In part 1 of this article, the topic came up as to why God would place a time limit on our salvation. It seems there is a favorite verse from Paul that supports having only one human lifetime to irreversibly determine our eternal status of heaven or hell. Peter, on the other hand, gave no time limit for God’s unwillingness to lose even one repentant soul. This begs the question of, “Why are these two great spiritual thinkers in conflict?”
Perhaps the best way to approach this dilemma is to start with the premise that they are not in conflict. That would mean the answer can be found by discerning where both verses are in harmony with each other and with the unconditional love of God. The challenge there is that both approaches cannot be right. If many souls are lost because of an imposed limit of one human lifetime, then God’s will that all be saved is mocked. However, if we see the soul as eternal and the body like a suit of clothes we change as needed, the seeming conflict is resolved.
For instance, Paul’s statement in Hebrews 9:27, “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” could be interpreted from a perspective that the soul pre-exists the body. In Genesis 1:26 we are told that God created us in His image. Assuming most agree that God doesn’t have arms and legs and a head, that “image” we mirror must be spiritual or pure consciousness without corporeal form. The Bible supports this perspective when a whole chapter and 11 verses later we are told that later on God created man (Adam) and breathed life (the soul) into the body.
If each human life ends/dies but the soul continues to learn and grow in accepting God’s loving ways for our own, then both Paul’s and Peter’s statements make sense together. Not one soul will be lost if God will always offer His children another chance or opportunity to make better choices. The judgment referred to does not have to be a final one with an irreversible outcome. It can be viewed much like an ongoing progress report of the Prodigal Son’s return to his Father’s loving arms. In that way, no matter how long it takes for each of us to freely accept His loving ways for our own, not one soul is lost. Without imposing a time limit, God’s will that we all be saved is fulfilled rather than mocked.
But what if a soul never repents their selfish ways? Then they will continue to reap the ugliness they sow for as long as they reject a loving approach to life. Can that last forever? Of course it can, but for how long can any of us resist the unconditional love of our Father? If we were created in His image, then what pleases God most is shared by us. When we see clearly and put away childish things, we will inevitably and freely choose His loving ways for our own. We can suffer forever if that is what we choose, but that is never what God wants for us. His love and mercy have no end so the choice to repent and sin no more is open to all…forever.