Who is saved and how is a person saved?
Are any man saved, all people, or only a few people, and in what ways are they saved? Read more about this most important topic
When it comes to the universe and life, the Bible provides a realistic explanation for their existence: they exist because God exists. He created them because He exists, and in fact the whole Bible is based on the existence of God. It is spoken of from the First Book of Moses to the Book of Revelation. We would not have this book if the existence of God is not taken for granted.
What if eternity and the living God exist? What does it mean? At least that we should get in touch with God. We should have the assurance of how to have our sins forgiven and the assurance of salvation. Everyone needs clarity on these issues. We are going to look at this topic, but before that, we will explore three different options for who God will save. These options are:
ē God does not save anyone
ē All will enter heaven, that is, God will save all
ē God saves only some people
God does not save anyone. The first option is that God does not save anyone, that is, no one has the opportunity to be forgiven of their sins and get to heaven.
Fortunately, however, this is not a teaching of the Bible. The Bible does not teach such a doctrine that everyone would be left outside the gates of heaven.
Everyone gets to heaven, that is, God saves everyone. Many are in favor of option two, where God gives His approval based on the work of creation. That is, everyone gets to heaven and every path leads to God, no matter how man has lived. In this view, man is automatically saved even if he does not even care about God or engage in intentional injustice. Some may also say, ďMy God is so loving that He will not condemn anyone to hell. There is no judgment. Ē
But how is it? Are these thoughts from peopleís own minds or are they true and Godís view? For if the texts of the New Testament are true, they do not support the idea that everyone gets to heaven. On the contrary, we are taught very clearly that not everyone is saved automatically. Yes, everyone can be forgiven of their sins, but if a person himself does not repent of his sins and does not want to repent of his wrongdoing, he will not be forgiven. Otherwise, God would give His approval to injustice. Such could not be expected from a good God.
A few verses are related to the topic. They clearly show that unrepentant sinners will be separated from God and will be left outside the gates of heaven. They go to hell:
- (1 Cor 6:9,10) Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortionists, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
- (Rev 21:6-8) And he said to me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to him that is thirsty of the fountain of the water of life freely.
7 He that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
- (Rev 22:14,15) Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
15 For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and fornicators, and murderers, and idolaters, and whoever loves and makes a lie.
The fact, then, is that people with a universalist view (ďeveryone is savedĒ) have a god of imagination ó a god who is only a product of their mind. In addition, these people have an evil god. This really is because if God said, ďIt doesnít matter what you do,Ē He would give his approval to all the injustices of dictators and other wrongdoers. He would be like a judge who does not control the law but accepts all evil: murders, crimes, injustices, lies, betrayal of a spouse, etc. That is, if God forgives unrepentant wrongdoers who enjoy their wickedness - perhaps torture others - and do not want to change, and they would be forgiven , wouldn't that be an acceptance of injustice? That could not be expected from a perfectly good God. The fact that Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin, and other dictators are once in condemnation thus points to Godís justice and goodness. He holds these people accountable for their actions. However, ordinary people also have to answer for their words and what they do. According to the Bible, the quality of judgment is determined by deeds. Therefore, there must be judgments of varying degrees.
- (Rev 20:12-15) And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15 And whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
God saves only some people. The third option is for God to save some people, and this is also the teaching of the Bible. However, this does not mean that God does not want to save every human being. He really wants it, but the problem is that people themselves donít want it. They themselves resist turning to God and it prevents them from being saved. God's will to save people is well expressed in the following verses:
- (Luke 14:15-20) And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said to him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.
16 Then said he to him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many:
17 And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.
18 And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said to him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray you have me excused.
19 And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray you have me excused.
20 And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.
- (John 3:16) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
- (1 Tim 2:3,4) For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior;
4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Then another thing. If God saves people, how does He do it? There are two general options for this; through deeds or grace.
Through deeds. The view that God saves through works is common in religions. However, there is one big problem: our own shortcomings. ďFor all have sinned, and come short of the glory of GodĒ (Romans 3:23). Evil is present with us, as Paul wrote in Romans (Romans chapter 7), and that is why we are far from perfect.
Moreover, there is one great weakness in good works and morals ó though they are valuable and good things ó they do not bring assurance of salvation to anyone. Man never knows whether he has done good deeds enough, whether he is good enough, and whether God accepts his efforts. He does not find certainty by observing himself or doing his best. This is true in all religions but also in a Christianity that does not understand Godís grace. Paul Little has shared his observations on this topic:
The Muslims do not have an assurance of salvation either. I have often asked the Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists whether they are going to nirvana or heaven after they die. None of them has been able to give me a definitive answer. They have rather referred to the incompleteness of their life, which is an impediment in reaching this goal. (1)
The reason why man does not find assurance of salvation in himself is simple: we are within ourselves sinful and imperfect beings as the following verses show. When we are not 100% perfect, it is impossible to find certainty on this basis:
- (Rom 3:23) For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
- (1 John 1:8) If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
The following quote further shows how a deep chasm separates us from the perfection of God. Some may be a little better than others, but it doesnít matter much. The gap still exists and is impossible to bridge. Acts do not help us to connection with God and the forgiveness of sins because we are so far from perfection. The quote also highlights the message of the following paragraph, which is the solution to human imperfection:
"Wait, Iíll give you one example: the average man can jump, for example, two meters. A person who has practiced sports and is fit may jump perhaps five meters. And if he is an Olympic winner, he can jump almost nine meters, but jumping any longer will be quite impossible in our generation. Letís suppose then that we are all standing at the edge of a canyon with 200 meters to the other side. None of us has the ability to jump over that abyss, right? Now then, letís study the same in the form of an allegory: That abyss is the abyss of sin and God is on the other side. He inspected as poor crickets just as we are and started pity us. He knew that it was quite impossible for us to get to Him by our own powers; for this reason, He sent for us His own Son, Jesus, who is a bridge between God and man. Jesus is the mediator between God and man. We can go with Him safely, because according to His own words He is 'the way and the truth and the lifeí! I know that there are many, who will reject this divine solution as too easy. Theyíll rather try to do something by their own power to save themselves, but no effort of man can take him to God, our destiny is to fall into that yawning abyss!Ē (2)
Through grace. As noted, many try to be saved through deeds, but they lack the certainty of salvation. It is missing because each of us is imperfect and sinful.
So what is God's solution to the problem of sin? The answer, of course, is grace. When no one is saved through deeds and himself, the same is possible through grace; man receives forgiveness of sins and eternal life by grace and as a gift. This is the teaching of the Bible and the New Testament, which appears very clear in the following verses:
- (Eph 2:8,9) For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
- (John 4:10) Jesus answered and said to her, If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that said to you, Give me to drink; you would have asked of him, and he would have given you living water.
- (Rev 21:5,6) And he that sat on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said to me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
6 And he said to me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to him that is thirsty of the fountain of the water of life freely.
- (Rev 22:17) And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that hears say, Come. And let him that is thirsty come. And whoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
What, then, is the significance of Jesus, the Son of God, in the matter of salvation? The answer is simple. He did not come to earth for fun, but everything had a purpose. Thus the Bible tells how Jesus first lived a sinless and perfect life. He then became a sin offering and a substitute to bear our sins on the cross. Sin, which is an obstacle between God and us, was taken away through him. In the language of the Bible, God was in Christ and reconciled the world to Himself. God did everything for us through Jesus Christ because we couldnít. The matter of atonement is thus just as it is in the matter of creation: both are achievements of God:
- (2 Cor 5:18-20) And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them; and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be you reconciled to God.
- (1 John 4:9,10) In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
The Bible, then, shows that Jesus has become an intermediary of salvation, just like a lifeboat that everyone can turn to to avoid hell and be forgiven of their sins. By believing, or putting trust in him, everyone can be saved because Jesus has become an intermediary between God and man. Jesus' position as a savior comes to the fore e.g. in the following verses:
- (John 6:67-69) Then said Jesus to the twelve, Will you also go away?
68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? you have the words of eternal life.
69 And we believe and are sure that you are that Christ, the Son of the living God.
- (John 14:6) Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.
- (John 5:39,40) 39 Search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
40 And you will not come to me, that you might have life.
What if a person rejects Jesus Christ, the intermediary between man and God? Then man himself will have to pay for his sins in hell. For when it was stated that God does not save all, the reason is precisely that men reject Jesus Christ and do not turn to him. They reject Godís mediator and lifeboat, and therefore have to atone for their sins in hell. So donít turn your back on Jesus and Godís call! Arthur W. Pink, the late Puritan preacher, has aptly explained this thing, that is, how God offers grace through His Son. This offer should not be considered cheap.
If God offers you a Savior, who can save you from the punishment you deserve, and you do not accept Him, then surely it is justified that you are left without a savior. Or is God obliged to arrange another savior for you, since you donít like this particular Savior? He has given an invaluable and honorable person, His only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for sins and so, completed salvation; and this Savior is being offered to you right now. If you refuse him, is God then unjust if He doesnít save you. Is He obliged to save you in the way that you have chosen, only because you donít like His way of saving? Or do you blame Christ for unfairness, when He doesnít come to save you, when you donít want Him, although He offers Himself to you and appeals to you that you would accept Him as your Savior.
Your part. What then is your part in the matter of salvation? In short, you need to turn to God by confessing your Sins, just as the prodigal son did in Jesus íparable. For, as already stated, God does not save anyone automatically or unrepentant people, but everyone himself must repent of his Sins and turn to God, just as the prodigal son did.
- (Luke 15:17-20) And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my fatherís have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before you,
19 And am no more worthy to be called your son: make me as one of your hired servants.
20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
- (1 John 1:9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
- (Prov 28:13) He that covers his sins shall not prosper: but whoever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.
Second, understand the meaning of Jesus because He is the only way to connect with God. Tell Him your sins and that you want to surrender your life to Him and God. You can pray, for example, as follows:
THE PRAYER OF SALVATION. Lord, Jesus, I turn to You. I confess that I have sinned against You and have not lived according to Your will. However, I want to turn rom my sins and follow You with all my heart. I also believe that my sins have been forgiven by Your atonement and I have received eternal life through You. I thank You for the salvation that You have given me. Amen.
1. Paul Little: Tiedš miksi uskot (Know Why You Believe), p. 129.
2. Jakov Damkani: Siionin poika, p. 107,108
Heaven or hell? To which place are you going?
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life
Grap to eternal life!
Heaven or hell? To which place are you going?