If humans are, by default, considered totally LOST at birth, then if they die soon after being born does God consign them to the bowels of eternal torment - even though they never understood the Gospel? But what if he considers humans initially in a SAVED condition at birth. At what time would he hold the child accountable for his choices and consider what they could do as SIN? If the child takes something that is not his or hers at age three, do they then become 'lost' in the eyes of the Almighty? If they act rebelliously at age two do they get tossed into an ever-painful lake of fire upon death?
A well-known religious talk show personality summed up the issue by asking if God would throw into an eternal hell someone who NEVER understood, let alone heard, the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. He quoted another preacher who said the following (paraphrased).
"Does it make any sense that a sweet and innocent little boy or girl will be consigned by God to leap from flaming brick to flaming brick in Hell FOREVER simply because a missionary or minister could not get to them because of car problems?"
Skeptics of the concept that mankind is either saved or lost state that MANY people have not so much as heard the name of God, let alone understood his Word or even comprehended salvation. It would therefore be unjust for them to be totally responsible for their spiritual status and be cast away.
The moderator, however, stated that he believed God has revealed his saving truth to all mankind, in all times, no matter where they lived. His conclusion was that we receive our FIRST and ONLY chance at salvation the moment we are born into the world.
What does it all MEAN?
The moderator of the religious talk show gave an example of some distant primitive people who, although surrounded by pagan beliefs for countless years, somehow retained a belief in the "one true God." The moderator felt these people were not thrown in hell upon death but were rather granted access to heaven.
There is a problem, however, with the moderator's logic. Is a simple belief in 'one God' all that is needed in order to receive eternal life? Does it make ANY difference whatsoever who the "one God" is or what were the religious practices of the people? The apostle James tells us in no uncertain terms that believing in an all-powerful Deity is not enough!
19 Do you believe that there is only one God? Good! The demons also believe — and tremble with fear (James 2:19)
How does Jesus define LOST?
Jesus defines for us what it means to be LOST in his parable of the lost sheep found in Matthew 18.
12. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and search for the one that went astray? 13. And if he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. 14. Likewise, it is not the will of your Father Who is in heaven that one of these little ones (His children) should perish. ' (Matthew 18)
Do sheep get themselves lost because they do something bad or sinful? Do they separate themselves because they are somehow vain and rebellious? No!! They were made to spend their lives eating grass all day with their heads bent down. It would therefore not be a strange thing if every so often, when they raised their heads, they found themselves alone! Are they separated because they sinned? No. Sheep get lost for the simple reason they are sheep! Being lost has absolutely nothing to do with who they are but where.
Jesus' teaching in this parable is rather simple and defines in what sense humans come into this world "lost." All humans have paid a toll for Adam's sins and for being cut off from God through no fault of our own. Being lost is not caused by sinning nor is it worthy of the fires of hell. It means nothing more than to be disoriented, unable to find where to go, confused, helpless and so on. Being lost, according to Jesus, is not a state of condemnation but a statement of reality.
The second resurrection
There is ironically some truth to the idea that there are only two classes of humans. However, instead of being either 'saved' or 'lost,' it is far more accurate to say humans are either 'saved' or 'waiting' (meaning waiting for God to open their minds to fully understand the truth).
The apostle Paul tell us us those considered saved will be resurrected at the return of Christ (1Thessalonians 4:16). This, however, does not tell us what happens to the vast multitude of humans who were 'waiting' yet died in this life. The book of Revelation has our answer.
5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were over.) (Revelation 20:5)
Those who were in a state of 'waiting' during their initial physical existence will not live again until after Jesus' 1,000 year reign on earth. It is then that they will be resurrected.
Dry bones and salvation
Ezekiel's 'dry bones' vision tells us quite a bit regarding the Eternal's great plan for man.
In the 37th chapter God's spirit comes upon Ezekiel and takes him, in vision, to a valley full of bones. After the prophet walks around a bit God asks him something of a rhetorical question. The question is 'Can these bones LIVE?' In other words, are the people represented by the bones gone FOREVER? The prophet is then commanded to preach the following to the bones:
5 Tell them that I, the Sovereign Lord, am saying to them: I am going to put breath into you and bring you back to life. 6 I will give you sinews and muscles, and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you and bring you back to life. (Ezekiel 37)
This is, of course, a prophecy of a future resurrection from the dead. Who are these dry bones? God tells Ezekiel they are "the whole house of Israel" (verse 11). They symbolically cry out that their hope is lost and that they feel permanently cut off. Ezekiel is told to respond to the hopelessness of the bones (representing people) by saying,
I, the Sovereign Lord, am going to open their graves. I am going to take them out and bring them back to the land of Israel. (Ezekiel 37:12).
What exactly is the PURPOSE of resurrecting people back into a physical existence? The Lord states it will happen so that,
they will know that I am the Lord. 14 I will put my breath in them, bring them back to life, and let them live in their own land. (Ezekiel 37:13-14)
God will, very soon, resurrect the dead and bring them back as flesh and blood humans. They will be placed back in the land and offered a chance to receive the holy spirit. Clearly, an opportunity to be part of the 'saved' will be available after dying in this life.
Will children LIVE AGAIN?
Is there, in a sense, a second chance for children to receive salvation? And what about the heathens and pagans that have lived? And what about YOUR unconverted family, friends and relatives who died?
The GOOD NEWS is that God offers a 'second' chance. All humans will eventually have their minds opened to the truth, be given a FULL chance to comprehend the Gospel, and allowed to choose whether they wish to accept our Father's gracious offer of eternal salvation or not.