In Heaven, Will You Remember Unsaved Loved Ones?
A Painful Truth
Perhaps the most painful truth for believers to absorb is that some of those they love most either are not now, or will not when this life is over, be in Heaven. Heaven is the abode for those who during their earthly existences gave their lives to Jesus Christ. Hades is the destination for those who refuse Christ. You may wish this not to be true, but the Bible is clear; there is no escape clause.
This matter is extremely personal to me. In 1986, my mother died of breast cancer at age 53. One year later, my father succumbed to heart disease at age 58. I strongly believe that neither gave their lives to Christ. Furthermore, in my 30-plus years as a Christian, I have not seen a single member of my Jewish family come to Christ. It is a mournful thing indeed.
Of course, I am not alone. Undoubtedly, like me, you have wondered: I have given my life to Christ and trust Him that when this life is over, I will be spending eternity in with Him in Heaven. But how can I enjoy Heaven knowing that people I love dearly are in Hades?
The Nature of Heaven
You have probably heard enough sermons on Heaven that you don't need to be reminded here of its many joys and wonders. I am very, very wary of accounts by those who claimed to have died, visited Heaven, and then returned. Though space (and the topic of this blog) does not allow me to explain, I will just say this: If you want to know what Heaven is like, read the accounts of Genesis 2 (where the Garden of Eden was Heaven on Earth) and Revelation Chapters 21 & 22, which describe the new Heaven.
Truths of Great Comfort
Back to the question: When you get to Heaven, what will be your memory of loved ones not there?
The Book of Isaiah is immensely useful. In a clear end-of-the-age passage, the prophet declares: He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it (Isaiah 25:8, italic added). The message is clear: Tears – which represent sadness and mourning – will be dried by God Himself. The tears are not what is in view here, but that which causes tears: grief, lament, heartache, physical and emotional suffering, and misery. Such things are banished in Heaven, including that which ignites the most grief in believers: loved ones who die without knowing Christ.
Let's look at another encouraging passage, Isaiah 65:17, which again is clearly future: For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. What exactly is it that will not be remembered, nor come into mind? Logic dictates that if this verse is speaking of new heavens and a new earth, what does not come into mind is anything related to the old heavens and earth. Anything may be a general term, but it is all-inclusive. Think of anything bad associated with this world – from a stubbed toe to the death of an unsaved loved one – and you have everything that will not be remembered, nor come into mind.
Here is one more towering verse, Revelation 21:4: And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. This echoes the two Isaiah verses. There is really no need for me to analyze this verse for you; simply read it for yourself – several times – and soak up the divine glory and promise of it.
Summing It Up
I'm not sure how this all works. After all, like you, I am made of flesh and blood, and we are speaking of a time when we have cast our flesh and blood aside and have taken up residence in spiritual bodies (1 Corinthians 15:35-49). We also know this is a time when tears, death, mourning, despair, and pain are removed.
Will God simply erase your memory so that you will no longer even remember your unsaved loved ones? It's quite possible; after all, Isaiah 65:17 does say, And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind. Conversely, some hold that believers in Heaven will remember their lives on earth, but not be adversely affected by them.
Regarding the issue of your loved ones who will not be in Heaven, you need to take God at His Word and trust that when the time comes for you to join Him, He will see to it that you are filled with an eternity's worth of inexpressible joy. Until then, be faithful in sharing Christ with your loved ones, and if they don't want to listen, they can't stop you from praying for them!
Though this is a very difficult topic to consider, my hope is that this brief study brings you peace and encouragement.
David Ettinger is a writer/editor at Zion's Hope, Inc., and has written for Zion's Fire magazine since its inception in 1990.