Will My Deceased Loved One Suffer Forever in Hell?

Sometimes our loved ones live their lives in unbelief, and then they die. Did God regenerate their heart and grant them faith before their last breath? Did they confess (perhaps silently in mind or heart) Christ before their heartbeat for the last time? We don’t know. We do know that every unbeliever who dies in their sin and misery apart from Christ will be condemned and suffer forever in hell. However, we also know that God can save and rescue right up to the time of death. We know that right up until death, by the Holy Spirit’s work, the law can bring a clear perspective of sin, guilt, and death, and the gospel can bring true faith, salvation, and comfort. Let us hope in the sovereignty and goodness of God. Let us not despair over things we do not know for sure. Though the thought of an unbelieving loved one is rightfully sobering and sad, and though we can be sure that all unbelievers will suffer condemnation, we do not fully understand the mysterious power of God’s grace and Spirit in the last moments of life. Ursinus offers us this hopeful thought:

In relation to reprobation no one ought to determine any thing with certainty, either concerning himself, or another before the end of life, for the reason that he who is not yet converted, may be before he dies. Hence no one ought to decide concerning others that they are reprobate, but should hope for the best. [1]

As believers, we must not despair over anything, any thought. Our God is sovereign, righteous, loving, and good. We must trust Him to do what is right. Trust is different from despair. However our loved one lived, as sad as their life may have been, let us, as Ursinus encouraged, “hope for the best.”

[1] Zacharias Ursinus, The Commentary of Dr. Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism, Trans. Rev. G. W. Williard, A. M. Electronic version Ed. Eric D. Bristley, TH.M. (2004), 545.

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Jonathan Shirk

Welcome to the online home of Jonathan Shirk, family man, Reformed pastor, author, podcaster, and small town theologian. Whether you're from a small town or big city, may this website help you find deeper comfort and joy in the gospel.

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