Q. I’ve noticed a lot of people lately who believe that the death of Jesus just “covers them” without their having to accept being a sinner with the need for salvation. The whole “God is love” thing and “God won’t really punish anyone” is a common point of view lately. It seems many more people than I imagined think that salvation is a blanket policy that everyone qualifies for by default. Could you address this issue in more depth?
A. It is true that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. This is why He could say that everyone who asks receives (Matt. 7:7-8) and why Paul said, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). But that doesn’t mean that everyone is saved. John 3:16, John 6:40, Romans 10:9, Ephes 1:13-14 and others make it clear that salvation is conditioned upon belief. Unless you believe you’re a sinner, you can’t believe Jesus died for your sins. Believing you’re a sinner and that Jesus died for your sins is what gives you the faith to ask for salvation. Hebrews 9:27 says the opportunity to ask for salvation ends with our death.
Some people who hold to the “everybody is saved” idea point to Phil. 2:9-11,
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
They say this implies that everyone will be saved. But the key to this passage is the Greek word translated Lord. It means “he to whom a person or thing belongs, who has control over the person, his master.” A master has control over the slaves who belong to him, but that doesn’t make him their savior. After Jesus conquers the world it will be obvious to everyone that He’s their Lord and Master, with the power to do with them as He pleases.
By then it will be too late to acknowledge Him as their Savior. Jesus said when the people still alive on Earth see the Lord coming in the clouds they’ll mourn (Matt. 24:30). That’s because they’ll know the time for His forgiveness has ended. The Sheep and Goat judgment (Matt. 25:31-46) also makes that clear.