Monday, February 09, 2009

Heaven for the survivors

There are two emotional objections to hell. One is that God wouldn’t torture anyone for eternity.

I’ve dealt with that objection on many different occasions. So I won’t repeat myself here.

Another objection is that heaven won’t be heaven in the absence of our loved ones. Won’t we feel guilty and lonely, like the survivors of a terrible tragedy?

That’s not merely an objection to hell, but an argument (or emotional appeal) for universalism.

I’ve also dealt with that objection on many different occasions. So I won’t repeat what I’ve already said on that score.

Instead, I’m going to address the second objection from a different angle.

We tend to see this issue in terms of sheer loss. I’ll never see my loved one again. That leaves a hole in my heart. No one else can fill it.

I’d point out, though, that even in this life we experience emotional tradeoffs. The loss or demotion of one relationship can create an opportunity to form another relationship.

For example, take two brothers who are extremely close to each other when they are growing up. Let’s call them Hector and José.

They remain inseparable until they hit adolescence. At that point they begin to drift apart.

Why? Because they develop a very keen interest in the opposite sex. They spend less time with each other, and more time with the girlfriend.

Eventually, the girlfriend becomes the wife. Eventually, they have kids.

As a result, Hector and José grow apart. They grow apart because they live apart. Because each one has made a life for himself, with its own emotional satisfactions and compensations.

And that, of course, is perfectly natural. A healthy development. A natural good. A natural part of growing up.

But the gain involves a corollary loss. It’s the demotion of one relationship that created the opportunity for another, equally good, but very different relationship.

Love has a competitive element. Love for one tends to edge out love for another. That’s a matter of degree, but love often comes in degrees.

Suppose that Hector and José are both Christian. They hope they will see their wives and kids in heaven someday. They pray for that outcome.

But suppose it doesn’t work out that way. Their wives are unbelievers. And their children rebel against their Christian upbringing.

That will bring a lot of heartache to Hector and José. But what happens when they die?

Even if the two brothers don’t see their wives in kids in heaven, they will see each other in heaven. And since they don’t have their wives and kids in heaven, they will resume the close bond they had on earth. Indeed, it will be even closer than they had on earth. For it won’t suffer from the sinful tensions that are inevitable in a fallen world, even among close loved ones. And there won’t be the same competition for their affections.

We could extent this principle to other relationships. Some people were best of friends in junior high and high school, or college, but after they graduated, they eventually went their separate ways. At first they would maintain regular contact. But as the months and years wore one, they, in effect, became strangers.

Finally, you have the case of Christians who led lives of tremendous personal deprivation. They didn’t have loved ones to lose. They didn’t have fond memories to look back on. For them, life was one ordeal after another.

When they get to heaven, they will be meet other Christians who endured the same privations in this life. And it’s natural to think this will foster a special bond. Heaven will be the family they never had on earth.

If you think this is a bit speculative, I’d simply note that it’s addressing an equally speculative objection to heaven. So you can accept it or reject it on the same level.


  1. Hmm... This doesn't address the objection if it goes like this: How could we be happy in heaven knowing that our loved ones are experiencing hell?

    Is that not part of the objection that you've been encountering?

  2. We simply will not mourn the reprobate in heaven. The "first things" will have passed away. The cares of this world and the pain and anguish thereof will be insignificant to the revelation of what is.

    Revelation 21:4
    and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.

    Rom 8:18-21
    For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
    For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

    While no amount of Scripture reading can adequately comfort one who mourns the loss of a loved one, especially one who is almost certain to be reprobate, these verses at least remind us of the fact that these 80 or so years of suffering and longing will ultimately find their fruition in the resurrection.

  3. Steve, I feel that I will not get married in this life, you wrote in holodeck heaven that there is marriage between a man and woman in heaven,what makes you believe that?


  5. Hi Lonelyboy,

    Sorry, I know you're talking to Steve, not me. So I hope you don't mind my chiming in like this.

    The first thing I want to say is that, well, I've seen your comments here and there, and I think you sound a lot like me sometimes! (Hopefully that's not a bad thing! :-) ) I bring this up cuz I think I can at least sort of relate to you.

    Of course, I don't know your background or anything, so obviously what I'm saying is just based on some of your comments I remember reading mixed in with a whole lot of my own personal experience.

    That said, maybe one reason you are lonely is cuz you don't have a lot of people in your life? Sorry if that's entirely mistaken, and I don't mean to imply anything negative by it. Some people are naturally loners, so to speak. Still, it's good to have close friends in your life, especially brothers and sisters in Christ. Having friends helps alleviate some of the loneliness, especially if you're far away from family.

    Also, it's possible to be part of a good, healthy church, but not necessarily be an active participant. If this is the case, why not take the opportunity to meet some new people in your local church, or to volunteer for something totally crazy that you might not have thought of doing before (e.g. at our church we have a weekly ministry to a convalescent home, youth events, etc.)? You'd be surprised by how many people you meet and get to know just by being more active in church-y things! :-)

    Or if nothing is available, then why not try starting something yourself?

    If you're at a church where there aren't too many people your age, it might be worthwhile branching out to a different church. Or if you really like your current church, you might consider going, say, every other week or once per month to a different church in the area. Or at least going for a different weekly function (e.g. mid-week Bible study) if you want to stick with your current church on Sundays. Or looking for general church functions or other activities in other churches in the area (e.g. weekend retreats).

    Also, some churches are better about this than other churches, but try and see if there are (for lack of a better term) singles ministries in a good church in the area. C.J. Mahaney's Sovereign Grace churches are excellent here. At my church we've had people from nearby Sovereign Grace churches come and visit, and people from our church visit nearby Sovereign Grace churches. In fact, I can think of at least one couple that I personally know who met and married one another this way!

    Your pastors or elders would be a good resource too. I'm sure they know local churches in the community and could recommend where to go and so on. Just be candid and open with them, and tell them what you're looking for. Who knows whether Pastor John might know that member Jane over at Pastor Jim's church a half an hour away has a lovely daughter Elizabeth that would be perfect for you? Or you could try getting to know other members in your church too. Bob might know that Fred's niece, Kate, who's around your age, is likewise looking to meet a guy, and could sort of "arrange" for the two of you to meet and see if you click or whatever.

    By the way, I'd recommend asking others to pray for you. Bring it up at a prayer meeting that you're looking for a godly wife. God works through means, and perhaps one of those means is someone's intercessory prayer on your behalf. Or perhaps your own prayers. And sometimes we don't have because we don't ask. Of course, there are no guarantees, obviously, and God doesn't owe us anything at all. But sometimes God does see fit to answer our prayers because he is gracious. In any case, prayer to God is always good, whether or not we receive anything from him (it's not the gift that's important but the Giver), not only because he commands us to pray, but also because he is our Father and it's always good to talk to him and pour out our hearts before him, and it's good to see that he is himself so good to us in stooping down to listen to us. Our relationship with our God is strengthened. And, from time to time as it pleases him, it's also good to see his providence in our lives at work if and when he does give good gifts to his children. So, yes, pray! :-)

    And might I recommend trying a Christian dating service? A few that come to mind are Sovereign Grace Singles, Equally Yoked, eHarmony, and Christian Cafe. I can't vouch for the moral standards of these sites, or what sort of people they allow to join and so on, but I just bring it up as a way to possibly meet potential dates. I don't think it hurts to put yourself out there like this -- although I'd advise using some discretion as to what you reveal about yourself on these online dating sites.

    What things do you enjoy doing? For example, do you like computers? If so, why not join a local Linux group that talks about your favorite Linux distribution. Do you like hiking or cycling? Why not joing a hiking or cycling group? Do you like to read? I have a single friend who just joined a book club where he turned out to be the only guy there! You get the idea. Do things that you're naturally interested in, and you'll meet people with shared interests, and the more people you meet, the greater the likelihood that you'll either meet a lovely Christian girl or meet someone who knows a lovely Christian girl. Or, at the very least, it's probably better than sitting around at home, and you'll be doing something you're genuinely interested in and enjoy doing.

    One last thought. Sometimes it takes being a friend to have a friend. Why not reach out to other strangers you don't know? Say, on your way to school or work, if you use public transportation? Or as you're sitting at a cafe and you notice someone interesting, guy or girl. Try and strike up a conversation, say, if they're reading an interesting book or magazine. Or make a joke. What's the worst that could happen? So they don't want to talk to you. Or think you're weird. Big deal! You were just asking them a question about a book or making a comment or something. What's so weird about that? That's their problem! (Or so I tell myself when that happens to me! ;-) ) Then again, it's not like you're necessarily trying to befriend someone as if you were desperate for friends or something. Instead, think of it as just practicing talking to people, which will also help boost your confidence in social interaction in the long run, I think (well, not that you necessarily need boosting in this area of course). Honestly, there are a ton of people out there who would probably like someone to talk to for a few mins. We live in a society where people are increasingly isolated from one another, or where they isolate themselves from one another, so it's sometimes a pleasant surprise to have someone just strike up a conversation with you out of the blue. Not always, or not even necessarily usually, but sometimes. And those sometimes are sometimes worth it all! :-)

    Anyway, please feel free to email me at pchan10 at sbcglobal dot net if you'd like to talk in private.

  6. Also, Lonelyboy, I noticed your profile says you're unemployed. That could be a possible cause for a lot of your malaise. Not to mention work is a great place to meet people.