555 Difficult Bible Questions Answered

548. Is There Any Bible Warrant for Believing in Repentance after Death?

The well-known passage "That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth and things under the earth" (Phil. 2:10), has been construed by some to imply that there may be repentance after death. It rather implies a confession of Christ's supremacy and triumph. We can imagine a man dying impenitent, realizing afterwards how foolish as well as how wicked he has been. You remember that in the parable of Dives and Lazarus (Luke 16:27, 28), the rich man was so convinced of his folly that he begged for his brothers to be warned, lest they, too, should be lost. James, too (2:19), says that the devils believe and tremble. It is not so much a question of whether there is repentance after death, as whether repentance avails then. It is not for us to limit the mercy of God, but there is nothing in the Bible to encourage the hope of there being an opportunity of gaining salvation after death. Any man postponing repentance till then, runs an appalling risk against which he is emphatically warned. That there is no chance for repentance after death cannot be absolutely proved, but the trend of Bible teaching is in that direction. The passage (Ecc. 11:3), "If the tree fall toward the north," etc., is often quoted in proof, but the inference is not decisive. So also is Rev. 22:11, "He that is filthy, let him be filthy still," etc, which is more to the purpose, but not absolute proof. Another passage implying the hopelessness of the lost is Luke 16:26, "Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that they which would pass from hence to you, cannot," etc. The burden of proof, however, seems to be on those who contend that mere is opportunity of repentance after death. Where there are such momentous issues at stake, a man must have very positive assurance of there being the opportunity before he decides to run the risk, and he does not appear to us to have any ground at all.