Question: "Will there be tears in heaven?"

Answer: The Bible never specifically mentions tears in heaven. Jesus speaks of the rejoicing that takes place in heaven when one sinner repents (Luke 15:7, 10). The Bible says that, even now, those who believe in Jesus Christ “are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8)—if our earthly lives are so characterized by joy, what must heaven be like? Surely, heaven will be a much more joyful place. By contrast, Jesus described hell as a place of weeping and “gnashing of teeth” (Luke 13:28). So, after a cursory look at Scripture, it seems that tears will be a part of hell’s domain, and heaven will be tear-free.

The promise of God has always been to take away the sorrow of His people and replace it with joy. “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). And “those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy” (Psalm 126:5). As in all else, Jesus is our model in this. Our Lord is “the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus’ weeping gave way to awaiting joy.

There is coming a time when God will remove all tears from His redeemed ones. “He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 25:8). The apostle John quotes Isaiah’s prophecy as he records his vision of heaven in Revelation 7:17. At the very end of time, God fulfills His promise: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 21:4). What’s interesting is the timing of this event: it happens after the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11–15) and after the creation of the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21:1).

Consider this: if God wipes away every tear after the new creation, that means that tears could still be possible up to that point. It is conceivable, though by no means sure, that there are tears in heaven leading up to the new creation. Tears in heaven would seem out of place, but here are a few times in which we could speculate that tears might fall, even in heaven:

1) At the Judgment Seat of Christ. Believers will face a time when “the quality of each person’s work” will be tested (1 Corinthians 3:13). He whose works are found to be “wood, hay, or straw . . . will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames” (verses 12 and 15). Suffering the loss of a reward will certainly be a sad time—could it be a time of tears in heaven, as we realize how much more we could have honored the Lord? Perhaps.

2) During the tribulation. After the fifth seal is broken, the persecution of believers during the tribulation intensifies. Many are slain by the beast or Antichrist. These martyrs are pictured in Revelation 6 as being under the altar in heaven, waiting for the Lord to enact vengeance: “They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’” (verse 10). These souls are in heaven, but they still remember the occasion of their death, and they seek justice. Could these individuals be shedding tears as they keep vigil? Perhaps.

3) At the eternal doom of loved ones. Assuming that people in heaven have some knowledge of what happens on earth, it might be possible that we will know when a loved one rejects Christ and passes into a godless eternity. This would be a distressing knowledge, naturally. During the Great White Throne Judgment, will those in heaven be able to see the proceedings, and, if so, will they shed tears over those who are damned? Perhaps.

Again, we have been speculating. There is no biblical mention of tears in heaven. Heaven will be a place of comfort, rest, fellowship, glory, praise, and joy. If there are tears, for the reasons listed above, they will all be wiped away in the eternal state. “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God” (Isaiah 40:1). And “he who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’” (Revelation 21:5).