Kris (my wife) and I were talking last week about second chances. It came up in our Life Group and the question was, “why won’t people, when faced with Christ, get another chance?” After all, that certainly seems like the most compassionate response, right? As we talked, we got to the discussion of a word that rarely comes up anymore – repentance.
I don’t believe there will be any salvation or forgiveness granted after judgment and death. Other than some of the textual arguments I made in an earlier post, I believe there will be no repentance. There is no indication that anyone will repent after being judged by God. Most of us have this image of people being carried off to hell with fearful screams of “I’m sorry Lord. I’m sorry. Please have mercy. Please forgive me.” But in fact, the opposite seems to be true.
First, let me define repentance. Repentance requires a clear admission of our offense against God, turning from our pride and self-righteousness and depending on His grace. 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 describes the fruit of repentance. It is much greater than “I’m sorry I screwed up and now help me do better. Please don’t punish me.”
Second, repentance is a work of the Spirit of God (2 Timothy 2:25). He convicts and repentance is a gift of God. Repentance is not a natural fruit of the human heart. The human heart, left to its own devices is locked in rebellion and self-deception.
Third, there seems to be times when God gives people over to non-repentance. Romans 1:18-24 and Hebrews 6:4-6 speak of those for whom the opportunity to repent is no longer available. It isn’t that they want to repent and God says no, it is that, in their rebellion, they won’t repent – it is impossible.
Fourth, people don’t seem to respond to God’s wrath with repentance. Hell is a punishment of God’s wrath. It is not discipline for children to learn from. It is not restorative. It is punitive. In Revelation 9:21-22 and 16:9-11, people cursed God when they experienced his wrath – they did not repent. In Luke 16, the rich man wanted to alleviate his suffering, I don’t see a heart that is repentant over sin.
I believe when people are led to their eternal destiny away from God, they will be sorry for what they will experience, but they won’t turn and repent. Instead, like an angry prisoner being carried off to prison, they will fume and foment about their forced submission to the judgments of Christ.
Somehow, we think sin is just a problem for people who don’t get it. And once they get it – they won’t reject it. Sin is an offense to a gracious God. And in his justice he will judge. And people who don’t know him will turn away from him, not toward him.
In an article I read this week, this has been made even more clear to me. Christopher Hitchens, self-proclaimed atheist and author said in an interview: the wish to believe is “the wish to be a slave. It is the desire that there be an unalterable, unchallengeable, tyrannical authority who can convict you of thought crime while you are asleep.” This is a man who wants to be freed from the rule of the One, True God. He gets it, in a distorted way – He doesn’t want it. And so it will be for all who are apart from God.
For those who may be wondering… there is no joy for me in the reality of hell. I am sad and sorrowful for all who walk away from the grace of God in Jesus Christ. With that sadness, there is urgency. I can’t wait for people to “get it” after they die. This is why we must call people to respond now! Now is the day of salvation. The opportunity is before us. We have the message of hope. But the door of opportunity will not forever be open.