How can it be heaven if your loved ones are in hell?

by Matt Slick

For some people, it is difficult to imagine how heaven could be a place of happiness if people they love are suffering eternally in hell. This is why many people refuse to believe in the concept of heaven (without loved ones) and along with it reject Christianity. But, the problem with their reasoning is that it is emotional, man-centered, and not biblical. It is subjective because it defines happiness as being based, in part, on the well being of friends and family.  But why is this the correct standard by which anyone would judge heaven? In other words, why is heaven defined in part by whether or not someone's family and friends are suffering eternal damnation?  Essentially, this means that friends and family are greater in importance than God himself.

Granted, we do not want to see our loved ones suffer, but we must also understand that the holiness and majesty of God, along with his righteousness, are far greater in importance than our desire that people not suffer. God is unimaginably holy, perfect, majestic, and infinite. His wondrous nature is beyond our comprehension. After all, he encompasses the universe and also knows where every atom is at all time. Just as his greatness and capacity to create is displayed all around us in the infinite realm of the universes, so too we must understand that God's holiness is so far beyond our comprehension that her wildest imaginations cannot begin to approach is great wonder. We must conclude that he is the greatest of all beings and that heaven is what it is because of who he is.

Nevertheless, I am not trying to discount the obvious love that we would have for people and our concern for their welfare. But when we use our hearts, our emotions, and our standards as the moral compass from which we seek direction and thus judge the worthiness of being in heaven by them, then we are going to end in error. For anyone to say he would not want to be in the presence of God if a loved one is not there also, is putting his focus in the wrong place. They are ignoring God's incredible love where he sent the Son to die for our sins (John 3:16).  Heaven is the place for those who trusted in Christ's sacrifice and thereby have the right to be in God's presence. Those who have rejected Christ's only offer for salvation cannot be in heaven.

Therefore, since we care about the welfare of others and we do not want anyone to go to hell, it is all the more important that we preach the gospel so that people will not suffer the eternal punishment we do not want them to face.

Finally, our focus should be on the glory of God, not on our subjective preferences about what heaven can or cannot be based on what we want.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.