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New International Version (NIV; British text)
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
John 3: 16, 17
SOME ATTEND only to the first text of this passage, thinking of the Divine programme as an endeavour to rescue mankind from sin and death to righteousness and eternal life in the present time. Many Christians are loath to accept that any could be lost, no matter how great their sins or how godless their lives, and are forced to hope that God will admit millions of unfit people to eternal life and happiness or perhaps allow purgatorial experiences to render them righteous and acceptable for eternal life.
Another view is that God never intended to save the world, but only the Church.
This perspective also leads to confusion and makes nonsense of the Scriptural assurance of God’s love for entire humanity. It is doubtful that God would make no provision for the vast majority of the human race, but arrange for them to be born in sin, under a death sentence, and consign them to death – or worse – without giving them a knowledge of the His will.
The Bible presents two salvations, separate and distinct as to purpose and period of operation.
1. The salvation of the Church was expounded by Jesus at His first advent, and began in earnest at Pentecost. This unique salvation would continue until their predetermined number was reached, ceasing at the end of this age on the return of Jesus in His second advent.
2. The second salvation applies to mankind during the Millennial Age, the coming thousand-year reign of Christ, a period especially designed for the blessing of the world and its uplift out of sin and death conditions.
The salvation of the Church is a deliverance from the sin and death conditions of the present time, but also provides for eternal life on the heavenly plane of existence (2 Peter 1: 4).
The world’s salvation will be wholly different from this. It will mean a rescue from sin and death to the earthly perfection of the original man, Adam, who was made in the image and likeness of his Creator. Human perfection and the Eden home were lost through disobedience to God and will be restored.
Mankind will be resurrected from death and given a full and fair opportunity to demonstrate their loyalty to God under the terms of the New Covenant, which will operate then and come out from under the Adamic condemnation (John 5: 28, 29).
God will make earth glorious. Poetically expressed, streams shall break forth in the desert and the wilderness will blossom, the blinded eyes will be opened and the deaf will hear. Satan's deceptive influence will be restrained (Isaiah 35: 1, 5; Revelation 20: 1, 2).
The deliverance of the Church and the deliverance of mankind are accomplished through the death of Jesus, but in different ways and at different times (1 John 2: 2). The world has not yet received its share of the blessings promised, but the operation of the Divine Plan is dependable and will succeed “in its proper time,” as St. Paul declares (1 Timothy 2: 5, 6).
God’s requirement of Adam, that he continue to live forever only on condition of obedience, was reasonable and fair. Adam's violation brought death upon him and his descendants, with the resulting mental, moral, and physical decline and the loss of fellowship with the Heavenly Father. Terms similar to those under which Adam was put on test for his life will be imposed on mankind in Christ's Kingdom. The obedient will prosper and make their way steadily along the way of holiness, toward perfection (Isaiah 35: 8). The disobedient, after a lengthy period of probation, will be obliterated.
An understanding of this Biblical teaching regarding the salvation of the Elect and the Non-elect is requisite to comprehending the revealed purposes of God as they apply to the various stages of human history. Other articles on this Web site address related questions.
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