Good Question

I like to listen to CSN radio while I make dinner.  Usually I am listening to their program To Every Man an Answer which is where people call in with their Bible questions and get them answered by pastors.  The other night a woman called in with a multi part question, one part of which was this:

How can I be happy in heaven when people that I love and care about are in Hell?

This was similar to a question that was asked about a week ago when a caller wanted to know whether or not their pets would be in heaven.  I am guessing, the same kind of motivation was behind that question - how can you be happy in heaven (supposed to be a place of no more tears) when your dearly loved family dog or cat isn't there with you?

I am really lucky in that I am a gift of faith person. (don't know yours?  try googling spiritual gifts inventory and find an online test)  Questions like this don't even cross my mind, and I immediately wanted to reassure this caller about that situation.  In fact, I felt like the pastors kind of missed directly addressing this portion of her question and I called in and re-asked the question.  I thought they did a pretty good job of addressing it.  

One stressed that we have to trust God and if it is God's decision that some people are in hell for eternity, then we accept that.  The other pastor brought up the scripture in 1 Corinthians 13:12 -

'Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.  All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.'

They also referenced Job and how after finding out he had lost all he owned and all his children, he said "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord."  

On one hand, I see the relevance of that, but I think they are still missing the point.  Even Job was not happy with the situation.  He accepted it because he loved and trusted the Lord, but when he was plagued with sores, he wasn't singing praises to God.  He was miserable and upset.

Here is how I would respond to the lady that called:

How can you be happy in heaven when people that I love and care about are in Hell?

Easy.  You will be in the very presence of your Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.  This will completely change what is important to you.  While here on earth, yes, our family and friends are very dear to us and we love them.  But when we are in the presence of God, nothing else is going to matter.  

I can remember going to a church service one Tuesday night, back when I lived in Phoenix.  At the end of the service, during worship, I felt the presence of Christ so strongly - it was.... well.... heavenly! ;)

Then when I was driving home, once again, I felt His presence so strongly with me - I half expected to look over and see Him sitting in the passenger seat of my Jeep!  (no, I didn't see him)  

But it was an overwhelming feeling and I remember this sense of looking out my eyes at the world and not feeling connected to any of it... how to explain... you know how the Bible tells us that we are aliens in this world?  That is probably the best word for it.  I felt like an alien in the world and even in my own body.  I clearly remember thinking, "none of this matters, why do I let anything that happens here bother me?"

At that moment, in God's presence, all that mattered to me was loving and serving Jesus.  Now magnify that by about a zillion, and that is what it will be like to be in heaven, finally in our glorified bodies, and able to worship God 24/7.  Zoweee!  I can't wait!

So that is part one of my answer: what seems to be so important to us here in our earthly bodies will not matter a whit when we are with God.

Now for part two:  When we are with God, we will be like minded with Him.  So what He loves, we will love; and what He detests, we will detest.  Here is a passage from Phillipians 2 that is relevant:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
      did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
      taking the very nature of a servant,
      being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
      he humbled himself
      and became obedient to death—
         even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
      and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
      in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
      to the glory of God the Father.

Imagine this... you are in heaven with your God, your Saviour, Jesus Christ.  You are completely and fully cognizant in a way you can never fathom while in your earthly body of how completely deserving Jesus is that "every knee should bow" and "every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord."  

With that realization, there will not be sadness at "loved" ones who are in hell.  There will be full realization that they committed the gravest and most serious sin ever - denying that Christ is Lord after He was beaten, spit on, whipped, had nails pounded into his flesh, and died for them.  

How is it in a culture that puts out movies like Saving Private Ryan or The Guardian, both movies that show how deeply moved we are when someone gives up their life to save our own, people still reject Jesus - Jesus, who gave up everything, even to the point of being alone on the cross as He bore all our sins?

In that perspective, it won't be sad.  It will be justice.