Has Hitler got a hope in Hell? Are there people that are just too bad to save? Does God ever give up on anyone? Does his grace run out at death? Is there a finite limit to the amount of grace and mercy available? How many chances do you get? These are the sort of things I think about and unfortunately some believers avoid thinking about!
According to Calvinists and Arminians (if you don’t know what they are then read click the link) then yes, God does indeed give up on the individual and that point is death. That’s the point of no-return; a bit like paying your taxes: if you don’t pay by that date then its a hefty fine for you!
What are the consequences of this thinking?
Therefore, for the Calvinist, grace is only available for the elect – damm the rest. For the Arminian grace is available to all but seems to be earned by repentance and like the Calvinist – ends at death.
Indeed, they both sternly intone: “after death the judgement”, forgetting that the throne of judgement (in the same Epistle) is called the throne of grace and mercy!
However, if God gives really does give up on the sinner, then maybe they should rewrite the words of Jesus contained in the parable of the Good Shepherd (Luke 15) to better fit their theology?
The Good Shepherd has 100 sheep but only one of those lost is elect so he leaves 99 un-elect to perish in the wilderness while he rescues the lost sheep – which is destined to be rescued anyway!
The Good shepherd has 100 sheep. All are lost and he would like to save all of them but he just doesn’t have enough under-shepherds to help him in the task and most of the sheep don’t seem to want to be saved anyway – so saving one out of a hundred is a pretty good result!
Of course, most Christians I know have a mixed up Calvo-Arminian theology: which asserts that people are elected by God (keeping the Calvinists happy) but only in the sense that God knows the choice they are going to make before they know it themselves – so he elects them……… sounds like a fudge to me!
The actual parable
Let’s have a close look at the real parable though:
Luke 15:14 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
Therefore, in the light of this parable: “Does God ever give up looking for the lost sinner?” Is it really true that the minute you die then that’s it? No more chances? Jesus is powerless to save you even though he has the keys of death and Hell?
I mean, wouldn’t it be a good thing therefore if children died before the age of responsibility? At least that would save them from hell! Indeed that was the twisted thinking of Andrea Yates who murdered her children to save them from hell!
Personally, I can’t believe that the Lord Jesus Christ ever gives up on anyone or is unable to save anyone – even someone as evil and twisted as Adolph Hitler! Do I believe that Hitler will just waltz into heaven. No of course not! As St Paul found out on the Damascus road an encounter with the risen christ can be a terrifying and painful experience!
My belief is that the words that we sing in the song taken from Lamentations 3: “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercy never comes to an end” – are in fact true!
In the next article we will look at what it actually means to be lost.
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