God changes his mind. He never changes, mind you (he’s the same yesterday, today, tomorrow and forever), but he does change his mind. There are numerous instances in the Bible when he was about to render his judgement and then, through a last minute appeal, stayed his hand.
In fact, I’d argue that God is all about changing his mind. He doesn’t want to have to return our evil with punishment: He loves us. What parent (unless deranged) enjoys punishing his or her child? God loves us and is trying to lead us to repentance so that we’ll turn back to him and follow his way and he won’t have to punish us. Plan A has always been that everyone makes it back to Heaven, but unfortunately Plan A was a bust a long time ago, so it’s on to Plan B, C, D, etc.
God would love nothing better than that we all come to repentance. He doesn’t play favourites in that regard. He fashioned each of us with the same love and care, imprinting us with a unique ‘bar code’ (our DNA, our thumbprint, our memory, and our soul). Those, collectively, are God’s signature testifying that we’re his original, and his signature can’t be forged. We can be physically cloned, but we can’t be spiritually cloned. There is and can only be one of you for all eternity, just like there can only be one of me.
The Bible talks about how each of us has a name that only God knows. If we make it to Heaven, we’ll find out that name. There will be only one of those names. If we don’t make it to Heaven, that name will disappear down the memory hole, just like the memory of us in the minds of those who make it to Heaven. I often thought about how sad I’d be if I made it to Heaven and someone I love on Earth didn’t make it. But there’s no sadness in Heaven because there’s no memory of that person. It’s as if they never existed. We can imagine people not existing because all of our blood relatives six or more generations back are to us as if they never existed. We might know their names or even how they looked, but we don’t know what they were like as people (there’s no emotional engagement with them), so the fact of their death means little or even nothing to us. They might as well not even have existed.
That’s how it will be in Heaven with people we knew who don’t make it. We won’t know they existed. Why would we want to know? I don’t want to be in Heaven with someone who rejects God’s way, even if I knew and loved them on Earth. That wouldn’t be Heaven for me. It’s bad enough down here on Earth with God and Jesus being slandered and blasphemed and mocked – that crap doesn’t belong in Heaven. If you don’t follow the Commandments and don’t treat other people as you want to be treated and don’t follow Jesus’ example of how to live your life – you don’t get to go to Heaven. It’s that simple.
But God doesn’t give up on any of us without a fight, no matter how bad we are. Terms keep getting renegotiated and deadlines keep getting pushed further and further down the line until the point of no return is reached and the project is terminated.
I was nearing that point – the point of no return. That’s a painful place to be. I called it “Hell’s front doorstep”, Hell’s antechamber. It’s pathetic on my part that it took that much extreme pain to make me cry out for help, but some of us are more stubborn than others. God is using my stubbornness for his purposes now, and I’ve given him full permission to do so.
God lets us feel pain not because he enjoys watching us suffer but because pain usually causes us to call out for help. He doesn’t impose the pain on us; he lets us feel the full measure of what we’ve earned. In letting us feel our self-created pain, unmitigated by his intervention, God hopes that we’ll cry out for help. He’s waiting 24/7 for people to cry out because that’s when they open the door to the possibility of repentance and conversion and are switched from the Hell-bound highway to the Heaven-bound straight and narrow.
People say: “Well, if God knows everything, then he knows already who’s made it to Heaven and who hasn’t. Wouldn’t that affect how he treats us on Earth?” Certainly, God knows who’s made it to Heaven and who’s ended up in Hell (he knows everything), but he can also shut off that part of him that knows (kind of like Adblock) so that his interactions with us here on Earth are completely impartial. Remember how Jesus used to meet every so often with Heavenly visitors who’d give him instructions on what to do next? God’s spirit was powerfully with Jesus, and yet God only revealed to him as much as he needed to know at any given time. That’s how God operates on Earth – he withholds from himself the full knowledge of our final spiritual destination and instead focuses on leading each and every one of us to repentance and then on to Heaven.
God waits for us to make our move before making his. He never forces us (only makes suggestions which we are free to follow or reject) and never, ever predetermines outcomes. The big picture has been set, but the details are still being filled in as we speak. By our choices in the here and now, we determine whether or not we’ll be filled in as a named detail in Heaven or a nameless detail in Hell. On one level God knows, but on the level that he interacts with us, he doesn’t know. Reverting from level to level is as easy as flicking a switch for God.
That’s why God does and will change his mind. He’s right here with us, listening to our every thought and watching our every action. He’s showing us to go this way, not that; to say this thing, not that. He’s not forcing us; he’s showing us, giving us the option. Sometimes, if the stakes are higher, he urges us. For each of our words and actions, he moves in step to reward us if we choose the good or to counter us if we choose the bad. This is how he’s perpetually open to change, perpetually moving in step with us, like an invisible current moving beneath the water’s surface. You can’t see it, but it’s there, and you can go with the flow or not: It’s your choice.
God wants nothing more than that we all come to knowledge of him, but the agreement is that we must do it of our own free will. He will change and rechange and again rechange his plans, if circumstances call for it. And if we reach out to him in sincere repentance and ask for mercy – eureka! That’s a feather in God’s cap, and he’s only too happy to comply with our request.
I love that God makes it so that he doesn’t know, so that he doesn’t pull favourites or let people purposefully fall through the cracks. I catch myself sometimes looking at some people and thinking: “Oh my God – there’s no hope for them”, but then I remember that God himself still holds out hope, so who am I to judge? I’m sure some people used to look at me and my godless lifestyle and think I was hopeless, and yet here I am, on the straight and narrow and homeward bound. Trust me – if there’s hope for me, there’s hope for anybody.
Jesus says we’re not to judge. The time of repentance is still at hand, so while there’s still time, there’s still hope. Time will come when there will be no more time, and then comes the judgment. We’ll know when that time comes, and if we’re still here (fingers crossed we won’t be), God will show us how to proceed accordingly.
Judgement time has already come for the angels, and just as surely it will come for us, too. But while we’re yet in the age of hope and change, God-style, we must treat everyone around us as if they might someday repent and choose God’s way, because that’s how God treats them.