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Reflections on Heaven: How can Heaven be Heaven when People you Love are in Hell?

Are you really excited about heaven? Do you spend a lot of time thinking about what it will be like?

My ears perk up every time someone mentions heaven. I’m naturally fascinated, for some reason, to know people’s thoughts about the only place Jesus refers to as “Paradise.” I’m usually disappointed, however, when people talk about heaven. My thoughts are usually something like, “Really, that’s what you think about heaven?” I don’t think I’m being self-righteous, but I do think we have not sufficiently pondered this place.

Here are some common comments I hear: “Floating around on a cloud sounds boring.” “Why would I want to go to a place where I don’t remember my past life?” “Why would I want to be at a place forever away from the spouse and kids I love?” Perhaps some future blog posts can tackle those questions.

And then there’s the other thought: “How can heaven be heaven when people you love are in hell?” Won’t everyone in heaven have survivor’s guilt?

How can heaven really be a joy-filled paradise? How heartless, it would seem, for me to enjoy heaven if people I love dearly are being continually tormented in hell. What do we do with these thoughts?

Here are some possible options to this question:

Option #1: Heaven is not Heaven

Is it possible heaven is over-hyped? Sure, it’ll be amazing to see Jesus. Satan will be conquered, sin will be no more, we will have an endless time for…for…thinking about those precious people suffering. How can I be in heaven when they are there in agony?

I would never dream of going on a vacation, having the time of my life, and all the while knowing a very close loved one is endlessly tortured with pain. It would seem heartless. How can I enjoy heaven? Maybe, therefore, heaven is not really heaven.

Here’s one way to process this option:

In Philippians 1:22-23 the apostle Paul says, “If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23  I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.”

If heaven was a bummer, you would think Paul would want stay on earth as long as possible. He could still make a difference while living on earth. Paul even says it would be “fruitful labor” if he stayed.

Paul was having a successful time leading people to Jesus. Why stop that? For Paul, however, it was far better, not a little better, but far better for him to depart and be in heaven. He reiterated this again in 2 Corinthians 5:8 saying, “Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

It would seem heaven may really be heaven. Perhaps, there’s another option.

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