When somebody close to you dies, everybody wonders what happened to their loved one. Did they end up in Hell? Did they just pass on to the spirit world? Are they with God in eternity? Did they reincarnate into another animal? Is my loved one in Hell? When you encounter Christians, the first thing that you probably think is that your loved one went to Hell if they are right, and this repels you from the Christian faith. Unless you had a really nasty relative, this usually invokes the reaction that God would never send your loved one to Hell. They were a good person. They have never hurt anybody. How could God possibly send your loved one to Hell? Is my loved on in Hell?
Reading the New Testament, we read that people do go to Hell as a consequence of God’s righteousness. A good judge must condemn guilty criminals. Just suppose a kidnapper were arrested. A day before his trial, one of his relatives went to the judge and offered the judge a bribe if he would only let the kidnapper go. The judge accepted it and released the kidnapper. We would be absolutely appalled. We would say that this kidnapper needs justice, and the judge himself deserve justice because he is a corrupt and immoral judge. God is not a corrupt and immoral judge. He must condemn anybody who sins against him (Romans 6:23a).
But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ (Romans 6:23b). God became a man, Jesus Christ. When Jesus was murdered, all of the sheer wrath of God that we deserve was poured out on him (1 John 2:2). He bore the sins of the world (Isaiah 53:12) and God the Father crushed him (Isaiah 53:10). Now all who put their trust in him will receive the free gift of everlasting life (John 3:16). But perhaps you think that your loved one did not put their trust in Christ. Does that mean that they died in their sins and are in Hell? You hear this message and just ask yourself, is my loved one in Hell?
I do not know. The truth is that I do not know where your loved one is. The wind blows wherever it blows, and we do not know where it goes or from where it comes (John 3:8). The Holy Spirit could use a persons’ fear of death to draw a person to Christ. A person could legitimately put their trust in Christ and be born again in a single second. As far as your loved one is concerned, I just do not know what happened.
But I can say that it is possible. There is no reason to burden yourself when we just do not know either way. When somebody is born again, it is of the will of God, not their will of man. Perhaps the moment before they died, they saw Christ. You may think, that’s so unlikely! They would never do that! I could literally say that about anybody. We are all far from God in and of ourselves. We are all fallen creatures in a fallen world. It would be unlikely that I would believe in Christ. It is impossible and absurd. But I do, not because of myself, but because of him. The same may be said of your relative.
Would God do what is right? For me, that is what this issue essentially comes down to. Can we trust in God to do what is right? Do we believe that God is righteous and loving? If we do, then we know that any judgment God makes, it is a righteous judgment. Yet we find that so difficult to just put our trust in him, to say as Job said, “Though he slay me, I will trust in him,” (Job 13:5).
The reason that we do not shake our fists at God when calamity happens is that we know that God is more righteous than we are. He is more loving than we are. We are in no position to stand in judgment over him. Therefore the question is not whether God can justify himself for sending people to Hell. Rather, the question is whether we can trust in him when he brings about his righteous judgments. In the same way that we would trust a judge who sent our loved one to jail. God is a righteous judge who must condemn the guilty, despite that it is not his will that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9).
Is that a reason to make the same mistake? Let’s say for a moment that we are absolutely certain that your loved one went to Hell. They are crying out the same thing to you that the rich man so desperately wanted to tell his family when he went to Hell – stay away from here (Luke 16:19-31). Repent of your sin and put your trust in Christ. If they are in lost forever, that is no reason for you to be lost forever too. Put your trust in Christ. Do not spite the judge for sending the criminal to jail. It will only hurt you more when you are in jail too, and you won’t be able to relate to them. You will be enduring the sheer wrath of God.
Do not delay. Put your trust in Christ. Avoid eternal punishment. For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son, that those who believe in him will never perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). You will be born again (John 3:3-8) and be given the free gift of eternal life.
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