Unanswered Questions


“I don’t know if he was a believer.” It was a statement partly of hope and partly of resignation, made after a loved one had died recently. Where is he now? How should we think about such things? This is a difficult and tender topic for many people. It would be wonderful if every time a loved one died, we had personal assurance that they were believers. Unfortunately, that is often not the case. In my quarter-century of ministry, I’ve known of a few death-bed conversions, but not very many. It does happen, and the possibility should never be ruled out, but it certainly doesn’t happen all the time. In many cases, the loved one passes from this life leaving behind questions about where they stood with the Lord. Several things will help us at this point. First, only God can see the heart, and it is the heart that will be judged. No matter how well we may think we know a person, we can’t peer into the soul. God reserves that for himself. Second, God’s grace goes far beyond our limited understanding. Some people will be in heaven that we never expected to be there. Third, it doesn’t take much faith to save a person. Jesus spoke of a faith like a mustard seed, and he talked about having the faith of a little child. Weak faith placed in the right object is far better than strong faith in the wrong object. If the question is, “How much faith do you have to have to go to heaven?” The answer is, “Not much, as long as your faith is in Jesus.” I faced this question in a personal way when my father died 29 years ago. The day before his funeral, I spoke with our pastor and asked him about my father’s spiritual condition. I know my father heard the gospel, and I know he made a profession of faith of sorts, but I never heard him pray, never saw him read the Bible, and he never joined the church. The idea of my father in hell was too much to bear. Since then I have taken comfort in two thoughts: The first is the question Abraham asked in Genesis 18:25c, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” God is just and he is gracious. He will make no mistakes. No one will end up in hell who should have gone to heaven. The other thought is this: No one will go to hell except those who truly deserve to be there. And people who truly deserve to be in hell would never be happy in heaven. This does not answer every question, but some questions can’t be answered in this life. When we see the Lord, we will know what we don’t know now, and that’s reason enough to trust the Lord with all our unanswered questions.

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