The Point of No Return

The point of no return, the place of no more chances, the door that slams forever shut -- these are concepts that make us cover our ears and holler, “La-la-la-la.” The Western world in the 21st century works hard to mask final realities. A pregnancy used to be a point of no return, but now a woman can abort (same word used to end a mission -- how odd is that?) the inevitable, even just before birth. A student can fail a test, and then retake it and retake it. Some folks even freeze their dead bodies, counting on science to eventually provide a second chance. No deadline is really a deadline, no expectation must really be met, nothing is really due when it’s due. So very many of us just assume that every can can be kicked down the road to infinity, but those of us who still live in reality know better; sometimes it’s just permanently too late.

I’ve been pondering that quite a bit lately; I keep running into it in my Bible studies. Remember the Pharaoh of the Exodus? For the first five plagues Pharaoh hardens his own heart -- digs in his own heels and won’t let the people go. But by the time the sixth plague hits -- the plague of boils -- it’s too late. At that point “God hardens Pharaoh’s heart.” He uses up all his chances; God imposes this plague and the following four, “that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth.” Each time Pharaoh rejects Moses’ demands, he adds more callus to his soul until, by the plague of boils, he is so encrusted, so inflexible that he can’t make a positive choice. He passed the point of no return; after that, he, and his nation were doomed. Egypt has never really recovered.

Look at Western Europe -- Sweden, Germany, the UK. Their reproductive rates have dropped so low that immigration must have seemed a good way to deal with that problem. A society can run into a population dead end if, on the average, each person doesn’t reproduce him/herself. When the birth rate falls below two children per couple, eventually that society will implode; there will be an inadequate number of young people to do the work. So Europe imports Muslims from the Middle East and now they’ve lost parts of their countries and their culture. Can this be undone? The problem with the point of no return is that those involved never see it coming.  

Now look at 2nd Thessalonians 2: 9,”The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” At some time in the future (quite possibly the near future) people will refuse truth until they can no longer do anything else. As I’ve watched the left stagger about in disbelief over the election of Donald Trump, I can’t help but remember this passage. “Strong delusion” is right. Russia? Really?! But here’s the sobering part: are all these people past that point of no return? Is our Western society permanently screwed? Could be.

I look around American society today and I see many dead ends looming. Education, for instance. With John Dewey (at the turn of last century) our school systems began a subtle change from attempting to produce independent, knowledgeable thinkers to generating non-thinking workers. During the late 60s the pace increased, curricula backed off the classics, and social engineering became a major thrust. God was banished from the classroom, and since He couldn’t be there, we had to find shortcuts, counterfeit ways to teach virtue: tolerance instead of real mercy; acceptance instead of righteousness; self-esteem instead of love and care. We erased purpose, discipline, and need. We’re several generations into this fiasco and even if DeVos manages to clean things up and institute vouchers and charter schools, where will we find well-educated, un-indoctrinated teachers to man those schools? How can we deprogram our colleges and our public schools? It may be too late.

Let’s go back to the Bible. Look at what happens in Matthew 12. Over and over in previous chapters we see Jesus healing the crippled, the blind, the mute, the demon possessed. Yet in the 12th chapter the Pharisees demand that He give them a sign that He is in fact the Christ. So He does another healing, and what do they say? “He does that in the power of Beelzebub.” After that, Jesus teaches only in parables and explains them only to his disciples. He cuts Israel off and later we discover that an irrevocable curse has been placed on Jerusalem; 40 years later the Romans lay siege to the holy city and over a million Jews die, Israel and Judah are no more, are scattered over the earth not to be reconnected with their land for 2,000 years. They each used up all their chances -- a point after which they would no longer be able to believe. And of course, once they were dead….

According to the gospels, on Passover of A.D. 30-something, Roman soldiers nailed an obscure rabbi from Nazareth to a cross propped between two thieves. One thief made the deadline just in time and secured his place in Paradise. The other missed it. Forever. Throughout the entire Bible there is one theme: God will fix the problem of sin -- our job is to believe that, to accept the free gift of salvation. God was able to offer this because His Son was willing to take on the punishment for that sin. Our part is to just receive the gift -- before death takes us. If a person misses that deadline, there is no going back. In the most permanent and irrevocable way imaginable, there is no going back. And we never know exactly what that due date is.

Deana Chadwell is an adjunct professor and department head at Pacific Bible College in southern Oregon.  She teaches writing and public speaking.

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