How can those in heaven be joyful while the lost suffer in hell?

“In heaven we’ll all be sociopaths.” This provocative article title refers to the awareness of those in heaven of the suffering of those in hell. The Bible says that those who enter into eternal life will have eternal joy, free from all sorrow, pain and tears. The Bible also indicates that the people in heaven will be aware of the suffering of the people in hell. At the very least the people in heaven will know that billions of people are in hell. How can the people in heaven have this knowledge and still be happy?

None can deny the sufferings of hell are terrible. No one should delight in them. God does not delight in them. (Ezekiel 33:11; Lamentations 3:33; 2 Peter 3:9) No one in heaven will enjoy the pain of the wicked. The joys of heaven are not malicious or sociopathic. However, God will be praised because of His justice and holiness. Those who hated God and rejected His Son will suffer the punishment prepared for the rebellious angels who rebelled. (Matthew 25:41)

Those in heaven will not weep over the suffering in hell because in heaven we will understand all things perfectly. On earth all men view the judgment of the lost through sinful eyes. None can fully comprehend hell’s justice or God’s holiness. In heaven, the full justice and appropriateness of hell will be understood.

The assurance of the Bible is that God will wipe away all tears from the eyes of the redeeemed. (Revelation 20:3-4) God will come down to earth in all His glory. He will establish His throne in the New Jerusalem. He will be the glory of the earth. The sun will not be needed. There will be no night and no darkness because the glory of God will illuminate all things. The curse of sin will be completely removed. All in the new earth will bring their praise directly to the throne of God. The glory of God will be so great that it will forever enamor those who stand in His presence. Hell is horrible, but God’s glory is so great it will outshine the terrors of eternal suffering.

Instead of denying the goodness of God because of the bliss of heaven consider your own goodness. How grieved are you right now because of the suffering of those in hell? Do you weep because of their agony? Do you work to tell the gospel to the unsaved so they can be delivered from the punishment of their sin?

This does not mean that none should rejoice in this life. All should give thanks to God for His good gifts. You can delight in births, sunsets, snow, Spring and all the other blessings of God knowing. Though millions are suffering in hell we can, and should, rejoice now in the good gifts of God. The seriousness of hell should stir everyone to live with due regard to the eternal realities awaiting everyone.

Are the people in heaven watching us?

A popular country song from the 80’s says there are holes in the floor of heaven. Our loved ones in heaven are peering down through heaven’s (apparently) half rotten flooring to see what we are doing on the earth. (By the way, I can say with absolute certainty that no one in heaven is wishing she could be here on earth with us.) What does the Bible teach about those in heaven? Do they know what is happening on the earth? Are they watching their friends and family?

The people in heaven appear to be aware of some events that happen on earth. In Luke 15:10 Jesus tells the Pharisees that “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents.” It seems like Jesus is saying that believers who have died rejoice when someone on earth is saved. If so, then they are aware of some of what is going on in the earth.

This does not mean our loved ones in heaven spend a great amount of time watching us. Deceased Christians do not become guardian angels for their loved ones. That notion is more spiritistic than Biblical. The Bible has very few references to believers in heaven now. In Luke 16 Jesus tells of a man who died and went to heaven. In heaven he was receiving comfort and would not return to the earth.

The book of Revelation says the most about Christians in heaven. Everything it says describes believers as surrounding the throne of God worshiping Him. It seems that those in heaven are focused entirely on the glory of God.

Hymn writer Fanny Crosby described the focus of all in heaven with her hymn “My Savior First of All”.

Oh, the dear ones in glory, how they beckon me to come,
And our parting at the river I recall;
To the sweet vales of Eden they will sing my welcome home;
But I long to meet my Savior first of all.

Oh, the soul-thrilling rapture when I view His blessed face,
And the luster of His kindly beaming eye;
How my full heart will praise Him for the mercy, love and grace,
That prepare for me a mansion in the sky.

Aside from rejoicing at the salvation of souls nothing in the Bible indicates deceased believers are watching or are even deeply interested in what is going on in the lives of family and friends on earth.

 

Won’t we get bored in Heaven?

Eternity is a long time. What will Christians do for all that time? Won’t we eventually run out of things to do, things to discover and things to invent? Eternity stretches out before our imagination and leaves us baffled by its magnitude. From our perspective in this brief life we cannot understand how we will find pleasure that will remain for eternity. What is to keep eternal bliss from becoming eternal boredom?

The Bible says almost nothing about the eternal state. When the Bible speaks of what happens to believers after death it speaks about their condition in between physical death and eternal life. The joys of heaven and the blessings of the kingdom do not necessarily describe the Christian’s actions during eternity. When a believer dies his spirit enters into heaven where it rests and worships God. At the rapture the body of the Christian will be resurrected and made perfect. The glorified body will be united with the soul of the deceased. When Jesus returns to the earth to establish His kingdom all the saints, the living and the resurrected, will reside on the earth with Him for one thousand years At the end of Jesus’ one thousand year reign God will destroy this earth and create a new one.

The creation of the new heaven and new earth will begin eternity. On that new earth will be a wonderful city called the New Jerusalem. Revelation 21 describes the splendor of that city. The last four verses of Revelation 21 and the first five verses of Revelation 22 are the only verses in all the Bible which tell of the saved one’s actions in eternity. The multitudes of redeemed will come to the New Jerusalem bringing to God their glory and honor of Him. All the saved will serve God and reign with Him forever. The Bible provides no specifics about what this service and rule will look like. Whatever form it takes, the saved will be actively working for the Lord for all eternity.

One of the hardest things about trying to imagine eternity is the complete inability of our minds to comprehend the joys awaiting. What color is the smell of perfume? What does a C-sharp look like? Our perceptions are very limited. The eternal delights are much like color to one who has never seen or sound to one who has never heard. Eternity’s joy is invisible to our current desires. We can only imagine what the delights of heaven will be like. Even then our imagination is likely to be very wrong. Only in heaven will we be able to fully appreciate them the pleasures at God’s right hand. (Psalm 16:11)

The joys of God are infinite and never to be exhausted. One of the losses of sin is our sense of wonder. The hallmark of sin is it quickly grows wearisome and the sinner must seek more excitement. Sin is never satisfied or satisfying. Those things which are Godly pleasures are satisfying and ever delightful. In heaven the joy given to us will be ever fresh and eternally satisfying.

Will those in heaven ever turn away from God?

The classic doctrine of eternal security gives great comfort to the children of God. The assurance that once received salvation can never be lost brings peace to many believers. Those Christians who honestly examine their own heart and life recognize how far we fall short of the perfection required by God. Despite the great gift of salvation, the ministry of the Word and the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian believers often find themselves crying out with Paul, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24) The comforting answer to that heartbroken cry is, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ.” (Romans 8:1)

Eternity is a very long time. The conscientious Christian may fear that at sometime in the far off future he will so completely reject God that he is cast out of heaven. Did not Adam and Eve chose the elusive promise of being like God over a daily walk with Him? Did not Satan rebel against God despite being constantly in the presence of the infinite glory of God? Will there not be an army of people who rebel against Jesus at the end of the millennium even though they have enjoyed the great bliss of His perfect reign? Who is to say that believers in heaven will never rebel against God?

The doctrine of eternal security promises those who are truly saved they will remain saved no matter what. God promises to keep His children by His mighty power. Not only does God keep His children, He transforms them inside and out. God keeps His children despite their sin and He keeps His children from sin. The transformation accomplished by God begins on earth and is finished in heaven. God’s transforming work is an entire transformation that the person’s behavior, attitudes and desires. Not only can no man pluck the redeemed out of the Father’s hand (John 10:29), the redeemed will never desire to jump out of His hand (Hebrews 10:39).

The nation of Israel is an excellent of the transformation God will do in every one who is saved. In the Old Testament the people of Israel shows the absolute impossibility of any one obeying God. Despite their constant failure and rebellion God promises He will make them His eternal people who will serve Him in righteousness and perfect obedience. God will accomplish this by giving His people a new heart. The commands of God will no longer be inscribed on tablets of stone but will be written on the heart of the man. (Ezekiel 36:25-27; Jeremiah 31:32-34) Obedience will no longer be by external compulsion but by a new internal desire. The Israelites will be able to obey God perfectly and will desire nothing less than perfect obedience. When believers are given a glorified body they are not just given a body freed from the pain and sorrow of sin. They are given a body and a being in which all longings for sin are forever removed. The possibility does not exist that any Christian in heaven will turn from God. No believer in heaven will ever want to do anything but what that which pleases and exalts God. Christians will be eternally confirmed in righteousness, kept in that righteous condition by the mighty power of God. Eternal security is just what it claims to be, a salvation secured by God for eternity.

Why do Christians think a prayer is all it takes to get to heaven?

Some have complained that Christianity promises that just by saying a prayer anyone gets a free trip to heaven. A mass murderer can do horrible things all his life and go to heaven when dies because he said the correct words right before being strapped into the electric chair. A loving mother who worked hard all her life to raise good kids will go to hell if she doesn’t ask Jesus for forgiveness. This seems unfair, unjust and just plain wrong. Why do Christian’s teach that all it takes for even the worst person to go to heaven is saying the right words any time before dying?

This objection fails to understand two vital truths about the Bible’s teaching about salvation. Salvation is not received by saying the right words. The prayer of salvation is not a magic incantation which opens heaven’s door at the persons whim. The prayer of salvation is the outward response of saving faith. Praying the right words without saving faith will not bring salvation. The words alone have no power to give a person entrance to heaven. What brings salvation is Biblical faith.

Biblical faith is a personal conviction of the truth of God’s Word particularly the truths about sin, man’s inability to do anything to save himself, the deity of Jesus, the death of Jesus for sin and the resurrection of Jesus. Biblical faith is the conviction that these truths are true about yourself. This goes beyond a general acceptance of a broad truth. This is the personal acceptance as fact your own guilt before God, your inability to remove your guilt and bring salvation, that Jesus died to pay the punishment of your sin, Jesus is alive forever and Jesus offers you salvation. Biblical faith obeys the commands of the gospel. Saving faith turns to Jesus trusting Him, and Him alone, for salvation. A prayer for salvation is the visible expression of that last element of saving faith. Asking for salvation is only the tip of the iceberg. Underneath is the massive internal conviction of that brings salvation to those who believe.

Salvation has nothing to do with anything the person does. The murderer is not going to hell for his murder. The loving mother is not going to heaven for her selflessness. Salvation is never determine by measuring a persons good against his bad. Salvation cannot be achieved by any actions of men because the standard for entrance into heaven is absolute perfection. To enter heaven one must be completely righteous without the least taint of sin. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) God’s standard of perfection is impossible for any person to achieve. Eternal life is given to those who realize their failure to measure up to God’s standard. Those who trust Jesus are promised heaven because Jesus’ perfect righteousness is transferred to the sinner. This is exactly why salvation is so difficult for many to understand. The work has been done. The one who is saved must do nothing. Salvation has been earned, in its entirety, by Jesus. Anyone who relies on Jesus to save them will be saved and have eternal life. Anyone who relies on his own goodness will not be saved.

God’s salvation has nothing to do with how much a person deserves to be saved. God justly saves the worst of men at the very last moment because He applies the infinite righteousness of Jesus to their great guilt. God justly saves the best of men any time they turn to Him for salvation because He applies the righteousness of Jesus to their great guilt. God saves all who will rely only on Jesus for forgiveness and eternal life.

Will we still have birth defects in heaven?

Right now all the world suffers and groans under the curse of sin. Everyone bears in their body the effects of sin. Some show the effects more plainly. Cancers, diseases, scars, mental disorders, emotional turmoil and a host of other effects of living in this sinful world afflict mankind. Romans 8:22 says, “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” All creation groans in pain and longs for the day of redemption when the miseries of sin are put aside forever. What will the body of the beleiver be like after death? As said in an earlier article, immediately after death the spirit of the redeemed enters into heaven. The physical body remains on earth to decompose and be destroyed. At the day of resurrection, the bodies of all believers will be taken up into heaven. At the resurrection all believers will be given glorified bodies.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 that the glorified body will be like and yet unlike the earthly body. This glorified body will be physical, but it will be free from all the effects and curse of sin. “It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” The resurrected body will be free from all the corruption and defects of the earthly body. Revelation 21:4 says, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

The curse of sin has wide reaching physical effects. Because of sin, there is sorrow in marriage, sorrow in childbirth, sorrow in work and sorrow throughout the entire universe. (Genesis 3) The redemption of Jesus does more than pardon of the men from their guilt. The redemption of Jesus accomplishes the full removal of all the effects of sin. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross there is coming a time when the curse of sin on this world will be removed. When that happens, there will not be any more sorrow, pain nor tears. All the miseries of this lifewill be removed.

Those who have suffered lifelong diseases, mental retardation, massive deformities, genetic defects, will in heaven be free of those things. Some wonder how the person can remain if the entire being is so radically changed. The analogy of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 is helpful. A corn kernel bears little resemblance to the stalk which grows out of it, yet the stalk is unmistakably corn. An acorn and an oak are far different in appearance, but there is no question they are the same. This earthly body is but the seed which will be put into the ground. That which will spring from it will be greater, free from all flaw and without all the innumerable consequences of sin.

What will we be like in heaven?

Death is the terrible reality of life. People cope with the death of a loved one and the reality of their own impending death in many different ways. The Christian perspective of death gives abundant Biblical comfort to those who are saved. True Biblical comfort does not seek to minimize the pain of death, nor does it attempt to ignore the reality of death’s sorrows. True Biblical comfort places death in its proper perspective. Death is a defeated enemy. For the child of God, death is the end of this life and the beginning of life eternal. At death the saved enter directly into heaven. This is a great, and Biblical, source of comfort. The words of the Apostle Paul reflect the believers conviction, “We are willing to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” Since the deceased believer goes directly into heaven, what will he be like? What form will the believer have in heaven?

When a person dies his spirit is separated from his body. The spirit is the indefinable, non-material part of the man. Though there is a theological distinction between the spirit and the soul, this article will use the terms interchangeably. The spirit is not currently apparent to human senses but it is nonetheless a very real component of the human make-up.

The death of the body does not eliminate the conscious existence of the person. The death of the body does not end the distinct identity of the person. Human identity is not wrapped up in the physical form, nor is it contained in the material brain. The identity of a person is connected with the spirit. At death the spirit of the believer consciously enters into heaven. Luke 16 gives the clearest description of what happens after death. Lazarus, the child of God, entered directly into heaven and received conscious comfort. Lazarus’ identity remained distinct from the others in heaven and remained aware of what was happening to him.

At death the Christian’s spirit leaves the body behind to enter the joys of heaven. This separation from the body is not a loss for the person. Though the spirit is immaterial, it is not inferior to the physical. The believer is not somehow less in heaven than on earth because he is without a physical body. The spiritual body will be far greater than this earthly body could ever be. Consider angels as an example. Angels are spiritual beings. (Hebrews 1:14) They are given the ability to manifest themselves in human form, but they are not physical creatures. The lack of a physical body does not make them less than human. In fact, the Bible says that humans are a little lower than angels. (Psalm 8:5) Angels are powerful creatures and the absence of a physical body is no defect or hindrance to them. Likewise, the believers spiritual body will not be inferior in any way to the earthly body. The Christian will be more real and alive than ever before. At death all that is left behind is the sin broken body and the corruptions of the cursed flesh.

Though the Bible does not speak directly to identity, it seems the spiritual form will retain recognizable characteristics of the individual’s identity. I doubt the spiritual body will have the same features as the earthly body, but it seems that believers in heaven will be distinguishable as the individuals they were on earth. In Luke 16 Abraham is recognizable to the rich man. When the three disciples saw Moses and Elijah at Jesus transfiguration (Matthew 17), they recognized them for who they were.

We are not given much information about the activities of the souls of the just in heaven. In Revelation 4 and 5 the Bible describes a group of 24 elders. Who they are is unknown, but it is evident they are deceased believers given a special place in heaven. They surround the throne of God singing His praises. Revelation 5 tells of a huge host of saints who sing praise to God. Whatever else the souls of the deceased will do in heaven the Bible makes clear they will be praising God and rejoicing in His glorious presence. Believers look forward to the rapture when the spiritual body will be reunited with the physical body. Believers will then live forever with body and soul joined together in a glorified physical body.

If God wants everyone to go to heaven, why doesn’t He make it clear how to get there?

This question was posed by one who does not believe god exists as an argument against the reality of God. If God really exists and really wants everyone to go to heaven, why is there so much confusion about how to get to heaven? If God is all powerful and infinitely wise, why doesn’t He tell everyone how to get to heaven? Among professing Christian churches there is disagreement about how to reach heaven. Some teach salvation is received by faith alone, some teach good works are required for salvation, others teach baptism is necessary and still others teach that salvation is dependent on attending the proper church. Beside the disagreements between Christian churches are the many different religions in the world that teach many different ways to heaven and present many different versions of heaven. If God really wants us all to go to heaven, why are there so many contradictory opinions about to how to get there? Wouldn’t a loving God make the way to heaven very clear?

This question may seem to be a strong argument against God. It is not much different from the old atheistic declaration, “If God exists, I want Him to prove it by striking me dead with lightning right now.” Arguments like this are breathtakingly arrogant. What reasonable person would expect the all powerful God to do what I want when I want Him to do it? More importantly, a thoughtful consideration of the Bible’s teaching leaves no doubt that God has made the message of the gospel very clear. Throughout all of human history God has been actively revealing Himself and the message of salvation to the world. As soon as Adam and Eve sinned God promised a Savior. As the human population expanded, the message of salvation continued to be preached. Noah’s massive building program was a platform to preach the truth about God. Later, after the flood, God called Abraham out for Himself to be the father of a nation which would be the centerpiece of the display of His power, glory and truth. Since the generation after Christ, the Bible has been the clear record of salvation declaring the gospel to all men. The problem has never been a lack of information, but a rejection of the truth.

The account of Cain and Abel gives a perfect example fo the problem. Both Cain and Abel almost certainly knew what God required of them. Cain rejected the truth about God and of what God wanted. He did not lack information, he rejected the truth he was told. Today, the confusion and disagreement among Christian churches stems from a willful misunderstanding of the truth. Man’s rejection of God and refusal to believe the gospel is not from lack of information. Men do not believe because they do not want to believe the truth. The Bible is not unclear. The message of salvation is declared with all plainness throughout the New Testament. Verses like Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”; Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”; and John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” state the gospel in crystal clear terms. God has made the message of salvation plain for any to understand. He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

What is the rapture?

In recent years the rapture has been brought to popular attention through the Left Behind series of books and movies. The rapture is a doctrine that has caught the public’s attention time and time again since the mid-1800’s. Though some opponents claim the rapture is a recent theological development, church history reveals the rapture was believed and taught very early in the second century just decades after the death of John, the last living apostle.

The rapture is the event when Jesus resurrects the bodies of believers who have passed away and carries off the earth all living believers. The rapture is the next event of world history that has been foretold in Bible prophecy. When the rapture happens every Christian on the earth will suddenly be gone. Some teach that the rapture will take place in waves, with faithful Christians going up at the beginning and others at later times during the Tribulation depending on how faithful they have been. The Bible gives no hint of a partial rapture. In every place it discusses the catching away of Christians the promises includes all believers. None of God’s children will be left behind. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, “We which are alive and remain shall be caught up together”. All living believers will be caught up with the Lord when He comes for His church. This is indeed a great comfort to Christians.

Three passages in the New Testament speak of the rapture: John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15: and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Two of the three passages are intended to give comfort to Christians and the third encourages faithfulness in Christian service. As a result, many questions about the rapture cannot be answered from direct Biblical teaching, Those who think about the rapture make many deductions based on other Bible doctrines and logical reasoning. When describing the rapture, great care needs to be taken to separate deduction and speculation from Biblical teaching.

The Bible describes the rapture as taking place with the shout of an archangel and the sound of an angelic trumpet. Jesus will descend from heaven into the earth’s atmosphere, but He will not descend all the way to the earth. All believers, living and dead, will then ascend into the air to be united with Jesus. At the rapture, all the saved will be transformed. Their physical bodies will be replaced with glorified, spiritual bodies. The change will happen more quickly than the eye can see. The raptured saints will then be taken into heaven and begin to enjoy eternal joy with the Lord.

Will we know our loved ones in heaven?

One question that weighs on the hearts of many who have lost ones who were very close to them is whether we will recognize those loved ones in heaven. The Bible does not specifically address this question, but it does offer some hints to help us answer this question. One such clue is from when Jesus was transfigured (Mark 9). When Peter, James and John saw a glimpse of Jesus’ glory they also saw two men standing with Him. These two men were Moses and Elijah. Though the disciples had never seen either of those men they recognized them for who they were. The text seems to indicate that they just knew, by some unknown means, who the men were. Though it is possible that Jesus later told the three men who was standing with Him and that part of the conversation was just not recorded for us. Another passage that gives some help in answering this question is Luke 16. Jesus recounts the tale of the rich man and Lazarus. After death, the rich man in hell was able to look across to heaven. He recognized Abraham, whom he had never known in life, and Lazarus whom he had seen in life. This passage is a pretty clear indication that though we will have been given glorified bodies Christians will still be able to recognize one another in eternity.

I do not think we will recognize one another because of similarities to our current physical appearance. In 1 Corinthians 15 we are told that the earthly body will be replaced with a glorified body. The glorified body will be free from the corruption of sin and delivered from all the infirmities of the earthly body. The glorified body will be as unlike the earthly body as a stalk of wheat is unlike the seed. Whatever the physical appearance will be, it seems that we will be able to identify one another in heaven.

Many who ask this question do so seeking comfort that they will be reunited with loved ones. The certainty of seeing loved ones again in heaven is very comforting, but the Biblical description of interactions in heaven all revolve around our relationship with God the Father and Jesus. The relationships between believers in eternity are going to be very different from our earthly ones. The joy of a spouse or beloved child will be replaced by much greater joys. The relationships will be unlike what they were in life, but that difference does not mean they will be inferior. The relationships in heaven will be greatly superior to any and all relationships on this earth. All believers will rejoice together in perfection, harmony and eternal praise to God.