Douglas Wilson, who debated Hitchens in print and in person, has written an obituary where he considers the possibility that Hitchens believed in the last hour.
In defense of Wilson, Hitchens drove him to this consideration. Before he succumbed to esophageal cancer, the outspoken atheist knew there was at least a possibility that he would grow weak in his resolve against God and call out to Him in his dying throes. Hitchens spoke early to assure people that if this happened, it would not be the real Christopher speaking, but some weakened shell of a man:
Even if my voice goes before I do, I shall continue to write polemics against religious delusions, at least until it’s hello darkness my old friend. In which case, why not cancer of the brain? As a terrified, half-aware imbecile, I might even scream for a priest at the close of business, though I hereby state while I am still lucid that the entity thus humiliating itself would not in fact be “me.” (Bear this in mind, in case of any later rumors or fabrications.)
I would rather not dwell on the eternity of this man, but I love to consider the possibility that a life time of blaspheming the Savior could be wiped out with one deathbed cry. The conversion of the thief on the cross tells us this is gloriously possible.
Moreover, in Matthew 20:1 – 16, Jesus tells this story of a Landowner who hires some workers at the start of the day: “Come work with me and I will give you a denarius.” He hires others throughout the day, up to and including the last hour, and then proceeds to hand out a denarius…to everyone.
As expected, the early-hired workers object, but the Landowner retorts:
“…‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.” Matthew 20:13b-16 (ESV)
This is grace. The fact that any sinner goes to heaven is glorious, and it matters not whether we have been laboring for the Savior from childhood or we have trusted Him with our last breath. Eternity with Jesus is always undeserved.
So, will we meet Mr. Hitchens in heaven? I’m thinking no…but then again, I would love to be surprised. I, for one, do not begrudge the Landowner His great generosity.