How you feel God treats all people after death depending on decisions made while on earth can impact your relationship with God as well as those you speak to about the Creator. The Bible is not a systematic theological textbook, thus there is not a book on Heaven. There are enough biblical comments, without taking out of context, to suggest all will face God one day for an accounting of their deeds – good and bad (Mt: 12:36, Rom. 14:10, 2 Cor. 5:10, Heb.9:27). Those who choose faith in God on earth are promised after death they will be in heaven where God will transform our bodies (Philip. 3:20). Jesus promised the thief on the Cross he would enter paradise. Scriptures do not give us the details of what will take place this final judgment day to those who do not or are unable to choose faith in God while living on earth.
Why wouldn’t one want to believe God is a Universalist where all are saved from themselves, if freedom and justice can be defended in such a scenario? Several passages can be plausibly interpreted to suggest all enter heaven one day: “For as in Adam all died, so in Christ all will be made alive” (I Cor. 15:22, i.e. Rom. 5:18-19, Philip: 2:10-11). It would not be unlike God to show mercy and give all a second chance when meeting their Creator. The case and hope for Universalism biblically may be greater than supposed by evangelical believers. Heaven may be more populated than many people imagined.
Some may argue that the possibility of eternal decisions after death creates less urgency to change here on earth. We may want to tell an addict after the 100th relapse there is no hope, but this is not God’s nature. There are some that wish to scare people into obedience with the fear of God, but God has always emphasized a relationship over rules and obedience. Remember the Pharisees! Closer relationships, either personal or spiritual, are what inspire us to be the kind of persons we deep down truly want to be. When one feels extraordinarily loved they simply want to return that love to others.
We know for sure God is not going to sadistically torture people forever for their beliefs while here on earth a short time! Who doesn’t know unending suffering is pointless as it doesn’t produce any good. The traditional understanding of Hell is nowhere to be found in the Bible. Hell, a substitution not translation for certain Hebrew and Greek words, is an invention over the centuries to scare people into submission and obedience. Scriptures suggest Jesus once before visited the dead during Noah’s time in hopes they would change their mind (I Peter 3:18-20; 4:6). Why can’t we assume Jesus would again visit the dead in hopes they would accept His invitation to live with Him in Heaven rather than possibly faced a second death?
God punishment has always been in hopes of redeeming the guilty. God’s justice in the afterlife may have an educative component and cleansing effect after our life here on earth. Victims will be vindicated as the guilty will face their sins. One’s childhood robbed because of sexual abuse can never be returned, but confession can lead to ultimate healing. We like God may forgive our tormenters if they truly sought forgiveness and desired to make amends. Believers and unbelievers may go through the same process of justice, some having more regrets than others. Some wanted nothing to do with a Heavenly Parent because of their earthly parents. Do you really think Jesus is going to invite a thief who warranted death on a cross to enter Paradise but not others with lesser sins simply because they weren’t next to Jesus right before their last breathe? I doubt any reading this or their loved ones would deny such an invitation by God.
There is no more merciful, understanding, loving Judge than our Creator. God’s judgment is never clouded because of their own sins or biases. God is a God of a million chances, though they encourage to run from evil NOW to have fewer regrets. Jesus encouraged the pursuit of good deeds by loving others like you want to be loved as deep down that is the life we all desire for ourselves. God was anxious for us to avoid the painful look back of regrets, but it is never too late to choose to spend time with God for eternity even after death. It will be possible to be happy in heaven despite regrets for even saints such as Mother Teresa will have some regrets.
When Jesus was asked how one obtains eternal life, Jesus said simply to love God and love others as yourself (Lk.10:25-27). John 3:15 refers to eternal life as being in Christ, thus referring to a quality than future destiny. Jesus did not focus on Heaven, perfection, or the destiny of those who reject the pursuit of an unselfish life. Jesus taught life forever can begin here on earth. Jesus came to earth to convey knowing who God really is empowers one to shun evil and do good. Jesus focused on the benefits of a current relationship to handle earthly struggles than what happens to unbelievers after death.
What do we lose choosing hope than despair! Freedom was necessary for authenticity, the highest good in relationships. Without freedom, thus the possibility of suffering, we could accuse God of not creating the “best” world. Can God eventually transform all unrepentant sinners without violating one’s freedom? Is it possible purgatory exists until God’s cleansing has it full impact, as one could suggest there can be no joy in heaven if just one person perishes? No suffering here on earth is in vain as eventually there will be reconciliation. I am a hopeful Universalist, but God wants us to know that Heaven can start now despite the world we live in. A relationship with God, once we get to know Him, can be our necessary nourishment in our battle against self-centeredness and the challenges of a not so friendly world.