Yes. Your deceased, unbelieving loved one is in hell, but I wouldn’t lead with that. Let me explain.
When these six questions were brought to my group they were all challenges we were scared to have someone ask us as a believer. Can you imagine your new friend bringing this loaded question to you? How do you respond to it without losing a soul, but also with gentleness and tact?
How To Respond
Each situation is unique and I would not approach every person the same way, but I think you could combine the truths listed below in a number of different ways and maintain integrity, gentleness, & truthfulness.
1. Speak Truth
It is important to speak truthfully and lovingly into this piercing, heartfelt question. This query is one of heartbreak. Please be gentle with this person, but don’t misrepresent the truth. A well timed word can comfort the heart and a lie can lose souls.
2. Read The Room
Before you bring your sword of truth to bear, remember this -> We do not know with 100% certainty the final state of a person’s heart; only God knows and sees that. We do know that God is good, just, and a God of mercy. We can trust Him to do the right thing, and He is the one that makes the final judgement, not us. So before you declare the truth to your friend see if you need to tend to their heart. Sometimes a hug and a ‘I don’t know” may be all that is needed.
3. A Message From The Grave
We may not know where their loved one is with 100% certainty, but we do know, whether in heaven or hell, they have a desire for your friend. The parable in Luke 16:19-31 tells of a rich man sentenced to hell. There he is starved of the goodness of God and is filled with agony. He begs that his family would be told the right way to get to heaven… No matter where our deceased loved ones are, they want us to know Jesus.
4. Heaven On Earth
The after life will always contain some mystery, but there are certain things we can thank God for now. In this life their loved one got to experience the goodness of God in what is known as common grace: food to enjoy, satisfying work, good friends, rain and sunshine, the beauty of the night sky, etc… The world is full of wonder and we all get to live in it, no matter what we believe.
If this question was brought to you with heartfelt sincerity I think you could use these four pointers to help plant or water the seed of faith in their life. However, if you are approached with hostility I think the best way to respond is through point 2, then show them you care by following up at a different time. In the words of Frederick William Faber “Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning.”
~ Daniel F. Grey
MORE ANSWERING HARD QUESTIONS
How Can A Good God Allow Suffering?
Can Someone Embrace Homosexuality And Still Be Saved?
How Do You Admonish Someone Who Is Not A Believer?
How Do You Direct A Stranger Who Wants To Take The Next Step As A Believer?
Why Do Christians Obey Some OT Laws & Ignore Others?
- It is important to speak truth and love into this piercing, heartfelt question without misrepresenting the truth.
- Sometimes a hug and a ‘I don’t know’ may be all that is needed to be done.
- We do not know the final state of a person’s heart; only God knows and sees that and He is the one that makes the final judgement
- We do know that God is good and just and we can trust him to do the right things. Plus He is a God of mercy. Exodus 34:6-7
- Luke 16:19-31; we may not know where the loved one is, but we do know your loved one’s desire for you. The rich man, starved of the goodness of God, begged that his family would be told of the right way to get to God/heaven.
- We do not know where your loved one is now, but in this life they got to experience the goodness of God in the common grace He set forth on earth (Matthew 5:45). Food to enjoy, satisfying work, good friends, rain and sunshine, the beauty of the night sky, etc…