From the book “All in All“, by A. E. Knock
Those who believe are saved by His grace (Rom 4:16). Those who do not believe are saved through His judgments. In both, however, it is He alone Who is Savior. Faith is but the channel of grace; it plays no efficient part in salvation. Judgment is but a means which God uses. It does not remove man’s guilt or cleanse a single sin. That is done wholly and solely by the blood of Christ. Every effort to bring about the ultimate salvation of all through the purgatorial or penitential sufferings of the sinner is a denial of this great truth. Judgments do not save, but the God Who Judges is also the Savior, and all His dealings with mankind are governed by the grand goal that He has set before Him — to become All in All His creatures.
The judgment of unbelievers takes place in the interval between the passing of this present earth and the creation of the new. Every tie that bound them to earth has been burned up. They are the subjects of the most astounding miracle ever wrought, having been raised from the dead. They are in the presence of the Divine Majesty. Their secrets are bared to His awful gaze. The character of their judgment, being adjusted to their acts, not simply as to severity but so as to correct them, will reveal God’s purpose to save and reconcile them to Himself. This, followed by their death in the lake of fire and subsequent vivification at the consummation, becomes a means for their acceptance of Christ.
The salvation of the unbeliever will be by sight, not by faith. Otherwise, it is effected in the same way as that of the believer, by the word and power and presence of God. In the judgment day God will judge the hidden things of humanity (Rom 2:16). We are prone to consider this a mere exhibition of His omniscience to facilitate the trial of the sinner and to insure his condemnation. More than this, it can’t avoid having a very powerful effect on the unbeliever’s attitude toward Christ. The change that occurs in the ultimate salvation of the unbeliever is wrought, not only by his resurrection, but by the august judgment session, when he stands in the presence of Christ, with all his unbelief swept away by the awful realization of His power and the justice of His throne. We are asked, “Is it possible for them to repent?” Rather, we would like to know, “Is it possible for them NOT to repent, or change their minds?” We cannot conceive an unrepentant sinner before the great white throne.
The apostle Paul’s case is of surpassing significance in its bearing on the salvation of unbelievers. He was the foremost of sinners, and it cannot be denied that, among men, there was no case quite as desperate as his. All question as to God’s ability to save vanishes in the light of his call on the Damascus road. The miraculous means employed in his case surely would suffice for every one of God’s enemies. Who will deny, on sober reflection, that the appalling power and glory of the august judgment session into which the unbeliever is ushered by his resurrection will be unutterably more impressive? The apostle’s vision passed. He came back to a scene where all was as before. He alone had changed. The unbeliever sees the power and presence of God not only in his own deliverance from death, but in all around him. The vision does not vanish. The Divine Presence bides.
God’s thoughts and man’s imaginations are nowhere more at variance than on the subject of judgment, or punishment. God is love, man is hate. Jonah went through the streets of Nineveh, crying, “Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way, and God repented concerning the evil that He said He would do unto them, and He did it not (Jonah 3). What did Jonah do? Was he not pleased at the success of his mission? Did he not glory in the character of his God? Alas! He was like the majority of the Lord’s people today. Like Jonah, they imagined that God has a streak of hate in His character, and that He wanted to destroy Nineveh to give it exercise. He had an object, though, in threatening its destruction. Now that they repented and the object was attained, why should He belie His character and destroy them from sheer vindictiveness?? Jonah thought He ought, and so think those today whose prototype he was.
Is it not unfortunate that Jonah’s God was a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenting of the evil that He had threatened? (Jonah 4:2). What did Jonah care for Nineveh? What pains had it cost him? What comfort did it bring to him? God, however, looked at it from His standpoint. In it there were sixty thousand souls more in tune with Him than sulky Jonah. He was their Creator, and He had not created them for naught. This is God’s way with the unbeliever.