They said to the woman, "Now we believe, not because of your speaking; for we have heard for ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world."John 4:42 (WEB)
The adulterous woman told her town that Jesus is the Savior of the world.
Yet is Jesus the Savior of the WHOLE world?
The adulterous woman whom Jesus spoke to at Jacob’s well received the good news that Jesus is the Savior of the world. She must have figured that if Jesus was willing to talk to her that Jesus must be the Savior of the world, for she was triply outcast. She was outcast first because she was a woman, second for her promiscuity and adultery, and third for her Samaritan nationality. And who is lower than she? Yet that is the common cry of those who know Christ as their Savior. He is my Savior, thus he must also be yours because it would be impossible for you to be lower than me!
Yet is Jesus the Savior of the whole world? Answers to this question abound among schooled and unschooled theologians. One vein of thought holds that Jesus is not the Savior of the whole world because all are not saved. They reason well that Jesus is the Savior, and so, if someone is not saved it is because Jesus chose not to save them. They conclude that Jesus only chose some and so he is the Savior of a subset of mankind. Others reason well that Jesus is the Savior of the whole world because he made atonement for all mankind. They also reason that Jesus is the Savior, but if someone is not saved it is because they were unwilling to believe in Jesus with their own free will. They conclude that Jesus provided every ingredient of salvation except the final deciding factor of faith, which is provided by the subset of mankind that believes in Christ.
What have you concluded?
Frankly these views of salvation are so polar opposite that it would seem that they cannot both be Christian! This does not even include the exhausting list of views in between them that take the joy right out of Christian brotherhood. So the purpose of this study is my answer to the simple question, ‘Is Jesus the Savior of the whole world?’
I pray that my answer ignites that same fire in us that burned in the Samaritan woman who was willing to be a fool for Christ, persuading her whole town that Jesus is the Savior of the world. She who was a promiscuous adulterous Samaritan woman aroused her whole town to faith after spending minutes with Jesus Christ. If only a few minutes with Christ would open our eyes to the same passion! I hope to avoid difficult and muddied theology, but instead to simply ask the obvious questions without avoidance. And by God’s grace, confident joy that Christ is the Savior of the world will propel us to persuade our own town to faith.
What do the Scriptures say?
Paul urged Timothy, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony in its own times” (I Timothy 2:3-6 WEB).
Paul urged again, “For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we have set our trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe” (I Timothy 4:10 WEB).
John explained to the early church, “And he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world” (I John 2:2 WEB).
John again explained, “We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as the Savior of the world” (I John 4:14 WEB).
Peter also says to the early church, “Because Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring you to God, being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit” (I Peter 3:18 WEB).
Paul urged Corinthians, “For the love of Christ constrains us; because we judge thus, that one died for all, therefore all died. He died for all, that those who live should no longer live to themselves, but to him who for their sakes died and rose again” (II Corinthians 5:14-15 WEB).
Paul likewise writes in the grand conclusion of Romans, “For God has bound all to disobedience, that he might have mercy on all” (Romans 11:32 WEB).
Score one for Christ is Savior of the whole world!
Yet Paul also says, “But it is not as though the word of God has come to nothing. For they are not all Israel that are of Israel” (Romans 9:6 WEB).
Jesus also says, “... I told you, and you don't believe. The works that I do in my Father's name, these testify about me. But you don't believe, because you are not of my sheep, as I told you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:25-27 WEB).
Hmm…score one for Christ is not the Savior of the whole world?
What do theologians say?
Certainly the answer, if there is one, is in the Scripture. Yet perhaps theologians can help us understand the Scripture. The question ‘Who is saved by Christ?’ has been at times hotly debated, and at other times fearfully avoided for centuries. Arthur Pink of the 20th century and Desiderius Erasmus of the 16th century are examples of men who reflected deeply on the subject, yet with radically polar answers to the question. While others conclude that the question cannot be answered.
Pink offers his answer with well defended proofs in The Sovereignty of God that Christ is not the Savior of the whole world, but only the Savior of the subset of mankind chosen for salvation. Even if you do not agree with Pink or think him ridiculous you would still be wise to read Appendix III, page 253, the Fourth Edition, where he outlines seven different usages for the word ‘world’ in the New Testament. The pages are very thought provoking. And if you continue to disagree with his logic you may find comfort to know that others who are more familiar with Pink’s writings have concluded that Pink does not even agree with himself all the time. So regardless of our conclusions we may at least have something in common with Pink! We are all capricious.
Erasmus also offers his answer with proofs defending the free will of man in his Latin work, De Libero Arbitrio Diatribe Sive Collatio. The book is commonly called The Freedom of the Will in English. Erasmus argues that Christ is the Savior of the whole world, but only the subset of mankind that chooses Christ by their free will is saved. Though I have not studied his work, I am familiar with his arguments as refuted in Martin Luther’s rebuttal to Erasmus titled, On The Bondage of the Will. A study of the debate between Erasmus and Luther and their use of Scripture is a must for every Christian to gain a deeper understanding of saving grace. If you are new to the debate you will certainly be motivated to open the Scriptures for yourself and make your own salvation certain.
Good and godly men have agreed and disagreed with Pink, Erasmus, Luther, and many other theologians. A study of these and other theologians might be helpful to awaken our minds to the issues and questions surrounding our primary question. However, on a point so important only the Scripture itself will truly feed God’s sheep. We do not want to be merely branded with memorized doctrine from a Christian sect or by the few theology books we have read. This is hardly progress in the quest for truth. The Scriptures may be difficult to understand on this point resulting in hundreds of interpretations, yet the right answer, if anywhere, is in God’s Word. Though the Scriptures quoted above have resulted in opposing interpretations, the Holy Spirit may still give understanding.
Can my salvation be certain without a certain answer to this question?
Many believers have died since the creation of the world without a certain answer to this question or with opposing views, but all with a very certain faith that Christ died for sinners. A true believer may be uncertain of many things, yet we cling even more tightly to our Savior.
Yet if one insists that he is saved from the Lake of Fire because he is of a chosen subset of mankind or because of his free will, then... you will have uncertainty. The proponent of limited atonement can have no absolute assurance of salvation, while believing that he is saved and others are not. Disbelieving the gospel fact that Christ atoned for all mankind cuts loose an essential anchor! Neither can the proponent of free will have absolute assurance of salvation while believing that he is saved and others are not. Disbelieving the gospel fact that Christ predestined to save us apart from our will likewise cuts loose a second essential anchor of hope!
Fair enough if you are dizzied by my logic or if the extent of salvation doesn’t interest you or if you are content simply resting in the arms of Jesus without a certain answer to our question. However, if you insist on persuading yourself that you are chosen and other men are not or on trusting in your free will, then there is a fly in the healing ointment of your gospel.
You need grace.
Can Christ’s atonement be limited by God’s choice?
Scripture is clear that Christ made atonement and paid the sin debt for all mankind. The very nature of his becoming a man in the incarnation requires that Christ is a representative for every man. Romans 5:12-21 explains that Christ is the new federal head of mankind replacing fallen Adam. Just as Adam represent all mankind in sin, Christ represents all mankind in righteousness. Christ is the atoning sacrifice for Jews and gentiles, men and women, free and slave, every individual human being. The sin debt for every descendant of Adam has been fully paid through Christ’s work on the cross.
This is good news!
Yet, can God choose to un-pay a particular person’s sin debt or choose to reject Christ’s payment or choose not apply the payment to our account? Because God chose to pay for mankind’s sin debt through a historical death in our place he would have to reverse history to un-pay the debt. Because Christ and the Father are both God, he would have to argue with himself to refuse the payment. Because the work of Christ is already applied to all mankind by his grace, Romans 3:23-24, God would have to reverse grace to leave even one of his chosen ones un-forgiven. My previous article, Justified, argues that we are justified by his grace which is received in faith and that the gavel of justification has already fallen for every one of God’s chosen.
This is great news!
Even God CANNOT CHOSE to limit his atonement to a subset of mankind because he has ALREADY CHOSEN to make full atonement for all mankind. This is demonstrated in God the Son’s obedience to God the Father’s command in the incarnation and atonement. God cannot rescind himself.
Can Christ’s unconditional love be conditioned by man’s choice?
Scripture is also clear that Christ chose to save us unconditionally apart from every work of man. Jesus confronted his disciples saying, "you did not choose me but I chose you!" We read elsewhere that we did not love God, but that he loved us. If this is not convincing enough we read that we are predestined by God’s grace from even before creation. So it is proved that it is impossible for our choices, whether good or bad, to add a condition to God’s decision to love us unconditionally for we were not even created before he chose to save us. In this way God is a perfect Father who determined to love us before we were even born, though of course we need to be born again before we will be willing receive his love. Imagine if a father decided to withhold his love until his child loved him first. Sadly we earthly fathers can be like that. The good news is that our heavenly Father loves us, period!
Some suggest that God merely foresaw who would love him first and then determined to predestine them to salvation. We could ask "Do we write our own name to the Book of Life with our faith?" I heard someone say that salvation is a free gift, but you need to write your name on it. Friends, we are not even perfect fathers, but we do NOT give gifts to our own children that way! Think about it! WE love them. WE choose a gift for them. WE write their name on it. WE give it to them. Having to write our own name on a generic gift makes the gift no longer given or special! God's grace is so NOT a generic gift! Faith is receiving Christ’s gift already inscribed with our name and seeing our name already written by Christ in his Book of Life through the lens of faith. This is a matter for rejoicing because left to our sinful selves not one of us would choose God nor write our name in his book, but he chose us.
This is great news!
Man cannot put a condition God’s unconditional love because God’s love will prevail over every sinner he chooses. Man cannot damn himself!
Is there another solution?
While explaining this to a friend they suggested, "Surely there is another answer!" To be sure every belief with a concept of heaven proposes the means to get there. But do not be fooled by the myriads of answers. Someone once said that there are only two religions in the whole world, the ‘do’ religion and the ‘done’ religion. Study all the religions carefully and you will see that in every one you must merit heaven, except Christianity which grants heaven by grace received through faith.
Likewise, every explanation of salvation that accepts Christ’s atonement for all mankind’s sin yet rejects predestination must add some work of man, such as the decision of his free will, to secure atonement. Every explanation of salvation that accepts predestination but rejects Christ’s atonement for all mankind’s sin then has no certain basis to know that Christ’s sacrificial work is applied to their individual account. Consider the salvation puzzle below.
|WHICH PATH LEADS TO SALVATION?
I believe all mankind's sin is atoned,
but only those freely willing are saved!
Wrong, only his chosen are saved!
Or the right?
I believe God's chosen are saved,
but only a subset of mankind is saved!
Wrong, all mankind is atoned!
|HEY WHAT IF ALL MANKIND IS CHOSEN?
Free will advocates refuse to take the path to the right. They prefer the uncertainty of salvation by free will rather than the certainty of salvation by God’s free grace, but they are stopped by the doctrine of predestination. Limited atonement advocates refuse to take the path to the left. They prefer the meager atonement of a chosen few rather than the abundant atonement of all mankind, but they are stopped by the doctrine of Christ’s atonement of all mankind. But will advocates of free will and limited atonement consider that all mankind is chosen?
Ok then, since Christ chose to atone for all mankind is all mankind then chosen to be saved?
We know from Luke 16:19-31 that the rich man is not saved from Hell for his unbelief while Lazarus the beggar enjoys paradise. If this is not true, then how could anything be trusted as true in God’s Word? Unfortunately, however, modern evangelism, man’s rejection of grace, and fear of damnation has reduced salvation to a single dimension for too many. The hasty call to ‘get saved’ and the fearful response to ‘be saved’ often bypasses an explanation of what we need to be saved from and what it means to believe in Christ. So let’s slow down now and ask the question, ‘saved from what?’ The Christian Scriptures highlight at least five major dangers that we need salvation from. Consider this chart, reprinted from my previous article, Saved 5X.
God commands the wind and the waves
Hell / Hades
God opens our eyes, we believe
God commands don’t do bad, we obey
I Corinthians 10:13
God commands do good, we obey
I Corinthians 3:10-15
Lake of Fire
God predestined us to the Book of Life.
Two questions grab our attention immediately. First, is it possible to be saved from Hell, but not be saved from sin and vanity? I Corinthians 3 and 10 explain that, yes, it is possible to be saved from Hell, but not be saved from the effects of sinful choices or from the regrets of a life lived in vain. To be sure receiving Christ and the Holy Spirit is a great advantage in fighting temptation and avoiding vanity. And, if we are believers, we will be spared the punishment in Hell for those dishonoring Christ. However, these benefits still do not guarantee that we will escape sin and vanity. King David is an example of one saved from Hell, yet not saved from the sin of adultery and the consequences that followed. Ananias and Sapphira also serve as examples of believers whose lives ended ingloriously because of their sin. Paul’s partner in ministry, Demas, is an example of a Christian who chose vanity rather than service to Christ. We should fully expect to see David, Ananias, Sapphira, and Demas in paradise, for their faith in God’s grace saved them from Hell, but their lives still ended with deep regrets due to their disobedience.
Second, is it possible to not be saved from Hades and yet be saved from the Lake of Fire or vice versa? Take the time to read the last 4 chapters of Revelation to learn that Hades and the Lake of Fire are not the same place. Hades is a temporary place of punishment for men who die in unbelief. In the future at the Great White Throne Judgment all the souls imprisoned in Hades will be freed to stand before Christ for final judgment. Hades itself, after being emptied of all people, is no longer needed to punish unbelievers and so is thrown into the Lake of Fire, empty, never to be seen again. The Lake of Fire, then, is the final word of Scripture on the destiny of Satan, The Beast, The False Prophet, and anyone else whose name is not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Now a believer is one who has received Christ as Lord and can know that their name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life through faith in Christ. Believers are promised salvation from Hell, Luke 23:43. Furthermore, those named in the Lamb’s Book are granted salvation from the Lake of Fire. So thankfully it is impossible to be saved from Hades and not also be saved from the Lake of Fire. Christians are saved from both Hades and the Lake of Fire. Praise God!
However, non-Christians do not have this hope. They will be punished in the fires Hades for their unbelief and dishonor to Christ. Yet now we boldly ask is it still possible that the names of those punished in Hades will be found in the Lamb’s Book of Life and so escape sentencing to the Lake of Fire? Though non-Christians are punished in Hades are they nevertheless saved from the Lake of Fire?
Now that is a question worthy of some Bible study!
Are the names of those punished in Hades nevertheless in the Lamb’s Book of Life?
Now that is a silly question! Everyone knows that unbelievers are sentenced to eternity in Hell. Even non-Christians fear that! And even if unbelievers are plucked out of Hades then certainly it is only to be tossed into the Lake of Fire.
That much is certain… or is it?
The church of my youth chose a simple model. Hell was Hell whether you were talking about Hades, the Lake of Fire, or any other painful afterlife. Certainly no one wants to go to Hell, and so we were encouraged to trust and obey Jesus, and promised that our future would be free from fire. I made such a decision as a young boy, happy to be heading to Heaven, and zealous to get back to my life, but unfortunately with little to no understanding of a most deadly problem. My carnal nature loves sin and hates God. Later in high school the seeds of sin in my heart blossomed into ugly black flowers. By the time I graduated I was weighted down with so much guilt that I couldn’t look even the best of friends in the eye, much less myself. I eventually became convinced that I was going to Hell for my sin and no hope remained for me. In the same moment the Holy Spirit reminded me that Christ died for sinners and hope of salvation was kindled. As I entered college, God directed me into Biblical discipleship and, though ecstatic that Christ died for sinners, my pride locked horns with grace. Did I choose Christ or did the grace of Christ choose me, a rebel dead in my sins?
I was quite happy to be saved from Hell accepting Christ’s death for sinners. However, Scripture is more than evident that unregenerate sinners do not have a will that is free to choose Christ, but instead we are spiritually dead apart from grace. Only the grace of Christ can awaken us to faith. So how could God choose to save me, a worst of sinners, and chose to leave even one other sinner unsaved? I became enraged at the thought and no longer wanted to be saved by grace, but was bound to the cross knowing that Christ was my only hope. Pride cloaked in false humility allowed me to think that my particular sins set me apart from the common salvation we all share. But the Scripture is clear, no matter how exotic we imagine our sins, they are still common to man and already paid for by Christ’s sacrifice.
Persistent ignorance combined with hastily drawn conclusions blinded my eyes to the Out of Control Optimism we ought to have through God’s grace. I had concluded that since the Bible is clear that men are saved by God’s gracious choice and not our free will, and since the Bible is clear that men are punished in Hell, then the atonement of Christ must the limited to a subset of mankind and the remaining are damned to eternity in Hell. Scripture had not yet persuaded me that Hell and the Lake of Fire are different places, a totally foreign concept to my upbringing.
Hence, I invite you to answer with me what I consider to be the most significant theological question for anyone who has ever wrestled with grace. Are the men who are punished in Hell nevertheless named in the Lamb’s Book of Life and thus ultimately saved from the Lake of Fire? The unbelieving men sentenced to punishment in Hades are often referred to as the ‘wicked dead.’ Let’s consider a few select Scriptures on the destiny of the wicked dead.
What is the destiny of the wicked dead?
11) I saw a great white throne, and him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. There was found no place for them. 12) I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and they opened books. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13) The sea gave up the dead who were in it. Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them. They were judged, each one according to his works. 14) Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15) If anyone was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire.Revelation 20:11-15 (WEB)
These verses make it plain that Hades and the Lake of Fire are not the same place. Furthermore anyone whose name is not in the Lamb’s Book of Life will be thrown into the Lake of Fire and conversely anyone whose name is in the Book of Life will not be thrown into the Lake of Fire. The fact that the wicked dead are released from Hades to stand before the Lord for final judgment... implies hope... if you believe their sins are atoned for by God’s gracious choice. But if you believe the atonement is limited to a subset of mankind or if you believe men effect salvation by their free will then there is no hope for them and it would seem, if you follow my logic in this article, no hope for you either!
25) "But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that you, in your lifetime, received your good things, and Lazarus, in the same way, bad things. But here he is now comforted, and you are in anguish. 26) Besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that those who want to pass from here to you are not able, and that no one may cross over from there to us.'Luke 16:25-26 (WEB)
This passage shows us that, though the wicked dead are released from Hades in Revelation 20, Hades is not Catholic purgatory. The wicked dead cannot escape from the fires of Hades through personal reform or the prayers of the Saints. Their home is Hell until released by Christ.
3:18) Because Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring you to God, being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit, 19) in whom he also went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20) who before were disobedient, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, while the ship was being built. In it, few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. 21) This is a symbol of baptism, which now saves you—not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22) who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, angels and authorities and powers being made subject to him.4:1) Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind; for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2) that you no longer should live the rest of your time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 3) For we have spent enough of our past time doing the desire of the Gentiles, and having walked in lewdness, lusts, drunken binges, orgies, carousings, and abominable idolatries. 4) They think it is strange that you don't run with them into the same excess of riot, blaspheming. 5) They will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6) For to this end the Good News was preached even to the dead, that they might be judged indeed as men in the flesh, but live as to God in the spirit.I Peter 3:18-4:6 (WEB)
Christ preached the hope of the gospel, that mankind’s sin are paid for, even to those currently being punished in Hades, so that they would live according to God in regard to the Spirit. Whoa! Really? Really!
For if God didn't spare angels when they sinned, but cast them down to Tartarus, and committed them to pits of darkness to be reserved for judgment;II Peter 2:4 (WEB)
16) For most certainly, he doesn't give help to angels, but he gives help to the offspring of Abraham. 17) Therefore he was obligated in all things to be made like his brothers, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people.Hebrews 2:16-17 (WEB)
Here we also learn that some fallen angels are already being punished in Tartarus. Eternity does not look promising for the fallen angels because Christ did not die for them, but we do know that he did die for the sins of all mankind, even those currently being punished in Hades for their unbelief. So our question about the destiny of the wicked dead in Hades does not include fallen angels that are currently being punished in Tartarus. Our question concerns the members of mankind, the descendants of Adam and Eve, who are punished in Hell for their unbelief.
6) Since it is a righteous thing with God to repay affliction to those who afflict you, 7) and to give relief to you who are afflicted with us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, 8) punishing those who don't know God, and to those who don't obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus, 9) who will pay the penalty: eternal [eonian] destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might.II Thessalonians 1:6-9 (WEB)
Homework is needed to understand this Scripture. Is this ‘revealing’ of the Lord his judgment on Jerusalem in 70 A.D. or his coming as reigning king at the rapture and final judgment? If the passage is speaking about the Lord coming as reigning king perhaps the focus is the "complete destruction" of the earthly lives of the wicked. They themselves are finally saved, but everything they lived for is lost. However, if the passage is speaking about the Lord coming in judgment in 70 A.D. perhaps the focus is the sentencing of the unbelieving dead to Hades.
Thankfully we do know that unbelieving men will be released from Hades at the Great White Throne Judgment. Consider that Old Testament denotations for the word ‘forever’ includes the meaning of ‘forever’ in Lamentations 3:31 (WEB), “For the Lord will not cast off forever.” 'Forever' can also mean ‘for a long time until God changes the plan’ in Exodus 31:16-17 (WEB), “Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.' "
So unless you believe that the Sabbath command and the Old Covenant are still in force, then you must believe that God has the authority to do what is impossible for us, to end ‘forever’ as well as to establish ‘forever.’ The book of Hebrews explains that God ended the everlasting Old Covenant commands because they were weak and established the perfect New Covenant. This is food for thought.
More information about the meaning of the Greek word "aion" translated into English as "eternal" is available in my articles Forever Is Not Forever? You Gotta Be Kidding Me! and Forever Is Not Forever? You Still Gotta Be Kidding Me!
So is it then possible that Jesus could choose to release the wicked dead from Hades and from their sentence of eonian destruction, by his grace? It is a bold question and the only hope to prompt it is that Christ paid for the sins of unbelievers just the same as for believers, I Timothy 4:10.
8:20) Turn to the law and to the covenant! If they don't speak according to this word, surely there is no morning for them. 21) They will pass through it, very distressed and hungry; and it will happen that when they are hungry, they will worry, and curse by their king and by their God. They will turn their faces upward, 22) and look to the earth, and see distress, darkness, and the gloom of anguish. They will be driven into thick darkness.9:1) But there shall be no more gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time, he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali; but in the latter time he has made it glorious, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.Isaiah 8:20-9:1 (WEB)
Isaiah understood that God’s grace is mighty to save even those who curse God and are thrust unto utter darkness by God for their unbelief.
22) "For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me," says Yahweh, "so your offspring and your name shall remain. 23) It shall happen that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh will come to worship before me," says Yahweh. 24) "They will go out, and look at the dead bodies of the men who have transgressed against me; for their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind."Isaiah 66:22-24 (WEB)
Isaiah also had confidence that all mankind would be present at the consummation of eternity future.
Yet the number of the children of Israel will be as the sand of the sea, which can't be measured or counted; and it will come to pass that, in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' they will be called 'sons of the living God.'Hosea 1:10 (WEB)
Hosea understood that God’s grace is mighty to make those who are not God’s people into his children.
To properly understand John 10:25-27, quoted earlier, you must see that Jesus is pitching a hard ball to the unbelieving Jews when he says “you are not my sheep” for he means, “you are not [behaving like] my sheep” or “you are not my sheep [yet].” Advocates of a limited atonement make Jesus to say, “you are not my sheep [and never will be my sheep because I am not dying for your sins.]” But Paul understood Hosea and Jesus properly as evidenced by his quotation of Hosea in Romans 9:25.
Why even an earthly father might say to his own hard hearted son, “you are not my son,” if the behavior of his son is unacceptable in the family. How much more does God expect holiness in his family! Why in Christ’s harshest rebuke ever he said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men,” Matthew 16:23. This is an excellent passage to illustrate how to interpret the Bible properly. I think we all know that Peter is not literally Satan, yet Christ called him ‘Satan’ to his face. Jesus called him ‘Satan’ because Peter was hindering his mission just like Satan. And sadly our sin is often that bad as well that the Lord needs to blast us between our eyes with both barrels.
Proverbs 26:4-5 (WEB), says, “Don't answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” We might ask if Jesus is straight shooter or an expert marksman? In order to hit the bull’s-eye of our sin the Lord does not always shoot straight with us, but speaks folly to fools. This is one main reason there is so much division in Christendom over our simple question. The Word of Christ is twisted and grossly misinterpreted by the grace haters and the ignorant who think Jesus’ straight talk to believers is foolishness and his foolish talk to unbelievers is straight. Yet God’s perfect Word hits the bull’s-eye and exposes our hypocrisy if we believe the atonement is limited to a subset of mankind for the Scripture is clear that Christ atoned for all mankind’s sin. And God’s word also exposes our hatred of grace if we believe that our free will imputed Christ’s righteousness to our account for the Scripture is clear that our salvation is all BY grace RECEIVED through faith from first to last.
Paul explains God’s design in the gospel, “For as you in time past were disobedient to God, but now have obtained mercy by their disobedience, even so these also have now been disobedient, that by the mercy shown to you they may also obtain mercy. For God has bound all to disobedience, that he might have mercy on all” (Romans 11:30-32 WEB). So for the praise of his grace God has tolerated disobedience in the gentiles and then in the Jews binding all mankind to disobedience for the purpose of having mercy on all mankind.
This thesis may be new to you.
Pursue your own study of grace to confirm your own destiny and share your comments below. Also useful would be a Bible study of the places currently unseen by us such as Paradise, Hades, Gehenna, Hell, Tartarus, Thalassa, the Lake of Fire, and the New Heavens and Earth as well as the people unseen by us such as deceased believers, the wicked dead, elect angels, fallen angels, imprisoned fallen angels, The Beast, The False Prophet, and Satan. Note that the only people specifically named as being cast into the Lake of Fire are The Beast, The False Prophet, and Satan. I propose that these three are all fallen angels, demons. And whatever uncertainty we have now will be made certain when God calls us to see unseen places and meet unseen people.
Is this Universalism? Shall we just party?
Proclaiming salvation BY grace RECEIVED through faith is likely to get us labeled insane by both the self-righteous and self-condemned. The self-righteous will begin to scream, ‘Universalism heresy!’ Yet my view espoused above is not universalism as you might think for not all are saved. Unbelievers are not saved from the fires of Hades and even disobedient believers are not saved from destroying their lives with sin or from wasting their lives with vanity. Furthermore, Satan, The Beast, The False Prophet, and any not named in the Book of Life are also not saved but finally sentenced to the Lake of Fire.
Universalism often paints a picture that God’s grace eliminates all judgment. Instead judgment is coming and even the best of Christians may still suffer a beating. Jesus said,
47) That servant, who knew his lord's will, and didn't prepare, nor do what he wanted, will be beaten with many stripes, 48) but he who didn't know, and did things worthy of stripes, will be beaten with few stripes. To whomever much is given, of him will much be required; and to whom much was entrusted, of him more will be asked.Luke 12:47-48 (WEB)
Yet all those Christ names in his Book of Life will be finally saved from the Lake of Fire. And what if God saved every last human being from the Lake of Fire by the same grace that saved you? What would your reaction be, you who claim to be saved by grace? Would you praise God or be indignant?
Likewise the self-condemned will begin to shout, ‘Party on!’ Such is the hardness of our hearts and our foolish love of sin. The unregenerate would gladly trade torture in the fires of Hades for a few years of the fleeting pleasures of sin in this life and the gamble of escape from the Lake of Fire. But eternal destiny is not a gamble.
Yet if someone does believe that they have guaranteed salvation from the Lake of Fire through the grace of Christ can they remain unchanged? Hardly. In fact such a person is a born again believer and cannot remain unchanged!
So the truth is preached to remind rebels that the promise of salvation from the Lake of Fire stands only for those who Christ himself has named with his blood in the Lamb’s Book of Life from before creation. So while I believe the names of every individual human being are in the Lamb's Book of Life, unbelievers would make a grave mistake to gamble their destiny on my words versus investigating the matter for themselves! But will the unbelieving investigate Christ? Unbelieving mankind continues to party on the precipice of the Lake of Fire as they gamble their lives away rather than know Jesus Christ their Savior and through him to know their certain destiny.
Jesus is the Savior of the world!
The woman at that well was persuaded that Jesus is the Savior of the world. Her whole town confessed to her, “...Now we believe, not because of your speaking; for we have heard for ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world" (John 4:42 WEB). A Biblical definition of grace has driven me to believe this as well. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the whole world. When I began following Christ I knew two things; that I was a sinner and that Christ was a Savior. Then a friend asked me if I had ever heard of ‘grace.’ I had never heard of the word before and as I learned more about grace I trembled to see more of my sin and rejoiced to know even more of God’s love for me…and for all mankind. I was happy enough to be saved with little awareness, regard, or concern for the destiny of others until I learned about grace.
However, who wants to receive an undeserved gift at Christmas while your friends stand there empty handed? Praise God, his grace exposed my hypocrisy. Praise God, his grace helped my understanding until I knew from Scripture that Christ is not only my Savior or the Savior of believers, but the Savior of the world. I thank God that neither I nor mankind is empty handed, but we have been given the wonderful gift of Jesus. Shout it from the mountain tops! Christ is the Savior of the whole world!
What about you? Do you comfort yourself believing you are saved by your supposed free will? Do you console your doubts saying that God’s choice to limit his atonement to a subset of mankind is too lofty a matter for you? Can you find joy in thinking that you are loved by God and saved by his gracious choice while the majority of your fellowman are eternally damned? Would you even be happy if Christ was the Savior of the whole world? Would you shout it from the mountain tops?
Be happy and shout because your only hope that Jesus Christ is your Savior is because he is the Savior of the whole world! Think about that. Be happy and shout because your only hope that Jesus Christ is your Savior is because he is the Savior of the whole world!
Do you believe Jesus is your Savior?
Finally friend be warned, if Jesus Christ is not your Savior then how could he write your name in the Book of Life? If Jesus Christ is not your Savior even if the whole world joins your rebellion against your Creator then you can have no hope. If Christ is not your Savior you are unprotected and unshielded from the holy wrath of God against sin. Why follow Satan to the very precipice of the Lake of Fire before acknowledging that Christ IS your Savior?
Find your name in the Book of Life through faith in Jesus Christ!