Why can’t the all-powerful God forgive someone of their sins after they die? Example: A Christian man that is seemingly on God’s good list makes a stupid decision and decides to drink a little too much at the fish fry. On his way home he crashes into a mini-van killing a mother, her two children and himself. This man led a very faithful life and made one stupid, yet grave mistake. If this man did not ask for forgiveness of his sins before the electrical activity in his brain ceased, then God will judge him and send him to hell to burn for eternity.
I had read other blogs about Pucket who had asked the above question, and 50 others, and I had read he was a former Christian, who had a solid grasp of the Gospel. Frankly, this question shows a tremendous amount of ignorance concerning salvation and the good news of the Gospel, so it surprised me.
The New Testament is packed with scripture that gives us a view of salvation that is simply based on our acceptance of the gift Christ offers. Christ saves all those who believe in Him, and it is not conditional on our asking forgiveness on every single sin we commit. Not only is that unnecessary, but impossible.
The above illustration by Pucket can be carried to the extreme with another simple example. Say a Christian man who has lead a nearly sinless life was walking across the street carrying a gift and flowers for his wife of 30 years. Walking across in the opposite direction is a lovely young girl, in a short skirt, and top that shows off her nearly perfect figure. For a moment, this Christian man lets his thoughts wander into sin after they passed each other. Then, suddenly, a car that had been speeding ran the red light and instantly killed this man.
To suggest God would condemn this man to eternal separation from Him due to this one moment, before he could ask forgiveness, is silly. The verses of scripture that address this are numerous, so instead of constructing an argument, I will let scripture speak for itself. I have listed just list a few below.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
John 5:24 “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”
John 6:37 “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”
Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Romans 1:16 “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”
2 Corinthians 5: 15-19 “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”
Titus 3:5-7 “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”
Acts 13:39 “Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.”
This question, and the scripture above, are a perfect lead in to asking, “Who then is going to heaven?” It is surprising how many think they are, due to their general, good behavior. The Pew Research center did a survey a few years ago asking how many Americans believed in a God or some kind of universal spirit, and over 90% responded positively. 1 Out of those respondents, 74% believe in heaven, but only 59% believe in hell.
That suggests quite a few people have the notion that we are going to heaven no matter what kind of life we led. In other words, some people believe that everyone will get a ‘get out of jail’ Monopoly card that will work in the afterlife, guaranteeing a seat in heaven.
Another figure that was worth mentioning was the percent of those who have a religion, felt that many religions can lead to eternal life. A shocking 70% feel that their way, (their own religion), is not the only way. Not surprising was the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism lead the way with 89% and 86% believing their religion is not the only way into heaven. 2 Not far down the list is the Evangelical believers, and 57% of them feel Jesus is not the only way to heaven.
With these kinds of figures, I would ask what is the point of Jesus? If we can just lead a relativity good life, where our generous actions and behaviors out weigh the selfish actions, and that would usher us into heaven, then why bother with the whole Jesus thing? Obviously, many Christians believe that. Where do they get that idea? Another Pew Research poll said, “Even among white evangelical Protestants, nearly three-quarters (72%) of those who say many religions can lead to eternal life name at least one non-Christian religion that can lead to salvation.” 3
Salvation is a gift. It is not something you can earn through good works or asking forgiveness each and every single time you sin. Salvation through Christ allows you to live a life free from condemnation, but with the realization that there was a price paid, because a just and righteous God demands it. This realization comes into play every day as we recognize it is impossible to live a perfect, sin free life. Ravi Zacharias said, “Jesus did not come into this world to make bad people good. He came into this world to make dead people live.” 4
When a person repents, accepts Christ as their Lord and Savior, their sins are forgiven, past, present, and future. This does not mean you go and sin all you want because of the get out of jail free card. God looks at the heart of a man, He knows their intent, their purpose. 1 Samuel 16:7. Gill’s Exposition puts it this way, “…though the heart is deceitful, it cannot deceive him, because he judges not according to outward appearance; he sees and knows the heart; and none but the Lord, or he who is Jehovah, can so search the heart as thus to know it.”
Mark Mittelberg told a story of a business man who was on an airplane sitting next to a pastor. Their conversation was polite and surface at first, but after a few minutes turned to more serious topics. The pastor was asking the man if he believed in heaven, and if so would he be allowed in. The business man felt he would because his good deeds surpassed his selfish deeds.
The pastor then gave the man an illustration on a napkin, by drawing a ladder that would reach up to heaven. Each rung on the ladder represented a spot for one person on earth. Up at the top is God, because He is perfect. Each person on earth would be placed on the ladder according to their good deeds. The higher up the ladder, the more good deeds a person did. The lower the part of the ladder were the Hitlers, child molesters, and mobsters.
The pastor brought up Mother Teresa, who has admitted she has sinned many times in her life, this, despite her being considered one of the most caring, giving, and ethical persons who ever lived. She would not consider herself even past ½ way up the ladder. The pastor then mentioned Billy Graham, who many in America consider to be an outstanding moral and ethical man, who has lead a long dedicated life serving the Lord. The pastor pointed out that Billy Graham would not consider himself above Mother Teresa, and has said he has sinned many times in his own life. The pastor then marked a spot for Billy Graham below Mother Teresa on the ladder, and both were below the ½ way mark.
He then asked the man where he would be on this ladder, who hesitantly wrote his name near the bottom below both Mother Teresa and Billy Graham. The pastor let that sink in for a minute as the business man contemplated his good deeds compared to those icons of honorable human behavior.
The pastor then asked the business man where he thinks the cut off point on the ladder would be for those who ‘get’ to go to heaven for their good deeds, and if he would be above it. The business man replied, “I guess I am screwed.” to which the pastor replied, “Well welcome to the club. We’re all in that kind of predicament. And here’s the real problem: do you think, if you got serious and tried to to do good for the rest of your life, you could ever hope to climb above Mother Teresa?” 5
The point is driven home in the above story. It is not about leading a good and moral life, but accepting the gift of salvation, and realizing it is a gift that everyone should be thankful for. The latter illustration works well because each and everyone of us can be placed on this ladder according to our deeds in this life. Everyday we walk by, talk to, work with, wake up next to someone who may be above us or below us on the ladder, but where we are placed on the ladder has nothing to do with being ushered into heaven.
Accepting the gift of salvation that Christ offers, and realizing we can never reach the top of this ladder because of our own works is key. Our nature tells us to hang on tight to whichever rung of the ladder we are clinging to. We try not to get our fingers stepped on by the person above us, and at the same time try to mash the fingers of the person attempting to climb past us. If we are not careful we might slip down further, below those we were above moments before. All the while Jesus is telling us to let go, lean back, and fall into His arms, and he will then lift us, not only above the spot where we were on the ladder, but then, up and past those who were above us because of their good deeds.
It is that moment you fully realize no one on the ladder will ever make it into heaven, because you can’t climb into heaven, but only fly there, in the arms of Jesus.
1. “Religious Beliefs and Practices.” Pew Forum. Pewforum.org, 1 June 2008. Web. 17 September 2014.
2. “Many Americans Say Other Faiths Can Led to Eternal Life”, Pew Forum. Pewforum.org, 18 December 2008. Web. 19 September 2014.
4. “A Loving God Wouldn’t Send People To Hell” The Mumbling Christian. Mumblingchristian.com, 20 February 2009. Web. 20 September 2014
5. Mittelberg, Mark. The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2010. Print
42 Questions Christian’s can’t answer by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://www.knowingforsure.com/.