We know that God is not willing that any should perish but all should come to repentance. We know that God takes no delight in the death of the wicked. We know that Christ died as an atoning sacrifice for our sins, not only ours but for those of the entire world. We know that God is Love. We know these are true because we read them in scripture.
All of God’s historical actions and planning and bringing about of his plans are centered on the salvation of humanity. This forces us to contemplate the strength of God’s own desire for all humanity to actually be saved. Jesus seemed to indicate that many would go the way of destruction and few would find life. If this is in fact a prediction of inevitable reality regarding soteriological eschatology, then we have to wonder how God could wish all men to be saved with any degree of determination and yet seemingly acquiesce prophetically to the unfortunate eventuality that His desire will be tragically disappointed.
We have all known people who say they are committed to something with their mouth, yet their behavior betrays the dearth of enthusiasm. Many sports fans have lamented that their team lost because they really did not want to win enough. I remember a presidential candidate who spent millions of dollars on a campaign which he lost and it was determined that maybe he never really wanted to win it in the first place.
God could not be like any of those examples. If He says he desires the salvation of all, we should think that he would give his very best effort to see that vision achieved. After all He has utterly limitless resources at his disposal. To make people believe He is real and that His Son Jesus Christ is the Savior could be made readily apparent by simply forming a massive crucifix in the outer atmosphere made of space rocks. This could have appeared and remained from the day Jesus was crucified. Then all we would have to do is share the gospel and point up at the sign in the heavens. Or there could be an angel like the one in Revelation who flies around the earth and proclaims the gospel from the sky for all to see. That could happen every year on Resurrection Sunday.
How many atheists would we have then? For that matter how many Buddhists or Muslims or Hindus would we have? That would seem pretty effective considering when people saw Jesus signs and wonder we are told many believed. Not just a few believed, many did. That’s not all, but you have to leave room for the stubborn hold out who just won’t believe their eyes.
But even Jesus was able to say “I did everything any reasonable person would need to know I am from heaven and my claims are verified by my power” . But 2000 years removed, and passed through multiples languages and translations and theological gatekeepers, (and left to us in fragmented copies) creates a challenge for validation in the mind of modern peoples.
But God’s chosen method of convincing the generations of humans outside of Israel and the first century is by the oral proclamation of events which cannot be empirically verified to the extent people would always abandon their religious or skeptical positions in favor of the obvious truth.
It appears that the faith has relied upon humans to carry a message. They are to tell the story and people are accountable before God as to whether that story is something that seems real to them. Of course we have to hope that the story gets told to everybody. In other words God seems to be completely relying on us believers to convince everyone of the gospel. If we don’t’ God has no choice but to throw them into the eternal lake of fire.
Chick tracts made a gospel cartoon tract that addressed this very issue. God judged a Christian because they were not much of an evangelistic witness and others went to hell forever because of their silence.
So now it seems it is no longer about how badly God wants to save people, but how badly we want to. God did everything he needed to do to save everyone. He gave his Son. He doesn’t have to do anything else, it’s all up to us. That’s a pretty heavy load to carry for a kid.
But if God is as passionate about all being saved as we would think He would be, and He has given it to us to spread the message in a persuasive way, and many will not receive it in the end, then it all points to a missing piece whose shape is apparent in it’s hole based on the present facts.
That is that ultimately God will not fail to fulfill his passion. He will at last do what we have tried so imperfectly to do and that is to save all. After all, didn’t He arrive the first time to do what we could not do on our own? (Live a perfect life.) Why wouldn’t he arrive a second time to do what the church tried but could not do all on it’s own?
The objection to this is that this narrative is not what scripture teaches. The scriptures teaches an eternal judgement on all who rejected, failed to believe, never had a chance to hear, or tried to believe but failed to do so properly because they incorporated some damnable heresy such as universalism. We know from scripture exactly what Jesus final summation of the ages will look like. Just like the Jews of Jesus day already knew from the scriptures exactly what the Messiahs arrival and victory would look like. Well, of course they missed the meaning of the prophecies, they didn’t have the Holy Spirit guiding them into all truth like we do. Thats why we have such univocality of doctrine in the Christian world for the last 2000 years. Actually, if there was universal accord in the church it could only be in one confession. “I know I’m right!”
Here is what I will suggest in conclusion. For Gods desire to save all to be authentic, and for the delegation of evangelism to the church to ultimately fall short of that goal, there must be a final ingathering wherein God himself will evangelize all who have ever lived and they will bow the knee and confess under the incontrovertible, irresistible persuasion of an infinitely creative and powerful and loving God.