Hitler in Heaven?

Hitler In Heaven
Let me paint a picture:

You die. You ascend, or transmute, or do whatever happens, and end up in heaven. You are greeted by angels, ancestors, Jesus, all the people you would wish to see. Then over someone’s shoulder, not too far off, you notice someone perched by a river, working on a watercolour. It’s Adolf Hitler.

Hitler made it.

Now take a moment, and think: How do you feel?

Betrayed? I think that is a likely reaction. “But that’s not what it says! Vengeance is mine, sayeth the lord. An eternity in hell is promised. If Hitler’s not in Hell, who is? How could God do that? I was a good Christian! Hitler killed millions directly, and was indirectly responsible for as many as 100 million deaths. His evil is inconceivable, off the charts.”

I think most negative reactions would have these sorts of sentiments. Frustration. Anger. All beyond comprehension.

Hitler in heaven is a great test for your understanding of your own theology.

But what could possibly be the argument for Hitler being in heaven?

Related: Whose Death Does God Cheer? by Jimmy Spencer Jr.

The most basic is the famous “once saved, always saved” line of thought. Many of us have used this to seek self-assurance for loved ones who, once Christian, had fallen from the Way prior to their death. Hitler was raised Catholic. His mother, Klara, is always painted as a particularly devout woman. Hitler even used Christian rhetoric in some speeches, though always with his usual anti-Jewish zeal. (The irony of hating Jews and loving Christ is a well-trod path that I won’t go down just now)

From many Protestant points of view, sin is sin, without scale or degree. The havoc wreaked upon the world between 1933 and 1945 was Hitler’s sin, his separation from God. According to much post-Calvinist doctrine, whether we like it or not, Hitler’s sin is as bad as ours. No better, no worse. We all fall short. You fall short. Hitler falls short.

That’s tricky, isn’t it?

We’re as separated as Hitler. That’s one of those things which you can intellectualise, which you can say, but it’s hard to feel in your bones. It’s hard to look yourself in the mirror and say, “Adolf Hitler was no better or worse than me in God’s eyes.”

If you don’t accept the scriptural accuracy of “once saved, always saved”, there is always the chance of last minute repentance. We don’t know that Hitler made any sort of reconciliation with God in those final, fleeting moments, but we also don’t know that he didn’t. He might have. Tales of last-minute reconciliations with God litter Christian history.

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Was Hitler in the bunker, like the man being crucified beside Jesus, suddenly gripped with the tragedy and majesty of the cross?

We don’t know.

Beyond that is the idea that hell is not eternal, that aeon is repeatedly mistranslated, and that Hell is a purging of sin, which leads to ultimate reconciliation. “Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.” (Romans 5: 18)

Also by John: Are You Agapephobic?

I think we can likely all agree that at some level, we don’t know who exactly is going to make it, and who is not, in spite of whatever hopes we may hold.

If I saw Hitler sat painting his watercolour, I like to think I’d wander over and have a chat with him, maybe pick up some pointers on how to get the light on the water just right. I like to think that I would recognise, in that most lost of sheep, the love of God, and I would respond to that with love. I like to think that I would be overjoyed.

If there is one thing I hope for in the afterlife, it is surprise, and even disbelief, at the vast limitless expanse that is God’s love.


John Watson discovered Jesus’ footprints late in life, and has been joyfully trying to negotiate The Way ever since. He is a musician and educator, living in Maidstone, in the south-east of England, with his wife and two children.

Photo Credit: Micha Klootwijk / Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

John Watson

John WatsonJohn Watson discovered Jesus' footprints late in life, and has been joyfully trying to negotiate The Way ever since. He is a musician and educator, living in Maidstone, in the south-east of England, with his wife and two children. He has written for Red Letter Christians and the Burnside Writers Collective.View all posts by John Watson →

  • Michael

    I don’t believe in once saved always saved, and I don’t believe that every sin is just as bad as every other, and I don’t believe hell is temporary. And most of all, I’d never want to have a nice little chat with Hitler.

    • Frank

      What is your scriptural support for your beliefs? Hell is eternal that’s true but where do you see someone can lose their salvation or that sins are categorized on a sinfulness scale?

      And your last statement demonstrates you don’t quite understand the point of forgiveness and grace,

      • nkcwu

        My own scriptural support is the parable of the field workers, where those that were hired for the full day were outraged when the owner paid those hired only an hour before paying time were given the same amount. The owner, representing God, stated that his money is given as he sees fit. In other words, whether God will forgive Hitler despite all the horrible things he was responsible for is his own business. Everyone will be judged fairly- the REAL point in that respect is that forgiveness and grace are what Christians should be doing however we might feel about a certain person: the judging part of whether they deserve it, or whether they’ll go to heaven is God’s part.

        • John

          I once read a really interesting interpretation of that parable which focused heavily on the order of the wages. The “unfair” wages are paid first, so that those who have worked longest see. Had the wages been paid the other way, everyone would have been happy (blissfully ignorant really), but the parable is laid out in such a way that we are forced to look at the seemingly uneven justice meted out.

          • Chris93

            One reason I love the parables…so many lessons can be learned from just a seemingly “simple” story, but the deeper we look, the more we see. Never ceases to amaze me…

    • John

      Michael, thanks for reading, and thanks for your honesty.

      • Michael

        Thanks John.
        You’re heaping hot coals on my head making me feel that my tone was too harsh. Not that I retract anything I said, but since I was basically disagreeing with your whole essay, I could have been less blunt.
        Frank is preaching grace, but you are showing it. Thanks again!

        • Frank

          Its impossible to show grace until you understand grace. I was helping you understand grace while showing you grace at the same time. I had much harsher words in mind at first for you.

          I notice you have not answered my question. Can you?

    • Tamara Cedre

      @”once saved, always saved…”

      Verses in John 15 remind us that while salvation is a choice, it’s a continual choice. If we do not feed Christ in us and bear the fruit of that salvation, we area doomed to fall away. This is not about works over grace. This is about accepting that grace—and more than once. I have seen countless people fall away and be consumed in sin, but continually submit themselves and accept that gift. God shapes these people and they are covered in his promise. But, I’ve also seen folks that have turned away from God and want no part of him anymore—abandoning his word and fellowship forever. This is a choice, too. A choice that carries eternal consequences.

      @”every sin is alike…”

      God shows different degrees of disdain and punishment for different types of sin in the bible, but “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God…” So, in the end, He is our judge.

      • JJ

        Your last sentence there, for me, is the kicker. If Hitler is in heaven, i think it might look like this:

        When I opened my eyes I realized that I was there, at the Final Judgment. What struck me first is that is that it played out exactly as I had always imagined – a dazzling, all-encompassing light that was irresistible in its attraction. It was was kindness, and goodness, and love, but in a perfected way – a pure experience that I had only tasted hints of in my lifetime. But as I moved toward it I noticed a commotion. A man was on his knees sobbing, his body heaving with grief. To my shock, I knew this man. His face was from our history books, that demon of a man who had come to be known as the very personification of evil in our time. He was crumpled on the floor, refusing to move any nearer to the light. Between his sobs he could be heard begging for a return to his earthly existence, for a second chance to live his life over. “What have I done, what have I done,” came the mournful repetition.

        Of course, I assumed that he was facing the terror of his coming punishment in hell, so I asked one of the others there when he would be taken away from this perfect place. The answer that came revealed my lack of understanding. “He won’t be taken from this place – that is just the reason for his sorrow. All come from the Light, and all go back to it. He has been told that all is forgiven, and that he is welcome to go forward into the banquet. It is by his own will that he continues to stay where he is.”

  • bluecenterlight

    Men like to categorize sin. When you talk to people about sin, no one is the worst sinner, no one is the best person, we always see ourselves in the middle. I think that is why Jerry Springer is so popular, we can all sit back and say I’m not mother Teresa, but at least I’m not that! Being OK, being in the middle, is deceptive. Judging yourselves among yourselves is not only unwise it leaves us with a sense of superiority. I’m better than them. When the truth is when I stand before my maker, I will be alone, no one to blame, no one to point at. Just me and my wretchedness. God promises to see me through the lens of Christ, something I do not deserve. His grace is amazing, and I am blown away by the fact that I serve a God who will forgive the worst of us, all we need do is ask. Amazing.

    • John

      Well said, and yet nothing like how I would say it. There must be 7 billion of us for a reason, right? Thanks for posting.

    • Michael

      I don’t think it’s fair to say that Mother Teresa is as bad a sinner as Hitler. I struggle to be tolerant with this view because it’s common among a large segment of Christians–at least in word, though I question how many Christians actually believe it. Most act like they don’t, and I certainly don’t.

      • John

        Michael, you’re really getting at why I wrote this. It’s a reductio ad absurdum, taking an idea to its extreme and seeing if it still holds up. I actually do believe it (with a fair bit of struggling), but I certainly respect that you don’t and agree that it’s something that many would not want to believe. Thanks again for your contributions to all our understanding.

    • Wonderbread

      I understand your point as there is no ‘worst sinner’, but I don’t think that I agree. If I murdered 20 people and you stole gum from a candy story, is your sin of theft the same in God’s eyes as my brutal murdering spree? I don’t think it would be, I mean if it was, could there be really any justice then. lol i am glad our court system (even with the issues it has) is not like that.

      However, I do think that God’s grace, love, and mercy, has the ability to cover Hitler. If I said that it didn’t then it could be argued that it is a conditional love. Lol but if he is in Heaven or if his love actually forgives those atrocities, I don’t know. God and the cross are very powerful things.

      • bluecenterlight

        I guess my point was that everyone thinks they are OK. I’m not so bad. If you are Ok then you don’t need a savior. We have our own standard of good and bad, but it is different then God’s. We say I’ve never killed anyone so I’m good, but God says if you hate someone or hold unforgiveness towards anyone then he see’s you as a murderer. We say I have never committed adultery so I’m good, He say’s if you have thought about it then you are an adulterer. If we compare ourselves to Gods standard, we are not OK, we fall way short. And yet he does not reject us. If there is a sliding scale of good and bad, good being Christ and bad being Hitler, in God’s eyes we are probably closer to Hitler than Jesus. And yet He choses to see us through Jesus, that is grace.

        • Wonderbread

          touche =)

      • nkcwu

        While I agree that killing 20 people as opposed to stealing gum aren’t the same, but what about a person that killed 20 people and repented, compared to someone that stole gum and is not convinced that s/he did ever wrong?
        There is more to sin than action, there is the attitude. That’s what set the self-righteous Pharisees apart from the despised sinners.

        • http://breadonomics.blogspot.com/ Wonderbread

          You bring up a great point about repentance and the attitude. I think that people can repent from horrible sins and be forgiven. I think Hitler may have even repented and all is well; however, I was just saying that stating sin is the same just doesn’t seem ‘correct’(i use that word very loosely). I mean I know my ways are not the ways of God or anything and I don’t pretend to understand it all… but if we used that idea in the Justice system we would probably not be very happy lol

  • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

    I’m familiar with the discussion prompt of “how would you react if you met [person you don't like] in heaven.” I’ve toyed with it in my mind, discussed it with others, etc. But I’ve never taken it to this extreme – and it’s a rather sobering reminder of my self-righteousness.

    • John

      It’s a real blessing to read someone’s words and think, “You read that just as I intended.” Thanks.

  • nkcwu

    I have thought of this before, and I would say that however unlikely, it is imperative we leave the possibility in the open for our own sakes as we approach people we would readily deem to be “un-savable”.

    We only know Hitler and his attitudes and actions through books and even first-hand accounts, but we’ve never met him or had a glimpse of his personal life with our own eyes and with our own lens.

    It should also be noted that if Hitler did make it to heaven, it does not imply that what he did or believed in the lifetime we know him vindicated his actions and policies that enabled a great deal of pain and suffering, to say the least. A mass murderer can, by all means, really come to grips with his sin and repent with sincerity- whether he ends up doing so is not for us to judge.

    As for sinning itself, I admit I’ve had my more take-life tendencies in my angrier moods, and that’s already a problem- heart and attitude have much to do with actually acting them out in reality. They may be less sinful, but it’s not exactly a big difference. I mean you don’t exactly just become responsible for 6 million deaths of a particular ethnicity by accident- you kind of start with an intense hatred to let it actually happen. And for Hitler it happened at quite an early age by teachers, if William Shirer and his (thick) book Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is to be believed.

    Overall, we should consider whether it is a travesty of our faith, or a powerful testament that even people as low as Hitler can be saved.

  • Chris93

    For parables, in this case, I’m reminded of the Prodigal Son. When all was said and done (upon the lost son’s return and the father’s lavish welcoming) the eldest son could not humble himself to accept his brother back into the family.

    I don’t know where I heard it – but the phrase was said: not only will we surprised who IS in heaven, but also who ISN’T.

    Thankfully, that isn’t a decision we have to make!

    Of course, let us not be like the elder brother. If they are in heaven, the are not there by chance or by accident.

    So if Hitler is in heaven, then I too shall be happy – as God no doubt would be happy – that another lost brother has returned to the family.

    Great post!

    • John

      Thanks, Chris. And well said.

  • Jim

    So, when we ‘get to heaven’ we recognise each other? I’m not so sure. Take the example given, I’m in heaven and there sits Hitler, ‘interesting’ I think, but there are others I want to meet again. I ‘Google’ my mum, and soon she is in my arms but some-things not right. ‘What is it Mum’ I ask, ‘it’s your Dad he’s not here’ she replies. What my Dad, great guy,loved by all but who ‘didn’t do religion’ I notice a tear in her eye. Hang on a minute heavens not like that, there is no sadness; as the song goes ‘heaven is a wonderful place, full of glory and grace’. In Rev 21: 4 it says ‘He 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’. Back in the now. So many things that I don’t understand about my faith, but then that’s what faiths is. But there are two things I do know. One, ‘that if you declare with your mouth that ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved’. Romans 10:9. and the second thing is that there are members of my family who don’t believe that, and I will continue to pray that they will, and that they will have eternal life.

    • Tamara Cedre

      Maybe I’m just grieving over the loss of people I love…but, I can’t imagine God making a heaven where we don’t know each other. When Jesus was resurrected, he was in a perfect body and he was hard to recognize, but his family and friends still “knew” him when he visited them. Are we not part of the same resurrection? We are creatures built for intimacy at our very core. These are not an “earthly order”, but a heavenly design.

  • Kate

    Love it: It’s hard to look yourself in the mirror and say, “Adolf Hitler was no better or worse than me in God’s eyes.”
    But then you get those people who say “oh, for goodness sakes, its hitler that we are talking about… I dont think that he has it in him for ask for forgiveness” and maybe we can let it drop. But he was still a person, just like another. like any of our friends…. and that becomes a bug deal- even when the above exists/

    someone let him get away with it, and why do we let our friends do the same.

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