This post has been stimulated by a conversation I had with a Christian in another state. This person told me that Christians in his area have been hotly debating the so-called doctrine of “The Second Chance.” Others reading this post may have heard this topic referred to by other names, but it creates some strong and differing opinions when it is debated or discussed.
Briefly defined, this doctrine asserts that this current age in which we live is not the only day of salvation for human beings. It has long been taught in many churches that this current age (i.e. the time we live in this lifetime) is the only opportunity for salvation, and that those who are not saved now in this physical lifetime are damned for all eternity. Is this teaching in the Bible? I believe it is not, and this post will offer several reasons why I have that viewpoint.
To begin with, let’s stipulate that Acts 4:10-12 teaches that Jesus Christ’s name is the only name that can bring salvation to any human being. Verse 12 categorically states “Neither is there salvation in any other [name]…” Let’s begin our examination of this post’s topic with this verse as a starting point, and ask ourselves this question: “How many people who have lived on this earth have even so much as heard the name of Jesus Christ?” Genesis 1:28 records that God told Adam and Eve to “multiply” the number of human beings on the face of the earth. The Bible gives us no census to record how many humans lived on the earth in pre-Flood times, but it was many generations from Adam and Eve’s creation until the Flood in Noah’s lifetime. Given that the Bible records humans could live over 900 years in the pre-Flood world (Genesis 5), the pre-Flood people had far longer lives in which to father or bear children. This could have made population growth very explosive. Matthew 24:37 tells us that the latter days of our age will mirror the “days of Noah” (the pre-Flood civilization). Let’s make a rough comparison. The experts tell us we have circa 8 billion people on earth now. If the pre-Flood world also had as many people alive as we have today, that would mean that the pre-Flood world also had many billions of people who lived from the time of Creation until the Flood drowned the the pre-Flood world.
Let’s ask an important question: How many pre-Flood people ever heard the name of Jesus Christ or that he was the only name through which salvation was possible? Since Jesus didn’t live until about 2000 years ago, it means none of the people who lived in the pre-Flood world ever heard Jesus’ name. Are they all therefore “damned?” Halley’s Bible Handbook (1964 Edition, p. 45) dates the Flood in Noah’s time to 1,656 years after the Creation. The King James Version has date headings on many chapters, and it dates the call of Abram (who became Abraham) to the year 1921 BC. So from the Flood until the birth of Jesus Christ (approximately two millennia): How many people heard the name of Jesus Christ or that he was the Savior? The obvious answer is “no one.” Even after Jesus Christ lived and died and news of his ministry spread abroad (at the speed of a horse, ox team, a sailing ship or a person walking), how many people on earth could have heard the name of Jesus Christ from his human lifetime until the invention of the printing press circa 1436 AD? The answer is obviously: “Very few.” Vast swaths of Asia, Africa and the Americas never heard about Jesus Christ until recent centuries when advanced communication technologies were invented. The point I’m getting to is this: The vast majority of human beings who have ever lived on this earth never had a “first chance” to hear about Jesus Christ or his ministry of salvation. Can a loving and fair God condemn all those billions of humans even though God never gave them a first chance to even hear about Jesus Christ at all? I’d say the answer is a resounding “no.” The fact that the majority of humans who have lived have had no “first chance” at being saved by Jesus Christ requires that another day of salvation be made available to them…and the Bible teaches that such an age will exist! II Peter 3:9 also states that “God is not willing that any should perish (emphasis added).” Unless billions of people who have lived in the past are given a future “first chance” for salvation, God’s will in II Peter 3:9 will be thwarted… , and I don’t think that will or can happen.
Revelation 19:11-20:4 foretells some details about the return of Jesus Christ and the setting up of the Millennium on earth. However, most read over what is revealed to occur after the Millennium. Revelation 20:3-4 says the righteous will live and reign with Jesus Christ for a thousand years, but that “the rest of the dead” (everyone who ever lived) will not be resurrected “until the thousand years were finished.” Hmm. Has your church taught you the scriptures say there will be a massive, universal resurrection of everyone after the Millennium? As Ezekiel 37:1-14 shows, it will be a resurrection to a new physical life (not an eternal one). Revelation 20:11-15 informs us that when the rest of the dead are living again, “another book is opened, which is the book of life.” Clearly, it is opened so more names can be written in it. This is a general resurrection for everyone who was not resurrected to eternal life in the first resurrection at Christ’s return. This future age of salvation is called the White Throne Judgment because of Revelation 20:11. Paul also informs us in Ephesians 2:7 and Ephesians 3:5 and 21 that the Creator God has a plan that will take “ages” to accomplish. Revelation 20:4-15 gives us a glimpse into the Millennial Age and the White Throne Age after Jesus returns.
I Corinthians 15 also tells us a great deal about these future ages to come. Verses 20-28 record Paul writing about a succession of ages of salvation. In verse 2, Paul writes “As is Adam all die , even so in Christ shall all be made alive (emphasis added).” This is an all-inclusive statement–it means no exceptions. Verses 23-24 state that “every man” will be saved but “each in his own order.” First Christ was changed from a mortal man to an immortal Son of God, then those who are redeemed when Christ returns will be saved next, and, finally, an age will come where Jesus shall put down anything and everything that is opposed to the will of God (clearly a reference to Revelation 20’s White Throne Age). Verse 25 tells us that Christ “must reign until he has put all enemies under his feet” (everything and everyone will be brought under his authority), and verse 26 asserts “the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” Did you see the importance of that statement? The time will come when “death” holds no souls apart from God. That blessed time will see the death of death itself. That can happen only when everyone is “saved.”
How is this for an encouraging message from the Bible to all mankind!? There are still many questions and scriptures left to answer on this subject, but that would take far more space than can be allotted to a blog message. To hear this topic examined in far greater biblical detail–including an honest discussion of the scriptures that seem to oppose the doctrine of “A Second Chance,” please listen to an audio message on this subject that I made decades ago (first link). Of all the articles and message posted at my website (stevenmcollins.com), this message has often been called by listeners or readers the most encouraging message I’ve ever done. If you also wish to learn more about biblical perspectives on how judging will be done in the Millennium and White Throne Judgment, I invite you to listen to my message, Are You Ready to Rule? (second link). It also includes relevant autobiographical information about the lessons I’ve learned on the topic of judging from personal experiences. If you have never listened to this message, I think you will be surprised.
amazonaws.com/stevenmcollins/ wp-content/uploads/2018/03/ 15090436/HMWGS.mp3
amazonaws.com/stevenmcollins/ wp-content/uploads/2018/03/ 15090436/AreYouReadyToRule.mp3