By R.W. McAlister
I like the song we sometimes sing, "When We All Get To Heaven," but I think we need to question the truth of those lyrics. Many of us who sing that song understand "we all" to mean "the saved" (which is correct), and in fact, some song leaders will tell the audience, before beginning the song, to change "When we all get to Heaven" to "When the saved get to Heaven." Why? Because the Bible draws a clear line between the saved and the lost.
The truth is, God wants everyone to be saved. In I Tim. 2:3-4, the Bible says in reference to, “…God our Saviour;” that He would “have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” And in II Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
Now, just because God wants everyone to be saved, does that mean that He will save everyone, in spite of how they live their lives? To answer this question, we need to understand something about the nature of God. Listen to the words of Paul in II Thessalonians 1:7-9: “…the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.”
It is absolutely imperative that we live our lives every day with a correct understanding of both the love of God and the wrath of God. The same God Who speaks of the possibility of an eternal Heavenly home is the same God Who will provide an eternal place of conscious pain called Hell (Rev. 21:8). Consider the Bible’s assessment of the dual nature of God, warning Christians in Rome of the danger of losing their salvation: “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” (Romans 11:22). People today go blindly ahead, out of harmony with God’s written Word, comforting themselves with a false view of God’s love.
Did you know that God cannot save everybody? “But I thought God can do anything!” Not true! The Bible certainly represents God as omnipotent—all-powerful (Romans 1:20; Ephesians 1:19), but we misunderstand the power of God if we think He is somehow going to gloss over people’s rejection of His words and save everyone in their sins. God simply cannot do that and still be a just God! God is powerless to save people who do not want to be saved. He cannot save people who refuse to take advantage of the remedy for sin that He has provided through the death of His Son.
Look also at the words of Jesus in Matt. 7:21-23. Our Lord Himself says: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” So many are doing things they believe God will approve of in service to Him, but they’re things He hasn’t commanded, and He will say to them on the Day of Judgment, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” Who then will be saved? “…he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” The Bible teaches that it’s God’s will that man: hear the word preached (Rom. 10:17), believe it – believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Heb. 11:6), repent of past sins (Acts 17:30), confess Jesus as Lord (Mt. 10:32), be baptized – immersed for the remission of sins (I Peter 3:20-21), and live a faithful life unto death (Rev. 2:10). That’s the Gospel message. Those who respond in obedience to it will be saved, but those who “obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ… shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord...” Dear Soul, will you be saved or lost?
- R. W. McAlister preaches for the Anna Church of Christ in Anna, IL.He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.annachurchofchrist.com/