This is a topic that is extremely important to me, for natural reasons. I count myself lucky that I grew up in a liberal United Methodist church that taught us, first and foremost, that God is unconditionally merciful towards all. Thanks to my religious upbringing, I know that God reacts with convicting compassion instead of condemnation towards us when we make mistakes.

When I started going to college, I started studying the topic of whether or not non-Christians go to Heaven. Unfortunately, I encountered several (Protestant/non-denominational) web sources that either implied or outright stated their beliefs that there was no chance of salvation for anybody who wasn’t explicitly saved before passing away.

Reading all of that nastily clashed with what I was taught in my church. Is this the truth? That anybody who has never had the chance to hear the name of Jesus doesn’t have a chance at getting into Heaven? Even if there was no logical way for them to learn of Him in their time?

See, this is an inherently illogical conclusion. If we attest to this belief, then that means that Native Americans and other indigenous populations who never heard of Jesus were automatically condemned to Hell for something outside of their control. I found an article by Life Hope & Truth that discusses how this notion clashes with the numerous Bible verses detailing God’s merciful nature towards all.

“…who wants all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth.”

1 Timothy 2:4

Not to mention, there is an important verse from the book of Ezekiel that completely disparages this awful notion.

“For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!”

Ezekiel 18:32

God is not a cold-hearted sadist who revels in condemning people to Hell. If we attest to any level/version of this interpretation of Him, then we are inherently denying the depths of His mercy. Not to mention, there’s hardly any compassion behind telling a grieving person that there’s a chance their loved one is in Hell, based off of our own beliefs. That’s a mistake that comes dangerously close to violating Jesus’s warning about judging others.

For this issue, I looked to various web resources for answers. I found what I was looking for in Catholic testimonies pertaining to messages from the Virgin Mary.

The Testimony of Medjugorje

A few years ago, I did a study on the famous Marian apparitions in Medjugorje, Croatia, out of a desire to get a deeper understanding on why anybody would end up in Hell. Like many others, I’ve had a difficult time trying to fathom how Hell can exist when God is merciful. After reading into the various testimonies of the four Croatian youth who saw glimpses of Hell during these apparitions, I understood that ultimately, people choose Hell for themselves.

According to the testimony of Marija, one of the four children, God doesn’t condemn anybody to Hell; rather, they willfully condemn themselves by matter of their choices. When we continuously choose to reject God by our choices, we distance ourselves from Him. After all, sin is incompatible with God, as are choices based on mercilessness.

All of this coincides with the sole unforgivable sin, “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” (mentioned in Luke 12:10), which can be translated as choosing to reject God forevermore. If we willfully choose to reject God and the gift of eternal life, we choose for ourselves to forever steep in what is essentially an everlasting grudge. We thusly choose to cling to our pride, malice, and many other things that are inherently incompatible with God’s nature. As the children of Medjugorje saw in their glimpses of Hell, the people there transform into demonic, twisted forms as a result of their knowing choice.

The Importance of Mercy

For a good analogy on God’s mercy, let’s take a look at a scene from my favorite movie of all time, Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Here we see the starkest difference between Quasimodo and Frollo: where Quasimodo showed him mercy despite everything Frollo had done, Frollo returned the favor by mercilessly attempting to kill both him and Esmerelda.

Refusing to show others mercy is something that is inherently incompatible with God, who is mercy incarnate. If we choose to deny mercy to others, then God has reason to do the same, the key message from Jesus’s parable of the unforgiving servant.

“For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

James 2:13

For another excellent analogy, consider this cutscene from my favorite video game of all time, Silent Hill 3. Here, we see the protagonist, Heather, silently listen to a weeping woman confess (to the in-game cult’s interpretation of God) her fear of being condemned, and her desire to repent.

When anybody comes to God with this raw desire to repent and be forgiven, He will always listen to them. I hope and pray that we all choose to trust in God’s abundant mercy, rather than our fear that we’re somehow unforgivable.

Grandpas’ Eternal Love

I’ve grieved the losses of two of my grandpas, both of whom were loving men. To the best of my knowledge, neither of them were religious. It’s because of the God-given experiences I had with them in my dreams that I was inspired to delve into this topic.

In August 2020, in an especially vivid dream, I met my Grandpa Brennan (my Dad’s dad), who sadly passed away before I was born. In this dream, Grandpa drove me around town in his car while he constantly emitted an aura of unconditional love, the same feeling I have when talking with God. Grandpa Brennan had a big, warm grin on his face as we excitedly talked with each other.

In the dream, I told Grandpa Brennan that Mom still adores his memory, and in return, he told me that he’s thrilled to see that she’s become an awesome 2nd mother. Grandpa Brennan showed acute knowledge of Mom marrying my Scottish Dad Jamie, and becoming a 2nd mother to his two children. By revealing his intimate knowledge of how our family has been doing, Grandpa Brennan gave a powerful indication that he was observing us from the afterlife. It was clear to me afterwards that he’s at peace, and had been touched by God. It was thrilling, getting to speak with him at last!

I had a similar experience with my Grandpa Bowman (my Mom’s dad) about a few years ago. He showed up in my dreams during a night where I didn’t feel safe in my apartment, due to a bizarre rattling of my doorknob that I knew wasn’t from any of our neighbors or a guest. I went to sleep that night, paranoid that I would end up seeing something evil in my dreams again. Instead, Grandpa appeared, and when I told him out of heartache that I missed him, I remember hearing him tell me, “I miss you too, buddy.”

When I woke up in the middle of the night after this dream ended, I felt more at peace than I had in ages. Whereas I usually wake up feeling groggy and uncertain, if not anxious, there was none of that this time. I knew that Grandpa had visited me, and that it was the sign I needed that he was at peace.

Mercy is Eternal

I believe and attest that Jesus, who is God, is part of the equation that guides people to Heaven. I’m not pretentious enough to think that I know all of the details of how that works, but this is the conclusion I’ve drawn from my research and personal spiritual experiences.

I know that both of my grandpas, my beloved friend Will, and so many others are peacefully waiting for me on the other side. There’s no need for me to be anxious for them. Jesus found a way, likely one that transcends our human ability to understand, to put them on the path to Heaven. For that, I am forever grateful.

Further Reading: