Fred Phelps died last night. And I’m glad.
I’m glad there’s one less person on earth publicly sullying the name of Christ and dragging His holy Word through the mud.
What I’m not glad about is that, as far as we know, yesterday was the first day of his eternity in Hell.
Hell? But he claimed to be a Christian.
Fred Phelps and his kindred are a perfect example of the fact that you can claim whatever you want, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
And that’s not just the case for people like Fred Phelps whose lives seem to define the word “vile.” It’s also true for “nice” people. People you’d never put in the same category as Fred Phelps. People who volunteer at hospitals and run marathons to raise money for cancer research. Moms who’d do anything for their children. Men who are faithful to their wives. Your next door neighbor. Your brother. Your coworker.
Vile people don’t go to Heaven.
Nice people don’t go to Heaven.
Saved people go to Heaven.
The bad news is that you could never do enough good things to earn your way into Heaven. And, the good news is that you could never do enough bad things to forfeit Heaven.
Because being reconciled to God is not about what you do. It’s about what Christ has done.
We’re not always good. He was. We’re not always pleasing to God. He was. We don’t always do the right thing. He did. He lived the perfectly good, right, and pleasing-to-God life that we’d never be able to live. And then came the cross.
Some people refer to what happened at the cross as “the great exchange,” and, indeed it was the greatest exchange ever. At the cross, Christ suffered the execution that we deserve as the punishment for our crimes against God, and in exchange, we can have the perfect life He lived. His rap sheet for ours. Our guilty verdict for His innocent verdict. His death penalty for our exoneration. And it’s all ours if we’ll let go of the sin we cling to and throw ourselves on the mercy of the Judge.
Could someone as evil as Fred Phelps do that? Yes, and I hope he did before he died. Because no one who repents and trusts in Christ is beyond the reach of His saving grace. Not even a nice person like you.