Sorrow in heaven over unsaved children

Will there be Sorrow in Heaven over Unsaved Children? Part 2

In Will there be Sorrow in Heaven over Unsaved Children? Part 1, I began to address a reader’s question about sorrow in heaven over unsaved children and I listed three approaches to it that don’t work. In this post, we’ll look at the first of three consideration that shed light on the issue.

3 Considerations about Sorrow in Heaven that Do Work

The first consideration pertains just to parents of adult unsaved children, while the next two address knowing any unsaved loved one is in hell.

1) Blood Relationships with Saved & Unsaved Children will Change

That the question asked about a parents’ sadness over adult unsaved children is due, perhaps, to the fact that most people view parental love as the one that mourns loss most.  On earth, there are some complicating factors that make loss of children especially difficult. Some of these complicating factors will be replaced or disappear in the afterlife, and that may lessen sadness so that it becomes more like the loss of other loved ones.

a) The Instinctual Part of the Parent-Child Bond May Disappear

When I was 11, I excitedly told schoolmates on the bus that our family dog, a German shorthaired pointer named Gayleene, had puppies. Two children wanted to see the puppies, so I brought them home. I opened the front door to the smell of damp fur and milk. I beckoned them to follow. But as I rounded the corner from the short hallway into the living room, I heard a roar and froze. Gayleene half rose, the four speckled puppies attached to the front of her chest dropping loose with a sucking sound while others further back kept feeding. Her roar—a mix of a howl and deep growl—emanated from her dappled chest, pulsed through her tautly stretched neck, and reverberated out her whiskered mouth opened in an “O” just below quivering nostrils. Her chocolate ears pressed back and her brown eyes bulged wild and wide.

I put out my hand to stop the others. “This isn’t a good idea,” I whispered, and they nodded, turned, and left. I shut the door and peeked back around the corner. Gayleene had lain back down and was busy nuzzling her little ones back into place so they could feed. I gingerly approached and sat in a chair not far from her while I pondered the sudden change in her personality. She ignored me, apparently not considering me a danger.

That day I learned that female animals have a strong instinct to protect their young. Later, I learned that both male and female humans generally have such an instinct, too. The Bible calls this instinct God-given and observes that ostriches have less of it (Job 39:14-17) while she-bears are ferociously endowed (Proverb 17:12).

The Mama-bear Instinct may Go

Sorrow in heaven over unsaved children

Detail of Book of Life in “Last Judgement” by Michelangelo (Web Gallery of Art: Public Domain, Wikimedia)

Instincts are behaviors that are innate rather than learned. In fact, the Bible likens people who act on passions alone to animals who act on instinct rather than reason (2 Peter 2:12; Jude 1:10). Thus instincts seem to be part of our physical makeup—our “flesh and blood”—rather than our minds. Since “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50), I suspect that purely physical instincts that have no use in the next life will disappear with our earthly bodies.

This may include whatever is purely instinctual about the parent-child bond; for example, the mamma-bear instinct that causes parents to rush to defend their children. In humans, this protecting instinct ensures a family’s survival on earth, but such a drive is unneeded in the coming kingdom where there is no more death. If that instinct to protect our own disappears, then it would no longer drive emotions to greater heights.

b) Corruptions of Parental Love will Cease

Although the instinctual parts of the parent-child relationship may desist, love will not, for “Love never ends” (1 Corinthians 13:8).  On the other hand, certain corruptions of parental love that increase grief on earth will cease. Fire will reveal and burn these away (1 Corinthians 3:12-15):

  • The pursuit of immortality through offspring that causes the loss of an only child to also be the loss of preserving one’s memory
  • The pursuit of self-worth through being needed that results in loss of purpose when children leave or die
  • The idolizing of children that may result in abandoning God if family expectations aren’t met (Matthew 10:38)

c) A Sibling Relationship Replaces the Parent-Child Relationship

Jesus considered blood ties to have less significance than spiritual ties (Matthew 10:37; 12:49-50). This particularly makes sense when we consider that in the kingdom of heaven our family relationships actually change, especially the parent-child relationship, because God adopts those who are born again (Romans 8:23). When someone adopts a child, her parental ties to the birth parent end.

In the kingdom of heaven, everyone will be a child of God the Father, and the earthly parent-child relationship will become a heavenly sibling relationship.

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