The Living God
THE SALVATION OF THE UNBELIEVER
AS GOD is the Saviour of all mankind, especially of those who believe
(1 Tim.4:10), we may confidently rest on one grand and glorious foundation
truththat all salvation is of God, and neither believer nor unbeliever has any
part in it. On the one hand this assures us of the possibility of saving all men, for
God alone is able, and, on the other, it bars out all human schemes for their restoration,
whether by works, or suffering, by giving them a second chance, or by any cause whatever
which originates in man. Those who believe are saved by His grace (Rom.4:16); those who do
not believe are saved through His judgments, but in both it is He alone Who is Saviour.
Faith is but the
channel of grace; it does not produce salvation. Judgment is but a means He uses, a
process which leads to the opening of the unbelievers eyes. It does not remove his
guilt or cleanse a single sin. That is done wholly and solely by the blood of Christ.
Every effort to bring about the ultimate salvation of all through the purgatorial or
penitential sufferings of the sinner is a denial of this great truth. Judgments do not
save, but the God Who judges is also the Saviour, and all His dealings with mankind are
governed by the grand goal which He has set before Himto become All in all
In setting forth the
process by means of which God brings the unbeliever back to Himself we must remember that
few believers are able to analyze the method used in their own salvation. Now, if we are
not able to explain our own experience, how shall we understand His method with others?
Yet, strange as it may seem, Gods dealings with the unbeliever are much more easily
apprehended than His way with us. The very simplicity of faith baffles us. Most
theological systems seek to base belief on evidence, and speak of Christian
evidences as the foundation of the believers salvation. This is, rather, the
method He uses in the deliverance of the unbeliever.
FAITH AND EVIDENCES
case of Thomas is an example of the overpowering force of evidence where faith is wanting
(John 20:26-29). No man can long withstand the testimony of his senses, even when (unlike
Thomas) his interests may be opposed.
The tangible proofs
given to support the proclamation of the kingdom affords a rich field for the study of the
effect of evidence on the human heart. The unbeliever will be saved by sight. He will
yield to the force of facts. He will be convinced by logic. What evidence is most suited
for this purpose? In our Lords ministry we can see both the helps and the hindrances
offered by the senses. The consideration of a few cases will reveal what most moves men
and what makes them obstinate.
The rich young man
was hindered by his possessions. The Samaritans were helped by the Lords words. The
resurrection of Lazarus led many Jews to rely on His acts. These illustrate Gods
method in the judgment of the unbeliever. He removes hindrancesno earthly
acquisitions interfere with the decisions of the heart, for both heaven and earth flee
from the face of Him Who sits on the throne. He works the greatest possible miracle, by
raising them from the dead. He reads the inmost secret of their hearts. He appears in
their very presence in soul-dismaying splendor. They cannot doubt His power or His
perfections, and no motive remains to lead them to deceive themselves.
The judgment of
unbelievers takes place in the interval between the passing of this present earth and the
creation of the new. Every tie which bound them to the earth has been burned up. They are
the subjects of the most astounding miracle ever wrought, having been raised from the
dead. They are in the presence of the Divine Majesty. Their secrets are bared to His awful
gaze. The character of their judgment, being adjusted to their acts, not simply as to
severity but so as to correct them, will reveal Gods purpose to save and reconcile
them to Himself. This, followed by their death in the lake of fire and subsequent
vivification at the consummation, is the basis of their reconciliation through the blood
of the cross (Col.1:20).
The excuses offered
by those who were bidden to the great supper (Luke 14:18) are all removed before the great
white throne. No fields or oxen or wives will intrude between the spirit and the great
In the judgment day
God will judge the hidden things of humanity (Rom.2:16). We are prone to consider this a
mere exhibition of His omniscience, to facilitate the trial of the sinner and to insure
his condemnation. But more than this, it cannot but have a most powerful effect on the
unbelievers attitude toward Christ. What was it that impressed the woman of Samaria
(John 4:19,29)? It was His knowledge of her hidden secrets. As a result we read that many
of the Samaritans of that city believe in Him because of the womans word that He
told her all that she had done (John 4:39).
The blessed results
achieved by His exposure of the woman at Sychars spring will be multiplied by many
millions at the great white throne. There is nothing hidden that shall not be manifested
(Matt.10:26). As in Corinth, the hidden things of the unbelievers heart become
apparent, and, falling on his face, he will worship God (1 Cor.14:25).
Perhaps no miracle
wrought by our Lord and His apostles created a stronger conviction than that of raising
the dead. When Lazarus was raised many of the rulers believed, and the chief priests were
concerned lest all should believe on Him because of this sign (John 11:45,48). When Peter
raised Dorcas it also was used to convince many who believed on the Lord. Can we imagine
what conviction it must have brought to Lazarus and to Dorcas themselves, if they should
have had the slightest tendency to doubt? Could there have been any stronger proof of
divine power than that their very life had come back to them at the bidding of One Who is
stronger than death? In the process of winning the unbeliever we judge their resurrection
and final vivification to be ample to account for salvation and reconciliation entering
SAUL OF TARSUS
apostle Pauls case is of surpassing significance in its bearing on the salvation of
unbelievers. He was the foremost of sinners, and it cannot be denied that, among men,
there was no case quite as desperate as his. All question as to Gods ability to save
vanishes in the light of his call on the Damascus road. The miraculous means employed in
his case surely would suffice for every one of Gods enemies. And who will deny, on
sober reflection, that the appalling power and glory of the august judgment session into
which the unbeliever is ushered by his resurrection will be unutterably more impressive?
vision passed. He came back to a scene where all was as before. He alone had changed. But
the unbeliever sees the power and presence of God not only in his own deliverance from
death, but in all around him. The vision does not vanish. The divine presence abides.
GOD AS JUDGE
change which eventuates in the ultimate salvation of the unbeliever is wrought, not only
by his resurrection, but by the august judgment session, when he stands in the presence of
Christ, with all his unbelief swept away by the awful realization of His power and the
justice of His throne. We are asked, Is it possible for them to repent? Rather, we would
like to know, Is it possible for them not to repent, or change their minds? We
cannot conceive an unrepentant sinner before the great white throne.
and mans imaginations are nowhere more at variance than on the subject of judgment,
or punishment. God is love; man is hate. David was wise when he was given the choice of
fleeing before his enemies or falling into the hand of Yahweh. He uttered a great truth
when he exclaimed Let us fall, I pray, into the hand of Yahweh, for His compassions
are abundant; but let me not fall into the hand of humanity. And surely his choice
was vindicated, for when the messenger was stretching out his hand in destruction toward
Jerusalem, Yahweh showed Himself merciful, and said, Enough, now hold back your
hand (2 Sam.24:10-16).
went through the streets of Nineveh, crying: Forty days more and Nineveh shall be
overturned! (Jonah 3:4). But God saw their works, that they turned from their evil
way; and He regretted the evil He said He would do unto them. And He did it
not (Jonah 3:10). And what did Jonah do? Was he not pleased at the success of his
mission? Did he not glory in the character of His God? Alas! he was like the many today.
Like Jonah, they imagine that God has a streak of hate in His character and that He wanted
to destroy Nineveh to give it exercise. But He had an object in threatening its
destruction. Now that they repented and the object was attained, why should He belie His
character and destroy them from sheer vindictiveness? Jonahs God was a gracious God,
and merciful, slow to anger, and of much benignity, and regretting of the evil which He
had threatened (Jonah 4:2).
thought that the resurrection and judgment of the unbeliever is only a prelude to his
final destruction in the lake of fire must be judged by its moral effect, for
it has no support whatever in the Scriptures. In the first place destruction
(by which annihilation or extinction of being is intended), is never used of the lake
of fire or of the second death. It is always used of the sinner before his
resurrection at the great white throne. Those who are destroyed in Gehenna
will be there. Those who perished in the wilderness and at the flood will be
raised. Destruction is never annihilation. It never precludes resurrection and
salvation. Indeed, it is a necessary precursor of salvation. The Lord came to seek
and to save the destroyed (lost). So that, even if there were a single passage
telling us that the unbeliever is destroyed in the second death (which there
is not) we would still have every reason to believe God when He assured us that all who
are dying in Adam shall be made alive in Christ (1 Cor.15:22).
Let no one suppose
that we plead for the repeal of Gods word regarding the doom of the unbeliever. Far
from it. But we do plead for the removal of those harsh, human perversions of His word,
which seek to make Him a man like ourselves, hateful and hating one another, vindictive
and vicious in our views of the so-called penalties of sin. We plead for a
revision of our vocabulary on this important theme.
The terms destroy
and destruction are so often used of irrecoverable ruin that a few examples will be
given to show how far this is from the truth. The rendering lost is always the
translation of the word for destroy. It would be the utmost folly for the Son of Mankind
to seek, much less to save those who are annihilated. The lost sheep and the lost coin and
the lost prodigal all had been destroyed, yet all were found and saved. Were the whole
world lost or destroyed in the lake of fire, that would be no hindrance to salvation.
Rather, it would be the very sphere in which alone salvation can operate. Christ cannot
save anyone unless first he is destroyed, or lost.
GOD IS THE SAVIOUR
is the salvation of the unbeliever. It is not only in absolute accord with every passage
in the word of God, but in utmost harmony with the God Who is revealed through that word.
How can anyone who truly loves Him rest satisfied with less than this, the only true, the
only scriptural solution?
Let those who are
fond of reasoning about the destiny of the universe accept their own premises and follow
them out logically and the inevitable conclusion will be a universal reconciliation. Try
it and see. All will acknowledge these premises:
God is love,
God is omnipotent,
is not love if He will not do all He can for His creatures, neither is He omnipotent if He
is unable to save them. Both revelation and reason are arrayed against the false delusion
of unending torment for the unbeliever. It degrades the sacrifice of Christ to a mere
attempt to remedy an evil which it cannot cure. O, my brethren, why do you limit His love,
why do you paralyze His power? Is the Christ Who saved you capable of completing
His work by saving all like you? Or, if He can, why will He not?
Confess that this
terrible doctrine cannot but lead you to doubt His perfections. It brings you up to a
blank wall, to a pit of dense darkness. But the blessed truth opens up a glorious vista
flooded with the love light of God.
THE JUST JUDGMENT OF GOD
we are told, Gods justice demands judgment. There is truth in this. But if
Gods justice must be displayed at the expense of His love, the extinction of the
unbeliever in the lake of fire, far from forever removing an eyesore from the universe,
places a blot upon His character which eternity itself can never erase. If we do not doubt
His willingness to save them, then we must acknowledge His inability. If we cannot
question His power, then we must limit His love, and then we endanger the very foundation
on which all eternal bliss must be established.
But we do not need
to rest on reason. At best, it is usually the refuge of unbelief. God has spoken, and real
reason rests on His revelation. He is the Saviour of all mankind, especially of those who
believe. God give us grace to glory in such a God!
In the opening
chapters of Romans Paul lays the foundation on which Gods just judgment is based. He
closes his indictment of mankind with these words: . . . Gods
just statute, that such as are committing them are deserving of death . . .
(Rom.1:32). As the first death cannot be the effect of any judicial procedure on
Gods part, it is evident that the death penalty awaits all who come into the
judgment. Whatever may be the variety and degree of the tribulation and anguish meted out
to each, one common end awaits them allthe second death.
VIVIFIED IN CHRIST
some will ask, if they were condemned to death, how can they be raised again? What right
have they to the grace and life that will be their portion? We answer, none. They
will have no more claim on the ecstatic bliss of that unending day than I or you, or any
believer! What right have we? None at all. But in Christ we have a perfect title to
every favor. So it will be with the unbeliever. It is not written that Even as, in
Adam, all are dying, thus also shall all be vivified, but thus also, in
Christ, shall all be vivified (1 Cor.15:22). Adams death
involves all, irrespective of their deserts. Christs life extends to all, apart from
their personal merits.
And here is where
the unbeliever learns to love God. The judgment has exposed his own unworthiness. The
grace of vivification will illumine his heart with the love of God in Christ. Then shall
be fulfilled Gods universal goal:
. . . to
Me will bow every knee,
And every tongue
is the method He will use to bend the stubborn knees. He will not use physical force but
moral suasion. Neither will He wring out a confession of sin from every tongue. The
Greek word as here used means acclaim, which involves a complete acknowledgment and
acquiescence in the divine will.
The crowning and
conclusive exhibition of Gods power and love toward the unbeliever awaits the
consummation. The eons are past. All sin is banished. Evil is no more. The Son of God has
nearly completed His mediatorial work. All the living are in perfect accord with God.
Nothing remains but the conquest of death and the reconciliation of its denizens. It is
the only enemy left in all Gods universe. Then, and not till then will the vast
concourse of mankind emerge from the domain of death never to enter it again. Then death
will be despoiled, the last enemy laid low. Then shall all awake to live in the light and
love of Him Who will have become the Saviour of all mankind.
A. E. Knoch
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