In college, I had an English Literature professor who posited a hypothetical question to get us thinking. “What would God do if the devil in hell repented?” he asked. That question would then extend a bit further out—surely we cannot doubt God’s ability or desire to forgive repenting souls after life. I heard something similar a few years later in the writings of Rob Bell:
And so space is created in this “who would doubt God’s ability to do that?” perspective for all kinds of people—fifteen-year-old atheists, people from other religions, and people who rejected Jesus because the only Jesus they ever saw was an oppressive figure who did anything but show God’s love. (Bell, Love Wins)
The problem, though, with Bell’s hypothesis and my English professors question is that it misunderstands the reason for folks being in hell in the first place. It creates an imaginary scenario where somebody would have gladly repented on earth if given the proper circumstances. What it inevitably ends up doing is putting the blame at the feet of God.
Proverbs 1:20-33 paints a different scenario. Lady Wisdom doesn’t call in secret. Nor is she only found in the places of the elite. No, she calls everywhere. Her voice echoes forth just as creation does, proclaiming God’s eternal power and divine nature. She’s in the city. Even the cities who have never heard the name of Christ. And what the Scriptures declare is that humanity foolishly “hates knowledge” and “does not choose the fear of the LORD”.
It tugs on your heart strings to picture the person who “rejected Jesus because the only Jesus they ever saw was an oppressive figure”. But this person simply does not exist, according to the Scriptures. Romans 1 says that everyone has “clearly perceived” and are thus “without excuse”. Lady Wisdom has called and they’ve turned aside.
In his commentary on Proverbs, Bruce Waltke gives four reasons why this texts shows why denying a future judgment would undercut the call of Lady Wisdom. These are Waltke’s four reasons:
- Human choices before judgment would amount to no more than preliminary decisions before a real choice is made beyond death.
- This life would be preempted of its true dignity if choices made now had no eternal consequence.
- Fools would be confirmed in treating this life with careless complacency.
- The disciples of wisdom would be made to look foolish if sensual pleasure could be had without responsibility and accountability.
Waltke’s third reason is the most compelling to me. The fool is complacent. And he is complacent because he doesn’t believe his life now will matter for eternity. He doesn’t heed the call of Lady Wisdom for this very reason. If there is a second chance after this life then the fool is correct.
Rather than trying to mute Lady Wisdom wouldn’t it be better for us to give her a megaphone?
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