2

So, this might be because of a misunderstanding of the theology, but from what I've been told, most Christians believe in some form of eternal salvation. And in this eternally saved state, the soul of a person will be free from all worry, regret, sadness, etc.

Let's take two people, Alice and Bob. Alice loves Bob, and worries that Bob is not saved. Bob dies without salvation. This makes Alice sad. Alice dies and goes on to her eternal reward. Does she still care about the fact that Bob never reached salvation? Will she carry that sadness for eternity, or does she cease to care about Bob? If she doesn't carry that sadness for eternity, but she still cares about Bob's eternal soul, in what sense does she care if the fact that he never achieved salvation causes her no worry or pain? If she knows that during the vast majority of her eternal existence, she won't care about Bob's eternal soul, why does she bother to care about it during her life?

16
  • 1
    I don't have sources for this right now (Lewis, maybe?), but a description I've heard is simply to recall the expression "time heals all wounds", and note that there's a lot of time in eternity... Why care now? Because you can effect change now.
    – Matthew
    Aug 2, 2022 at 20:26
  • @Matthew so misery does exist in Heaven? Why does it matter if you effect change or not? Why is it better to be unhappy about failing to effect an external change than it is to be content that you will eventually be perfectly happy with whatever outcome occurs on earth?
    – philosodad
    Aug 2, 2022 at 20:38
  • 2
    Answer might be affected by whether someone holds to universal salvation. Aug 2, 2022 at 21:35
  • 1
    My guess is that being in the presence of God in Heaven is incompatible with emotions like sadness. The flood of divine goodness washes away these sorts of emotions. So the answer is 'no'. If Alice knows this, but is still sad in this life, it shows that ... she's not in Heaven yet! 'Caring' doesn't mean having worry or pain. Aug 2, 2022 at 21:48
  • 1
    Genesis 6:6. God who lives in heaven felt regret
    – Kris
    Aug 3, 2022 at 2:50

3 Answers 3

4

No one will feel regret:

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 more pain: for the former things are passed away. — Revelation 21:4

Bob might have died without salvation, but it's very unlikely that he really understood what it meant or that he knowingly rejected it.

God desires that all receive salvation, but he is not currently attempting to convert the world (if he were, he's doing a very poor job of it).

The fact is that this age isn't the only time of salvation. In fact, very few people of this age will ever receive salvation (consider the billions of people that spent their lives without ever even hearing of Jesus).

It's in the second general resurrection, at the end of the Millennium, that the vast majority of mankind will receive their first real chance of salvation. Bob will almost certainly be among those resurrected to a second physical life here on Earth, and will almost certainly understand and accept salvation at that time.

See my answer to What is the Order of the Resurrection of the Dead?

7
  • How widespread is the belief that everyone who dies will have a second chance at salvation?
    – philosodad
    Aug 3, 2022 at 14:22
  • @philosodad, that's an excellent question, especially if you want anything like a "precise" answer. I would be very surprised, however, if it's a majority view. Same with universal salvation.
    – Matthew
    Aug 3, 2022 at 16:13
  • @philosodad, it isn't a second chance; it's a first. Most people today are not being called, even though there are many that think they are (consider how many denominations exist within Christianity alone, and then realize that at most one of them can be God's true religion). The "elect", chosen in this age to rule with Christ during the Millennium, are relatively few in number. ¶ Anyone that was actually called, accepted God's holy spirit, and then later renounced it (the unforgivable sin), will not be in the second resurrection. Aug 3, 2022 at 16:31
  • Yes, but how common is this belief in Christian communities? Would you agree that this is a minority viewpoint?
    – philosodad
    Aug 3, 2022 at 16:34
  • 1
    @nick012000, Paul was talking about the types of people within the Church, not about conflicting doctrines. ¶ Consider that Catholics believe in Purgatory, but Protestants don't; at least one of them is wrong. Some denominations believe in immortal souls, some don't. Many hold Sunday as a sacred day, while others respect the Sabbath day. Some see God as a Trinity, some as two, and some as one. ¶ Pick any two denominations (other than those that are separate only for legal or organizational reasons) and you'll find significant doctrinal differences. In each case, at most one can be right. Aug 5, 2022 at 12:00
3

most Christians believe in some form of eternal salvation.

Seeing as this is a fundamental tenant of Christianity, I think it would be safe to say "all". Note John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (Emphasis added.)

While there are some groups with, shall we say, more exotic beliefs, the majority of mainstream Christians would likely classify such beliefs as heretical, i.e. said groups are not Christian by the standards of mainstream Christianity.

(Side note: many people use "heaven" to refer to this afterlife. Strictly speaking, however, "heaven" is a physical location which exists now, in our current reality, and not one necessarily suited to human habitation. Indeed, "heaven" and "outer space" may be the same. Believers, in eternity, will inhabit the New Creation, which is a new Earth that has not been tainted by the Fall and the Curse. Keep this in mind any time you think you've found some contradiction regarding the nature and/or location of "heaven".)

And in this eternally saved state, the soul of a person will be free from all worry, regret, sadness, etc.

This is less clear. It's true that Revelation 21:4 says that "[God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes", and that "neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain"... but in order for God to wipe away tears, there need to be tears. Will no one ever stub their toe in the New Creation (TNC)?

Personally, I tend to agree with the view I've seen expressed elsewhere that TNC epitomizes the expression "time heals all wounds", and that Revelation 21:4 is more a statement of mean state than absolute state. That is, someone in TNC might still experience pain or sadness, but that these states will be unusual and (at least in comparison to eternity) highly transitory.

Conversely, there's something to be said for the argument that this is why pain and suffering exist in this life; because they give us valuable perspective that won't be available in TNC.

Alice loves Bob, and worries that Bob is not saved. Bob dies without salvation. This makes Alice sad. Alice dies and goes on to her eternal reward. Does she still care about the fact that Bob never reached salvation? Will she carry that sadness for eternity, or does she cease to care about Bob?

Initially, she might, but eternity is a long time to hold on to a regret.

If she doesn't carry that sadness for eternity, but she still cares about Bob's eternal soul, in what sense does she care if the fact that he never achieved salvation causes her no worry or pain? If she knows that during the vast majority of her eternal existence, she won't care about Bob's eternal soul, why does she bother to care about it during her life?

Christians are called to be loving and compassionate, both of which require at least caring about the fate of others. (Most would argue it requires some effort to affect said fate.) Our time on this Earth is the time in which we have the potential to influence others. Once Bob dies, his eternal fate is set¹, but while he is alive, it is loving to try to win him to Christ. Ultimately, it's the difference between trying to do something and failing, versus a willful decision to not try at all. Such a willful decision is contrary to the Loving nature of God which Christians are called to emulate, even sociopathic, and it's hard to imagine a genuine Christian holding such an attitude. Genuine faith is fruitful (James 2:14-26). This is not to say that works are salvific (Ephesians 2:8-9), but rather works are an indicator of salvation. Thus, Alice should care because God cares, and if Alice doesn't care, that would be serious cause to question whether Alice has faith.

(¹ Contrary to Ray's answer, as far as I know most Christians believe that this life is the only chance one gets to accept God, and that those who don't are condemned. Just what condemnation entails is subject to significant debate, though it's generally agreed that it means something other than eternal life with God. This is in contrast to universalism, which believes that all people will eventually be "restored" somehow. While attractive, I personally can't see how universalism can be reconciled with the many, many places that the Bible warns of 'alternatives to Salvation'.)

8
  • So…. Alice ultimately cares about Bob before death because caring leads to salvation, but after she achieves her goal his eternal suffering will gradually lose any meaning to her?
    – philosodad
    Aug 3, 2022 at 20:46
  • @philosodad, I would say that's a good summary of the best answer I can give. It's a challenging question for which I ascribe a somewhat low confidence in my answer, at least as far as what happens in TNC. What I do know with confidence is that caring now has the potential to change something, and is therefore meaningful. (Also, I wouldn't say "after Alice achieves her goal", as that's a rather selfish-sounding phrasing. Alice's goals ought to include Bob's salvation.)
    – Matthew
    Aug 3, 2022 at 21:16
  • It sounds selfish, I guess, but what I'm hearing is that the thing Alice is trying to achieve is a state of perfect contentment where the suffering or joy of other beings no longer has any meaning to her.
    – philosodad
    Aug 4, 2022 at 18:54
  • @philosodad, I would absolutely say that's not what Alice is trying (or, should be trying, anyway) to achieve. At the very least, I can't conceive of TNC as a place where the joy of others has no meaning. I don't think I'd even say that the suffering of others has no meaning; rather, it is a place where one is no longer exposed to suffering (whether of others or personally).
    – Matthew
    Aug 4, 2022 at 19:04
  • So... I'm confused by this. Alice will eventually stop being affected by Bob's suffering, which I would consider having that suffering lose its meaning. Or are you saying that for all eternity, Alice may experience sadness based on what's happening to Bob?
    – philosodad
    Aug 4, 2022 at 20:15
2

Reflecting on Ray Butterworth's answer, this verse has a second possible interpretation:

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 more pain: for the former things are passed away. — Revelation 21:4

Is the wiping away of tears instantaneous? Or does it take time?

If the wiping away of tears takes time, that includes a period during which regrets are processed and addressed, leading eventually to a blissful state.

God is a comforter, not a brainwasher.

10
  • Brainwashing also takes time. So anyway, your saying that there will be a transition period, but eventually, Alice will become reconciled to the fact that Bob is suffering for eternity? Or do you not believe in hell?
    – philosodad
    Aug 3, 2022 at 20:51
  • 1. Positive attachement to others. There is no marriage in heaven. The strength of our friendships with other saved and glorified people in heaven will exceed the closeness we had with all our friends and lovers on earth. 2. God's understanding of the lost. We will see the utter depravity and darkness in the souls of the lost with the same eyes as Jesus. They will repulse us. Our loyalty to Jesus will be so strong and their hatred of him so complete that we will equate their despising of his sacrifice as an eternal and personal betrayal of us. Aug 3, 2022 at 23:49
  • So Alice will become repulsed by Bob, and view him as someone who hates completely hates Jesus and despises his sacrifice. She will see this as an eternal betrayal, and will live her entire eternal existence seeing Bob in this way. Will this cause her any distress? Or will it only enhance her joy that this person is suffering? Or do you not believe that Bob WILL be suffering?
    – philosodad
    Aug 4, 2022 at 18:47
  • Alice will rejoice over all the people who can no longer be harmed by Bob, at God being glorified in expressing his justice. She will be surrounded by many eternally saved friends (some of whom she may have known in her mortal life) whose love and care for her will exceed all the affection she ever had before. This joy will swallow up her sorrow over losing Bob. Bob will suffer. Aug 4, 2022 at 22:06
  • C.S. Lewis has a marvelous scene in "The Great Divorce" about this. A saved woman meets her miserable, hell bound husband. He is angry at her that her beatific experience can no longer be shaken by his selfish attempt to make her feel bad at his condition, a lot that he deserved. Self pity is a weapon that the selfish wield against others to force them to care and act. The Lord will disarm them. That weapon will be made impotent. Aug 4, 2022 at 22:06

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .