In his book, Erasing Hell, Francis Chan writes,
The one thing all Christian Universalists agree upon is that after death there will be another chance (or an endless string of chances) to choose Jesus. The Universalist view depends upon it. So we need to wrestle with all the postmortem second-chance passages to see if they actually teach this view. The problem is, there aren’t any passages that say this. No passage in the Bible says that there will be a second chance after death to turn to Jesus.
The implications of Chan’s statement are so far reaching that I literally could write an entire book in response. First, is it true that all Christian Universalists agree upon this one idea? Second, does the Universalist view stand or fall on this single concept? Third, does anyone, including believers, ever “choose” Jesus? Fourth, is it true that there are no scriptures supporting postmortem salvation? And probably the most important question of all – is there such thing as a “first” chance for salvation?
For the sake of brevity, I’ll skip past the first and second questions with only a brief comment, that is, no, not all Christian Universalists agree upon this one idea, and, no, the Christian Universalist view does not stand or fall on this single concept. Here’s the one idea that all Christian Universalists agree upon, the one concept upon which not only Christian Universalism, but salvation itself, stands or falls – that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world.
In this blog, I will address the third question: Does anyone, including believers, ever “choose” Jesus? Let’s suppose the answer to this question is yes, as Chan implies, that some people “choose” Jesus in this life, while other’s don’t. If this is true, then we must consider something else. Why do some people believe while others don’t? What quality do believers possess that unbelievers do not? Were the believers smarter, more willing, or more humble? What caused them to believe? These are very important questions, because they make the difference between one’s claim of instigating their own faith or God’s claim as the author and finisher of faith. Some people may wonder why this difference is important. Why does it matter how salvation happens as long as it happens? If you would like to consider these ideas further, then read the following blogs: Does God Command Us to Do the Impossible?, A Great Chess Player, Volunteer for Slavery, Picking the Petals Off of Tulips, and Amazed Exceedingly.
I disagree wholeheartedly with Chan’s assertion that anyone chooses Jesus. Paul says in Romans 3,
There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away…
and in Ephesians 1,
He did choose us… having foreordained us… according to the good pleasure of His will… having made known to us… according to His good pleasure, that He purposed in Himself… being foreordained according to the purpose of Him who the all things is working according to the counsel of His will…
How anyone can read these scriptures and think that he or she turned toward God, searched for salvation, chose Jesus, or had the will to believe, is beyond me. Furthermore, Jesus said,
Ye did not choose out me, but I chose out you…
…no one is able to come unto me, if the Father who sent me may not draw him…
…there are certain of you who do not believe… Because of this I have said to you – No one is able to come unto me, if it may not have been given him from my Father.
Chan says that a person chooses Jesus, but Jesus claims this decision, this work, for Himself. A common altar call at church is announced with the plea, “Come to Jesus”. Yet Jesus says that unless the Father draws someone, he or she is not ABLE to come. They literally CAN’T come to Jesus. Chan (and the majority of church-going believers) paints this vivid picture for his readers, to summarize this section about no second chances:
How scary this is for those who will find themselves on the other side of the door wanting to come in, banging and begging, wishing they had made some different choices while they had the opportunity.
Chan assumes here that anyone who does not believe in this earthly lifetime has “had the opportunity”. Jesus said something about those who did not believe, about the reason they did not believe. It had nothing at all to do with “choosing”. It had everything to do with opportunity. He said that it was not “given [to them] from the Father”. Do you see the difference? What if the Father, as part of His Plan of the Ages, according to His sovereign will, has decided to reconcile them to Himself, “each in his own order” (1 Cor 15:23)? What if the reason believing is not “given” to unbelievers “from the Father” is that the Father brings in the harvest in stages?
Chan’s imaginary after-life scene presupposes that those who are inside are there because THEY chose Jesus. But Who is in charge of the “choosing” in salvation according to Jesus?
The next couple of blogs will address these questions: Is it true that there are no scriptures supporting postmortem salvation? And is there such thing as a “first” chance for salvation?
Next blog in this series: One of Chan’s Missing Scriptures