Tombstone Epitaphs.....Douglas Hoff
Have you ever strolled through a cemetery reading the inscriptions on the tombstones? Some people do
not like thinking about death. If they have their way, the only time they will ever be in a graveyard is
when they are dead. Long ago the wise king Solomon said that thinking about death helps the living
prepare for the fate that awaits us all (Eccl. 7:2).
Tombstones can teach us many valuable lessons. Sometimes the lessons are reminders of the reward for
the faithful Christian. Many headstones have the words "Rest in Peace." The same sentiment is stated
(though not so succinctly) in the last book of the Bible. The apostle John was instructed to write
"Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest
from their labours; and their works do follow them" (Rev. 14:13). Notice this promise applies only to
those who die in the Lord.
After seeing so many inscriptions that urge the deceased to "Rest In Peace," one might wonder where the
wicked are buried. Recently, I saw one such plot. In the Higginsville, Missouri, cemetery there is a grave
marked simply with the following words: Wm. B. Holden (1860-1937), Here Lies A Sinner. This is a rare
case of truth in advertising on headstones. God's word affirms that "all have sinned, and come short of
the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23).
Rarely do tombstones or funerals warn about what lies on the other
side of life.
The caretaker for the cemetery told me that Mr. Holden was a street preacher who did not feel worthy of
the name of Christ. Perhaps this preacher was just trying to teach the living a valuable lesson from
beyond the grave. The writer of Hebrews said of righteous Abel that "he being dead yet speaketh" (Heb.
11:4). The life we lead this side of the grave will determine whether our epitaph is a fitting tribute.
Webster's dictionary defines epitaph as "an inscription on a momument, in honor or memory of a dead
person." The following quote is then given: "A splendid funeral, a towering monu-ment--it may be a
lying epitaph." Rarely do tombstones or funerals warn about what lies on the other side of life.
However, there supposedly is a tombstone somewhere with this advice:
Remember, Friend, as you pass by,
As you are now, so once was I;
And as I am now, you soon shall be,
So prepare to die, and follow me.
An unknown passerby added these words in black crayon:
To follow you I'm not content,
Until I know which way you went!
Wiser words could not be written. To "Rest in Peace" we must live at peace with God (Rom. 5:1).
Jesus died on the cross so we could be saved from the condemnation of our sins (I Pet. 3:18). Over in
Jerusalem there is a marker at the tomb that is reportedly the one in which Jesus was buried. The sign
decares the truth about this empty grae. The body of Jesus is not there because He rose from the dead!
This fact gives the hope of eternal life to all who have been baptized into Jesus Christ and live faithfully
until this life to done (Gal. 3:26-27).
Are you living so your tombstone will tell the truth about your life? Will your epitaph be "Rest In Peace"
or "Here Lies A Sinner?" On the Judgment Day each soul will hear either "Well done, thou good and
faithful servant" or "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire" (Matt. 25:21, 41).
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