What Is the Bible’s View?
Will All People Be Saved?
THE Almighty God is keenly interested in the eternal welfare of all humankind. His Word, the Bible, tells us: “This is fine and acceptable in the sight of our Savior, God, whose will is that all sorts of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.” (1 Tim. 2:3, 4) “He does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9) But does this mean that all people will eventually be saved, that is, gain eternal life as approved servants of God?
The Scriptures reveal that the Most High does not force life upon anyone. He makes all the provisions necessary for humans to gain his approval, but, then, it is up to them to accept or to reject his provisions. This is evident from the words of Moses to the nation of Israel: “I have put life and death before you, the blessing and the malediction; and you must choose life in order that you may keep alive, you and your offspring, by loving Jehovah your God, by listening to his voice and by sticking to him; for he is your life and the length of your days.”—Deut. 30:19, 20.
Since Jehovah God is its source, salvation can only be gained by acting on his terms. This means accepting Jesus Christ as the Son of God through whose sacrificial death salvation from sin and death was made possible. The apostle Peter made this clear when he told the Sanhedrin, the Jewish supreme court: “There is no salvation in anyone else, for there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved.” (Acts 4:12) Also, the apostle John drew attention to this when stating the purpose of his Gospel: “To be sure, Jesus performed many other signs also before the disciples, which are not written down in this scroll. But these have been written down that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that, because of believing, you may have life by means of his name.”—John 20:30, 31.
But why is this the only way for people to gain salvation? Why is it not possible to acquire it simply by leading an upright life?
Actually, no human can prove himself absolutely righteous by the kind of life he leads. All of us make mistakes in word and deed. Who can say that he has never been inconsiderate, unkind, selfish or harsh? The Christian apostle John put it this way: “If we make the statement: ‘We have no sin,’ we are misleading ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8) Since the first man Adam ruined his perfection by disobeying God, all of us have been born imperfect. (Ps. 51:5; Rom. 5:12) So there is nothing that any of us can do on our own to free ourselves from sin.
Being born in sin, we do not automatically have before us the prospect of salvation. The Bible says: “The wages sin pays is death.” (Rom. 6:23) So if no provision existed for having our sins atoned for, we could not be saved from remaining forever in the grip of death. Regardless of how hard we tried, our life record would still show us up to be imperfect humans, subject to the wages of sin.
Hence, we are in need of a provision for covering over our sins. The sole means that God has furnished to accomplish this is the sacrifice of his Son. Wrote the apostle John: “He [Jesus Christ] is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins, yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s.”—1 John 2:2.
To benefit from this propitiatory sacrifice, however, we must accept it, acknowledge our sinful state, repent of our sins, be converted or turn around from a wrong course to do God’s will. Any person who deliberately refuses to do this will not gain salvation. His situation is comparable to that of a drowning man to whom a life preserver is thrown but who rejects it.
Yes, the person who turns down God’s means of salvation cannot hope to escape adverse judgment. Should he be alive at the time when the Lord Jesus Christ reveals himself in glory, he will perish. This is confirmed at 2 Thessalonians 1:8, where we read of Jesus Christ’s bringing “vengeance upon those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus.” Verse 9 continues: “These very ones will undergo . . . everlasting destruction.”
Likewise, persons who accept God’s provision of salvation through Jesus Christ but who later become unrepentant sinners will not be saved. Hebrew Christians in the first century C.E. were told: “If we practice sin willfully after having received the accurate knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins left, but there is a certain fearful expectation of judgment and there is a fiery jealousy that is going to consume those in opposition. Any man that has disregarded the law of Moses dies without compassion, upon the testimony of two or three. Of how much more severe a punishment, do you think, will the man be counted worthy who has trampled upon the Son of God and who has esteemed as of ordinary value the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and who has outraged the spirit of undeserved kindness with contempt? For we know him that said: ‘Vengeance is mine; I will recompense’; and again: ‘Jehovah will judge his people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”—Heb. 10:26-31.
Deliberate, unrepentant wrongdoers, by their course of action, reject the application of Jesus’ sacrifice in their behalf. They treat the blood of the Son of God as having “ordinary value,” that is, as having no more value than that of any other man. For this reason their record of sin stands against them, condemning them. No other sacrifice is available to cover it over, shielding them from the execution of God’s vengeance. This being the case, they must pay the full penalty for their sins—everlasting death.
There is simply no way to help those who reject the ransom provision to repent and regain an approved standing with Jehovah God. “It is impossible,” the Bible says, “as regards those who have once for all been enlightened, and who have tasted the heavenly free gift, and who have become partakers of holy spirit, and who have tasted the fine word of God and powers of the coming system of things, but who have fallen away [apostatized], to revive them again to repentance, because they impale the Son of God afresh for themselves.”—Heb. 6:4-6.
Thus we can see that, although the Most High wants all to be saved, not all will be. Many will continue to refuse to accept the only means of salvation; others, after accepting it, may become unrepentant practicers of sin and thereby lose the atoning benefits of Christ’s sacrifice. In this there is a warning for all who desire salvation from sin and death. We must exercise care not to presume on God’s mercy, yielding to the cravings of the sinful flesh and thereby perhaps going to the point where repentance is impossible.