Thanks, SeanO, definitely a lot to chew on. I appreciate your insights and the scriptures. I have another question. The Bible says that God will wipe away all tears, but how can there not be tears if our loved ones are not there with us?
@Mroffee To be honest with you, I am not certain that there is not room in Heaven for mourning those who have chosen to reject God. I believe the verses in Revelation about no more tears certainly refer to an end to all unjust suffering as a result of sickness or the tyranny of evil men. But we do read in the Bible that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked and I believe God experiences sorrow over those who are lost.
While I think that the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus is not an actual description of the afterlife, I do think that reading it is instructive when considering this question because it emphasizes one simple truth: the gates of Hell are locked from the inside. Whether those who reject God cease to exist after judgment or go on forever, their rejection of God is their own choice. Notice these things about the rich man:
- the rich man is unrepentant - he does not confess for his mistreatment of Lazarus in life
- the rich man is still proud - he does not speak to Lazarus directly, but instead tries to boss him around through Abraham
- Abraham calls the rich man son - a term showing affection and a kind of sorrow
All who truly want to know God will have Him. He is merciful and wholly good and will not refuse the humble in heart. If our loved ones are separated from us, it is not because God is unjust and I do think there may be room for lament over the lost, though I suspect that in His house such lament will turn the heart towards the tremendous mercy of God and a full confidence that our loved ones were given every chance to choose the truth. So if there is sorrow, it will lack any sense of injustice.
I think this is very important. I’ve seen skits about someone earnestly wanting to get into Heaven and being flicked back down into the place of judgment. Such portrayals of God are an offense to the loving and merciful God we worship and a complete misunderstanding of the reality that Hell, whatever it is, is locked from the inside by the choices of those who reject God.
Luke 16:19-31 - “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”