Is Your Loved One in Hell? On Preaching One into Heaven
[Editor’s Note: One of our contributors had a very sad week. One to whom they had been sharing the Gospel for some time, sent this text message – and it was the last test message sent to him, before the individual committed suicide:
“Well u believe in Jesus and ill believe in nothing… This world has showed no permanent sign of anything better for me… Its all about wat u feel comfotable with… I dont feel comfortable with believing in a god cause you [say so]. If he is real then something someday will happen that I will notice. And if he is real and Hell is his pit of fire and I get thrown in it. Ill probably regret the fact I ever wrote this [expletive]. This is my [expletive] life and I’m living it… Goodbye…
Upon attending the funeral at a Southern Baptist church, the pastor “preached them into Heaven,” and assured the crowd that he was in Heaven. This is grievous to us – not because suicide in unpardonable, but because an individual who hates God has not been born of the Spirit. Please reflect on this tragedy with us, and take Jeff’s words to heart]
“So many of us have family and friends who are suffering in some way. Perhaps a chronic illness such as cancer, or some other ailment has taken over the lives of people who were once vibrant, happy and well. Some may very well be suffering when we don’t know about it–struggling with internal depression or substance abuse. Whatever be the case, whether we live to a ripe old age relatively healthy, or pass away young due to unexpected circumstances, there is generally some level of suffering before death. And we all want to believe that when our loved ones pass away, their suffering has ceased. We want to believe they are in a better place now. This desire to believe this, however, has unfortunately set the stage for many false beliefs to become mainstream in our lives, and is rather poisonous to our souls.
One of the toughest pills to swallow for a “religious,” or “spiritual” person is the notion that a loved one may be in Hell. Even the strongest of believers have a hard time with this. It’s not always necessarily because one doesn’t believe the Scriptures, but as human beings, we all have moments of weakness. Even the great Apostle Peter had extreme moments of doubt and unbelief. During tough times, it’s natural for us to fall back on our own human reasoning and desires, rather than trust fully in God. We don’t want to believe that a loving God might send our son, or our brother, or our mother to Hell, because they were such a “good” person. I know people who have even taken to such extremes as contacting a psychic medium to try to confirm that their loved one is okay, and more often than not they are deceived into believing they have made contact, further validating their conclusions.
Much of what sets the foundations for this thinking is our own hearts. We choose to invalidate the Word of God by elevating our own worldly desires and our will above the authority of Scripture. Scripture, however, tells us that “The heart isdeceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) The word translated here as “wicked” primarily means “sick” and “incurable.” Our hearts, our desires have an incurably sick concept of what is right, good, and just. While the Scriptures teach us that God alone is good (Mark 10:18, Romans 3:10), natural man has no perception of his own wickedness, and is unable to see himself as fallen. Our hearts are so sick we can’t even know it ourselves. While sin is any transgression against the law or nature of God, in our modern culture sin has been redefined as anything that causes perceived or unwanted pain in one’s life. In other words, if it’s not hurting anyone else, there’s nothing wrong with it.
If a loved one commits suicide we may question, “why would God punish him for one mistake? After all, he was such a good person.” But is this true? The Bible says that we are all sinful, and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We are lawbreakers–that is we break God’s laws, and just like every one else, the suicide victim is unrighteous (Romans 3:10). Anything that he has done that may be perceived as being good is still tainted by our sinful nature, and unacceptable in the eyes of God (Isaiah 64:6).
Jesus says in John 8:34 that anyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. A slave must be set free in order to have freedom, but without being set free from our sin, our wages are death (Romans 6:23). We are dead in our sins (Col 2:13, Eph 2:5). The Bible says we are all murderers, idolaters, immoral and faithless, and that our end is eternal fire (Revelations 21:8). Likewise, this is what our loved ones deserve as a transgressors of the law of our creator. They deserve to go to Hell, just like you and I deserve to go to Hell. We must understand that whatever standard of evaluation is used to determine the goodness of the passed loved one is infinitely short of our perfect, holy and righteous God’s standard. God’s standard is absolute perfection, and sadly, our loved ones, whether they are suicide victims, brothers, friends who were struggling with depression and substance abuse, do not meet that standard.
So, while it’s possible that our loved ones, who rebel against God, could have come to a saving faith shortly before passing away, it’s unlikely. So before we assume that our beloved grandmother, who was always there for us, or that loving dad who would do anything for his family, is now at peace in the glory of God, we must understand that as hard as it is to accept in God’s glory, and righteousness, eternity in Hell is the only option for those who reject Him. God is love, but God is also just.
Hell is an expression of God’s love and mercy. Yes, that’s right, you read that correctly. We must understand that Hell is glorifying to God, because of God’s mercy to those who hate him. God gives us a free will, and we can choose to freely love him, and fellowship with him through his Son Jesus Christ, or we can freely choose to reject him. God is not going to force you to love him, or fellowship with him for eternity if you have chosen to reject him. This is why Hell is merciful. While Hell is a place of eternal torment, totally cut off from all of God’s love, fellowship and blessing, it would be even worse on someone who hated God to be forced to partake in his Kingdom for eternity against his will. God will turn you over to your sin if you so desire. Hell also gives the believer a glimpse of the darkness and despair that he deserves, providing a contrast to the glory of God. Jonathan Edwards made this case, saying,
When the saints in glory, therefore, shall see the doleful state of the damned, how will this heighten their sense of the blessedness of their own state, so exceedingly different from it…They shall see the dreadful miseries of the damned, and consider that they deserved the same misery, and that it was sovereign grace, and nothing else, which made them so much to differ from the damned.
If you’ve softened your view on Hell simply because you can’t stand to bear the notion that your loved one may be there, please, let go of that belief. Understand that God is right, and just, and that they got not only what they deserved, but what they wanted. It would be unjust, and against his nature for God to make exceptions. If your loved one was not born again, reconciled to God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, then your loved one is spending eternity in Hell.
For a presentation of the Gospel, and how to be saved, please see this article.
[Contributed by Pulpit & Pen]