As a follow up to my post from earlier this week about Osama bin Laden and Hell, I thought I would make sure it’s clear that there is, indeed, judgment ahead.
The more polished (thanks, again, Editorial!) online commentary “Welcome to Hell, bin Laden” published on the the Tomorrow’s World (and on the Living Church of God website, here) does include that element, though I didn’t bring it out in my blog post. Here’s what was said there:
Yes, in God’s time, all will stand before the judgment seat of Jesus Christ, having had a genuine opportunity to learn His truth and to repent of their evil ways (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Osama bin Laden will face God’s future judgment. “‘Vengeance is Mine; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Hebrews 10:30). Some evil people will perish forever in a lake of fire (Revelation 21:8). But God is not some cruel tyrant who will condemn spiritually blinded people to Hell simply because of a blindness He did not remove (2 Corinthians 4:4)!
Against that beautifully concise paragraph (Again, did I say thanks, Editorial? I appreciate you! 🙂 ), let me add some less-than-concise additional thoughts.
Those in the world who truly believe in an ever-burning, torturous, spiritual concentration camp that endures throughout eternity pervert God’s justice in monstrous ways. And as much as they try to remove God from the picture (“they are in that state only because they chose it for themselves,” etc.), I’ve never seen an argument that doesn’t fall flat. The doctrine of a fiery annihilation of the wicked (eternal punishment instead of eternal punishing) is too sound scripturally to be so easily assaulted and overcome, and — as a bonus! — it just plain makes sense.
Yet, just as some pervert God’s justice to justify their belief in that doctrine, others pervert God’s mercy in the other direction, essentially saying that there is no fiery judgment to come, at all.
Yes, those who are called now are being judged now in a way that the rest of the world is not (though it is not to say that the rest of the world is not being judged in any way at all, but it is different, à la Luke 12:47-48). Peter makes it clear: “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17). For those whose minds have been open and who have had the privilege of receiving the Holy Spirit that the Father and Christ might dwell with us — that Jesus Christ might live His life over in us (Gal. 2:20) — this is our opportunity. And, yes, that opportunity can be discarded in these days: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame” (Heb. 6:4-6).
Again, “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. 10:26-29).
The people of God are being judged now, not later. As the next verse in Hebrews stresses: “For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people’” (Heb. 10:30).
There very well may be those who, in this life, with willful purpose and clear knowledge of what they were doing will have “counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the spirit of grace.” Having done so, forgiveness will no longer be available to them, since, having a seared conscience (cf. 1 Tim 4:2), repentance is no longer an option for them (re: Hebrews 6:4-6). With no less an authority than Jesus Christ to back us up, we can say that this sin is not only not forgiven in this age, but it will also not be forgiven in the age to come next (Matt. 12:32). To say that it is impossible to commit such a sin in this age is to make Jesus’ warnings nothing but “silly talk.”
(At the same time, to say of every infraction and disagreement that one has committed the unpardonable sin is to trivialize His words in the other direction–to fall into the other ditch. Those who have used the threat of the Lake of Fire to keep people imprisoned within their cult of personality, instead of simply using the fact of it to encourage those people to seek their God more fully will have a difficult day coming, to say the least.)
But has Osama bin Laden committed this sin? Thankfully I am not the ultimate judge of such things, nor do I wish to be in this life with my horribly imperfect knowledge, but I can say that there is no evidence that bin Laden had any more knowledge of the true God than an iguana might have. In fact, an iguana might have more, given that at least the iguana follows the design of its Creator through instinct, whereas man seems to be able to lose even the little knowledge that seems to be given to Him naturally (e.g., Rom. 1:26, 2:14; 1 Cor. 11:14).
And if he has a date coming in the general resurrection, then I can scarcely imagine what it will be like to be him when his eyes begin to be open to the truth about the atrocities he has committed. What shape would a path to repentance take for such a person? Speculation, only, reigns here, but could it involve being aided by a teacher (cf. Isa. 30:20-21) in such a way that you get a real, visceral sense for the suffering you caused, one life at a time? Would it involve meeting the people — resurrected, as well, themselves — and completely comprehending what it was like when their bodies were torn apart at your command? And then to be face-to-face with the living proof — the eternally living proof, all around you — that all of your multiple thousands of acts of horror and destruction enacted upon man, woman, and child were done in the name of a meaningless ideology, and a religious deception crafted by Satan the devil that you had swallowed whole? I don’t know, but that might be one difficult path to walk.
It won’t be an impossible path to walk — with God, all things are possible (Matt. 19:26), and there will be a lot of “impossible” repentances in that day, I believe. I suspect that the grief caused by various acts of history will be nothing like the grief then felt by those who caused those acts. But I also believe that it will be a godly grief, a godly sorrow in the manner of 2 Cor. 7:10, and one that fertilizes the soil in which a heart seeking salvation can grow.
Though for some, it will not be. We have every reason to believe that there will be those who will choose annihilation over obedience. Perhaps, instead of repenting, Osama bin Laden will be one of those, though I hope not. Perhaps he will be too fundamentally proud to bear the thought of submitting to this “Jewish” God. Again, I don’t know. But if so, then he will be around when those who threw away their opportunity in this life are resurrected at the end to stand next to him and to be tossed into the Lake of Fire with him, and his fate will be the same as theirs. There will be no pride in those final moments, but a fearful understanding that God really is God, and that to Him every knee must bow, whether at the beginning of our glorious eternity or at the end of our willful life, before our ignominious destruction — our past life a literal nothing, not even a shadow, against the span of infinity.
Again, I don’t know. But I do have hope. And, like all of you, I will simply have to wait and see.