“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
- Matthew 7:21-23
I had an old Bible study teacher, who was an ordained pastor, who said that some theological constructs within the church work great for believers, but do not seem to mesh well with non-believers. We were on the subject of people who go to Heaven and people who go to Hell. When discussing predestination, having God know believers before the dawn of time is a beautiful idea and Biblical, but for the non-believer, is he predestined for the Lake of Fire? That does not seem to work so well, since all have a choice and Jesus’ sacrifice is sufficient for all.
When we are given Mercy and Grace and Heaven itself, the concept of a loving God is wonderful, especially knowing that we do not deserve that treatment. We understand the need for a personal relationship with Jesus, and thus we can see the flip side of the coin. But to flip the coin, all that the non-believer sees is a hateful God that is sending them to Hell, so why should they believe and trust in Him? Actually, in their rebellion, they cannot seem to flip the coin the other way to see God’s Love.
But, having non-believers within your own extended family, my wife has asked me, “How can I be happy in Heaven, knowing that ‘so-n-so’ is in Hell?”
Does ‘so-n-so’ deserve Hell? Of course, but so do I. My wife loves ‘so-n-so’ and so do I. Then in deep communion with God the other day, the Scripture from the Sermon on the Mount came to me. It was as if God had answered that prayer about how we can be happy in Heaven knowing that dear great-aunt Gertrude is not there.
God will look upon the person and fail to recognize them according to the Scripture above. It is as if they do not exist and never did. Yet, God is all-knowing. How does that work?
Don’t ask me how that works. Isaiah says that we will be washed as white as snow. Isaiah lived in a time when there was much less pollution and snow was actually white. Maybe we will be white to the point of reflecting God’s light back at Him and He sees us, but not the others. That is a good enough guess, since nothing that we have within us, other than Jesus in our hearts and the Holy Spirit guiding us, is capable of washing the smallest hair on our heads. For God to recognize us as a child of God, He must see God-light coming from us, placed there by His Son.
But beyond that image of how we are recognized as His and others are not, how will we not recognize the ones that we love here on earth who do not get into Heaven?
Will we be like God and not recognize them? Will they cry out and we say, “I never knew you?”
I heard a panel discussion among pastors on a television show a few weeks ago. They usually agree with one another, using different Scripture to say the same thing. But this time, none of them could confidently agree as they were asked questions about knowing who they themselves were when they got to Heaven. Then will they recognize loved ones? And then will they know other people? At the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter and the others recognized Elijah and Moses, people they had never seen. The pastors talked about that and about other glimpses of Heaven, or at least God’s Glory, but no one addressed the problem of recognizing someone who was being condemned to Hell.
Regardless of what the mechanism is, God promises us that He will wipe away every tear and we will not have any more pain and suffering. Heaven will be a happy place, and the best way that we can walk through the pearly gates with our head held high is to do everything within our power to show God’s Love to those loved ones on earth who are lost. They can still turn away from God. We have no control over that, but we have control over how we show God’s Love and what we say to them.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.