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What RIP Really Means

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.


RIP or R.I.P. is the acronym for the Latin phrase Requiescat in Pace that means Rest in Peace in English.

This acronym has been inscribed on headstones dating from the 1st century BC until now. Today, RIP is seen on tombstones and on funeral programs in Baptist, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Roman Catholic and other Christian denominations to bless the soul of the deceased with eternal rest and peace.

When someone dies, numerous people post RIP on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Many people know what RIP stands for, but not many of those who use that acronym have any idea that it is a Latin expression or what it means.


A Common Expression

Some people do not like the expression because it has become a catch-all expression for everyone who dies even if they were not righteous. Those who don't like the expression say praying for the dead is a contradiction to what the Bible says in Isaiah 57: 2, "Those who walk uprightly enter peace; they find rest as they lie in death."

Just two years ago in 2017, officials of the Orange Order in Northern Ireland encouraged people to stop using the acronym RIP or the expression "Rest in Peace" on grave markers. However, people around the world are still using them on tombstones whether the dead person was a Christian or not. They contend that RIP is a blessing for the dead person so that his soul may rest in peace even if the person was not a Christian. The blessing is given so that the person's soul may find peace after death even if he did not have the peace of Jesus Christ while on earth.

Some people have come up with their own ideas about what RIP means to them.


Made Up Expressions

Unfortunately, some people are making up their own expressions. It does the Latin phrase a disservice to say it means something that it was never intended to mean. One such expression is "Return if Possible."

That is a selfish expression especially if a person has been sick for a long time and no longer has any quality of life. It is a selfish wish for a loved one or family member to want someone to return to the painful existence that he just left. People who have had near death experiences have shared how beautiful their encounters were and they would have welcomed death if they had stayed dead. Saying, "Return If Possible" goes against biblical doctrines.

Scriptures About Death

Paul said, "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8). The apostles also said in Philippians 1:21, "To live is Christ, to die is gain." That means to live is to do work for Christ while on earth, but to die is to be with Him eternally.

The Bible does not ascribe to the "Return if possible" expression. It is not a blessing at all. So, why would someone want to come back to pain and suffering on earth after dying? The request is a selfish one that goes against God's plans, and should not be imposed on anyone.

Another farfetched expression is "Rest in Power." Solomon points out in Ecclesiastes 9:10 that there is nothing one can do after death, "For in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom." Psalm 115:17 lets us know that there is nothing the dead can do in the grave. The psalmist says, "The dead cannot sing praises to the LORD, for they have gone into the silence of the grave." In other words, no one will be able to rest in power and saying it doesn't make it so.

"Return if possible" and "Rest in power" are expressions that fall far short of the original Latin meaning and go against what the scriptures say.

Grave marker of husband and wife, father and stepmother of the writer of this article.

Grave marker of husband and wife, father and stepmother of the writer of this article.

Not all grave markers are headstones that stand up at the head of the grave. Some markers are flat on the ground.

Not all of the markers have RIP inscribed on them. Some of them have other angelic and religious images.

For Comfort

Many times the RIP is more for the people left behind and those who visit the grave than for the person who is already "resting in peace." That's because if the person had believed in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, then his soul entered into eternal rest and was given the blessing of peace with God the moment he closed his eyes to the world. He didn't have to wait until it was printed on a funeral program or engraved on a tombstone to proclaim that blessing.

The moment a righteous person dies, he ceases to breathe on this earth. However, his next breath goes back to God from whence it had originally come. Therefore, his soul is already at rest even before a grave marker does say so.

  • My Views About Death, Dying, and Heaven
    I think about death and dying all the time. I am not afraid of death. I don't want my friends and family to mourn my death because my soul is ready whenever God calls me home.

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