How Can Heaven Be Perfect When There Is Such a Place as Hell?
Many people wonder how they can endure eternity knowing that some of their earthly loved ones will not be there. What about parents whose wayward son has departed from Christ and died in immorality and unbelief? How can heaven be perfect for them? What about someone whose earthly father died in sin, not knowing the Lord? How can that person endure the pain of eternal separation? What about the widow who comes to Christ after her beloved spouse has already died in a state of unbelief? How can heaven be pure bliss with no hope of reunion with these loved ones?
Scripture does not give a specific answer to that question. Some suggest that our memories of relationships on this earth will fade in the glory of heaven. And there is a hint in Scripture that this may be a factor: In the Isaiah 65 passage describing the New Heaven and New Earth, God says, “I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind” (v. 17, emphasis added). However, this cannot possibly mean we will forget everything about this earth and our life and relationships here. After all, we will continue many of those same relationships eternally. And we will spend eternity reciting the glory of how Christ has redeemed us. Since our redemption was accomplished by His work on earth, it is impossible that we will completely lose our memory of all earthly events and relationships.
But we will have a much clearer understanding of things from heaven’s perspective. Now we see all things as in a cloudy mirror. Then we will know exactly as we are known (1 Cor. 13:12). All our earthly attachments will be overwhelmed by more satisfying relationships and more perfect affections. Just as God promises to be a father to the fatherless here on earth (Ps. 68:5), so He will personally fill the void left by any broken earthly relationships—and in an even more perfect way, because our feelings and our desires will be untainted by the effects of our sin. We will see and understand better the perfect justice of God, and we shall glorify Him for every detail of the outworking of His eternal plan—including His dealings with the wicked. The final verses of Isaiah’s prophecy indicate that the destruction of the wicked will ultimately be something for which we will worship God (Isa. 66:22–24). The existence of hell will not dim the glory of heaven or taint its bliss in the least.
As for how this will operate in the minds of the redeemed, Scripture simply does not tell us. We’re only promised that God Himself will dry our tears and give us supreme, undiminished joy and “pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:11). For now, it is enough to know that we can trust implicitly His infinite goodness, compassion, and mercy.
One other thing is perfectly clear: God cannot be faulted for any lack of mercy or goodness, even though people perish eternally. He cannot be charged with any blame for their destruction. He freely offers the water of life to all who thirst (Rev 21:6). People turn from God to sin willfully (cf. Rom. 1:18–23). (Another excerpt taken from: John MacArthur, The Glory of Heaven : The Truth About Heaven, Angels, and Eternal Life (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1996), 97-98.)
May God bless the spread of the Gospel to our family and friends!