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Christopher Hitchens now realizes God is great

Christopher Hitchens, journalist and author of his new memoir 'Hitch 22,' poses for a portrait outside his hotel in New York June 7, 2010. Already infamous for being the socialist who called Margaret Thatcher sexy and as the contrarian who loved George W. Bush's war in Iraq, Hitchens now wants to rewrite the Ten Commandments.
Christopher Hitchens, journalist and author of his new memoir "Hitch 22," poses for a portrait outside his hotel in New York June 7, 2010. Already infamous for being the socialist who called Margaret Thatcher sexy and as the contrarian who loved George W. Bush's war in Iraq, Hitchens now wants to rewrite the Ten Commandments. | (Photo: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)

Christopher Hitchens authored the 2007 book, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. The flamboyant atheist wrote, “People keep saying, ‘God is in the details.’ He isn’t in ours, unless his yokel creationist fans wish to take credit for his clumsiness, failure and incompetence.”

Do you believe God is clumsy, incompetent and a failure? If so, you probably relish the whole “God is not great” motif. On the other hand, if you believe God is majestic, perfect and all-powerful, you will likely appreciate this quote from Evangelist Billy Graham: “An atheist only sees a hopeless end to life. But the Christian sees an endless hope.”

When Christopher Hitchens passed away from complications of esophageal cancer in 2011, people wondered whether this popular public speaker went to Heaven or Hell. Did Hitchens have a deathbed conversion? Many Christians who had prayed for such a thing were left guessing.

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The Guardian published a 2016 op-ed, “Deathbed conversion? Never. Christopher Hitchens was Defiant to the Last.” Christian apologist Larry Taunton isn't so sure. Taunton wrote a fascinating book titled, “The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist.”

Taunton developed a close friendship with Hitchens, and he details a conversation they had during a 751-mile road trip together in 2010. Hitchens opened a Bible and began reading the first chapter of the Gospel of John. Taunton writes, “He would read a verse and together we would discuss its meaning. This went on for hours. No cameras, no microphones, no audience. That always made for better conversation with Christopher.”

Hitchens had nothing but praise for his Christian friend: “If everyone in the United States had the same qualities of loyalty and care and concern for others that Larry Taunton had, we’d be living in a much better society than we do.”

Most of us don’t want to think about anyone suffering in Hell, other than perhaps people who abuse children, commit genocide or engage in sex trafficking. The biblical teaching about Hell is one of the most difficult doctrines to accept, second only to the breathtaking message that God sent His only Son to suffer hours of agony on the cross to pay for our sins.

For the past 13 years, Christopher Hitchens has either been cursing God in Hell, or praising God in Heaven. While time drags on mercilessly in Hell, the euphoria and perfect contentment in Heaven continuously overflows with joy, peace, praise, variety, worship, friendships and a limitless number of wonderful experiences. Christopher Hitchens now exists in a realm outside of time as we know it.

Jesus described Hell as a horrific and painful place where people experience “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Luke 13:28). Heaven, on the other hand, is a pain-free place of absolute perfection. The Apostle John wrote, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth … God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:1,4).

Hitchens wrote, “I have never seen any reason to suppose that there's a god.” This man's blind perspective completely changed in 2011 when Christopher exited this planet. Regardless of where Christopher Hitchens finds himself today, he now realizes God's power is great and mighty. Hitchens is either loving God while experiencing ecstasy in Heaven or hating God while suffering agony in Hell (see Luke 16:19-31).

Jesus told His apostles: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Hell” (Matthew 10:28).

The full glory and majesty of the Lord is far beyond our comprehension. Likewise, the unconditional love of God is greater than anything we can fully fathom, as I explained in my recent CP op-ed, “How Can You Be Loved Yet Also Under God’s Wrath?” So, are you closer to Billy Graham in your spiritual perspective, or to Christopher Hitchens?

Hitchens wrote, “I am so made that I cannot believe.” The fact of the matter is that he chose not to believe it, at least up until his final hours on Earth. Only God and Christopher Hitchens know what he believed right before his soul left his body. Scripture reveals the intense spiritual battle people experience when presented with the Gospel: “Some were convinced by what he (Paul) said, but others would not believe” (Acts 28:24).

Like the thief on the cross, (see Luke 23:38-43) Christopher Hitchens may have at the last minute stepped onto the narrow path into Paradise (see Matthew 7:13-14). But if so, he didn't tell anyone about it, including Larry Taunton. I sure hope Christopher Hitchens came to faith in Christ and is in Heaven today. 

Hitchens is remembered for his bombastic antics and irreverent antagonism toward God and religion, while Billy Graham is remembered for just the opposite. When Graham was honored in 1989 during a Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony he said, “When people walk by here and see the name Billy Graham and some kid yells out, ‘Who in the world was Billy Graham? What rock group did he play for?’ They will be answered with, ‘No, he was a preacher of the Gospel.’ And they might explain the Gospel to them, and many people may find Christ in that.”

What will you be remembered for after you take your final breath and suddenly find yourself in either Heaven or Hell? In a 2015 CP op-ed I wrote, “There are no atheists in foxholes, and there are no atheists in Hell. That's because everyone in Hell understands the justice of their sentence, and everyone in Hell certainly now realizes that God truly exists.”

Sadly, the harsh and never-ending reality of Hell torments everyone who refuses to surrender their heart and soul to our great God and His perfect plan of salvation. Meanwhile, one of the many great things about God is that the Lord is patient with people, “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Dan Delzell is the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska. 

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