Is Everyone Saved?

Endless-LineThere is a Modernist creed. It is a short creed but it is highly influential and it is the default view of many Americans who think of themselves as Christians. That creed says 1) Humans are basically good and getting better; 2) Universal brotherhood of humanity; 3) Universal Fatherhood of God, that all humans are the children of God, in the same way, in this life and in the life to come. Heidelberg Catechism Q. 20 brings confessing Reformed Christians into direct conflict with these dogmas:

20. Are all men then saved by Christ as they perished in Adam?

No, only those who by true faith are ingrafted into Him and receive all His benefits.

To be sure, there are ways in which God is a Father to all humans. He is the Creator. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17, ESV). Our Lord says that his Father makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt 5:45). God is the Father of all with respect to creation and providence. No human would exist unless God spoke into nothing to create all that is (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1–3). He actively sustains all that is so that the Apostle Paul said to the pagans at the Areopagus,

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth…he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,
“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
Being then God’s offspring… (Acts 17:24–29; ESV)

So, all humans are indeed God’s offspring. This is so universally known that Paul was able to quote two pagan poets to make his point.

Nevertheless, this is not what is usually intended when people say that God is the Father of all. What is usually meant is humans are universally accepted by God. The Modern view, however, errs by confusing God’s creation and his general providence with salvation. These are two distinct things.

The stark reality is that not every human is or will be accepted by God. If you find that a narrow, close-minded, or bigoted thing to say then you should take it up with Jesus the Messiah.

Jesus taught this distinction repeatedly. In Matthew 7:13 he said,

“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 (Matthew 7:13-14, ESV).

Our Lord made a clear contrast between narrow and wide. The latter leads to destruction. More people will enter the wide way, i.e., will choose destruction. The gate to life is narrow and hard and few choose it. The contrast here is also between life and destruction. These are not mere metaphors for happiness and unhappiness. These are ultimate realities about which Jesus is warning anyone who will listen.

If you’re uncertain then consider another passage just below this one where he says:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23, ESV)

When Jesus says “not everyone” he makes a distinction between two classes of people: those who will enter the kingdom of heaven and those who will not. For the purposes of this point it doesn’t matter why some are accepted and others are not but only that there is such a distinction.

It seems to be almost universally believed that all ways to God are equally true. If that is so, someone forgot to tell God the Son incarnate. He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, ESV). It is difficult to imagine what Jesus should have said to be clearer. According to Jesus, there is no other way to God than through Jesus. The clearly intended (good and necessary) inference is that all the other ways that others posit are false. There is only one Savior, Jesus. There is only one Mediator, Jesus. There is only access point to God: Jesus.

This is basic Christian doctrine. God the Son incarnate, Jesus the Messiah, is he through whom all things were made (John 1:1–3). The great irony is that even though “the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him” (John 1:12). He came “to his own, but his own did not receive him.”

The good news, however, is that those

who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:9-13, ESV)

The Christian faith is both exclusive and saving. Salvation from the wrath to come does exist and it is through faith, i.e., through knowing, assenting to, and trusting in Jesus Christ and in his finished work for sinners. This is why Hebrews 4:2–3 says, “For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest….”

If you believe, it is a gift from God (Eph 2:8–10). “It is not possible for one to come to me to me except the Father who sent me draws (or drags!) him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44). Jesus does call his people out of darkness and into light. He does give new life and with it faith and through faith he gives free acceptance with God, union and communion with Christ, salvation, adoption, and eternal life.

Not every has been saved from the wrath to come. Not everyone will be saved from the wrath to come. The proposed ways to God claimed by the world to be true are not. Only Jesus obeyed. Only Jesus died. Only Jesus was raised and only Jesus is the Mediator between God and humans. It is a difficult truth for enlightened moderns to accept, as it was a difficult truth for enlightened Greeks to accept (1Cor 1:23) but it is the truth. Magical thinking won’t cut it. There are times when we must stop pretending. You don’t close your eyes and step into traffic. Why not? Because it’s dangerous. If so, how much more dangerous is it to pretend that you can get to God outside of Jesus because, were that to happen, what you will find won’t be a warm embrace but eternal fire. That’s not a medieval fable, it’s the teaching of Jesus the Messiah:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. …Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’ (Matthew 25:31-41, ESV).

You can be an universalist or you can be a Christian but you cannot be both.

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