She was literally almost a century older than me. At the age of 97, Mrs. Leslie befriended me when I was just 13. Mrs. Leslie loved the Lord and has now been with Him for three decades. When I met her, she would invite me to her home where she still lived independently. She probably weighed 90 pounds soaking wet and moved with a deliberate, careful step. She inevitably turned our conversations quickly to her love for the Lord, and in particular, to her anticipation of heaven. She spoke of resurrection, streets of gold, the New Jerusalem, meeting angels, and being young once again, but most excitedly Mrs. Leslie talked about finally meeting Jesus face to face. The twinkle in her eye and the thrill in her voice have stayed with me to this day. The joyful expectation of her impending graduation to glory permeated her thoughts and speech. In reflecting on this wonderful saint, I have pondered how her demeanor and disposition might have been different had she not possessed an unwavering confidence in her Bible to tell her what was coming next. Mrs. Leslie never took part in cerebral discussions about the inerrancy of Scripture; she simply believed the Bible because the internal witness of the Holy Spirit confirmed the truth of Scripture to her heart.
As a pastor, I tend to think in terms of what our members need to know in order to live a life characterized by confidence in God. Having spent much of my childhood around older believers, I have always had a soft place for them in my own heart. As they begin the home stretch toward heaven, there is no room or time for lofty debates about degrees of trustworthiness in their Bible; anything less than 100% assurance of the inerrancy of Scripture is simply unacceptable.
For the oldest believers among us, inerrancy does not exist as an intellectual exercise for the classrooms of academic institutions or the pages of theological publications. Inerrancy must be previously established as they face debilitating illness, hospital stays, and an avalanche of physical malfunctions. All that we know about the future in general and our future in particular we learn in the pages of Scripture.
Just as the Bible provides our sole source for the gospel of Christ, so it also delivers our only information about the moment after our last breath. For Christians running their final lap—knowing that the last steps will likely be painful—there should be the comforting assurance that the finish line is knowable.
Senior saints need to know that there will not be a single moment of transitional time or mystery at the time of death. Their confidence in 2 Corinthians 5:8, which assures us that to be away from the body in death is to be at home with the Lord, must be resolute. Senior saints need to know that they will receive a new body, a resurrection body of glorious perfection.
In 1 Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul spoke of the danger of not believing the truth of resurrection, that “if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (v. 13–14). Senior saints need to know that they can count on a glorious future—that the wonder and majesty of all the elements of their post-death life will be precisely what Scripture says.
Revelation 21 and 22 must come to be a magnificent reality—wiped-away tears, no more pain, the holy city, the physical presence of the Alpha and Omega, the glory of God giving light to the nations, the forever-open gates of New Jerusalem, and the river of life bright as crystal.
In ministering hope to those saints closest to heaven, important implications for denial of inerrancy must be soberly considered. First, there is now no basis upon which to offer the aforementioned comforts of the future. The logical conclusion to a belief in a flawed Bible is that one can only outline probabilities and not certainties to those in need of confidence.
Second, if the guaranteed expectation of relief in glory wavers, the entire foundation of one’s salvation must rationally fall under scrutiny as well. The consummation of faith in Christ now exists as only a high likelihood rather than a definite impending reality. Finally, the one who proclaims a defective and untrustworthy Bible to an older saint becomes responsible for ripping away the only true foundation they have to believe that God will see them safely home. This is tantamount to cheating them of the joy that comes from certain hope and is a heinous deception I would never want on my conscience.
When talking about her imminent meeting with her Savior, Mrs. Leslie was repetitive and uncreative in how she began her sentences. Most of her sentences in our conversations began with the simple phrase, “The Bible says.” Calling into question the inerrancy of Scripture not only denigrates God’s character and ability to give us a perfectly reliable and authoritative text, but also sabotages the underpinning of real ministry to senior saints. Rather, the declaration of Revelation 22:6 must sing gloriously to the hearts of our oldest brethren: “These words are trustworthy and true.”