Have you ever noticed that when a celebrity dies, people act as though it is a given that he or she has gone to Heaven?
During the eulogy, family and friends look up to Heaven as if talking personally to the deceased, or state with confidence something like "[celebrity name] is looking down on us from Heaven today," as seen recently in Michael Jackson’s memorial service. Where does it say in the Bible that if you are a celebrity, you have a “Get Into Heaven Free” card?
Why the confidence that the celebrity is in Heaven? It can only be one of two reasons:
1. Belief in Universalism. This belief states that eventually everyone will be saved and enjoy everlasting life in Heaven, regardless of what kind of life they led on Earth. If you believe this, then of course the celebrity must be in Heaven -- isn’t everyone? But this isn’t supported by Scripture, and if it were true, then Jesus died on the cross in vain. If going to heaven is this easy, who needs Jesus?
2. All celebrities really do go to Heaven. After all, celebrities are used to being treated as special, or shall we say, as "American Idols." They go to the front of the line; they are seated at the best table; they're photographed while going to the grocery store, before going to the beauty parlor, and with their worst (designer) jeans on; if they break a law there’s a good chance they get a slap on the wrist; if they were mistreated by their parents they usually get a pass for insane or illicit behavior, etc. So why wouldn’t they expect God to be ecstatic to have them and overlook their transgressions? Maybe give them a wink and swing open those razzle-dazzle pearly gates with paparazzi on either side of the red carpet?
However, you and I know that God is not impressed and does not show partiality. So . . . do all celebrities go to Heaven? Is Michael Jackson in Heaven today? No one except God knows that, but I do know if he’s there, it isn’t because of his fame or fortune.
I do hope that with all the people who apparently hovered around Michael, especially toward the end, one of them pointed him to Romans 9:9-10 where God tells us that "if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." (NIV)