I ask for your forgiveness in advance, but I feel compelled to write an article which attempts to shed some light on the futility of man’s attempt at righteous judgment. We simply cannot do it. As much as we think we are capable, even after asking for God’s help, man’s judgments can never be completely fair. All we can do is pray and seek God’s help and with that do the best that we can. Ultimately it will be God’s judgment that counts however, and the Bible tells us that all will agree with God’s justice in the end (which I assume means even those being condemned).
One of the real problems we have with viewing things from our hopelessly limited perspective is that we have trouble understanding the scope of God’s mercy for the other guy. Deathbed conversions for serial killers (which gain them entry into heaven), for example, hardly seem like justice to us. But the scriptures tell us they are possible. We cannot know for sure who repented and turned to Jesus for forgiveness at the last moment and was saved. Therefore we may be surprised at who is in heaven we get there.
So what if you get to heaven and see that Hitler (or Stalin, or that guy in the news who molested and murdered a bunch of children, or even some horrible person that inflicted a terrible tragedy which directly affected you) repented and received Christ before dying and is there with you? How do you think you will feel about that? Let me answer for you: You will be thrilled. You will sing praises to our God and Savior and be overwhelmed at God’s perfect justice and amazing grace. Because it is only by the same token that you are there yourself.
Is this hard to conceive? Right now, absolutely. But the Bible tells us that the eye has not seen, nor the ear heard, nor the mind imagined, the things that God has in store for those who love him. The apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:3-4 that it would be a crime to try and describe in earthly terms the things which are in heaven. We are blind now, but in heaven we will see. The scope of our limitations in these mortal bodies to understand true righteousness cannot be over-emphasized.
Some people will be outraged at this kind of thinking. They will say to themselves, “if that guy is in heaven then I don’t want to be there” – which is utter foolishness. You can only be outraged if you think that you know what justice is. Isaiah 64:6 tells us that our ideas of justice are like filthy rags before the Lord. This is God’s Word so we need to accept it.
Do you really think that you want justice? Let me tell, you, that is the last thing that any of us want! What we want is to throw ourselves down before the throne of grace and receive mercy! All of us. Jesus instructed us to judge not lest ye be judged, for the same standard that you use to judge will be used to judge you. And none of us will pass that! We are not better than the guy that we think we are better than. Scripture makes this clear in many passages.
We have a difficult time letting go of the notion that “good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell.” That is not at all the criteria which divides the two groups. Forgiven people go to heaven. And God wants everybody to be forgiven. In 2 Peter 3:9 we are told that God does not want anybody to go to hell, that He wishes all would come to repentance and be saved. Notice what is required there: To come to repentance. Just like the thief on the cross, who repented and turned to Jesus before dying. Now there was a deathbed conversion if there ever was one, and Jesus assured him that he would be in paradise with Him that very day. We all love that story, because the thief didn’t steal anything from us personally – right?
Personal note: While I personally do not think Hitler is in heaven, being as it is pretty obvious that the spirit of the anti-christ possessed him, it is entirely probable that some notorious public figures throughout history have made deathbed conversions. Praise the Lord. This topic is worthy of our pondering.