Yesterday, one of the most remarkable monarchs in modern Western history passed away. Queen Elizabeth of England was said to pass peacefully at 96 years old.
Elizabeth has been heralded by her defenders as one of the kindest and most beloved queens ever to hold the throne but also denounced by her detractors as a serial colonialist who hid and harbored rapists and murderers. We’re not going to get into that here as whatever the truth is, it’s irrelevant to one thing: the state of her soul.
Yesterday, I got into a debate in a Facebook group with mostly Southern Baptist pastors who were essentially preaching Elizabeth into Heaven. Here is a sampling of some of the arguments and reasoning I got for that conclusion:
- “I believe she knew the Lord and served her country with the full knowledge that she was doing it for Him.”
- “She seemed to have a real grasp on the faith and even fought with her kids and grandkids about some of the things they did that would go against the faith. I believe she may have opened her eyes to Well done, good and faithful servant today.”
- “I read a short book of hers a few years ago and her faith seemed genuine and personal. I hope so.”
- “From all indications, she was a dedicated Christian woman.”
- “I’m pretty sure she’s a Christian. She releases a statement every year around Christmas about the birth of Christ, his salvation, etc.”
When pressed on all of these assertions, not a single one could point to a link where the queen had a credible confession of faith. In fact, every single one of these “reasons” could also be ascribed to do-gooders of other religions, including Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King. While all of these religious leaders can be pointed to and appreciated for some of the good works that they did during their life, what they all lacked was a credible testimony of Christ saving them.
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There seems to be a vast misunderstanding of what the gospel is in the professing Church today, especially among Evangelicals who should know better. The gospel is not being a good person, kind-hearted, loving, and caring about people. The gospel is not bringing stability to a monarchy that has been plagued with scandal over the centuries. The gospel is not reading Christmas stories and speaking about how Jesus is the example we should all live by. While these can be good things and evidence of common grace, these things are not the gospel and do not result in salvation.
The gospel is clearly defined by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4,
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
And Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
What I have not seen is a credible testimony from the queen where she received the gospel, believed it, repented of her sin and faith in her own good works, and trusted in Christ alone for her salvation. While she may have done good things in the eyes of many, where is her testimony that she truly knew Christ? Or, more importantly, that Christ knew her?
Sadly, so many believe that it is these good works that makes one a Christian—and though many Evangelicals have had the opportunity over the years, I see none where she was given a clear presentation of the gospel and called to repentance. Perhaps it’s true, perhaps she did. But I’ve not seen that and I think we should be very careful before we preach someone into Heaven based on no other evidence than her good works.
On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ —Matthew 7:22-23