Robin Williams’ suicide, as is every suicide, is a tragically sad thing. My heart hurts to think what Williams’ inner life must have been like at the end to drive him to such a terrible decision. My heart aches for those he has left behind - his wife, his children, loved ones and friends. His death has left a hole in their lives that nothing and no one can fill. In the wake of his suicide, billboards and media pundits alike have been assuming that Robin Williams is now in heaven, making God laugh along with other funny men who left this earth before their time. So is he?
There is one thing we do know and one thing we do not know that can help us think clearly about Robin Williams’ eternal destiny. The one thing we do know is that access to the presence of God and life in the age to come is reserved exclusively for those who have placed their eternal trust in Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). There is nothing remotely ambiguous about that statement. All roads may lead to Rome, but only one leads to eternal life. The only door that leads to life is the narrow gate that Christ himself has opened. As Peter puts it, “[T]here is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
The world naturally will stiffen their necks when they hear these words and throw epithets at those who verbalize it. But their argument is not with us, it is with Jesus himself. He is the one who said it. We simply agree with him. Now Williams’ desperately sad ending arouses our sympathy, as it should. But we must not confuse our sympathy with God’s salvation. There is one and one path only to eternal life, and that path has not been altered by so much as one centimeter in 2000 years. That’s what we know. The one thing we do not know is whether Robin Williams did business with God in his dying moments. While his mother was a Christian Scientist (a counterfeit form of religion which is neither Christian nor scientific), his father was an Episcopalian, so it is certainly possible that Williams heard the gospel in his formative years and may have remembered it all his life.
The thief on the cross did not place his faith in Christ until he was drawing his final breath. His last words were, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” In response, Jesus’ last words to him were, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42-43). It takes but one moment, one whispered, even agonized, prayer, to pass from eternal death to eternal life. No one but the thief and Christ knew that this transaction had been made. The thief’s wife and children didn't know, and it’s unlikely that any of the onlookers heard this private exchange. As far as everyone knew, this man died as he lived, a sinful, unrepentant and broken man.
Yet we know better now, and one day we will be where he is, with Jesus in Paradise. Will we see Robin Williams there? We don’t know. Only two men know the answer to that question. But we who are yet living know how we can find our place in God’s kingdom. Whether we experience eternal life or eternal death is not God’s choice but ours. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, the last words to be spoken are, “Thy will be done.” Either we will say it to God or God will say it to us.
So the pressing question is not where Robin Williams will spend eternity. The question is, where will you?