Is God Powerless to Save after Death?

Robin WilliamsThe world was shocked and grieved over the sudden death of famous actor and comedian Robin Williams and from what we’ve heard, it would seem like he committed suicide. Really sad and tragic. I haven’t really checked his background that much but from the little that I know about him, he seemed like a nice and good person.

Now it’s interesting that some are saying that those who commit suicide just like what Robin Williams did have committed an unpardonable sin and that there’s no longer any hope of salvation for them. They’re lost and gone forever in hell. Really? Is this true?  It would be good to know the answer.

Is There Hope After Death?

What about Judas who betrayed Jesus and hanged himself after realizing his mistake? Is he lost and doomed forever in hell? Is there hope for him?

I also read a pastor’s Facebook status update saying that he is grieved over the loss of 300 lives on board the Malaysian Airlines passenger jet that was shot down by a rocket in Ukraine. He hopes that the innocent victims received Jesus before they died. Otherwise, the implication is that if they didn’t then they’re lost forever in hell. Really? Is this true?

Are those who died in this lifetime without having received Jesus Christ lost and gone forever—with finality? What about those who haven’t heard about Christ yet through no fault of their own? Are they doomed in hell forever? Is this really God’s kind of justice and mercy? Is this just and fair at all?

A Second Look at John 3:16

John 3:16 is a very familiar and famous verse memorized and quoted by many. Here Jesus said, “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.”

Let’s analyze what Jesus is saying in this verse.

First of all, Jesus shows how much God loves the whole world by giving his one and only Son as an atoning sacrifice not just for the sins of a selected few but for the sins of the whole world (1John 2:2). God demonstrated his love for all of mankind by giving Christ to die for all of us even while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8).

Secondly, let’s notice the word, perish as used in this passage. Jesus said that those who believe will not perish. I’m sure you will agree with me that the apostles Peter, James, John and Paul all believed in Jesus Christ and therefore we can be sure that they will not perish as Jesus had said so. But we all know that all of them died already more or less 2,000 years ago! Does this mean then that they had all perished already? Did Jesus tell a lie?

Did you get my point? Let me explain. We will all die right? No exceptions—and after that the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). But here’s the good news from Jesus himself! We may die in this lifetime but if we believe in Christ then we will not perish—that is, we will not die a spiritual death. Instead, we will have eternal life (better translated as “the life of the age to come”) as promised! This is really good news!

The Greek word for perish is apoletai and it refers to a spiritual death and not a physical one. We will all die physically for sure but we don’t have to die spiritually—that is, if we believe. That is the message of Jesus Christ.

Death Not a Hindrance

The Bible does not say that physical death in this lifetime is a hindrance for God to save anyone. That is an assumption held by many. God can save anyone in his own good time. It is not impossible for God to save those who haven’t heard his name yet since the time of Adam up to Christ’s second coming. I’m sure he is a just Judge who will not condemn those who haven’t heard about Christ yet through no fault of their own! I’m sure God will make a just provision for all to be saved. He is just and fair.

In his own good time, according to his own plan and purpose , God can save any person before or after death. God is not limited by death. He is Sovereign and he is the Judge.

Here’s a quote from the late Dr. Ray Anderson, a theologian at the Fuller Theological Seminary:

Ray Anderson“In my book The Gospel According to Judas, my first book on Judas, I thought there is a way to get at this. If Judas is chosen by Jesus after a whole night of prayer (which we assume he prayed to make sure he made the right decision), and yet Judas, one of the 12, ends up betraying him and then in his own remorse, said, I have killed an innocent man, I have done something wrong, and in remorse he went out and killed himself. Many people say, well, that’s it. Suicide is the unforgivable sin and therefore that’s the end. But you see, what the gospel tells us is that, this Jesus who chose Judas, was betrayed by Judas, he’s the final judge. He is the one who will determine the final verdict.”

Thankfully, Jesus who died for all of our sins is the same person who will be the Judge (whom I know is loving, merciful and just) at judgment day. He is just and fair and if a man has not accepted him during this lifetime because nobody told him about Christ, I don’t think it is a problem or hindrance for Jesus to save him.

Jesus is the Loving and Merciful Judge

At the end, Jesus is the just Judge and he is loving and merciful and he died for all. So I dare not “close the book” and say with finality that those who died not having received Christ are forever lost. Let Jesus be the Judge of that! Jesus is the Judge! And the end when these people meet Christ for the first time, do you think they will reject Christ? Or will they quickly accept him? Think about it.

Jesus’ good news is really good news much better than other gospels being preached today. Thanks be to God that at the end, Jesus is the Judge! And that changes everything! I know that he loves me so much and he so loves the whole world! And that’s really, really good news! A cause for rejoicing!

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