Definition: Preservation or deliverance from danger or destruction. That deliverance may be from the hands of oppressors or persecutors. For all true Christians, Jehovah provides through his Son deliverance from the present wicked system of things as well as salvation from bondage to sin and death. For a great crowd of faithful servants of Jehovah living during “the last days,” salvation will include preservation through the great tribulation.
Will God, in his great mercy, eventually save all humankind?
Does 2 Peter 3:9 indicate that there will be universal salvation? It says: “The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish [“he does not want anyone to be destroyed,” TEV], but that all should reach repentance.” (RS) It is God’s merciful desire that all of Adam’s offspring repent, and he has generously made provision for forgiveness of the sins of those who do. But he does not force anyone to accept that provision. (Compare Deuteronomy 30:15-20.) Many reject it. They are like a drowning man who pushes away a life preserver when it is thrown to him by someone who desires to help. It should be noted, however, that the alternative to repentance is not an eternity in hellfire. As 2 Peter 3:9 shows, those who do not repent will perish, or “be destroyed.” Verse 7 (RS) also refers to “destruction of ungodly men.” There is no thought of universal salvation here.—See also the main heading “Hell.”
Does 1 Corinthians 15:22 prove that all humans will eventually be saved? It says: “As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (RS) As shown in the surrounding verses, what is under discussion here is resurrection. Who will be resurrected? All whose death is attributable to Adamic sin (see verse 21) but who have not also personally committed the willful transgressions set forth in Hebrews 10:26-29. As Jesus was raised from Hades (Acts 2:31), so all others who are in Hades will be “made alive” by means of the resurrection. (Rev. 1:18; 20:13) Will all of these gain eternal salvation? That opportunity will be open to them, but not everyone will take hold of it, as is indicated at John 5:28, 29, which shows that the outcome to some will be adverse “judgment.”
What about texts such as Titus 2:11, which refers to “the salvation of all men,” according to the rendering of RS? Other texts, such as John 12:32, Romans 5:18, and 1 Timothy 2:3, 4, convey a similar thought in RS, KJ, NE, TEV, etc. The Greek expressions rendered “all” and “everyone” in these verses are inflected forms of the word pas. As shown in Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (London, 1962, Vol. I, p. 46), pas can also mean “every kind or variety.” So, in the above verses, instead of “all,” the expression “every kind of” could be used; or “all sorts of,” as is done in NW. Which is correct—“all” or the thought conveyed by “all sorts of”? Well, which rendering is also harmonious with the rest of the Bible? The latter one is. Consider Acts 10:34, 35; Revelation 7:9, 10; 2 Thessalonians 1:9. (Note: Other translators also recognize this sense of the Greek word, as is shown by their renderings of it at Matthew 5:11—“all kinds of,” RS, TEV; “every kind of,” NE; “all manner of,” KJ.)
Are there scriptures that definitely show that some will never be saved?
2 Thess. 1:9, RS: “They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” (Italics added.)
Rev. 21:8, RS: “As for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.”
Matt. 7:13, 14, RS: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
Once a person is saved, is he always saved?
Jude 5, RS: “I desire to remind you, though you were once for all fully informed, that he who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” (Italics added.)
Matt. 24:13, RS: “He who endures to the end will be saved.” (So a person’s final salvation is not determined at the moment that he begins to put faith in Jesus.)
Phil. 2:12, RS: “As you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (This was addressed to “the saints,” or holy ones, at Philippi, as stated in Philippians 1:1. Paul urged them not to be overly confident but to realize that their final salvation was not yet assured.)
Heb. 10:26, 27, RS: “If we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries.” (Thus the Bible does not go along with the idea that no matter what sins a person may commit after he is “saved” he will not lose his salvation. It encourages faithfulness. See also Hebrews 6:4-6, where it is shown that even a person anointed with holy spirit can lose his hope of salvation.)
Is anything more than faith needed in order to gain salvation?
Eph. 2:8, 9, RS: “By grace [“undeserved kindness,” NW] you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God—not because of works, lest any man should boast.” (The entire provision for salvation is an expression of God’s undeserved kindness. There is no way that a descendant of Adam can gain salvation on his own, no matter how noble his works are. Salvation is a gift from God given to those who put faith in the sin-atoning value of the sacrifice of his Son.)
Heb. 5:9, RS: “He [Jesus] became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” (Italics added.) (Does this conflict with the statement that Christians are “saved through faith”? Not at all. Obedience simply demonstrates that their faith is genuine.)
Jas. 2:14, 26, RS: “What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.” (A person does not earn salvation by his works. But anyone who has genuine faith will have works to go with it—works of obedience to the commands of God and Christ, works that demonstrate his faith and love. Without such works, his faith is dead.)
Acts 16:30, 31, RS: “‘Men, what must I do to be saved?’ And they [Paul and Silas] said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’” (If that man and his household truly believed, would they not act in harmony with their belief? Certainly.)
If Someone Says—
You might reply: ‘I am glad to know that, because it tells me that you believe in Jesus Christ. The work in which I am sharing is one that Jesus assigned his followers to do, that is, to tell others about the establishment of his Kingdom. (Matt. 24:14)’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘What is that Kingdom? What will its coming mean to the world? (Dan. 2:44)’ (2) ‘What conditions will there be here on earth under that heavenly government? (Ps. 37:11; Rev. 21:3, 4)’
Or you could say: ‘Then you appreciate what the apostle Peter said, here at Acts 4:12, don’t you? . . . Have you ever wondered by whom the name of Jesus was given for us to put faith in it?’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘Jesus himself tells us. (John 17:3)’ (2) ‘Notice that Jesus said he had made his Father’s name known. (John 17:6) What is His personal name? What associations does it convey to your mind? (Ex. 3:15; 34:5-7)’
‘Are you saved?’
You might reply: ‘So far, I am. I say that because I am also aware of the Bible’s counsel not to be overconfident of our standing. Are you acquainted with this text? (1 Cor. 10:12)’ Then perhaps add: ‘What is the reason for that? To persons who had been born again and had the hope of heavenly life (Heb. 3:1), the apostle Paul wrote . . . (Heb. 3:12-14) It is by growing in knowledge of God’s Word that we fortify our faith.’
Or you could say: ‘I could answer that by simply saying, Yes. But did you know that the Bible speaks of more than one salvation? For instance, have you ever considered the significance of Revelation 7:9, 10, 14? . . . So, there will be people who will be saved through the coming great tribulation, to live right here on earth. (Matt. 5:5)’
‘Do you accept Jesus as your personal Savior?’
‘You say that only 144,000 are going to be saved’
You might reply: ‘I am glad that you brought that up so I can tell you what we really believe. Salvation is open to just as many people as will demonstrate true faith in the provision that God has made through Jesus. But the Bible says that only 144,000 will go to heaven to be with Christ. Have you ever seen that in the Bible? . . . It is here at Revelation 14:1, 3.’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘What will they do in heaven? (Rev. 20:6)’ (2) ‘It is obvious that they will be ruling over someone. Who might that be? . . . (Matt. 5:5; 6:10)’