Every Halloween when I see all the faux tombstones in stores and yard scenes that have “R.I.P.” on them, it causes me to ponder the irony of them.
The dominant religion of the U.S. is Christianity. And Christianity as we all know has the dominant belief that man is inherently immortal and goes off to either the good place (i.e. Heaven), or the bad place (i.e. Hell).
But that belief doesn’t match up to a tombstone epitaph of “REST in Peace“. To say someone who has died is going to “Rest in Peace” fits much better with the biblical truth that “the dead know nothing” (Ecc 9:5) and that they “sleep in the dust of the earth” (Dan 12:2) and that it is Jesus the Christ who at his return (1 Cor. 15:23) will call the dead out of the sleep of non-existence and back to life – “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28-29).
It also seems even more ironic to me that the origination of the term “Rest In Peace” comes from Roman Catholicism – who started us down the whole Immortal Soul belief path in the first place . Here’s what the Wikipedia entry for “Rest in Peace/Requiescat in pace” says:
The Latin phrase “Requiescat in pace” (singular) or “Requiescant in pace” (plural) is an short epitaph that typically appears on headstones, often abbreviated “RIP” which is then often given in English as Rest in peace. The expression means “may he / she rest in peace” (singular) or “may they rest in peace” (plural) as the Latin verb is used in the optative sense. It is commonly found on the grave of Catholics, as it is derived from the burial service of the Roman Catholic church, in which the following prayer was said at the commencement and conclusion:
“Anima eius et animae omnium fidelium defunctorum per Dei misericordiam requiescant in pace”
To satisfy a vogue for rhyming couplets on tombstones, the phrase has been parsed as:
“Requiesce cat in pace”
The phrase was not found on tombstones prior to the eighth century. It became common on the tombs of Catholics in the 18th century for whom it was a prayerful request that their soul should find peace in the afterlife. When the phrase became conventional, the absence of a reference to the soul led people to suppose that it was the physical body which was enjoined to lie peacefully in the grave. This is associated with the Catholic doctrine of the particular judgement which is that the soul is parted from the body upon death but that they may be reunited on Judgement Day.
This puzzles me even more with the very idea that a person’s body (often termed as a “shell” by the Greeks) should need a prayer to “lie peacefully in the grave” in the first place. If everything that makes up a person is off in Heaven enjoying eternal bliss with God, the body is simply not needed. Why go back to it or ever worry about it? It is a rotting piece of meat that can be discarded and long forgotten. And it certainly has no need to “rest”, and even more so be “in peace”.
No, the term “Rest in Peace” really is much closer to the real, literal truth of Scripture. We really do REST in the Grave until we’re called out of it by Christ at his return! Job had it right way back in his time!
"So man lies down and does not rise. Until the heavens are no longer, He will not awake nor be aroused out of his sleep. Oh that you would hide me in Sheol, That you would conceal me until your wrath returns to You, That You would set a limit for me and remember me! If a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my struggle I will wait until my change comes. You will call, and I will answer You; " - Job 14:12-15
AMEN brother Job!
And if Christ’s return doesn’t happen in my lifetime (long I pray it to be), I too will look forward to the promise of Jesus’ call that beautiful Resurrection morning! But until that day, ALL the dead will literally be “resting in peace”.