Caution in Talking About Heaven and Hell with Little Children

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Before I discuss heaven and hell with my children, I want to make sure they have a good understanding of sin and Jesus redemption before we talk about eternal destiny.

I am very catious in my conversations about eternity with the unsaved, especially the very young. I refrain from sharing much about heaven and hell with my children before they comprehend the gospel. I do not want to distract my children from repentance by making them aware of the joys of heaven and the anguish of hell.

It is easy to bring about a false belief in Christ by instilling fear in the heart of people, especially little people. But we must be so careful not to make our children fearful of what happens after death, especially if they do not know Christ. Salvation does not occur if a person’s motivation is, fear of God’s wrath, instead anguish over sin. Our Savior did not bleed and die to save people from hell. No, what Christ died to save us from was far more serious than hell. Christ came to save people from SIN. “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” Matthew 1:21.
To me, the most important aspect of motherhood is that my children understand the gospel. I would eternally fail as a Christian mother if I encouraged my children in an illusion of salvation, because they once said a prayer with me. I must be aware of my children’s motivation for salvation. Only a person who realizes his or her heart is sinful and need of a Savior to rescue from SIN is one able to be saved.

As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” II Corinthians 7:9-10

As a result of my salvation from SIN, I am spared the eternal punishment of hell. That is ONLY because Someone Else took on my sin and received the punishment for my sin. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” II Corinthians 5:21.

Charles Spurgeon, in his profound sermon “Mistaken Notions About Repentance No. 2743” published online by Spurgeon Gems, a ministry of Eternal Life Ministries, stated:

“But a sense of God’s wrath against sin is not repentance! It generally goes with it, it frequently attends it—but repentance is a change of mind with regard to sin—with regard to everything and it is a consciousness that sin is sin—that you have committed it. It is a sorrow to you that you have committed it and a resolve, in God’s strength, that you will escape from it—a holy desire and longing to be rid of sin which has done you so much mischief. “

It is essential that my children do not confuse hell with sin, as they come to an understanding of the gospel. Sin is my rebellion against God, hell is simply the punishment for my rebellion. If I overemphasize hell or God’s wrath to my children, I put them in danger of false salvation. My daughter could pray, asking Jesus to forgive her sins, only because they are scared to go to hell when she dies. That would be a very damaging prayer. Clinging to that prayer, rather than God’s grace, would lead her down a life-long sinful path with assumed eternal safety.

Last week, four-year-old daughter, Amber, told me: “I don’t want to be a sinner anymore.” That led to an amazing discussion. Later that week, she told me she had asked Jesus to forgive her. She wasn’t scared of hell, she didn’t want to go to heaven when she died. She simply “didn’t want to be a sinner anymore.” and Jesus was the only way that could happen. I rejoice in her simple, growing faith.

Pat phrases like, “the only way you are going to heaven is to ask Jesus to forgive you” or “Do you know where you are going to spend eternity?” are dangerous. A person cannot truly be saved if they simply want to go to heaven. Wanting to go to heaven, is not being sorry for sin. Wanting to go to heaven, is not wanting to be free from the rule of sin. Wanting to go to heaven, and not wanting to go to hell is not repentance. Not repenting, leads to death. That is not the gospel. There is no salvation if a person is fearful of hell, but not repentant of sins.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23. Sin is our true enemy. Sin is what causes death and hell. Sin should be my focus in speaking of the gospel. My child must be grieved in her heart over her sin. Only in desperation for redemption from sin, can Christ become the ONLY source for freedom and forgiveness from sin. And to think, after granting us that freedom, He will also grant us eternity with Him as His very own child! How utterly incomprehensibly amazing!

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Romans 5:8-11

My concern is that fear would be the motivation for my child to want salvation. So that is why I veer away from discussing heaven or hell in depth with my children before they clearly understand that they are a sinner. I want them to truly see themselves as sinners and want Christ to free them from their sin and forgive them, with little regard to what happens after life.

So what do I tell them? We have been to funerals and talked about death and what happens after death. We have discussed what happens to those who don’t know Jesus when they die. I don’t go into depth. I simply let my children know that after death, a believer is with Jesus. Isn’t that heaven?

“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” II Corinthians 5:6-8

“I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” Philippians 1:23

I also let my children know the opposite is true for those who don’t know Christ. If a person who does not love Jesus dies, they will never be with Jesus. “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,” II Thessalonians 1:9

Salvation is a true marvel. I never tire of the beautiful gospel message. I love talking about the depths of the gospel, God’s grace, and His glory. I belong to Christ, redeemed by His blood for His glory—-forever.