The Lie of Hell – Death is not the final chance: 31 July

‘I’ve heard about you. I’ve been thinking of buying your book on hell,’ said a Yorkshire Vicar over lunch at a Church Leaders Day last month. He said he had thought through the topic much. We talked about some of the Scriptures to do with ‘hell.’ A friend, sitting with me, suggested strongly that he buy the book. He didn’t leap at the idea, but asked more questions. We looked at Revelation 14:9-11 which I explained as I do in ‘The Lie of Hell.’ ( Something seemed to click. ‘I think I had better buy the book,’ he said.

6 days later David Munby wrote to me. ‘I have almost finished your book and have found it brilliant and convincing. I think every pastor should read it.’

Later that week David preached to his Thursday evening congregation:
‘I have always struggled with the idea of hell – as I’m sure many of you will have. It’s hard enough to accept for believers and virtually impossible for non-believers. So we tend not to talk about it, cos we are embarrassed about it. And some of you will be aware that I have felt for a while that the traditional interpretation of hell was unbiblical and didn’t make sense, but I have struggled to find a satisfactory understanding of all the relevant NT passages which does make sense. Well, last Tuesday I went to a day conference on worship and prayer where I met a vicar called Roger Harper, who is also a writer, and his latest book is called ‘The Lie of Hell.’ Which I really recommend if you have the chance to read it. And I found I agreed with most of his conclusions and have got really excited about the whole thing. Now you wouldn’t expect someone to get excited about hell, but you might understand someone getting excited about there being no hell…’

David went on to explain that Hades and Gehenna are distinct and all that follows. See for his 2 talks on ‘The Lie of Hell.’

One of the controversial arguments in the Lie of Hell, which David Munby picks up enthusiastically, is that Jesus having the keys of Hades means that he can take people out of Hades. Even after death people can repent and turn to Jesus. It’s harder then than now and, if we repent and turn now, we avoid much unpleasantness, to say the least. Death as we know it, is not the final chance. The second death, after the Final Judgement, is the final chance, but that is quite different. People can turn to Jesus after death ‘postmortem repentance.’

This week Jerry Walls explained why he also supports post-mortem repentance: Jerry is currently Scholar in Residence at Houston Baptist Church. He has written books: ‘Hell: The logic of Damnation,’ ‘Heaven: The Logic of Eternal Joy,’ and ‘Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation.’ Rachel Held Evans introduces him: ‘Jerry holds a traditional view of hell in the sense that he believes hell is a place of conscious, eternal misery. But he says he agrees with C.S. Lewis’ famous line that “the doors of hell are locked on the inside.” His view is a modification of the traditional view in the sense that he believes God always welcomes sincere repentance, even after death. Unfortunately, he says, some will never exercise that option.’

Rachel asked Jerry about Hebrews 9:27: “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,..” Doesn’t this mean, as it has often been explained, that death is our final chance? Jerry replies: ‘… notice: it does not say judgment is immediately after death, nor does it say, (if there is an immediate judgment) that it is final. Indeed, most traditional theology holds that the final judgment is yet to come. So there could well be a preliminary judgment immediately after death that would judge one’s life to that point, but that judgment could still allow for repentance…’

Amen. It’s a pity that Jerry does not recognise that this repentance after death is for those in Hades, rather than for those in Gehenna after Final Judgement. He plays down far too much what the Bible says about the final destruction of the unrepentant wicked.

But Jerry is brave and clear and to be applauded. If God is truly gracious He will do all that He can to win all people to Himself. If He doesn’t give them a good opportunity to turn in this life, that opportunity must come beyond this life. The only alternative is to say that, as some people don’t have a really good opportunity to turn to Jesus in this life, that’s all God wants. If God isn’t bothered to give people a really good opportunity to turn to Him, then He’s not Love, He’s not the Shepherd who leaves 99 to search for the 1, He’s not the God and Father of Jesus. If God is as we know Him to be, death is not the final chance. AMEN!

Roger Harper

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