Reflection: This verse raises – but does not itself answer – a chilling question. When is the “cut off” point at which a person forever loses the chance to find God? The traditional answer is, of course, the moment of physical death: until that moment, salvation remains possible (consider the penitent thief hanging beside Jesus on Calvary [Luke 23:39-43]); but, after that moment, the state of one’s soul is, as it were, “fixed”, and judgment by Christ will be rendered accordingly. In other words, there are no “second chances”. Yet so-called
“universalists” – and there have been some mighty theologians among them, from Origen to Karl Barth – believe otherwise. In their conception of God’s infinite grace, and based on certain passages of Scripture (e.g., Lam. 3:31-33, Col. 1:17-20, 1 Tim. 2:3-4 and 4:10, 2 Pet. 3:9), everyone will, eventually, find God. For many people that will happen in the afterlife, after a scarifying process of “refinement”. Universalism is attractive, but to put it mildly, has always been a contested minority view. For it is very hard to reconcile with Scripture as a whole. For one thing, Jesus insisted that there is one sin – blasphemy of the Holy Spirit – which will not be forgiven ‘in this age or the age to come’ (Matt. 13:31-32). No one can quite know for sure, but the traditional view seems by far the safest basis on
which to live one’s life and to evangelise to others.
Questions: Do you hold out hope – for others, if not for yourself – that it may be possible to be reconciled to God after death? Is such hope soundly based?
Prayer: Father, I know that Jesus will judge justly. I know that you are a God of mercy. I know that you want all people to be saved. But if it is your will that a person must find you in this earthly life, help me to be convicted of that fact. In the meantime, I promise to evangelise with all urgency. Amen.