Wednesday, January 4, 2012
On his deathbed, Steve Jobs, the Apple computer czar, was surrounded by loved ones. In the eulogy published in The New York Times on October 30 that radio talker Dennis Prager quoted yesterday, Jobs’ sister, Mona Simpson, described the scene, saying her father gazed silently at her and his "life partner," apologized to the latter because they could not grow old together, then, before taking his final breath, said, "OW WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW." (The caps are hers.)
I know nothing of Jobs’ spiritual beliefs. If he had any spiritual beliefs, I would assume they had roots in New Age ideas, the likes of which Oprah Winfrey has embraced. I doubt there are many Bible believers in the hi-tech world in which Jobs made his name, but then I have a sneaking suspicion that most of what we regard as science, including computers, are "indistinguishable from magic," to quote the late Arthur C. Clarke. Magic is not of God but of the devil.
But I digress.
Prager, an observant Jew, interprets Jobs’ final words as evidence of an afterlife. I do, as well, but of what afterlife? If the Bible is true, as I believe it to be, and if I understand it as well as I like to think I do, which is clearly not as well as I’d like, there is a different afterlife for the saved than there is for the damned. If the only way to Heaven is through belief in Jesus Christ, a glimpse of whom could explain why Jobs or another dying man would say “OH WOW” in the final moment before death, then who or what did Jobs see?
Atheists would likely explain away any vision by insisting that endorphins kicked in, bringing on a euphoric feeling that Jobs probably experienced in his last seconds on earth. If Jobs’ sister is a Christian (and I have no reason to think she is), unbelievers may even accuse her of lying about her father’s last words to promulgate her own beliefs. Christopher Hitchens accused various believers of putting last words into the mouths of such notable atheists as Thomas Paine and Charles Darwin and expressed the fear that they might do the same to him. So far, there have been no reports concerning Hitchens’ last words, if he uttered any, before he passed away last month.
But I digress again.
The point is, Steve Jobs apparently saw something, and what he saw was so dazzling that the normally articulate whiz-kid was, if not entirely speechless, then at a loss for the more precise language one might expect from one so brilliant. To say “OH WOW” is almost akin to saying you don’t know what to say. But even if we knew what he saw, even if he had found the words to describe it, questions would remain. From where did the vision originate? “Well,” the atheist might say, “it was those endorphins produced by the brain to ease our physical suffering. Science can explain it just as science can explain everything, rendering foolish all religious beliefs.” This by no means settles the matter. The believer in God would ask, “Who gave us endorphins?”
Since Jobs’ sister does not report that her father expressed anything resembling fear, we can only assume the vision he saw was pleasant, positive. If he was a believer in Jesus, it would make sense that he saw his savior, perhaps with arms outstretched, welcoming him home. If he was not a believer, and still saw Jesus, or Heaven, perhaps some of the preachers are wrong in thinking that salvation is available only to those who accept Jesus, “in their heart,” as they are fond of saying, and that even the relatively decent soul who nonetheless questions Jesus’ divinity, is lost, denied entry through the pearly gates and consigned to eternal hellfire. Of course, any vision of Jesus by an unbeliever could also be a deception of Satan.
Still, preachers and the most outspoken representatives of all religions generally make salvation more complicated than Jesus ever did, perhaps to justify their position as "experts." Jesus made it as simple as can be. When the thief on the cross turned to Jesus and asked Him to "remember me when You come into Your kingdom," that brief moment of faith was sufficient for the thief’s salvation. "Today," Jesus told him, "shalt thou be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). Elsewhere in the Bible, we read that "whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Acts 2:21).
Turn on the TV some Sunday morning (not Saturday, the true Sabbath), and things get more complex and a lot more confusing. The average Protestant preacher with access to the airwaves is a money-grubbing charlatan who emphasizes the "works" that Jesus said are like "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6), simply not good enough to please a Creator who demands the perfection of which fallen man is incapable. The works that the TV preacher encourages usually involve a donation to his ministry which will pay his broadcasting bills and maybe help him buy a new Cadillac.
The Catholic Church also places priority on works and goes even further than the Protestants by dividing sins into categories: mortal and venial. A mortal sin is one from which there is no salvation and presumably includes murder, but I remember that as a child I was told that failure to attend Sunday Mass also qualified as a mortal sin. The message is that though Jesus died for our sins, He did not die for all of them. Shoplifting, jaywalking, and nose picking are probably covered, but His blood could only cover so much, and it missed man’s more flamboyant offenses. If true, then Jesus was either lying or misinformed when He said, "It is finished" (John 19:30) before commending His spirit to the Father. These days, I don’t regard the Catholic Church as anything more than a tool of the devil, a source of disinformation, the most effective of which is 90 percent true. There is truth in Catholic doctrine, but it is polluted with contradictions, including the elevation of Mary, Jesus’ earthy mother, to divine status.
But I digress again.
"I am the way, the truth, and the life," Jesus said. "No man cometh unto the Father but by me" (John 14:6). Anyone who reaches Heaven does so because, and only because, of what Jesus accomplished on the cross at Calvary. Furthermore, we read in John 3:16 that "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). The latter passage clearly emphasizes that belief is required. The indecisive agnostic (as opposed to the atheist) who says, "I just don’t know," is seemingly doomed. The former passage is more open to interpretation. "No man cometh unto the Father but by me" could be read to mean that Jesus could decide in favor of a non-believer if He chose to do so, perhaps letting a sincere believer from a false religion enter the kingdom of Heaven because, hey, he was sincere in his belief, and did not reject Jesus, the way many atheists do, out of a surly spirit of rebellion. In God’s view, sin is sin, and though we may regard one sin as more serious than another, God does not. Taking more sugar than you need for the small coffee you ordered at McDonald’s so you can use it for the coffee you make at home is a sin, as is taking napkins for later use as tissues. Such behavior does not alarm us as much as the guy who takes a machine gun to his fellow diners, but it still falls below God’s standards of perfection and would bar one from entering Heaven without the redemption offered by Jesus Christ.
I’m digressing again.
Steve Jobs saw something on his deathbed. What did he see?
© 2012 Brian W. Fairbanks
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