If humans are, by default, considered not to have salvation upon birth, then if they die soon after being born does God have even a second thought at consigning them to the bowels of eternal torment, even though they never had a chance of fully comprehending the Gospel? But what if he considers humans initially in a saved condition at birth? If this is the case, then at what time can they become lost?
A well-known religious talk show personality summed up the issue of a "second chance" at salvation 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, "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?"
It does not make sense that our loving Father would make eternal salvation completely dependent on the fallibility of someone else.
There have existed many examples throughout the years of primitive people who, although surrounded by pagan beliefs for countless years, somehow retained a belief in the "one true God." Some religious folks believe these people will not be tossed into hell fire but rather granted access to heaven upon death.
The problem with the above logic is that it begs the question of whether just a simple belief in 'one God' is needed in order to receive salvation. The apostle James answers this question for us by stating, in no uncertain terms, that merely having a chance at believing in an all-powerful Deity is not enough (James 2:19)!
What is lost?
Jesus defines for us what it means to be lost in his parable of the lost sheep found in Matthew 18 verses 12 to 14. Do sheep get themselves lost because they do something bad or sinful? Do they separate themselves because they are somehow vain and rebellious?
Sheep 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 are cut off from God and a chance a salvation 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, verse 5 of chapter 20, reveals that there is a second resurrection of the dead!
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, during God's second resurrection, that the vast majority of humanity will live a second time in the flesh and given a full chance at salvation!
Dry bones and salvation
Ezekiel's 'dry bones' vision tells us quite a bit regarding the Eternal's great salvation 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?
Ezekiel is then commanded to preach to the bones and inform them that they will soon be brought back to life (Ezekiel 37:5 - 6)!
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 they will be made alive again and live in the land of Israel (Ezekiel 37:12)!
The good news is that God does offer a "second chance," of sorts, for the countless billions of humans who, in this life, never understood the gospel and were never converted! In his wisdom he has set aside a time where he will resurrect back to a physical life the vast majority of humanity. It is at that time that he will open up their minds to comprehend his truth, repent and have a full chance at salvation.