Mark A. Kellner
Online Content Editor Adventist Review
Perhaps it is emblematic of the modern day 24/7 news cycle, but within literally minutes of the news that musician Prince Rogers Nelson had died, someone who presumably was a fan was interviewed outside his home in Chanhassen, Minnesota, a Minneapolis suburb.
“He would want us to mourn,” the person said, “but he would then want us to celebrate because maybe he’s transitioned to something greater.”
There’s the possibility that this individual was a friend of the rock superstar who used only his first name, Prince, when performing. But they were not identified as such, and more likely was just someone who liked Prince’s music. (Whether you or I were fans is immaterial).
I’m sorry to disappoint this person, or anyone else reading these words, but I can speak with the assurance of the Bible, in which Prince said he deeply believed, that he has not transitioned to anything other than unconsciousness.
“For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing,” we read in Ecclesiastes 9:5. “They have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten,” the verse concludes.
While it may be a long time before Prince, the musician, is forgotten, the fact is there really is “no further reward” awaiting him, at least not yet. His relationship with God is known best only to God right now, and anything we can say about what awaits Mr. Nelson in the future is mere speculation.
The Bible is replete with explanations that this life is ours to live to the full: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom,” we read in Ecclesiastes 9:10.
Jesus drew jeers when he told the grief-stricken family of a young woman, “the girl is not dead but asleep.” (Matthew 9:24) But He knew what happens at death, and Jesus — who raised that girl back to life — demonstrated the promise of a resurrection to eternal life for believers when He rose from the dead three days after His crucifixion.
It’s comforting to suggest to those who mourn that their loved one has “gone to a better place.” Singer Darius Rucker tweeted a phrase common to music fans, declaring “Heaven’s band just got even more incredible” with the presumed arrival of Prince.
Today, the singer isn’t in heaven, nor is anyone else you or I have ever known and loved (or hated). Those who have died are awaiting a resurrection: some, the redeemed, to eternal life and others to face a final determination. God’s judgment will be thorough, and fair and, for the believer, featuring Jesus as one’s chief defense counsel. It is, I believe, a more genuine outcome, as we “wait for the blessed hope” of Jesus’ return.