How do I know if I will go to heaven? How can we know where our deceased friends and family go?
Thanks for the question.
The answer I give is not going to be full of scripture quotations, but give a general view of the question you pose. Of course the answers will resonate with all sorts of Scripture about God's faithfulness and His promises of salvation and eternal life in Jesus Christ.
We can have what is called a "moral certitude" about our salvation, if we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior, and are striving to keep the commandments and love God. We can also receive forgiveness when we are truly sorry and repent of our sins; and this helps in the moral certitude that we can have about our own salvation.
Ultimately, only God knows all things and the interior state of anybody's individual soul. So in terms of family and friends, we can hope for salvation based upon any external evidence that we can see; but always remember that it is only God Who really knows exactly. We certainly wish and hope for the salvation of others; but when it comes right down to it, the one we've gotta work on directly is ourselves individually. We would not want to distort the truth on serious issues by telling ourselves that since family or friends were doing what we know is wrong, that it is somehow alright for us in light of salvation.
So we can know a lot of things for ourselves, as we know ourselves to the depths better than anybody except God Himself.
We don't have this depth of insight with others; and they don't have it with us, either.
So it is a good idea to keep in mind the admonition of Jesus not to judge, which everybody, even atheists are fond of... It is a true statement:
We cannot judge the interior depths of an individual; though we certainly can have judgement for what is objectively right or wrong. This is an important distinction.
I wish you the best in Christ,
Fr. Timothy Johnson