Attitude toward father

My father was verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive to me. I was the scapegoat and my brother the golden child. Yet, my father faithfully attended Lutheran church, tithed, and volunteered at church to assist the sick/elderly etc. I finally cut off contact 25 years ago to stop the abuse. I basically had no feelings one way or the other toward him, mainly just disappointment. If something had happened to my brother, I would have always done right by my father and helped him with medical care, etc. if necessary because that is the type of person I am. Now he has died and I found out that, in a trust and will he made years before my cutting off contact, he has left everything to my brother, even any and all personal household items. It seems as if his lifetime of abuse and rejection of me is complete. Given this, I wonder if such a person is now in heaven? I know no one is perfect and that one can repent at the last minute etc., but I am truly tormented by this situation.

There is no question your experiences have been very challenging. It was saddening to read about them. Thanks be to God that he remains your refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1) even in the most difficult situations in life.

God alone, of course, knows the answer to your question. You understand correctly that God, through his word, can change hearts—even as this life is coming to a close. When there is saving faith, even the weakest of faith, in the heart at death, there is the enjoyment of the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. If unbelief fills the heart at death, there is an eternity of separation from God in hell.

Your self-acknowledged attitudes toward your father have gone from disappointment to being tormented. Anger would not be an unusual attitude for a person in your situation; appealing to God’s justice would not be a rare request. In responding to your question (“I wonder if such a person is now in heaven?”), I also have to bring in the subjects of God’s love and repentant sinners. Again, only God knows what judgment your father faced at his death. While I do not in any way want to be insensitive to the pain you have endured, I do have to ask this: Wouldn’t it be a reason to praise God if your father died in repentance and saving faith rather than dying in impenitence and unbelief, and spending eternity in hell? Because of his sins, your father certainly deserved punishment from a holy God, but it is a gracious God who “does not treat us as our sins deserve” (Psalm 103:10). And it is a gracious God who works repentance and saving faith in the heart to enjoy the forgiveness of sins Jesus won by his holy life and sacrificial death. I write this in response to your question about the possibility of your father being in heaven.

What I cannot do in a few paragraphs is help you resolve these matters. You would really benefit by speaking with your pastor or another trusted Christian counselor. A face-to-face setting like that would enable you to pour out your heart, ask more questions and then receive more complete guidance from God’s word. I encourage you to initiate that conversation. God bless you.