My daughter is learning about the Holocaust at school and wanted to know if the millions that died would be in heaven. I told her a would ask Phil. So I am.
There are two types of answer here. One is for you, which should include all sorts of background information which you won’t need to pass on to your daughter.
The second is an answer for her, which needs three features: true, simple, clear.
(I notice that while I try to make my answers comply with the first, they don’t always fulfill the second and third requirements!)
But if you don’t have this background information for yourself, you’ll not be sure of the simpler stuff which you do need to pass on.
You’ll find many of the general issues you will need for yourself in a question called “Who gets to heaven?” While this doesn’t specifically relate to the Jews, or the Holocaust, it still fits the generalities. (As I wrote this, it struck me that it would be easy to repost the “Who gets to Heaven” answer on this page, so I have put it below your daughter’s answer.)
Let’s look at what inspired her question – what fuels this sort of enquiry?
One idea that if people have had a hard time, they should get a break. This comes from a sense of Justice within us all. If we have suffered, then we deserve a treat.
Another factor is the Jewish connection – surely if they are the Chosen People, God has got a duty to them? Surely there is some reward for being born into the right nation?
Yet another is the question of innocence – especially of children. This is covered in the “Who goes to Heaven” post, but we will need to simplify the answer for your daughter.
The other – oft-repeated – appeal which needs to be made here is for us all to reset our folk-religion ideas of “Heaven” and to teach to our children what the Bible actually says – which will cut across what they pick up from society. Again I have covered this in the “Who gets to Heaven” post, but again we will need to simplify the issues.
The next post is how I would try to explain to your daughter…
So, what do we tell her? (Perhaps she could read this – I would be interested to know if it is easy for her to understand; I have tried to make it not too hard.)
Here’s the six things I would major on:
- The Bible doesn’t talk much about “going to Heaven”. It DOES talk about a “new earth and a new heaven”, a PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL world in which Jesus will be King. He will rule over all those who love him and want to do his will.
- Everybody who wants to be in that place – where Jesus rules completely – will be there. Everybody who does not want to live there will not be there. So, the only way to arrive in that place is to let Jesus be your Lord and rule your life. Jesus said he is the only way to the Father. There isn’t another path.
- The Jews don’t have any different way to get there than we do. If they lived before Jesus came, they could trust in the Messiah who was one day going to come as their Lord. (The Jewish Messiah – who would be Jesus – had been promised by God to the Jews since the beginning). If they did, then they will be there, like us. If they accept their Messiah now, they will be there, like us. If they don’t want to be there, then they won’t. Where the Jews have got an advantage over us is that they have a whole racial history of being promised the Messiah by God. They have a whole book, written by God, specially about their ancestors, and how the Messiah would come from them. So although Jews get to be with God in just the same way as us, they have got a lot more “evidence” than we have about the way to get there. But that should not cause us to envy them – “From him to whom much is given, much will be required.”
- Remember that God is COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY JUST. There is NO injustice in Him. That means he will not do any wrong to anybody. The only way people can stop him taking them to be with him after they die is if they absolutely refuse to be with him. But that is their decision.
- Remember that nobody knows what goes on in the minds and hearts of people in the last few seconds of their life. The Bible says that for God, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day. Who knows what goes on between him and them in those last moments of life? We can NEVER say “so-and-so isn’t going to heaven” because we didn’t think they were Christians.
- For little children, who die before they get old enough to choose about God, we do believe that they will ALL be with him when they die. He is a God of Justice.
So, I would hope that of all those millions who died, there are millions who we will see one
As promised above, this is some background information it is useful to have in place, even when we are tackling fairly easy questions. This comes from the Discussion board under the Title “Who gets to Heaven?”