AUDIO VERSION: YouTube Podbean
When a loved one is dying and you have reason to believe he is on his way to Hell, it’s only natural to feel distressed and anxious. After all, we cringe at the thought of our loved ones ending up in eternal torment, and the solution to this terrible problem is so simple. Yahweh, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are so incredibly gracious and all that They demand from us is reverential submission and agreement with some super obvious facts (see Understanding Salvation: How We Find the Real Gods & The Irrelevance of Titles). So what’s the problem?? Well, clearly there is a major problem from your loved one’s point of view because he is refusing to meet God’s terms.
In these moments, Satan is going to try very hard to get you stressed out about the wrong crisis. He wants you to believe that your loved one is at risk of ending up in Hell for lack of understanding the truth, therefore it’s on you to get that truth to them ASAP. Yet is this really the case? No, it’s not.
No one ends up in Hell because they were never exposed to truth. And no one understands the truth unless the magnificent Holy Spirit explains it to them. As much as we humans want to believe we are critical cogs in God’s salvation process, we are nothing more than messengers who God sometimes chooses to work through. Notice we said sometimes, not all the time. You can share the Gospel message with your friend a hundred times, but if you weren’t in alignment with the Holy Spirit’s agenda on any of those occasions, then you might as well have been talking to a plaster wall for all the good you didn’t do. You see, God never follows—He only leads. You might feel that it’s desperately important for God to speak to your family member right now, but God has His own assessment of the situation, and His assessment trumps yours.
Let’s remember that God is the One who determines when people die in the first place. It is God and God alone who has the power to separate body from soul, and He will do this to your loved one when He’s good and ready—not a moment before. So while Satan wants to keep you up all night stressing over the fact that time is running out, in reality your concerns are completely unfounded. Time is God’s invention and we all receive as much time as He wants us to have. No one ends up in Hell because they didn’t have enough time to repent. No one ends up in Hell because someone didn’t present the truth to them in just the right way. There’s only one reason that souls end up in Hell, and that is because they willfully defied the Holy Spirit and rejected the illumination that He so graciously gave them.
Don’t let Satan redefine the problem for you, because Satan lies. Satan wants to use the death of your unsaved loved one to drag you down into the muck of anxiety and guilt. Yes, there is a very real crisis happening in front of you, but it is one which you are powerless to resolve. The crisis is that a soul is refusing to submit to his Creators. It isn’t that he doesn’t know the truth—he does know it, because countless times along the way, the Holy Spirit has confronted him with it. This is something you can count on, because you know the Character of your good and glorious Gods. Our Creators delight in lavishing mercy on the heads of the undeserving, and we are all undeserving. But They do have certain requirements which They are unwilling to compromise on. Maybe your loved one has committed himself to some other religion. Maybe he’s just clinging to the popular theory that we can each create our own reality on the other side. But regardless of what he is saying with his lips, his soul knows the truth.
If you are going to find peace in this situation, you need to focus your trust on the good Character of your Gods. You also need to remember that your love and concern for this person is nothing compared to the volumes of love and concern that They have for him. No one cares more about a soul ending up in Heaven than the Ones who created him. But even God’s love has limits. The day comes when the Holy Spirit says, “Enough. I have given you more chances than you ever deserved. I have been gracious to you beyond measure, and now I am done.” When God cuts someone off for eternity, who are we to say He is acting unfairly? If you knew the lengths that God has already gone to in trying to reach your loved one, you would be horrified by their refusal to swallow their pride and submit to Him.
So then, your loved one is dying and so far you’re not seeing any signs of repentance. What should you do? You should do the same thing that you always do: wait for the Holy Spirit to instruct you. If God wants to use you to say something to this person, He is going to make it very clear to you. He will put the words on your tongue. He will make it happen. So if you’re racking your brains trying to come up with the perfect speech, stop it. This is a waste of time and demons are just toying with you. Let’s remember that the Holy Spirit’s convictions are clear, while demons love to be vague. When all you have is an urgent sense that you should be doing something, yet no clear leading about exactly what, then you are dealing with demonic harassment, not the leading of God. Refuse to follow demons in life, because they will only get you running in frantic circles until you collapse in exhaustion.
As a mere human being, you are totally unequipped to carry the burden of illuminating souls with truth. It isn’t your job to save anyone—it’s your job to do what God tells you to do, and God is a kind and gentle Master who is very easy to succeed with. God isn’t going to leave you tongue-tied during your last conversation with this person and then blame you for the fact that they ended up in Hell. God is not going to hold you responsible for someone else’s defiance—only for the way you responded to His direct convictions. When He wants you to do or say something, He will make it abundantly clear to you.
Pleasing God is an extremely simple affair. Getting stubborn souls to repent—this is quite difficult, and it is a task that is far beyond your abilities. Leave the God-sized projects to God. Yours is just to be available to your Master. Remember that God sees your heart, and if He sees that you are eager to serve Him, He is already quite pleased with you. But God also wants you to relax and demonstrate respect for His superior wisdom by trusting that He is handling this situation just right. He also wants your loyalty to be on His side, not on the side of someone who can’t be bothered with respecting Him.
Satan plays a nasty little game with Christians by trying to convince us that it is Christlike to sit around depressed and sobbing over souls who end up in Hell. Well, Satan is a liar. Jesus is all for Hell, and He does not shed a single tear over souls who end up there. On the contrary, He delights in their torment. When we wander away from God’s truth, we end up carrying around all sorts of burdens that do not belong to us. It is not your job to save other souls. It is only your job to do what your Master tells you to do in each moment. Often God doesn’t give us orders in advance because He knows we’ll just fret. So don’t worry if your mind is a total blank when you start dialing the phone or you pull a chair over to the bedside for that last conversation. If God wants you to say something to this person, He knows how to control your mouth.
Trusting in the goodness of God’s Character is the foundation upon which everything else is built. When you feel another wave of anxiety come over you, turn your mind back to the fact that God is in total control of this situation and trust that He is good. God knows this soul inside and out and He is gracious beyond measure. If there is any spark of submission in your loved one, God will chase it down. If there is only hardcore rebellion, then so be it. We must remember that each soul is on their own individual journey with God. We cannot control the choices anyone else makes: we can only hope for the best, and then release them into the hands of a God who has loved them far more than we ever could.
God must be your First Love in life. His priorities and concerns must trump all others in your mind. None of us start here, but this is the direction the Holy Spirit is going to move you in as you mature in your relationship with Him. It is not Christlike to show no regard for Christ being spurned. It is not honoring to God for us to pray that He pardon the willful rebellion of souls who refuse to submit to Him. God comes first, and God must be revered. He already requires so very little of us before He is willing to forgive all of our sins. If a soul dies refusing to honor our three glorious Lords, where should our loyalties lie? With Them of course. They come first. Certainly we wish all souls would repent and be saved, but Jesus has already told us that this is never going to happen. Rather than sit around mourning over what we can’t have, let us spend our energy asking the Holy Spirit to help us cultivate soul attitudes that are honoring to Him. If a soul cannot be bothered to submit to his Creators, it will be his bitter loss. Seeing other souls discarding God’s precious gift of grace should make us cherish that grace all the more in our own lives and want to do all that we can to please our glorious Kings.
Behind the Scenes with God: Human Variation, Lifespans, and the Mechanics of Salvation
How to Avoid Witnessing Burnout
When Loved Ones Are Dying: Improving Our Response to Bad News