Theology Corner

Addressing commonly asked questions about Christianity from the perspective of a non-theologian

50. WHEN DOES GOD MAKE HIS DECISION ABOUT YOUR FINAL DESTINATION?

In the time interval between the death of your current body and your resurrection with a new body, you will exist in the intermediate state as a disembodied soul comprising intellect, will and heart, the latter being the sum total of all your emotions.  Protestantism embraces the idea of an intermediate state but rejects the idea of an intermediate place.  It is the general belief of the church that, for the duration of the intermediate state, the souls of both the righteous and the wicked reside in their places of final abode – Heaven and Hell (Luke 23:43; Acts 7:59; 2 Cor 5:8; Mat 25:46; 2 Thes 1:8-9).

What will you be doing during this time interval?  Scripture is substantially silent on this issue and communication, across the boundary between life and death, does not exist.  However, the souls of those who have accepted the great gift of salvation can look forward to a rich, fulfilling experience in the presence of God in Heaven; the souls of the unsaved can expect a meaningless, sad existence in Hell.

The transfer of your soul from your body to the intermediate state occurs at death.  But when does God make the decision about the specific destination of your soul?  When does He decide whether your soul is destined for Heaven or Hell?  One possible scenario is that He makes His decision one unit of Planck Time, 5.39(10-44) sec, before death.  This would ensure that no one could accept the great gift of salvation in the last few moments of life only to have his/her soul mistakenly sent to Hell.  However, God reminds us that: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.”  Consequently, the precise timing of His decision may be different for each person and His paradigm or algorithm may be beyond our comprehension.

Here is a poem by Joseph Addison Alexander that provides a perspective that may be close to the mark.

 

There is a time, we know not when,

A place we know not where;

Which marks the destiny of men

To glory or despair.

 

There is a line, by us unseen,

Which crosses every path;

Which marks the boundary between

God’s mercy and His wrath.

 

To pass that limit is to die,

To die as if by stealth;

It does not dim the beaming eye,

Nor pale the glow of health.

 

The conscience may be still at ease,

The spirit light and gay;

And that which pleases still may please,

And care be thrust away.

 

But on that forehead God hath set

Indelibly a mark;

Unseen by man, for man as yet,

Is blind and in the dark.

 

He feels perchance that all is well,

And every fear is calmed;

He lives, he dies, he walks in hell,

Not only doomed but damned!

 

O, where is that mysterious line

That may by men be crossed,

Beyond which God himself hath sworn,

That he who goes is lost?

 

An answer from the skies repeats,

“Ye who from God depart.”

TODAY O hear His voice,

TODAY repent and harden not your heart.

 

One thing I know for sure.  If God sets an indelible mark on your forehead when your body is a heartbeat away from death, He will not rejoice as your soul descends into hell.  He will not claim to be glorified by your condemnation.  He will be grieving.  Tears will appear on His cheeks.