Scripture tells us that eye has not seen and ear has not heard what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Corinthians 2:9). So we know that heaven will be greater than we can even imagine, as we experience perfect happiness united with God for eternity.
But Scripture also tells us that the gate to heaven is narrow, and the road to hell is wide. If some of our loved ones aren’t in heaven with us, how can we really be happy?
That’s what a listener named Terry recently called-in to The Patrick Madrid Show to ask. She said, “If you’re in heaven and you realize that one of your children or a brother or sister are not making it to heaven, how do you have happiness knowing that they’re not in heaven with you?”
Patrick admitted, “I’ve puzzled over that myself.”
One solution Terry suggested is that if a loved one isn’t in heaven we simply forget them. “Are you so happy that you forget them?” she asked.
Patrick responded, “I don’t think you forget them. I think whatever knowledge you have in this life will be super-enhanced in the life to come. And knowledge will be added to what we know now. But it’s not like God will purge your memory of things you know – your family members, for example.”
Patrick acknowledged that it’s impossible to know exactly what heaven will be like, but there are things we can know about heaven through God’s revelation.
“I think that what will happen is that you will not be sad or sorrowful,” he said. “Remember that Jesus said that all your tears will be wiped away, and blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted.”
“So I think we can safely say that in heaven we are going to be maximally happy,” Patrick pointed out. “And there will be no room for sorrow or suffering. At the same time, if we know (which I think we will) the eternal destiny of family members who don’t go to heaven but go to hell instead, I think the answer is this: we will be so imbued with the love of God that God’s justice will be sufficient for us.”
Patrick explained that hell is not simply a punishment for bad people, but the result of people’s free choice to be separated from God. Their choice to be separated from God means they will spend eternity in hell, which is a manifestation of God’s justice.
“We rejoice in His mercy, we can rejoice in His justice,” Patrick said. “And God is glorified in both cases.”
Maybe that makes sense to you on a theological level, but when you think about the possibility of your child, spouse, or parent not being in heaven with you for eternity, it’s impossible to fathom being happy. Patrick suggested a thought experiment to understand why we can’t imagine that even if it’s true.
“Imagine trying to explain to an unborn child in the womb what it means to fall in love,” he suggested. “Try to imagine explaining fireworks, the ocean, and going to a movie. You could go down the list of all the things we experience in this life that it would be impossible to explain to an unborn child. He couldn’t understand it.”
When you think of the jump from life inside the womb to life outside it, and how much more there is in the life outside, imagine how much more of a jump it is from our life on earth to our life in heaven. It’s infinitely more of a leap.
“That boggles my mind,” Patrick said. “And so I take a bit of comfort in thinking that if it’s impossible for us to explain to an unborn child what this life is going to be like, how much more impossible is it to explain what the next life is going to be like.”
But if you’re still unconvinced and think you’re going to be weeping over your loved ones while everyone around you in heaven is rejoicing, why not do all you can right now to help your loved ones get to heaven? Pray and fast for your children, your parents, your siblings, and your friends. Many graces can come from your intercession, so let’s do all we can to help our brothers and sisters in Christ to be together in heaven for eternity.
Listen to the full conversation below: