by Wong Mein Kong
The following is from the Malaysian Plain Truth Magazine. I found this pivotal in understanding the position of the un-believer. It was written by Wong Mein Kong, Grace Communion International’s Regional Director of Southeast Asia. (Grace Communion International is Grace Fellowship’s parent organization.) This is excerpted from a question to the editor in the “What Our Readers Say” portion of the magazine:
Is this (present physical life) the only day of salvation? Does the hope of salvation, offer of eternal life and chance for repentance and faith end with our physical death? Does the saving grace of God extend beyond the grave, and is it available after death?
Christ’s death on the cross, his resurrection from the dead and his ascension to heaven, brought redemption and forgiveness of sin for all humanity throughout all ages – not limited by time, space, physical situation. His atoning sacrifice covered all who had lived and died before his incarnation and all not yet born after his crucifixion. It is God’s plan, will and desire that all mankind be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3,4) and not to perish but come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
Many sincere Christians believe God’s grace is limited to this physical life (i.e. unbelievers who did not receive Christ before they die are eternally lost or condemned). As one Christian convert told a missionary, upon hearing the awful fate awaiting his unconverted family and relatives, the gospel sounded more like bad news than good news.
Vast populations throughout history till today did not hear the gospel in their lifetimes, and many who did could not understand or believe. External circumstances and spiritual blindness or deception – oppressive governments, hostile communities, remote locations, limited access, religious beliefs, cultural traditions, family pressures – can hinder the proclamation or acceptance of the gospel. Hence it would seem the church for 2,000 years has not been effective or successful in evangelism; or God is unable, unwilling, uninterested to save these people; or human rulers and Satan are more powerful. So, has God’s plan through Christ’s atonement for mankind’s salvation failed? Of course not.
1 Peter 3:18-20 indicate that Jesus, between his death and resurrection, preached to those who died during Noah’s time, to free them from spiritual imprisonment. Whether interpreted literally or metaphorically, it shows that grace is available after death even for those who lived in disobedience. Ephesians 4:8-10 confirm that Jesus descended into hades (lower parts of the earth, realm of the dead) to lead captivity captive, before he was resurrected and ascended on high. He defeated death in himself and for all mankind.
Scripture is very clear that salvation requires faith – trust/belief in Jesus Christ. Grace and faith both come from God (Ephesians 2:8,9). Spiritual truth, knowledge and understanding of Jesus’s saving work come via revelation from the Father by the Spirit (John 6:44; Acts 26:18; 1 Corinthians 2:9- 12). Salvation is a grace initiative of the Triune God from beginning to end. A human being needs only to respond in faith to receive this grace, not to earn it by works.
If a person apparently has Christ preached to him, or heard the gospel, but remains unconvinced or doubtful, it does not mean his final or ultimate rejection of Christ. He may simply not grasp the truth of the gospel or has a misconception of God, Jesus, forgiveness, salvation, etc. People cannot believe something they don’t think is true. Their spiritual eyes need to be opened first. The so-called second chance (assumed in your question) for salvation at the judgement seat is in reality the first chance for the vast majority of humanity.
Even the great reformist Martin Luther acknowledged that “…God could grant faith to a few at the moment of their death or after death and thereby save them through faith. Who would doubt that he could do this? But no one can prove that he does do this.” This does not mean one is automatically saved after death without repentance and acceptance of Christ. Rather the person is granted (post-mortem) grace to understand, yet still has to respond to the love and mercy of God and accept Christ as Lord and Saviour. Scripture does not give specifics of how or when – whether at or after the instant of death, during the general resurrection of the dead, at the judgement throne of Christ.
We conclude that God will not let anyone slip past his plan without the chance to hear the gospel and to accept or reject God’s grace of salvation. Physical death does not stop or limit the grace and love of God toward us. Ω
Wong Mein Kong, GCI’s Regional Director of Southeast Asia
If you would like to read more of this quarterly magazine, follow this link and click on the portion of the cover page “January – March 2023”. https://gci-my.org/home/page/plain-truth-archive-full?category=2023