Chris L: Do you think everyone has an equal opportunity to accept Jesus? Does an 80-year-old have the same number of ‘opportunities’ to accept Christ as a 21-year-old who dies in a car crash? Would Paul have gone to Heaven if he died prior to Damascus? I feel like we love to believe that everything is very ‘fair’ in this world, and that is a great feeling, but that it can almost lead to a scary level of apathy – I love to think that it can’t possibly be due to anything I did or did not do that caused something ‘bad’ to happen, e.g. that if I don’t minister to this person, someone else will because God is fair like that. But sometimes I wonder if it really works that way.  I wonder if what we do or don’t do actually does have an eternal impact beyond just ourselves (beyond, ‘oh well, that’s one less treasure in heaven for me, but you know, it’s not like it eternally harmed anyone else).  Statements from Jesus, such as “causing others to stumble,” make me wonder otherwise. Rambling questions, I know, sorry…any thoughts would be appreciated.

Dave: Once again, you’ve asked some deep questions that I believe no one can have the full answer you seek. First, no where in Scripture does it claim that every person has an equal opportunity to be saved. This makes sense when we consider babies dying in the womb or shortly after birth compared to a person who lives for 90 years.

The Bible also says that “many are called but few are chosen.” For me, it seems that when a man literally gets knocked down to the ground on his way to persecute Christians and then hears an audible voice from Jesus Himself, he is chosen. Not everyone is going to have this kind of huge opportunity! Jesus, speaking to His disciples, said that they did not choose Him but rather He chose them. Again, not everyone gets to visibly see and audibly hear Jesus command them to follow Him. “Many are called” implies that not every single person is called because it says “many” not “all.” We know, however, that God wants everyone to get saved (1 Timothy 2:4). So the way I look at it is that God chooses a few in order to get His necessary work done, and these probably have some choice in the matter (no one is ever forced – remember Judas was chosen too and he refused to change). Others are called, meaning the Spirit reaches out to them (choice is still evident as more of these than the chosen refuse to receive Christ). For all others, God wants them in His Kingdom and some do come into It, meaning they, like some Gentiles in the Old Testament came to believe in the Jewish God Yahweh, also embrace Christ. So it does not appear to me that God is an equal opportunity employer. He has never been too PC anyway. I believe God’s judgment is always fair, however, even though life in a sin-cursed world is not. It can be argued that God knew what each soul would believe had they lived a “full life” and are judged accordingly (including Saul-Paul). While this makes sense to me, I cannot think of one Scripture to support it.

Yes, I strongly believe we have an impact on eternity by our actions during our stay on earth. People who cause others to stumble will be judged more severely on that Day. Jesus, for example, told Pilate that Judas and the Pharisees who delivered Him to Pilate will be worse off than him in the Judgment. People who were exposed to mighty miracles and still rejected salvation will be worse off on Judgement Day than those exposed to very little truth. Jesus said that the people in Sodom and Gomorrah would have repented if they saw what Jesus did. This passage may lend some credibility to my thought that God does know what people would do if given that “full chance.” Does this mean they are saved? Scripture states that the Judgment will be “more tolerable” for them…whatever that means. At least we know from these Scriptures that there are degrees of punishment that are based on what your life was exposed to. Consider people living in the Dark Ages when no Bibles were allowed in public by the Roman Catholic Church. For about a thousand years, people had no Word about how to be saved! Will an unsaved soul who lived then receive the same judgment as the people of Jerusalem who rejected Jesus? I don’t think so.

On a personal note, I have had two experiences that involve your questions. Many years ago my primary care doctor gave me a choice of 5 orthopaedic surgeons to investigate my left ankle pain. I prayed over the list and felt led to go to Zohar Harari. I was hoping to tell him about Jesus. When I got to his office, I found out he was Jewish. This froze my young Christian mind and I chickened out hoping I would find the courage during my second visit two weeks later. This 42-year-old doctor suddenly died of a massive heart attack a few days later. I never saw him again. Is he lost for eternity?  I do not know. If yes, is it my fault? Perhaps in part, but I am not sure. I do not think that another person’s salvation totally depends on one other human being to do the right thing. But I still regret this experience and it is something I will have to deal with when I stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). This is different from the judgment of the condemned.

The second story involved my visiting a nursing home and playing Christmas carols on my guitar for old people in their rooms. After playing one song for Esther, I reached out and took her hand and I said, “Jesus.” That is what I felt I should say. She said, “Jesus?” I said, “Jesus.”  The next day, she died. To this day I wish I had said more to confirm her salvation experience. But there is power in the name of Jesus and that may have been enough to make her ask Him in to her life before she passed on.

Billy Graham was once asked about what he regrets most in his life and he unhesitatingly responded, “How much I’ve failed the Lord.” I think he spoke for all of us. But Scripture encourages us to forget about what is behind and press on to the future. Therefore, we should not allow a demon to torment us about our perceived failings (some of which may not have been a failing at all). On the other hand, we should learn from our failings so we can do better the next time.

Concerning your question about our lives having eternal impact, consider what people have reported who have died and come back into their bodies. They’ve claimed that the souls who died before them were waiting for them on the “other side.” Each person that the recently “deceased” person had an influence upon was there greeting them. When the Bible says that good seed produces good fruit, I believe “good fruit” involves many positive outcomes in other people’s lives (beyond salvation). Awesome stuff!


GR: Brother Dave, there is nothing I could add to this…well done. However, I will say this, I am bothered by the doctor story. NOT YOUR PROBLEM. The Holy Spirit did not move you to talk to the Jewish Doctor regarding Jesus and salvation. In my opinion, if you had, he would have summarily dismissed you and your belief system.

Dave: Maybe so, but maybe not so. I thought the Holy Spirit was telling me to tell him about Jesus, and think the same to this day. You cannot make the judgment that He wasn’t.

Cindi L: There are things we don’t understand but things are written to make us trust what we don’t understand. I trust God because of what I see – Creation that is amazing even in its corrupted state and life-laws (biology design – blood coagulating, healing ability) which prove He is Good. Therefore the craving for Justice which prevails in our hearts (or spirit) as human beings would scream God is God and there is no way that would be “wrong” or “unjust” as we perceive everyone not getting that opportunity. Everything inside of me says that God does reveal Himself to everyone and we have that choice given in some way, shape or form.

Dave: Thanks for your thoughts. This is a difficult issue. I cannot find anything in Scripture that leads me to believe that everyone HAS to have a chance to receive Jesus despite our sense of fairness screaming that this must be a fact. Perhaps, however, the “Seek and you shall find” Scripture is the one exception. With this, it seems that the responsibility for finding God is upon people. In other words, if we don’t ever seek with a right heart/attitude which is being willing to obey God – John 7:17, then we will not be saved. From this, one could argue that just being alive affords that chance to all. This could not include, however, kids and babies who die young. So I conclude that not all humans have a chance at salvation. Now how those are judged is the mystery for me. I, like you, must revert to say that because God is good, that judgment will be just.

The Scripture you cited from 1 Peter 3:18-20 in a previous message is a difficult one to understand. There are three views:

1. In His pre-incarnate state Christ preached through the ‘mouthpiece’ of Noah to the world which perished at the time of the Great Deluge.

2. Between His physical death and resurrection Christ went to the fallen angels who are believed by some to have left their proper state and married human women during Noah’s time (Genesis 6:1-4; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6).

3. Between His death and resurrection, Christ went to the abode of the dead and preached to the spirits of the rebellious dead of Noah’s age.

If we assume theory #3 is correct, then it still would not account for all the people that lived after that time period through to our present day. If those people in Noah’s day had some kind of “second chance,” then why not other souls throughout all of history? Why should only those people have this grand opportunity?

Scripture emphasizes that NOW is the day of salvation (2 Cor.6:2 and Heb.3:7-8). If souls could be saved after they die, why then does Scripture say these things? Therefore, at least for now, I lean toward theory #1 above. However, the problem with #1 is that it would only include those people who lived in Noah’s vicinity and would not include people worldwide. We do not know the extent of population dispersion in Noah’s day. I assume it was not that extensive, i.e., people living in China or North America mainly due to lack of time and especially because God has not yet dispersed the people. That occurred at the Tower of Babel. But could all humans alive at Noah’s time hear what he was saying? That’s hard to believe. I don’t think Scripture is plain enough to answer all questions, especially concerning salvation of a 2-year-old who dies and was born to a family with no Christian knowledge or ties. There are thousands of examples that fit into this category. Perhaps the best response is similar to what you’ve stated – we know God is good and all judgment will be right.

Cindi L: I Peter 3:18-20.   As of right now – I personally believe Dave’s #3 view above… that between Jesus’ death and resurrection, Christ went to the abode of the dead and preached to the spirits of the people alive during Noah’s age – who knows if they were people that never heard the truth about God? I feel that Scripture was there to always let us know that the more we know the less we know and He always knows more – which again appeals to me to trust Him for Justice because He always knows everything, not like us, we see only in part all the time. I Cor 13:9,10,12.  I do not believe that anyone has a second chance (especially since Jesus’ resurrection) – I don’t believe anyone does after death (Hebrews 9:27), but it is a curious Scripture.

Nicodemus, who was way smarter than me …after Jesus’ all important dialog of being born again says to him…

10 …Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?

11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.

12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

So I feel a real assurance that “God has things under control” with a righteous dominance prevailing. True Justice because it’s so much a part of our created being.

All the following Scriptures speak of vengeance belonging to God and His all-knowing analysis…interesting…Romans 12:19, Isaiah 61:2, 63:4, Deuteronomy 32:41 & :43

Also just some added thoughts on DEATH:

I have always hated death and everything that surrounds it here on earth – it should be hated because it’s an enemy of God’s. It is an enemy to us. Death is the last enemy that God/Jesus will destroy in the Lake of Fire and then there will never be sin/death/separation ever again (Revelation 20:10-15).

Tons of Scripture do not denote “fairness” in God’s system of rewards even – the Prodigal Son’s brother – our sense of “fairness” would be his attitude. The workers hired the last hour compared to the first ones – our ideas would side with the first hires tending to expect more. God challenges our hearts so much to grow to His stature where “mercy triumphs over judgment” and questions our “sense of fairness.” Obviously our works or actions have an eternal impact or Jesus wouldn’t be trying so hard to get us thinking in the right direction on issues with others – as Chris L already stated about the stumbling block reference too.

My personal feeling is that everyone has to be given the opportunity to choose/accept Jesus. He does know the beginning and the end. I can Trust Him. He is Good.

Further feedback:

Rose E (7/19/13): As I was reading this, a scripture occurred to me in answer to Cindi L’s statement. Everything inside of me says that God does reveal Himself to everyone and we have that choice given in some way, shape or form.

We know God reveals himself to everyone because the Bible says, “He is not far from each one of us” and “the Law of God is written on their hearts” when saying that no one has an excuse for not believing.  And we’ve all heard of, or even met, people who have come to Christ despite having no Bible, not being preached to, etc.  Abraham comes to mind!  So do several modern-day examples.

And here we come into the difference between justice and fairness.  It’s just that God gives each person an understanding of Himself as the way of salvation.  It’s not fair that he gives some people more opportunity than others – whether it’s a higher number of chances to hear the gospel, or a more impactful presentation of the gospel (like Paul on the Damascus Road).  Just like it’s not fair that some people are richer, smarter, or better-looking than others.  Much as we prefer fairness, we don’t actually need it in order to get thru life.  God never claims to be fair; only to be just.  It would be unjust to create a means to salvation and not give all sinners access to it.  Being just, therefore, means he does give access to all sinners.

Now we can get into whether a newborn baby who dies – or an unborn baby – or a 2-year-old – or a severely mentally deficient person – can understand sin and the need for a savior.  John B. once said understanding sin means understanding it’s God that you’re disobeying, not just your parents. Obviously a newborn cannot sin, so does he need a savior? That’s been debated thru the ages (not by newborns, however!). Whatever such a person needs in order to be saved, we can assume the Lord, being just, communicates with them in a way they understand.

Mickey L (7/19/13):  In Romans 1:20 it states “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

In Romans 2:12 it says, “For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the law.” In verse 15 it says, “In that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.”

So take the person in the jungle who has never heard the name of Jesus Christ, how could he be condemned, because written in his heart is the knowledge of right and wrong, he condemns himself by doing what he knows is wrong and he is then judged on the light that he has. So even though he has never heard the name Jesus Christ he is without excuse and is judged by what he does know and doesn’t do. That’s my take on it.