Question from Lianne:
I have been wondering lately is it biblically wrong or correct to tell someone that has lost a loved one that they have went to heaven or to a better place? And if you can, can you please back your answer up with scripture? I have been saying this but I am wondering if we should be saying this. The reason I say that is because we really do not know where our loved ones are going after they pass on or do we? I mean we can believe that they are going to heaven, but we do not know for sure, do we?
Answer from Pastor Bob:
Lianne, when speaking to a person who has lost a loved one, you always want to be encouraging and comforting, but you do not want to say something that is beyond what scripture says.
The key to answering your question is: do you know that your friend's loved one has given a clear testimony of having trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord?
Scripture says in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that we are confident that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, and in 1 John 5:13 that if you believe in the Son of God (Jesus), then "you may know that you have eternal life." Paul himself speaks with confidence about going to heaven when he dies (Philippians 1:21-23), and he talks to Christians about going to be with the Lord, using the plural "we" in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. So if you know that your friend's loved one has trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, then yes, it is very appropriate to say that the person has gone to heaven.
But what if you are uncertain whether or not your friend's loved one was a believer? Maybe you have not heard, or their testimony was unclear. In that case, I would suggest that you focus on the hope that we have in Christ, without being specific about the individual who is deceased. In other words, you can say, "What a comfort it is to know that when we believe in Christ, we will see one another again in heaven."
Finally, if you are fairly certain that the deceased was not a believer, you may want to say something like, "I'll be praying for God to give you comfort during your time of loss," and if the grieving person is also an unbeliever, you can ask for an opportunity to share the hope that you have in Christ and how they can know that they can go to heaven.