I know some are questioning if those who die in a sudden tragedy get a free pass to Heaven. Or some Christians are obliged to say, “I hope they knew Jesus.” The implication is that if they didn’t, they go to Hell.
Are these the only two views we can have? Can we not conceive that God has a much bigger imagination than our own? He is not restricted to our narrow minds.
No one is to say that in the final moments, those who have heard about Jesus did not call on him with broken, contrite hearts (Psalm 51:17). We can’t judge that; only the Lord knows who are His (2 Tim. 2:19).
This isn’t to soften the Gospel, but to say: If anyone calls on his name, he will be saved (Romans 10:13). God does not desire anyone perish but to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
This should, in fact, strengthen our evangelism, not weaken it. How will they know if they do not hear? (Romans 10:14)
Then how much do we need to know before we are accountable? Does a sixth grader need to be a Reformed theologian blogger? Does the insurance salesman and single mother and sports journalist need to know propitiation and substitutionary atonement and progressive sanctification? Of course we should have rich in-depth doctrine, but not at the expense of burdening real people who have real struggles (Matthew 23:4, 13, 15).
We make this too hard sometimes. We should say the whole Gospel, but not so difficult that a child cannot understand it (Luke 18:16-17).
Assuming no one in a tragedy knows about Jesus and does not call on him; who is to say Jesus does not call on them himself? We can’t judge that either (Psalm 139:7-10). We don’t know that at the last moment when we need mercy most, that mercy could reach out to us. And still, it’s our decision: we can still choose to refuse and to give in to hopelessness. We are appointed only that one chance (Hebrews 9:27).
Again, this is not to diminish our Kingdom work. But this is to elevate the King. I know some hardline doctrine guys will hate this and call it dangerous, and in no way am I advocating a free pass, but to conclude: God is bigger than our pathetic attempts to get it right. Even those who think they got it right in the end will have not (Matthew 7:21-23).
In Matthew 20, hired men arrive early and arrive late. All receive the same pay. I believe God has grace for those even all the way to the last second. God is that gracious. We are not to judge otherwise. He calls those who don’t even get it (Luke 14:21-23).
We still work, and God is working too. He is beckoning all to Himself even as He often beckons through us. Let’s keep it up.