NOT EVERYBODY GOES TO HEAVEN.
There. I said it. No, not everybody goes to heaven. Everybody has a CHANCE to go to heaven when they die, but that chance comes when they’re still alive. Multiple chances, in fact, throughout their lifetime. Every single day that God gives a person is another day filled with countless chances to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior (which is, by the way, the ONLY way to gain Salvation and entry into heaven). Waiting until after we die and are standing before Him at the pearly gates – well, the whole point in *faith* in God is that we discern other things to be evidence of Him, not God Himself standing in front of us as the evidence. If you’re at the pearly gates, that means you are actually seeing it – it requires no faith. Immediately as you take your last breath and the life inside you is no longer…you’ve already sealed your fate.
I’m not here to tell you whether you are or aren’t going to heaven when you die, or whether your loved one is up there waiting for you or not. Only God, who is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent can know for sure if somebody has or hasn’t accepted Christ into their heart. And He knows this even if it’s done a millisecond before one passes away. God is very patient and wants nothing more than for ALL people to know Christ and join Him in heaven, but he is also just and fair.
Now let me tell you, when a Christian loses somebody in their life – especially unexpectedly – it is only natural to have one of two reactions (among other things). We are either heartbroken and devastated believing that the person isn’t going to heaven, or we are heartbroken but at peace because we believe they ARE going to heaven (as much as we can know).
I remember when my Aunt Ina died from cancer, we gathered near her bedside as she took her last breath. I’ll never forget the feeling that came over me when my dad held my hand and said, “She’s with Jesus now”. Ina had devoted her life to Christ several years back and it showed in everything she did, so we were pretty certain she was with Jesus, and that is something to be rejoiced!
And when my mother passed away, I told my dad the same thing he told me about my aunt: “She’s with Jesus now”. We were devastated, but knowing (again, as much as humans can know) she was with Jesus was very comforting.
But when two of my friends died, I was heartbroken. I just knew that they were both going to hell because there was no way they believed in God, let alone had accepted Christ. I will admit I am contradicting what I said about “not knowing” but here is my rationale. He (the boyfriend) was vicious with his words about God (whom he didn’t believe in) and about Christians (except for me, for some reason, he told me I was “the best Christian” he knew). And in his very last moments on earth, he chose to use those moments to murder my friend (his girlfriend) in cold blood, and then turn the gun on himself. Suicide is a sin that there is no coming back from, in my opinion. Unless he did not die immediately, which my understanding is that he did, then he would not have had the time to repent and ask Christ into his heart.
As mad as I was that he killed my friend, I was also terribly saddened that he didn’t recognize his value and thought his life had no meaning without his girlfriend. He had been depressed for some time but had he only listened to me with genuine interest about how Jesus could heal all that, maybe the outcome would have been different. But with my other friend (the one he shot), I felt guilty I guess. I felt like I had an opening the last time we texted. She had made a comment about how her ex did not believe in God and I made a mental note to try to talk to her about Jesus the next time I saw her. But there wasn’t a next time. So I felt guilty for not having talked to her before about it, I was heartbroken over losing my friend, and devastated that she probably wasn’t going to heaven – but also wondering if she had a change of heart and holding out hope that maybe she did, and was in heaven.
I was not looking forward to her funeral mostly because I knew people would all be saying, “she’s in a better place now” like everybody does when everybody dies. Don’t get me wrong, I would never argue that with somebody who just lost a loved one, because I think it’s horribly cruel to kick people while they are down. But it’s the truth that needs to be told well before someone dies. So yeah, I didn’t even want to go but I had already promised three other people a ride to the funeral, which was four hours away. I couldn’t back out. And I’m so glad I didn’t. Had I not gone, I would have never heard the minister talk about how my friend had accepted Christ in her younger years. If anybody saw my face during the moments he was talking about her salvation, if they didn’t know anything about Christ, they probably wondered why I had tears rolling down my face but an ear to ear grin at the same time. That was probably the most bittersweet moment I have ever had in my entire life prior to my parents both passing away in 2021. Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s still no guarantee, because only God knows, but it gave me hope that I will see her again someday. I thought maybe my friend wasn’t an atheist after all. Maybe she had simply fallen away like so many of us do. Maybe in her very last moments she was apologizing to God. They say once saved, always saved, and my only comment to that would be yeah, if the person was sincere when they were saved. If so, God will never allow them to be plucked from His hand.
I hate using scare tactics to win people’s hearts for Christ. Especially when there are so many different ways that people come to know Him, but the truth is that if you don’t know Him, if you don’t accept Him as Lord and Savior and repent, you will not go to heaven. The alternative is scary, it’s just a fact. Whether you believe this or not, first of all, is irrelevant, but second, if I believe it to be the truth, then why wouldn’t I want others to know?
Christians are so convinced of this that virtually within every church, there’s someone (or likely a group of someones) who make it a habit to go to deathbeds to witness the Gospel of Jesus Christ to dying people, in hopes that they repent and turn to Christ PRIOR TO dying. They do this in hospitals, in nursing homes, in hospice care, wherever there are dying people who have not accepted Christ yet. It’s literally the Christian’s job to spread the Gospel and try to win hearts over to Christ. I try to do this through writing, because I’m not the greatest at verbally articulating things.
I digress…my point is…please, please…instead of saying they’re “in a better place now” regarding everyone who dies, let’s get to these people while they’re still alive and make sure they’ve heard the Gospel of Christ to increase their chances of accepting Him. Trust me, you do not want to always be questioning “if I just would have said something sooner”.
Obviously much of this is aimed at Christians who understand what it means when we say that accepting Christ and repenting is the only way to salvation, and thus the only way to heaven. For those of you who don’t yet believe, please ask yourself if you really want to take that chance. Or do you really want to take that chance with your children. Trust me, you don’t want that either. I used to lay awake sometimes at night at the thought of losing my grown child before she found Christ. She was 30 years old, living an hour and a half away, and if I knew she was working late or out for a night, I would go into panic mode because I knew where she would spend eternity without Christ if something were to happen to her. In fact, her former atheism was what propelled me to recommit myself to the Lord so that I could better equip myself to have conversations with her that might lead her to Christ. Now that she’s accepted Christ, do I still worry about her? Of course! But the difference is that now…now I can at least be comforted by the fact that she WILL spend eternity in a much better place.