IF GOD COULD SAVE EVERYONE - WOULD HE?
What is God's Will?
The idea that God cannot do something, or that God is limited in His ability, is fairly common among Christians. Many think that God's ability to act is limited by man's "free will." People often think that God either cannot override man's will or that He is incapable of making man change his will to conform to the will of God.
So what is it that prevents God from saving all mankind? 2 Peter 3:9 says, that He is not willing that any should be lost, or perish. Thus, if any are lost, it is not because it is the will of God.
The Apostle Paul says in 1 Tim. 2:4 that God "will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." This, too, defines the will of God for all men.
The problem is that evil men seem to thwart God's will, and God seems to be powerless to do anything about it. How powerful is God, anyway?
The first verse in the Bible establishes that God is the Creator of all things. Most people in the world believe this, but few people understand what this implies. It means that God OWNS all things by right of creation.
This is why God told Moses in Lev. 25:23, "The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is Mine." In other words, under Bible law, God holds the right of eminent domain.
God gave land inheritances to the families of Israel in the old land of Canaan and told them that they did not have the right to sell their property in perpetuity. If they incurred a debt, they could sell it until the Year of Jubilee, which occurred every 49 years (Lev. 25:8). This meant that a family could not lose their inheritance for more than a generation. It ensured that every citizen would have roots in the land.
The land belonged to God, so no man had the right to lose it forever. He was only capable, by his own will, to 'lose' it temporarily, because that was the extent of his authority.
Now consider the fact that God created all men, both good and bad. In fact, He formed man of the dust of the ground (Gen. 2:7). God used building material that He created-and therefore owned. Does this not mean that God owns all men as well as all material things in the universe?
In the divine laws of liability God lays down the principle that a man is responsible for that which he owns. For example, if a farmer digs a well and neglects to take basic safety precautions and cover the pit, and if a neighbor's ox falls into that pit and is killed, the owner of the pit is liable and must pay damages to his neighbor (Ex. 21:33).
Again, if a man lights a fire and it gets out of hand and burns the neighbor's field, the man who lit the fire is liable, because he created the fire and therefore is its owner (Ex. 22:6). These are basic liability laws that define the will of God in areas of justice and responsibility between men.
This principle, when applied to the big picture, shows us that God is responsible for all of His creation-even for the bad things that happen. God is ultimately liable for all the evil that has occurred in the world. One cannot blame the devil, because the devil created nothing and owns nothing. One cannot ultimately blame bad men either, because the bad men did not create themselves.
In the case of the ox falling into the uncovered pit, the one who dug it cannot say in his defense, "That stupid ox fell into the pit by his own free will." Such an argument makes no difference in the divine court. The only relevant fact in the case is that the one who dug the pit is responsible for it.
In the case of Adam and Eve, whether these are actual people or just prototype human beings, the Bible story makes it clear that God created them. The 'tree' of the knowledge of good and evil, however men may interpret the story, provided the temptation, and the 'serpent' was the tempter. God created both the tree and the serpent.
That means God, in effect, "dug a pit" and left it uncovered. That is, Adam and Eve - like the stupid ox - were given willful opportunity to stay away from the uncovered pit or not. Of course, man 'fell' into the pit and died (became mortal).
So who is legally liable in the divine court? Well, God is, of course. Adam and Eve did not dig the pit, nor did they create the serpent. They were just too stupid to stay away from the pit. They fell, and they died. God's own law, then, demanded that the Owner of the pit pay fully for the death of the ox (Ex. 21:34).
In other words, God set up the law in such a way that He would make Himself liable for the fall of Adam and Eve. Did God know what He was doing? Of course He did. He knew from the beginning that the law would demand that He - the Creator and Owner of all - would have to pay the full penalty for sin.
That is why Jesus came to earth to pay the full penalty for sin. First of all, He loved His creation enough to do this (John 3:16). Secondly, He made it mandatory by law that He would have to do this. In that sense, the law was prophetic. It prophesied that God would have to be born as a man in order to be capable of dying for the sin of the world.
The land could not be sold in perpetuity, but there were times when men incurred debts that they could not pay. Jesus told a parable about this in Matt. 18:23-35. He told of a man who owed 'ten thousand talents,' which today would be about $150 million. Verse 25 says that because he could not pay the debt, he and his wife and children had to be sold as bondservants in order to make payment on the debt.
Under biblical law, men were bondservants until their debts were paid or until the Year of Jubilee, when all debts were cancelled by grace. Bondservants were forced by law to work for their masters, but they also had rights. Slavery itself as practiced in most parts of the world was unlawful under biblical law.
A man and his family who had become bond-servants because of debt were supposed to work for their masters until the debt was paid. Then they were set free. But there was another provision. The bondservant could be redeemed by a relative.
Lev. 25:47-55 tells of the laws of redemption. It says that a relative has the right of redemption, as long as he has enough money to pay the debt of his relative. In other words, the bondservant's master does not have a choice in the matter. The master only has the choice if the potential redeemer is a mere friend of the bondservant. If a friend came to negotiate a deal, the choice would ultimately fall to the master, not to the friend of the bondservant. Why? Because the right of redemption is given only to a relative.
The House of Israel had fallen into sin and thereby had incurred a huge debt. (All sin is reckoned as a debt in the Bible.) God was the Judge who had sold them as bondservants to the nation of Babylon. He did this because they had refused to follow His law in this matter. The people refused to set their bondservants free (Jer. 34:13-17).
The first nation to possess Judah as a bondservant was Babylon. The debt note was later purchased by Persia, then Greece, and finally by Rome. In the days of Jesus, Rome held the debt note of Judah, or Judea.
The Bible says in Heb. 2:11-17 that Jesus Christ did not come to earth by taking the form of an angel. He came rather as a man, taking upon Himself the seed of Abraham in order to qualify as a relative to Israel and Judah. This gave Jesus the right of redemption.
But further, the same passage tells us that Jesus Christ came in 'flesh and blood,' in order to qualify as a relative to all men. This gave Jesus the right of redemption for all men all the way back to Adam.
For this reason, the apostle John tells us in his letter, 1 John 2:2, 'He has covered our sins, and not for ours only, but also those of the whole world.' Jesus gave His very life for the sins of the whole world. He paid the full penalty for every sin ever committed since Adam. Only His very life could pay the full debt for all mankind.
By the divine law, Jesus Christ came to redeem the whole earth and all of mankind. Those are lofty goals, but was He capable of making such a huge payment? The Bible makes it clear that His blood was worth far more than the entire debt of the world from the beginning. So, yes, Jesus Christ was certainly 'rich enough' to make such a purchase.
The next question is this: Did Jesus have the right of redemption? Suppose the one holding the debt note for the world preferred not to sell? The Bible makes it clear that Jesus was a near relative, both to Israel and to all flesh and blood. This gave Jesus Christ the right of redemption. The law was on His side. The slave master of the earth had no choice in the matter.
The final question is this: If God, through Jesus Christ, could redeem all mankind, would he, in fact, do it? This is really a question of how much He loves His creation. If He were an angry God that preferred to destroy the creation, then one might doubt that He really would redeem all of mankind. But the Bible says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have ever-lasting life" (John 3:16).
Thus, we see that the law gave Jesus Christ the right of redemption; He had enough 'money' and more to pay the full redemption price; and He certainly had the motive to do so.
So, yes, God would indeed save all mankind if He could. He is not only capable of doing it, but He has actually done it.
There are many people today and throughout history who have not wanted to be redeemed by Jesus Christ, usually because they did not really understand their need of redemption or did not have faith that He could really set them free. What about these people? Will they benefit from Jesus' redemption payment in spite of their unbelief? Yes, but not immediately. All will be held accountable for their actions, and every judgment will fit the crime.
Here is how it works. The law of redemption says that those who agree to be redeemed by their relative must serve their redeemer (Lev. 25:53). In other words, those who are redeemed are not set free to do their own pleasure. The redeemer has purchased their debt note, and therefore, they are still bondservants' but now they are bondservants of One who loves them and will treat them right.
The apostle Paul puts it this way in Rom. 6:18, "Being then made free from sin, you became the servants of righteousness." He continues, saying, "when you were servants of sin, you were free from righteousness; but now you are set free from sin and have become servants of God."
A person set free from sin does not mean that he suddenly becomes perfectly sinless. Paul is referring to sin as the old slave master. When we worked for the old slave master, who told us to sin, we were free from God and His righteousness. Conversely, when God purchased us through Jesus Christ, we are no longer bound to do what sin tells us to do, and we are free to do what is right.
Paul calls himself 'a bondservant of Jesus Christ' (Rom. 1:1), because he understood the laws of redemption. That is why he told the Christians in Rome that Christ's redemption did not mean they were free to continue in sin. They were only free from the old slave master who, in the past, had commanded them to sin.
But what about those who refuse to accept the provision God has made for us to be redeemed? The law says in Lev. 25:54 that 'even if he is not redeemed in these years, he is still to go free in the year of Jubilee, both he and his children with him.'
The old Hebrew calendar divided time into periods of seven days and seven years. A Jubilee cycle was a period of 49 years. Then ten days into the 50th year a trumpet was blown to signal the day of Jubilee. This was the day that all debts were cancelled, and every man was to return to his inheritance if he had lost it any time during the previous 49 years.
Of course, this was only applicable to those who had been unable to work long enough to pay off their debt. It was also applicable only to those who did not have a redeemer - or if people had not accepted the redemption of a willing relative. Perhaps they did not trust him or know him well enough to trust his motives. Or perhaps they just thought that his commands would be too rigorous. Whatever their reasons, even if they have not availed themselves of the redemption of Christ in this age, they will still go free in the year of Jubilee. There is a limit on how much judgment and discipline that God dispenses upon His children.
The time to be redeemed was an absolute maximum of 49 years from one Jubilee to another. With God, there is no such thing as never-ending punishment. The Bible verses that are usually quoted to prove never-ending punishment are actually mistranslations of the original text.
The word for 'eternal' and 'everlasting' is the Greek word, aeonian, which means 'pertaining to an eon (age).' In other words, God's final judgments pertain to a specific age in the future that eventually will end with the great Creation Jubilee, when all judgment ceases, and all men are brought fully into the glory of God, even as He promised by covenant.
Many people throughout history have not known of Jesus' redemption payment. Others have rejected His redemption because they were misinformed about Him. Others preferred to fulfill the commands of their old slave master, sin, and did not want to be set free. Whatever the reason, many people have not availed themselves of Jesus' redemptive work.So what is to happen to them?
The Bible speaks of a final day of judgment where all men will stand before the Great White Throne (Rev. 15:11-15). Here is where God will foreclose on all debts from the beginning. Here is where all men will be held accountable for their actions that they did in their life on earth.
The Bible speaks of this judgment in terms of 'fire.' Some think this 'fire' is a literal torture pit. It is not. The divine law never once dispenses torture as a judgment for any sin.
Deut. 4:12 tells us that God manifests Himself as a fire. In the New Testament, we read in Heb. 12:29 that God Himself is a consuming fire. This simply means that the presence of God will consume whatever is not good. Further, His judgments are designed to correct men, not to destroy them. They are designed to restore the lawful order, so that whatever men have done to violate the rights of others will be righted.
The law's purpose is to obtain justice for the wronged and forgiveness for the sinner who wronged those other people.
The divine law itself is the 'lake of fire.' Moses tells us in Deut. 33:2 that the law is a 'fiery law' in His hand.
Daniel 7:9 also pictures that final throne of God. He says that the throne itself is a fire, out of which comes a 'fiery stream' that judges all men. It is simply a metaphoric way of saying that God's fiery law will judge all men. But to know the nature of that fire, one must study the divine law itself. And not once does the divine law prescribe torture for any sin.
Thus, the 'lake of fire' in the Bible is never taken as literally as some have interpreted it.
From the beginning, Moses wrote that the penalty for sin was death, saying in Deut. 30:15 and 16, "I am setting in front of you today life and prosperity, death and adversity, in that I command you to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, statutes, and judgments, that you may live and multiply."
He was telling the people that to violate God's laws was the way of death. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul put it this way in Rom. 6:23, "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life." There was no judgment of God's law that even implied torture in a literal fire for any sin. The penalty was merely death.
Jesus Christ came to pay the full penalty for our sin and for the sin of the whole world. This did not mean that Jesus would have to burn in the pit of hell. Not even for a moment - much less for eternity! He paid the full penalty for sin by dying on the cross, not by burning for eternity. If never-ending torture in hell were really the penalty for sin, then Jesus would still be there! Yet we find that Jesus was only required to be dead for three days.
But God is not so unjust as to torture people for disobeying Him. The nature of the 'fire' is defined by the divine law itself, and the duration of the judgment is limited by the law of Jubilee.
Because of Adam's sin, all men have become mortal. That in itself is a judgment for sin. But the final judgment is the 'lake of fire, which is the second death' (Rev. 20:14). This type of death is of a different sort. It speaks of the future age when the unbelievers who did not avail themselves of Jesus' offer of redemption will remain mortal and will have to learn right and wrong as servants of God.
In the final analysis, the law says that if a man cannot pay a debt (which is incurred by sin), he is to work as a bondservant to pay the debt. If the debt is too great to be paid, he must work until the year of Jubilee sets him free.
The unbelievers at the Great White Throne will be sentenced to work as bondservants until the final Jubilee sets them free. The purpose of this is not so that their masters can act like tyrants over a bunch of slaves. The purpose is given in Isaiah 26:9, where the prophet says, "When God's judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness."
In other words, the purpose of putting bond-servants under masters is so that the sinners of the earth may learn the will of God and learn to follow Christ. Their 'masters' will teach them and train them in the laws of God. What a happy time!
For this reason Psalm 130:4 says, "There is forgiveness with Thee [God], in order that You may be respected." We respect those who have the ability to forgive, not those who refuse to forgive after a certain deadline. God has often been presented as One who either will not or cannot forgive sin, once a man has completed his life on earth. It is no wonder so many have no respect for God. But I say that God has been misrepresented.
When the time comes that God rules the earth through Jesus Christ and the 'Sons of God,' the nations will rejoice. Finally, there will be true justice and mercy in the courts. Psalm 67:4 says, "O let the nations be glad and sing for joy; for You will judge the nations upon earth."
Psalm 72:11 says, "Yes, all kings shall bow down before Him; all nations shall serve Him." Later, this same psalm says, "men shall be blessed in Him; all nations shall call Him blessed. Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who does only wondrous things; and blessed be His glorious name forever; and let the whole earth be filled with His glory."
Psalm 86:9 and 10 says, "All nations that You have made will come and worship before You, O Lord, and will glorify Your name. For You are great and do wonderful things. You alone are God."