It’s a question I’ve been asked a lot recently. So have several of my friends. Because their parents or other loved ones are at that time in their life, or should I say almost at the end of their life.
And they’re not sure. They’re not certain. They don’t know for sure their loved ones will be going to heaven, because they don’t know their loved ones’ relationship with the Lord.
And it worries them. A lot.
Many times they won’t ask. They either don’t have that type of relationship with them, or they’re afraid of the answer. Or they don’t know what to say if the answer to their question isn’t what they hoped it would be. They can talk to people they barely know about their faith, share their love of the Lord with them, but when it comes to their own parents, their family, that’s a different matter.
Why? Are they too close to the situation? Or are they afraid of the answer? Or are they afraid they may have to go out on a limb and speak the words to them that come so easily when talking to strangers…and be scorned, made fun of, or worse, told to leave because no one wants to hear what they’re saying.
But this is a serious matter. It affects eternity. Their eternity as well as yours. Because you want your loved ones with you forever. And you want to be sure they’re going to be there with you.
However, you cannot truly know what is really in someone’s heart. Even when they tell you how they feel, and what they believe, sometimes they may not be telling you what they really believe. They may be telling you what you want to hear, or they may be baiting you, telling you something entirely different just to see what you’ll say.
Each of us has a relationship with the Lord. Yes, we do. Even those who profess they do not believe have a relationship with Him. It’s certainly a one way relationship, because the Lord continues to quietly speak to the non-believer, who turns a deaf ear to Him. But the Lord is still speaking in that one way conversation.
And those words are heard. They may be ignored, but they are heard, and unconsciously remembered in the back of the mind. And I dare say those words are remembered in those last few minutes of life. We don’t know what conversation takes place between that non-believer and the Lord at that point, but I have a feeling it’s totally different from any other conversation they’ve had.
Does a person have to profess publicly to someone else their beliefs in order to be accepted into heaven? I don’t believe I’ve seen that in scripture. In fact, the Lord spoke about praying in private so as not to be seen as boasting to others about how devout, how religious, they were.
Our relationship with the Lord is personal. And it should be. There’s nothing wrong with sharing it, but there’s nothing wrong with keeping quiet when you feel you should. There’s a difference in speaking out all the time and knowing when to speak out when others will be receptive.
Let me address another issue that so many of us are told at these times. And if I step on toes, then please, instead of telling me I’m totally off base, and blasting me for my beliefs, think about what I’m saying first.
For years I’ve heard from so many people, “Oh, that denomination…they aren’t real Christians. They don’t believe the right way like we do. They won’t be going to heaven.” “That person was a member of xxxx group, and they aren’t true Christians, in fact, they have idols in their meeting places, so they won’t be in heaven!” “So and so was Jewish, and never accepted Jesus, so she isn’t in heaven. No chance at all.” (So…what about all of the Jewish people murdered during the Holocaust? Aren’t the Jewish people God’s chosen people? I do believe He wouldn’t NOT have them with Him.)
Have any of you been told any of this, or had similar conversations about who’s going to Heaven and who isn’t? Yes, scripture tells us in John 14:6 that Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And I believe that. We are also told that sinners cannot enter into His kingdom without repenting, and I believe that as well.
But who am I, and who are you, to say that we know exactly who’s going to heaven and who isn’t? I know what scripture says, but there are a lot of things I don’t know, and I cannot in any way say that I know totally who will be in eternity with me. I’m not God. I can only interpret His word how I interpret it. Interpretation is personal. And I cannot say I’m the only one who’s right, any more than anyone else can.
Here’s one other thing to think about. Does scripture say that someone has to make that decision at a certain time or it’s too late, and tell as many people as possible about it? What about the person on their deathbed that lapses into a coma? That person’s mind may still be consciously operating on some level, but we have no way of knowing, and they have no way of communicating with us.
But they most likely are communicating…just not with us. How do we know they aren’t communicating directly with the Lord? Just the two of them. A very personal and private conversation. Why would that be so difficult to believe?
How can we positively say we have all the answers? How do we know what is said between someone and the Lord when they are in the last seconds of transitioning between earthly life and eternity?
And how long are those last seconds in earthly time? After all, doesn’t scripture tell us in 2 Peter 3:8, “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
Obviously the Lord has all the time He wants…and needs…to speak with us in those final seconds. All the time to extend His hand of love and forgiveness and give us that one last opportunity to realize Who He is, and why we should trust Him; why we should know Him as Lord.
Isn’t that all He wants from us? And it doesn’t matter how long or how little the time we’ve loved Him. That we do accept Him is all that counts.
So why would He not do anything and everything He can to reach us; to touch our heart one last time and give us that final chance to love and trust Him as Lord.
And that’s exactly what I believe happens in those final moments if someone is not in a place of believing. That in those final moments He reaches out with His nail-scarred hands and says, “Come to me.” And in that final moment the non-believer most likely becomes a new believer, and eternity welcomes another soul.
He loves us all so much that He wants us all to be with Him. Isn’t that the Lord we serve?
Let me tell you a story. About fifteen years ago the husband of a coworker was seriously ill in the hospital. He’d undergone a heart transplant but unfortunately the heart wasn’t in as good shape as it should have been and the man never regained consciousness from the surgery. It had been three weeks, and we all knew he wasn’t going to be alive much longer barring a miracle. I was returning from lunch and entering the building when I very clearly heard a voice telling me, “Don’t worry. He’s with me now.”
I didn’t put the pieces together until I got back to my desk and about twenty minutes later received the news that our coworker’s husband had died. Out of curiosity I asked what time. About five minutes before I heard those words “Don’t worry. He’s with me now.” This particular man had been raised Catholic but hadn’t been to any church in years, nor did he profess to have any faith, nor did his wife.
Coincidence? I think not at all. The Lord clearly told me what I needed to know, and what his widow needed to hear. Even though at the time she never believed a word I told her. I hope she does now. Or else she may be one of the ones the Lord has to reach out to at those very last few seconds. And I am quite sure that she will make the right decision when she comes face to face with Him.
You may or may not believe anything I’ve said, and that is your prerogative. But what is important is eternity. I want to spend it with my loved ones, my friends, and most importantly, with my Lord. I want to talk to family members I never met. I want to talk with so many people I’ve admired and respected from a distance. I want to run and laugh with the babies I miscarried, that I know are waiting for me.
I want to sit and talk with my Lord, and ask Him all the questions I’ve had over the years. Questions to which I’ll probably already know the answers before I even ask.
And I want to see so many others that I’ve known throughout my life that I’ve lost touch with, and tell them, “I knew you’d be here!”
So do you stop praying for your loved ones? Of course not. Your prayers are heard, and acted upon. Go forward with the hope that your loved ones, like mine, will make the right decision, even if it’s in the last few seconds of life.
Heaven will be a wonderful eternity. And I believe it will be full!