601177.ece

    Is the war just?
    Whilst I recognise that Israel has a right to defend itself from Hamas rocket fire their actions in Gaza do not fall anywhere near the same postcode as a Just War. In the theory of Just War actions must be in proportion. It would have been out of proportion for Britain to respond to the invasion of the Falkland islands with a nuclear strike on Argentinia. It was out of proportion for Israel to respond to sporadic rocket attacks with a land air and sea bombardment of Gaza followed by a massive troop deployment.

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