Is It Possible God Sometimes Disciplines Wayward Believers by Taking Them to Heaven?

Question from a reader:

I’m approaching the ten-year anniversary when our son was brought to Heaven as a young adult. He professed faith as a young child, but as an adult, he lived for the world. Do you think that God gets to the point of taking His own sheep home after a continual lifestyle away from Him?

Answer from Stephanie Anderson, EPM staff:

I’m responding on Randy’s behalf. I’m so sorry to hear of your son’s tragic death. Anniversaries of deaths can be so very hard, and I pray you will sense the Lord’s presence and deep comfort in these coming days.

You asked, “Do you suppose that God gets to the point of taking His own sheep home after a continual lifestyle away from Him?” Scripture does give some indications that God’s discipline in His children’s lives can include drastic physical consequences (1 Corinthians 5:5, 1 Corinthians 11:30). John Piper addressed this in an Ask Pastor John. (Of course, not knowing your son personally, and even then, knowing that only the Lord truly knew the condition of his heart, I hesitate to strongly connect these verses to his situation. But we see in Scripture that this is potentially one way the Lord may act.)

As I wrote my response to you, Randy was working on an article related to God’s sovereignty and our suffering. I wanted to share these quotes with you which we’ve compiled:

Reflecting on the death of his son Johnny, Gregory Floyd writes, “The finite human mind cannot reach into the recesses of the infinitely transcendent mind of God. But the end of understanding does not mean the end of trust or love or obedience. …To see behind the loss and sorrow the hand of God is a severe grace” (A Grief Unveiled).

Nancy Guthrie writes: “One of the ways we come to a sense of peace following the death of a loved one is by reckoning with the reality of God’s providential guidance of all things and by coming to rest in the confidence that God is working out his plans for his creation and for his people in ways we cannot completely grasp from our limited purview” (What Grieving People Wish You Knew).

“As hard as it is to discern God’s loving and wise purposes behind many of our trials and difficulties, it would be even more hopeless to imagine that he has no control over them or that our sufferings are random and meaningless.” – Tim Keller

“…if we can settle in our hearts that the Lord is our Heavenly Father and will guide us only into that which will finally result in our joy and radiance, even if it means passing through pain, we find his sovereign rule freeing rather than threatening.” – Dane Ortlund (ESV Psalter)

Finally, in his book If God Is Good, Randy writes, “We are right to try to distance God from the commission of evil—Scripture does this—but we are wrong to distance Him from being sovereign over evil. Scripture suggests God does not permit evils arbitrarily, but with specific purposes in mind. Everything He permits matches up with His wisdom and ultimately serves both His holiness and His love.”

May God comfort you and your family.

A note to those who are still living and have walked away from Jesus, and might be reading this: we would echo the words of 2 Corinthians 13:5, which says, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” It’s tragic to think of someone believing they can live for themselves, show no fruit of knowing Jesus, and still be saved because of a sentence they repeated as a child. Imagine facing the Throne only to hear, “Depart from me I never knew you” (see Matthew 7:23). We urge you to be sure of your salvation, to live for Christ, and to pursue godliness, which is truly “great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).  

Photo: Unsplash

Stephanie Anderson is the communications and graphics specialist at Eternal Perspective Ministries.