In the last podcast, episode 178, I asked, “Can a sinner repent and be saved in the final moments leading up to their death?” Here’s a related follow-up question: Pastor John, can a sinner repent and be saved after death?
The answer is no. And there are several passages of Scripture that make me clear about that. I remember again my father preaching, and I can see the kind of squint in his eyes when he quoted Hebrews 9, which he did numerous times. He said, “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). He would say, “When you die, here is what you look forward to — judgment — not some kind of intervening space where you get another chance.”
The Great Chasm
But the most clear passage of Scripture is Luke 16 and the story of Lazarus and the rich man. People may remember that Lazarus was poor and sat at the door of the rich man. The rich man walked by him indifferently every day, manifesting that he had no love for him, no trust in God, and they both die. Lazarus, who evidently had been trusting in God, goes to Abraham’s bosom and is rewarded and relieved of all his lifetime of suffering with delights and pleasures in the presence of God.
“People who resist God and suppress the truth will pass into judgment for which there is no second chance.”
The rich man goes to a place of torment and anguish, where he is longing to have just a drop of water put on his tongue. And there is this imaginary conversation that Jesus creates between them, and he says, “Can’t you just send Lazarus down here?” And Jesus says, “No. I can’t, because there is a gap.” Luke 16:26: “Between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.”
So one of the reasons there is no salvation after death is that there is this chasm fixed. And I think the reason it is fixed is because the Holy Spirit is given, he is poured out on this world, to bring people to conviction of sin, and there is no Holy Spirit promised in hell. If we push Jesus away and refuse to yield to the work of the gospel in our hearts in this world, there will be no reason to think that our hearts will be softened in the conflicts or in the torments of hell.
One Possible Exception
I can think, Tony, of one possible exception to this. Let me bring it up because it comes up all the time — namely, infants who die. Here I just admit I am in the area of speculation. I don’t think the Bible says explicitly what I am about to say, and so people should take it carefully.
It seems to me that there are pointers in the Bible, like Romans 1:19–23 and John 9:41, that God’s desire for public justice to be done and manifested will lead him not to bring infants who die into everlasting judgment and condemnation. Which raises the question, “Well, how then will they come to faith in Jesus who alone is their Savior?” So I am leaving open the possibility that in some way that I do not know and don’t want to speculate too far about, God might be pleased to make that possible for them to come to faith after death.
“The implications of believing that there is no second chance beyond death are very, very serious.”
But the context for those who have mental frameworks whereby they can construe the evidences that are available to all human beings (as it says in Romans 1) — those people who resist God and suppress the truth that is available to all human beings who have the mental processes to grasp them — those people will pass into judgment, for which there is no second chance.
Hence the urgency of the call to people all over the world. Hence my commitment to world missions and my love for this conference that is coming in December about the cross and its mobilizing of young people to reach the nations of the world. The implications of believing that there is no second chance beyond death are very, very serious and big.