Many sincere individuals who profess Christian values have been taught that unless all people accept Jesus Christ as personal Savior during their physical lifetime today, they have no chance of receiving spiritual salvation. But when you consider that, according to a 2018 Pew Research study, Christianity in its various forms represents just 32 percent of the earth’s population, is there any real hope that most people will turn to Christ?
Also consider that in past ages the vast majority of the earth’s inhabitants never even heard of Jesus Christ or practiced Christianity. Yet, just like you and me, those billions of people were made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). When we contemplate the biblical precept that all people must “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” to be saved (Acts 16:30), how could it be fair that those multitudes have lost out on the opportunity for salvation and eternal life due to no fault of their own?
Because of this great dilemma, some Christians have suggested that the observance of any decent religious principles ought to be acceptable for people to attain salvation. However, such reasoning does not square with Holy Scripture. In referring to the centrality of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for sin, Acts 4:12 explains that “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (emphasis added throughout).
In addition, Jesus said: “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved” (John 10:9). Indeed, He said He is the only way to God: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). As 1 Timothy 2:5 attests, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.”
Considering the weight of these scriptures, you may have wondered about the immense disparity between what they plainly state and what many Christians have readily accepted—that all people must be saved today. Given the importance of this matter, could it be time for you to examine it from an entirely different perspective?
This means questioning the premise of the belief that everyone must accept Jesus Christ in their physical lifetime today or be denied salvation. What if you asked the following question: Is God really trying to save all people right now, or does He have a far different, and far better, plan for humanity?
There is no unfairness with God
In further surveying the words of Jesus Christ, we find Him stating, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent me draws him,” and then reiterating, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father” (John 6:44, 65). God the Father must open people’s minds to truly accepting and following His Son. This means it’s not possible for someone to decide on his or her own to become a disciple of Jesus Christ.
We can see this in what Christ said about His speaking in parables. Perhaps you’ve thought this was meant to make His teachings clearer to the general public. But the truth is that He often concealed the deeper meaning of the parables so those in the general populacecould not understand lest they turn in repentance prematurely—ahead of God’s timing for them.
Note that after Jesus delivered the parable of the sower and the seed to a large crowd, He told His disciples in private, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that ‘seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand; lest they should turn, and their sins be forgiven them’” (Mark 4:10-12).
Again, the Bible reveals that God the Father allows only the people He individually calls to understand the truth, in contrast to the vast majority who do not fully comprehend it. Yet it’s vital for you to understand that there is absolutely no unfairness with God (Romans 9:14). He will not deny anyone the opportunity to be offered salvation in due time (Romans 10:9; Ephesians 2:8-9).
As 1 Timothy 2:4 says, God “wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth” (New Living Translation). And 2 Peter 3:9 states, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” God will accomplish this promise and commitment in the manner and time of His choosing (Isaiah 46:10-11).
But some may sincerely ask, “Why can’t all people be granted salvation immediately?” The answer is that God, in His perfect wisdom, is carrying out an extraordinary spiritual plan for the benefit of humanity that is unfolding over more than one age.
During this present age, which began with the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden nearly 6,000 years ago, God is allowing human beings to try every conceivable method of living that they believe will bring fulfillment, happiness and prosperity—including innumerable government, social, religious, education and economic systems.
But why is God permitting this to take place? It’s so that when He does offer all people spiritual salvation in the age to come, they will have fully and finally come to the profound realization that their humanly designed experiments in ways to live have brought them overwhelming frustration, suffering, agony, grief, spiritual emptiness and death (see Proverbs 14:12).
After having experienced so much turmoil and tragedy for generation after generation, they will willingly and readily turn their hearts and minds toward their Creator and diligently follow His way of life—which He designed for their perfect benefit.
God will remove humanity’s spiritual blindness
Although God has allowed the vast majority of humanity to be spiritually blind at this time, He is calling a small number of people to become disciples of Jesus Christ now (compare Luke 12:32). Those who answer this call and wholeheartedly commit themselves to Christ, accepting His sacrifice as payment for their sins and dedicating their lives to following Him in return, are acting in accordance with God’s way of life and developing His very nature and character.
Then, at Christ’s second coming they will serve with Him as resurrected spirit beings in governing God’s earthly Kingdom for 1,000 years, a time called the Millennium, and beyond (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; Revelation 5:10; 20:4-6; Ephesians 3:15).
Unlike the upset and chaos found in today’s world, all of the earth’s inhabitants living during that future millennial period will dwell in magnificent peace and righteousness. God will remove people’s spiritual blindness so they will be fully capable of understanding the truth about Him and His marvelous way of life (John 12:39-40; Isaiah 25:7; 29:18; 32:3-4).
It will be a delightfully amicable, fulfilling and productive period, which the world will have never previously experienced. All of this will be possible because “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).
But what about the other billions of people who lived and died throughout all the previous centuries and never had the opportunity to know Jesus Christ or follow God’s way of life? Revelation 20:5 states that the rest of the dead will live again when the 1,000 years are finished. The vast numbers of unconverted people from all history will then be resurrected to physical life and be given God’s Holy Spirit so they at last can have the opportunity to know Him, having their minds and hearts opened to the truth of the Bible (see Acts 2:17).
Through His prophet Ezekiel, God says of people who will be raised to life again at that time: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
The Israelites of past ages will then be raised up (Ezekiel 37:1-14), as will people of all other nations, with many learning hard lessons at that time (see Matthew 11:20-24; 12:41-42).
God may be calling you at this time
That marvelous event following the Millennium is sometimes called the Great White Throne Judgment. In an amazing dreamlike vision, the apostle John described that future era by writing:
“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened [evidently the books of the Bible now opened to their understanding]. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books” (Revelation 20:11-12)—that is, an evaluation period over the course of a new physical lifetime, not immediate sentencing to condemnation, as many think.
This will not be a second chance for salvation, as many would portray it. Rather, this will be the first opportunity for these masses of people to, through Jesus Christ, really understand the truth of God and live by it.
In summary, the Bible reveals that God is not trying to save the world right now. For 6,000 years He has allowed human beings to experiment with countless humanly designed ways of living so they may ultimately come to the firm realization that such behavior could never bring true happiness and fulfillment.
Ultimately, God will open their minds and hearts to His true way of life and offer them the gift of salvation. But for now, He is calling only a few people to become disciples of Jesus Christ. These are growing in character and preparing to govern with Him as resurrected spirit beings in God’s coming Kingdom and divine family.
Are you coming to grasp this? God may be calling you to become one of Christ’s true disciples. If so, are you willing to answer His call? An astonishingly wonderful future awaits if you do!