If you have never accepted Jesus and then something happens to you and you become a “vegetable” (ie. brain damage), can you ever get a chance to accept Christ again?
Questioner from Casas’ “What’s Next” Class.
Let me begin by saying, I simply don’t know the answer to your question. However, I can share with you several Biblical passages that shed some light on your query.
First, according to Hebrews 9:27, the answer is a resounding, No: “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment …” This verse gives all of us the impetus to surrender to Christ while we are alive and still mentally capable. It matters not whether we die without Christ in a car accident or lose our thinking capacities through a stroke. The time to receive Christ is while we are alive—now. This is why the writer in Hebrews four repeats again and again, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
Second, in Romans one through three Paul declared that the entire world is guilty in sin and thus needs a Savior. A careful reading of Romans two will show that Paul left open the door for people who have never heard of Christ to have a chance after they die—especially if they have lived moral lives according to the several markers Paul outlines in that chapter. Unfortunately, no one lives up to those moral standards, or even comes close.
Third, in 1 Peter 3:18-20 Peter seemed to describe a time between Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection when Jesus went to Hades and gave all the Old Testament people who had rejected God’s offer of salvation before the Flood a second chance to receive Christ: “He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.” Some feel that if these people got a second chance then God may give others second chances as well.
Fourth, in an argument from silence, some reason that God will, of course, give brain-damaged humans another chance because God is a God of love and it is only fair for these folks not be to penalized just because of an unfortunate incident leading to their brain damage.
Finally, your questions begs the question regarding the many babies who are born brain damaged who never even reach a level of consciousness where they could accept or reject Christ! Do they go to Heaven or to Hell? Children with “Downs Syndrome.” are some of the happiest people l know. However, depending on the severity of their afflictions, many can never comprehend the theological dynamics of Christ’s work on the cross or of our need for a personal reception of Him into our lives. I believe that in Matthew 19:14 Jesus assures us that we will one day see these folks in Heaven’s glory: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Well, I hope these thoughts are helpful. Nevertheless, I think that the main focus is on the death and judgment passage in Hebrews 9:27. We must assume that people who die or become incapacitated without Christ will be judged according to whether or not they received Christ before they died. This truth powerfully affects our evangelism.