(Photo: Dan Delzell)
The National Enquirer is being criticized by some people for publishing a photo of Whitney Houston's dead body. But was it really Whitney? As her casket was carried out at the conclusion of her funeral service, we witnessed one of the most dramatic endings to a funeral we will ever see on television. Whitney's hit song, "I Will Always Love You," filled the church and the airwaves. In that moment, we remembered her as she had been in better times. But who was that person in the casket?
The photo sure resembles Whitney, even though her appearance has changed a bit over the years as it does for all of us. Whitney is said to have been buried in $500,000 worth of jewelry. She was also buried with gold slippers on her feet. We assume that the jewelry and the gold slippers were real. But can we assume it was the real Whitney in the casket?
The real Whitney Houston had her struggles. The real Whitney sought deep down to stay close to her Savior in spite of her battle with addictions. The real Whitney won some battles and she lost others. But who was that person in the casket?
Whitney's family is left to pick up the pieces of their broken hearts. God is by their side to heal them. "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." (Psalm 147:3) Whitney will not be around to sing "Jesus Loves Me" to her grandchildren. She will not be around to help her daughter avoid some of the mistakes she made. The real Whitney has moved on to the next world. But was that really Whitney Houston in the casket?
You are either a body of dirt that returns to dust....and that's it, or....you are a soul with a body. If you are a soul with a body, then you are not really getting older. Immortal souls don't "age." Once a soul is created by God, it doesn't have "birthdays." Can you imagine us celebrating someone's 189,000th birthday in heaven? It won't play out like that. It will be "the eternal now." There won't be dead bodies rolled around in caskets with songs playing about loving someone forever. That is all stuff of this earth. Heaven will involve the actual experience of loving God and loving people forever....and ever....and ever. That is....if you are a soul with a body.
So who was that in Whitney's casket? It was "the old Whitney." It was the "earthly tent" in which her soul existed. Now her soul exists in the next life. We hope she was trusting Jesus to save her soul. We have reason to be hopeful that she held on to her faith in Christ until the very end. The real Whitney "left the building" when her body perished in that hotel bathroom. Her soul left her body at that moment, never to return to that body. God has something much better in store for His children. He promises to give His children a perfect body in heaven that will be just as immortal as the soul. (see 1 Cor. 15:35-58) Won't that be something to see!
I guess that wasn't really Whitney Houston in the casket after all. The photo from the National Enquirer did not show us the real Whitney, at least not who she is today. She is no more connected to that former body than she is to this earth. That is all history now. Those connections have expired. She has moved on to her eternal home. All of us will make that journey one day. And when your casket is taken from your funeral service, "the real you" will have already left the building of your body just like Whitney did. Where you go from there will depend upon what you did with Jesus in this life ... His cross, His free gift of eternal life, His love, and the relationship of grace and obedience which He invites you to enter into by faith.
Are you just dirt....waiting to return to dust, or are you an immortal soul....existing right now within a slowly deteriorating body? Your answer to that question....and your life response following it ... will determine whether your soul goes to a place of rejoicing or a place of regretting after you die. Meanwhile, your loved ones on earth will be left behind at your funeral with just your ashes or your corpse. They will sincerely try to hang on to memories of time spent with you, but even those memories will begin to fade over time. All that will remain throughout eternity is "the real you." Isn't it well past time to start paying a bunch of attention to the needs of your immortal soul?