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Will those killed during the Holocaust go to heaven? Why did God not intervene?
Thank you so much for your honest spiritual inquiry. You have given the terrible and sad example of suffering and I share your horror, but essentially there are two questions you raise and they apply to all kinds of evil situations: a). why does God allow suffering? and b). do those who have suffered go to heaven?
Why Does God Allow Suffering?
It has often been said that either: God is all-powerful and good, and so would prevent apparently purposeless suffering; or He cannot prevent evil because He is not all-powerful, or He chooses not to prevent evil because He is not all-good.
The fact is, however, that He is all-powerful and all-good, yet He allows evil.
You rightly regard as evil the suffering of the Jewish people in the Holocaust. However, when we think about it more carefully, the number of people who suffer does not make the situation worse regarding God's goodness than just one person suffering. If God is God, He can prevent a million from suffering as simply as one person. Why doesn't He, then?
The basic Christian answer is that God works to a different agenda from ourselves. Ours is (usually) to live sufficiently free from great pain or stress that we can be reasonably satisfied and contented. God's agenda is on the one hand for the whole world and on the other for our personal ETERNAL well-being. Each of these is relevant.
Regarding God's purpose for the whole world, we don't know everything but God does. Therefore, we see a disaster and try to explain it with our limited understanding, while God puts disaster in the context of everything. He may therefore allow something we find dreadful for a number of reasons: a). He is punishing an evil about which we do not know; b). He is preventing an even greater evil by allowing that one; c). through the suffering He is achieving an ultimate good purpose that requires such an evil to take place.
In the case of the persecution of the Jewish people - and of Christians, God has warned in Scripture that His chosen people face an additional source of evil in their lives: they are special targets of satan and of the world at large because of the complete antipathy between evil and good. We can see this when we read the opening chapters of the Book of Job. Jesus also warned his followers that the world hates them with a spiritual antagonism (John 15:18-21).
Regarding the individual, God often uses suffering in order to lead us from earthly to spiritual things. This can sometimes be a matter of setting us free from something that holds us back spiritually - for example, for us to lose our financial security because we have placed our confidence in that instead of spiritual riches. Jesus tells a parable about this in the story of the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18-23.
God may allow suffering in our lives to teach us patience and reliance on God, as He did with the apostle Paul in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 12:1-10). Whatever circumstances Christians face, evil is transformed from something in itself - 'just plain evil' - to something with a purpose at its end which is good. Paul puts it like this: We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). I encourage you to read the rest of the passage from verse 28 to the end of the chapter; Paul is certain that no evil can separate us from the love of God because He has tamed evil through Christ.
This is the last point to make. Christ defeated satan and sin on the cross: He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him (Colossians 2:15). God's immediate answer to evil in this world is not to remove it but to endure it with us in the death of Christ on the cross and in doing so to defeat its destructive power. Evil will continue until Christ returns, when he will recreate the universe to be without sin and evil at all.
Meanwhile, we may well find our prayers answered for deliverance from a particular evil, and we will be protected from things though we will not know it because God's hand upon us is hidden from our view. Yet we will also experience evil and suffering when God decides it is right for us or for His ultimate purposes.
Will All Those Who Suffer Go To Heaven?
The Bible makes it clear that the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ, who declared, "I am the way, the truth and the life; no-one comes to the father except through me." (John 14:6). To overcome through Christ we must come to Christ, by repenting from our sinful rebellion against God, and by placing all our faith and hope for salvation in his death on the cross to take the punishment for sin. We don't know the situation of each individual because only God knows the human heart. What we can say, with Scripture, is shall not the judge of all the earth do right? Genesis 18:25).
People who have suffered a tragedy may have done so 'innocently' in the sense that other people with as much evil in their lives to repent have not similarly suffered. However, to suggest that because of their 'innocent' suffering they deserve to be in heaven is to make two mistakes.
First, it confuses their moral status relative to worse people on earth with their moral status before God. The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23).
Second, it is also a basic mistake about salvation: the idea that there is something on earth that makes someone worthy of being saved. Even unjust suffering doesn't do that, because the only acceptable punishment for sin is that of Christ on the cross. Nothing else can 'pay' for sin and make us able to enter heaven.
In summary, everyone on earth suffers as a result of the fall; the wilful choice of human beings to turn away from God. However, God is not absent or unknowledgeable when it comes to suffering. God knows all things and is all powerful, yet allows suffering for a variety of reasons, which may only be revealed to us when we are in his presence. Suffering does not mean that we will get to heaven, as we only get to heaven by placing our trust in Jesus Christ to save us.
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*All Scripture references are taken From The New King James Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise
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