15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. 16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. 17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) 18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. 20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom. 5:15-21)
What was most significant – Adam’s sin or the redemptive work of Jesus? All Christians would probably spontaneously and intuitively answer that the reconciliation of Jesus weighs heaviest. However, if (hypothetically) 90 % of all mankind throughout history – that never received Jesus during their earthly lives – will burn forever in an eternal hell, without a possibility of ever escaping this suffering, one must question whether the redemption of Jesus was more significant. Should the torments of hell be eternal for all of those who never believed the Gospel, one must come to the conclusion that Adam’s sin led to far greater consequences than Christ’s reconciliation.
In Romans chapter 5, however, Paul repeatedly points out that the redemptive work of Jesus – by far – outweighs Adam’ sin:
– The free gift (of Jesus) is not like the offense (of Adam) (v. 15).
– Just as by Adam’s offense many died, MUCH MORE the gift and grace of Jesus Christ abounded to the many (v. 15).
– As the judgment came through Adam’s offence and resulted in condemnation, the free gift came through Jesus and resulted in justification (v. 16).
– Just as by Adam’s offense death reigned, MUCH MORE those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness will reign in life through Jesus Christ (v. 17).
– As by Adam’s offense judgment came to all men resulting in condemnation, the righteous act of Jesus led to that the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification (v. 18).
– Just as by Adam’s disobedience many were made sinners, through the obedience of Jesus many will be made righteous (v. 19).
– Where sin abounded (it originated with Adam but accelerated after the law was given), grace abounded MUCH MORE through Jesus (v. 20).
What am I trying to say? That Christ’s reconciliation means that all people already are saved? Absolutely not. To be saved and receive eternal life, one must believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus and confess Him as Lord (Rom. 10:9-10). If so would not be the case, we could end all missions and church activities right now. No, to be saved one must first repent by positively responding to Christ’s work on the cross – by faith.
Verse 17 is a key verse in showing us that our positive response to what Jesus has done is necessary: Those who RECEIVE the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness, shall “reign in life”.
However, what these verses in Romans 5 gives us a hope about – especially verses 18 and 19 – is that all people one day in the future by their own free will, will say yes to Jesus. God does not force Himself upon anyone, but patiently waits, since He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4).
Will God’s ultimate will be fulfilled? Will all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth? Not if the possibility to receive Jesus is limited to our earthly lives. It is obvious that a majority of the world’s population at the moment lives and dies, without saying yes to Jesus.
However, Paul says in Philippians that (sometime in the future) EVERY knee shall bow, and EVERY tongue confess that Jesus is Lord:
– IN HEAVEN,
– ON EARTH,
– and UNDER THE EARTH.
Let us read this passage in the Scripture:
9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:9-11)
Since it says, “those in heaven”, “those on earth”, and “those under the earth”, every human being – both living and dead – who has ever lived throughout history, are likely included.
Earlier, before I knew more about this subject, I assumed that this will be a forced confession, where after those who did not receive Jesus during their earthly lives will burn forever in hell. However, nowhere in the Bible does it say that it is impossible to receive Jesus in the afterlife. On the contrary, there are several scriptures that indicate that this could actually be possible. (I will address that subject in another article.)
Is our heavenly Father really like that? Does He desire a forced confession from all humans, a final ego boost, so that He thereafter can punish them forever and ever in hell? If so, Adam’s sin must have been more significant than the redemptive work of Jesus, after all. However, if we are to believe what Paul says about it, that cannot possibly be the case.