Is the Shooter in Heaven?
By Pastor Ben Wedeking
This last week, I have been approached by two of our church family, who had that question on their minds, so I thought it was worth addressing for you all.
When tragedies like last Sunday happen in our nation, where children are gunned down, and in a church of all places, it brings a lot of questions to the surface for us. Why? What could have prevented it? And as we dwell on it further, and we think of the cries of children, a desire for justice bubbles up inside of us and we find ourselves filled with anger—and I would say, righteous anger. We want justice, and rightfully so. However, this man took his life and can’t face authorities. But we hope that doesn’t mean we won’t have to face the ultimate Authority.
And then the debate begins, the debate about whether this man will be in heaven. The hypothetical question, “if someone repents in their last moments, are they forgiven—does he get off scot-free for his horrendous actions.” To that, I would say a couple things. First, I can’t judge because I don’t know the heart of a person—that’s God’s role. Only He knows if a man or woman has truly repented and asked forgiveness for His sins.
But that said, I don’t think grace is cheap. I find myself in the Dietrich Bonhoeffer camp that what Jesus did for us was costly and therefore should result in a life of gratitude and obedience to the God who saves us. Do I think if someone is flippant with that grace that they get to be with Christ for all eternity? The answer is no.
The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 6:1—4:
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
And Jesus says in Matthew 7:
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
Based on these two sections of Scripture, we can make a couple conclusions:
1) A graced life should result in a changed life.
Those who have been forgiven for their sins, live a new life, full of love, mercy and grace.
2) You know a believer by their fruit.
Christians don’t simply give mouth service to their belief, their lives reflect their faith.
So, no, I don’t believe the shooter is in heaven. His life did not show the fruit of a believer.
Now that said—if someone truly repents on their death bed of a life of sin, could they be forgiven and saved?
Absolutely. The bad things we do, don’t keep us out, and the good things we do, don’t get us in.
You see, Jesus died for all sinners that all those who truly believe and repent, might be forgiven and have eternal life.
We are not judged by our deeds but by what we do with Jesus Christ. If we believe and confess that Jesus is Lord, we shall be saved (Romans 10:19)
That is why it is good news—no one stands outside the grace of God—all can be forgiven!
Even murderers and thieves.
As Jesus was stretched out on the cross, he was crucified between two murderers, who would soon be dead.
One mocked him, the other, with a heart broken over his sin, asked Jesus to remember him.
And Jesus did. He told that man, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”
And that same offer is before each of us.
I pray that you embrace that offer today and surrender your life to Jesus.
For He loves you and wants you to be with Him for all eternity.