The Bible is very clear that Heaven is wonderful. Scripture says that once people are in Heaven, the Lord “will wipe ever tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
The Bible also is very clear that not everyone will make it to Heaven. Jesus Himself said, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many” (Matt. 7:13).
This got me wondering: How can I truly be happy in Heaven if some of my loved ones are in Hell? OK, that is a bit optimistic on my part. Let me rephrase it to a more likely scenario: How can my loved ones be happy in Heaven if I’m in Hell?
There are some folks who playfully say, “Well, Hell sounds like a lot more fun than Heaven, anyway. And besides, that’s where all my friends will be!”
I’m usually the first one to make smart-aleck comments about serious topics, but in this case even I know that is simply not funny. There is nothing playful or fun about being in a situation where your very soul is aching with torment and loneliness and regret—for all eternity.
So, I ask the question again: If a person makes it to Heaven, can he or she really be happy and joyful if precious loved ones reject the Lord during their earthly lives and as a result spend all of eternity separated from the joy of God?
This is really not an academic exercise, since we all know that young adults are leaving the Church in droves now days. God is certainly a God of mercy and forgiveness, and regular church attendance is not absolutely mandatory for entrance into Heaven (although it truly helps a lot!), but you have to figure a sizeable percentage of those people who no longer attend church also have lost their faith in the Lord. They have either stopped believing altogether, or aren’t sure what to believe, and don’t really care anymore. And that is a scary thought, because the bottom line, according to Christ Himself, is faith and trust in the Lord.
I did a little research online. If you type this question in a Google search: “How can I be happy in Heaven if my family is in Hell?” you will get more than 5.4 million results. I’d say that indicates I’m not the only person concerned about this.
All the essays I read boil down to a few basic theories.
1. When we’re in Heaven, we will not have any memory of our loved ones, which will allow us to be perfectly happy and joyful. Hmm, I suspect Heaven’s joy will not be dependent on ignorance. That just doesn’t sound like God’s way of doing things.
2. In Heaven, we will be so keenly aware of God’s sense of Justice, that we will fully agree that our fallen-away loved ones deserve their fate, and we will be completely at peace with it. Whoa, I don’t think the guy who thought up this theory quite understands the love a parent has for a child. It doesn’t add up.
3. It’s a mystery that will not make sense to us until we’re in Heaven. It’s kind of like when Job demanded answers from God, and God finally spoke: “Who is this who obscures divine plans with words of ignorance?...I will question you, and you tell me the answers!” (Job 38:2-3). Basically, God said to Job: You’re on a need-to-know basis, pal, and right now you do not need to know!
Apparently, the faith that gets us into Heaven in the first place is the same faith we need to have regarding this question. God is in charge, and we must trust that His plans are perfect.
But I have to tell you, this question still bothers me. A lot.