WILL WE KNOW IF A LOVED ONE IS NOT IN HEAVEN WITH US?
by Shawn Brasseaux
This is a very interesting question, and while the Bible does not explicitly tell us, there are some verses that help us draw some informed conclusions.
Firstly, the Bible indicates that we will recognize our loved ones in heaven (see our article linked at the end of this study). A related question is then posed as thus: “Since we will recognize our loved ones in heaven, will we also be aware of our loved ones who are not in heaven?” In this study, I will share some verses that helped me answer that question. We will consider verses that describe the consciousness of those in the spirit world (people who have already died). Remember, it is better to look at associated verses than to have no verses at all. If it is going to be faith, it has to rest on Bible verses. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Let us hear the Word of God now!
When conversing with Abraham, the nameless rich man begged in Luke 16:27-28: “ … I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him [Lazarus] to my father’s house:  For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.” How did the rich man, suffering in hellfire, know that his five brethren were still living on Earth? The only logical conclusion is that none of those in hell with him fit the descriptions of his brethren. Had his brethren been there with him in the torments of hell, the rich man would have been able to identify them. According to Jesus Christ, the rich man suffering in the flames of hell knew that his brethren were still on Earth because they were not in hell with him. But, this is in hell. What about in heaven? Will we know if a loved one is not in heaven with us? Based on these verses, and those I will share later on, I personally believe we will be aware of those who are not in heaven with us. I believe we will remember them, and we will be fully conscious that they are not there with us, but we will see them as God sees them. We will not view them as we view them today but we will view them from a righteous viewpoint (one not tainted by sin-filled emotions).
WOULD NOT MEMORY OF LOST LOVED ONES SUFFERING IN HELL, MAKE US SAD IN HEAVEN?
Right now, we are prone to ask, “How could heaven be a joyful place when we will know that some (or in some cases, most) of our loved ones are not in heaven with us?” Luke chapter 16 again helps with this. It is ever so critical that we need to look at the issue as God’s Word views it. We need to let the Scriptures correct our thinking.
Without going into too much detail, suffice it to say that prior to Calvary, the souls of saints (those who trusted God’s Word to them) did not go to “heaven” as saints go today. Before the cross, believers who died went to a spiritual place called “paradise” (Luke 23:43) or “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22-23). Thus, Jesus Christ said that He would spend His three days and three nights dead “in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). “Paradise,” or “Abraham’s bosom,” was in the center of the Earth. The bizarre term “Abraham’s bosom,” problematic for some, simply denotes that these people died having the same faith in God’s Word that Abraham did (faith unto justification; Romans 4:3), and that their hope, like Abraham’s, was to be bodily resurrected one day to enter and enjoy the literal, physical, visible, earthly kingdom of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 11:8-16). Sometime after Calvary, God removed those righteous souls in “paradise” (in the center of the Earth) and brought them up into “the third heaven” (see 2 Corinthians 12:1-4). It is here in the “heavenly Jerusalem” that those “Old Testament” saints now reside (Hebrews 12:22-24).
Our goal now is to see how Abraham, a saint whose soul was living in “paradise” at the time of Luke chapter 16 (pre-Calvary), how Abraham viewed the rich man suffering in hell. This time, we will read the entire account, beginning with verse 19, to get the full impact of the flow of the passage. How would a believer in the spirit world react to the knowledge of a relative experiencing torment in the spirit world? It is highly important to remember that this is not a parable (cults say it is so as to explain away the horrible reality of everlasting hellfire). Dear friends, Jesus never identified it as a parable, and no parable ever contained a person’s name. “Lazarus” and “Abraham” were real, literal, historical people, so Luke 16:19-31 is most definitely a historical reality. It is graphic, very illustrative, but we must read it because it is God’s Word.
Luke chapter 16: “ There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:  And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,  And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.  And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;  And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.  And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.  But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.  And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.”
Beginning in verse 23, Abraham and the rich man, although both were deceased, held a conversation in the spirit world. Abraham was in “comfort” and the rich man was in “torments.” Abraham was aware of the rich man, a Jew, one of his descendants, suffering in hell. They could see one another, though neither could come into the other’s realm—a “great gulf fixed,” a massive and permanent chasm, prevented those suffering in hell from going into paradise, and those in paradise were prevented from going into torments. Abraham replied to this Jew in verses 25-26, “Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.” The rich man was an idolater (worshipper of his wealth) whereas Lazarus was a believer.
Abraham gave a righteous answer to the rich man. Note that Abraham did not tell the rich man that God was unfair and that God should let the rich man come into paradise. Abraham knew that the rich man chose to go to that place of torment. The rich man did not have to go there, but that was what he chose and Abraham knew that God had already given the rich man over to what he wanted. Did the rich man show any remorse, any faith? The rich man was not sorry for rejecting God’s Word in life. Even in hell, he showed no repentance (change in mind), he showed no faith, he showed no respect toward God in declaring God was utterly righteous in letting him go to hell. The rich man, even after death, showed no interest in converting to the praise and glory of God; he just wanted some water, relief from his suffering, the very suffering that he deserved and chose! Abraham thought exactly like God did. There was no sin nature in Abraham, for he was now dead, to impair his judgment. Abraham had no emotions tainted by sin, to pervert the way he looked at the issue. He knew that God was fair, that He had treated the rich man justly. The rich man was still exhibiting unbelief (we will see more in a moment).
Returning to Luke chapter 16: “ Then he [the rich man] said [to Abraham], I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:  For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.  Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.  And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.  And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”
The rich man wanted Abraham to send Lazarus to evangelize his five brethren who were still on Earth, that they not come to hell and meet him there. Abraham gave another righteous answer: “Your brothers have God’s Word, and they need to hear and believe the testimony of the Bible, the record of Moses and the prophets! If they reject God’s Word, Lazarus coming back from the dead will not convert them!” Note how the rich man argued against Abraham’s upholding of the Word of God (“Nay, father Abraham…”); the rich man refused to give the authority to God’s Word, and he wanted his will to be done instead of God’s will to be done. Again, God is just/fair in letting the rich man suffer in hell. That is what he wants. Even at this point, yes, even while suffering in the flames of hell, the rich man has no interest in respecting or believing the Bible!
A BRIEF GOSPEL MESSAGE
It is not uncommon for our flesh to rebut, or for Bible critics to repeat ad nauseum, “Oh, how can a loving God send someone to a place of everlasting flames? How can God be so unfair?” That is the problem, dear friends, GOD did not send anyone there—that is what they wanted!!!! God did everything, everything, everything, everything, everything He possibly could to keep us out of hell. He sent Jesus Christ to suffer on our behalf His wrath against our sin, but if we reject Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, someone still has to suffer God’s wrath for us… and it will be us to suffer that wrath! Unless Jesus Christ’s merits are imputed to us, applied to us, by faith, our sin debt is still there and we will be forced to pay it one day. But, we can avoid hell!!! We do not have to go to hell!!! We do not have to pay for our sins in a lake of fire that never quits burning!!! We can be made the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus Christ took upon Himself all of our sin debt, He fully satisfied God’s wrath against our sins. Will we trust that Good News, and that Good News alone, to be declared righteous before God? God is a loving God because He gave us His Bible to warn us about hellfire, and He gave us His Bible to tell us how to escape that most awful place.
Romans 3:21-28: “ But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;  Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:  For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;  Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:  Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;  To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.  Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.  Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”
Romans 4:3-8: “ For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.  Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.  But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.  Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,  Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”
If anyone reading this study does not have the assurance of salvation, forgiveness of sins, and a home in heaven, it is this author’s great hope and prayer that he or she will settle the matter today. “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Please do not read this study about dying and going to hell, and then end up dying and going to hell yourself! That would be most tragic. Eternal life through Jesus Christ is “unto all” but only “upon all them that believe” (Romans 3:22). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). Just trust exclusively in Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork as sufficient payment for your sins, and you will be saved, loved, and bound for heaven.
While you are free to disagree with me, I believe that, in heaven, we will have the same mindset as Abraham did in paradise. Those in hell belong there because that is what they chose. They could have trusted God’s Word in life on Earth but they refused. They could have trusted the Gospel of the Grace of God while they were given opportunity, but they rejected it, and now, in hell, they will never accept the Gospel. They are too far gone after they reach hell. In hell, they become even more stubborn, just as the rich man was. Yes, actually, these lost people will be just as opposed to God’s Word in hell as they were opposed to it on Earth. People do not change in hell, dear friends. Just as the miracles of the Bible hardened the hearts of the unbelievers of millennia ago, the hearts of those in hell are even more hardened.
Someone may ask, “How could we enjoy ourselves in heaven if we have consciousness of loved ones in hell?” While some say that those in heaven do not think about such things (some point to 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 pain: for the former things are passed away.”), this does not mean that our memories of lost loved ones, will pass away. In fact, those saints who will enjoy Christ’s earthly kingdom, they will literally be able to see into hell during those 1000 years, and they will see the souls of all those who had transgressed the Lord during the Tribulation with the Antichrist (Isaiah 66:22-24; Jesus quoted this passage in Mark 9:43-50 to describe people suffering in hell during those 1000 years). The 1000-year Kingdom will be one of great joy.
When we get to heaven, and we will remember our lost loved ones suffering in hell, we will view the situation as God does. They are where they belong, the place they chose. They ignored the Christians who preached to them that could escape hellfire by being in Jesus Christ. They had no time for the Holy Bible, no time for the Gospel, no time for God’s grace or God’s love for them, no time for Jesus Christ’s perfect sacrifice at Calvary, no time for anything but the here and now. Can we honestly believe that Father God will overlook someone treating His perfect Son’s finished crosswork as NOTHING? Never! That is why their sin must be dealt with!
Those in heaven right now know that God is righteous and holy and just, and whatever happens to people suffering in hell, it is all because of what those lost people chose. God did not make them go to hell; He values free will and gives people over to what they want (Romans 1:24,26,28). They have no interest in going heaven, especially once they are in hell, so they would not be happy in heaven anyway. It is strange to say it now, but it will be consoling that they are exactly where they want to be, and to take away their free will (even in hell) and force them to go to heaven would be the saddest thing of all.
Beloved, let us tell all of our friends, family, and other loved ones about the message of God’s grace now, while we are still living and while they are still living, that we may see them in heaven. Remember the urgency! Let us not waste time in that regard!