In college, I had an English Literature professor who posited a hypothetical question to get us thinking. “What would God do if the devil in hell repented?” he asked. That question would then extend a bit further out—surely we cannot doubt God’s ability or desire to forgive repenting souls after life. I heard something similar a few years later in the writings of Rob Bell:
And so space is created in this “who would doubt God’s ability to do that?” perspective for all kinds of people—fifteen-year-old atheists, people from other religions, and people who rejected Jesus because the only Jesus they ever saw was an oppressive figure who did anything but show God’s love. (Bell, Love Wins)
The problem, though, with Bell’s hypothesis and my English professors question is that it misunderstands the reason for folks being in hell in the first place. It creates an imaginary scenario where somebody would have gladly repented on earth if given the proper circumstances. What it inevitably ends up doing is putting the blame at the feet of God.