What would you think of this news? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Peter Kreeft is one of my favorite writers and speakers and I plan to write a review of a book of his tomorrow, but last night I was listening to a talk of his on the nature of Heaven. Somewhere in there, he was talking about deathbed conversions and said that yes, you could live the worst life possible and still convert and be in the loving presence of God. He said that what if Hitler as the allies were closing in and before he shot himself somehow repented and came to Christ? Would he be in Heaven? His answer was yes.
Honestly, I recoiled a bit when I heard that. Then I took a moment to think about that. Why should I? We all don’t doubt that Hitler was a very evil man. Generally, the rule is that the first one to point to Hitler is the one who will lose the debate. It’s understandable. You want to talk about evil? You look to Hitler.
I could especially imagine some Jewish people recoiling at this thought. “Why, that’s the man who killed my grandparents! He tried to wipe out my people! Why would I want to have anything to do with a God who would forgive him?”
On the surface, this is understandable. Most all of us have people in this world we can’t stand. We have people who hurt us tremendously. Reality is that in many cases, it is okay to be angry with them. I’m learning this now. I don’t want to hate my ex-wife at all, but I also realize I have to allow some anger. After all, if I just try to bottle it all up, that could much easier lead to hatred. I can be angry and upset that I was unjustly hurt and I feel it every day. I still pray for her and want the best, but I can accept that something awful happened.
Chrysostom, a church father, once said that if you are angry out of proportion or wrongfully with someone, that is a sin. Most of us could agree with that. Even a skeptic might not use the word sin, but he could say “Yes. You shouldn’t be angry like that.” However, Chrysostom also went the other way. If you should be angry with someone and you are not, that is also a sin. I am not at all saying he is infallible, but it is certainly a statement to think about. Some events in life should lead to anger in you.
So now let’s get back to Hitler. What if you were presented with news that was absolutely certain that he had repented like that and he would be part of the blessed for all eternity despite what he did? Your response doesn’t reveal a lot about God. It doesn’t reveal a lot about Hitler. I contend they reveal absolutely nothing about those two. They reveal a lot about you.
After all, what grounds do you have for getting into eternity that Hitler wouldn’t have? Could you say you did more good works? Sure, but that’s not the basis for God forgiving you. Could you say you were more faithful? Yes, but again, that is not why you are forgiven. God doesn’t owe you forgiveness. Could you say you didn’t do the evil Hitler did? Yes, but God is not letting you in for what you didn’t do and He will talk more about what you did do. (Sins of omission excluded here are an exception here.)
So what is your reason for God forgiving you? Because you asked. You repented. You did not deserve that grace? You did not earn it? God does not owe you forgiveness. Apart from the grace of God, you would wind up in Hell and you would deserve it, as would I.
And God would not be unjust in a bit of it.
There will never be a point in all of eternity where you deserve to be there. Every moment you are there is still a gift of grace. You will depend on God for everything all your life, including grace. Every moment there is a moment of His love and mercy. Every moment He gives you here to repent also is such a moment.
Years ago I wrote a blog about if your murderer will be in Heaven. The reality is God can take the people who should have been the most hostile to each other on Earth and by His grace transform them into great lovers of one another. Perhaps if we sought repentance more and more now, we could see the same thing happen here on Earth.
So did Hitler repent? If I had to take Vegas odds, I’d bet against it, but if he did, we should rejoice. We should celebrate it, because were it not for the grace of God we would be like him. By forsaking God, we all have the capacity to live like Hitler, but by repentance, we all have the capacity to live like Jesus.
Choose this day who you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)