Over the last few weeks, I have been thinking about the deaths of Rev. Billy Graham and Professor Stephen Hawking. They seem so opposite.
Billy Graham…American Evangelist, Ordained Southern Baptist minister.
Stephen Hawking…English theoretical physicist, cosmologist
Billy Graham…Florida Bible Institute and Wheaton College
Stephen Hawking…University of Oxford, Trinity Hall, Cambridge
Billy Graham…friend of Presidents
Stephen Hawking…played Words with Friends with Sheldon Cooper
Billy Graham…good health until his death at 99 years of age
Stephen Hawking…Lived with ALS for over 55 years and died at the age of 76
On and on I could go listing the differences between these two. One is known as the most influential Christian leader of the 20th century and the other is known as one of the greatest, if not THE greatest physicist of all time.
Billy Graham believed Genesis 1:1 — “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
Steven Hawking said this…”Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation.”
Billy Graham said, “If God can be fully proved by the human mind, then He is no greater than the mind that proves Him.”
Steven Hawking said, “What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God, which there isn’t.”
In spite of what Professor Hawking believed or didn’t believe about God, he and Rev. Graham would absolutely agree on one thing which they both discovered. Rev. Graham discovered it on February 21, 2018 and Professor Hawking discovered it on March 14, 2018. They both discovered the truth of a verse found in Hebrews which says, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die…” (Hebrews 9:27).
“Good” people have argued about the existence of God and the origins of the universe for centuries. From an academic perspective, Professor Hawking was perhaps much more qualified to talk about such things than Rev. Graham. In the world’s eyes, Rev. Graham was just a country preacher who believed an outdated, unprovable book called the Bible. Professor Hawking was an Oxford educated theoretical physicist who said, “There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.”
And yet, on March 14, 2018, Hawking discovered something that Graham had preached and it turned out to be true…all men die.
This led me to think about the question WHAT NEXT? After these men died…what happened to them. Professor Hawking had a theory about that. He said, “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”
For Billy Graham, he believed something quite different. He said, “Death is not the end of life; it is on the gateway to eternity. Though the Christian has no immunity from death and no claim to perpetual life on this planet, death is to him a friend rather than a foe, the beginning rather than the end, another step on the pathway to heaven rather than a leap into a dark unknown.”
“Pastor Keith, you really haven’t told me much today that I didn’t already know.”
I’m well aware of that. It’s just that I keep coming back in my own mind to that verse in Hebrews…”It is appointed unto men once to die.” Now that verse goes on to say that after death comes the judgment. I suppose Hawking and Graham have both found out the truth of that statement as well.
Suppose Hawking was right. We are just computers whose parts finally wear out and that’s it. Then I guess it really doesn’t matter how we live while we are here. What’s the point? Just do whatever you want to do, when you want to do it and however you desire to do it. You and I are here for only a brief time so just LIVE IT UP. Take no thought for tomorrow.
The problem I have comes not because I more closely identify with Rev. Graham than Professor Hawking. The problem I have arises from the fact that deep within my being, I know that there must be more. There is a deep longing inside of every human being to know the answer to three basic questions…Where did I come from?, Why am I here?, and Where do I go when I die.” Professor Hawking believed that you are here by accident, not design and that when you die…you are just dead. For me, that just doesn’t inspire me at all.
I do believe there is an afterlife and that there truly is a Heaven where I will live for all eternity. I believe that I am on this earth by God’s design. He put me here and He has a purpose for my life. He desires that I live in such a way that I point people to Him and that I bring glory to Him by the way I live and by the way I treat others. I believe that one day, I will reach that “appointed day” and I will die…and when I do, the most important thing will not be the awards I win or the books I write. The most important thing will be simply this…how did I respond to my Creator’s offer of a relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ.
I believe there is purpose for every life…not just in the here and now, but for eternity. And eternity is too long for me to be wrong about its existence. The Bible (which has proven itself trustworthy in my own life) says that God looks at us and sees two classes of men. He sees those who are saved through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the GRACE He extends to every soul who will believe on Him…and He sees those who are lost because they rejected His authority in their lives and lived as though He didn’t exist and rejected His freely offered GRACE.
You must decide. Are you going to follow the way of Professor Hawking and take you chance on theories that may or may not be true? Or are you going to follow the way of Billy Graham and countless others who have found true peace and fulfillment in this life by surrendering themselves to the plan and will of God?
Too many people today want salvation, but they want it on their own terms according to their own understanding. But God…our Creator has provided the means and the method for our salvation. As Billy Graham said so many times, “Your salvation is a free gift, made possible only because God planned it…Christ paid for it…and the Holy Spirit assures you of it.”
There is appointed for YOU a day…nobody knows when it is, but Professor Hawking AND Billy Graham would agree that there is a day appointed for you to die. My question for you? Where will you be 30 seconds after you take your last breath on this earth? You don’t have to go through this life wondering if there is anything in “the black hole.” You can have the absolute assurance that when you take your last breath here on this earth, you will take your first breath in Heaven with God. I beg you to place your faith in Him today.