Ask Your Preacher
HEAVEN & HELL
Lately, I have been feeling like I have not been the best christian that I ought to be. I try to be excited that I'm going to heaven and how blessed I am to know God and living how Christ would have me to, but sometimes I get so upset thinking about all those (including family) that won’t be there with me. I try to always be positive, hoping that others may come to repentance, but for some, I know there is no chance they will follow Christ. Why do I keep lingering on these thoughts?
You are facing a normal and healthy part of the christian growth process. It is a sign of compassion when that you look at those who are lost in this world, and it wrenches your heart. It is okay to be hurt by the vastness of those who have chosen the wide path to destruction (Matt 7:13). Jesus wept over His kinsman in Jerusalem that turned their back on the truth and rejected the gift of salvation (Lk 19:41-42). When Paul thought about his lost fellow countryman, it grieved him deeply… so much so that he wished he could trade places with their souls, so they might be saved (Rom 9:1-3). Paul’s heart’s desire was that his beloved kinsman would be saved (Rom 10:1-2), but he also knew that it was their choice, not his. You are having the same emotions that Paul and Jesus dealt with – take it as a sign of spiritual maturity and growth.
The important thing to remember is that the greatest help you can be to the lost is to be that shining light and preserving salt that Christ exhorted us to become (Matt 5:13-15). You can’t save everyone from their own choices, but, as Paul said, we try and live so that we can save some (Rom 11:13-14).
When dogs and cats die, do they go to heaven?
Dear Empty Collar,
Animals have the “breath of life” just like humans do (Gen 2:7, Gen 6:17). This “breath of life” is also sometimes referred to as the “spirit” of a man or animal (Gen 7:22). Animals have spirits, and humans have spirits, but humans were also made in the image of God (Gen 1:26). Our spirit is eternal and will go up to be with the Father, and animal spirits are temporary and will return to the dust of the earth (Eccl 3:21). God made our spirit of a different caliber than He made those of the animals. Dogs and cats don’t go to heaven, but we can feel confident that God has decided wisely on this issue like all others. We may not always understand His reasons, but He always makes good decisions.
I am a mother of two, and we don't attend church. I tell them as much as I know about God and Jesus and the Bible. I am scared, though, every time I start to think about the end of days… not because I am not saved but because I heard that when the rapture comes, in heaven you will not know anyone. I want to know my kids. I want to watch them grow up and have babies of their own. I think I may be misunderstanding something. Please help me understand what is going to happen and if we are all going to be together and know each other. Please, I get so sad about all of it.
Dear Maternal Instinct,
The Rapture isn’t a biblical teaching, and it won’t actually happen (read our article “Up In The Air” for a detailed explanation of what the Bible teaches about the Rapture). However, you are still left with your concern about what heaven will be like (heaven is still very real! – 1 Pet 1:3-4). In heaven, we have every reason to believe we will know each other. In fact, if the transfiguration is any indication, we will know everyone in heaven, not just those we have known in this life. When Jesus was transfigured on the Mount of Olives, both Moses and Elijah appeared and talked to Christ (Lk 9:30). The remarkable thing is that Peter recognized both of those men even though they had been dead for many centuries (Lk 9:32-33).
Now, if we may, we’d like to address your statement that you don’t go to church. It is a sin to not attend church; the Bible says so (Heb 10:24-25). God uses the church to strengthen each of us individually, and He expects all of us to provide our effort to help strengthen others in His church (Eph 4:16). The church is the pillar and support of the truth (1 Tim 3:15). Every faithful christian of the Bible was commanded to be a member of a congregation because God knew that we shouldn’t stand alone. It is a wonderful thing that you are teaching your children about Jesus and training them up to love Him (Pr 22:6). We would be happy to help you move forward in your service to Christ by putting you in contact with a faithful congregation in your area. E-mail us at email@example.com, and let us help you fill in that piece in the puzzle of your spiritual life.
Is hell hot?
Dear Sweating It,
Just like heaven is described using symbolic language (streets of gold, a river of the water of life, a glassy sea, gates made of pearls, etc.), hell is described using symbolic language, too. Heaven and hell are both real places that are respectively so wonderful and terrible that we cannot fathom their extremes. Therefore, God uses figurative language to give us a taste of what they will be like. Hell may or may not have literal heat, but it is described as an eternal fire (Matt 25:41), the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt 8:12), and the place where the worm burns and never dies (Mk 9:47-48). Whatever the thermometer reads, there is no doubt that hell is a place of terrible pain and misery.
If we are rewarded in heaven for our life on Earth, meaning that others will have more in heaven than others, will there be jealousy? I feel like I would be jealous of others that were rewarded more than I in heaven. I feel silly saying that because I would be thankful just to be in heaven at all, but I would feel like God loved others more than me. Is it okay to feel like I would be jealous?
Dear Going Green,
It is true that the Bible talks about storing treasures up for yourself in heaven (Matt 6:19-21), but that doesn’t provide us with many details as to how those treasures work – the mechanics are a total mystery. One analogy that seems to help people is to think of it like two people gathering water from a well; no matter the size of the container, the container will be full. Storing up treasures in heaven has been described as “getting a bigger bucket”. As we said though, this is simply speculation, and we wouldn’t be too dogmatic on the issue.
As for your concern of jealousy in heaven, we don’t know the mechanics of how heaven will work, but we do know that there will be no sin there (1 Cor 15:54-57). Covetousness is a sin (Jas 4:2). In this life, we struggle to rejoice in the joys of our fellow Christians (Rom 12:15); sometimes it stings when we see others with more than us, but the time will come when we will shuck this mortal coil, and those fleshly temptations to covet will no longer plague us.